communicable ideas


If you’re immune to creativity, you may not find much to interest you here…

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People’s Posters

March 30, 2010

Here’s my entry to the Labour Party’s new crowdsourcing-produced poster campaign.

Douglas Alexander and his team are concentrating on two themes for the campaign, the first being Labour’s pledge to protect frontline investment in key services, and the second highlights David Cameron’s lack of substance. I’ve chosen to emphasise how Labour will protect frontline investment in policing, schools, childcare and the NHS, but especially the new guarantee of cancer test results within a week.


The crying game

February 13, 2010

Gordon Brown doesn’t have an easy time from the British press. Last November The Sun newspaper led a campaign against him because he’d made some spelling errors in a personally handwritten letter of condolence to a mother whose son had been killed in Afghanistan. The fact that our prime Minister is partially-sighted didn’t figure in The Sun’s decision to attack him like this. Mr Brown seemed genuinely upset by this assault, and it seemed that many commentators felt it was unfair. Then, at the other end of the personal attack spectrum, GQ magazine voted him Worst Dressed Man of the Year. Now I’m sure Mr Brown was not particularly bothered by this accolade. But again, I felt it was unfair. I wouldn’t say he dresses well, but he doesn’t dress badly.

Piers Morgan interviewed Mr Brown for GQ magazine at the end of 2009. Brown told Morgan back then “I could present our message a lot better, I’m actually shy by nature rather than extrovert, someone who feels that your actions should speak for themselves, but that’s not the way politics works these days.” And when Morgan asked “how are you going to make yourself sexy?”, Brown replied: “We’ve got to be exciting, definitely. But I can’t change in the way you’re asking me to.”

So I was surprised to I hear this week that Mr Brown is to appear on TV, to be interviewed again by Piers Morgan. My initial thoughts? Oh no Gordon! What are you doing? You’re playing straight into their hands! They’ll accuse you of electioneering, blah, blah, blah…

One of Brown’s “mistakes” has been to assume that he would be judged by his actions. Our country’s obsession with celebrity proves that we have this need to know all the details of the lives of the rich and famous. And Gordon has to play that game too. He will have his detractors, the best ones I’ve heard so far are that this interview is a spoiler to Andrew Rawnsley’s new book, which apparently doesn’t put him in a good light. Read the Daily Mail’s version of the truth. But the very best one? This comes from Will Heaven at the Telegraph. In his piece he claims the show is aired on February 14 because “floating female voters (most of them surely single) will be feeling especially vulnerable”. Really, Will?!

I’m sure Mr Brown had to be persuaded to do this interview and I’m glad he did. This man has endured more personal tragedy than many, but has also achieved so much with his life. I’m proud to be able to say Gordon Brown is my Prime Minister, and that he is a true statesman. I will be glued to the box on Sunday night and I’m looking forward to hearing about the man, in his own words, and tears.

Poster Boy

January 14, 2010

Today Brand Republic reported that the Labour Party has officially joined in the fun and adopted the spoofing and so I thought I’d have a go. I’m sure you’ll be surprised to read that I rejected a few ideas before hitting on this one! And my apologies to Matt Lucas.

Look into my eyes

Rights, & doing the right thing

October 19, 2009

Ten years ago, driving back from a marvellous weekend at the Edinburgh Festival with my dearest, “tell it like it is” friend I had a horrible realisation. Something so gut-wrenchingly scary that I couldn’t contemplate it. It was something I had feared for almost all my life.

I was gay.

I was 34 and only just finding this out now! I had two children, a recently ex-wife, various ex-girlfriends from before the marriage and, what I now would call an ex-boyfriend. He was a fling from 1984. Very much a sex, sex, sex crime.

All the signs were there. The bullies at school recognised my gay-ness. I was into fashion, music and interior design. I even have what some might describe a dominant mother. My dad used to call me “Kitty-Fan” when I behaved in a way that didn’t fit his idea of a way a man should behave. I behaved like I didn’t care. But as many teenagers do, I used to lie awake wrestling with why I fancied Gary Numan, John Taylor from Duran Duran, or my male Latin teacher. I convinced myself it was just a phase.

So I buried my feelings. Worked hard on not being fey. Worked hard on hanging out with the lads. I didn’t know who the hell I was. I wasn’t gay though. I was constantly acting to suit whomever I was with. I could beat Madonna at reinvention; I was doing it every day with every person I met.

Moving to London would allow ME to be ME, I thought. But by that point, I didn’t know who this ME was. There was no ME. So it carried on. I started at Art School and I was thrown together with others from around the country. And then I had to contend with being bloody Welsh, and being bloody short. It was a fire sale – everything must go. The accent became more London. There wasn’t much I could do about the height. I toyed with an idea I got from Ruth (played by Julie T Wallace) in BBC’s adaptation of Fay Weldon’s Life and Loves of a She-Devil when she had her legs surgically extended, I didn’t ponder too long on that idea. Like Ruth, all my efforts went into being something I wasn’t. And I was exhausted.

I got my degree, and the following ten years I went to work, got married, had two kids, divorced, and admitted to myself, and (eventually) the rest of the world that I was gay. In all that time, the best I could do was keep it together. Some people might say I did OK. I say, meh.

All my life I’ve been trying to do the right thing. I was trying to do right by my parents without really thinking I had a right to anything. There was a strong feeling of duty to my parents, but I never thought I had a right to be who I wanted to be.

When I read Jan Moir’s article last Friday on Stephen Gately’s death, I was appalled. But after I got over the initial outrage, I began to think perhaps Jan Moir was maybe trying to do the right thing. I also think Geert Wilders might be trying to do the right thing. Nick Griffin, ditto.

We all want to assert our rights. Gay rights, female rights, a right to bear arms, a right to work, and a right to die. But with those rights come duties. When Jan Moir wrote that article, I wonder if she gave a second thought to her duties. She had a duty to the Daily Mail readership, she had a duty to gay people, but most importantly she had a duty to Gately’s family.

She has the right to free speech and a right to air her opinions, but she also has a duty to explain how she arrives at them. She has a duty to consider the consequences of her writing.

Duty, by itself is commendable; we all might recognise a Susan Boyle type. Boyle, who still lives in the family home, cared for her mother until she died in 2007. But, who knows what she might have achieved earlier in her life if she had not felt the need to stay at home to look after her parents?

So there appears to be a sliding scale, with Duty at one end and Rights at the other. Put more emphasis on Duty and the individual is denied aspiration; put too much value in asserting Rights and you risk offending people’s feelings and beliefs. To achieve social equity, we need to find a degree of balance somewhere between those Rights we defend, and those Duties we seem to shy away from.