CW Humanists March Newsletter

Cheltenham and Liverpool, two examples of what happens when we follow neither common sense nor science.

For many in Ireland, St Patrick’s Day Celebrations traditionally include a trip across the water, to The Cheltenham Gold Cup. In COVID 2020 the racing went ahead. C & W Hum members Egghead, ponder an issue that will not go away.

At the very start of the Covid problem a group of our past prime ministers and senior ministers from all parties approached Prime Minister Johnson saying looming was a huge crisis, above all party beliefs, and a group of them working together on its solution would be better for the country. These ministers had experience of emergencies and made useful contacts, but B Johnson refused to accept the need for their help. He wanted to go it alone.

The result was disastrous.

The independent SAGE is far more direct (honest) than the Government-appointed SAGE.  More of the Independent SAGE are active in their research fields as opposed to the Government-appointed SAGE who have more of the administrative type and are under the thumb of the Government.

Indie-SAGE repeatedly stresses that pandemics like COVID-19 spread like fire. Therefore, as soon as an outbreak is detected it must be stamped out immediately – no procrastination. This, the Gov has repeatedly failed to do – unlike countries like New Zealand which do appreciate the importance of acting immediately to virtually stamp it out.

Indie-SAGE has again and again emphasised the need of a smart test, detect and trace system with forward and back tracing. Here again our government have failed miserably. Further, those countries who release from lockdowns slowly and cautiously control the virus far better than the trigger-happy ones.

Most governments did not learn from (March 2020) the Austrian ski resort Covid epicentre.  Neither did they learn from the Cheltenham Horse Racing or the Liverpool v Atletico football match.

This is how the situation/controversy was reported:

Coronavirus: Liverpool vs Atletico Madrid and Cheltenham Festival ‘led to spike’ in coronavirus deaths.  The government had repeatedly dismissed the need to cancel mass gatherings in the days leading up to the events

By Isobel Frodsham, Sky News

Tuesday 26 May 2020 17:26, UK

More than 50,000 fans attended Liverpool’s game against Atletico Madrid at Anfield in March 2020.

Liverpool’s Champions League home match against Atletico Madrid and the Cheltenham Festival contributed to an increase in coronavirus deaths in the UK, a scientist has said.

Professor Tim Spector, from King’s College London, said the two events held in March had “caused increased suffering and death that wouldn’t otherwise have occurred”.  He said data from an app used to report COVID-19 symptoms showed that Cheltenham and the North West both became “key hotspots” for the coronavirus.

Thousands of people gathered at Cheltenham Festival this week

Over a quarter of a million people attended this year’s Cheltenham Festival

Despite several European countries and cities already being in lockdown by the time the sports fixtures took place, Prime Minister Boris Johnson waited until 23 March to announce his own “stay at home” message in the UK.

More than 251,000 people attended the Cheltenham Festival from March 16-19 this year – a drop of nearly 15,000 compared to 2019.

Liverpool’s exit from the last-16 of the Champions League on March 11 was watched by around 52,000 people inside Anfield, including 3,000 visiting supporters who had travelled from Madrid – where such events had already been suspended.

Atletico knocked Liverpool out of the Champions League at Anfield winning 3-2 after extra-time to prevail 4-2 on aggregate

By the time Mr Johnson ordered the lockdown, the number of coronavirus cases in the UK stood at 6,650 and the number of deaths was 336.

Since then, nearly 37,000 people have died in the UK after contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, and there have been more than 262,000 cases.

Last month, Liverpool City Council announced plans to jointly investigate the spread of the virus in Merseyside, alongside the University of Liverpool and John Moores University, following the match.

Professor Spector, who works in genetic epidemiology research, said: “Two weeks after the Cheltenham Festival and the Liverpool game against Atletico Madrid, we saw the number of people reporting COVID symptoms in the COVID Symptom Study app from those particular areas increase and both areas became key hotspots in the UK.

“This suggests that both events were, in part, a cause for the spread of COVID-19 in those areas.”

Crowds have flocked to Cheltenham this week

Cheltenham became a ‘key hotspot’ for the coronavirus following the Festival

Data from the Kings College study shows a higher number of cases in Cheltenham and Liverpool compared to their surrounding areas from 22 March to 29 March.

Liverpool City Council’s director of public health Matthew Ashton is convinced the game against Atletico Madrid should not have gone ahead.

But the government believes the events took place within “clear guidance” given at the time.  A spokesman for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport told Sky News: ”It is our absolute priority to protect people’s health and our advice to the public is based on direct, continuous consultation with scientific and medical experts.

“There are many factors that could influence the number of cases in a particular area, including population density, age, general health, and the position of an area on the pandemic curve.”

Ed: Yes and a crowded racecourse and football stadium probably won’t help.

Cheltenham and Liverpool are examples of what happens when we follow neither common sense nor science.

Events that have happened previously in March  BGB muses

2nd March 1969 saw the maiden flight of the French version of the supersonic aircraft Concorde. The pilot was Andre Turcat from France

On 4th March 1681, Charles ll granted a Royal Charter to William Penn to establish a colony in North America. This ‘colony’ is now known as Pennsylvania

On 5th March 1987, 180 people died when the cross-channel ferry ‘The Herald of Free Enterprise’ capsized due to the bow doors being left open. The ship was sailing from Zebrugge to Dover 

7th March 1806 was the birthday of the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Married to fellow poet Robert Browning. She died in 1861 in Florence, Italy

7th March 1802 was the birthday of the artist Edwin Henry Landseer who was renowned for paintings of animals. His most famous painting is ‘The Monarch of the Glen’

On 8th March 1702 Queen Anne became Queen of Great Britain. She succeeded William lll who died in a riding accident

10th March 1886 saw the first Crufts Dog Show at London. It had been held occasionally at Newcastle, but the London show confirmed it as an annual national event. These days Crufts is held at the NEC in Birmingham

“Beware the Ides of March” (Shakespeare) is on 15th March. It was set in the Roman calendar as the deadline for settling debts. Julius Caesar was assassinated on 15th March 44 BC

16th March 1872 was the date of the first ever FA Cup Final held at Kennington Oval between Wanderers and Royal Engineers. Wanderers won 1-0

On 19th March 1834, 6 farm labourers referred to as The Tolpuddle Martyrs were sentenced to transportation for swearing an oath to form a trade union. They were sentenced to 7 years as convicts in Australia. Due to public protests, 5 of the Martyrs returned to England 3 years later.

22nd March 1824 saw the establishment of the National Art Gallery in London. It is sited at Trafalgar Square   

On 23rd March 1956, Queen Elizabeth ll laid the foundation stone of the new Coventry Cathedral. The cathedral was designed by Sir Basil Spence and was opened by the Queen in May 1962

On 25th March 1306 Robert the Bruce was crowned King of Scotland. The coronation of a Scottish King took place at Scone Abbey in Perthshire. The new king would stand on the Stone of Scone and be lifted by the nobles and clan chieftains (Sounds a bit like Game of Thrones? – or Scones!!)

27th March 1871 saw the first ever international rugby match. It was between Scotland and England played at Raeburn Place, Edinburgh. Scotland won (obviously !) by 2 tries and a goal to England’s one try

At the annual Varsity Boat Race on 28th March 1012, both boats sank soon after the start. This is unique as this had never happened before or since. The Boat Race starts at Putney Bridge and ends at Mortlake by Chiswick Bridge 

Humanists UK at UN calls for the immediate release of the President of Humanist Association of Nigeria             March 15th, 2021

Nigerian Humanist Association President Mubarak Bala.

In an intervention at the UN Human Rights Council, Humanists UK has called for the immediate release of the President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, Mubarak Bala, who has been detained and imprisoned in Nigeria’s Kano state without charge for over 300 days.

In an intervention made by video during a debate with the President of the UN Human Rights Council, Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson stated,

  ‘First arrested in April 2014 and detained in a psychiatric ward on the grounds of his humanist beliefs, Bala since came to lead the Humanist Association of Nigeria and is an important figure for humanists and human rights defenders globally. He subsequently was arrested again in April 2020, accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammed via Facebook, contrary to the Cybercrimes Act of Nigeria. However, Bala is yet to be charged for this crime, and so remains detained indefinitely, which represents a gross infringement on his human rights.

  ‘A court order issued last July granting him a meeting with legal representation was ignored by his captors who continued to deny him this basic legal right. It was not until October that he was granted preliminary access to a lawyer, meaning he was imprisoned without any legal representation for six months. Bala is also detained in Kano State, a region that allows for the operation of Sharia Courts alongside secular courts, where blasphemy carries the death penalty, and where riots and murder are not uncommon for accusations of blasphemy. There are fears for his safety even while he is held in custody.’

Copson went on to call for Mr Bala’s immediate release and for him to be given unfettered access to legal counsel. His treatment starkly illustrates how the global prevalence of blasphemy laws continue to threaten the rights and safety of non-religious people and others across the world

The Census 2021

The following article appeared in the local press:

One question in the forthcoming Census is more important than it might appear at first sight. The information gleaned will provide a basis or justification for many decisions on social policy taken by the government for years ahead.

The question is “What is your religion?” It sounds straightforward but in practice is well known to give misleading results compared with the preferred question “Do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion. If so which?” The first question produces a very much higher level of religious belief than the second used in other polls such as the British Social Attitudes Survey which consistently shows that the majority of the British public have no religious belief.

The difference seems to come about because most people have been brought up in a particular culture which is associated with a particular religion. So when asked what is your religion (implicitly assuming that you have one} and you feel that if you have to pick one out of a list you pick the one with which you are familiar. If I come from a Christian culture for example, I am going to pick that rather than declare myself to be a Hindu. Probing deeper however about beliefs reveals that the affinity, if any, is cultural, rather a belief in the tenets of the chosen religion or a strong association with the Church. So the appropriate tick if you are in that category is the first. No religion.

Why it is important that this survey gets it right is that government and local authorities use the information in their social planning for all aspects of public life including health , education and social services. The continuous support for publicly funded faith schools for example which Humanists continually object to, is justified by saying that the majority of the public in that area are of that faith, when in fact the majority really want a secular state school.

The great anomaly of having bishops sitting in the House of Lords (unique in the UK compared with other democracies) is justified on the grounds that ‘we are a Christian country’, when that ceased to be the case many years ago in terms of the actual beliefs of the population.

So my strong plea to everyone filling in the Census form is :

If you are not religious, Say So.  (Ed. Emphasis)

Dr Brian Nicol,  Coventry and Warwickshire Humanists

Poem for the month, chosen by Secretary Audrey.

‘Adlestrop’ by Edward Thomas

Yes. I remember Adlestrop—

The name, because one afternoon

Of heat the express-train drew up there

Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.

No one left and no one came

On the bare platform. What I saw

Was Adlestrop—only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,

And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,

No whit less still and lonely fair

Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang

Close by, and round him, mistier,

Farther and farther, all the birds

Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

TV & Films to Look Out for in March

Saturday 20th March:

23.20 – BBC2: Love and Mercy – An excellent film for a Saturday night. A biopic of the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, following the singer-songwriter at two periods in his life. In the 1960s, he is at his creative peak, but haunted by inner demons that take their toll on his mental health. By the 1980s, he is broken and dominated by a shady doctor. A new relationship offers a chance at recovery. Starring John Cusack, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti and Elizabeth Banks. A definite ‘must-see’ film.

Sunday 21st March:

21.00 – BBC1: Line of Duty – The long awaited new series of the very best British police drama directed by Jed Mercurio and with Martin Compston, Vicky McClure and Adrian Dunbar reprising their roles as DS Steve Arnott, DI Kate Fleming and Superintendent Ted Hastings. Kelly Macdonald is their adversary. “We’re only interested in bent coppers!” (Sorry I can’t write in a Belfast accent!)

22.00 – BBC2: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind – Fact-based drama. A 13-year-old boy living with his family in rural Malawi comes up with a solution to solve a famine by creating a crop-saving wind turbine with the aid of a library book and a bicycle dynamo. First, though, he must persuade his father to allow him to use parts from his bicycle to build the windmill to irrigate the land. Directed by and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, with Maxwell Simba.

22.00 – BBC4: Sylvia – Biopic of troubled poet and novelist Sylvia Plath whose creativity was deeply affected by her long and ultimately futile battle with depression and her turbulent marriage to Ted Hughes. Starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Daniel Craig, Jared Harris and Amira Casar.

Monday 22nd March:

20.30 – BBC1: Fawlty Towers – A welcome return of the funniest ever sit-com. After all years of seeing all of the episodes umpteen times, I still laugh out loud every time.

21.00 – ITV1:  Unforgotten – The penultimate episode of this fascinating crime drama

Tuesday 23rd March:

21.00 – BBC2: The Detectives: New series. Police are called after a wealthy man suspected to be linked to drug crime was taken from his home by an armed gang.

Wednesday 24th March:

21.00 BBC2: The Terror – Further episodes of this enthralling thriller set in the Canadian Arctic Circle and based upon the fateful expedition of Lord Franklin. With the end of their provisions in sight, the officers contemplate a tough, risky strategy. The next episode is at 21.45

Thursday 25th March:

21.00 – BBC4: The Lone Ranger – Don’t expect too much ‘Hi Ho Silver’ in this 2013 comedy Western. The story of how a lawyer left for dead after an ambush is saved by a mysterious Native American fugitive. Concealing his identity behind a mask, he and his new ally hunt down the outlaws behind the attack. Starring Armie Hammer, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.

01.35 – Channel 4: Locke – Tom Hardy gives the performance of a lifetime. This one-man thriller is shot almost completely inside a car on the motorway. This slice of real-time drama is an unexpectedly thrilling treat. I definitely recommend this film. Record it to watch it at leisure – you will not be disappointed. Starring Tom Hardy, with the voices of Olivia Colman and Andrew Scott.

Friday 26th March: Two great Oscar nominated films and a good night for fans of Elton John

21.00 – Film 4: The Shape of Water – An excellent Oscar winning fantasy. A mute woman who cleans up at top-secret government lab makes a life-changing discovery when she finds an amphibious humanoid creature who is being held captive, and they embark on an extraordinary relationship. Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer and Doug Jones.

23.35 – BBC1: La La Land – The film that came so close to winning Best Picture Oscar. A jobbing actress and a struggling jazz pianist fall in love and attempt to realise their respective dreams in Los Angeles. A Bafta-winning musical, starring Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling and John Legend.

19.00 – BBC4: Elton John Electric Prom – 21.00 – Elton John at the BBC

There are currently some excellent new films available on Netflix:

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – A great drama of the legendary blues singer Ma Rainey and her band gather at a recording studio in Chicago in 1927. A posthumous Oscar nomination for the late Chadwick Boseman and starring the excellent Viola Davis and Colman Domingo

The Dig – Based on a true story set in the 1930’s, a wealthy landowner hires amateur archaeologist Basil Brown to investigate mounds on her property. He and his team discover an Anglo-Saxon burial ship. Starring Ralph Fiennes in one of his finest roles and Carey Mulligan.

News of the World – Set in Texas after the Civil War, Tom Hanks is brilliant as usual visiting remote townships to read newspapers to the people. On his travels he rescues a young German girl who has been bought up by the Kiawa Indians. In my view, the star is the 12 year old Helena Zengel who almost steals the show from Hanks. Look out for that name in the future!

Moxie – Inspired by her mom’s rebellious past and a confident new friend, a shy teenager anonymously publishes a magazine calling out sexism in her school. Ironically, I watched this film while all the furore following the murder of Sarah Everard and the clashes at Clapham Common was happening. Very poignant!

Mank – I haven’t yet seen this 2021 Oscar nominated film set in 1930’s Hollywood and is centred on the scathing wit of alcoholic screenwriter Herman J Mankiewicz as he finishes the script for ‘Citizen Kane’. Starring Garly Oldman as ‘Mank’ and Tom Burke as Orson Welles.  BGB

‘The Armchair Audience’ by Jacquie Campbell

The theatre world and its loyal supporters are all now holding their breath in the hope that live performances will actually be able to start in the summer.  But, in the meantime, there’s still plenty of theatre to enjoy from home.  Here are a few ideas – in each case, the ticket price covers the whole household.

Last month I said that we had bought tickets for Barnes People, a series of four monologues produced by the Original Theatre Company.  Each monologue is just around 20 minutes long, so easy to watch whenever the mood takes you.  We enjoyed all four of them, with funny and poignant performances from Jon Culshaw, Matthew Kelly and Jemma Redgrave.  But, if you only fancy one, then we recommend A True Born Englishman – from Adrian Scarborough, playing a Buckingham Palace footman.  Tickets are £7.50 per performance from

The RSC have been doing some wonderful work online throughout the last year to keep audiences and students engaged.  I recently did a couple of their ‘Deep Dive’ workshops on pieces of text from Romeo & Juliet and Midsummer Night’s Dream and can’t recommend them highly enough if you’re a Shakespeare fan.  But even if you’re not, their latest production Dream should be worth a look.  It’s an online performance, narrated by singer/songwriter Nick Cave, and set in a virtual midsummer forest.  The actors are performing live, but you see them as avatars.   You can simply watch it for free, or you can pay £10 and become part of the interactive performance, turning into a firefly and exploring the forest using your mouse or other tracker on your device.  I’m definitely taking the firefly option!  It promises to be magical, but you need to be quick – performances are only on until Sunday 20 March. 

And, finally, if you’ve got young children or grandchildren, then The Old Vic are doing performances of Dr Seuss’s The Lorax as the fifth in their ‘In Camera’ series of live productions.  The Lorax was a big hit when done in the theatre, and has been specially adapted to work as a live-streamed show.  It’s only on from 14-17 April and booking has just opened. The cheaper tickets go fast, so get in quickly!  We saw A Christmas Carol like this in December and can’t recommend it enough.  A wonderful family activity, or maybe even an Easter gift to the family you can’t be with yet.

At last!  A joke with a humanist in … although he was only just squeezed in by BGB

A Humanist was having a drink in a local pub. After finishing his drink he decided to make his way home. When he stepped outside the pub he noticed a Nun raving and shouting about the sins of alcohol and the ‘demon drink’ and the debauchery and squalor caused by drink.

The Humanist asked the Nun if she had ever had a drink

The Nun said, ‘No – I will not touch it – it is evil’

So, our Humanist, being a bit of a rationalist chap said, ‘Well how can you make these statements about alcohol if you have never had a drink? ‘Surely you should have a drink of alcohol first before you start telling people how bad it is’

The Nun said, ‘Well I wouldn’t know what to order if I was to have a drink’

So, the kindly Humanist said, ‘I’ll tell you what, I will buy you a drink, so you can see what alcohol tastes like – and afterwards, then you can criticise alcohol, because you will then know what it tastes and feels like!’

The nun said, ‘Well that is very kind of you, but what do ladies usually drink?’

The Humanist said, ‘Well, most ladies I know drink gin’

The Nun said, ‘OK, I will have some gin. But can you please ask them to put it in a small cup because I don’t want people to see me drinking alcohol from a glass. If they see me drinking from a cup, they will think that I am drinking a cup of tea’

The Humanist said, ‘OK, I will do that, I will buy you a glass of gin and I will ask the barman to put it in a small cup for you’.  And off he went into the pub

He said to the barman, ‘Can I have a glass of gin please and can you put it in a small cup for me please?’ 

The barman laughed and said, ‘Is that blooming Nun still outside? – She stands outside every night to get someone to get her a cup of gin!’

Next week will be our 50th Zoom Meeting!!!

Since Lockdown, Coventry and Warwickshire Humanists have met most weeks

not (alas} physically but in zoom gatherings, hosted by Treasurer Adrian.

In these meetings:

we remember and try to support individual humanists who are in peril, recently Zara Kay, imprisoned in Tanzania and Mubarak Bala, now imprisoned in Nigeria. 

We follow Humanist UK’s campaigns, for example, opposing the growth of Faith Schools.

Alistair introduces us to a favourite artist, or school of painting.  Yesterday a theme was ‘Eye’, some of the images he chose are sprinkled in this newsletter.

Brian (BGB) provides a quiz, which is less like Pointless, more like The Inquisition.

Mo and Andrew, describe their last week, working as foresters/woodlanders, in Warwickshire’s green woods, as the seasons change around them.

Egghead (code name for a sub group of members) offers issues and cartoons.

Increasingly, Bedworth members introduce us to pieces of music, yesterday it was Faure’s ‘Listen With Mother’.

Sometimes, Jacquie, talks about the splendid virtual theatre performances that we can watch in lockdown and flamboyantly, speaks some lines (from her Stratford home!)

Mayor’s Chaplain Jane, who works as a school speaker and representative on the local SACRE, can be counted on to provide accounts of the meetings and issues that she faces.

These zoom meetings are strange events for strange times:  Audrey seems to partially or completely, disappear from view;  John is always a welcome contributor, how we love to see his collection of braces; Bill joins us from Lichfield, how we love to identify him, through his aliases/disguises.

We hear about what each of us has: read, watched, listened to in the previous week, assisted by BGB with his TV recommendations.

These virtual get-togethers, have a serious purpose (promoting humanism) and a light hearted side, which usually takes over, a weekly antidote to COVID depression.

Coventry and Warwickshire Humanists zoom sessions occur on Wednesdays, starting at 7.30 p.m.  If you would like to pop in, please contact and an invitation will be supplied.

At this week’s gathering, John promised to provide details about a programme about a Japanese Tsunami, here they are:

Japan’s Tsunami: Caught on Camera – Amateur footage and eyewitness accounts of the Disaster that struck Japan on March 11th 2011.

Broadcast at 11.10pm on Saturday 13th March on More 4 Freeview 18 and Freesat124 now on All 4 Catch up.

Look after yourself, look after each other, take care, stay safe.

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