Beatrix Campbell

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Beatrix Campbell
Born Mary Lorimer Beatrix Barnes
(1947-02-03) 3 February 1947 (age 67)
Residence United Kingdom
Nationality British
Political party
Green party
Movement Marxist feminism

Mary Lorimer Beatrix Campbell, OBE (born 3 February 1947[1]), née Barnes, is a British campaigning writer. Since the early-1970s, she has published continuously in, among others, the following publications: The Morning Star, Marxism Today, Red Rag, Time Out, City Limits, Feminist Review, New Statesman, New Socialist, The Guardian, The Independent, Scotland on Sunday, The Scotsman and the Sunday Mirror. Her books include Wigan Pier Revisited (1984), Goliath: Britain's Dangerous Places (1993) and Diana, Princess of Wales: How Sexual Politics Shook the Monarchy (1998). She has also made films, including Listen to the Children(1990), an award-winning documentary about child abuse. She has been a frequent contributor to the BBC's Question Time and Any Questions, and ABC's Late Night Live.

Early life[edit]

Campbell was born in Carlisle, England. She was educated at Harraby Secondary Modern School and Carlisle and County High School for Girls.[2] Her parents, Jim and Catherine Barnes, were Communist Party members. She had a younger sister, Tina, and a younger brother, Jimmy.

Personal life[edit]

Beatrix Barnes took the name Beatrix Campbell on marriage to Bobby Campbell, a former Glasgow shipyard fitter, and fiddle player, who was part of the renaissance of radical politics and music in Scotland in the early 1960s.[3] They met in London at the end of 1966 and lived in a commune in Tower Hamlets. They divorced in 1978 and remained close friends until the end of his life in 1998. It was Bobby who encouraged Beatrix to get a job in journalism, and she joined him at the communist daily paper The Morning Star, formerly The Daily Worker, where he was the boxing correspondent. She became a sub-editor and later a reporter.

She became deeply committed to the women's liberation movement in 1970, and from that time was oriented towards women and women's issues. Twenty years later she began a lifelong relationship with Judith Jones (known under her married name as Judith Dawson[4]) with whom she has collaborated in writing several books and plays.

Working and political life[edit]

Campbell was only fourteen when, in 1961, she took part in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament's march from Aldermaston to London in protest against nuclear weapons, and was still no more than a teenager when she first joined the Communist Party. At that time the Party was deeply divided over its historic and troubled relationship with the Soviet Union. She belonged to the anti-Stalinist wing that opposed the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. In London, she and Bobby Campbell joined a dissident group in the Communist Party founded by university lecturer Bill Warren[5] that produced a critique of both Stalinism and the party's economism.

From the early 1970s Campbell's engagement with the Communist Party was more and more as a feminist, from which perspective she challenged both its political approach to organising among women and its overall strategy. As Geoff Andrews wrote of her in his book End Games and New Times: The Final Years of British Communism 1964–1991[6] feminism now "became a priority, not subordinate to some higher goal. It was a crucial part of redefining socialism". She was one of a group of journalists on The Morning Star that in the early 1970s produced a document challenging the editor to break the paper's exclusive ties to the Communist Party and the trade union movement to open to an engagement with the new social movements, then proliferating. {This needs more explanation.}. With the appointment of Tony Chater as editor in 1976 she felt the struggle to reform the Star had been lost, and resigned her position as reporter on the paper. During the following decade her engagement with communism and the party would shift to involvement with the journal Marxism Today and the Gramscian New Times analysis of epochal changes taking place in the late 20th century, a challenge to both traditional leftism and to New Labour's Third Way.

By the end of the 1970s Campbell was working principally for Time Out, whose staff were involved in a long strike and occupation in 1981 over equal pay for all and for the right of staff to be consulted about major investments. Ultimately, she and the majority of the staff left and started the cooperatively-owned London magazine City Limits.

The emergence of the women's liberation movement, however, changed Campbell's life utterly. With Nell Myers, she set up a women's liberation movement group in Stratford, East London and in 1972 was in the group of women Communist Party members that founded Red Rag. It immediately opened itself up to women in the wider women's movement, describing itself not only as a Marxist but as a "feminist journal", and defining feminism as "the political movement which emerges as women's response to their own oppression". When the Communist Party banned Red Rag, the editorial collective's response was "it's not yours to ban", and the journal continued to flourish for ten years.[7]

In the 1980s, Campbell's writing focused on the transformation of Britain by Thatcherism. She set off on a six-month odyssey around England and wrote a polemical critique of George Orwell's book The Road to Wigan Pier and the myopia of sexist socialism. She investigated the Conservative Party's appeal to women. She also became associated politically and professionally with the emergence of radical municipalism {This needs more explanation.}. particularly in London, under the innovative leadership of Labour councillor Ken Livingstone, and the creation of a significant new template, including but transcending class to reach new communities, ethnic minorities from the Irish to the African Caribbeans, people with disabilities, and, signally, women. This new radicalism, manifest in London and other great cities, aroused the ire of the Thatcher government, which responded by abolishing the metropolitan authorities in 1985.[citation needed]

Thatcher's policy of basing US nuclear missiles in the English countryside provoked what would become a long-lived and globally-linked movement of women: the Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp.[8] Among a network of London groups supporting the peace camp during the middle 1980s was one called the 'Hackney Common Singers', comprising Beatrix Campbell and friends.

Beatrix Campbell lived in Newcastle upon Tyne in the 1990s while she was writing about the 1991 riots in Tyneside, Bristol, Cardiff and elsewhere. Some years later she would be a writer in residence in young offenders institutions, working with boys serving long or life sentences for violence. As a result of child abuse cases in nurseries in her own Tyneside neighbourhood, she helped to launch a local campaign, People Against Child Sexual Abuse. She organised a writing workshop at a centre for children and families who had experienced child abuse. {More detail needed.}. Aside from her regular writing as a columnist for The Independent, her writing for some years focused on these two themes: young men, community and crime, and debates around child abuse. On 9 February 1991 Campbell appeared on television discussion programme After Dark[9] together with the then deputy director of Nottinghamshire social services Andy Croall (who was suspended for remarks he made on the programme).

In 1998 Campbell reported on a Newcastle City Council report into allegations of child abuse at the Shieldfield Nursery in the city in 1993. She claimed the council inquiry was "stringent" and had found "persuasive evidence of sadistic and sexual abuse of up to 350 children". The alleged perpetrators were workers at the nursery, Dawn Reed and Christopher Lillie, who had already been cleared of multiple charges in a criminal trial in 1994. They subsequently successfully sued the Council, the "Independent Review Team" who produced the report, and the local Evening Chronicle newspaper for libel.[10] Awarding Reed and Lillie the maximum possible damages of £200,000 each, the judge in the case made a "very rare" finding of "malice" on the part of the Independent Review Team, in that "they included in their report a number of fundamental claims which they must have known to be untrue and which cannot be explained on the basis of incompetence or mere carelessness." One of the four people on the Independent Review Team was Campbell's close working partner Judith Jones (see above).[11] Campbell also wrote in favour of now discredited allegations raised in the Cleveland Child sex abuse Scandal as well as similar discredited allegations in Nottingham where Jones had both "led her team of social workers investigating child abuse" and also supported these claims.[12]

From 1981 Campbell had been connected to women activists in Northern Ireland and in subsequent years she wrote extensively on the conflict there, in particular exposing state collusion in sectarian assassinations. As later reported in her book Agreement! The State, Conflict and Change in Northern Ireland published in 2008, she closely followed and supported the parallel peace process in which community and women activists sought to ensure that the 'equalities' (equality of opportunity between people of different religious beliefs, political opinion, gender, racial group, and age, among other dimensions of difference) would be written as duties into the Northern Ireland Peace Agreement of 1998, making it "a dynamic exemplar of reform democracy for the twenty-first century" [p. 57].

After joining the Green Party Campbell stood twice as a candidate in local elections (in the London Borough of Camden) and in the 2010 parliamentary election (in Hampstead and Highgate constituency). In this decade her writing took a turn into drama, with co-authorship with Judith Jones of several plays, including And All the Children Cried, commissioned by West Yorkshire Playhouse and Blame, performed in the Arcola Theatre, London.

Honours and citations[edit]

Campbell has received several academic honours including Honorary Doctorates conferred by Salford University, Oxford Brookes University and The Open University. Her work has gained her several awards, including the Cheltenham Literature Festival Prize in 1984 for the book Wigan Pier Revisited, the Fawcett Society Prize in 1987 for the book The Iron Ladies and the First Time Producers' Award in 1990 for her Dispatches documentary film Listen to the Children.

In June 2009 Beatrix Campbell was awarded an OBE for 'services to equality', an honour about which she expressed a troubled ambivalence. She mused in a Guardian' article at the time[13] that "by clinging to symbols and rituals that belong to a cruel imperial order the government compromises the gonged". On the other hand she admitted that "getting gonged confers recognition of citizens' contributions to a good society – in my case equality – and the gesture affirms our necessity..." She added, 'the radicals – not the royalists – are the best of the British'. In 2012 she was in the World Pride Power List of 100 the most influential gay people of the year.

Selected publications[edit]

  • Sweet Freedom: Struggle for Women's Liberation, by Anna Coote, Beatrix Campbell & Christine Roche (1982), Picador Books
  • Wigan Pier Revisited: Poverty and politics in the Eighties, Beatrix Campbell (1984), Virago Press
  • The Iron Ladies: Why Do Women Vote Tory? by Beatrix Campbell (1987), Virago Press
  • Unofficial Secrets: Child Abuse – The Cleveland Case, by Beatrix Campbell (1988), Virago Press
  • Goliath: Britain's Dangerous Places, Beatrix Campbell (1993), Methuen Books
  • Diana, Princess of Wales: How Sexual Politics Shook the Monarchy, by Beatrix Campbell (1998), Women's Press
  • And All the Children Cried, by Beatrix Campbell and Judith Jones (2005), Oberon Books
  • Agreement: The State, Conflict and Change in Northern Ireland, by Beatrix Campbell (2008), Lawrence & Wishart
  • End of Equality by Beatrix Campbell (forthcoming 2014), Seagull.


  1. ^ "Ms Beatrix Campbell, OBE Authorised Biography – Debrett's People of Today, Ms Beatrix Campbell, OBE Profile". 3 February 1947. Retrieved 4 December 2013. 
  2. ^ "Burke's Peerage – Preview Family Record". [dead link]
  3. ^ Jack, Ian (30 September 1997). "Obituary: Bobby Campbell". The Independent (London). Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  4. ^ "Daily Mail". 3 August 2002.  The Witchfinder by Geoffrey Levy
  5. ^ Geoff Andrews Endgames and New Times, p. 63
  6. ^ Geoff Andrews Endgames and New Times,p. 224-243
  7. ^ Geoff Andrews Endgames and New Times,p. 66-69
  8. ^ Sasha Roseneil, Disarming Patriarchy: Feminism and Political Action at Greenham
  9. ^ TV company website, accessed 4 May 2009
  10. ^ Bob Woffinden and Richard Webster (2002-08-02). "Cleared". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  11. ^ The Honourable Mr Justice Eady's judgement: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
  12. ^ "Daily Mail". 3 August 2002.  The Witchfinder by Geoffrey Levy
  13. ^ Campbell, Beatrix (16 June 2009). "Why I accepted my OBE". The Guardian. 

External links[edit]