Women of Frome

mickyates Documentary, History, Ideas, Mick's Photo Blog, Photography, Social Development Leave a Comment

Frome Heritage Museum is opening the ‘Celebrated Women of Frome‘ exhibition today, curated by historian and writer David Lassman. To quote David:

Such an incredible group of women – all with a strong association with Frome – that have been gathered together from throughout the centuries, including two international poets, a famous movie actress, several social reformers (including one who received an OBE for her pioneering work), an author with a major literary prize named after her, Frome’s one and only female MP in its 190 year history as a constituency, and an early documentary photographer whose images shocked the world and exposed barbaric cruelty by royal command – plus many other celebrated women connected with the town.

For photographers, the story of Alice Seeley Harris and her Congo missionary work is particularly fascinating. Alice (1870–1970) was an English missionary and an early documentary photographer. Her photography helped to expose the human rights abuses in the Congo Free State under the regime of Leopold II, King of the Belgians.

Alice Seeley Harris. 1904. Nsongo District. Nsala of Wala with severed hand and foot of his five-year-old daughter murdered by BAIR militia. 

With her husband she staged lantern slide shows in the UK and across the world of the atrocities they observed at the hands of the Belgian King. Whilst this work was done with the best of intentions, it inadvertently underlined English (white) superiority and the (Christian) civilising mission. Yet her photographs and the stories behind them profoundly affected informed public opinion of colonial atrocities, especially against the Belgian King, leading Leopold to withdraw.

Photo|Frome will be partnering with David and the Frome Museum to put on a talk further exploring Alice’s photography and impact on the world.

Celebrated Women of Frome is on from Tuesday, 8 March (International Women’s Day) to Sunday, 10 July. Frome Museum, 2 North Parade, 10-2, Tues-Sat. FREE (donations welcomed)

Frome Heritage Museum

Protect and Survive

mickyates History, Ideas, News Leave a Comment

It is premature to know what is going to happen because of the disastrous Putin invasion of Ukraine, though one thing is easy to predict – many innocent people are going to die on both sides because of that man’s appalling 18th century imperial ambitions.

As an aside, it is equally appalling that Farage blames NATO and Trump thinks it’s a good move by Putin. Whilst that says a lot about them, their craziness is not new and not my main point.

Going back to certainties, a second is that Cyberwarfare will intensify on all sides – today Anonymous joined in, rather an unholy coalition with GCHQ, NSA, ANSII, NATO CCDCOE and others. What a time to be a hacker, and I hope they are all good enough. Just when we have all gone cashless, imagine no ATMs?

A third certainty is the return of the Cold War. If Putin annexes Ukraine, Cold War (likely, though as I write he apparently is open to negotiate, maybe because of Chinese pressure). 

If a war of attrition ensues, aided by Western weapons, Cold War (possible). If Putin ‘strategically’ withdraws licks his wounds and tries again, Cold War (unlikely though possible). Of course Ukraine could win the war, and kick Putin out. Given the inequality in armed forces, that would be quite something.

Still, in all scenarios Putin has put Russia on the other side of that old curtain (certain) which will be very hard to shake off.

Maybe if Putin gets ousted by the Russian people, then no Cold War happens (possible but too hard to predict).

Let’s hope that NATO doesn’t fire weapons, then it is no longer a Cold War but instead we get WWIII (unlikely). Though as I write, Putin is threatening Finland and Sweden if they accede to NATO. The fact is that if Ukraine was in NATO, Putin wouldn’t have invaded and Russia would be at peace.

So a new kind of Cold War seems inevitable, which makes me think about who experienced the last Cold War and what it was actually like.

I was a kid, and I remember the air raid siren drills. I remember the Cuban Missile crisis (I was 12). I remember talking to friends about war with China (maybe I got that slightly wrong, but you see my point). I also remember the pamphlet ‘Protect and Survive’, finally made public in 1980 (yup). How to survive a Nuclear War. That pamphlet had its origins in 1963’s ‘Advising the Householder on Protection against Nuclear Attack’, a snappy, inspiring title which I also recall.

I remember hearing that my home town, Burton on Trent, was on the nuclear targeting list as we sat neatly between two major power stations. 

Anyone my age will also remember Peter Watkins’ ‘The War Game’, a 1966 British pseudo-documentary film that depicts nuclear war and its aftermath. It was banned by the UK Government before its planned screening on the BBC in 1965. We all knew about its existence, though, as it premiered at the National Film Theatre in London in 1966. 

That was the same year that my favourite album of all time was released, The Beatles’ Revolver. Interesting contrast.

Finally, I recall looking to buy a cottage in Cumbria in the early 70s, until we discovered that Sellafield was way too close. We didn’t buy.

In other words, the Cold War was ever present, and it was rarely far from our minds even on good days. 

Fortunately it has not been in anyone’s minds since 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union crumbled. I was in East Berlin in 1986, so I had a bit of a view of how things were before that fall.

It is hard to see a return to the 60s and 70s, as the world today is so interconnected. We all now know what Swift is. We all have multiple information sources (thank Sir Tim for that). 

But then I also never expected to witness a full blown invasion of a democratic, sovereign country happening in Europe in my lifetime. A World War seems unthinkable as everyone looses. Still, Cold War seems to be back with a vengeance.

All of our thoughts and hopes (I don’t pray) go to the Ukrainian and Russian people who are caught up in this madman’s dreams. Dark days indeed.