Category: British Culture

I would like to start a club called ‘Children of Lost Irony’. Nobody applies for membership, but is endowed honorary membership by missing blatantly obvious irony – usually carried in what they say.

It would be nice to always write about positive things and to maintain continuous optimism here – after all, this blog has evolved into a history of my personal recovery and re-balancing from depression. However, we do not live in a fairy tale world – no land of milk and honey, and sometimes things happen that should not be ignored or accepted.

As much as the stigma attached to mental illness is dissolving, it still has not gone completely – I’ve said this before on here, and campaigns like the recent Time to Talk day highlight that a certain stigma is still there within our society.

I think much of the background for stigma comes from within ourselves and the symptomatically negative view we depressives have on things. However, it is by no means the only background factor. One of the major external factors is discrimination – that’s probably blatantly obvious. (For saying that which probably doesn’t need to be said, I nominate myself as the second member of the ‘Children of Lost Irony’ – not the first, though. More on that in a second). While discrimination exists, and while government continues to propagandize that it is okay to criminalize the poor, the disabled, those with mental illnesses, etc. – to regard those groups as an underclass, a subculture as has happened throughout history with too many other groups (e.g. Blacks, Jews, Atheists, etc.), discrimination can claim justification in its actions.

So to our second member of ‘Children of Lost Irony’ – Weatherspoons.

I was intending to meet some friends at ‘The Lime Kiln’ – a pub in the J D Weatherspoon’s chain – here in Liverpool today, until I read this article on the Liverpool Echo web site last night (click the image to view the full article):

I have been there before and fail to see how they can justify the claim that there isn’t the space for the event, which has been held there for nine years. In the half dozen times I’ve been there, I have never seen the place actually anywhere near full.

“In recent months, we have had to turn customers away on a Tuesday, as there has not been enough room to accommodate them, due in part to a section of the pub being used for the disco.”

Of course, it is possible that Tuesday lunch time is an exception, but on the examples of other days (lunch times and evenings) that I’ve seen, it is a ludicrous claim. I have to say, too, that as a drinker for some 40 years and someone with experience in bar work, I have never once in my entire life seen anyone turned away from a pub, no matter how crowded – not once. So I’m sorry, Weatherspoon’s, but I simply don’t believe you.

And the statement that supports their membership to the ‘Children of Lost Irony’ club?

“As a result, we feel that we are no longer able to accommodate the group, in our aim to cater for all of our customers.”

“ALL of our customers”???

However they try to dress it up, this is pure discrimination against people with disabilities.

Thankfully, Liverpool councillors have written to Weatherspoons about this, voicing their protest (article on the ‘Liverpool Express’ web site – again click the image to read the article):

I will be boycotting Weatherspoons (their record on treatment of staff is pretty poor too – taking full advantage of the zero-hour contract system). Of course, they are a massive chain and I am one person – but there are other calls to boycott them going around the Net. Maybe, just maybe, if enough people do the same, they will be forced to rethink.

Re-opened until May 31st, 2013 – Petition for an Inquiry into Abuse in Specialist Music Education.

I was at Chetham’s (Cheetham’s Hospital School of Music – as it was known then), just before Mike Brewer took over. I have recognised at least one name that has come up as an alleged abuser. It is quite shocking for me to learn of the institutional abuse that seems to have been occuring at the time.

One of the saddest things for me is that I remember arriving at Cheetham’s and feeling for the first time in my life, a sense of belonging – for the first time I wasn’t ‘the weird kid’ because I preferred playing violin to playing football. There is a great sense of betrayal in knowing that some of the friends I had there were possible victims of this.

I was aware of some stuff going on there that would result in prosecution nowadays (corporal punishment – and teachers’ temper tantrums that were taken a step too far). I was totally unaware of sexual abuse going on. Although it doesn’t entirely surprise me. Attitudes were unfortunately very lax in those days.

I would have to also say that I find it hard to believe that abuse was confined to specialist music schools. Private schools were ‘under the radar’ in those days. They were not subject to the same law as state schools.

So here we are again in another recession (or as some describe it, depression) under a government which evaluates everything – from people, to ventures, organisations, projects or works of art – in terms of cost effectiveness and profit.

So the message came across in Maria Miller’s speech given at the British Museum in April, that Arts organizations need to focus more on the economic worth of their projects than on artistic considerations.

Of course, the cost of any undertaking is always a consideration that needs to be borne in mind, but to aim solely for cost effectiveness and profit in the arts is, I think, unhealthy to any civilized and evolving society.

It has been pointed out by Polly Toynbee that our culture is what is left behind when we die – as the British Museum exemplifies.

But I think that another crucial problem with examining the price tag on creative work is the stagnating effect it has on culture. Profit comes from popularity, and so under a purely economic consideration, the very basist of mainstream culture thrives, while the more adventurous stuff is pushed aside. The trouble with that is that the adventurous stuff is the stuff that represents progress in the arts.  Without the impact of say – a Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’ on the world of classical music, we may still be listening to music that is no more demanding of the listener than Mozart’s first compositions. Yet at ‘the rite’s’ first performance, the audience rioted.

Of course, there are so many areas in which the government’s impact on society and on society’s mainstream thinking is problematic (personally, I feel a lot of it is dangerous). But I probably don’t have the bandwidth to cover it. I come from a background of the arts, so it strikes a personal chord for me.


Royal Wedding Souvenirs: Coins, stamps, fine china and more :

Of course, the press is a-buzz with the Royal Wedding coming up next week – as are the manufacturers of souvenirs – cheap and otherwise. And those wonderful people at People Magazine have got together a pick of the best (or worst). Check the link above.

Discovery News also has more souvenir items on this slide show. (The patriotic Wills & Kate condoms are quite charming!)