The thought receptacle

Stephen's mental dustbin

Sun, 05 Jun 2011


I previously was appalled by the concept of superinjunctions. The first time I heard about then was in the Trafigura case. There, they were used to unjustly protect the reputation of a company involved in some seriously unpleasant business. The disclosure of this was clearly in the public interest.

Now, it seems superinjunctions are less effective than ever, and may be on the way out. But it also turns out that they have a more benign use: to protect the privacy of celebrities. I'm all in favour of protecting celebrities' privacy, so I have no problem with these injunctions. There is no public interest in disclosing who slept with whom.

Are there more superinjunctions out there like the Trafigura one? It's possible there are. But in the press, we only hear about the ones concerning celebrities' private lives. This is a nice illustration of how dependent we are on the media. How can I possibly form an opinion about the relative merits of superinjunctions as a legal device? The media is a hopelessly distorting lens---peculiarly so in this case, since we rely on them simply for any hint at the existence of the injunctions, and they choose to disclose a biased selection. Not only would I have to do some serious research to form a sensible opinion---I would probably be stymied by the legally-enshrined non-disclosability of their existence.

It's also a story of how dependent we are on social media, since that's how everyone is actually propagating the supposedly protected information. Just as the mass media are a distorting lens, so social media distort in their own way. It's the wisdom-or-otherwise of crowds again, and like most popularity contests, I end up feeling quite puzzled about the outcome.

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Car centric

Naturally, when I heard that Devon Sproule was embarking on a summer European tour, I looked for the geographically closest venue. It's the Arlington Arts Centre in Newbury, the latter being only an hour or so by train. Actually, looking more closely, the arts centre is not in Newbury---it's a few miles outside, in the middle of nowhere. That could make for a pleasant venue. So how would I get there? Well, I would probably cycle from Newbury station. But how is Joe Non-Cyclist supposed to get there?

If his middle name isn't “Car Driver”, it looks like he's not wanted. The centre's web site displays a car-centrism worthy of 1980s Thatcherite motorway-widening out-of-town-shopping Milton Keynes town-planners' wildest pedestrian subway-building concrete-loving dreams. Call me optimistic, but I was genuinely surprised (and therefore outraged)---it's not the sort of attitude I'd expect of a 21st-century arts venue in an affluent south-east locality not very far from the culturally enlightened metropoli of London and, er, Oxford. It's really quite remarkable---not even their FAQ section has any mention of public transport. Even most American cultural destinations offer more public transportation information than this.

I had a look at the centre's funding, ready to be outraged further if public funds were responsible. It seems to be a pseudo-charitable enterprise whose proceeds are given to Mary Hare, “the national charity for young deaf people”. It's also a conference centre, which I imagine accounts for most of their income. If there was any government money going in, I thought, I would be on somebody's case pronto.

But wait! They are running a visual arts event whose funders are on this web page, and West Berkshire Council is one of them. They even have a handy locations map for a month-long series of events running throughout the Newbury area. You can click on any location and get “directions”---you guessed it, for car drivers only. What's even worse in this case is that there are bus services for getting to many of the venues, but there's no information about it.

Thinking that there might be a bus service to the venue. I tried trusty Transport Direct. What a depressingly incompetent web site. It just about works, but that's the best that can be said for it. I will rant about buses in a future post.

Appropriately enough, I went to see Devon in Cambridge instead (and did I mention that she was amazing?). This was possible thanks for fortuitous timing of my visit. She even mentioned (in a miniscule bit of chat when I got her to sign a couple of CDs) that the audience for the Newbury show had been a bit sparse. Perhaps if there was better transport in the area, more people would have ventured out for the evening? Or perhaps if the area was configured for a less door-to-car-to-door lifestyle, more people would be aware that there is an arts centre hosting quality acts on their, er, doorstep three miles away....

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