Posts Tagged ‘Somerset’

Happy Yule! Horrific Christmas Art from 2000 AD’s Kevin O’Neill

December 26, 2022

Happy Boxing Day everyone! I hope you all had a great Christmas Day yesterday, and are enjoying the seasonal holidays. Or at least, as close as anyone comes to enjoying anything in this Tory-inflicted Winter of Discontent. I’m a big fan of the comics artist Kevin O’Neill, who sadly passed away earlier this year. O’Neill drew a number of favourite strips, including ‘Robusters’ and ‘Nemesis the Warlock’ for 2000 AD, and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen for DC. His speciality was robots and aliens, and he was able to draw the most amazing, grotesque and horrific creatures. This was particularly shown in his art for Nemesis the Warlock, which was set in a far-future dark age where Earth was ruled by the Terminators, a religious order which regarded aliens as demons and was intent on their extermination. But it was also shown in many of his other strips, such as the edition of DC’s Green Lantern Corps which the Comics Code refused to pass. The Comics Code were the industry’s censors, set up in the 1950s to reassure American parents that the comics they approved were good, wholesome fare for American youth. The Code refused to pass that issue of the Corps not for any particular reason of the script, but because O’Neill’s artwork was ‘completely unsuitable for children.’ O’Neill had been cheerily turning out such art for British kids in 2000 AD for years by then with no apparent complaint. Well, there was the lad who supposedly told Dave Gibbons, another giant of British comics, that O’Neill’s art gave him nightmares which he could only dispel by looking at his. I think O’Neill consider his rejection by the censors something of an accolade. It’s certainly presented as such in his conversation with Tharg in a celebratory strip 2000 AD ran for Prog 500.

O’Neill also drew the front and back covers for one of 2000 AD’s Christmas issues. This portrayed Santa Claus and the other Christmas features as horrific, including the Christmas turkey and fireplace hung with stockings as rampaging grotesque monsters. It sort of followed in a long tradition of such comic art. One of the children’s humour comics did a feature on the seven ghostly wonders of Britain, in which famous British landmarks became spooky monsters. One of these was ‘Cheddar George’, in which the Somerset cave system became a twisted face with open, ravenous maw.

So, here for your enjoyment, this festive season are the covers drawn by O’Neill. RIP, big man – may your art continue to fascinate, amuse and inspire kids for generations to come. And to everyone else, please – don’t have nightmares.

And here’s the piece from Prog 500 in which Tharg and O’Neill discuss O’Neill’s moment of glory from the Comics Code.

Sketches of Comedians/Comic Actors Eric Sykes, Frankie Howerd and Hattie Jacques

November 20, 2022

Here’s a bit more art of some of Britain’s greatest comic talents, which I hope will brighten your day. Once again, they all come from a certain era. They’re of Frankie Howerd, Eric Sykes, and Hattie Jacques. Howerd used to live in the village of Mark in Somerset, where he was very well respected. He used to turn up and support village fetes. A friend of mine used to live there, and he told me that Howerd used to rehearse in the local church hall. One Sunday at church his voice started coming through the walls during the service, so they were all entertained with cries of ‘Oooh, no! Oh, you mustn’t, no! Titter ye not!’ and so on. In the late ’80s/first years of the 90s he was just coming back as well and was all set to do a new series of Up Pompeii when he died after broadcasting just one episode of the new show.

Eric Sykes – a very talented performer and writer. He had his own long running series on BBC 1, with Hattie Jacques playing his long-suffering sister and Derek Guyler as Korky, the local policeman. Guyler was also multi-talented. Way back in the 1950s he was part of a skiffle band, playing the washboard. Sykes is probably best remembered for the film The Plank, in which he and other great stars of British TV try to carry a plank of wood across town, surviving all manner of accidents and funny incidents. But he wasn’t confined to comedy. One of his last performances was as the butler in the horror film The Others.

Hattie Jacques, drawn in the role she’s probably best remembered for, the matron in the Carry On films. But as well as starring with Eric Sykes as his sister, she also appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour when it was on the radio as his housekeeper. She well deserves a place in any roll call of British funny women.

Michael Eavis Donates Land and Funding for Social Housing

September 2, 2022

Maximum respect to Michael Eavis, the man behind the Glastonbury festival. My mother takes the People’s Friend, and according to that ancient and venerable magazine, Eavis has donated land and promised to pay for the tools and material for the construction of 20 social houses. These are to go to locals who are being priced out of the housing market.

This is a serious issue in Somerset and many other rural areas, as houses are bought up by wealthy outsiders either moving permanently to the country, or picking them up as holiday homes. There’s a desperate need for social housing about the country as whole, as I don’t need to tell anyone reading this blog. It’s therefore really great news to hear that Eavis has stepped in to do his bit for his community.

If only others were the same, but somehow I doubt that another Somerset magnate, Jacob Rees-Mogg, will do anything similar any time soon.

My Objections to the Removal of the African Statue on Stroud’s Town Clock

April 21, 2022

More iconoclasm driven by current sensitivities over historic slavery and contemporary racism. The local news for the Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire area, Points West, reported that Stroud council was expected to vote for the removal of the statue of an African from the town clock. I’m not surprised, as there were demands last year from a local anti-racist group, Stroud Against Racism, demanding its removal, and I really thought it had been taken down already. Stroud’s a small town in Gloucestershire, whose historic economy I always thought was based on the Cotswold wool trade rather than something more sinister. Stroud Against Racism seems to be a group of mainly young Black people, led by a local artist, who’ve had terrible personal experiences of racism in the town. In an interview on BBC local news, it seemed that they particularly resented the figure as representation of the racist attitudes they’d experienced. They assumed it was a slave and demanded its removal, with one young Black woman complaining about the statue’s grotesque features which she obviously felt were an insulting caricature.

The African ‘Slave’ Figure on Stroud Town Clock

While I entirely sympathise with them for the abuse they suffered as victims of racism and appreciate why they would want the statue removed, I believe it is profoundly mistaken. Firstly, while the local news has been describing the statue as a slave, there’s no evidence that connects it directly to slavery and the slave trade. They know the name of the clockmaker, and that’s it. No evidence has been presented to suggest he had any connection with the slave trade or slavery at all. Further more, there are no marks on the statue to suggest slavery. There are no chains or manacles, as seen in this image of Black African slaves captured by a group of Arab slavers below.

Arab Slave Coffle

Nor does the figure look like the poor souls on sale in this 19th century picture of an American slave market.

American Slave Market

It looks far more like African chief and his people, shown making a treaty with British officers in this painting from 1815, following the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire in 1807.

British Officer Meeting African Chiefs to Make a treaty, 1815

As Europe expanded to colonise and establish trading links with the outside world from the 15th century onwards, so Blacks and other indigenous peoples began to enter European art. Sometimes they were depicted as servants and slaves, but at other times simply as symbols of the exotic. See this picture of the 17th century painting, Vanitas, by Jaques de Gheyn.

Jacques de Gheyn, Vanitas, 17th century

The statue also looks somewhat like the depictions of a Black Brazilian family by the `17th century Dutch artist, Albert Eckhout, between 1641-3. These are part of a series of 8 paintings commissioned by the Dutch governor of Nassau, intended to be anthropological studies of Brazil’s non-White peoples.

Blacks also appear as decorations on the musical instruments of the time. For example, negro heads often adorned the pegboxes of citterns, a 17th century ancestor of the guitar. It therefore seems to me that the statue of the Black African on Stroud’s clock is not that of a slave, but simply of the sculptor’s idea of an indigenous Black African. The modelling isn’t very good, but I suspect this is less due to any animosity on the part of the sculptor than simple lack of artistic training or skill. It’s more an example of folk art, rather than that of someone with a proper academic artistic education.

I therefore think that it’s wrong to assume that the Stroud figure is a slave. The assumption that it is seems to be a result of the general attack on anything vaguely connected to historic slavery and the slave trade following the mass protests in support of Black Lives Matter. It also seems to be directly influenced by the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol, further to the south.

In fact, I believe that rather than suggesting Black degradation and slavery, the statue could be seen in a far more positive light as showing Stroud proudly embracing Blacks as trading partners as well as symbols of exoticism and prosperity.

Private Eye on Starmer’s Nobbling of Labour Democracy

October 27, 2021

Keir Starmer’s assault on democracy within the Labour party and his purging of the left has become so blatant that even the determinedly anti-Corbyn Private Eye has been forced to take notice and publish something reasonably critical. It has published two pieces about it in this fortnight’s ‘H.P. Sauce’ column, for 29th October to 11th November 2021. One is about the purges, while the other is about Starmer’s recruitment of people, who tried to found an anti-Labour party and worked for Tweezer. The article on the purges runs

Uncontrollable Purges

Although it is 22 years since David Evans, general secretary of the Labour party, first presented a plan to overhaul the running of the party to Tony Blair, it is under Keir Starmer’s leadership that Evans has finally been given the chance to put his ideas for purging the left into practice.

In his paper to Blair, Evans described constituency Labour parties as “dysfunctional” and claimed “the majority of local Labour parties are more like Trotters Independent Traders than Marks & Spencer”. (An amusing reference to the then-popular TV comedy Only Fools and Horse, m’lud). Central to the plan, as chaaracterised by Phil Gaskin, regional director of Labour South West, is to remove members’ say on the policies outlined in the leaflets they stuff through letterboxes.

The party is in a precarious state. Since December 2019 it has lost 150,000 members. it is pending more on legal costs than campaigning. Its funding has been cut by trade unions, and it lost £1.2m of the taxpayer funding based on MP numbers following the net loss of 59 seats in 2019.

Starmer may have promised to put an end to years of internecine warfare, but that did not mean extending an olive branch to the left. Evans’ plans are aimed at keeping opponents of Starmer quiet – those, that is, who escape being forced out or choose not to quit. Changes include abolishing the membership fee and replacing members with “supporters”; meanwhile, policy will be determined by the leadership.

Since Starmer took office there have been hundreds of suspensions directed from the office of the general secretary. For his part, Gaskin has suspended more than half the constituencies in the south-west region for alleged antisemitism or for demanding “democracy”. He also prevented the Bath CLP from donating £3,600 from its £1.3m funds to food banks shortly before Christmas 2020, on grounds that this was not “campaigning”. It was also Gaskin who led the case against film director Ken Loach, expelled from the party in August.

Prohibited from CLP agendas in the south-west region, which covers Bristol, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and half of Dorset, is any mention of support for ex-leader Jeremy Corbyn and any debate or motion on the subject of, er, free speech.

This shows just how far back the Blairite contempt for democracy, socialism and traditional Labour values goes. It also names Gaskin as one of the chief instigators of the attack on democracy, particularly in the south west. I’ve had emails from the south-west regional office asking me to join their conference or respond to various initiatives. I shall now have to think very carefully about them and especially about whether my local party has also been muzzled by this dicta.

And how utterly, utterly contemptible of Gaskin to ban Bath from supporting a food bank!

Starmer Takes Full Responsibility for Defeat by Sacking People Who Had Nothing To Do With It

May 9, 2021

Well, there have been some successes for Labour in the recent elections. I’m very glad Labour has entered a sixth term in power in Wales, and that Jo Anderson, Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan were elected mayors of Liverpool, Manchester and London respectively, and that down here in Bristol, south Gloucestershire and north Somerset, Dan Norris has been elected the metro mayor. But generally, Labour have suffered an humiliating defeat in the local council elections. Keir Starmer said that he was going to take responsibility for the defeat. And so he’s done what he previously done so many times – gone back on his word. If he was truly going to take responsibility, he should have tendered his resignation and walked. But he didn’t. He’s hung on to power, and started blaming and sacking other people instead.

The first of these is Angela Rayner, who has been sacked from her position as the party’s chair. He has decided that she was responsible for the loss of Hartlepool despite the fact that she had nothing to do with it. It was really the fault of his personal private secretary, Jenny Chapman, who, as Mike has posted over at Vox Political, decided on the candidate and chose the date of May 6th. But Chapman remains in place. Others who are lined up for the chop apparently include Lisa Nandy and Anneliese Dodds. This also reminds me of the incident a few weeks ago when Starmer blamed somebody else for a Labour loss. Apparently they failed to communicate his ‘vision’ properly. This would have been impossible. Starmer doesn’t have a vision. As Zelo Street has pointed out, Starmer has constantly evaded. He’s also defiantly agreed with BoJob on various issues and, as leader of the opposition, has spectacularly failed to oppose. People are heartily sick of him. The polls show that the reason the good folk of Hartlepool didn’t vote Labour was him.

And then there are the ‘charmless nurks’, as Norman Stanley Fletcher, the Sartre of Slade prison would say, that Starmer supposedly no wants in his cabinet. Wes Streeting, the bagman between him and the Board of Deputies, a thoroughly poisonous character; the Chuckle Sisters Rachel Reeves and Jessica Philips, who are so left-wing and progressive that they went to a party celebrating 100 years or so of the Spectator, and Hilary ‘Bomber’ Benn. Benn is the man, who wanted us to bomb Syria, as if Britain wasn’t already responsible for enough carnage and bloodshed in the Middle East. He’s been in Private Eye several times as head of the Commonwealth Development Corporation. This used to be the public body that put British aid money into needed projects in the Developing World. Under Benn it’s been privatised, and now only gives money that will provide a profit for shareholders. It’s yet more western capitalist exploitation of the Third World. None of these bozos should be anywhere near power in the Labour party. They’re Thatcherites, who if given shadow cabinet posts, will lead Labour into yet more electoral defeat.

Already the Net has been filled with peeps giving their views on what Starmer should do next. The mad right-wing radio host, Alex Belfield, posted a video stating that Starmer was immensely rich, with millions of acres of land, and out of touch with working people. If Starmer really wants power, he declared, he should drop the ‘woke’ nonsense and talk about things ordinary people are interested in, like roads, buses and so on. And he should talk to Nigel Farage about connecting with ordinary people.

Belfield speaks to the constituency that backed UKIP – the White working class, who feel that Labour has abandoned them in favour of ethnic minorities. But part of Labour’s problem is that Starmer doesn’t appeal to Blacks and Asians. He drove them away with his tepid, opportunistic support of Black Lives Matter and his defence of the party bureaucrats credibly accused of bullying and racially abusing Diane Abbott and other non-White Labour MPs and officials. He’s also right in that Starmer is rich and doesn’t appeal to the working class. He’s a Blairite, which means he’s going for the middle class, swing or Tory vote. But there have been Labour politicos from privileged backgrounds, who have worked for the ordinary man and woman, and were respected for it. Tony Benn was a lord, and Jeremy Corbyn I think comes from a very middle class background. As did Clement Attlee. Being ‘woke’ – having a feminist, anti-racist stance with policies to combat discrimination against and promote women, ethnic minorities, and the LGBTQ peeps needn’t be an electoral liability if they are couple with policies that also benefit the White working class. Like getting decent wages, defending workers’ rights, reversing the privatisation of the health service and strengthening the welfare state that so that it does provide properly for the poor, the old, the disabled, the sick and the unemployed. These are policies that benefit all working people, regardless of their colour, sex or sexuality.

It’s when these policies are abandoned in favour of the middle class with only the pro-minority policies retained to mark the party as left-wing or liberal, that the working class feels abandoned. Blair and Brown did this, and so helped the rise of UKIP and now the kind of working class discontent that is favouring the Tories.

And it’ll only get worse if Starmer turns fully to Blairism.

The only way to restore the party’s fortunes is to return to the popular policies of Jeremy Corbyn, and for Starmer to resign.

See: #Starmergeddon as panicking Labour leader lashes out in night of swivel-eyed lunacy | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

Zelo Street: Keir Starmer – No Vision, No Votes (zelo-street.blogspot.com)

Zelo Street: Keir Starmer IS UNRAVELLING (zelo-street.blogspot.com)

Hurrah! Labour’s Dan Norris Elected as West of England Metro Mayor

May 9, 2021

Another great result for Labour. I’ve just caught the local news for the Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire region on the Beeb. Dan Norris, the Labour candidate for the west of England metro mayor, has been re-elected. He got 125,000 odd votes. The Tories came second with 85,000 or so votes. The metro mayor presides over the greater Bristol region, including parts of north Somerset and south Gloucestershire. I’d heard that he’d been re-elected yesterday, but this confirms it. Apparently the Conservatives have been claiming that they were defeated because there was a larger turnout for the election in Bristol, while voters in northern Somerset and south Gloucestershire stayed away. Perhaps people in north Somerset were put off voting Tory by the bad vibes coming from Jacob Rees Mogg in BANES.

This is a great result amongst the general dismal news for Labour, which is largely due to Starmer’s dismal leadership. It isn’t Angela Rayner, who should go, but him.

‘I’ Predicts Laboratory Produced Meat Could Be on Sale in Two Years’ Time

November 25, 2020

More news about the rapidly approaching Science Fictional society on the horizon. Last Friday’s edition of the I for 20th November 2020 carried a piece by Madeleine Cuff, ‘Biofarm to fork: Lab-grown meat on supermarket shelf in two years’, which reported that an Israeli company has had such success growing meat in a lab, that it may be sufficiently commercially viable to compete with traditionally farmed meat. The article ran

Steak grown in a laboratory could be hitting dinner plates within two years, after an Israeli food start-up this week unveiled a “commercial prototype” of its cultured steak.

Aleph Farms’ steak slices are grown in a laboratory – they prefer the term biofarm – using cells extracted from a living cow. The firm claims its “slaughter-free” product has the taste, texture, aroma, and nutritional value of meat reared the traditional way.

It is not the first firm to produce lab-grown meat that mimics traditional meat, but it is the first to say it can produce lab-grown meat cheaply enough for the average shopper. Aleph claims its production system will soon be able to produce lab-grown steak slices as cheaply as conventional meat.

“One of the big challenges of cultivated meat is the ability to produce large quantities efficiently at a cost that can complete with conventional meat industry pricing, without compromising on quality,” said Didier Toubia, co-founder and CEO of Aleph Farms. “We have developed five technological building blocks unique to Aleph Farms that are put into a large-scale production process, all patented by the company.”

The slices are being unveiled today at an innovation conference in Singapore, ahead of a pilot launch at the end of 2022. The firm has raised $12m (£9m) in funding, including backing from the multinational Cargill, Swiss supermarket Migros and Israeli food manufacturer Strauss Group to fund its plans.

Aleph Farms says its system of meat production – which will take place in specially developed “Bio-Farms” – uses a fraction of the resources needed to rear livestock for meat. Beef is one of the most carbon-intensive foods, in part because it requires large amounts of land, food and water to rear cattle.

Switching to lab-grown meat would also curb the use of antibiotics in farm animals, one of the major drivers of antibiotic resistance around the world, Aleph Farms said.

But many consumers are still uncomfortable with the idea of eating so-called cultured meat, and farmers are expected to mount stiff opposition to its roll-out. In the US the beef lobby is already pressuring the US Department of Agriculture to define meat as a product that comes from the carcass of an animal.

This looks to me like it might be another industry puff-piece, like the glowing report a week or so ago that the rapid transit vacuum tube train system had been successfully tested. I’m starting to wonder if Lebedev or whoever owns the I now has shares in these companies.

SF writers and scientists have been predicting the development of lab-grown meat for decades now. I think it’s one of the targets the SF writers Pohl and Kornbluth take solid aim at in their 1950s satire of consumerism and advertising, The Space Merchants. It also appears in one of the Gregory Benford’s ‘Galactic Centre’ cycle of novels, where he describes the endless production of cloned turkey – lurkey- to feed an interstellar expedition sent to the centre of the Galaxy to find allies against an invading civilisation of intelligent machines. Outside SF, the late botanist David Bellamy gave an interview in the Sunday supplement for the Heil way back in the 1980s, in which he looked forward to the advent of lab-grown meat. This would end the cruelty of current farming, and cattle would then be reared as pets.

It’s an inspiring vision, and many people naturally have qualms about the way animals are reared and slaughtered. And there are plenty of veggies out there, who still want to enjoy the taste of meat. Hence the growth of vegetable substitutes.

But I’ve also got strong reservations about this. Firstly there’s the health aspect. What happens if you clone endlessly from a limited set of cells? I can see the nutritional value of such meat declining over time. I also don’t think it’s a good idea to get the meat from such a limited stock. One of the causes of the Great Potato Famine in Ireland was that the strains used by the Irish were too restricted. Other varieties of spud, which could have resisted the fungus which devastated the crop, weren’t available. And so when the fungus appeared, it destroyed such a high proportion that millions either starved to death or were forced to emigrate. And the British government was so unsympathetic, that immense bitterness was left that added a further spur to the Irish nationalists. I can see a similar problem devastating clone food.

I also worry about the potentially dehumanising effect this will have on us as well. One of the complaints we hear regularly from educators and agricultural/ nature programmes like Countryfile is that many children don’t know where their food comes from. Hence the schemes to take kids, especially from the inner city, to farms. For many people meat, and other foodstuffs, is simply what comes from the shops or supermarkets. But people aren’t robots or disembodied minds. As Priss says in the film Bladerunner, ‘We’re not computers. We’re biological’. And I’m afraid if we go down this route and begin the mass consumption of lab-grown meat, we’ll contact with that biology, to our own spiritual detriment.

And I’m not sure that it will be good for the animals either. Yes, I know the arguments. Cows need much space and vegetation, and their flatulence gives off such amounts of methane that it’s a major contributor to global warming. A little while ago a vegetarian organisation appeared on the Beeb local news programme for the Bristol area, Points West, to present their argument that if everyone in the Bristol, Somerset and Gloucestershire region turned veggie, the amount of land used for farming could be drastically reduced. The vast tracts of unused land could be rewilded, thus aiding the environment. But what humanity has no use for in the environment, it destroys or allows to become extinct. The wolf is extinct in Britain, and it’s been argued that the only reason the fox has survived is because there was precious little else left to hunt after the number of deer was reduced. And despite official protection, birds of prey are also under threat because they prey on grouse and so threatened that alleged sport and its profits in Scotland. Cattle continue to be farmed, but the previous varieties bred by our ancestors have become rare as their place has been taken by more profitable animals. If lab-grown meat takes off, then I’m afraid that cattle as a species will also become rare.

Whatever the environmental advantages, this looks like another step towards the kind of overly technological, dehumanizing dystopia SF writers have been warning us about. It’s an interesting idea, but it needs much more debate and caution.

Radio 4 Next Week Serialises Biography of Black Haitian Revolutionary Toussaint L’Ouverture

November 11, 2020

Radio 4’s ‘Book of the Week’ next week, according to the Radio Times for 14-20 November 2020, is Sudhir Hazareesingh’s Black Spartacus, a biography of Toussaint L’Ouverture. L’Ouverture was the leader of slave rebellion in what is now Haiti in the late 19th century, which threw out the French and turned their former colony into the first Black republic. The piece about the serial on page 130 of the Radio Times by David McGillivray runs

Book of the Week: Black Spartacus – the Epic Life of Toussaint Louverture

In 1791 enslaved Africans on the island now known as Haiti rose up against their French masters in the world’s first and only successful slave revolution. Their leader was the brilliant general and diplomat Toussaint Louverture, subject of a new book by Mauritian-born lecturer in politics at Balliol College Oxford, Sudhir Hazareesingh. Using correspondence and military reports in French archives, Hazareesingh brings startling new insights into the life of the man largely responsible for the establishment of the first black republic. Louverture, a real-life black superhero, fought not only the French but also the British and Spanish. “It was the greatest revolution of all time,” the author says. The serialisation is read by Adrian Lester.

The programme’s on at 9.45 each day, Monday to Friday. The blurbs for the days’ instalments are as follows:

Monday

1/5 Adrian Lester reads from Sudhir Hazareesingh’s biography of the former slave who headed an insurrection that led to the Haitian Revolution. The first instalment looks at Toussaint’s early life, his progress to coachman and his education by the Jesuits. Abridged by Libby Spurrier.

Tuesday

2/5 Following the Saint Domingue uprising, Toussaint show himself to be both a focused military leader and a man of compassion.

Wednesday

3/5 In 1798, Napoleon sends an agent, Gabriel de Heouville, to reduce Tousaint’s power in Saint-Domingue.

Thursday

4/5 Toussaint’s sweeping reforms of both public and private activity help to bring about huge rises in productivity and exports, but his authoritative leadership style inspires rebellions, led by his nephew Moyse.

Friday

5/5 Napoleon Bonaparte and Toussaint Louverture engage in a fierce battle of both wit and force over Saint-Dominge. After three months of fighting, Toussaint seeks to negotiate a truce, but is arrested and embarks on his first sea voyage – one way – to France.

Louverture was clearly a brilliant and gifted leader. His revolution was an inspiration to slaves across the Caribbean, and the sought to emulate his success in their own revolts. These also included the British West Indies, alarming the colonial authorities there and the government at home.

However, there was also a serious negative aspect to the revolution. Major Moody used the condition of the former slaves in Haiti after the revolt as part of the argument in his parliamentary report in the 1820s that slaves in the British Caribbean weren’t ready for their freedom. After the revolution, the government had been faced with a financial crisis due to possible loss of their export commodity, sugar. The country was therefore divided up between Louverture’s generals, and the former slaves were forbidden to leave their plantations. Each plantation was given a quote of sugar to produce. If they failed to produce this quota, then the generals and army moved in and started executing those workers. I believe they were burned to death. I don’t know whether this came after Louverture was removed from power, although it might have been during his rule when the book says that rebellions broke out against his ‘authoritative’ leadership.

Moody’s conclusion surprised contemporaries, because he certainly wasn’t personally racist. He lived in Somerset with a Black wife. His report is interesting because it also includes letters from a former American slave, who had been freed by his mistress in Louisiana. The former slave had travelled to Haiti, and obviously felt a strong attachment to his former mistress by writing letters to her about his new adopted country and its conditions.

The report also discusses issues that are still, unfortunately, very relevant today. He felt describes the greater numbers of Blacks than Whites in American prisons, and concluded that there is so much prejudice against Blacks in America and Britain that the only way they can possible succeed as equals would be if they had their own country. This is the view of Black radical groups like the Nation of Islam. Let’s work together to make sure it’s mistaken.

I haven’t come across this particular book before, but there have been other works recently published about the Black revolutionaries of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. One of these is The Black Jacobins. Louverture was inspired by the French Revolution, which attempted to end slavery as well as liberating the White serfs from their aristocratic masters. I don’t think the French were able to restore serfdom after the revolution’s failure, but they were successful in restoring Black slavery. This led to the growth of French anti-slavery movements like Amis des Noirs.

Hey-Ho for Hallowe’en

October 31, 2020

It’s October 31st, Hallowe’en. This is supposed to come from the pagan Irish festival of Samhain, but over a decade ago now Dr Ronald Hutton, a history professor at Bristol University, published an article criticising this view in the Earth Mysteries/ Alternative Archaeology magazine 3rd Stone. One of the postgraduate students in the religion department at Bristol University was studying it, however, and she found that it did come from Ireland. So what the real origin of Hallowe’en is I have no idea.

One of the children’s books I had when I was young was The Beaver Book of Creepy Verse, which had this little rhyme:

Hey-ho for Hallowe’en

And the witches to be seen.

Some black and some green.

Hey-ho for Hallowe’en.

Which is obviously great fun if you’re a small child, but isn’t going to win any literary awards.

In Somerset the Jack O’ Lanterns made at this time of year were called ‘punkies’ and there was a doggerel verse about how this was ‘punkie night’. Not obviously to be confused with punks, however, despite the physical similarity some people might have to pumpkins.

Thanks to the Coronavirus, going to parties is out of the question. Many cities are ascending the tiers of restrictions the government has imposed, and I’ve heard that it’s likely that the government will imposed a general lockdown sometime next week. But I hope everyone will nevertheless have a great day, and a bit of spooky fun if they want. Even if it just watching a horror video with the peeps in your social bubble.