Thursday, 23 March 2017

"Vile opportunist" Tommy Robinson

Tommy Robinson condemned for ranting about Islamic extremism at scene of London terror attack

From the Independent by Maya Oppenheim

Far-right figures like Tommy Robinson are vile opportunists: using victims of today's attack to spread their anti-Muslim message.

A video of the far-right leader, who led the EDL from 2009 until October 2013, 
appeared on Rebel Media, a fringe right-wing Canadian media company LNP

Tommy Robinson has been widely condemned for launching into a tirade about Islamic extremism at the scene of a suspected terrorist attack in Westminster.

The former English Defence League leader rushed to the Houses of Parliament in London after news of the attacks emerged. Although details about the alleged assailant and their motive remains unclear, Mr Robinson claimed Britain was at “war” with Islamic fundamentalists.

While ambulances and other emergency vehicles dominated scenes, Mr Robinson shouted aggressively at those who challenged him and launched into a scathing analysis of the incident for his personal camera crew.

After a reporter suggested Mr Robinson has been quick to label the incident a foreign terrorist attack, the far-right leader said: "This is the reality. The reality is these people are waging war on us.

"This has been going on for 1,400 years and while it's going on the police leaders and the political leaders want to invite more."

But Mr Robinson has been denounced for his intervention, with people accusing him of simply inflaming the situation and exploiting the tragedy for his own gain.


Maya Goodfellow, a journalist, said on Twitter:
Far-right figures like Tommy Robinson are vile opportunists: using victims of today's attack to spread their anti-Muslim message.


David Rivers
Tommy Robinson has turned up at the scene and, as you could imagine, is making everything worse.

Desolation Radio
Tommy Robinson actually went down to the scene to start yelling. Unbelievable

“Far-right hate preacher Tommy Robinson is in London exploiting today's terror attack. The man lower than vermin,” said Scott Nelson.

"Tommy Robinson thinking about himself and his agenda rather than the victims in the immediate aftermath. Tells you all you need to know," added another.

“Tommy Robinson really jumped on the 16:09 Southeastern service to come and milk this tragedy,” quipped another critic.

A video of the far-right leader, who led the EDL from 2009 until October 2013, outside the Houses of Parliament appeared on Rebel Media, a fringe right-wing Canadian media company after he went down to the scene.

Mr Robinson announced he was leaving the EDL in 2013 in a joint conference with think tank Quilliam. His departure was widely covered, with the former leader later telling police he would help with their investigations into alleged racists within the extremist group.

Proceedings at Parliament were suspended on Wednesday afternoon after a police officer was stabbed and an alleged assailant shot by armed police outside the Houses of Parliament, shortly after a vehicle is reported to have mowed into members of the public on Westminster Bridge.

Police are treating the Westminster shooting which took place on Wednesday afternoon as a terrorist incident until further notice.






Yasmin Rehman named Secularist of the Year 2017

From the National Secular Society:


The Irwin Prize for Secularist of the Year 2017 has been awarded to Yasmin Rehman, the secular campaigner for women's rights.

Yasmin has spent much of the past two years working to get the Government to recognise the dangers faced by ex-Muslims and Ahmadi Muslims from Islamic extremists. She has used her own home as a shelter for women at risk of domestic abuse.

Accepting the prize, Yasmin Rehman thanked the Society for recognising her work and said she was "incredibly humbled" to be nominated among other figures who were "personal heroines."

She said there were two women, Maryam Namazie and Gita Sahgal, whom she couldn't have campaigned without, and that she was "honoured" to stand beside them.

Secularism was not opposed to faith, she said, before describing how she had been shut down as 'Islamophobic' and "racist" despite being a Muslim herself. There is anti-Muslim sentiment in society, she said, but charges of 'Islamophobia' were being used to silence and curtail speech.

Yasmin said she didn't know if she could ever go back to Pakistan because of her work, while in the UK it was "impossible" to get funding for secularist work. She asked where women could possibly turn if they faced religiously-justified abuse. Muslim women were left with nothing but religious, sharia arbitration, while faith healing was spreading with ill women being controlled by male relatives and religious leaders and told to pray instead of seeking medical treatment.

FGM and honour-based violence were being dismissed as "cultural", while in fact polygamist and temporary marriages were Islamic practises, she said. There is a slippery road from this to child marriage, and there should be "no space" in the UK for these practises, she argued.

"Great powers within the community" were holding women back, and low rates of Muslim female employment could not be attributed entirely to discrimination by employers.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: 
I'm particularly pleased that this afternoon we have a secularist who is also a Muslim to present our prizes. She is living proof that secularism and Muslims can co-exist if given half a chance and co-founded British Muslims for Secular Democracy in 2006.
Mr Sanderson described how secularism protected the rights of all and said it and democracy were "interdependent".

Dr Michael Irwin kindly sponsored the £5,000 award. The award was presented by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. She said: 
The thing I find interesting and frightening at the moment is when I talk to young Muslims is how little they understand what secularism means.
She said the Society's most important work was in explaining what secularism meant for young people, particularly Muslims, and demonstrate that secularism was not atheism.

She warned of the growth of Muslim "exceptionalism" and that "universalism needs to be promoted."

The Society was joined at the central London lunch event by previous winners of the prize including Maryam Namazie, who was the inaugural Secularist of the Year back in 2005. Peter Tatchell, who won the prize on 2012 also attended.

Turkish parliamentarian and 2014 Secularist of the Year Safak Pavey was unable to join the Society, but sent a message to attendees: "I wish I could be with you but we have the critical referendum approaching and we are very busy with the campaign. Each and every one of your shortlisted nominees is a very distinguished members of the secular society without borders.

"I wholeheartedly thank all of them for their courageous and precious contributions in defence and support of secularism and congratulate this year's Secularist while looking forward to work together for our shared cause."

Mr Sanderson praised her for working in "increasingly dangerous" circumstances to resist the Islamisation of Turkey.

Other campaigners were thanked for their work and Terry singled out Dr Steven Kettell, who was shortlisted for the prize, for his "excellent response" to the Commission on Religion and Belief in Public which had advocated expanding many religious privileges. Mr Sanderson thanked Dr Kettell for pointing out the many injustices that CORAB's recommendations would have introduced, in his "excellent" report.

Scott Moore, the founder of Let Pupils Choose, was thanked for his campaign work. He said that, as an 18 year old, he had been campaigning for his entire adult life to separate religion and state, after religion was forced on him and taught as "absolute fact" during his childhood. He said the education system in Northern Ireland "robbed" pupils of their religious freedom. "All belief systems should be treated equally, but they are not."

He was applauded for his hard-fought campaign work and Mr Sanderson said Moore gave him "hope for the future."

Nominee Houzan Mahmoud spoke powerfully about the importance of universal rights and freedoms.

Barry Duke, editor of the Freethinker, was given a lifetime achievement award for his commitment to free speech, LGBT rights and equality and resistance to censorship in apartheid South Africa.

The Society's volunteer of the year was named, Sven Klinge, and thanked for the many occasions on which he has photographed NSS events.



Monday, 20 March 2017

Anti-Immigrant Immigrant

Former BNP leader Nick Griffin says he hopes to emigrate within 'the next six months'

From The Independent by Samuel Osborne  @SamuelOsborne93
I hope the Hungarian people will welcome people who are genuine refugees from western Europe but keep out the liberals who have brought western Europe to this state in the first place

Nick Griffin praised Hungary for building a wall to keep out refugees 
and providing state help for large Hungarian families Getty

The former leader of the British National Party has said he wants to emigrate to Hungary.

Nick Griffin said he intends to move to the eastern European country within the next six months, despite his previous attacks on immigration.

Mr Griffin told told Hungarian website 444 he would continue with his political activism even after he moved.  He said:
There's already a sort of nationalist emigre community building up here. There's French, there's Italians and Swedes, and Brits as well, so it's only a trickle at present.

I have no doubt at all that when the trouble really begins with al-Qaeda and Isis in western Europe, that trickle is going to become a flood.

And I hope that Hungary, the Hungarian government, the Hungarian people, will welcome people who are genuine refugees from western Europe but keep out the liberals who have brought western Europe to this state in the first place.
Mr Griffin also praised Hungary for “saying that the sovereign countries of Europe have a right not just to their freedom but also to long-term survival.” He said:
Hungary is actually doing something about it. There's the broad spectrum from building the wall to state help for young Hungarian families to have large families and addressing the Soros problem.

[It] indicates a government which doesn't want to commit national suicide. That's very refreshing from someone coming from the west.
When he was asked where he would move to, Mr Griffin said: 
That depends. I love Budapest, I think it's a fantastic city. But I'm a country boy really, so I'll probably live somewhere out in the sticks, as we would say in England.

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So not really anything to do with the Knights Templar International , Jim Dowson and the village of Asotthalom then?

Asotthalom Welcomes White Far Right

Anti-Islam Hungarian village says white nationalists from across Europe are welcome.

The village of Asotthalom has banned Muslim clothing, the call to prayer and 'gay propaganda'.

From the International Business Times by Tom Porter


Hungarian soldiers control the metal fence-saved border line at 
Asotthalom border station of the Hungarian-Serbian border 2016.
Getty Images

A village in Hungary that has banned Muslim dress and "homosexual propaganda" aims attract white nationalists from throughout Europe.

The town of Asotthalom is located in a remote part of southern Hungary near the Serbian border, and in November announced it was banning mosque construction, the use of a muezzin at prayer times and the wearing of clothes such as the niqab.

Echoing the language of Russian president and far-right icon Vladimir Putin, the community also announced a ban on "homosexual propaganda."

Now town mayor Laszlo Toroczkai has said the town hopes to attract other Christian Europeans opposed to multiculturalism. 
Toroczkai, who is also a deputy leader of the far right Jobbik party, told the BBC: 

We primarily welcome people from western Europe - people who wouldn't like to live in a multicultural society. We wouldn't like to attract Muslims to the village.

It's very important for the village to preserve its traditions. If large numbers of Muslims arrived here, they would not be able to integrate into the Christian community.

We can see large Muslim communities in western Europe that haven't been able to integrate – and we don't want to have the same experience here," he says. "I'd like Europe to belong to Europeans, Asia to belong to Asians and Africa to belong to Africans. Simple as that.
Knights Templar International, a white nationalist organisation which counts as members former BNP boss Nick Griffin and former treasurer Jim Dowson, reportedly has close ties to Toroczkai, and has exhorted sympathisers to settle in Hungary.

Europe has seen a surge of support for far right parties since the 2015 refugee crisis, in which millions of Middle Eastern and African refugees entered Europe, many passing through Hungary on their way to Germany and northern European countries with open asylum policies.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has adopted a staunchly anti-immigrant stance, building a fence along the border with Serbia to keep refugees out and refusing to take the country's EU quota of those granted asylum. On Tuesday (7 February), Orban announced plans to hold refugees in camps until their asylum applications are processed.

Toroczkai previously released a video where, surrounded by burly men dressed in camouflage, he warned refugees not to attempt to enter Hungary. The town has reportedly set up its own paramilitary style border patrols to complement to government patrols along the border fence.

The Hungarian Islamic Community said in November that that a letter appealing to Orban to take action against Asotthalom and uphold the rights of Hungarian Muslims went unanswered. Lawyers claim the controversial by-laws contravene the Hungarian constitution, and the government is due to rule on them in mid-February.

But for now, Mr Toroczkai said the town would remain "white, European, Christian."





Saturday, 18 March 2017

Whitewashing

By Jessica Brown in people:  

This author exposed whitewashing in publishing with one tweet:
           


Fantasy/sci-fi writer Nnedi Okorafor has outed her former publisher in a series of tweets and hightailed the issue of whitewashing in the publishing industry.

Okorafor’s book’s main character is a black woman, but her publishers proposed this cover on the left:


Nnedi Okorafor, PhD
✔@Nnedi
As a black woman writing a black female main character in a scifi novel, seeing my character whitewashed on the cover felt-like-erasure
It allegedly took a "sh*t fit" to get them to agree in the cover on the right:

Nnedi Okorafor, PhD
✔@Nnedi
Cover on left was the proposed cover. Cover on the right was the finished cover after I threw a sh*t fit (tapered by my agent).
Okorafor, who was the first black person to win the World Fantasy Award for best novel since its inception in 1975, said she described the main character very clearly:

Nnedi Okorafor, PhD
✔@Nnedi
I described Ejii as "black skinned" and subsaharan African, story set in NIGER and that left cover was proposed to me. WTF.
And the designer's excuse? "There were too few stock images of black girls".

Since the book was published ten years ago, she says she has made sure it's never happened again:


Nnedi Okorafor, PhD
✔@Nnedi
No worries. Nothing like that cover issue will happen again. Better publishers, better times. Now it's up to readers to do their parts.




Monday, 6 March 2017

Soup kitchen volunteers attacked in Great Yarmouth

From Great Yarmouth Mercury by George Ryan:

Soup kitchen volunteers have described their ordeal after they were attacked while they tried to help the homeless.

Around 50 youths on bicycles circled around the Tribal Trust’s minibus kitchen in Great Yarmouth’s Market Place yesterday evening (March 3) at about 7.30pm.

The volunteers were serving food at their weekly soup kitchen when there was an altercation when one of their cars was kicked and punched by a youth.

Diane Haworth, 43, from Tribal Trust said they asked them what they were doing and then the group of about 20 young people started shouting at them and the homeless people, before more turned up on bikes.

The Hopton mum said she was punched in the face and received bruises to her face and her glasses were broken in the attack. A homeless man who intervened was then attacked by three young people.




She said she was still shaken by the incident, and they went straight to the police station to report the assaults.

One of the homeless ladies was shaking, it makes them very anxious.

We had some new faces there too which was nice before this happened.
She added it was not the first time they have been targeted, as a couple of weeks ago young people came with laser pointers which they deliberately shone in theirs and the homeless people’s eyes.

Norfolk Police have been contacted for a comment.

The Tribal Trust is a group of volunteers who are on hand to help rough sleepers in Great Yarmouth town centre.

The group operate out of a converted mini bus helping the homeless.

Their aim is to get out and about every two to three days once they have more volunteers who are qualified to help, but Diane said they may have to reconsider if the violence continues.

Diane a trained key worker and support worker knows better than most some the difficulties faced by those she helps, suffering from PTSD and anxiety and having been homeless herself. 


Speaking in January when the project launched in Great Yarmouth, the Hopton mum said: 
I have been there. I understand where they are coming from, I’m not just a worker,

This is part therapy for me, I’m still buzzing now after going out and helping them.
Now the Tribal Trust writes on their site "It's been a bit of a nightmare."

--------------------------------------------------------------------
Take extra care all the lovely volunteers feeding the Homeless of Norfolk, especially The People's Picnic and Norwich Soup Movement.

Donations:  
The People's Picnic and Norwich Soup Movement  

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Tribal Trust version of events:

Let's get one thing straight this was caught on cctv... Mob Culture at its worst...
Soup Kitchen pt2, approx 7.40pm. One lout kicks and punches our car, instead of apologising he wants to fight..He wants to ' smash our faces in ' , then he goes for Diane and punches her in the face and smashing her glasses.. then all hell breaks loose.. All the yobs want to ' have a go ' punching - kicking - slapping ' at all of us..Dave got repeatedly punched then attacked by a young girl, hitting Dave with a bottle.. Vicky grabbed one of the yobs off of Daves back. One of the homeless gentlemen ( Wesley ) came in to help, and ended up on the floor with 4/5 youths kicking and punching him. Gary also got hit while trying to rescue Wesley. Our 80 YEAR OLD volunteer also grabbed a yob who was attacking Dave. Our friend Tom also helped to keep us from being seriously injured.
We managed to escape just as even more youths from McDonald's direction joined forces, the group of yobs all turned in pursuit of us just as the Police arrived.. If the Police did not arrive just at that moment then we would have had 30- 40 youths bored and full of hate attacking us..
This incident has left us all very shaken and emotional after enduring this unprovoked attack on 6 members and 5 of our regular visitors. This attack has left scars, and opened old mental scars resulting in prolonged anxiety and stress related problems .
We are so disgusted that we are arranging a peacefull protest in Yarmouth from 6- 7 pm on this Friday the 10th March . Please see our ' protest event ' and come along to show your support so this kind of thing doesn't happen again, and people can walk around the town area without being intimidated in there own town



UPDATES:


We are shocked and saddened...and very disappointed
We have just heard that a youth has been attacked....
What the hell is people thinking?.. we suffered an attack, we certainly don't want anyone else being attacked in anyway what so ever... So shocking...
we are disgusted buy some of the violent threats, both at us and the youths.. This is NOT the way to help bring change.. And we do not and will never Condone or support violence or bullying of any kind. We are sorry and saddened by what has been going on?.. STOP NOW....PLEASE...
So enough now... we are a peaceful trust of non paid people who just trying to help the homeless ...

Tribal Trust

HEY FRIENDS .. Protest Cancelled..... SAFETY ISSUES... :(

OK, we have thought about this all day. As you all know we are all about safety, helping others and bringing people together. We have a potential 700/1000 supportive people coming to our Protest on Friday... After many hours of planning we have decided to cancel this Fridays Protest.
It's just to big for us to organise and control safely. We are concerned about the safety of so many people. Sadly we must be sensible about this. We are still holding our soup kitchen and you are welcome to come down, have a chat, meet the team, try and raise some funds and plan for the future. So please come along for a cuppa.
Much love the TT Team... x





Wednesday, 15 February 2017

More KTI

From Exposing Britain First:

For those who don't know. Jim Dowson is also the man behind Br*tain F*rst and has been putting all the funds raised on his KTI page to use by forming a militia to 'patrol' the borders of Hungary.

No surprises to learn that Dowson and Nick Griffin (former leader of the far right BNP) teamed up to join a fascist group in Europe or that Jayda has a property in Hungary.

If you donate to Br*tain F*rst or KTI, this is where your money is going.

"The Knights Templar International has been advertising homes in Asotthalom on its Facebook page.

Its members include Nick Griffin, former leader of the British National Party, and the party's former treasurer Jim Dowson.  

Mr Toroczkai explains:
I have been contacted by Jim Dowson.  He came to Asotthalom a few times as a private individual, just to have a look. Nick Griffin also came with him.
Also featured on Victoria Derbyshire 7th Feb:


A Hungarian village is leading "the war against Muslim culture" with its own…
BBC.CO.UK|BY BBC NEWS



Monday, 13 February 2017

Damnation

What Caused the Oroville Dam Crisis? Some Christians Online Blame CA Liberals for Defying God

From Friendly Atheist by Hemant Mehta:

Last week, in northern California, the situation at the Oroville Dam became potentially life-threatening when the emergency spillway began eroding. If the dam breaks, it could devastate the region, leading officials to force nearly 200,000 residents to evacuate the area over the weekend.

Why did this happen? Was it poor engineering? A lack of infrastructure updates over the years?

If you ask some Christians online, they’ll tell you God did it to punish liberal California for defying Him.




To state the obvious, the current political affiliations of Californians had nothing to do with this. The millions of fake voters conservatives claim live in the state had nothing to do with this. God didn’t cause this. And the Antichrist didn’t cause this.

In fact, there seems to be a battle online between Christians who say God did this to punish Californians, Christians asking God to help the people in the region, and Christians praising God for not causing the dam to burst.

None of them point out that tornados have devastated some of the most religious states in the nation. (God like throwing us off His trail, I suppose…)

Maybe if we cared more about maintaining infrastructure than wasting money on unnecessary projects elsewhere, this sort of thing wouldn’t happen.





Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Knights Templar International: Fascists in Knighties

Just when you think the far-right's obsession with dreamy mythological Aryan knights on Crusade has been laughed out of court, here come the Knights Templar International. 

Could this be another fascist front?  The endorsement by the nauseating Paul Golding of Britain First is a clue.  Yes.  

Further digging by International Report Bigotry and Fascism reveals every sign that the repulsive fundamentalist Jim Dowson and discredited ex-BNP leader Nick Griffin are also involved.  Never let it be said that a far-right money-making scheme should escape their greediness.  Membership for £59 and T-shirt for £29.95?  Give me a break.  What mugs would pay that?  Oh yes, the lost white middle-aged men of the British far right.  Here are two of them in their knighties:


Knights were a favourite of the late unlamented EDL, appearing all over members' FB pages and in websites such as the East Anglian EDL and East Anglian Patriots.

We have had a good laugh at this childish retreat to misty British mythologising before.  Time for a reminder:

Knight-knight


This one lives with "honor". Is it an American knight? The US did not have knights, right? Is it a knight character from a foreign video game?


The non-British spelling is a strange choice for anyone calling himself an English patriot.

The East Anglian Patriots have their own logo featuring two knights bent as if in prayerful homage to a - dragon? But isn't the Medieval dragon of the West a symbol of all that is base in Humankind, the evil that knights are sworn to vanquish through strength and self-discipline?

And yet here the East Anglian EDL appear to worship the dragon, which for a real knight is Evil personified, to be crushed beneath the feet. Or is Welsh.



Some other pictures used by members of the East Anglian EDL are harder to fathom. What do you make of this strange image?


It's the same knight, but not bowing to a dragon this time.  Here metaphors are mixed and eras are scrambled with the gayest of abandon, as a Crusader in a dirty tabard kneels to Jesus on the pebbled shores of some northern lake.

Is the Crusader seeking forgiveness for violence done, or benediction? Is this the Jesus of "righteous anger" or the "Love thine enemy" version? Is the Crusader dead and meeting judgement? It is a creepy picture for many reasons.


And then the pictures change from weird to downright laughable, such as the one above.

It seems to feature a crowned Aslan and an armed Jesus, flanked by two knights, all in a muddle. One shield with a cross of St George is evidently not enough, two appear with no regard to design, balance or allegorical sense.

Obviously this has nothing to do with the EDL, it is the Narnian Defence League, Wardrobe Division.

The BNP were brought down in part by the derision that greeted their undignified antics, one of which was their unforgettable Colander Knight, seen here with Nick Griffin:


In East Anglia we have our own knights, real men of rich lives, rather than images from foreign comic books, non-English gaming characters or in costumes made from Mum's curtains and a kitchen implement.

How about Sir Clement Paston of Oxnead?


You that behold this stately marble tombe, 
And long to know, who here entombed lyes, 
Here rests the corps, and shall 'till day of dome, 
Of Clement Paston, fortunate and wise; 
Fourth son to old Sir William Paston, Knight, 
Who dwells with God in sphere of christal bright.
Of Brutus race princes he served four, 
In peace and war, as fortune did command.
Sometimes by sea, and sometime on the shore, 
The French and Scot he often did withstand, 
A Pere of France, in spight of all his betters, 
He took in fight, and brought him home in fetters.
Oxnede he buildt, in which he lived long, 
With great renowne for feeding of the poor, 
To frinds, a frind, of foes he took no wrong, 
Twice forty years he lived, and somewhat more, 
And at the last by dombe of hie beheste, 
His soul in heaven, his body here doth rest.
Obt. 18 Febr. 1597.

But the fascists are oblivious to local history and the traditions of real knights. They are not interested in the very English history or culture they profess to defend.  They do not see that for most we were the villains of the Crusades.

Rather they are content to tootle along lost in their own fantasy world where EDL "knights" frighten sixteen year old girls and attack critical bloggers like me with foul-mouthed threats.


In reality the self-described "knights" of the far right are cowards, deluding themselves with confused imagery of valour and courage, when their actual reaction to any real problem or challenge is simple:








Saturday, 4 February 2017

The Woodwose of Norfolk

I'm a Norfolk Humanist, but that does not stop me from enjoying the beauty, ingenuity and diversity of Church Art.  So many churches in Norfolk, and so much to discover.  Like Woodwose, for example.
The woodwose, woodhouse or woodwo, the wild man of the woods, was a popular mediaeval folklore figure, dressing in a lion's skin and in this case carrying a heavy club and shield -

The Ludham Woodwose.  There is also a very
rare carving of a female woodwose on this font.
I found two carvings of hairy men with clubs on the misericordia of Norwich Cathedral and took these pictures (with permission and on paying a small fee in the Cathedral shop). 

They are extraordinary images to find in a cathedral, and one can only speculate at the motives of the wood carvers.  Were they paying homage to older religions?  Were they hedging their bets with the Gods?



As you can see, the representations of "unregenerate" or unsaved man are not unsympathetic.  The figures seem healthy and well fed, even smiling slightly. What do they mean in their context?  Are they the secret messages of sceptics who could not otherwise express their doubts regarding the Christian message? 

Anton Wessels in his book "Europe:  Was it Ever Really Christian?" asks the same question from the Christian point of view, and acknowledges the strength of the Graeco-Roman, Celtic and even earlier influences, through enduring myths and legends still vivid even when Christianity was at its strongest.  

These woodwose are a joke, in my view, a wink from the past to fellow sceptics who do not take religion too seriously -







Thursday, 2 February 2017

Miracles on Elm Street?

The Curious History of Father Ignatius 1837 - 1908

By Nick Williams 
From Norwich Heritage, Economic and Regeneration Trust:

The plaque on the site of the short-lived Benedictine monastery

Joseph Leycester Lyne, later known as Father Ignatius, was one of the more colourful and controversial characters in the history of Norwich. A preacher and mystic he established a Benedictine monastery in Elm Hill in 1863. Within 3 years it had been closed amidst accusations of fraud and allegations of degenerate behaviour.

A fragile child

Born in London, one of seven children, Lyne was a fragile child who suffered ill health for most of his life, suffering repeated nervous breakdowns and bouts of what appears to have been nervous exhaustion. At school he was known by his fellows as 'saintly Lyne' but he appears to have had a mental strength and a precocious interest in spiritual matters. Whilst at St Pauls school he suffered a severe beating at the hands of 'an elderly clerical pedagoge' which resulted in a nervous breakdown with the perpetrator being dismissed from his teaching post by the school.

In 1856 he was accepted as a divinity student by Trinity College at Glenalmond in Scotland - the fees apparently paid by a female admirer after the refusal of his father to find the money. After leaving the college due to illness he subsequently held positions in churches in Scotland and Plymouth where he founded a monastic order known as 'the Society of the Love of Jesus' headed by himself with the title of Father Joseph. His behaviour brought him into conflict with the established church and with some of the parishioners. His stay at Plymouth ended following another bout of illness.

Following his recovery Lyne spent 9 months in 1862 at a church serving a poor area of east London. By now he had begun wearing a monk's habit and that along with his evangelical zeal, attracted opposition and support in equal measure. During his short stay in the east end there is a report of him confronting the customers of a rowdy public house declaring that 'We must all appear before the Judgement Seat of Christ'.

In 1862 he moved to Claydon, near Ipswich, where he established a Benedictine community in an unused wing of the rectory. The arrival of Lyne, now calling himself Father Ignatius, along with his preaching and proselytising provoked strong local reaction - including threats of violence. Within a few months of arriving at Claydon Father Ignatius was asked by the rector to leave.

The Elm Hill monastery

His next venture was the establishment of a Benedictine community as a monastery in Norwich later in 1862. They occupied a property on Elm Hill, described as being in poor condition and requiring much work to make it habitable; the building, number 14 Elm Hilll still stands. It was brought with the proceeds of a speaking tour throughout England and Wales undertaken by Ignatius. The house was purchased for £500, with a deposit of £50 being paid and the balance to be paid off in small instalments. The house became known as the Priory of St Mary and St Dunstan and opened in January 1863 when it accommodated Ignatius, one of his colleagues and a dog. Money being short, they apparently existed on a diet of bread and potatoes at first.

The preaching of Father Ignatius soon attracted support and donations to keep fed and clothe him and his colleagues. He also attracted opposition - particularly when he and his supporters processed to hold mass at the church of St Laurence on St Benedicts Street. Services at the monastery suffered from interruption from anti-Catholic elements. His stay in Norwich saw the attribution of miracles to him - reportedly including the curing of an epileptic, the ending of toothache and insomnia in a sufferer and the restoration of hair to a young boy. There was a less benevolent side to these 'miraculous events' as they also included the sudden and unexplained death of a woman who had blasphemed Father Ignatius as he passed by in the street.

The Benedictine community in Elm Hill continued to attract support - holding a parade through Norwich on Ascension Day in 1864 followed by a service on St Andrews Plain and a pilgrimage of some 400 people to Walstons Well outside Norwich. Work began on a new church building to hold these worshippers. This building became known as the Monastery Hall and exists today, standing between the Norwich School of Art & Design and the Monastery car park.


The Norwich Scandal

This progress was not to be maintained. In 1865 there were newspaper reports of a 'Norwich Scandal' featuring an inappropriate relationship between a novice monk and a young boy in the care of the monastery. There was further unfavourable publicity following an internal dispute about leadership of the monastery. Finally, in the spring of 1866, a disagreement over ownership of the monastery buildings saw the monastic community dispersed and the buildings sold, much to the chagrin of Father Ignatius who spent the next 12 years in a fruitless legal action to regain ownership. He also took more direct action, twice taking possession of the building, once gaining access by what he described as 'miraculous intervention'. But his actions proved fruitless as he was ejected on both occasions.



Door to the old monastery at 14 Elm Hill

He clearly retained some support in Norwich and returned to speak on several occasions - in March 1890 holding a mission service at the Agricultural Hall before preaching to 'a crowded congregation at the Church of St John de Sepulchre' in Ber Street. His last recorded public appearance in the city was in March of 1894 when he spoke to 'a crowded audience' at the Agricultural Hall.

Llanthony Abbey

Father Ignatius moved to London where, with the help of his female supporters, he established another Benedictine monastery in a house at Laleham, near Staines. Within 3 years, in 1869, he had bought land in south Wales where he built Llanthony Abbey - paid for by his supporters and the proceeds of his speaking tours.

He continued to attract controversy during his time at Llanthony until his death on October 1908. He was buried in the abbey grounds. The monastery remained open for only a short time after his death and subsequently fell into disrepair.

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Only wondering why such a man and his strange ministry is commemorated in Norwich.  Perhaps as the shortest-lived monastery ever?  But I'm glad he is remembered, it's a good story.   





Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Local hero John Hurt

In 2010 the acclaimed actor John Hurt told the Times:

I tend to read things about quantum physics and stuff like that — I don’t have a background in it, I try to understand it, I grapple with it. I don’t read for entertainment, I can’t see the purpose of that. 

Science is such an interesting area. It’s so fascinating to have lived in a period when religion has taken the thrashing it deserves. Not that it has entirely; we still have a few religions knocking around, doing exactly what they’ve done through the ages — which is f*** up everything.
In this cautious attitude towards religions, in his risk-taking and compassionate portrayals of controversial figures such as Joseph Merrick the "Elephant Man", and Quentin Crisp the "Naked Civil Servant", John Hurt was a Humanist.  In his zest for life and in his important patronage of local sports and arts, John Hurt was a great local Humanist.

Tribute from Craig Murray, once candidate for Norwich North:

Homosexuality was a criminal offence in the UK until I was nine years old. Attitudes towards gay people remained extremely hostile in much of society even after it was legalised for people over 21 in 1967. At school, I am sorry to say I shared to a large extent in the sneering and intolerant culture that was prevalent at that time.

In an age where there were just three television channels and nobody watched one of them, a new television play was a major event that could reach a mass audience in the way nothing can today. That is partly why Ken Loach had even more political effect with Cathy Come Home than with I, Daniel Blake. I am convinced that John Hurt’s towering performance in The Naked Civil Servant changed society. It brought the individual confrontations Quentin Crisp had engineered his entire life, and expanded them to confront half of the nation with the existence, and right to dignity, of gay people.

Of course Crisp himself was the hero, but John Hurt took a career threatening risk in taking the part and showed great courage and conviction. Hurt’s ability to manipulate the palette of courage, arch wit, and vulnerability that the role required gave the drama its impact, and propelled it with a shocking force I don’t believe any other actor could have managed.

I am not gay, but in a kind of solidarity I immediately adopted as a boy a number of Quentin Crisp’s mannerisms, including the long fingernails, hair and velvet jacket! I persisted with this for a great many years. A group of us at school adopted similar style, though I don’t recall ever discussing the Crisp influence. In 1978 I was delighted to meet Quentin Crisp, still pushing the boundaries by performing to a Dundee pub.

It was always a joy thereafter to see John Hurt appear in anything. We all have to die, and there is no point in getting maudlin about the death of celebrities. But I thought The Naked Civil Servant effect worth recording.

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The EDP reported 28th January that "Norwich supporters lead a mass applause at Carrow Road in tribute to Sir John Hurt"

(This) sporting tribute to the Hollywood star was announced on the Norwich City website. It said: 
Everyone at Norwich City Football Club was saddened to hear of the passing of Sir John Hurt at the age of 77.

Sir John lived in north Norfolk and became strongly affiliated with the Canaries, often cheering on the team at Carrow Road as a fan and as a guest of the directors.

The Bafta-winning actor also developed strong links in the local community as chancellor of Norwich University of the Arts and patron of Cinema City.
John Hurt's versatility as an actor is celebrated here.  He will be missed, not least in Norfolk for his humanistic values of tolerance for human diversity and mistrust of religion, and for his important work supporting sports and championing the Arts in Norfolk.