History has often dismissed the men as ignorant, deluded fools. As the grandchild of railway workers, domestic servants and miners, this enraged me. Working at the BL on another project, I came across the letters, written by the principal conspirators to their families on the night before they were hanged. That was some time in 2007. From that moment, I was compelled to tell the story from the point of view of the participants, including the spy who betrayed them and their families. As well as extensive study of archive I drew from past interviews with activists in Ireland and South Africa as well as family members in a desolate English mining town.
“No future is achieved until it is first imagined.”
There’s a strong argument for crediting Machiavelli – and his contemporary Leonardo da Vinci – with fashioning a leadership template which dominates education in the UK to this day. In grafting together Machiavelli’s ‘Prince’ and Leonardo’s ‘Vitruvian Man’ a hero is born, a David Beckham of his time, a logical űber-human against whom the rest of us are measured and found to be ‘other’. In Europe at least, the ‘natural order’ saw the heroic leader ensconced firmly at the top; there by merit rather than birth, his pursuit of knowledge bringing the desired freedom and happiness of ‘Enlightenment’. As feminist, postcolonial and posthuman thinkers point out, this adoption of Vitruvian Man as the symbol of ultimate human perfection provided philosophical fertiliser for centuries of oppression and colonization, based on ‘othering’ everyone who by reason of gender, skin colour, economic value or other privilege could not aspire to Vitruvian status. More
In her PhD dissertation (2017) Frances Hatherley discussed three working class artists who had risen to prominence in the art world but whose core class content had never been discussed by the critics. She makes “three case studies, each addressing aspects of working-class femininity: Jo Spence’s Class-Shame series, the photographs collected in Richard Billingham’s Ray’s a Laugh, and Carol Morley’s film The Alcohol Years.” Rather than simple pointing to the absence of analysis Hatherley creates an idea of an Anti-Pygmalion Aesthetics with which to better understand the class aspects of the work of these artists. This doctoral thesis is dynamite in the foundations of the classist art establishment.
Black History Month has passed – but we must not stop ringing the alarm on racism in social work by Wayne Reid
The level of inaction from many within the profession’s establishment is both deafening and revealing. To quote US novelist and activist James Baldwin: “I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you [don’t] do.”
It has been quite difficult to write this seminar. The difficulty has not been in knowing what to say, but in recognising the responsibility that comes with saying it.
Writing this rather than speaking free-form is itself a departure for me but one I need to do. I need to write because I feel the energy, the archaic electricity of solidarity that means what I speak is already immersed in others. I see this as important in ways far beyond the latest academic submission.