Thursday, January 24, 2008


"The idea that children should make decisions in their own life about how they learn is deeply alarming to many adults, so top marks for the BBC in commissioning the new children's TV drama "Summerhill" - based on the real life Summerhill School - although it is a pity that they haven't provided any info about the programme or the school on the BBC website.

The website for the real Summerhill School does provide some information - so you could look here if you want to find out more:

James Rampton also provided an interesting overview in The Herald:

and also in the Telegraph:

[this url has been shortened]

How about cutting Eastenders out of the schedules one day a week - and screening when adults have time to watch as well?

Celeste West

Celeste West, the inspiration behind the amazing Booklegger magazine, and co-editor of Revolting Librarians is dead. Booklegger was a library magazine like no other, radiating with a practical yet free spirited anarchism that was applied in a no-nonsense way to books, libraries and librarianship. It is impossible to believe that someone with such so much life and spirit in her is no longer around. An inspiration.

For a full obituary see

[Thanks to Richard for the details of the obit]

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Star Wars

One of the most flamboyant quarrels in literary history was that between Elizabethan poets Thomas Nashe and Gabriel Harvey but it was preceded by a much earlier quarrel involving Harvey's brothers Richard and John who were deeply interested in astrology. As it is less well-known than the Nashe/Harvey dispute, I am posting a short article I wrote recently about this astrological spat:

Star Wars

In the 16th Century astrology was taken seriously - so seriously that the Essex market town of Saffron Walden became the focus for one of the strangest quarrels in English history when a Saffron Walden astrologer predicted the end of the world.

The quarrel centred around two brothers from Saffron Walden - Richard and John Harvey - the sons of wealthy local rope-maker John Harvey, and brothers of the poet Gabriel Harvey. All three brothers went to Cambridge University, and developed an interest in astrology - a subject closely connected to both science and mathematics at the time.

In 1583 Richard Harvey provoked widespread alarm and controversy when he predicted that the world would come to an end on April 28th a day when “two superior planets” Saturn and Jupiter were in conjunction:

“A great sterility and barrenness of the earth shall ensue; there will be shipwerecks, burnings, and other fiery and watery calamites; much envy, hatred, quarrelling, and strife will spring up; ecclesiastical persons will be persecuted, and many great men and nobel personages will be treachersously entanged, to their overthrow, disgrace, and dishonour. It is quite possible that a fearful comet will follow, and the very frame of the worlde, cannot endure long after.”

Harvey incurred a considerable amount of public scorn for his predictions, and Bishop Aylmer preached against Harvey’s book at Paul’s Cross. But he was defended by his younger brother John, who although still only 19, published his own “Astrological Addition” in an attempt to answer Richard’s critics.

One of the first to challenge Harvey’s pediction of catastrophe was the renowned mathematician Thomas Heth who quickly published a book in which he attacked errors in Harvey’s calculations and the disasterous consequences that would result from the planetary conjunction.

After April 28th it was obvious to everyone that the Harvey brothers predictions had failed and Richard was subjected to a country-wide storm of ridicule. Several derisive ballads were written about him and he was mocked on the London stage.

Astrology itself became the subject of attack - particularly from Henry Howard, who wrote “A Defensative Against the Poyson of Supposed Prophecies.” Howard was a controversial man. He was the youngest son of Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey, and later inherited his house and lands at Audley End (near Saffron Walden). Following the execution of his father in 1552 and his brother in 1572 (both for treason), he became involved in the shady world of court conspiracies.

Soon after the publication of his “Defensative” he was was arrested, accused of “seeming heresies and treason” and confined in London’s Fleet Prison for several months.

The Harveys got off more lightly - Richard gave up astrology, and became a minister in the Church, while John Harvey pursued his interest and published several almanacs . But their failed predictions were not forgotten, and the Harvey brothers remained the target for some of the best known writers in Elizabethan England, including Shakespeare, who made them characters in some of his plays.

[first published in the Walden Local, January 9, 2008]

Monday, January 07, 2008

Wikia Search

A new, and collaborative search engine, Wikia Search allows users to make suggestions, and comment on the search results - eventually the comments will be used to refine and improve the searches:

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Anger at Library Cuts

Ciar Byrne, Arts & Media Correspondent for the Independent newspaper examines the threat to public libraries in what has been designated the "National Year of Reading" outlining the continual effect of library closures, staff cuts, and the culling of books:

Since this piece appeared several other newspapers have taken up the issue.

British Architectural Library Abolishes Charges

The British Architectural Library has announced that members of the public are now able to use the Library completely free of charge. The Library collections of about four million items, ranging from books, photographs, archives, periodicals and a whole range of artifacts, are located at the Roya Institute of British Archtects HQ, 66 Portland Place, London. Drawings and archives are held at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Find out more about the RIBA British Architectural Library, including access to their online catalogue and RIBApix an online collection of c16,000 photographs, drawings and etchings:

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Poetry Paper

Like the items listed in the posting below the Poetry Paper is only available in printed format - a pity as the current issue - issue four, 2007/8 - has a great layout and contains some interesting stuff - in particular a two-page interview with poets Adrian Mitchell and Michael Rosen "The Delivery Men", some new poems and a lengthy article by US poet Gerald Stern who "looks back on his unusual journey as a writer". Pick up a free copy from the London Review of Books bookshop, or go to the Poetry Paper's page on the Poetry Trust website, and request a (free) copy:

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Only In Print

Just out is a new book by Wayne Price: The Abolition of the State: Anarchist and Marxist Perspectives, (AuthorHouse, 2008). 196 pp Price starts with a conception of the anarchism as a radical extension of democracy, and examines how social coordination in non-statist society can be achieved through organisations such as workplace councils, neighbourhood assemblies and other co-operative forms:

The current issue edition of Rare Book Review contains an article on "Philip Pullman - the Most Dangerous Man in England?" and another by actor Neil Pearson: "Books do furnish A Room" based on his book Obelisk: A History of Jack Kahane and the Obelisk Press, (Liverpool University Press, 2007) 494 pp

Kate Sharpley Library
Librarian Jessamyn West's "Interview with Three Members of the Kate Sharpley Library" ,
was published in Serials Review, vol 33, issue 2 June 2007 pages 129-131, but is unfortunately not available free online. You can find out more about the Kate Sharpley Library here: