In the wake of Ofsted’s alleged (and vehemently contested) ‘Trojan Horse’ plot by certain zealous Muslims to infiltrate and take over a number of schools in Birmingham, Michael Gove has insisted that all educational establishments must ‘actively promote British values’. In a rather ungracious response, Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt told BBC2’s Newsnight: “I’m not sure Michael Gove would know if British values came and bit him on the bum.” Continue reading →
“Able-bodied actors should not play disabled characters,” says film critic Scott Jordan Harris, writing on the website of the late Roger Ebert. “That they so often do should be a scandal,” Harris submits.
He develops his argument from the anti-discriminatory moral perspective of social equality, advancing that the modern world should no more entertain the able-bodied playing a disabled character than we would a white man playing the Moor of Venice or a chap in Ptolemaic drag prancing around the stage as Egypt’s Cleopatra. Indeed, audiences would most likely find justifiable grievance in a pale actor donning “the Thick-lips” of Othello, or having to watch “Some squeaking Cleopatra boy (her) greatness / I’ th’ posture of a whore”. Nowadays black people play black characters and women play Shakespearean heroines, so there is a certain logic in the belief that disabled roles should be reserved for disabled thespians: in Harris’s terminology, the “performance is automatically authentic”. Continue reading →
You’re at home, enjoying a summery Saturday afternoon with the bees and nasturtiums on the patio, when the doorbell intrudes. You’re greeted by an impeccably courteous, fresh-faced police officer from the Norfolk Constabulary – ‘Dedicated to this neighbourhood’, according to their website – and he’s come to speak to you because there’s been a complaint.
Not, you understand, about the troubling number of burglaries, rising car thefts, incidences of property vandalism or madhouse music accompanying balmy barbeques. No, someone has reported you for sending them two gospel tracts by email, one entitled ‘Christ Can Cure – Good News for Gays’; and the other ‘Jesus Christ – the Saviour we all need’. Some people might have simply deleted them both and directed all further correspondence from you to ‘spam’, but these people got offended. Very offended. The allegation against you is that of ‘homophobic hate’. Continue reading →
‘Hetero gentile @Adrian_Hilton thinks it’s ok to misrepresent @stephenfry as comparing Putin Russia to holocaust… Imagine being paid to smuther opposition to homophobia. We don’t need bigoted straight people telling us what to do thanks… kindly remove yourself from telling people who suffer an oppression you do not, to shut up about it.’
This was one of the more judgmental but eloquent rants I received from Stephen Fry’s Twitter hordes following my perfectly reasonable question as to why a ban on the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics is an ‘essential’ response to Putin’s anti-gay legislation, but no such ban is warranted on the arts. Another of them helpfully advised: ‘Please go jump in a lake. I dare say you can swim, but it might just wash off the stench of smug self-righteousness.’ One of Fry’s more intelligent and articulate followers called me a ‘c**t biscuit t**t’, whatever one of those is. Continue reading →
“An absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 on Sochi is simply essential,” says Stephen Fry in an impassioned letter to the Prime Minister and the International Olympic Committee, apparently written on behalf of the entire civilised world.
By ‘civilised’, one assumes he means the superior, enlightened and cultured proponents of equality and human rights, as opposed to the barbaric hordes whose primitive tribal impulses seek to outlaw the propagation of ‘non-traditional’ sexual orientations, ban gay-pride marches and prohibit the adoption of children by same-sex couples, as President Putin seems determined to do. Continue reading →
Jason Richwine PhD was a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation from March 2010 to 9th May 2013. That was the day he resigned, following the media furore which greeted some remarks made by the Washington Post about his 2009 doctoral research, which apparently suggested that recent immigrants into the US score lower than US-born whites on many different types of IQ tests.
Dr Richwine is not a likely racist: he has no political agenda to manipulate US immigration policy. Indeed, by all accounts, he is a credible statistician and qualitative researcher with a string of highly-respected fiscal research papers to his name.
But the doctoral statistical analysis he carried out suggested a real cognitive gap between Latinos and non-Latino whites. This was unpalatable to the political and media elite, so he had to go. Continue reading →
I caught sight of a tweet yesterday by the Shadow Culture Secretary Harriet Harman. It was, perhaps unsurprisingly, critical of the Culture Secretary Maria Miller, who had apparently cast the “‘shameful slur that arts community ‘disingenuous’ & their concerns ‘pure fiction’”. I enquired of the context and, to my surprise, Ms Harman responded swiftly with a link to an article by the Culture Secretary which appeared in the Evening Standard in November last year.
I don’t quite know why it’s taken a quarter of a year for Ms Harman to decide to get upset about this, but – I think for the first time in my life – I find myself agreeing with her. If this article was written by Maria Miller personally, she seems purposely to perpetuate the myth that Conservatives are basically all philistines who don’t quite “get” the Arts. If it was written by a civil-service aide, he (or she) deserves something of a reprimand – even after
the space of three months. Continue reading →
On April 23rd 2016 – and probably throughout the entire year – we will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. By ‘we’ I mean not only England and the English, or the United Kingdom and the British, but all nations and cultures of the world where Shakespeare is a passion, pastime or of any scholarly interest. And that necessarily embraces the whole of civilisation. As the holder of the Guinness World Record for performing the Complete Works single-handedly non-stop (five days without sleep – never again), I’ll certainly be raising a glass or two to the world’s greatest poet-playwright.
My record still stands after 25 years, and has just been re-published in the 2013 edition of the Guinness Book of Records. I will forever be grateful to those fine English teachers I had at school – Roger Calvert, Daphne Cooper and Jean Tidy – who between the years that spanned my O-levels and A-levels introduced me to Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night, Antony & Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Measure for Measure and King Lear. From the academic confines of the classroom to the emotional exuberance of the school play, I found my soul simultaneously steeped in dramatic greatness, lyrical beauty and profound wisdom: ineffable, noetic, passive – it was like a religious experience. Every visit I made to Stratford-upon-Avon became a pilgrimage: sometimes wrestling with darkness and devils, and then rejoicing with angels and ministers of grace. Continue reading →
‘Most of us laugh at the woolliness of modern Anglicanism,’ writes Charles Moore in The Daily Telegraph, ‘but it is, though somewhat debased, the true heir of (England’s) national history. It offers an authentically Christian approach to life which seeks peace and a common life. This builds trust and good neighbourliness. It is not an accident that, today, most other Christian denominations and other faiths in this country happily shelter under the protection of the Church of England, and fear a secular state.’
Setting aside the welcome latitudinal ecclesiology of a prominent Roman Catholic who is content to talk of his own church as a ‘denomination’ – that is, simply one among many valid expressions of Christianity in an ocean of human difference and diversity – the observation that the Church of England ‘seeks peace and a common life’ is not only historically foundational but acutely missiological. Continue reading →
The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland has severed all direct communication with Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond over a minor dispute about the rights and wrongs of same-sex marriage. Apparently they still have enormous respect for each other, and remain on first-name terms. But Alex wants Scotland to pioneer gay marriage in the UK, and Keith just doesn’t. I’ve managed to obtain the transcript of their recent telephone conversation on the matter: