Comedian Mark Thomas is bringing a new Christmas-themed show to Battersea Arts Centre this December.

The south London stand up and notable voice on the left said 'An Extra Plate' would "tell of the ghost of radical Christmas past and present".

The Wandsworth Times caught up with Mark last week ahead of his festive return to Battersea.

Can you share a little bit about what your show is about?

At Christmas, we have virtually the darkest day of the year. And on that date we choose to have our biggest celebration. That's fantastic! The very act of celebrating at this time is just brilliant. To say, this is time when we should be hunkering down and we say 'no: we're gonna party'. There's something brilliant about the excess of Christmas. F**k these Scrooges. These parsimonious t***s who have their Christmas tree decorations match each other, colour coordination with the baubles. No! Your Christmas tree should look like a gay riot. That's the whole point of Christmas, being ebullient and over the top. There's a radical nature in that. With Covid everyone has been sitting at home. The very act of coming together is a political thing. Originally there were the 12 Days of Christmas. We had 12 days off work. What happened to our 12 days? I want them back. It's about spending time with each other. Who said work is so bloody brilliant? It's about coming together as a community, having time that's joyous, time that's brilliant together. There's always time for work later on. It's not as if we run out of the f***ing stuff. We're trying to source a karaoke machine for people to sing before we start, and we're going to get people bring decorations so they can help decorate the room. We're going to have a big old silly time.

The idea of welcoming. This is radical. This is us. This is who we are. We're not these mean-spirited bean-counting weirdos. People wondering what to do with the migrant crisis. You welcome them ashore, that's what you do. Welcome them, help them get ashore and then discretely ask whether they have an HGV licence.

To what extent do you feel that's still true, given the fact that some people are still voting political parties less welcoming to migrants and refugees?

People will continue to do that but the point is that there are masses of us... 'care' and 'love' are verbs. Doing words. They are not words where you sit and wring your hands. People who actually use those words as actual verbs will actually win in the end over people who just sit and tut. Attitudes are changing all the time. It's not fixed. We've got a good tradition of welcoming people. We need to be celebrating that. Boris Johnson and Priti Patel came unstuck over the taking the knee issue, remember that? They ran out of populist fuel. They overstepped the mark and the reason is because they are populists and all they can do is echo back those sorts of sentiments.

I see the other side of that every time I go to watch AFC Wimbledon. People clap when the players take the knee. There are a couple of boos, but they are irrelevant. They just embarrass themselves. The point I'm making is that things change. Everything is in flux. And actually these are the times when opportunities arise to make gains and say look: These are the things that we stand for. To stay these are the things that are important. Everyone knows that communities and key workers are important. The past 18 months people have realised that we do need bin men. They're not just people we can grumble at. There has been a slight reappraisal.

How likely do you think those opportunities for change are under the current government?

I'm not Nostradamus. All you can do is go: 'Let's celebrate and organise'.

In terms of organizing... It's been reported that you were on a police watch list for all the demonstrations you've attended and so on. Are you still on the list? How has it impacted you and the work you do?

We're still fighting a court case on it. We've got two court cases that we've won against the police and have got compensation from them. We've got one court case that the police have virtually admitted that we've won... And we've got another one which is about the domestic extremist list, which was a police file on activists that they use and run, and we're fighting that as the National Union of Journalists of which I'm a member. There are seven of us who are fighting the lists with us on it.

What was your reaction when you first found out you were on those lists?

Part of me was delighted and part of me was terrified. You have to think, if you want to be watching people, there are people I could suggest, you know, the far right and people who actually commit acts of terror. But organisers? Activists? The collusion between the police and private industry and the arms industry is amazing. People forget that the right to protest is a legal right. It's in law. Not only international but in English law. The police have got to uphold our right to protest. They've got to facilitate it. If they don't, they're breaking the law.

Do you think the new Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill jeopardises that?

Yeah of course it does. What it does is, it intimidates. It has a chilling effect. It says, if you want to have a demonstration that could be possibly annoying we can cancel it and move it on. All demonstrations are annoying! That's the definition of being annoying. If you want to have a non-annoying demonstration it's basically just tutting. Demonstrations are annoying because you have to come together as a community and say 'this is what we want'. The upper classes, the ruling class, they don't have demonstrations because they don't need to. They can make a phone call and 'oh yes thank you I'll make a donation very good'. That's how it works. Proper change, real change, progressive change always happens from the bottom upwards, relies on demonstrations, on bringing people together and putting pressure on people to change things. So the idea that you can be too noisy on a demonstration is f***ing ridiculous. Sometimes people forget that governments are accountable to us. Not the other way around.

Wandsworth Times: Image: Steve UllathorneImage: Steve Ullathorne

Do you feel we are slightly more atomised than we were 20 or 30 years ago?

Because of Covid yeah. But people are coming together. Saying that people are more atomised: People still have to turn up for work. People on building sites aren't atomised. I was doing a gig for the Peace and Justice Project and Jeremy Corbyn was there. During the first wave of Covid he said he had a meeting with Johnson and asked him what he was going to do about paying workers who have to stay at home. And he said 'but they will be able to work from home'. So Corbyn asked him: 'How will bricklayers and plasterers work from home?' And Johnson said: 'Mr Corbyn raises a very good point. Now I wonder if any of the boffins in the room can answer him.' The point being that for working class people, for key workers, they were juggling risk. They weren't atomised. If you look at the CCTV footage from Canning Town with so many people on the platform... the idea of social distancing there was a joke because people had to go to work. Builders didn't get atomised. Secondly, people couldn't wait to get out and see other people. Thirdly, Black Lives Matter erupted in the middle of Covid. What a fantastic thing that was. That was thrilling. Absolutely thrilling.

What did you think about Kier Starmer saying that BLM was a 'moment not a movement'?

Starmer is irrelevant... He's f***ing useless. What are they trying to do? From my point of view, you either want to transform society. Change it to make it fairer, to make it kinder, to make it more just. Or you want to manage it better, and that's what Starmer wants to do. He wants to be the better manager. Now he's facing Johnson so it shouldn't be too much of an uphill climb to portray himself as the better manager. When Starmer says 'It's a moment' You just think? What? It's so out of touch. That's the nicest thing you can say about that. He tries to have it both ways by saying 'yes, I sort of support this, because racism is bad and I need to be saying that, but I also need to appeal to some of Boris's people, and not give it too much credence. I just think it's vacuous.

What's happening to the idea of looking at British history is thrilling. I'm hopeful we are seeing the break-up of the union. That's what I want to see. A united Ireland is long overdue. Scotland becoming independent too. It's a different country, it's got a different language, different customs, different habits, different politics. Why on Earth would you want to regard yourself as a second-class citizen by subsuming that? One of the things the United Kingdom does do well is have regional identity. Yorkshire has an incredible regional identity. The North East has an incredible regional identity. Cornwall, has incredible regional identity. What we're very good at is having our local, regional identities. What we're very bad it is having national ones that aren't in anyway progressive. And I think that's changing.

Have your travels on tour around the country strengthened that view?

Yeah. When you ask people around the country how they identify. How do you identify?

I guess I would say I'm from a small village in Hertfordshire

I say I'm from south London. I identify through where I was born and brought up. If you ask my mate Pete, he'd say West Yorkshire. We were driving from Wakefield to Barnsley and as we crossed the border from west to south he twitched and said 'they're not the same, it's different'. The idea that these boundaries exist. Those invisible demarcation points are very important when it comes to identity. And that's the thing about Christmas. What you do is you have a ritual, family rituals, local rituals, national rituals, community rituals. They stay the same, but what you notice are the changes in each other. It's like this wonderful calendar of our lives, where we stop and take stock of where we and our family and friends are.

It's definitely an atmospheric time.

It's about being here for each other and enjoying that, and to try and create a fairer and better place. No one said: 'what you're here for is to increase the profits of Amazon.' Where's that?!

We're hoping to speak with Battersea's MP Marsha De Cordova soon. What one question would you put to them if you could?

When are you going to back PR?

What gives you hope at the moment?

Look at AFC Wimbledon. It's a community overcoming adversity when someone sells your ground! I think that there's an amazing sense of community and achievement, and you can see all these grassroots things, of things happening and changing all the way around you. The way that support for refugees is building up, the way that support for workers and strikers is building, like the refuse workers in Glasgow, or in Thurrock. Or the RMT recently. What we have to do is support everyone, work for everyone. That's how it works. Whether it's BLM, the RMT or trans people. We have to be there. We have to support each other.

Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain are exciting. People are demanding change. You have this quite academic debate about 1.5 degrees warming, but actually on the ground there is this whole other debate happening with people saying: 'Actually, what we want is loss and reparations for damages. That's really important. What's amazing about XR is that they had their first week of action, if you remember, and BANG! Suddenly, climate change was right centre spread, all over the newspapers for that week. It changed attitudes. It changed our attitude to it. This is remarkable. This is what we can do! How exciting.

Have you got any hopes or expectations for the new year?

Yeah I'm hoping for a Gramscian-based spontaneous uprising, that's what I've asked Santa for.

Mark Thomas's An Extra Plate is running at Battersea Arts Centre from December 14. 

Click here for info. and tickets.