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About Geoffrey Heptonstall

Geoffrey Heptonstall is a widely-published poet, fiction writer and essayist.

Articles by Geoffrey Heptonstall

This week’s editor

Rosemary Belcher-2.jpg

Rosemary Bechler is openDemocracy’s Editor.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

The country and the city

The recent re-issuing of Raymond Williams' The Country and the City should remind us of the importance of rural Britain.

Is Hollywood helping to change attitudes to the Cold War?

A Bridge of Spies is a timely reminder that East-West relations in the Cold War can be viewed now with the perspective of history. This is not always in the West’s favour.

Is Downton Abbey the best we can do?

Downton Abbey’s blend of nostalgia and wishful-thinking has been entertaining, but it raises questions about class that have yet to be resolved even now.

Corbyn – after Oldham

The Oldham by-election is an early suggestion that public support for the new Labour leadership is stronger than has been supposed.

Who are the real patriots?

A true patriot cares about the social realities rather than sentimental ideas of nationhood.

Corbyn's victory is the new political reality

Corbyn’s leadership is new and untested. But the real question is not about one politician. It is about a climate of feeling which he represents.

Reflecting on a media in crisis

Various parts of the media are threatened by scandals of their own making, as well as coercive political challenges. This is the moment to re-think what media is for.

Why the left is right for Labour and Britain

Slurs against a revitalised Socialism insult the mainstream of Labour’s long history. Denial of that tradition has no place in the Labour Party.

Did Kevin Spacey deserve his knighthood?

The Old Vic has become part of a network of dissenting theatrical voices that will not be easily silenced.

How should we remember Waterloo?

Are anniversaries of historic events an occasion for serious assessment or simply a nostalgic indulgence that reinforce current prejudice? 

Latin lessons: what Latin America can teach us about faith in society

Latin America provides ideas on how to translate social need into an available programme of action.

The coalition's scorched earth economics is anti-democratic

In five years we’ve witnessed a massive change in society with little opposition. Cameron’s vision is incompatible with democracy. 

Servitude: the way we work now

Exploitative work contracts have become the norm. Casual, ill-paid or unpaid work creates servitude. In such a climate actual slavery, though illegal, flourishes.

The Mail - irresponsible comment undermines everything of value

A relentless tide, year after year, of irresponsible comment from the Daily Mail especially is incompatible with the ideals of commonwealth within civil society.

Wolf Hall is a history lesson in power

Wolf Hall depicts the dehumanizing effects of power pursued for its own sake. Acting without impunity, irresponsible power undermines common morality for selfish motives. Jimmy Savile is a case in point.

A theatre of narrative

The performance of stories in various fringe venues has gathered enough momentum to present the possibility of a Theatre of Narrative where the art of storytelling is as vital as other performing arts.

Useful work and useless ideas

The lives of most people are far removed from the concerns of the metropolitan coteries of influence, wealth and power. A good society would value useful work above the squandering of human and capital resources on meaningless schemes.

Education prepares you for life, not just a career

Corporate culture needs skilled workers trained to do the job. It fears the questioning of values that education encourages.

The racial myth of English nationhood

Isolation from Europe and an end to immigration are disastrous policies derived not from patriotism but from a racial myth whose most vociferous advocate was Enoch Powell. His pernicious legacy endures.

On journalism versus literature

"The truths of literature are truths to feeling rather than the truths of experience. Art re-creates. It reshapes. It expresses an imaginative response to the world. Journalism, by contrast, communicates experience."

The Establishment

Owen Jones' new book has put the topic back on the table, that ethereal, undefinable, untouchable thing which everyone yet knows. So what is it?

On theatre and human performance

The ability to imagine is a necessary human faculty. We need metaphors in order to comprehend and absorb the actualities of life. It isn’t that we can’t bear too much reality. We can understand reality only by way of language.

Convention, reaction and The Beatles

"The failure to adapt suggests not moral concern but crude reaction in moralistic guise."


"It is easy to confuse sophistication with civilisation. Sophistication can be a soulless exercise in superiority rather than an appreciation of cultivated taste for its life-enhancing qualities."

Why we need a Royal College of Literature

Literature is one of the most overlooked artistic mediums in terms of its institutional support. Now is the time to change that.

Truth, opinion, value, and the BBC

"We live in an age suspicious of generosity and optimism. The attitude is for realism, for the unadorned fact of a living without illusions. It would be a sparse, plain world were it not for the glitz of abundance. It is a world of simplicities..."

An area of doubt - law, morality and expediency

It is not enough to say "I did what I thought was right". Sincerity is no substitute for legitimacy and justice.

Our rightward drift goes beyond politics

Thatcher and Blair have seeped into our social and cultural lives as well.

Can you manage this?

Today's corporate culture leaves little room for conscience, responsibility or scepticism. Today's managers are responsible for everything, but also nothing.

Once there were giants...

Penguin books were a fine example of a 'cultural democracy' that has now withered against the reactionary dominance of the mainstream. We need to rediscover the passion for dissent and questioning, and technology may ultimately be the key.

Class is attitude above all

Class remains by nature vague and ill-defined, one of society's necessary mythologies. Class is defined not by a lowly start, nor money nor region, but ultimately as attitude, confidence and absorbed rather than learned values.

Slavery and the African empire - an unfamiliar history

For centuries, much of Europe was integrated into a vast African empire. Yet we refuse to fully understand our history. For this tradition of not knowing the West is paying a price it has not yet begun to calculate.

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