Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Chapter 58: Survival of the Voice

"Speech is civilisation itself. The word, even the most contradictory word, preserves contact. It is silence which isolates." 

Thomas Mann

The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square

Last week I found myself in the hallowed Middle Temple Inn at a charity champagne reception and celebrity reading of a play. How the other half live, eh? But I had heard about the event via that most public and democratic of tools - Twitter. It had popped up in a tweet by Stephen Fry, advertising an evening with him and Mark Rylance "and friends". These, it turned out, were the super-stellar Dominic West, Ben Miles, Ben Miller and John Sessions. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven chatting to them afterwards. The play by Bruce McKay was billed as a dark comedy about the life of Bartolomé de las Casas, priest and social reformer speaking up for the rights of the American indigenous populations at the time of the Conquistadores. A witness to the atrocities of man's inhumanity to man - a first edition of his treatise is housed in the rare books library of Middle Temple Inn - in a twist of time it is interesting to note that both Bartolomé and Bruce share a birthday on 11th November, lest we forget. The evening was in aid of Survival, a charity that seeks to defend and give a voice to tribal peoples all over the world who are fighting abuse and eviction. You can find out more and support by going to their website

It was surreal timing. Only the night before I had come out of class at Circus Space to the news of the massacre in Paris. The first notification I received was an Instagram image on a friend's account. A picture of the Eiffel Tower with the words "Je Suis Charlie" emblazoned across it. As she is a boudoir photographer, at first I assumed it was an oblique reference to some sexy new perfume (remember the days of "Lulu? Oui! C'est moi!"), then I got on the tube, picked up a discarded copy of the Metro, and the news bubble burst. There are times when words fail. And when cartoons speak volumes.

Streets ahead - a wall in Camden - artist: Tom Blackford

"I do not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
- Voltaire 

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