Many thanks to those kind people who sent us donations following our appeal in December. Funds are still very low so if you're feeling a little more flush after the New Year, we'd be very grateful for anything you can spare which will go towards the exciting events detailed below. As previously, please send cheques payable to Human Genetics Alert to 22B St Kilda’s Rd, London N16 5BZ, or visit the blog
and use the donate button.
Luddites strike in Manchester!
Luddites200 held a workshop at an event at the People's History Museum in Manchester in December and used the occasion as an opportunity for a little direct action to put the Luddites back in their rightful place in history. In its lobby, the museum has a timeline of historical events in the struggles for workers rights and democracy in Britain, starting in the late 18th century, which curiously entirely fails to mention the Luddites. The museum also has nothing in its permanent exhibitions about the Luddites. In November, a group of historians wrote to the museum director, arguing that this omission should be rectified, and the museum should hold events to celebrate the anniversary. We decided to take the direct approach, and organised a small ceremony in which we put the Luddites onto the timeline, and handed in our own letter to the museum director. You can see what we did here.
Interestingly, museum staff told us that visitors regularly questioned the omission of the Luddites.
We are pleased to announce that the museum has decided to hold an event commemorating the anniversary, and we are currently discussing with them plans for that event. Watch this space!
Some recent blogs and articles
In December the Guardian printed an editorial calling for a “smashing celebration” of the Luddite in 2012. As with the previous Guardian blog in November, the overall message was very good, and the large majority of the comments were very favourable. Unfortunately, as Luddites200 supporter and ludditebicentenary.blogspot.com editor, Richard Holland, points out in one of the comments, the editorial writer gets the historical facts about George Mellor very badly wrong
. (Here is a link to a very nice photoblog
about Richard’s ramble through the Spen Valley Luddite country with his friend Mike Duckett).
A week or two later in response to the news about TV chef Anthony Worrell-Thompson and his “unidentified item in the bagging area”, Guardian columnist Carol Cadwalladr
launched a scathing attack on Tesco, in which she expressed the very widespread feeling of hostility to supermarket self-checkout machines. This in turn provoked a response from the Freedom Association
, accusing Carol of being a Luddite. Although that dreaded word was not mentioned in his programme, our national treasure, Richard Wilson, followed up this exchange a week later in his “On Hold” programme on Channel 4. The programme showed how both automated voice-recognition systems and self-checkout machines not only work very badly and thereby cause customers excessive amounts of annoyance, but, despite denials from the supermarkets, have primarily been introduced in order to cut wage bills.
Here in Ned Ludd’s cave we are beginning to wonder whether the time might not be ripe for a campaign of some sort against self-checkout machines and voice-recognition systems. What do you think? Whilst the use of large hammers is probably not the best idea to start with, there might be lots of other ways of going about it. Let us know what you think.
For those interested in current issues around technology a must read is Friends of the Earth Australia’s recent issue of their magazine Chain Reaction. It includes an article by Luddites200 member Dave King
and an excellent spread of articles from GM food to geoengineering.
We are now in the main period of the anniversary celebrations and apart from events we are organising there is a range of activities happening across the country, especially in West Yorkshire where the museums, Huddersfield University and local history groups have come together to form the Luddite link
. Their new website “Uprising
” lists their theatre productions, workshops and other events. See the attached PDF for a list of events.
Luddites200 is concentrating its efforts over the next few months on a two day festival in Huddersfield, which will combine theatre, film, music, poetry, and even a Luddite puppet show with discussion and debates about the politics of Luddism and current issues in technology and politics.
On March 24th, together with some environmental groups we are helping to organise an event in London focussing on the forthcoming Rio+20 International Summit, a follow up to the 1992 Earth Summit. The event will look at government and corporate plans for a ‘green economy’ which includes the use of technologies like synthetic biology and geoengineering to control climate change as well as plans to assign financial values to ecosystems in order to facilitate trading in ‘ecosystem services’. Contact us for more details of the event.