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

Suffragette: The Movie!

A new period film, Suffragette, which charts the campaign for women’s votes in Britain, is to hit our our screens in January 2015.

Suffragette Movie

As well as dramatising history, the film is making it, as it is the first to use the Houses of Parliament as a set for a commercial film, 25 years after TV cameras were allowed in for the first time. Suffragette stars Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Romola Garai and multi-Oscar-winner Meryl Streep as one of the movement’s leaders, Emmeline Pankhurst. Scenes were shot both outside and inside the building, including the central lobby and one of the committee rooms. You can see some of the filming under way in Parliament in this BBC report. Continue reading

Feminist kitchen accessories – an oxymoron?

With Father’s Day approaching this Sunday 15th, it seems the perfect time to have a discussion about the ‘feminist’ nature (or not) of what the Radical Tea Towel Company does. Occasionally, we receive comments on our facebook page about whether the kitchen accessories on our website simply encourage stereotypes of women working in the kitchen. Here are a couple of examples:

Facebook commentFacebook comment

We don’t actually believe our stuff has to be seen in an ironic light at all: we have a range of figures and concepts on the tea towels, and the suffragette movement just happens to be one of these.

There’s nothing about a suffragette tea towel that says it’s only for use by women, or that a man can’t appreciate the finer stylistic points of a Keep Left apron. Which is why we offer you feminist gift ideas for Father’s Day as well as Mother’s Day ;-) Continue reading

History of the Tea Cosy – From Duchesses to WW2 Soldiers

Feminist tea cosy

Commemorating the suffragettes – but the tea cosy also has a story of its own to tell

The tea cosy (tea cozy in the US), like the tea towel, apparently traces its origins back to 19th century Britain. It is thought likely that the Duchess of Bedford, who established a tradition of ‘afternoon tea’ in 1840 to occupy affluent women, first popularised the tea cosy among the upper classes.

Its primary function was to keep the tea pot warm so that the tea wouldn’t go cold quickly during all the chatter and gossip of an afternoon tea gathering. These were of course the days well before electric kettles and microwaves which can quickly reheat cold water.

The late Victorian era saw tea cosies become popular in the houses of the middle class. They were often embroidered and their function expanded to a decorative piece. This period also saw tea cosies become popular in North America.

British Second World War soldiers spending time in a military hospital in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) were told to knit tea cosies to avoid boredom. Their patterned designs were in stark contrast to the experience of death and destruction around them, and a gentle reminder of life at home. This tea cosy, telling the story of one such soldier, was featured in the BBC’s series ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’. Continue reading