Dear Daily Mail
Posted Feb 26, 2014
Over the last few days the always charming Daily Mail have made something of an issue of labour shadow cabinet minister Harriet Harmann having once belonged to a freedom of speech group which granted affiliate status to an organisation supporting paedophiles. They have also accused her of trying to water down child pornography laws when she was in government. Shame they didn’t make a big fuss of it at time, really. Anyway, the thing is that I see that they’re vaguely trying to associate her with child abusers but I can’t see what, specifically, she is supposed to have done that is either criminal or generally wrong. The whole thing screams political agenda (labour are not the Mail’s party of choice) which is a shame, because child abuse should never be political. But the thing is, on the subject of what the Mail think and what Harriet may have failed to object to: I don’t care.
Let me be quite clear. I read about this story online last night, while sitting next to my wife, who finds falling asleep scary because that’s when her memories start to flood back. I’m not making an emotional trump card out of this fact, I’m just pointing out that I do know very well what the affects of abuse are on sufferers. I am not dismissing or diminishing the importance of this issue. Quite the reverse.
In the debate on child abuse there are two really key groups of people: victims and perpetrators. Plenty of other people exist in the vast grey area of ‘people who allowed it to happen’ but trying to pin all of them down would be like putting everyone who ever looked the other way while their neighbours were being illegally detained in front of a war crimes tribunal. It’s not going to happen, and it’s not going to help.
In terms of dealing with the past we have two jobs, then. Firstly, we find give victims the space to come forward, tell their stories and be heard and believed. Then we try everything we can to make them better, and support them throughout the healing process. This, sadly, is the easy bit.
The hard bit is trying to prosecute the perpetrators and punish them appropriately for their crimes. This needs doing firstly so that the public can get a full and proper understanding of what the victims have suffered, secondly so that the victims can have the opportunity for some sort of justice, and thirdly so that we can show these people that they will be exposed and they will be punished. There is no rug, and nothing will be swept under it. This is the hard bit. I mean, the easy bit is very hard, but the hard bit is hard because such prosecutions are damn near impossible to prove. I think it’s fairly well known that proving a rape is pretty tough, since it’s often one person’s word against another. With abuse cases the events often took place years, or decades, ago, and the victim was a child at the time and is quite likely to have mental health problems as an adult. These are not factors mitigating against the legitimacy of their claims, you understand, but factors that a clever barrister can use to suggest that they are confused or deluded or both. There have been a few big cases recently, but not that many actual convictions. There are thousands of victims though, many thousands, most of whom are not getting these trials and probably never will. So, Daily Mail, instead of shrieking about vile paedos (we all know they’re not nice, thanks) and using it to posture over people you don’t agree with, try to do these three things:
1) Remind people that victims who can’t prove their assault may still be victims ‘not guilty’ is not the same as ‘it never happened’
2) Abuse occurs very largely in domestic situations. We have had scandals in the church, in care and in the world of celebrity, but the public needs to understand that most abuse takes place with the context of a trusted friend or family member. This is very hard to hear, but sadly true
3) Help people to understand the impact of this abuse on the survivors. It is very complicated and confusing but the more people there are who understand what survivors are going through, the easier it will be for them to survive.
I know these tasks are very hard, but you are the biggest selling national newspaper in the country. You can afford top journalists who can tread through the legal minefield and make these complex points clear to your vast readership. And you do want to help, don’t you?
Posted Jan 10, 2014
I think I owe you all an apology. On the 30th of November I was at the British Comedy Guide conference in Clerkenwell and I promised a journal on it which I have singularly failed to deliver. Sorry. Well it's all a bit late now, perhaps, but here it is for anyone who is still interested:
The train journey was simple enough, and too dull to relate anything about except that I was interrupted by a necessary stop at East Croydon. This put me mildly but not damaging behind schedule. Following the commendably thorough directions I had been given I found my way straight to the venue without any of the getting lost mallarky that I usually favour on such occasions. So in I walked, and then it all started.
Well I'm trying to decide what to put in and what to leave out. I don't want to dredge you through a dissection of the entire day. I saw 4 different panel as well as a couple of interviews, had a 1-1 assessment of a script I had written and then had the chance (quite independently) to pitch to a panel of industry types. I heard lots of good and insightful advice from lots of people I was excited to hear from. The people you are most likely to have heard of were Jo Brand and Al Murray, but was very excited to hear from John Finnemore, Andrew Ellard, David Tyler and Bill Dare among others. Even the people who I hadn't especially wanted to hear from had lots of good stuff to say. I came away with loads of ideas, and complete rehash of my script (I wrote on the train on the way home. Yeah) and half a notebook full of scribble advice and recollections.
I also met people. I didn't approach anyone, I'm far too much of a coward for that sort of thing. But I did talk to people more forthcoming than myself, writers, comics, one lady from Aberdeen who just loved comedy and had come all the way down for the day just to help out. I have a couple of e--mail addresses and a new twitter contact and completely failed to meet any of the people I already 'knew' via twitter. Oh well.
There was also an excellent lunch. And orange juice in little bottles. And I got a sticker with my name on it.
Here is a small video of the day. You can see me walking off sheepishly at the end: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfXUTcDj2D0&feature=share&list=UUf7J0vxbg6SsIjY9587PEiQ
NaJoPoMo: 30th November 2013
Posted Nov 30, 2013
I got on a train at 7.31 this morning. I got into Eastbourne 21:48. Admittedly I've spent about 3.5 hours on trains and most of the intervening time sitting in rooms listening to people and taking copious (ish) notes, but I'm pretty damn tired at the end of a long day.
I'm not going to write a long account of it because it's quite late and I think I'll do what I've never done before on the 1st of December which is write a journal, I'm going to have to tell you all about it tomorrow. But right now I simply haven't got any time, energy or concentration left. I think that's the main thing in the end. I was sitting, yes, but I was listening hard, taking in everything and writing down everything I thought was relevant and understood. At one point I even managed to ask a question and had to listen to and remember all four panelists' answers as well as taking notes from the answer to the previous question.
Class of , Match of the Day.
NaJoPoMo: 29th November 2013
Posted Nov 29, 2013
Ah, the mutual excitement and franticness of preparing for one of my very rare trips out of Eastbourne. This requires the hasty last minute script rewrites which took it four pages over budget, so I then had to cut out five pages of dialogue. Fortunately, I found it fairly easy to identify the requisite amount of information that could be cut out and dialogue that I could happily cut out and bung in spare files for use, if necessary, another time.
In the mean time I had discovered that my phone wasn't working, owing to the fact that I dropped it in a cut of tea. So I had to get this replaced by the end of today because, well, I'll be in London tomorrow and Raven will want to know where I am and what's going on. Fortunately I am due an upgrade, so with my wife looking over my shoulder to be sure that I got hold of one that would sustain relatively little damage if (when) I dropped it again.
All that done, then it was a quick shopping trip to pick up provisions for my journey tomorrow (I mean I'm not buying stuff in London am I?) then into the library to print out the hastily amended script and some details of the event, and then home to reload my train times because they were on the other damn phone, and then home for tea, a shower and then....
I'm off to bed.
NaJoPoMo: 28h November 2013
Posted Nov 28, 2013
When I wrote yesterday I was going to tell you today about the job interview I had but the sort of screwed that up for me today by sending me an e-mail telling me that I didn't get the job.
There wasn't much to tell anyway, to be honest. It was sold to me as a 'recruitment event' but it wasn't really beyond the scope of a normal interview. I was met in the foyer by a girl called Grace. She was very pretty, that was a bit distracting. Not hugely, but just enough that all the time she was reading the quite boring explanation of the test to me -you know the sort of stuff you scroll through and just click 'I have read and understood the terms and conditions'- I was suppressing a slight urge to ask her if she had a boyfriend.I know that's a bit wrong, I am happily married and have been for ten years, but I'm only human.
Anyway, I didn't get that job so screw them (especially Grace) instead I will tell you about what I will be feverishly completing tomorrow.
As I mentioned, on Saturday I am at a comedy conference organised by the British Comedy guide which basically amounts to a series of lectures, talks and presentations by some top writers, producers and performers to help the aspirants such as myself learn how it's. The line up is really exciting and I was already really looking forward to it when I got an e-mail telling me that the schedule included a limited number of places for 1-1 sitcom tuition sessions. I applied. I got a session. Awesome! Except that all those ideas I've had on the back burner for rewriting and polishing my draft sitcom now have to be written by tomorrow. And printed. I am also still trying to sort out my mother's 60th birthday present.