Andy Worthington Speaks About “Demonising ‘the Other’” at the Festival of Ideas for Change in Brockley, London SE4, Sun. Nov. 20


The poster for the Festival of Ideas for Change in Brockley, London SE4 on Sunday November 20, 2016, at which Andy Worthington is one of 17 speakers.

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This coming Sunday, November 20, I’ll be talking about “Demonising the ‘Other’: Tackling the rise of racism and xenophobia” at a fascinating one-day festival, the Festival of Ideas for Change, organised by the Brockley Society and the St. John’s Society. The festival is taking place in the Mural Hall at Prendergast Hilly Fields College in Brockley, London SE4 (the address is Adelaide Avenue, SE4 1LE, but the Mural Hall is actually in the main building at the top of Hilly Fields). Entrance is free, but you do need to book here, via TicketSource.

I’m one of 17 speakers during the day, and we’ll each be speaking for ten minutes in four different sessions — ‘Participation and democracy’ at 10.30am, ‘A fairer world’ at 12 noon, ‘An inclusive society’ at 2pm (at which I’ll be speaking), and ‘Building a new economy’ at 3.30pm, and there will be questions and discussion after each session.

This is something of a first for me, and I’m looking forward to it. Regular readers will know, of course, that for over ten years I have focused most of my work on Guantánamo and related issues, although I have always made room for involvement in and commentary about other issues, particularly involving the takeover of politics by largely interchangeable parties devoted only to the enrichment of the rich, and to putting the greed of banks and corporations above the needs of the people. Over the last six years, a major focus of my non-Guantánamo work has related to the cynical age of austerity implemented since 2010 by the Tories, targeting the unemployed, the disabled and immigrants.

The speakers at the Festival of Ideas for Change in Brockley, London SE4 on Sunday November 20, 2016.When I was discussing my proposal for a talk with Anthony Russell and Clare Cowan of the Brockley Society, who had approached me as a potential speaker, I explained how I wanted to discuss the recent disturbing rise of racism and xenophobia in the UK, which, in large part, had led to the Leave campaign’s small but disturbing majority in the EU referendum in June, and which, alarmingly, has since led to our new Prime Minister, Theresa May, seeking to single-handedly force our departure from the EU, without consulting Parliament, as though the referendum had installed her as a tyrant.

I wanted to tie it into my work, in which, of course, I have been attempting, for over ten years, to humanise Muslim prisoners, held in a lawless manner at Guantánamo and in other US “war on terror” prisons that would be completely unacceptable if, for example, they were Christians or Jews, and I also wanted to mention how the rise in racism is a fundamental betrayal of the Christian values that are supposed to underpin the beliefs of so many British people.

I won’t indulge in further description of what I intend on talk about, except to mention that I will also be discussing the current refugee crisis, on a scale that is unprecedented in most of our lifetimes, and the inadequacy, to put it mildly, of our response, and I will also touch on the recent election of Donald Trump in the US, which is, of course, another worrying symptom of the shift to the far right in the countries of the west that is a cause for serious alarm.

Below is a list of all the sessions and speakers (or click on the image above, which will enlarge it), and if you’re in London on Sunday it would be great to see you at the festival, which promises to be very thought-provoking, and, I hope, will also contain inspiration for how decent people can get involved in actively resisting the fundamental challenges to civil society and the common good that are, with Brexit, Trump’s election, and the separatist cluelessness of Theresa May and her government, now at a very dangerous stage.

Session 1: ‘Participation and democracy’, 10.30am

Sean Coughlan, broadcaster: ‘The future of education’
Ivo Mosley, author: ‘A constitution for a genuine democracy’
Swetam Gungah, mathematical physicist: ‘Sensible about science’
Camilla Berens, South East London Community Energy: ‘Creating local energy’
Michael o’Keefe, Positive Money: ‘Debt-free money’

Session 2: ‘A fairer world’, 12 noon

Natasha Wort, Uniting for Peace: ‘How to save the world – A Buddhist’s guide’
Cassia Kobylinska, filmmaker, Goldsmiths College: ‘Film as social action’
Lui Smyth, anthropologist: ‘Unconditional basic income for all’

Lunch, 1pm

Session 3: ‘An inclusive society’, 2pm

Gabriel Gbadamosi, writer: ‘The creative community as a condition of multicultural society’
Andy Worthington, journalist and activist: ‘Demonising “the other”: Tackling the rise of racism and xenophobia’
Rosario Guimba-Stewart, Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network: ‘refugees and their challenges’
Jacqueline Walker, author: ‘From life to action’

Session 4: ‘Building a new economy’, 3.30pm

Bruce Mauleverer QC, the International Law Association: ‘International Law’, to be read on his behalf by Bob Barrett
Aeron Davis, Professor of Political Communication, Goldsmiths College: ‘What has the financial system ever done for us?’
Helen Mercer, lecturer in economics: ‘The Private Finance Initiative: how to end the rip-off’
Oliver Lewis, campaigner: ‘Bring back British Rail’
Anthony Russell, cultural historian: ‘An ethos for a social renaissance’

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album ‘Love and War’ and EP ‘Fighting Injustice’ are available here to download or on CD via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

7 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, promoting a one-day festival I’m speaking at in Brockley, where I live, in south east London, on Sunday. I’m discussing “Demonising ‘the Other’: Tackling the rise of racism and xenophobia” as part of a Festival of Ideas for Change, which features 17 interesting speakers addressing the many ways in which we rather urgently need profound social and economic change. This is something that has been made clear since the EU referendum in the UK in June and Donald Trump’s election in the US last week. It’s new territory for me as a speaker, but I’m looking forward to talking for ten minutes about advocating for the rights of demonised Muslims at Guantanamo, wondering where Christian tolerance has gone, and feeling profoundly ashamed of the increase in racism and xenophobia in the UK towards immigrants who are not the cause of our economic woes (hint: it’s the government, the banks and the corporations) and, across Europe, towards the refugees whose plight, to be blunt, is largely a result of our foreign policy and our economic policies.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Ruth Gilbert wrote:

    Had not heard about this event until you posted about it, Andy – checking it out now x

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Well, I’m glad I alerted you to it, Ruth. Some very interesting looking talks, and a very worthy idea. Hope you can make it.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    David Knopfler wrote:

    Hope it’s super successful

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, David! I’ll be interested to see if we can come up with any useful ways to take forward the struggle against the advancing forces of darkness.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    David Knopfler wrote:

    Andy I think we need a few Harry Potters for this chapter

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Ah yes, that was a bit J.K. Rowling, wasn’t it, David, or Tolkien, perhaps? Unfortunately, I think fantasy escapism is also part of the problem in general. When a sack of poison like Trump is on his way to the White House, and our own politics continue to be dominated by that lizard Farage’s opportunism and by Theresa May’s colossal uselessness, we really do need people to be awake and to focus on reality.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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