The Great Charter

… 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

http://www.bl.uk/magna-carta/articles/magna-carta-an-introduction

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.

2015-05-08 13.19.24

Gran’s chair

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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25 Responses to The Great Charter

  1. Sue Vincent says:

    Great article.. though I can’t help thinking of Marriot Edgar’s version of the Magna Carta,
    “And it’s through that there Magna Charter,
    As were signed by the Barons of old,
    That in England to-day we can do what we like,
    So long as we do what we’re told.”

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Ali Isaac says:

    Cool document, and cool chair! I wondered about the Tory notion to dispose of civil rights… its hard to believe, actually, and I assumed it would involve some kind of discreditation by the opposition. Although I very much suspect the Tories believe some are more equal than most! What are they proposing to do?

    Liked by 1 person

    • gordon759 says:

      My brother will probably disagree, but the main function of the Human Rights Act was to give employment to human rights lawyers. When it was being proposed people asked what rights it was going to confer, and were told it was not going to have any affect but was just designed to incorporate a European charter into British law.
      Unfortunately the way it has been interpreted means that, as far as most people are concerned, the Human Rights Act exists in order to prevent the deportation of convicted criminals.
      As far as I understand there are no human rights, that existed before the act was passed, that are under threat.

      Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      They are proposing an ill though out Bill of Rights. In principle it should cover the sane ground only leave it to the British Courts to implement but the draft proposals are I believe flawed. One benefit of the Tories not having a majority in the upper house is any such act will be scrutinised very hard. And may well get stuck in the long grass while they piss themselves about Europe

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Autism Mom says:

    Very excited about this anniversary! And I love the chair – the fabric is stunning and the upholstering beautifully done. Are the different colors and patterns different fabrics pieced together, or is it one piece of fabric designed that way?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. rogershipp says:

    Loved the chairs… Cherish the document!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. roweeee says:

    The intricacies of the Magna Carta and what’s currently going on the UK are a bit much for a rainy Friday afternoon for this “bear of very little brain”. The chair, ont he other hand, looks fantastic and in my dazed state, I’d accidentally read that it had been to New York. Now, that would have impressed Gran.
    In honour of the chair, I’m attaching a link to the theme song from Play School, a popular Australian show for pre-schoolers.
    The Sydney Writers’ Festival was incredible yesterday. A sunny Autumn day and the crowds were out and felt like my brain almost exploded after 3 quite different sessions in the afternoon. Got the post up ths afternoon. It’s now cold, set and miserable out. Yesterday… xx Rowena

    Like

  6. Annecdotist says:

    That chair is beautiful, and I’m kicking myself I never made it to the exhibition – congratulations to all involved.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. willowdot21 says:

    Very interesting , love grandma’s chair did she have a feather bed??

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What a beautiful chair, Geoff. I’m just thinking about all the bums that have sat on that chair and all the stories it could tell.

    Like

  9. Charli Mills says:

    Every time I think you have such older history than we in the states, I remember the cradle from which we crawled. Completely enamored with what Cornelia Parker is doing. And, what a classy seat to sit upon!

    Liked by 1 person

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