Linton Kwesi Johnson

Johnson is a British-based dub poet (for details of future events visit:

1 Does art make a difference?

The creative imagination is a defining characteristic of what it means to be human. Art offers us a vision of how we could be. Art is also a means of personal and social catharsis. And it is a crucial factor in the formation of identities. Art as a commodity provides people with jobs. Art is central to our spiritual well-being, too. So, yes, art does make a difference.

2 Should politics and art mix?

People have long given artistic expression to their struggle against oppression and injustice. Revolutionary movements for change have been complemented by cultural movements. This is particularly true of anti-colonial struggles. Art has often been the only means for ordinary people to voice their suffering, hopes and aspirations and their vision of change.

3 Is your work for the many or for the few?

I suspect that many poets would answer “myself”. That would be only partially true for me. Yes, I write for myself insofar as I am trying to make sense of and give voice to my experience. But my experience is a shared one, both socially and historically.

4 If you were world leader, what would be your first law?

Playing God was never one of my ambitions, but if I did have the power, I would change the terms of trade between the developed nations and the undeveloped ones.

5 Who would be your top advisers?

I don’t know – maybe my mother!

6 What, if anything, would you censor?

Lies and disinformation in the media.

7 If you had to banish one public figure, who would it be?

I wouldn’t want to banish anyone, but I do find sanctimonious bigots who hide behind a facade of left-of-centre liberalism very annoying.

8 What are the rules that you live by?

Have good manners and dignity in poverty; be kind, considerate, compassionate and respectful and live good with your neighbours.

9 Do you love your country?

I do not consider myself a scoundrel, so I won’t hoist the Union Jack. However, I’ve come to terms with my Britishness – sort of, anyway.

10 Are we all doomed?

For the late John La Rose, a comrade of C L R James, self-activity and hope are what sustain the “dream to change the world”.

This article first appeared in the 17 March 2008 issue of the New Statesman, Iraq: the war that changed us

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SRSLY #13: Take Two

On the pop culture podcast this week, we discuss Michael Fassbender’s Macbeth, the recent BBC adaptations of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Cider with Rosie, and reminisce about teen movie Shakespeare retelling She’s the Man.

This is SRSLY, the pop culture podcast from the New Statesman. Here, you can find links to all the things we talk about in the show as well as a bit more detail about who we are and where else you can find us online.

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SRSLY is hosted by Caroline Crampton and Anna Leszkiewicz, the NS’s web editor and editorial assistant. We’re on Twitter as @c_crampton and @annaleszkie, where between us we post a heady mixture of Serious Journalism, excellent gifs and regularly ask questions J K Rowling needs to answer.

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You can also find us on Twitter @srslypod, or send us your thoughts on tumblr here. If you like the podcast, we'd love you to leave a review on iTunes - this helps other people come across it.

The Links

On Macbeth

Ryan Gilbey’s review of Macbeth.

The trailer for the film.

The details about the 2005 Macbeth from the BBC’s Shakespeare Retold series.


On Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Cider with Rosie

Rachel Cooke’s review of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Sarah Hughes on Cider with Rosie, and the BBC’s attempt to create “heritage television for the Downton Abbey age”.


On She’s the Man (and other teen movie Shakespeare retellings)

The trailer for She’s the Man.

The 27 best moments from the film.

Bim Adewunmi’s great piece remembering 10 Things I Hate About You.


Next week:

Anna is reading Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner.


Your questions:

We loved talking about your recommendations and feedback this week. If you have thoughts you want to share on anything we've discussed, or questions you want to ask us, please email us on srslypod[at], or @ us on Twitter @srslypod, or get in touch via tumblr here. We also have Facebook now.



The music featured this week, in order of appearance, is:


Our theme music is “Guatemala - Panama March” (by Heftone Banjo Orchestra), licensed under Creative Commons. 



See you next week!

PS If you missed #12, check it out here.

Caroline Crampton is web editor of the New Statesman.

Anna Leszkiewicz is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.