Wednesday, July 11, 2012

New book announcement: Utopia and the Valley of Tears

“I think there is a cultural point in Spain, there is a Catholic way of thinking. They say that life is... a valley of tears. We have been in all this richness!” Juanjo exclaimed, gesturing at the river, and the ornate city around him. “But now! Now the people think: it is time for the valley of tears.”
A worse unemployment rate than Greece. A Spanish economic miracle turned catastrophe. A lost generation of indignados with no homes, no work, and no faith in the systemAn austerity government who in six months have pushed miners to armed conflict, firing home-made rocket launchers at riot police. An Economics Minister whose last job was director of the Spanish branch of Lehman Brothers.

And right in the middle of the Andalucian countryside, a little-known communist utopia led by a charismatic poet-rebel, a town of landless labourers who for over 30 years since the death of Franco, have fought capitalism - and won.

My new book, Utopia and the Valley of Tears: A journey through the Spanish crisis, will be published digitally on 20 August 2012. A longer, different, paperback version will be published by Verso next year.

For enquiries, or to register your interest, email valleyoftears2012 @, and you will receive one reminder when it is published - and that will be the only one, I promise.


“It sounds like science fiction: a small rural town led by a charismatic mayor tries to turn itself into a communist utopia. But it's fact - it's happening right now in Andalucia, and colliding with the region's real-world history of violent rebellion and radicalism. Hancox's book could not be more timely - with Spain on the brink of social crisis and the shadows of the past emerging.”

- Paul Mason, BBC Newsnight Economics Editor

“As the crisis of neoliberalism smacks Spain in the face and tear gasses its young, Dan Hancox ventures to Marinaleda a tiny Spanish ‘utopia’ with a charismatic mayor. The struggle to take back land and create jobs, he tells us, is the most noble of dreams. Right here in the sacred heart of resistance and anarchism, the battles of the past merge with the future. Unemployment mounts, houses are repossessed. A generation migrates. Surely this tiny paradise is  just a mirage?

“Hancox captures the optimism necessary for alternative ways of doing politics, economics and living together. As the borderline between dream and reality shimmers in the heat of Andalucia, we begin to wonder if living as if change were indeed possible is the very key to making actual change happen. Do we really have any other choice?”

- Suzanne Moore, The Guardian

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

We wanted to be the sky: a DDR fishing boat, Nas, and Bloc chaos

Hi, sorry I've been a bit quiet on here. I've just finished a book on Spain, I'm editing a website called ourBeeb full-time til October for openDemocracy, about the future of the BBC, and somehow I've still found time recently for these three Guardian music features. So here they are!

I was lucky enough to go to Hamburg with ace photographer (and mate) Dave Stelfox to spend a weekend on a 1960s East German herring boat, the 80 metre long MS Stubnitz, to see the engine room, sleep in the bunks, and find out how an incredible Swiss sound artist called Blo saved the boat from the scrap heap, to turn it into an incredible cultural powerhouse, roaming the high seas. Here's the feature about the Stubnitz, ahead of its first ever visit to London, for the ill-faited Bloc Weekend.

Ahead of his new album I went to meet the legendary Nas to talk about what it's like when you're considered the greatest rapper alive, but you're pushing 40, you've seen hip-hop change beyond all recognition, got close to Amy Winehouse over Skype, and had a long, messy break-up with Kelis. He was very philosophical, and said some weird things about cows. Here's the piece.
What happened at Bloc? I was there, and I don't really know where to start, but Friday night's debacle involved two and a half hour queues, dangerous crowd surges, panic, police lines, a cancellation in the small hours of the morning, Steve Reich, and music made by a mass improvised shipping container drum orchestra. There's video and audio, pictures, tweets and 1500 words in this epic collaborative report, with mad love to combabes Chris Wood, Nick Wilson and Dave Stelfox for the bits that weren't the words.