Tuesday, April 26, 2011

An Open Letter to the Management of the John Snow Public House

DSC_0333photo courtesy of metacheetr

On the evening of Wednesday 13 April 2011, Jonathan Williams, 26, and James Bull, 23, were asked to leave the John Snow public house for kissing while on their first date. A member of staff allegedly described the couple’s behaviour as obscene and evicted them from the establishment.

The media have reported several accounts of this incident. The general consensus has been that the couple's behaviour was entirely appropriate for a couple enjoying their first romantic evening together.

The strength of feeling that this mistreatment of a gay couple raised in London’s LGBT community was such that in the course of less than 30 hours, a gay kiss-in was organised with several hundred participants at the John Snow on the evening of 15 April 2011. Another kiss-in followed the next week on 21 April 2011. Rather than allow the LGBT protesters into or around the pub, the John Snow closed its doors on both of these evenings.

Despite several attempts at contacting the management of the John Snow, as well as the Samuel Smith Old Brewery, which owns the pub, neither the pub nor the brewer have released any comment, statement or apology to this date.

While we agree that any establishment is entitled to refuse entry, and/or the provision of goods and services to individuals they deem unsuitable or inappropriate, if this refusal is motivated by a person’s sexual orientation (real or perceived) it contravenes the Equality Act of 2010. This legislation came into force in October 2010 to prevent any business discriminating on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender, disability, religion or ethnicity, or against pregnant or breastfeeding mothers.

Anyone found to be the victim of discrimination on those grounds could be considered liable for compensation from the venue that discriminates against them.

We, the undersigned, therefore ask that the John Snow management, and/or the Samuel Smith Old Brewery issue a statement:

1/ specifying exactly why Mr. Jonathan Williams and Mr. James Bull were asked to leave the John Snow public house on the 13 April 2011.

2/ clearly stating the venue and company’s compliance with and commitment to the Equality Act of 2010.

3/ officially apologising to Mr. Jonathan Williams and Mr. James Bull

Continued silence on this matter by both the John Snow Pub and the Samuel Smith Old Brewery can only be seen by the public as acquiescence to the fact that discrimination had taken place, something that is likely to damage the reputation of the business. Direct actions will continue against this pub until it, or the brewery has started to engage in the meaningful and respectful dialogue that we believe this serious matter warrants.

You can sign an online petition via Facebook.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Graham Greene lived here!

Graham Greene lived here!
Originally uploaded by hedgiecc

No. 14 Clapham Common North Side

The novelist received an official blue plaque from English Heritage last week.

"Graham Greene (1904-1991) lived at 14 Clapham Common North Side from 1935 until he was forced to leave the house due to war damage in 1940. His novel The End of the Affair is set in Clapham in 1945-6. The narrator lives in a bedsit 'at the wrong side of the Common' (South Side), drinks in the 'Pontefract Arms' (The Windmill) and visits 'the dark church at the corner of Park Road - a Roman Catholic church full of plaster statues' (St Mary's).
Writing to his mother, Greene describes Clapham thus: 'the whole appearance of Clapham Common is lovely, like a wide green plateau on a hilltop above Battersea with the Common stretching out in one direction and on three sides surrounded by little country-like shops and Queen Anne houses."

- from Clapham Past by Gillian Clegg

Greene lived here with his family from August 1935 to October 1940, when the house was bombed.

"The English Heritage blue plaque will be installed at 14 Clapham Common North Side, where Greene lived with his family from August 1935; at that time he described it as “a most beautiful Queen Anne house … done up absolutely like a museum piece”. It remained his home until October 1940 when it was hit in a bombing raid and became uninhabitable; the house was empty that night as Vivien and the children had been evacuated to Sussex and Graham was staying in Bloomsbury with his lover, Dorothy Glover. This devastating event later inspired the pivotal point in his novel, The End of the Affair. Despite the damage, the outer walls of the house remained intact, allowing the interior to be rebuilt after the war. The house is Grade II* listed and forms part of a terrace built by the architect John Hutt in 1714-20.

Greene’s daughter, Caroline Bourget, said of the house: ".... my father evacuated us to his parents' home in Sussex in August 1939 when I was only 5 yrs old......but I do remember the magnificent staircase. Some well-known writers and publishers visited the house such as John Betjeman and Evelyn Waugh. When I met them later, they recalled seeing me at the age of 3 or 4."

English Heritage blue plaque historian Dr Susan Skedd said: “Graham Greene is indisputably one of the great British writers of the twentieth century. He achieved the rare distinction of enjoying both critical and popular admiration throughout his career. Since the centenary of his birth in 2004 his literary reputation has been increasing and we hope this plaque will act as a focus for old and new fans of his work alike.”

Graham Greene lived here!

Saturday, April 09, 2011

A Cut Back

Carol Ann Duffy is definitely shaping up to be one of our most interesting Poet Laureates. I've quoted her amazing Last Post before, this one is her response to the Art Council's decision to cut all funding from the Poetry Book Society from April next year. It originally featured in the Guardian, and I'm quoting it from Belinda Hollyer's blog. Here's how you can help the Poetry Book Society.

A CUT BACK, by Carol Ann Duffy

It’s no go the LitFest, it’s no go up in Lancaster,
though they’ve built an auditorium (still quite wet, the plaster)
a bar, a bookshop, office space … well, they won’t need wheelchair
All we want is a million quid and here’s to the Olympics.

London’s Enitharmon Press was founded in 1967,
but David Gascoyne and Kathleen Raine are writing now in heaven,
with UA Fanthorpe, John Heath-Stubbs; dead good dead poets all.
The only bloody writing now’s the writing on the wall.

It’s no go the national art, it’s no go cake with icing.
All we want are strategic cuts, it’s no go salami slicing.

It’s no go the Poetry Trust, it’s no go in East Suffolk;
Aldeburgh’s east of Stratford East. As Rooney says, oh f-fuck it –
because it’s no go First Collection Prize, it’s no go local writers.
We’ve been asked to pull the plug, the rug, by coalition shysters.

National Association of Writers in Education?
No way, NAWE, children and books, the train’s leaving the station.
It’s no go your poets in schools, it’s no go your cultures.
All we want is squeezed middles and stringent diets for vultures.

It’s no go the pamphlet, the gig in Newcastle no go.
All we want is a context for the National Portfolio.

Three little presses went to market, Flambard, Arc and Salt;
had their throats cut ear to ear and now it’s hard to talk.
They remember Thatcher’s Britain. Clegg-Cameron’s is worse.
Deathbyathousandcuts.co.uk, the least of which is verse.

It’s no go the avant-garde, it’s no go the mainstream.
All we want is a Review Group, chaired, including recommendations.

Stephen Spender thought continually of those who were truly great;
set up the Poetry Book Society with TS Eliot, genius mate.
But it’s no go two thousand strong in the Queen Elizabeth Hall.
Phone a cab for the Nobel laureates as they take their curtain call.

It’s no go, dear PBS. It’s no go, sweet poets.
Sat on your arses for fifty years and never turned a profit.
All we want are bureaucrats, the nods as good as winkers.
And if you’re strapped for cash, go fish, then try the pigging

Sunday, April 03, 2011

I dare to hope again

UK Eurovision fans are a hardy lot used to disappointment (much like all UK sports fans). However last year’s crash-and-burn entry was so catastrophic (thanks Pete Waterman) I was scared to take any interest this year. I heard the Beeb decided in its wisdom not to have any sort of competition or build-up, and sub-contracted the gig to boy-band Blue. Whatevs.

So I was a bit surprised to see Blue’s song “I Can” mentioned warmly in internet posts - seems there is a bit of a Euro buzz about it. Whisper it - we are something of a favourite to win! Cripes!

The video indeed shows promise:

I really like the way they’ve found a way to do “London” in a novel and imaginative, yet understated way. The song itself is catchy and poppy, not too dated in sound and all-round a respectable contender. I quite like it. The flame of hope reignites in one’s heart! I’ll now have to scope out the competition.