The ever-readable Reade, sharpens his scalpel and dissects the reasons why so many of our true heroes remain unknown, uncelebrated and un-recognised… and then redresses the balance.
If you don’t read the Daily Mirror, or have much interest in football, you may not know of columnist and commentator Brian Reade. In which case you have a real treat in store and should pick up a copy of this book and immerse yourself in it immediately. No really, stop reading this review and do it now.
From its title, drawn from a kerbside conversation in Garston before a mural of Spanish Civil War veteran and trade union leader, Jack Jones, and its subtly adapted John Lennon lyric subtitle, Reade launches into a powerful and principled analysis of why, as a nation, we have been duped into the reverence and recognition of the supposedly great and the good, when all too often it is those of more humble backgrounds who are the true heroes.
To crassly paraphrase Mr Reade, have you ever thought for a moment why the NHS staff who risked their lives and worked obscene hours in the toughest of conditions got a national clap and yet still fight for a modest pay rise, while many of those who sold dodgy PPE goods ended up with millions in the bank and big slaps on the back from our political classes?
In drawing on his deep knowledge, superb research and award winning articles, and ranging across illustrative chapters on Dennis Skinner, Barbara Castle, Doreen Lawrence, the Hillsborough Mothers, Muhammed Ali and many more, Reade paints a picture of the corrupt, unspoken and all too often hidden systems that suppress real social mobility, hinder justice and prevent true heroes from receiving the credit they so richly deserve.
As Ali put it to Reade in a 2001 interview at his Berrien Springs, Michigan home, “Service for others is the rent we pay on earth.” Reade has done us all a great service with this heart-wrenching, anger-inducing, truth-telling book that will make you weep with frustration while making you profoundly aware of the true nature of heroism and those who really deserve the statues, medals and infinite praise of grateful nations.
It is the most affecting and truest hymn to stalwart, silent - and too often silenced - heroism that you will read this year, and for many years to come.
SOMETHING unusual happened in Britain during the spring of 2020. As the nation went into lockdown to fight a killer pandemic our view of what constituted a hero changed.
Suddenly celebrity businessmen, actors, sports stars, singers, even royals seemed irrelevant. The people we were truly in awe of were the low-paid lifesavers, so much so that we stood outside our homes every Thursday to applaud them.
As spring turned to summer and the Black Lives Matter movement gathered momentum, action was taken against those from past generations who had been feted, such as Bristol slave trader Edward Colston whose statue was hauled down. It felt as though the country was re-evaluating the notion of heroism. But how did we arrive at such a skewed version of it?
'Diamonds in the Mud' asks why the British have traditionally been taught to venerate kings and queens, generals and Eton-educated Prime Ministers, while, a few notable exceptions aside, those who changed history from below rarely got a look-in.
It does so by telling the stories of a selection of working-class heroes the award-winning writer has met through life and journalism. Men and women who rose from humble backgrounds to change the world. Some in a huge way, others in a smaller way, but all made the people they came from immensely proud.
From relentless matriarchs like Doreen Lawrence and the Hillsborough mothers to Omagh bomb victim Donna Marie McGillion whose stoicism told the men of terror they wouldn't win; from football men like Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley who brought their people joy to the Fans Supporting Foodbanks group and Marcus Rashford who fed the poor; from class warriors like Dennis Skinner to glass-ceiling breakers like Barbara Castle; from trade union leader Jack Jones who fought fascists in Spain to Muhammad Ali who inspired a generation of British black people to stand tall; from sacked dockers who opened a social justice hub for all-comers to NHS nurses who lost their lives on the Covid frontline as they battled to save others.
The book argues that these are the type of heroes we should be teaching future generations about. That, perhaps, if children in state schools were taught about the achievements of those from the same class as them they would have a fraction of the confidence enjoyed by public school pupils and realise that they too have the capability to change the world.
And maybe Britain would become less of a cap-doffing nation that teaches ordinary people the main thing they need to know is their place.
|Publication date:||5th August 2021|
|Primary Genre||Biographies & Autobiographies|
Closing date: 25/11/2021
'Powerful, vital and visionary' - Jimmy McGovern