Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Rude Britain rules - or a walk along the river

En route to a preview of Tate Britain’s latest show Rude Britannia: British Comic Art yesterday, I got off the Tube at Westminster station to walk along the river Thames to the gallery.
I saw for the first time how veteran peace campaigner Brian Haw had been joined by a motley collection of activists supporting a variety of causes – plus probably some who just fancied setting up home opposite the Houses of Parliament.
Parliament Square, the site of the tent invasion, was never a particularly attractive patch of green surrounded as it is by constant traffic. Now it qualifies as an eyesore which London mayor Boris Johnson is seeking legal powers to remove.
As long as they keep the peace, it would be a mistake to evict these protestors. There can be no better example to the thousands of tourists who visit the Mother of Parliaments daily that Britain is a democracy where freedom of speech still flourishes.
I’m not supporting the right of anyone to put up a tent where they please but it seems to me now that Speaker’s Corner at the Marble Arch end of Hyde Park is a shadow of its heyday, Parliament Square is as good a symbol of peaceful dissent as any.
As for the Tate exhibition itself, I found it a disappointment. From Chaucer and Swift to the Carry On films and Derek and Clive, I’m not adverse to the ribald. So it should have struck a chord with me. Perhaps a private view is a bit po-faced for such a show. A return visit is called for when there should be more of a buzz in the galleries.
Only the Beryl Cooks and Viz’s Fat Slags made me smile – which probably says something about me. Political satire is well represented underlining that apart from a few notable exceptions, it is in retreat in today's Britain. Stand-ups prefer easier targets such as the handicapped. This is a pity because our politicians need to be constantly challenged by the people they represent – which brings me back to where I began.

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