1950sis often referred to as a ‘golden period’ for Britain – a time of peace, prosperity and progression.
At the midpoint of the 20th century, things were generally looking up. The Second World War was over. Rationing was in its last leg. Employment rates and standards of living were on the rise. And there seemed to be exciting new things happening everywhere – from the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II to the construction of higher-quality neighbourhoods and high-speed roads known as motorways.
But as Britain remained preoccupied and distracted during a pivotal period of irreversible change, some of the country’s biggest secrets were being pickpocketed and sent 3,500 miles around the world.
When the culprits were found and revealed in 1961, the UK was stunned. They were the last people many would have suspected.
In 1954, married American book dealers Peter and Helen Kroger became the new neighbours on the block on Cranley Drive on Ruislip. No one batted an eyelid. With the exception of the couple’s transatlantic roots, there appeared to be very little exotic about them.
And that was exactly the idea.
For years, the Krogers successfully blended into British life whilst smuggling top-secret British intel to the Soviet Union as part of an espionage mission which became known as the ‘Portland Spy Ring’.
After arriving in the UK as undercover agents in the mid-50s, the Krogers (real names Morris and Lona Cohen) chose a bungalow not too far from a military base – hoping that powerful signals would distort their transmissions back home.
The duo then spent the next few years communicating messages to other members of a spy ring via radio (which they hid below their kitchen floor) and tiny dots – which were decoded by magnifying glass or special microdot readers and lenses.
The Krogers also possessed a high-speed tape sender that would transmit morse code in rapid bursts in an attempt to avoid detection.
Espionage equipment was even tucked away inside their cigarette lighter.
MI5 uncovered the spy ring in 1961, arresting the Krogers along with three others suspected of stealing precious intelligence info.
When the story of the scandal finally broke in the press, it shook the UK to its core.
The Krogers were brought to trial and sentenced to 20 years in prison in total (10 years each), with co-conspirators Harry Houghton, Ethel Gee, and Gordon Lonsdale also receiving lengthy prison terms for their respective roles in the spy ring.
In 1969, the duo were released early as part of a ‘spy swap’ with Russia for Gerald Brooke – a British man who’d been imprisoned in 1965 for distributing anti-Soviet leaflets in the USSR.
The Krogers were flown back to Russia first class and hailed as heroes upon their return – with Soviet stamps issued in their honour.
Both passed away in the 1990s.
More than 60 years since their capture, the Krogers remain shrouded in mystery.
Whilst their infiltration became public knowledge in 1961, the world still hasn’t been told the whole tale – and many of MI5’s files on the couple (and the wider spy ring) remain hidden from public view to this day.
What we do know, however, is that the Krogers played a key role in one of the most alarming security breaches in British history – one so serious it prompted MI5 to retrain staff once the case was cracked.
The event invites ticket-holders to take a tour through a typical 1950s home like the one belonging to the Krogers, and learn incredible facts about their covert lifestyle along the way.
Walking through the replica property and past the floral wallpaper, visitors will find newspaper clippings and framed photos revealing The Krogers as an extraordinary duo who posed as un-extraordinary people – causing ‘significant damage’ in the process.
More information on The Krogers, the Portland Spy Ring, and the history of UK cybersecurity (including Alan Turing’s role at Bletchley Park) are now on display at the Science & Industry Museum.
The Top Secret exhibition is currently open to the public and runs until 31 August 2021.
Manchester’s massive Irish Festival is back next month with 200 events over 10 days
Manchester’s massive Irish Festival is returning to the city centre next month, and bringing hundreds of events over 10 days along with it.
And when we say massive, we do mean it.
Manchester Irish Festival is the biggest of its kind in the whole of Europe, and it’s known and loved for putting on 10 whole days of Irish revelry in the heart of the city centre every year – with something for everyone of all ages to get involved with.
Taking place from Friday 8 March, right through to St Patrick’s Day on Sunday 17 March, you can expect a jam-packed lineup of events spanning the whole city this year.
Expected to shine a light on the vibrant Irish community here in Manchester, and flood the city with the best celebrations outside of the Emerald Isle itself, this year’s Manchester Irish Festival is will be made up of whopping 200 different events across the city, including a lively pop-up Irish Festival Village, a Limerick competition, and, of course, the return of the legendary Irish Parade.
This year’s Parade on Sunday 10 March will see more than 30 floats, dozens of stunning and colourful Irish dancers and bands, and hundreds of people march through the city centre with pride to showcase the culture, heritage, sounds, and joy of the Manchester Irish community.
Some of the other exciting events on this year’s Festival lineup include a traditional Ceili-Cise dancing class for adults, with everyone of all abilities able to take part and the promise of a “fun and friendly atmosphere”, and a huge 12-hour St Patrick’s Day party at the city’s biggest and best-loved Irish bar, O’Sheas.
If you head on down to the Irish World Heritage Centre, there’s also the chance to learn, network, and attend talks from social historians and more as part of the Irish National Studies Conference.
There’ll be a whopping 200 events happening over 10 days up until St Patrick’s Day / Credit: Kevin Gallagher (via YouTube)
And then, when it comes to the musical offering, Irish sensation Damien Dempsey is stopping off at Manchester Club Academy on Saturday 9 March – right in the middle of the scheduled celebrations – as part of his 2024 UK tour, and the “true master” of Irish music, according to Irish Music Magazine, John McSherry and band will perform songs from their debut album at Band On The Wall on Sunday 17 March.
So, like we said, there is quite literally something to satisfy everyone.
Manchester Irish Festival 2024 is from Friday 8 – Sunday 17 March, and you can find out more about everything happening here.
Featured Image – Colin Home (via Supplied)
Art & Culture
Stockport County create a new community mural with young street artists in Edgeley
Stockport County is creating a brand new mural with a group of young street artists from the local area and a little help from one of their squad members.
This past February half-term, the Greater Manchester football club enlisted the help of some schoolkids and aspiring artists, along with local creatives from around the area to create a brand new piece of artwork right in the heart of the community.
With some paint, plenty of spray cans and the expertise of Manc muralist and designer, Oskar With A K, and poet Ruth Awolola, a dozen local secondary school pupils helped write, design and paint the mural — taking inspiration directly from the club and the thriving fan culture in Stockport.
There is no chant more iconic and important to the Hatters than their famous ‘The Scarf My Father Worse’ song and that’s exactly what the local artists have decided to immortalise.
🖼️ A new County-themed mural is currently being created in Edgeley by a talented group of young street artists – with a little help from Ethan Pye!
The new Stockport County mural is being completed as we speak.
The painting process began on Friday, 16 February and, as you can see, they even managed to rope in County defender Ethan Pye came along to lend a hand with the mural, armed with a can of spray paint to help the young people bring their ideas to life.
Being developed by the Stockport County Community Trust in collaboration with North West organisations, GRIT Studios and The Writing Squad, ‘The Scarf My Father Wore’ project has received £14,800 from the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.
Popping in a prime location on the corner of Castle Street and Mercian Way — just metres away from the Edgeley Park stadium and right at the beginning of the local village high street — this vibrant work of art will be passed by thousands of commuters and pedestrians every day.
Being brought to life in brilliant blue and white in line with the club’s colour scheme and proudly printing the title of the famous chant on the wall along with stencils of the County crest, footballs and many other details, it sits pride of place in the Stockport suburb.
Ethan offering his services off the pitch too.You can’t miss it.Credit: Supplied
Much like the historic chant and the symbolic scarf itself, this brilliant piece of street art will be passed down and enjoyed by generations to come, as well as make sure the club continues to play a key role in local culture.
County’s Community Trust CEO Alison Warwood said: “This project shows how art and writing by young people can make a real difference to the local community, and I can’t wait to see the end result.”
John Macaulay from GRIT Studios added: “We’re thrilled to be involved in such a collaborative and community-spirited initiative. Our young artists will be helping to create a lasting landmark that will become a focal point in Edgeley for years to come.”
With the Hatters currently top of the League Two table and looking at yet another promotion season, there feels like no better time for fans to wear the club on their sleeve, their scarves around their necks and now up on the wall too.