Tag Archives: Poetry

98. Seven Years is Enough! The Free Vanunu Benefit at the Hackney Empire, 1993

This week, archives telling the story of a benefit concert supporting the nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu.

Fax of sample poster for the Free Vanunu benefit Hackney Empire 3 October 1993 (archive reference Cwl VAN 4/1)

Fax of sample poster for the Free Vanunu benefit Hackney Empire 3 October 1993 (archive reference Cwl VAN 4/1)

The concert, on 3 October 1993 at the Hackney Empire, was billed as “an evening of readings, music and comedy”.  It was organised by the British Campaign to Free Vanunu.  Mordechai Vanunu had been abducted in 1986 by Israeli government agents after speaking to the Sunday Times about Israel’s nuclear weapons programme and had later been sentenced to 18 years imprisonment for treason and espionage.   The British Campaign was founded by his brother Meir with a small group of activists soon after, establishing the Mordechai Vanunu Trust in 1991.

With limited resources, the group sought to raise awareness of Vanunu’s plight and of nuclear issues in the Middle East via lobbying, picketing and vigils, using political and media networks.  The Campaign understood the power of the news media and tried to find stunts and angles which would ensure press coverage, such as  mock kidnappings and “cage-ins”.

Advertisement for the Free Vanunu benefit Hackney Empire 3 October 1993 (archive reference Cwl VAN 4/1).

Advertisement for the Free Vanunu benefit Hackney Empire 3 October 1993 (archive reference Cwl VAN 4/1).

The benefit was timed to coincide with and highlight the eighth anniversary of Vanunu’s solitary confinement in Ashkelon Prison. It was a new venture for the Campaign, which hoped to gain publicity and new supporters as a result.   The concert was publicised around London with “1000 bold and imaginative posters”.   We have not found a colour version of these posters in the archive, but here’s one from 1996 in a similar graphic style.

From the programme for Free Vanunu benefit Camden Centre 28 September 1996 (archive reference Cwl VAN 4/1).

From the programme for Free Vanunu benefit Camden Centre 28 September 1996 (archive reference Cwl VAN 4/1).

Tickets for the 1993 event cost £8 and £12 with 100 specials at £30, which offered the chance to meet the artists at a buffet afterwards.

The evening was compered by the comedian Arthur Smith.  Susannah York read a poem by Vanunu reflecting on the experiences of a whistleblower, “I am your spy”.  Harold Pinter spoke Vanunu’s words in a specially-commissioned dramatic reconstruction written by Michael Rosen, also featuring Julie Christie, Roger Lloyd Pack, and Jenny Stoller, and accompanied by Rivka Gottlieb on the harp.

Postcard featuring image of Vanunu in green under his poem I am your spy.  (Archive reference: Cwl VAN 5/11).

Postcard featuring image of Vanunu in green under his poem I am your spy. (Archive reference: Cwl VAN 5/11).

The evening also featured comedians Mark Steel and Arthur Brown, readings by Sarah Dunant, Paul Eddington and Patricia Scott, poets Christopher Logue and Benjamin Zephaniah, and journalist Paul Foot, music from Dave Gilmour, and many more.

Hilary Westlake, the director, reflected on the programme in a fax she sent to the Campaign afterwards.  Generally she felt it had gone well and ran smoothly, though it was too long, over three hours, and most acts could have been a song or poem shorter.  She singled out Susannah York, Benjamin Zephaniah and Paul Foot in particular as “excellent”.

"Successful benefit at the Hackney Empire".  Report in Campaign Bulletin Spring 1994 page 8 featuring image of Benjamin Zephaniah, Arthur Smith and Arnold Brown.  (Archive reference: Cwl VAN 5/1).

“Successful benefit at the Hackney Empire”. Report in Campaign Bulletin Spring 1994 page 8 featuring image of Benjamin Zephaniah, Arthur Smith and Arnold Brown. (Archive reference: Cwl VAN 5/1).

The event seems to have been seen as a success.  A piece in the Campaign’s bulletin the following spring pointed to considerable press coverage, the impact of the posters, and the way that the event had “brought home the passionate support for Mordechai. It was a great show of strength and a morale-booster for all his supporters”.  The Campaign would go on to held a similar event every year until they wound down their activities following Vanunu’s release from prison on 21 April 2004.

Sources and credits: all images and quotations from the Archive of the Campaign to Free Vanunu and for a Nuclear-free Middle East.  This archive, which we have only recently received and not yet fully catalogued, spans the 90s and 00s, from campaigning via print media and fax into the age of the internet.

 

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16. The Skull and the Moonlight: Jacquetta Hawkes and the Dig at Mount Carmel

“When I was a girl, I took part in the excavation of a cave dwelling on the lowest slopes of Mount Carmel in Palestine”, so Jacquetta Hawkes began her book Man on Earth (1954).

Jacquetta (centre) and Dorothy Garrod (we think) on donkeys, from Jacquetta's photograph album of her Palestine experiences

Jacquetta (centre) and Dorothy Garrod (we think) on donkeys, from Jacquetta’s photograph album of her Palestine experiences

She was referring to excavations directed by Dorothy Garrod at a group of caves at Wadi el-Mughara.  Over seven seasons from 1929 to 1934 these sites yielded human remains and other evidence of 600,000 years of unbroken occupation.  Jacquetta (then Hopkins) assisted on the dig during the 1932 season; she had been awarded a travelling scholarship to work on this site following her achievement of first-class honours in the Tripos at Cambridge (Garrod was then a research fellow at Newnham, Jacquetta’s college; she was later to become the first female professor at Cambridge).

The Mount Carmel excavations had a lasting effect on Jacquetta.  In all her writing about this key part of her life, there is a sense of heightened emotion, an intensity.  This comes partly comes from the novelty of her first major dig, in a part of the world new to her,  and partly because she was in love with and deciding whether to marry fellow archaeologist Christopher Hawkes.  Two particular incidents stand out.

A skeleton, from Jacquetta's photograph album.

A skeleton, from Jacquetta’s photograph album. Not labelled, so we are not sure whether this is Tabun 1 or not. Archaeologists please comment!

A skeleton of a Neanderthal woman was found*, named Tabun 1 from the cave in which she was discovered.  Jacquetta felt a strange kinship with this ancestral figure whose fragile skull she held.  Despite their very different minds and experiences, both were part of the same stream of consciousness, “two atoms” in the millennial growth of the human brain.

Later, walking in the moonlight, Jacquetta found “an intense exaltation took possession of me.  It was as though the white goddess of the moon had thrown some bewitching power with her rays … the whole night was dancing … it seemed that my thoughts and feelings had been given a quite extraordinary clarity and truth”.  She climbed up a rock, looked across to the Mediterranean, and saw a procession of camels, feeling a unity with everything, past and present.

Detail from typescript of Man in Time

Ten years later, amidst the upheaval of the Second World War, Jacquetta drew on these experiences to create poems.  In To a Primitive Skeleton uncovered on Mount Carmel, she wrote of the kinship she felt with the dead “Woman, whose ancient cloak of flesh I wear”.  A longer poem, Man in Time, is often considered to be her finest.  It tells the  story of the dig and of the mystic experience that moonlit night.  Man in Time appeared in Jacquetta’s only published book of poems: Symbols and Speculations (1949).

Dustjacket of Man on EarthBut Jacquetta had not finished reflecting on Carmel.  As we have seen, she wrote about the experience again, this time in prose, in the introduction to Man on Earth, a kind of sequel to her masterpiece A Land (Object 5).  The work built on the ideas  she formed at Carmel.  As the blurb of the book said,  she “challenges the orthodox theory of evolution with her view of the whole of human history as a development of consciousness”, moving through the development of the Backbone, Blood, Culture, Brain, Civilisation, and Intellect.

One of the most exciting aspects of working with literary archives is seeing writers’ ideas develop, how they return again and again to themes that haunt or inspire them.  The Mount Carmel dig runs through Jacquetta Hawkes’s Archive: her photograph album, the drafts of poems, the published poems, and the later prose.

*by Yusra, whose story is told on the Trowelblazers site (postscript 10 June 2013).

5. Poems in Stone: A Land, by Jacquetta Hawkes

Front of A Land dustjacketA Land, published in 1951, was the masterpiece of an extraordinary writer and archaeologist.  Drawn to the deep past and the study of nature since childhood, Jacquetta Hawkes (1910-1996) combined a poetic imagination with scientific understanding.  A Land united these to create a unique work that tells Britain’s million-year story in a compelling new way.

Jacquetta Hawkes by a waterfall ca. 1951

Jacquetta Hawkes by a waterfall ca. 1951

As Jacquetta said in her preface to the book, “The image I have sought to evoke is of an entity, the land of Britain, in which past and present, nature, man and art appear all in one piece … I see a land as much affected by the creations of its poets and painters as by changes of climate and vegetation”.  Typically, Jacquetta began the book with her own experience, lying on the ground of her back garden in London, which made her think about the geology below.

A Land tapped in to a contemporary revival of interest in Britain, its history, its distinctive past, its visual heritage, and was itself an appealing artefact.  It featured colour drawings by sculptor Henry Moore; Jacquetta had discussed his creative use of the qualities of stones in the book. The book made a great impression at the time, and was awarded the Kemsley Special Award.  It continues to inspire.  Jacquetta’s view that humans could not be separate from nature is more resonant now than ever.

The Jacquetta Hawkes Archive at the University of Bradford covers the development of the book: manuscript, typescript, different editions, illustrations.

A Land display from Hawkes Archive, Ilkley 2010

Some of our archives documenting A Land, on show Ilkley 2010

To find out more about Jacquetta:

A life online: Jacquetta Hawkes archaeo-poet, by Christine Finn Biography of Jacquetta by a fellow archaeologist and writer.

Past, Present, Man, Nature: online exhibition by Alison Cullingford (who also curates 100 Objects) telling Jacquetta’s story through objects in the Archive.

Our Jacquetta Hawkes blog.  News from Christine Finn and Special Collections, and reflection on Jacquetta’s work and ideas.