Farewell to George

C & W Humanists Special Newsletter May 2021

Remembering George Broadhead

Dear friends,

It was bitterly sad to hear that George Broadhead had passed away.  He chaired the first local humanists meeting that I attended in 2011 and he did so with great flair and panache, with George nothing was monochrome.

I think that George would haved loved to hear how he’s remembered.  Let me start a list for you to continue:  unique, flamboyant, extrovert, charismatic, knowledgeable, formidable, colourful, whimsical …………….

He was a campaigner; George fought long and hard, on behalf of humanism and for Gay Rights etc.  His weapons included a dogged sense of purpose, a quick mind and a sharp wit.

Today, all those who knew George will remember an independent thinker, a one-off.  Our thoughts are with George’s partner Roy.

Thanks George.

Bob Jelley

Memories shared by Dr Brian Nicol.

I have known George since the day the local group was formed in 1974- so for 47 years.   Believe it or not at the inaugural meeting of the group  at their house in Spring Lane  which was advertised and run by Roy, George was very much the diffident one in the background seeming to confine himself to offering tea and biscuits.  Over the years of course he has blossomed and shown himself to have a very distinct personality.  His two main interests which  seemed to take up most of his spare time were Humanism and organising Gay activities on the national stage.

In the late ’70s he discovered a local demand for non-religious rites of passage, particularly funeral services. Neither he nor Roy were keen so he asked me if I would be willing to try my hand.  Such ceremonies were then in their infancy  but the BHA  had published  a guide for would- be officiants that was very useful. I was a bit nervous about the whole thing but George  was very encouraging and went with me to the various crematoria to make sure that I got there in good order and of course to say how well it went !

When we first knew them George and Roy owned a cabin cruiser and travelled extensively along the canals. When they had to give that up George organised what they referred to as ‘our little jaunts’ for himself and Roy. This involved going by train to an attractive town conveniently within reach and putting up for a couple of nights at a hotel of sufficiently  high standard.   Winchester, Ludlow and places in the Cotswolds were often chosen.  George was quite keen on having a social life. He was a supporter of any get-togethers that the group organised as well as the coffee and biscuits after meetings. When we started having speakers from a distance he arranged for them to be met and he and I took them out for a meal before the meeting .He rather thought of himself as being a man of taste and my wife and  I were sometimes invited on a warm summer evening to join Roy and himself for a glass of bubbly on their small patio to admire the latest statuary or water feature that he had installed.  He similarly decorated the house. One of the latest acquisitions was an antique chiming clock that he had seen advertised on e-bay.

Latterly, both retired from the group we met up sometimes for coffee. He was a keen customer of Arden’s  and usually pushed his trolley round the town centre in a very ‘camp’ attire. Since Covid we spoke often on the phone comparing ailments of ourselves and spouses.  Apart from gossiping we also suggested topics for our monthly columns on Humanism in the Courier and read each others draft efforts for accuracy and intelligibility.

I shall miss him a lot.

A younger George, picture taken at Brian Nicol’s 60th Birthday Party, about 30 years ago.

Memories of George shared by Glyn and Heather Evans ‘Egghens’

It was long ago, in 1986, that we joined C&W Humanists after visiting their annual stall, that year placed beside our own vegetarian stall, at Leamington Peace Festival.  Passers-by were invited to debate with members the subject of God so it was often lively.

In those days monthly group meetings were held at the Quaker Meeting House, Coventry.  When later we transferred to Kenilworth’s Waverley Day Centre Roy was regularly in sole charge of refreshments for the group, while George finished chairing the meetings.  When Egghens took over as official tea makers it freed Roy to get on with his proper secretarial duties.

Occasionally we gave George and Roy a lift, perhaps to a pub lunch before a country ramble organised by the group, and we did get to know George better. He enjoyed the group’s Bring and Share Suppers in various members’ homes. Always fussy about food, understandably he welcomed the chance to see in front of him exactly what was on offer before committing himself to eating it.

During Lockdown we’ve missed coming across him when shopping, usually at Waitrose. There we would exchange news and ask after the health of Roy, by then unable to attend group meetings.

George’s frequent well-reasoned articles in the Kenilworth Weekly News and lately the Courier will now be a loss to both the readership and the cause for Humanism.

Best wishes

Egghens

Roy and George on the day of their Civil Partnership Ceremony.

Memories shared by John Gainer

I was sorry to learn about George’s death. It was George who recruited me in 2006 through a letter in the Coventry Telegraph.I send my deepest condolences to Roy and to George’s wider family.  George was one of those people who, once you have met them, you will never forget. He was quite a character.

RIP George!

Best wishes to all,

John Gainer

Memories shared by Andrew Ireland

Sad news.

My sympathy goes to Roy, George’s civil partner.

George was “the Humanists” for most of us, some years ago and was a one-off.

He joined us at many of our dinners, lunches, socials and up to a few years ago our walks.

AGMs and the monthly meetings were always amusing – perhaps for the wrong reasons sometimes – but George will be missed for his unique style, humour and warmth.

Andrew Ireland

Finally these words, from Jane Sault, who could be speaking for several recruits to humanism.

I owe my humanism to George. I was in my thirties when I read one of his letters in the Courier and decided that his life views echoed mine. I made contact and was immediately welcomed to the monthly Thursday meetings at the Waverley centre. George and Roy worked very hard to keep the group going, with George still flying the flag for Humanism in the local paper until quite recently (alongside Brian Nicol).

I’m very grateful to George for his determination to put Humanism on the local map and to Roy for facilitating George’s time as Chair by being such an efficient secretary to him.

Jane Sault

Gatherings of Coventry and Warwickshire Humanists including George.

The Christian Church – privileged and in power.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb has announced that, when the Government is made aware of schools that are not carrying out daily acts of Christian ‘collective worship’, it will enforce it.

The UK is the only sovereign state in the world to impose Christian worship as standard in state schools.

DONATE TODAY

We’ve campaigned for decades against the requirement that all schools, including schools with no religious character, lead pupils in Christian ‘collective worship’. In recent years, we’ve taken some small comfort from the fact that many schools simply ignore the law. It’s unpopular, outdated, and wrong.That’s why we’re so concerned the Government is now planning to actively enforce the law on collective worship – despite the United Nations repeatedly calling for the UK to repeal it on human rights grounds.

The law allows families to ‘opt out’ of compulsory collective worship, in most cases this will lead to the child being singled out and made to sit in a room with nothing educationally worthwhile to do. We’re campaigning to replace collective worship with inclusive assemblies.

Do you agree that children should be given the freedom to make up their own minds about what they believe? If you’re passionate about making sure schools are safe, open, and inclusive places for young people to be, then please help us scale up our work against compulsory worship in UK schools.

Please help us to stand against the pushing of religion onto children.

Please don’t forget to donate to Humanists UK today. All children have a right to participate in fully inclusive assemblies which bring the community together and treat everyone equally.

Welcoming a new family member?

It feels as though we have been in a state of enforced hibernation, snowed in by COVID.

Over the past year we have missed so much – including family contacts.

A lovely way of celebrating family relationships, comes when we welcome a new arrival, the birth of a baby.

A Humanist Naming Ceremony can be a splendid non-religious way of doing all that.

To find a local celebrant who can help you to organise a ceremony, you can: log on to Humanist UK website and search for celebrants operating near to your post code. Or you could send a request to this website. You could also ring 07763005654 and we’ll tell you about nearby celebrants

56th Zoom Gathering this evening

Wednesday 5th May 2021, 7.30 start

Dear all,

Please find below, an exciting change of Agenda for this evening.

Emma Doriani is popping in to talk to us about:

Pentonville Prison the case for prison reform.

She is an expert on the subject and a regular musician in prisons. 

You’ll be impressed and depressed.

So …….

Several items are removed from the agenda and written updates on: Mubarak Bala, Nazanin Ratcliffe and Barclays Mandate Change are given below.

Since Mo and Andrew are treading the boards, can we roll over your ‘Into the Woods’ contribution to next week please?

Thanks

Bob

56th zoom gathering

Music:   Opera Sorpresa en Alto Rosario Shopping

Pentonville Prison and prison reform: Emma Dogliani

Cartoon of the week: Egghead.

Art: Brian (Bamber) GB, changes role to present art.

Play:  to be performed by the wedded, woodland thespians A and M Ireland.

Casting: Broad Lane’s Billy Cotton, Aud.

The Quiz: Alistair!!! 

Into the shivering Woods: Andrew and Mo

Recommendations: What have you read, listened to or heard this week?  

Ed: The Killing

Classy Music: Kiri Te Kanawa & Norma Burrows | Rossini’s Cat Duet

Updates

Free Nazanin Ratcliffe, latest.

It seems that the pace may be quickening. 

The Govt. is considering paying Iran the money owed for the cancelled arms deal.  If it is paid, Iran may release Nazanin.

It’s a kind of blackmail, will it encourage more blackmail in the future?

C & W Hums: Barclays non-news.

I spoke to Caroline in Barclays Mandate Change section this morning (5th May 10:25) she says “We’re on the last leg, the paperwork is being done today, it will all be finished in 5 working days”.

Hope springs eternal …………….

Mubarak Bala: 372 days illegally detained.

From The Guardian, 7 days ago

UN condemns one year detention of Nigerian humanist Mubarak Bala

Prominent figure has been detained since April 2020 without charge and is accused of blasphemy

Mubarak Bala

In the weeks before his detention Bala had posted comments critical of Islam on Facebook. UN experts condemned Nigeria for a ‘flagrant violation of fundamental human rights’. Photograph: Handout

Emmanuel Akinwotu in Lagos

Wed 28 Apr 2021 17.51 BST

The United Nations has condemned Nigerian authorities for failing to release a prominent humanist accused of blasphemy, who has been detained for a year without charge.

Mubarak Bala, the president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, was arrested at his home in Kaduna state on 28 April 2020 and taken to neighbouring Kano, where calls for action against him had been made by religious figures.

In the weeks before, he had posted comments critical of Islam on Facebook that caused outrage among conservative groups in the mostly Muslim north of Nigeria.

For months the 37-year-old was denied contact with his lawyer or family and his whereabouts unknown before he was granted access, and a high court order for his release on bail has been ignored by Nigerian authorities. His case has been seen as an example of a clampdown on voices judged to be critical of religious orthodoxy, in a deeply conservative region.

A group of seven UN human rights experts on Wednesday condemned Nigerian authorities for a “flagrant violation of fundamental human rights.”

“Today marks one year since Mr Bala was arrested and detained in Kano state, without any formal charges, on allegations of blasphemy. His arbitrary detention has continued despite our appeals to the government in May and July last year,” they said, with the case causing “a chilling effect on the exercise of fundamental freedoms in Nigeria.”

“Through his continued detention, the government is sending the wrong signal to extremist groups that the silencing and intimidation of human rights defenders and minority non-believers is acceptable,” they added.

Last December, Nigeria’s high court ruled that Bala’s detention went against his rights to personal freedom, fair hearing, freedom of thought, expression, ordering his release on bail and damages of 250,000 Naira ($657). Yet authorities have continued to detain Bala.

“The government must take action to ensure that the responsible authorities respect the due process and enforce the judicial ruling,” the UN experts further said.

Bala, the son of a widely regarded Islamic scholar, has been an outspoken religious critic in a staunchly conservative region, where open religious dissent is uncommon. After renouncing Islam in 2014, he was forcibly committed to a psychiatric facility by his family in Kano before being discharged.

After Bala posted comments critical of Islam and religion on his Facebook profile last April, he received a surge of online accusations of blasphemy and threats.

A lawyer for Bala, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Guardian that police were able to detain Bala on “a holding charge” often used in arbitrary detentions, where formal charges are not presented.

“We are have filed another bail application in Abuja, in the high court,” he said but a judicial strike in the country had delayed proceedings.

Last year his wife, Amina Mubarak, described the toll of her ordeal while caring for their one-year-old child. “It is unbearable, going through this psychological and emotional trauma right now. I’ve tried all I can,” she said.

Free Nazanin Ratcliffe

From The Guardian this week:

Boris Johnson accused of ‘dismal failure’ to free Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Tulip Siddiq MP says PM did not even send UK officials to recent trial where Iran jailed dual national for further year.

Boris Johnson has been accused of a “dismal failure” in his diplomatic efforts after Iran sentenced Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to a further year in jail on top of the five-year sentence she has already served.

Labour’s Tulip Siddiq, the British-Iranian dual national’s MP, questioned the effort the prime minister had put into releasing Zaghari-Ratcliffe, telling the Commons: “From where I’m standing, I’ve seen no evidence on the part of the prime minister so far.

“At the heart of this tragic case is the prime minister’s dismal failure to release my constituent and to stand up for her, and his devastating blunder in 2017 when he was foreign secretary – when he exposed his complete ignorance of this tragic case and put more harm in Nazanin’s way.

“The prime minister did not even arrange for UK officials to attend Nazanin’s recent court hearing, which might have ensured she got a free and fair trial. He still hasn’t got his government to pay the £400m debt that we as a country owe Iran.”

It is one of the most unbridled attacks on the Foreign Office’s handling of the case by the MP, who is deeply frustrated at the government’s inability over five years to have any impact on the Iranian revolutionary courts.

Timeline

3 April 2016

Arrest in Tehran

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is arrested at Imam Khomeini airport as she is trying to return to Britain after a holiday visiting family with her daughter, Gabriella.

2016

Release campaign begins

Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, delivers a letter to David Cameron in 10 Downing Street demanding that the government do more for her release.

9 September 2016

Zaghari-Ratcliffe is sentenced to five years in jail. Her husband says the exact charges are still being kept a secret.

November 2016

Hunger strike

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s health deteriorates after she spends several days on hunger strike in protest at her imprisonment.

1 November 2017

Boris Johnson gives statement used against her in court

The foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, tells a parliamentary select committee: “When we look at what [she] was doing, she was simply teaching people journalism.” Four days after his comments, Zaghari-Ratcliffe is returned to court where Johnson’s statement is cited in evidence against her. Her employer, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, denies she has ever trained journalists, and her family maintain she was in Iran on holiday. Johnson is eventually forced to apologise for the “distress and anguish” his comments caused the family.

12 November 2017

Health concerns

Richard Ratcliffe reveals that his wife has fears for her health after lumps were found in her breasts that required an ultrasound scan. He says she is “on the verge of a nervous breakdown”.

14 January 2019

Hunger strike

Zaghari-Ratcliffe again goes on hunger strike, this time in protest at the withdrawal of her medical care.

8 March 2019

Diplomatic protection

Jeremy Hunt, now the foreign secretary, takes the unusual step of granting her diplomatic protection – a move that raises her case from a consular matter to the level of a dispute between the two states.

15 June 2019

Hunger strike in London

Richard Ratcliffe joins his wife in a new hunger strike campaign. He fasts outside the Iranian embassy in London as she begins a third hunger strike in prison.

11 October 2019

Daughter returns to London

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s daughter, Gabriella, who has lived with her grandparents in Tehran and regularly visited her mother in jail over the last three years, returns to London to start school.

17 March 2020

Temporary release during Covid pandemic

Amid the threat of the coronavirus pandemic, Zaghari-Ratcliffe is temporarily released from prison, but she is required to wear an ankle brace and not move more than 300 metres from her parents’ home.

8 September 2020

New charges

Iranian state media report that she will appear in court to face new and unspecified charges. In the end, a weekend court appearance on a new charge of waging propaganda against the state, which could leave her incarcerated for another 10 years, is postponed without warning. Zaghari-Ratcliffe says: “People should not underestimate the level of stress. People tell me to calm down. You don’t understand what it is like. Nothing is calm.”

17 March 2021

Freed – but back in court

Zaghari-Ratcliffe faces a second set of charges in Iran’s revolutionary court. She is freed from house arrest at the end of her five-year prison sentence, but because she has been summoned to court again on the other charge, she has not been allowed to leave the country to return to her family.

26 April 2021

New sentence

Zaghari-Ratcliffe is sentenced to another year in prison after being found guilty of spreading “propaganda against the system” for participating in a protest in front of the Iranian embassy in London in 2009.

Tulip Siddiq MP says PM did not even send UK officials to recent trial where Iran jailed Nazanin, a dual national for further year.

Newsletter April 2021

When will we ….. meet again?

This week saw our 53rd weekly zoom gathering, since Coronavirus and social distancing forced lockdown and a suspension of physical gatherings.

Speaking personally … the gatherings have been enjoyable, a highlight in empty weeks BUT it will be good to meet up, in the same room, to see faces break into smiles.

We discussed holding a virtual AGM, as many organisations are doing but we decided that we’d wait; September is the ordained month for our AGM and 16th is the 3rd Thursday in the month, so that’s our hope a real, physical AGM on Thursday 16th September 2021.  More details will follow.

When will we meet again? 

In thunder, lightning, or in rain? When the hurlyburly ‘s done, when the battle ‘s lost and won.

Humanist Schools in Uganda

Coventry and Warwickshire humanists, individually and as a group, have supported African schools and pupils for some years, this support continues. Steve Hurd, from Ugandan Schools Trust has sent the following message:

Please thank Coventry & Warwick Humanists for their generous donation of £200 towards the two new primary schools in Uganda. We have the funds to buy them now, but we need every help we can get to pay for refurbishment, staffing and equipping with books, learning and play materials.

Things were going so well for the schools before Covid hit and, since, it has been a struggle to pay the staff when they have had no local income – but we have managed to keep the staff team together and are hoping for a brighter future.

As you may be aware, during the Covid closure, we have done quite a bit of building work:

– a boys’ dormitory at Mustard Seed School

– new hall at Isaac Newton

– brand new primary school for the Kanungu Community, which suffered the cult massacre of 780 men, women and children in 2000.

– a nearly finished new school for the Katumba Parents, mainly single mothers whose husbands were killed in an abortive uprising in 2016.

At the moment, things are frenetic. We are buying two primary schools, forced to close due to the loss of income from the covid lockdown. These will provide primary sections to both Isaac Newton and Mustard Seed Schools and, we hope, greatly improve children’s life chances in their areas.

Once we have bought the schools, which may happen next week, we need to refurbish them, secure good teachers and pay them, and buy furniture, books, learning and play resources.

If you were interested I would be happy to talk about developments in Uganda on Zoom.

A huge thank you to everyone in the group.

Best wishes

Steve Hurd

We will take up Steve on his offer and hope to welcome him to a zoom gathering soon.

Egghead supply cartoons to our zoom gatherings and newsletters.

EVENTS THAT HAVE HAPPENED IN PREVIOUS APRILS by BGB

1) Sir Robert Walpole became Britain’s first Prime Minister on 3rd April 1721

2) Richard 1st died from an infected wound while besieging Chalus Castle in       France on 6th April 1199. He was succeeded by his brother John

3) The notorious highwayman Dick Turpin, hanged at York on 7th April 1739

4) Renowned Engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel was born on 9th April 1806. Among his famous constructions were Clifton Bridge, Bristol, the SS Great Britain and the Great Western Railway

5) On 10th April 1633 bananas were first sold in London. These bananas came from Bermuda

6) The coronation of William lll and Mary ll took place on 11th April 1689 after they succeeded Queen Anne

7) On 13th April 1919, British troops led by Acting Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer opened fire into a crowd of 10,000 Sikh unarmed civilians at Amritsar, India. 379 unarmed Sikhs died

8) Dr Samuel Johnson published his first dictionary on 15th April 1755. It took him 9 years to complete

9) The last military battle in Britain was fought on 16th April 1746 at Culloden Moor, Scotland. The battle was between Scottish Highlanders and Jacobites led by Bonnie Prince Charlie and British troops led by the Duke of Cumberland

10) On 17th April 1969 the UK voting age was reduced from 21 to 18.  Harold Wilson was the Prime Minister who introduced this policy. But new young voters did not do him any favours as he lost the next General Election to Edward Heath

11) Henry Vlll became King on 21st April 1509. Henry’s older brother Arthur died at the age of 15 in 1502

12) Local lad William Shakespeare was born on 23rd April, 1564 and died on 23rd April in 1616

13) On 25th April 1915 Anzac troops (Australia & New Zealand) suffered massive casualties as they attacked the Turkish stronghold at Gallipoli. Winston Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty was held responsible for this military disaster

14) Captain James Cook is believed to be the first European to land in Australia on 28th April 1770. The first landing took place at Botany Bay

15) On 29th April 1884, Oxford University admitted female students for the first time to sit an examination. But it was not until October1920 that women were allowed to sit for a degree qualification

Oh, to be in England  written by Robert Browning, chosen by Secretary Audrey

Oh, to be in England

Now that April’s there,

And whoever wakes in England

Sees, some morning, unaware,

That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf

Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,

While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough

In England – now!!

And after April, when May follows,

And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!

Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge

Leans to the field and scatters on the clover

Blossoms and dewdrops – at the bent spray’s edge –

That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,

Lest you should think he never could recapture

The first fine careless rapture!

And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,

All will be gay when noontide wakes anew

The buttercups, the little children’s dower

– Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower

I am scouring the skies for swallows, haven’t seen one yet, nor martins, nor swifts.  Robert Browning doesn’t mention bluebells, which are just beginning to flower (14th April), soaking up the sunshine before the tree canopies shade the ground.

Contributions to C & W Humanist Funds

Running costs for our group are modest.  For example, this monthly newsletter needs to be posted to just a few addresses, it’s emailed free, to most people.

Some of our annual costs are: 

Affiliation fees: Humanists UK £75; Humanists International £30; National Secular Society £34; website (WordPress) £100.

We bought 12 Remembrance Wreaths last year, £240 in total.

When we do re-start physical meetings, we usually make enough from room collections to cover the cost of the meeting. 

However, if we decide to support a good cause, for example, this month’s donation to schools in Uganda, balances wither!

We ask that each supporter makes an annual contribution.  £10 is the suggested figure.  We realise that this sum will be too great for some and we fantasise that there will be others who will give more.  Any contributions will be appreciated, we give, what we can afford.  Our treasurer is Adrian Davis, and you can email him at: adridav@gmail.com or bullion deliveries can be made to my house, in darkness.

Some Films and TV Programmes to look out for this week

Saturday 17th April:

13.05 Sony Movie Classics – The Wild One: The first, the best, and the quintessential motorbike movie. Long banned in the UK. Marlon Brando as the sullen, leather-clad leader of a motorcycle gang with his fellow hell-raising rebels pitch up in a small town, where he woos the sheriff’s daughter.

21.00 Channel 4 – First Man: The story of how Neil Armstrong got to the Moon is told in rich and intimate detail in this thrilling film. From his early days in 1961 as a NASA test pilot. Oscar-winning drama based on the book by James R Hansen, starring Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy.

22.50 Talking Pictures – The Man Who Fell to Earth – An excellent cult classic sci-fi drama starring David Bowie. An alien is sent to Earth to find a way to save his dying home planet. He adopts a human identity and uses his advanced knowledge to become a successful tycoon. Directed by Nicolas Roeg’s and starring David Bowie, Rip Torn, Candy Clark and Buck Henry.

23.15 Film 4 – Charlie Says – An excellent biographical drama. Three years after the infamous Manson murders, a graduate student is tasked with teaching 3 young women who were involved in the homicides. She struggles to break through the brainwashing they received during their time in Charles Manson’s commune. Starring Hannah Murray, Matt Smith and Sosie Bacon.

Sunday 18th April:

21.00 BBC1 – Line of Duty – Another episode of the best police-crime drama series

22.00 BBC2 – I Tonya – A true story and comedy bio-pic of ice skater Tonya Harding who rises through the ranks at the US figure skating championships. Her future in the sport is thrown into question by a shocking incident after her ex-husband steps in. Starring Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, and Allison Janney, who won a Bafta and an Oscar for her performance as Tonya’s mother.

Monday 19th April:

21.00 BBC4 – Mark Kermode’s Oscar Winners: A Secrets of Cinema Special – As the red carpet season reaches its climax, the doyen of film critics Mark Kermode looks back at past winners of the prestigious award, and celebrates some of the most memorable performances. As with his previous series, this is wonderfully sharp, witty and thought-provoking. A ‘must’ for any film fan

22.00 BBC4 – Stephen: The Murder that Changed a Nation – Documentary examining the 1993 death of Stephen Lawrence, beginning with a look at events leading up to his murder and the police investigation that follows. As the suspects remain free, tip-offs from the community make Stephen’s parents wonder why arrests are not being made. Episodes 2 & 3 on Tuesday and Wednesday

Wednesday 21st April:

21.00 BBC2 – Bent Coppers: Crossing the Line of Duty – Another episode of the documentary examining corruption in the police in the 1970s, revealing how a secret network of officers was operating illegally throughout London and led to the formation of the first internal anti-corruption unit A10, which inspired the BBC drama Line of Duty.

Thursday 22nd April:

18.55 Film 4 – A Walk in the Woods – A fact-based drama. Robert Redford as travel writer Bill Bryson decides to hike the Appalachian Trail, through some of America’s most rugged terrain. The only companion he can find is a roguish old friend, who sees it as an opportunity to get out of paying his debts. A warm, witty, woodsy and mature movie. Also starring Nick Nolte and Emma Thompson.

Friday 23rd April:

23.05 BBC1 Philomena – A teenager in 1950s Ireland becomes pregnant, and is sent to a home for `fallen women’, while her baby is forcibly taken from her and sent to America to be adopted. Fifty years later, she meets a disillusioned political journalist who attempts to reunite her with her son. Fact-based drama, starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan. Both actors on sparkling form.

BGB

P.S. Two Quick Jokes:

A weasel walks into a bar

The barman looks surprised and says

‘What can I get you?’

‘Pop goes the weasel’

To whoever stole my glasses?

I will find you

I have contacts!

The Armchair Audience

Things for the autumn and winter are starting to look a lot better for us theatre addicts, and we have everything tightly crossed that some of the promised productions will go ahead.  There are plenty of outdoor shows planned for the summer, and even some indoor ones – I was a bit cautious about the latter until I heard that Michael Sheen is appearing in Under Milk Wood at the National Theatre in late June, and caution was immediately thrown to the wind…….

In the meantime, there’s still plenty to enjoy at home.  Last month, I plugged the Old Vic’s production of Dr Seuss’s The Lorax which has been adapted to be performed live on-line.  I bought a ticket for my six year old nephew, and he was utterly entranced. So, if you’ve got youngsters you’d like to be entertained for a couple of hours, it’s highly recommended, and there are a couple more performances to go.

There’s a huge amount of theatre available on YouTube if you seek it out – lots of companies have released old productions, and there are some real gems to be found.  An example is Girls Like That, a hit play from 2014 at the Unicorn Theatre.  It follows a group of schoolgirls reacting as one of their peers has naked photos of themselves leaked online – a pertinent issue for the present day, and a good way to get into a knotty play during the quiet hours.  And Manchester International’s Festival have put all their productions from last year and 2019 online on YouTube, which is a fantastic opportunity to find something unusual and new.

Finally, if it’s opera you’re craving, rather than drama, then Opera North have made their production of Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti available on YouTube.  It’s a witty satire on the American dream, and is absolutely fantastic, well worth a watch.           Jacqueline Campbell

The Campaign for a change in the law to make Assisted Dying legal.

Brian Nicol has penned this article for the local press

Public support for legally sanctioned assisted dying is gaining ground

‘Support for legally sanctioned Assisted Dying is gaining ground. Each year sees more and more countries or legal jurisdictions pass legislation to help people suffering from incurable pain to end their lives. In March, Spain joined the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg increasing the number of counties in Europe willing to give their citizens a way to escape from incurable suffering that they cannot undertake themselves without help. Worldwide the number is also growing including: Canada, New Zealand and several US States.

Public opinion in favour worldwide is also growing. In the UK a recent poll found that 84% of the public support giving assistance (with safeguards) to terminally ill patients suffering pain and no less than 47% of those polled said that they would break the law, risking a 14-year prison sentence, to help a loved one. Although most religions are officially against change, 79% of people who described themselves as religious were also in favour.

So why hasn’t the UK Parliament listened to the people? The last time the issue was debated parliament was in 2015 when a private members Bill was defeated by 330 to 118. The proposed legislation would have allowed Assisted Dying in very restricted circumstances and with a great many safeguards. For many of those against it was perhaps the ‘slippery slope’ argument. Once the principle is accepted of the state, via the NHS, helping people to kill themselves albeit in very restricted circumstances, where might it lead in the future? How do we know what pressures might be put on people to request an early death.

The response is that year by year, as the experience of countries who have legislated becomes available, it is becoming clear that the fears are unfounded even for countries like Belgium which has much wider criteria for a request to be made. Since 2015 other things have changed. Notably the position of the doctors who would be in the front line of providing the assistance. Previously the BMA was opposed to assisted dying, although its membership had not been consulted. Responding to pressure the doctors have now been asked with the result the half would be in favour of change.

A new initiative has now brought the issue again to the fore. Barry Marsh a leading brain surgeon and notable author on medical matters has written a letter to Robert Buckland the Justice Secretary asking for a state sponsored enquiry into the state of the law and its implementation. The letter has the backing of the campaign group My Death, My Decision and of Humanists UK. Some 50 plus MPs have also given their support for change including some who were previously against it but would now like an independent enquiry to look at the facts. It would be good if Jeremy Wright would also have an open mind on the issue and take into consideration the views of many of his constituents.

Dr Brian Nicol

Coventry  and Warwickshire Humanists’

Finally

Thanks to those who have contributed articles etc for this newsletter.  Our May Newsletter will be posted on Thursday 20th May 2021 and so, if you have items for it, please email them to the blue email address below by Tuesday 18th May.

Our C & W Humanists 54th zoom gathering will take place on Wednesday 21st April 2021 at 7.30 p.m.  If you would like to pop in, you will be very welcome, please email me at rmjelley@gmail.com and you will receive an invitation.

2nd jab for me today and no aches!

Where there’s no sense …… .. …….

Stay safe.

Finally, Finally

News that George Broadhead, a founding father of C & W Humanists, is in hospital after suffering falls.

Best wishes to George and Roy, get better soon George.

Time to up-date school assemblies.

I have enjoyed many of the school assemblies that I have witnessed, as a pupil, teacher and headteacher. Assembling together with all the form, house or school, has been quite a dramatic social gathering, with a frisson of mystery, anything might happen.

I can recall Mrs Negus, a teacher at Junior School, who would burble spittle as she sang Holy, Holy, Holy especially on the line ‘glassy sea’. There was the appearance of Jimmy Hill clothed in CCFC credibility and the moment we marked the death of Nehru the leader of India.

As for the religious bits, they tended towards the tedious. I spent more time cruising with St Paul around the Mediterranean than I do with Rob Bryden and I continue to have no idea why Paul’s Letters are so revered.

As a headteacher, there were quiet moments, as we considered some dramatic event ‘ As we hold the people of Dunblane in our thoughts or prayers’. For that assembly in March 1996, the whole community was invited in, one quiet, sombre Sunday. I also remember the awful grief that was present when children, pupils and parents gathered to mark the death of a pupil or the two teachers who died, in service, over the years.

There were joyful times, when individuals or teams marked successes and there were many performances: vocal, dramatic and instrumental that delighted, ranging from a growing Junior School Brass Band to the loud and raucous accompaniment that went with our Bhangra Dance Group.

Were we in awe?

Yes we were, in awe of the talents, diversity and skills of each other.

That’s what a school assembly can be, the gathering of a community, in which there are different world views and religions, emphasising what we have in common, what we share.

Bob Jelley

Government to ‘remind schools of their duty’ to carry out Christian collective worship

April 1st, 2021

In a departure from its previous approach, the UK Government has said that if it is made aware of English schools breaching a requirement to carry out a daily act of worship, they will be ‘investigated’ and ‘reminded of their duty on this matter’. Humanists UK – which has long campaigned for compulsory school worship to be replaced with inclusive assemblies – has expressed alarm at the statement, which marks a ramping up of enforcement of the archaic policy.

The statement was made by Education Minister Nick Gibb MP in response to a parliamentary question from fellow MP Sir John Hayes, who asked ‘what steps [the Department for Education] is taking to ensure that a daily act of worship is taking place in every maintained school.’

The UK is the only sovereign state in the world to impose worship in all state schools, including those without a religious character. In most of the latter, this worship is expected to be ‘broadly Christian’. Although schools with a high number of pupils from non-Christian backgrounds can apply – via a process called ‘determination’ – to have worship in line with another faith, they cannot opt-out of worship altogether. Parents may withdraw their children from this worship and sixth form pupils in England and Wales may withdraw themselves, but younger pupils may not withdraw without parental permission. And the process is often difficult with no meaningful alternative to worship offered in the strong majority of schools. This leaves parents to choose between exposing their children to religious indoctrination or isolating them from their peers with little or nothing of educational worth to do. It also leaves children who are too young to withdraw themselves forced to participate in religious acts of worship they may well not believe in.

In February, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child pressed governments across the UK to ‘to repeal legal provisions for compulsory attendance at collective worship in publicly funded schools and ensure that children can independently exercise the right to withdraw from religious observance at school.’ A prior report by the same Committee in 2016 also said the requirement should be abolished. This makes the Government’s enforcing of the law even harder to justify.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham commented:

‘Compulsory collective worship threatens the freedom of religion or belief of children and their families and is totally out of step with the kind of inclusive education we should be offering in a diverse 21st century democracy like the UK. The fact that the Government now appears to be saying it will enforce this archaic law to an extent that hasn’t been the case in over fifteen years is particularly alarming.

‘The Government should instead be taking steps to instead require inclusive assemblies that are suitable for all pupils regardless of background or belief.’

Assisted Dying

Assisted dying inquiry essential, leading brain surgeon says

By Helena Wilkinson
BBC NewsPublished1 hour agoShareRelated Topics

Henry Marsh
image captionNeurosurgeon Henry Marsh is supporting calls for an inquiry into assisted dying

One of the UK’s leading brain surgeons, who has advanced prostate cancer, has said an inquiry into assisted dying is “absolutely essential”.

Henry Marsh, a retired neurosurgeon and bestselling author, received his diagnosis six months ago.

He has supported a call by politicians for the government to hold an inquiry.

The Care Not Killing alliance, which opposes assisted dying, said the law protected the vulnerable “from being pressured into ending their lives”.

Mr Marsh is backing a group of more than 50 MPs and peers who have written a joint letter to Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, arguing the UK’s laws on assisted dying have fallen behind the rest of the world.

Currently, assisting a suicide is a crime in England and Wales and is punishable by up to 14 years in jail.

Intentionally helping another person to kill themselves is known as assisted suicide – this can include buying someone a ticket to Switzerland – where assisted suicide is legal – to end their life.

Signatories of the letter include politicians who previously voted against changing the law.

The letter was organised by Humanists UK, which Mr Marsh is an advocate of, and campaign group My Death, My Decision, of which he is a patron.

Speaking publicly for the first time about his own cancer diagnosis, Mr Marsh said he felt “deeply shocked and terribly frightened and upset” as it “gradually dawned on him how serious the situation was”.

The surgeon said in the past he had in “theory” been an advocate of assisted dying in “one form or another” but said he hadn’t thought it might one day apply to him.

“It is extraordinarily difficult to think about your own death,” he said.

The 71-year-old, who is due to start radiotherapy treatment in a few months’ time, believes “something should be done to change the law in this country”.

“My own suspicion as to why the opponents to assisted dying oppose a public inquiry is they fear that actually the evidence is so strong that their hypothetical arguments against it don’t hold water, that they will lose the debate,” he said.

‘Ability to choose’

Humanists UK’s chief executive Andrew Copson said he was “deeply sorry” to hear about Mr Marsh’s diagnosis.

“The ability to choose how, where, and when we die is a fundamental freedom, which cuts across party political and ideological lines,” he added.

“In coming together to demand an inquiry, Henry and the lawmakers who have signed this letter have put the voices of the terminally ill and incurably suffering at the centre of the debate.”

Jean Farrer’s sister-in-law, Anne Vickers, 75, travelled to Dignitas in Switzerland in 2015 after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer which couldn’t be treated.

Ms Farrer said her sister-in-law was an “active, independent, funny, joyful person” who decided to end her life when she felt the quality wasn’t good enough any more.

Anne Vickers
image captionAnne Vickers, 75, travelled to Dignitas in Switzerland in 2015 after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer which couldn’t be treated

Supporting calls for a public inquiry, Ms Farrer said she understood it was a “complex area” with many safeguarding issues, but said her family had been caused so much pain and distress because it was not legal.

“There were so many other things we could have been doing in the last 12 months with her to make her year the best it could have been,” she said.

Dr Gordon Macdonald, chief executive of Care Not Killing, said he was disappointed there was another “push” to legalise assisted suicide and euthanasia in the midst of the Covid pandemic.

“Our current laws protect the most vulnerable in our society, the elderly, the sick and disabled from feeling pressured into ending their lives, exactly as we see in the handful of places around the world that allow assisted suicide or euthanasia.

He added: “At a time when we have seen how fragile our NHS is, how underfunding puts pressure on services, and when up to one in four Brits who would benefit from palliative care, but does not currently receive it, to be pushing this ideological policy, seems out of touch, dangerous and desperate.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Any change to the law in an area of such sensitivity and importance must be for individual MPs to consider rather than a decision for government.

Time to change

A majority of public opposes places for bishops in Lords, poll finds

Posted: Tue, 23 Mar 2021

Bishops' bench Lords

A majority of the British public thinks the House of Lords should stop reserving places for Church of England bishops, a YouGov poll has found.

Fifty-three per cent of respondents to a poll published this week said the Lords should not continue to have places for C of E bishops.

Just 16% said it should, with 31% saying they didn’t know.

The poll also showed majorities of Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat voters, and majorities of Remain and Leave voters, all agreed on the topic.

26 places reserved

Twenty-six places in the Lords are reserved for C of E bishops and archbishops as of right. The National Secular Society argues for the end of this practice, as part of its campaigning to separate church and state.

Last year the NSS helped to draft a bill to end C of E bishops’ automatic right to sit in the Lords, which was introduced by Liberal Democrat peer Dick Taverne.

In response to another YouGov poll for The Times in 2017, 62% said no religious clerics should have “an automatic right to seats”. Only 8% said the bishops should retain their seats.

NSS comment

NSS chief executive Stephen Evans said: “Giving Anglican clerics an automatic role in running the country is an unjustifiable privilege that undermines the principle of equal citizenship.

“Their proximity to political power also puts those who oppose the church’s positions at a democratic disadvantage.

“Any plans to reform the House of Lords must include the abolition of the anachronistic bench of bishops. This poll suggests there would be substantial public support for that.”

Notes

  • The C of E’s two archbishops and 24 of its other diocesan bishops make up the ‘lords spiritual’ in parliament. Religious leaders have sat as the lords spiritual since the 14th century.
  • Iran is the only legislature in the world other than the UK which gives unelected clerics automatic representation.

Read more: The bishops’ bench is an affront to democracy. Let’s scrap it, by Stephen Evans

National Secular Society’s response

Mr Gary Kibble, headteacher
Batley Grammar School
Carlinghow Hill,
Batley
West Yorkshire, WF17 0AD
Cc Batley Grammar School Local Governing Body
Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE, Secretary of State for Education
26 March 2021
Dear Mr Kibble,
We are writing in response to the school’s actions following protests regarding the
use of a cartoon of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
We hope, first and foremost, that the school’s first priority is the safety and wellbeing
of the staff member in question, in addition to the safety of other staff and pupils.
The situation has disturbing echoes of the killing of Samuel Paty, the history teacher
murdered by a Muslim fanatic who objected to his use of cartoons from Charlie
Hebdo in a class about freedom of expression.
We were disappointed at the school’s immediate response, which included the
suspension of the teacher; an unequivocal apology for using a “totally inappropriate”
resource; and withdrawing teaching on the associated subject. We are further
concerned by claims that this statement was in part written by a representative of
one of the groups protesting.
The protesters are clearly seeking to attempt to impose a blasphemy taboo which
will restrict the freedom to teach. Their bullying tactics appear to have succeeded.
The school’s initial response was to acquiesce to religious demands. This was unfair
to the teacher in question and will further fuel a climate of censorship brought on by
demands to accommodate unreasonable, reactionary religious views.
By issuing an immediate apology rather than defending the principle of free
expression, one of the most precious pillars of our liberal democratic society, the
school is siding with religious fundamentalists.
Teachers should have a reasonable degree of freedom to explore sensitive subjects
and enable students to think critically. Education should open minds rather than
close them. Those responsible for our children’s education must therefore place a
high value on the fundamental right to freedom of expression, which is applicable to
ideas that may shock and offend as well as those which are received favourably.
Your actions have sent the opposite message to students. This incident is also likely
to undermine teachers’ freedom to do their jobs, on any number of sensitive
subjects, both within your school gates and beyond.
It is patronising to assume that all British Muslims will take offence at the use of a
cartoon. We urge you to keep in mind that the protesters who shout loudest are not
representative of all Muslims.
We understand that your school wants to promote cohesion and inclusivity. But this
cannot be achieved by pandering to religious groups who wish to dictate what can
and cannot be taught within the school.
We ask for an explanation of the rationale behind your decisions on this issue. And
as investigations are carried out into the matter, we urge you to uphold the vital
principle of free speech and not submit to the unreasonable demands of those who
seek to impose blasphemy taboos on society as a whole.
We look forward to your response.
We are considering this an open letter.
Yours sincerely,
Stephen Evans
Chief executive, National Secular Society