How Peckham Does God

 

Blake Peckham Rye

Peckham and godliness might not seem an obvious combination if what you’ve heard has mostly been about gangs, riot and murder. If you’ve travelled through here early on a Sunday you will know different. Katrin Maier quotes her own fieldnote, and it chimes with what I’ve seen:

It is about nine am on a Sunday morning and I am on the way to the Sunday Service at RCCG Tower of God. There is little traffic on the roads, but the bus from Peckham to Tower of God on the Old Kent Road is packed. Most passengers are well-dressed black men, woman and children, some holding Bibles. One passenger jokes that the Bus 78 that takes us to the churches on the Old Kent Road has become a ‘church bus’.

The picture above shows a mural not far from Peckham Rye, where William Blake said he had seen a vision of angels in an oak tree. Angelic Peckham Rye.

Blake text

This area of London has plenty of other religious communities and buildings, but although I have no special expertise I’m going to focus here on its many types of Christianity, since what is most striking about how Peckham does God is the sheer number of newish and in traditional UK terms, non-traditional churches and chapels. I first started noticing their names years ago and meant  to write about those, but now I’m less concerned about the language of church names and more interested in how their congregations do and don’t fit into their localities. Some of the signs I’ve noticed round and about:

  • Freedom Centre International
  • New Congregation of Cherubim Last Vessel of Salvation
  • True Christian Bible Church (Pentecostal)
  • This is Christ Temple Christ’s Gospel World Outreach Evangelistic Ministries
  • Gospel Auditorium We are unstoppable achievers
  • The Holy Order of Cherubim and Seraphim Movement
  • Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries
  • Beneficial Veracious Christ Church Miracle Centre

I’m drawing on three key sources, as well as my eyes and ears. John Beasley, a local historian, compiled a short history of Peckham and Nunhead churches from the 18th century up to 1995. Katrin Maier, quoted above, based her 2011 doctoral thesis Redeeming London on research into Nigerian Pentecontalism and more specifically the community around the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) which had a branch on the Old Kent Road. Being Built Together: A Story of New Black Majority Churches  in the London Borough of Southwark (BBT) is a 2013 research report by Andrew Rogers of Roehampton University.  This longish post might be mainly of interest to Peckhamites as I know some read this blog, but it might also resonate with other  readers if you’ve noticed a changing religious landscape locally and wondered how it relates to the rest of the community.

Peckhamite

What shocked me about Beasley’s historical listings was the sheer number of devastated churches. There is still some wobbly wartime glass in my home, meaning that previous windows must have been blasted out during WW2, but I hadn’t realised the extent to which Peckham had been bombed. Twenty two churches were hit, and some were completely destroyed: St Mary Magdalene, St Mary’s Road; Salvation Army halls, Nunhead; St Jude’s, Meeting House Lane; the Dissenters’ Chapel in Nunhead Cemetery; St Chrysostom’s, Peckham Hill Street; St Mark’s, Woods Road;  Avondale Road Unitarian Church. Others suffered huge damage and were unusable and not rebuilt for many years, if ever: Christ Church, Old Kent Road; St Luke’s, North Peckham; St Anthony’s, Nunhead Lane; St Andrew’s, Glengall Road;  Rye Lane Chapel; Norfolk Street Baptist Chapel; St Saviour’s, Copleston Road; Cheltenham College Mission, Nunhead Grove; Licensed Victualler’s Chapel, Asylum Road; North Peckham Baptist Church; Peckham Park Road Baptist Church;  Peckham Rye Tabernacle, Nigel Road; Clifton Congregational Church, Asylum Road; Hatcham Mission (Wesleyan), Tustin Street. The bomb that damaged St Silas in Ivydale Road also killed the vicar.

High explosives, flying bombs, incendiary bombs and land mines all hit Peckham because it wasn’t far south from the City and docklands, and vulnerable to German planes that hadn’t got through to more central targets. There’s a map here  showing where the bombs landed in Peckham Rye ward, and on the same site you can see maps of bomb strikes in neighbouring wards The Lane and Peckham. The destruction of homes was worse and led eventually to huge new estates being built with everything that followed. Southwark Council became one of the country’s largest landlords.

Pentecostal and Apostolic churches eventually took over some of the premises that the Anglican and Baptist churches hadn’t been able to restore for their own use. But the real change started from the 1990s onwards when the new Black Majority Churches (nBMC is the acronym the BBT report uses for churches of that type founded since the 1950s) took off at scale. Re-used old church premises were a starting point in the past but the present looks very different. Here is the headline info from the BBT report:

  • Southwark is ‘the African capital of the UK’ .
  • 252 nBMCs were identified in the borough.
  • That is more than double the total number of historic / new / independent churches in the borough.
  • Nearly half of these are in one postcode (SE15, i.e. in Peckham). The researchers comment ‘We might speculate that this represents the greatest concentration of African Christianity in the world, outside of Africa’.

I’m not trying to summarise Maier’s research or the BBT report as they are long and based on years of detailed work. Their research methods and aims are very different. Maier was embedded as a participant in RCCG communities, going to services and getting to know congregants in London and Nigeria. She is interested in culture and community, and how migration, gender and religion all interact, and she has rich and recognisable descriptions of the visible world of Nigerian Pentecontalism in Peckham. Shopping here can be divine.

DivineShopping

The BBT  research report is sensitively written and emphasises positive aspects, as well as identifying issues the local council should be more aware of, and some that the churches themselves need to consider. It mainly sticks with relatively  easier matters such as parking, noise , neighbours’ complaints, the pressure on rental spaces on industrial estates in competition with small businesses,  and problems with the concentration of a lot of churches in a few areas.

They both discuss, cautiously, how the churches do or don’t relate to the surrounding culture or deal with racism and suspicion. For instance Maier points out that African Christianity can be stigmatised because of high-profile cases involving exorcism and child abuse, while church members worry about the corrupting influence of liberal attitudes towards child-raising. There certainly have been some shocking scandals, although not directly concerning RCCG. The ‘miracle babies’ pastor Gilbert Deya who was tried for child abduction had a church in Peckham. Mega churches such as Lighthouse, originally Ghanaian,  which has a cathedral nearby, and UCKG from Brazil which has a branch in Peckham, have been described as cults which exploit their followers and accrue wealth for their founders.

The BBT report shows that many congregations are multi-ethnic although they have few white members. Some factors cut across each other. RCCG as a vast global organisation aims to set up more churches, and have them as close as five minutes’ drive from each other. The BBT report recommends fewer new setups and more consolidation or sharing of premises, in response to local concerns and problems. Some of the survey and interview respondents agreed there could be more cooperation but  I wondered whether their competing interests to the extent that they are businesses, let alone their competing theologies, might get in the way. One pastor is quoted as saying that certain others had ‘…a very different kind of mentality about church, it’s more like a business for many of them and you know, the competitive spirit that they bring to church’.

I hadn’t realised before reading the BBT report that some  new Peckham churches serve ethnic communities to a greater extent than local communities, or in other words, congregants tend to come from across London and beyond…’because we are ethnic driven, people do not live locally. They are coming in from north, south, east and west, they drive in, they park, they come into the service. So straight away you’re not local’. 

They are in Peckham partly because that’s  where they found cheap enough premises. But being based on industrial estates can make it harder to have any engagement with the local community, especially if they have to move on when a lease runs out…‘then you’re trapped in a dangerous dynamic because the more you move the more ethnic you remain.  When you finally settle down you can consider trying to be more relevant to the local population but because you’ve been, consolidating your ethnicity, you find that by the time you’ve settled down you really need some kind of genetic mutation to happen’.  Some of the churches in the BBT survey said they had little or no engagement with the local community.

Does that mean Peckham is not so godly after all? Here’s a selection of post-it notes displayed on the Peace Wall. Following the 2011 riots (I stepped out of Peckham Rye station as they were kicking off and it was horrible, and terrifying) thousands of local people stuck  messages on post-it notes on boards over broken shop windows on Rye Lane. They’ve been preserved as a permanent exhibit near the Library.

Peace post-it1Peace post-it2Peace post-it6Peace post-it3Peace post-it4

I’m not suggesting the rest of us who live here or the people who run bars, cafes,club nights and sourdough bakeries without bringing God into it care any less about Peckham. And maybe there is more in common with old-school missions to Peckham than you’d think at first. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries clergymencomplained about how hard it was to get working men to go to church – they were too tired, it was expensive and anyway they were frankly indifferent – although this was an area of poor crowded slums that religious movements then felt  needed intervention. The settlement movement brought young men and women from middle class schools and Oxbridge colleges to live and work among the poor. There are still vestiges nearby, such as the Blackfriars Settlement. 

I have no idea if or how Peckham’s local cultures will merge or adapt, but it would be good for us to get to know more about each other.

 

How Peckham Does God

Faraday and the Elephant

If you’ve ever been south of the river in London you’ll probably have seen the Faraday Memorial, even if you didn’t realise it. The Memorial is the big steel cube in the middle of what used to be a traffic roundabout at Elephant and Castle. The area around it is now more pedestrian-friendly. It looks like this.

Faraday memorial

There’s an explanation on a sign beside it. I’ve seen people reading the sign, unlike the days when traffic stopped anyone getting near. Michael Faraday, scientist and inventor, was a local boy. He came from a poor family and didn’t have access to much education, but took it on himself to go to Humphry Davy’s lectures at the Royal Institution. Faraday had been apprenticed to a bookbinder, so he carefully wrote out his notes from the lectures, bound them beautifully and presented them to Davy. That’s how he got his first break. The sign has a very brief summary of Faraday’s life and career, and a little about the memorial and its architect. The memorial is also, appropriately, an electricity substation for the Northern and Bakerloo lines.

Faraday sign at Elephant

If you want to get much better insight into Faraday’s work, I recommend the Faraday Museum in the basement of the Royal Institution. It is small and a little dingy but Faraday’s laboratory has been preserved and recreated, and there are a lot of extraordinary exhibits. Possibly my favourite ever museum curator’s blurb reads “After discovering electro-magnetic induction, Faraday took a holiday in Hastings.” [Pause badly needed there, if only for comic timing.] It continues: “He then returned to his laboratory and created another world-changing invention: the first electric generator.”  It makes me feel I should try a holiday in Hastings this summer.

Here’s a faF5ce you might well recognise, although not at this scale. The museum has a blown-up image of a £20 banknote across an entire wall. The note also featured a drawing of the famous institution lectures.

F4

You can see one of the earliest ever electric batteries in the museum, given to Faraday by its inventor Alexander Volta in 1814. There is also equipment made by Faraday himself, as he had to make most of his kit from scratch. Insulation didn’t yet exist so in order to make a coil, he and his assistants had to wrap string round wire. It could take a week to make an electric coil like this very early one.

F2

Faraday’s glassmaking experiments, working close-up to the furnace without adequate protection, probably caused some of his health problems. He was trying to make very specialist vessels like the glass ‘egg’ he wanted to use to create vacuums he would then fill with different gases. His experiments in passing an electric current through a variety of gases and metals led to the discovery of spectroscopy, which in turn is the basis of a lot of astrophysics as well as earthly physics. Faraday didn’t only invent electrodes. He also came up with the word. We owe him for some of our language as well as for his discoveries and inventions, and for being a public educator.

There is another, much tinier Faraday museum in London at Trinity Buoy Wharf. I’ll go there one day. In my next post I will also explain what I was really doing at the Royal Institution. Meanwhile, here’s a less interesting but maybe better known public artwork from Elephant and Castle although to be fair, it does feature another London elephant.

Elephant Elephant

 

 

Faraday and the Elephant

The London elephants

This post is by request as I’ve been told the blog needs more about elephants. There has been terrible news for the last fortnight so I’m happy to turn to a topic that at least one reader might actually enjoy. London is one of the blog themes, so these aren’t just any elephants. They’re London elephants.

Mercifully there aren’t any live elephants in London now as far as I know since the zoo shipped theirs out to Whipsnade years ago. But if you look, there are plenty of others. First up, naturally, the ones that come with castles. Elephant and Castle is where the bad dentist who was eventually struck off had a practice, resulting in the confusing news headline ‘Elephant dentist struck off‘ and later on, this far less confusing blog name. The name goes back to at least the 15th century and a sign with the elephant image, the badge of the Cutlers’ company (in a reference to ivory).  The Cutlers’ website shows plenty of elephant imagery including on their coat of arms. They still have a guildhall in the City.

Sign

Next week I’m going to see the National Theatre’s production of Twelfth Night. A line in the play shows that Shakespeare knew the area. Antonio tells Sebastian, who needs a place to stay,  ‘In the south suburbs, at the Elephant [probably meaning a tavern], is best to lodge.’ The area hasn’t had that kind of reputation lately but there’s a huge regeneration programme underway that includes a new green space, Elephant Park. I don’t expect there will be elephants. The local arts festival is called Elefest, but again no elephants.

Elephants with castles on their backs also show up on the walls of the Indian High Commission  (India House, Aldwych), but here you can clearly see that the castle is actually a howdah.

IndiaHouseEle3

There are some beautiful centuries-old Indian elephant chess pieces in the Victoria and Albert museum. These would most likely have been the equivalent of bishops rather than rooks, and show war elephants, since chess was a battle game. Here’s one (V&A image used with permission).

Victoria_and_AlbertMuseum chess piece

The ivory is too old to be illegal but still, better to look at some painted elephants instead from a wall near me (21st century Rajasthan). It looks like they’re on a tiger hunt.

WallEle

Back at India House, there are stone elephant’s head statues flanking the entrance. These are not great to look at, but better than the elephants on the façade of Africa House on Kingsway, a 1920s building with a hideous portrayal of ivory hunters. I’m not showing that. Here’s an India House elephant’s head, in profile.

IndiaHouseEle2

Until recently I worked in Hawley Crescent, at the Open University’s London centre. The Elephant’s Head pub is on one corner of the road. At the other end is Elephant House, a listed building, once the bottling plant for Camden Brewery. The brewery used to make Elephant beer and the building has elephant imagery in stone.

Back in 2010 a herd of 260 small elephants appeared around London as part of an art project raising funds for small elephant conservation. Here are a few along the Thames.

Thames elephants

Also in south London, we’ve had the Dali space elephant and a giant elephant sculpture in Waterloo station. A short way along the riverbank from the spot above you get to Gabriel’s Wharf and Ganesha, which can sell you an ugly macrame elephant’s head for no good reason, but has a pretty pink shopfront.

Ganesha1.jpg

Now we’re on the way back to the Elephant, as everyone local calls it, where there used to be a notorious gang known as the Elephant boys. Muriel Spark wrote about them in a short vicious novel, The Ballad of Peckham Rye (1960).  News stories now are more likely to be about the regeneration controversies as the vast 1970s-built Heygate Estate has been demolished and replaced by fancier high rise apartments, and eventually by Elephant Park.

If you want more London elephants, there are other sites here and here.  [Postscript: Thanks to Alasdair for reminding me about the London elephant parade.]

 

The London elephants

Fighting on the Internet

This week I’m taking down Google and annoying Mac users (not intending to annoy but I reckon it will happen). Here’s Google looking shy.

google6

It’s a longer post as so much fighting over the Internet happened in March.  First up, on March 1st the government published the latest UK digital strategy. It got little coverage because, well, Trump and Brexit. Was it any good? Not really. The shadow minister for digital everything is Louise Haigh, who hasn’t had the job long, but long enough to take an informed view.  She called it recycled and meagre. There are lists of marvellous things that have already happened and the Govt would like to take credit for. There’s hopeful, wishy-washy stuff about things the government would like to happen but isn’t taking responsibility for. So they are giving consumers the right to request fast broadband. That’s not quite the same as saying it will happen, and that there’s an actual plan. Almost one in five (spun in the strategy as just over 80% who DO as that sounds so much better) of SMEs don’t have access to fast broadband.  Meanwhile, BT’s Openreach has just been fined £42 million for  commercial malpractice over fast broadband provision. I heard BT defending their position at a conference fifteen years ago, on the grounds that it was unfair for them to be forced to sort out broadband access throughout the country when their competitors might benefit. They were handed the grid’s local loops and a massive advantage when they were privatised and have been getting away with it for a very long time. This week, they committed to 95% cover but that leaves 5% who can’t all be volunteers on  reality TV shows and happy to live a slow or off-grid life. I know a couple of people who are happily like that some of the time, but then again, it also drives them crazy.

Then the ‘strategy’ has more hopeful stuff about the gender skills gap, and on digital skills training,  already outsourced to a bunch of organisations including banks (those Barclays ads) . Last year £35 million went to various outsourced providers, or in govt spending terms around half a peanut. The strategy pats itself on the back for all the great work done in libraries by staff along with volunteers  to provide Internet access and digital skills training. Meanwhile over in another universe, funding is getting cut and libraries are closing. One in 10 adults, according to the strategy, has never used the Internet. (The Oxford Internet Institute has been bringing out regular reports on the digital access gap for years.) I don’t think the ministers responsible for this strategy have a clue. I ran classes for Internet beginners in Peckham Library for a couple of years starting in 2000 and I’m sure it would cost more than a fiver each person to sort out problems of access, confidence, understanding and skills.

LibraryPicture

On March 10 the row involving Google was already simmering and at an advertising industry event, Martin Sorrell came out with this attack which got loud cheers from the audience:

The fundamental issue is that you [Google] have to take responsibility for this as a media company. You are not a passive digital engineer tightening the digital pipes with your digital spanner and not responsible for the flow through of content of those pipes, you are responsible for it. You have to step up and take responsibility. You have the resources, your margins are enormous, you have control of the algorithms, you don’t explain to people how those algorithms work. You have to change.

Google – who now own YouTube, were being criticised for letting racists, terrorist organisations, and hate-mongers of all stripes make money out of adverts on YouTube as well as making money themselves from the same ads. They were pretty slow to react. MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee had another go on March 14, when David Winnick pretty much called Peter Barron (Google), Simon Winnick (Facebook) and Nick Pickles (Twitter) pimps. He said that they were engaged in little more than “commercial prostitution” and that he would be ashamed to earn his money in the way they did. Here’s Google’s lovely new London HQ again, in the lovely new Pancras Square with its lovely corporate fountains and  trees. It’s basically a large four-cornered smoker’s corner with a few coffee, sushi and sandwich joints.

google3

 

It’s taken Google a long time to admit that it’s an advertising company, one of the world’s largest. It might not even really admit that yet with its continuing claims – see the YouTube policy info – that it is up to users to report breaches. Facebook hasn’t admitted it either. Like CocaCola only wants to bring the world together rather than sell sugary drinks, Facebook wants to build global community. Why would another vast advertising company want to do that, exactly?

But there’s no question, the issues of fake news, politicians ticking them off and the not at all fake fact that companies are cancelling adverts are getting them a little rattled.  Zuckerberg gave us a fine example of a geek’s worldview with his new manifesto. It was sweet, almost. It reminded me of a symposium I went to in Seattle, Shaping the network society, in 2002. I realised there’s a worldview (some) geeks apparently develop. At a certain point, having been totally immersed along with people like themselves in Internet technology, they start to notice other kinds of problems – social, economic, political, environmental. They then offer their worldwide technology-based solutions, as they’ve never noticed there are already other people studying and trying to deal with all those world problems. They’re totally unaware of their own ignorance. In all seriousness, they propose that their next task is to build a global community and sort all that hard stuff out. Good luck, Mark. Are you going to drop all the adverts now that you’re saving the world and not an advertising company any more?

Tim Berners-Lee’s take on alarms about fake news, bots, algorithms and data was more grounded although the Guardian gave it the stupid sub-heading ‘I invented the Internet’. He didn’t quite write that. He did write ‘I may have invented the web, but all of you have helped to create what it is today.’ He argues for control of personal data, pushing back against misinformation, transparency and more understanding in relation to political advertising. The Web Foundation started by Berners-Lee reckons there is currently a worldwide 12% gender gap in access to the Internet. I started my PhD research back in 1999 provoked by the statistic that there was, at the time, a 9% gender gap in the UK, for no good reason.

The UK strategy is supposed to address the gender gap. Maybe the brand new All Party Parliamentary Group on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, launched last week, will help sort that out too. They’re keen on improving digital everything. Here they are.

APPG4thIR_launch

Time for some good news. The Indian state of Kerala has decreed that Internet access is a basic human right so all citizens should get free wifi access. And reading Harry Potter may help defeat Trump. You don’t even need a wand. Seriously, a study last year showed that reading Harry Potter lowers Americans’ opinions of Donald Trump.  It sounds unlikely but Diana Mutz is a real expert in political science and reported an evidence base of 1100 odd respondents. I liked this next bit as I’d wondered if she’d thought about the religious Right banning Potter books, but she’s properly bossed those variables already (my bold):

… I include control variables in all models in order to take into account potentially spurious causes of both Trump support and exposure to Harry Potter.  All models included gender (females were expected to rate Trump poorly), education (expected to negatively predict Trump support), age (expected to positively predict Trump support), and evangelical self-identification (expected to discourage both tolerance of Muslims and gays, and consuming stories about wizards).

So finally, Mac users. At those Internet research conferences I went to, it was normal to hear Bill Gates referred to as the Great Satan, quite genuinely and not all that humorously. Gates certainly didn’t have any kind of hero status. Steve Jobs did, and as a result of Apple’s brilliant marketing , Mac users were encouraged to position themselves as smarter, more creative, better. Their advertising made that explicit. Now Apple gets a cut every time anyone buys an app for their iPhone or iPad. The same goes for Android (Google again) apps, but you can get software for pcs without Microsoft getting any cut. I know what Bill and Melinda Gates have done, and are doing, with their billions. Where did Steve Job’s fortune go? Does anybody know? (Raf, if you’re reading this, you may remember the AoIR conference. After the closing speeches and thanks you said they should have thanked Bill Gates aka Satan without whom none of their Powerpoint presentations, or the conference, would have been possible.) How does it work, this division of tech billionaires into good guys and bad guys?

 

Fighting on the Internet

Bard in the Clink

It could easily have been a more miserable week but I had an escape from the news, spending three days on and off at UCL’s international conference on Shakespeare and the Jews. The scholars presenting were from various academic disciplines as well as different countries: Renaissance history, theatre studies, translation studies, modern literature, 20th century history, but not so much of Shakespeare studies. Here’s a flavour of the keynote lecture by Professor Oz whose main fields are Shakespeare, theatre studies and political theatre. I thought his gist was that Shakespeare was dealing with ideas about nationhood becoming based on something other than religion or tribalism and developing into a political construct that fitted the new age of commerce and trade.  Will Venice, a trading and commercial centre that has recently allowed Jews to settle there, especially those expelled from Spain and Portugal, let them become equals as citizens and professionals? Oz and other presenters suggested Shakespeare might have had London in mind.

KeynoteWordcloud

The conference presenters’ consensus seemed to be that as an unquestionably antisemitic play it’s no longer possible to put on The Merchant of Venice any more, but they also noted from a more global perspective that while that’s true of other countries it applies less to the UK. Malkin and Voights, who have been asking the views of current theatre practitioners for their project on hyphenated cultures, quoted Nicholas Hytner as saying he couldn’t stomach ‘being in the world of the play’ as everyone seems to be antisemitic, in contrast to the treatment of Othello. In that other play Venice uses ‘Moor’ as a simple descriptor, not a term of abuse. The conference summed up 20th century re-versionings as apologetics, and what came across very strongly was that Shylock’s famous speech, supposedly pivotal, far from redeeming the play actually worsens the antisemitic effect by humanising the character and making him appear more plausible rather than a crude stereotype. That reminded me of an incident years ago when my son’s class – 10 year olds, probably – took part in a staging of the play at the Globe Theatre, along with other Southwark primary schools. He was the only Jewish child in his class. The borough’s drama adviser no doubt thought it was a good choice. I vaguely remember we challenged it but the adviser’s case was that pupils would be ‘workshopping’ scenes and discussing the problematic aspects. It is and was a rubbish argument given that the entire play is irrefutably and structurally racist.

Interestingly the presenters who described much more radical new versions with playwrights ‘writing back’ at the play agreed that they tended not to work either dramatically or in terms of getting the audience response they wanted. That was even true of an Israeli-German production in Buchenwald where the audience were local Germans and the idea was to bring home the links between Nazi ideology and Shylock imagery. The director thought it was a failure. There’s a new book out, Wrestling with Shylock, on Jewish responses to the play. The cover uses Jacob Kramer’s haunting painting. Here’s a tiny glimpse.

Shylock1

I wondered about the attachment to Shakespeare in the English theatre and English literature studies and whether it’s more difficult in the UK to accept that Merchant of Venice is unplayable. Is Shakespeare such a heroic figure that people want to believe in  his virtues too much? (Katherine Duncan-Jones once wrote a very funny piece about the contortions some writers have tied themselves in to try and make Shakespeare out as a robust heterosexual.) I saw the 2008 Royal Shakespeare Company production which Michael Billington described as morally evasive. It was worse than evasive. The most shocking moment was the curtain call at the end. The audience booed Shylock. Producers and directors need to wake up to their responsibilities. No point in blaming Shakespeare. Here he is in a wonky mural seen yesterday in Clink Street, not far from the contemporary Globe.

Clink Street Bard

 

Bard in the Clink

Experts, and LSE gender politics fail

The LSE is having its annual literary festival this week on ‘Revolutions’, basically shaped around various authors with new books out although there is much more to it. I went to ‘Was Brexit a Populist Revolution?’ (two people on the panel of four said yes but gave different interpretations). The attempt at gender balance failed even though the chair said he was trying to take questions from men and women in turn, because the panel consisted of two male professors, Simon Hix and James Tilley, who knew stuff and made definitive informative statements, and two women, Mary Dejevsky and Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, who told anecdotes and gave their opinions. The anecdotes cancelled out and the opinions were often contradicted by the evidence the other panellists cited. The professors tended not to state any opinions but said when they didn’t know, didn’t have evidence or it was outside their area of expertise. Next time, LSE, try to do better and find some actual female experts if gender balance is an issue (as it often should be). They do exist.

Key takeaway points: most voters haven’t changed their minds since June 2016 and if anything there is very slightly more of a Leave majority. There has been an anti-EU majority amongst working-class voters for decades but elections haven’t reflected that as they are about so many other issues. The north-south voting divide reflected class and income divisions as much as anything.

Experts, and LSE gender politics fail