Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Man Opposes Government Action, Eats Lunch

The second largest protest ever to hit the streets of London took place last Saturday. Around half a million people opposed to the government's planned assault on benefits and public sector jobs made their feelings known. The Daily Fail of course has the behind-the-scenes scoop. Cos y'know the infront-of-the-scenes scoop - the half a million people against the cuts - wouldn't be interesting enough would it? So lets have ourselves a little line-by-line shall we...

Riots? What riots? I mean I know there was some spray painting but I'm not sure I'd call it a riot.

"To the descendant of a baronet, who grew up in a castle, the splendour of Fortnum & Mason must have seemed like a home from home."

No-one's home looks like Fortnum and Mason's. If it does, you've ordered too many jars of marinated olives.

"But unfortunately for Adam Ramsay, the police did not see it that way and arrested him for aggravated trespass and criminal damage."

Yes and a video on the Guardian website clearly shows that was a terrible miscarriage of justice. The sort of thing any self-respecting newspaper would cover.

"Yesterday, the young aristocrat was ruminating on his night in a police cell alongside other protesters who had stormed the luxury Piccadilly grocer."

Based on what I've seen he would have been ruminating on the unreasonable police behaviour.

"However, unlike most of his fellow activists campaigning against the cuts to public services, Ramsay, 25, hails from a remarkably privileged background."

Is this the Daily Mail asking me to hate the rich? I mean we can talk but I'm just checking this is your new editorial policy. You might want to mention it to Melanie Phillips and Dick Littlejohn.

"He comes from a long line of Ramsay baronets starting in 1666 and ending with the 12th baronet who died in 1986."

Confusingly if the 12th baronet died and there wasn't another one, that would seem to imply that line has run out of descendants. But does this affect his opinions about the government? If not it seems oddly irrelevant.

"The family seat is Bamff House – described by them as a ‘small castle’ – set in a stunning 1,300-acre estate in East Perthshire, Scotland."

So I've got a great game you can play with all your family. Imagine you're a penniless working class riot-loving protestor furious at the way the rich are ripping you off. Now, look at these two "castles" and decide which one you should trust the owner of:

Well castle (a) is owned by some member of Adam Ramsay's family, allegedly. And castle (b) is owned by Viscount Rothermere, chairman of the Daily Mail. Seriously the alleged Ramsay "castle" would make a really disappointing National Trust day out.

"The magnificent pile boasts more than 15 rooms and an ancient tower, with views stretching over hills, fields and woods that have been owned by the Ramsay family since 1232."

Yes, they're talking about castle (a), and yes they use exactly that same photo, and yes they haven't put any quote marks round the word "magnificent". And the extravagance of fifteen rooms rather depends how many people are there.

"Wild boars roam the estate and, in the pheasant season, the Ramsays offer guests the chance to go shooting."

They have guests? So some of the 15 rooms are rented out to guests? How do they find room for the stable-master and all the scullery maids?

"But despite their aristocratic lineage, they may have more reason than some to oppose government cuts – for they recently received a £40,000 gift from the taxpayer to fund a new boiler at the castle."

Meanwhile Viscount Rothermere despite living at the actual castle, is registered as non-domiciled in the UK for tax purposes. But lets hear more about an overpriced boiler shall we?

"Yesterday, Ramsay came under fire from other activists who mocked him over the grant, which was paid by an arm of the Scottish government."

I can find no evidence of this. Not a scratch. Most people were sending him messages of support and concern about his treatment by the police.

"He responded on social networking website Twitter, claiming the public money had been a ‘renewable energy grant for the farm’."

No he didn't - really I've been through every post he made on Twitter yesterday and he didn't say any such thing. He says the Daily Mail have been round his parent's house and openly admits he is a bit posh.

"Ramsay – whose family motto is ‘Ora et Labora’, which means ‘Pray and Work’ – also wrote a long internet post describing how he was arrested following the occupation of Fortnum & Mason."

Dang! My best latin translation was "ears and labia"... How does this affect my opinion of him? Does his coat of arms include an image of a guy with a megaphone shouting "David Cameron's a fucking idiot"? Perhaps one day it will...

"Ramsay spent the night in a cell at Ilford police station before being charged the next morning with aggravated trespass. He said the criminal damage allegation was dropped."

So he WAS charged but he only SAID the criminal damage allegation was dropped. Shame we can't ring the police station and check. But hey, we're not a national newspaper or anything.

"Since leaving Edinburgh University, he has worked for a student campaigning network called People & Planet, based in Oxford, as its activism, volunteering and events manager."

Is this a typo? Did you mean horsed about in a Barbour jacket taking pot shots at clay pigeons?

"Last night, several messages were posted under Ramsay’s blog by readers mocking his background."

Yes I think the Daily Mail should be reporting on comments made under a blog post. And if you can't find any, why not add some comments yourself?

"One of them pretended to be his mother, writing: ‘Adam darling, We’ve got no caviar left and the staff have taken the day orf... please be a dear and pick some beluga up when you and your Uni chums pop into Fortnums... Mwah, mwah, Mumsy.’"

Wow, thanks Daily Mail. Let me be the first to break the latest news: someone else has added "I’m not clever enough to discus politics here, so il just call you a moron and hope you suffer instead Moron!!!!!!!!!!!11111!!!!". Why has this not been reported by the BBC?!

"Ramsay was released on police bail and is due to face Westminster magistrates in May."

Yeah due to face magistrates charged with "aggravated trespass" for sitting on the floor of a public shop and not causing any damage. Perhaps they'll find him a cell next to Ronnie and Reggie? I suspect more than £40,000 of taxpayers money is now being wasted attempting to prosecute a man for singing in a tea shop.

"Responding to a request for comment, last night he sent the Mail a message saying: ‘I think people with all kinds of backgrounds are starting to see that these cuts threaten to undermine our economy and ruin people’s lives.’"

Exactly. And your response to that is? No, no, don't strain yourself. Just change the subject, no-one will notice!

"Meanwhile, it emerged last night that the founder of UK Uncut – the protest group that arranged the invasion of Fortnum & Mason – makes taxpayer-funded films for the BBC."

Yes everyone who works for the BBC is taxpayer-funded. I did a BBC Radio Five Live interview this evening about whether men should pay for dinner on a first date. This was taxpayer-funded. Since your chairman doesn't pay any tax, I, who do pay tax, will be the authority on how to spend it, thanks.

"Thom Costello, a 22-year-old Oxford graduate, works as an assistant producer for CTVC, a television production company that has worked for the BBC’s One Show and Newsnight."

So he works FOR a company that has worked FOR the BBC. Are you trying to smear his character cos you're really not doing all that well here? You should probably go on about the other guy and the fancy Bed and Breakfast his parents run. Knock yourselves out - see if you can interview a labrador.

"Yesterday Mr Costello said: ‘I was not involved in organising the occupation of Fortnum & Mason’s and I was neither inside nor outside Fortnum & Mason on Saturday."

On other pages: Geri Haliwell also not at protest! This is looking like a quiet news day.

"‘In fact, I was in a pub having a drink with a friend whilst the sit-in at the shop took place.’"

Man not at protest, it's a great story, lets run with it, look for an interview... Hang on, stop press, stop press, I think we've got one...

"His father Martin, 53, who runs a theatre in Catford, South London, said: ‘He would not organise anything like that."

Breaking news: man's father corroborates "not at protest" story.

"‘To say he is the mastermind is inaccurate. It’s ridiculous.’"

Is there any chance we can ask Martin to take a few minutes a week off from running his Catford theatre and get him to edit the Daily Mail, cos I think he'd have had the sense to scratch this one before it got this out of hand...?

Because the whole piece is just stupid. If the rich cannot speak up for the poor, the able-bodied for the disabled, if white people in power cannot speak up for black people denied it, men speak up for women's rights or straight people speak up for marginalised gay communities, then where the hell are we? The people who will be worst affected by the cuts Cameron and Osborne are planning were not in Fortnum and Masons on Saturday, and not on the streets protesting, they were stuck working overtime in dead end jobs, trapped in their homes by disability, financial deprivation and responsibility for the care of those the Big Society has long since left behind. We need every body we can get behind this movement, latin family motto or not.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Dream On

Dear Jamie Oliver,

So while attempting to have a night off tonight I decided to watch your "Dream School" show. I thought the idea of using big names to try to inspire and educate kids who had been failed by the education system was interesting. I liked the notion of finding out how much difference a good school and great teachers could make.

However one thing on tonights show made me really angry. One of the students, a young mum, arrived at school with her child - the kid had chicken pox and so couldn't attend a normal daycare centre. The student was sent home and left the program in floods of tears saying that having a child had ruined all her chances in life.

Can't we even DREAM of a future where a really good school would be able to help a woman in that situation? Is a school hardship fund to cover emergency childcare something we can't even DREAM of? Or what about the possibility of one of the teachers (perhaps someone who has had chickenpox as a child so isn't at risk) going round to visit her later and providing one-to-one catch-up.

To be quite frank - call me - I will gladly do either or both of those tasks. And yes I've had chickenpox!

Add to that that earlier in the same show when other students were bullying her over her status as a young mum the response was to encourage her to toughen up rather than to educate the other pupils to think more carefully about what they were saying. Frankly I can't help thinking your school needs a really good sex education teacher - not of the Anne Widdicombe "it's immoral!!" school of education but, frankly, again, me.

If we as a nation are to accept the message you claim to spread about improving our society and giving our young people the opportunities they deserve we have to include young parents in that. Not least because they are the ones raising the next generation of young people.

And what message are you sending to the wider world if your response to the issues of time management which affect parents is to chuck them out immediately without even sitting down to try and figure out a way of working around the problem? It is deeply irresponsible.

But my guess is it's just inconvenient for you to change your filming schedule or give up a little bit of your free time to actually help someone else. Once the cameras are off the enthusiasm for helping others is off too.

Well some of us don't take that attitude. As I've said above I'd be happy to help. And I mean that whether the cameras are on or off. Seriously contact me, your school could use a head of feminism I expect.

Yours Kate

Monday, March 21, 2011

Comedy Fundraiser for Platform 51

Hi all

So tickets are now on sale for my latest comedy fundraiser. We're doing a night for Platform 51 (which is what used to be YWCA but has changed it's name cos it's not a religious organisation anymore, but runs drop-in centres for women across the country), I've been doing some work with them lately and can't enthuse hard enough about what they're doing. Working with single mums, women with drug problems and training women and giving them practical help to get back into the workplace, you can see it all on their website.

AND you can support this work while having a great time. We've got Isy Suttie (who plays Dobbie in Peep Show) coming down plus Liz Carr from BBC Ouch and Abnormally Funny People, and Tiff Stevenson who's been in everything from Balls of Steel to Footballers Wives. Plus a little bit of comedy theatre from Kiki Kendrick and, well, me of course!

It's happening on Weds 30th Mar and lots more info and tickets are available on the Soho Comedy Club website here. (footnotes: venue is over-18s, and in theory not really accessible but Liz Carr is going to get her wheelchair up the stairs to perform so if we can do something to help your accessibility needs - we will).

Hope to see you there! Please book quickly I think it'll sell out.

xx Kate

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Women and the Internet

In 1970 Germaine Greer wrote "Women have very little idea of how much men hate them". Well on behalf of women everywhere I'd like to say a big thank you to the internet for making it abundantly clear.

A couple of days ago the popular and deeply talented comedienne Shappi Khorsandi tweeted "I never understand why people get so cross if they don't like a comedian. I never lose sleep over bands I'm not in to.". It doesn't take much research to figure out she's referring to the reaction she gets on the internet. And I should know because my work gets exactly the same reaction. Flicking through our videos on YouTube, or those of any female act, there are stacks of nasty comments and repeated evidence of comments which have been removed. I know at least once a week I take such remarks down from the videos I have posted myself, footage others have taken of me I just have to leave. Some are just straight attacks on our work, some criticise our appearance and some attack all women in comedy.

In some ways it makes no sense that people who purport to hate my work have taken the time to watch so much of it. If I see internet videos that aren't to my liking, I don't even finish watching them, I look up something else. And even the notion of making negative comments about comedy is odd. Clearly comedy is subjective, what makes you laugh varies from person to person. Because something doesn't make me laugh doesn't mean it's "not funny", it means it's not the sort of comedy I want to watch. So I don't.

But of course what's going on is not odd at all - it's just the joy of internet anonymity letting these men express the hatred Greer knew all about 40 years ago. Why should Shappi's, or my appearance even be relevant? Only if you think that as women it is somehow our job to be sexually attractive to all men at all times. Plus the comments so often come down to an issue of overt misogyny. "Women aren't funny", which makes as much sense as "men can't sing" or "gay people make bad dentists".

And I would add - before anyone suggests that it's just a random internet abuse issue - that my husband (a less experienced comic than me) gets no abuse whatsoever. He has never had a nasty comment added to a video or online review of him.

Most of these sites are moderated in some way but no-one seems to take down overtly misogynist remarks. And they appear on the same review sites that promoters check before deciding who to book for their shows. And below the video links I want to send out as showreels to people looking for acts. I'd like to imagine good promoters can see past this sort of thing but at a subconscious level all that negativity has to seep in.

And much as I'd like to claim it doesn't - it affects me too. It erodes my confidence. And it eats up my time dealing with it, deleting comments and getting myself back into a frame of mind where I can work.

Of course all those negative effects work the other way too, so if you've got a few minutes to yourself here's an idea for a random act of feminism - look up half a dozen female acts on YouTube or Chortle and say something nice! You might even enjoy the videos...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

You Have Been Reading...

...The seventh most important feminist blog in the UK. Apparently. No-one tell Cath Elliot I'm two whole places ahead of her, I'm sure that's a typo!