Our Story: Part 2

This is the second in a two-part series outlining the background of the Radical Tea Towel Company. You can read the first part of our story here.

By Luke, co-founder

If you’ve read Beatrice’s post on the origins of the Radical Tea Towel Company, you’ll know that the concept for our site was originally spurred by her attempts to find a politically-themed but also practical gift for an elderly relative.

It was quite a challenge initially getting our project off the ground, but fortunately, we found out pretty quickly that Beatrice wasn’t the only one interested in radically themed stuff. A few years ago, you couldn’t get more than books and t-shirts for progressive-minded people, but in the past couple of years, we’ve grown from just a few tea towel designs, to expanding our range of political gifts to include mugs, bags and fridge magnets.

It’s an interesting experience, this whole start-up business thing. You have to juggle several projects all at once: the products, the website (more work than it seems!), suppliers, wholesalers, social media, customers. Continue reading

Why This Man Was So Optimistic

Our instant reaction on hearing of death is one of sadness. Tony Benn, who died aged 88 on 14th March this year, received the usual cross-party tributes and eulogies from both friends and enemies. He was variously described as a crusader for the left, uncompromising in his views, and an inspiration whose influence stretched beyond traditional party politics – a great loss to politics and the left in particular.

Benn himself, however, was more prepared for the end, not wallowing in despair but simply noting the inevitability of being ‘switched off’ at some point. In fact, optimism was a recurring theme in Benn’s writing and speaking long before this year, and we at Radical Tea Towel don’t think this aspect of his character has received enough attention. It is likely a key reason for his success as political grandee and spokesperson for the left – and is arguably what he most wanted to be remembered for.

Benn believed that the history of the left and of society had to be seen in terms of the great progress achieved, and that frame of reference provided optimism for the future of those seeking progressive change. A pessimistic frame, meanwhile, would only ever be self-fulfilling. In his famous interview with comedian Ali G in 2000, Tony Benn warned of the dangers of society conforming to the lens through which you view it.

BENN TO ALI G: “You’re not living in the real world my friend, you’re living in a world where everybody is just so bloody greedy that there’s no hope of building a better society and that’s why we’re in a mess… You think they are lazy, greedy, don’t want to work, you call women bitches and then you are asking me about a society that’s happy. Well I’ll tell you what, somebody will shoot you someday because you treat them like an animal.”

After initially feeling angry once he was told the interview was a hoax, Benn concluded that the video was in fact educational in that, along with others in the Ali G series, it would encourage people to look again at their own prejudices surrounding the issues raised. An optimism lacking in fellow, more conservative, interviewees. Continue reading

Washing Up Hacks to Save Water

Washing up needn’t be something you hate! You can see it as a calming routine which forces you to detach from the usual electronic stimulants and daily distractions. And while you’re at it, why not make it a goal to cut down on water wastage too?

1. Use a large plastic bowl within the sink to save about half the volume of water necessary to fill an empty sink. This also saves you time!

Plastic bowl

2. Make the water as hot as possible, using gloves to avoid burning yourself. The hot water will make it a lot easier to remove tough stains quickly.

Gloves

Continue reading

How To Talk Politics When You Don’t Know Much About It

Ask anyone’s advice on having a good conversation with someone you’ve just met, and they’re sure to advise you to steer clear of the danger topics of politics, religion and Paris Hilton. Well, that’s ok because you’re not really interested in politics anyway and would rather stick to less controversial topics like the health benefits of tea (oh yeah and Scottish independence, right?).

Paris Hilton

Paris Hilton: she’d know what to say. Photo credit: Glenn Francis

But what if it’s not you making that choice? You’ve just met your girlfriend’s father, and he insists on rabbiting on about how President Obama faked Bin Laden’s death in order to distract from a nose job. How you handle these moments early on could make the difference between a healthy relationship with a new acquaintance or years of awkward water cooler conversation.

Here are a few tips to survive when you’re forced into a conversation about politics and you feel you have little to contribute. Continue reading

Tea Towels in the Classroom

We love finding radical tea towels in unusual places. It’s common to find people have framed Gandhi and put him on the wall rather than dare to get the great pacifist wet!

Nathalie Ramirez Anderson, an English teacher at the Mary Erskine School in Edinburgh, Scotland, has taken the tea-towels-as-posters phenomenon to a whole new level – and we heartily approve. She pinned up a total of eleven radical tea towels on her classroom wall, and they make quite a sight (seven visible):

Tea Towels in the Classroom

From left to right: Emmeline Pankhurst, Rosa Luxemburg, Wiliam Wilberforce, Thomas Paine, Aung Sang Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King. The tea towels, not the kids, silly!

We got in touch with Nathalie having seen her pictures: Continue reading

Two Modern Campaigners for Women

At the start of the 21st century, a hundred years after the death of Emily Davison, what are the defining issues for women? The renewed fight for contraceptive and abortion rights? The backlash against objectification, pornification and ‘rape culture’ in newspapers, TV and on social media? Or issues such as poverty, the fight for a living wage and work place equality?

And who are the greatest movers and shakers campaigning for women today?

Lucy Holmes who started the ‘No more page 3’ campaign arguably deserves a mention. The campaign was launched in 2013 with a petition calling on the Sun’s editor, Dominic Mohan, to “take the bare boobs out of The Sun.” To date it has tens of thousands of signatories and support from numerous organisations.

Caroline Lucas - 'No More Page 3'

Green MP Caroline Lucas wearing a ‘No More Page 3′ t-shirt in the House of Commons

Continue reading

How to Wash and Take Care of your Tea Towels

So you’ve just bought a set of brand new tea towels! You may be asking yourself what is the most efficient and hygienic way of cleaning keeping them fresh and clean. Through daily use, they are exposed to all kinds of bacteria and if not washed properly could cause a health hazard. There are several things to bear in mind to ensure your new tea towels are kept hygienic, odour free and up to the job of drying dishes.

Keep Left tea towel

1. Washing frequency

New tea towels should be washed before using for the first time to increase absorbency. This will keep improving over several washes. It’s important to keep washing your tea towels regularly. If you have a good selection you are unlikely to run out and will be able to change them daily, whilst still being cheaper and better for the environment than paper towels.

Don’t leave wet, dirty, wet dish cloths and tea towels in a laundry basket before washing. They could develop mildew and bacteria and start to smell. It is far better to allow them to dry naturally overnight before dropping them in the laundry basket or washing them in the morning. Continue reading

Top Radical & Progressive Events Of The 19th Century: Part 2

This is the second of two posts on the ‘Top Progressive Moments of the 19th Century’ in the UK. You can read the first part here.

 

7. Publication of ‘On Liberty’ (1859)

John Stuart Mill - On Liberty

Described as the most influential English-speaking philosopher of the 19th century, John Stuart Mill was a proponent of the ethical system of utilitarianism, which proposed a social system that prioritised maximising people’s happiness and reducing human suffering. In his work ‘On Liberty’, Mill emphasised the importance of individuality and discussed the dangers of a ‘tyranny of the majority’. It was an influential work, forming the basis of liberal political thought, and has remained in print continuously since its original publication.

 

6. Release of the Tolpuddle Martyrs (1836)

Tolpuddle Martyrs

Contemporary illustration of five of the six Tolpuddle martyrs

In 1832, six men from Tolpuddle in Dorset founded the ‘Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers’, which was in effect a trade union. They were protesting the reduction in agricultural wages brought about by increasing mechanisation. Although technically trade unions were no longer illegal following the repeal of the Combination Acts in 1825, an obscure 1797 law banning people from swearing oaths to each other meant that the men were prosecuted and sentenced to transportation to Australia. The ‘Tolpuddle Martyrs’ were freed in 1836 following a mass political march and petition, and the support of Home Secretary John Russell.  Continue reading

Top Radical & Progressive Events Of The 19th Century: Part 1

15. Establishment of the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers (1844)

Toad Lane store

Toad Lane – the Pioneers’ cooperative store

The modern British cooperative movement traces its roots to the foundation of this Rochdale society, one of the first consumer cooperatives. The ‘Rochdale Principles’ were written by the society as a set of ideals that of form the basis of cooperative movements to this day. The 19th century movement was backed by progressive industrialists such as Robert Owen, who believed in providing good working conditions and education for the families of his employees.

 

14. Chartist Demonstration in London (1848)

The 1848 Chartist meeting on Kennington Common

The 1848 Chartist meeting on Kennington Common

The Chartist political reform movement had delivered several petitions to parliament following publication of the People’s Charter in 1838 (see below), but by far the biggest was in 1848 as part of a demonstration in London. Tens of thousands of workers gathered on Kennington Common in the biggest call for political reform – universal suffrage, payment of MPs and equal-sized constituencies, among other demands – to date. Continue reading

Beyond Drying Up: Six (Conventional) Uses for a Tea Towel

In the age of the dishwasher, there are a few misguided people who feel that tea towels are no longer necessary in the kitchen. Be warned to stay clear of such heresy! Tea towels don’t have to be used for drying the dishes alone: they have several other vital functions in the modern kitchen. In this post we review a few of the traditional uses for this most flexible of kitchen accessories beyond drying up (a future post will expose some of the more ‘alternative’ functions!).

 

1. To cover a warm loaf of bread

Tea towel wrapping bread

Or cake and other delicious and exposed home-made baked food! The tea towel’s rectangle shape and insulating cotton should provide the perfect covering for traditional English scones, jam and clotted cream.

 

2. To dry wet surfaces

Tea towel wiping surface

We all know things can get quite messy when cooking in the kitchen. You’ve just sprayed and wiped your hob and table surfaces, only to find that now they’re soaked with water and unusable for the next twenty minutes. Enter the tea towel to wipe off that excess water and move you quickly onto dessert! Continue reading