Sunday, 20 May 2012

Apology to Mr Wanamaker

I admit that I was one of the naysayers, who dismissed Sam Wanamaker's idea of re-creating the Globe Theatre.  I thought he was going to put Disneyland by the Thames.

What changed my mind?

Years ago I strolled along the river with a friend and we walked round the Globe theatre building.  I asked the enthusiastic student volunteers what play was being performed that evening and was told 'Pericles'.  I'd never heard of it, but they persuaded us to buy tickets.  The performance was magical.  The plot involved sea voyages and rigging was attached to the balconies, so that the audience felt as if they were on board ship.  For the first time, I understood Shakespeare's skill in catering to the aristocracy, ordinary educated folk and the raucous groundlings.

Last night the Marjanishvili Theatre of Georgia performed 'As You Like It' in Georgian as part of the Globe to Globe festival.  The cast surrounded the stage and acted as a Greek chorus, sound effects troupe, crowd, circus style side men to the few actors on stage.  I know few words of Georgian, but enjoyed their show immensely.  Sound effects were provided by simple means, such as rain sticks, singing wine glasses, triangles, drums and cymbals.

If you missed it, you can watch it online here.

How did  he do it?

Sam Wanamaker faced huge obstacles in realising his dream.  English Heritage blocked his efforts to get detailed information from their archaeological excavation of Shakespeare's original theatre nearby.  A group of thespians put their weight behind the re-creation of the Rose Theatre rather than Wanamaker's project.  Investors doubted the feasibility of the enterprise and money dried up.  Sam maintained a single minded focus on the idea and persuaded others to join him.  Eventually Sam died, but the team continued to pursue his vision.  When everything seemed hopeless, one member focussed on what benefits the Globe would bring and re-invigorated his colleagues.

The theatre is thriving today.  It receives no public subsidy.  There is a full educational programme to ensure that Shakespeare is brought to life in the hearts and minds of young people.

Congratulations Mr Wanamaker.  I'm sorry I ever doubted you.

Update:  New indoor theatre dedicated to Sam Wanamaker has been built in Jacobean style.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Fair Field

We forget how many businesses were started on ethical grounds in the UK.

 Several banks had their origins in the Quaker movement.

Prominent chocolate makers were part of the Quaker idea of fixed price trading rather than haggling for goods and services.

The Co-operative Group had its origins in the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers.  Weavers and other skilled workers organised themselves to prevent ruination by poverty.  They founded the Toad Lane Store to sell food items and form a co-operative.

Today the Co-operative Group is a nationwide set of business that includes supermarkets and the Co-op bank.  Fierce competition in retail and banking means that customers may forget the principles on which the company was formed.

The bank has modest branches and low tech counter services.  Occasionally the organisation takes a stand that reminds us of their early days.

The Co-op announced at the end of April 2012  that it was "no longer engaging with any supplier of produce known to be sourcing from Israeli settlements." 

Israel and its supporters have used a range of tactics to prevent boycotts, including legal action.  The most common ruse is to conflate criticism of government policy with anti-semiticism. 

The UK has centuries of history showing how organisations have chosen to support the weak and marginalised members of society for the greater good.  The Co-op is following in that great tradition.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Fluffy goes to Durban

I've been following the fortunes of the team pioneering HIVEX treatment for HIV in South Africa.  It sounds impossible, but this simple and inexpensive protocol seems to produce impressive results without terrible side effects.

The team have been struggling with attacks on their facility.  They have also applied for government approval of the treatment and jumped every hurdle, only to meet.....SILENCE.

The treatment stopped in April until they can get things on a more stable and secure footing.

Fluffy, a long term HIV positive Brit, flew into South Africa from the UK and experienced HIVEX for himself, with impressive results:

'After about my third day of treatment at the Hivex centre, I started feeling by far more energized day by day and needed no more ''nap's'' in the afternoon, which in London would last from about noon to 3pm every day. And when I woke up in the morning, instead of feeling like I was on an all night workout or labour camp, I actually felt fresh and energized and had no problem getting up even at 5am.
What I found most astonishing though is the fact that after I forgot to take my pain medication with me to the centre and then also forgot my evening dose of Tramadol (I have been on the maximum dose of 500mg for several years) my usual severe back and body pains were gone. 
I then on purpose left out the pain medication and have to say that I have not taken any pain killers for the last three weeks. These two very important issues of constant tiredness/exhaustion and the constant pain now gone, was worth it alone for me making the trip. Now all I want to find out is if there have been any changes to my bloods, which I will have checked on my next visit to my HIV consultant.'

He has now dedicated himself to promoting HIVEX and helping some of the rural dwellers to have a sustainable income to fund clinic visits and treatment, as well as helping orphans to develop a life off the streets.

Respecting a friend

'Dervish wish to announce they will not be taking part in the Irish music concert series in Israel this June. Our original decision to participate in the concerts was, like all our tours and appearances, completely non-political. The organiser of the shows is a musician and friend of the band for many years. He has worked to bridge divides between people through music for much of his life. These concerts were organised in this same spirit. At the time we agreed to these performances we were unaware there was a cultural boycott in place. We now feel that we do not wish to break this boycott. Our decision to withdraw from the concerts reflects our wish to neither endorse nor criticise anyone's political views in this situation. Dervish are a grouping of like musical minds, we are not a political party. Our motivation as a band has always been and will continue to be our love of music’


 Dervish are an Irish traditional band based in the democratic republic of Ireland. Their friend wants to support the hunger strike in Palestine by peaceful means.

 How did the Irish government respond to this? '

'The Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) has been subjected to unprecedented attacks after the traditional music band Dervish refused to break the boycott and play in Israel. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter, who is an ardent Zionist has, in a frankly unbelievable press release, slammed the ‘IPSG’ [sic] for ‘cyber-bullying’ Dervish, has linked us with Al Qaeda, and has claimed we are taking away the constitutional rights of Irish citizens by asking them to boycott Israel.

 What is worrying – showing the deference to power among the Irish media - is that these statements have been taken at face value, rather than treated as an ideologically motivated assault on peaceful Palestinian rights campaigners. With our minds on the hunger strikers facing death in Israeli prisons, this minor media mugging seems trivial – talking about it sounds narcissistic. But this bullying of Irish people who support Palestinian rights is part and parcel of a so-far successful campaign to ensure that Palestinian voices are drowned out in the media.

 There has been no coverage at all of the hunger strikes in the Irish press. In comparison, there has been a flurry of articles on Dervish and the cultural boycott. You can find indignant voices talking of the value of cultural exchange as Palestinian prisoners are starving to death - here and here in the Sunday Independent; here and here in the Irish Times - and also in the Sunday Times (behind a paywall, but really, you’re not missing much). The worst of these articles come from the Sunday Independent, the Irish version of the Daily Mail. Over the past few weeks, the Sindo has been launching ongoing attacks on the IPSC – their articles and various responses are here – something which demonstrates the success of the Israeli media machine in targeting Ireland, as they had previously promised....'

  How democratic is YOUR government?

 Can you make a peaceful, non-political gesture without being branded a supporter of terrorists? The Dixie Chicks learnt the consequences of criticising George Dubya Bush's foreign policy and now it's the turn of Dervish.