… or Magna Carta as we know it. In a few short weeks – 19th June – it will be 800 years old. There will be singing and dancing in Runnymeade, that’s for sure.
It was the first formal document stating that a King had to follow the laws of the land and it guaranteed the rights of individuals against the wishes of the King
It’s not always worked as well as one might hope and it has been twisted by those who seek to twist. And indeed it was hardly the idea of those forcing John to sign it to give rights to the Common Man, who remained in serfdom for a fair few years after.
Here’s an explanation
It is the fount of the liberal democracy we enjoy here, for all its failings, and in other places around the globe. And just now, there is a bit of a hoo-har about the newly elected Conservative Administration’s plans to repeal the Human Right’s Act (if you listen to proponents of abolition, you’d believe the HRA utterly neuters effective government and obliterates the democratically elected will of the people; if you take cognisance of the opponents you would believe the Government plans to do away with Human Rights in their entirety and leave all of us at the whim of a totalitarian state – both, in their way, nonsensical bollocks). Personally I’d leave well alone or at most tinker at the edges but I’m pretty sanguine about the outcome.
And for that I thank the Big MC. Whatever happens, there remains that wondrous legacy of which we should stand proud and as and when (I nearly wrote ‘if’ but sadly history tells us governments will) any government does, indeed seek to erode those much cherished civil liberties we must stand up and be counted to defend at least the main recurring principle: no arbitrary arrest, no one above the law.
Meanwhile, as we clap and think about what happened 800 years ago, why not visit the British Library? There you will find an exhibition showing this awesome (in every sense of the word) document.
And if that isn’t enough, part of the exhibition is an embroidery created by Cornelia Parker. Here’s the blurb
Fabricated by many hands, from prisoners and lawyers to artists and barons, Magna Carta (An Embroidery) replicates in stitch the entire Wikipedia article on the Great Charter as it appeared on the document’s 799th anniversary in 2014. The Wikipedia article regularly attracts more than 150,000 page views each month and is constantly being amended by users of the website as the debate about Magna Carta and its legacy ebbs and flows. ‘This is a snapshot of where the debate is right now,’ says Parker. ‘Echoing the communal activity that resulted in the Bayeux Tapestry, but on this occasion placing more emphasis on the word rather than the image, I wanted to create an artwork that is a contemporary interpretation of Magna Carta.’ – See more at: http://www.bl.uk/events/cornelia-parker-magna-carta-an-embroidery#sthash.5ARCIniu.dpuf
See the reference to prisoners? These are the self same men who the Textiliste works with. The same men who are where they are because of Magna Carta and not the whim of an aggrieved individual. While she hasn’t worked on this piece I’m happy to promote their work through the excellent charity Fine Cell Work.
Here’s a video about the work
In it you’ll meet a young man called Chris. He’s an ex prisoner who has gone on to learn more and amongst other things how to upholster furniture. My gran left mum who left me two chairs from a dining room suite her mother gave her as a wedding present. Chris has worked on one of them, using material made by the Textiliste. Currently it is part of the Voices from the Inside exhibition that was in York and is now about to tour. I’m looking forward to getting the chair back. I’m sure gran would have been pleased to know its current history. I will sit on it with just a little pride.