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David Porter » Entries tagged with "history"

No Apology for Putting History at the Top of Today’s Agenda for Young People

This article was first published on Suite 101, November 2012. It is republished now as it is still timely. Although computers never forget, the digital age creates a kind of permanent present. Society neglects its past roots at its peril. This is a hot Westminster topic.   Discussion about history suggests clever quotations. We learn from history that we don’t learn from history (attributed to Oscar Wilde) and those who don’t learn from history are condemned to learn it over and over again (attributed to Mao Tse Tung), spring to mind. George Orwell’s novel Nineteen-Eighty Four (1948) created Big Brother with the chilling slogan: He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future. Today, in a watched society, its both true and relevant. English writer LP Hartley (1895-1972) … Read entire article »

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Happy New Year For Brand ‘United Kingdom’?

As the nation still basks in the feel-good big events from 2012 (mainly the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and the Olympic/Paralympic Games), and with the fireworks heralding 2013 still a vivid memory, it’s interesting to look back at thoughts I published on Suite 101 on 1st January as 2012 began. It’s no mystical prediction that after an economically trying 2011, Britons look to 2012 for relief and solutions. But will positives or doomsters be right? The end of 2011 media round-ups and new year messages from politicians, businesses, religious and community leaders serve to remind people that somehow by the simple process of moving from one day to the next, one year to the following, all will be well. Samoa, the tiny South Pacific nation jumped across the International Time Line a day by … Read entire article »

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Is the Clock Ticking for Greenwich Mean Time?

 Should time be called on British ownership of time, along with other old British measurements? Most Brits say ‘hands off our clocks!’ Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), also known as Greenwich Meridian Time, is symbolically marked by a line by the old Royal Observatory, Greenwich, London. Visitors walk along and around it, straddling it for fun. But it’s a serious, acknowledged base for measurement. When clocks change in spring and autumn, GMT remains constant, so time is either + or – GMT. It’s Longitude Zero degrees, and is deemed the mean (average) time the earth takes to revolve from noon to noon. It sets official time, and although there’s now atomic time (UTC), it‘s understood as a global reference point. It is used on the International Space Station, but there are 25 integer World … Read entire article »

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First Official Irish Spontaneous Human Combustion Case

A Galway coroner has ruled that a man died from no adequate explanation, except that he just caught fire and burned to death. 76 year old Michael Flaherty from Ballybane, Galway was found dead in December 2010, his body burned, but nothing around him damaged. Neither police nor fire officers found obvious cause of ignition. The West Galway coroner, Dr Kieran McLoughlin, said he was left with no option but to declare it (September 2011) the first case of spontaneous human combustion (SHC) in Irish history. Explanations? Fortean Times, magazine of paranormal occurrences, thought it the first time a coroner anywhere had officially declared a SHC event, as they usually liked to call it something else to avoid conceding that the phenomena exists. BBC News explained that such deaths occur when a living human … Read entire article »

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English Historic, Cultural and Heritage Environment

England’s history, heritage, culture and natural environment contribute to the economy and national pride, but would an English assembly make more of it? English people often talk about England and the United Kingdom as if they are the same entity. Of course, they’re not, as most people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would affirm. England’s historic past is not only another country, but also a rich and unique vein of wealth to explore and exploit. Shakespeare had it in the ‘once more unto the breach, dear friends’ speech in Henry V: ‘Cry, God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’ Linked closely, are England’s natural landscape and cultural heritage. All together they contribute to the tourist industry (and transport, hospitality, food/drink industries). While Wales and Northern Ireland have Assemblies and Scotland has … Read entire article »

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Northern Ireland’s Historic, Cultural and Heritage Environment

Ulster’s history, heritage, culture, natural environment contribute to its economy and national pride as part of both the UK and the island of Ireland. While sharing the same geographical island, Ulster’s and Eire’s history, culture and heritage have developed individual and separate yet frequently connected environments and characteristics. In the past, the island has shared common heritage in every way. The exploitation/development versus the preservation/access debate is as vital and urgent here as elsewhere. If the management balance is right, precious assets earn much needed revenue. If it’s not, assets are wasted if not damaged. The Landscape The University of Ulster maintains a website devoted to cultural heritage and museum sites. These include under ‘Cultural Heritage’: Archives of Heritage (forum for academic and industry researchers); Association for Heritage Interpretation (heritage interpretation of sites and … Read entire article »

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Irish Historic, Cultural and Heritage Environment

Balancing history, heritage, culture, natural environment contributes to the Irish economy and national pride, but also informs today’s economic policies. In September 2011, The School of Histories and Humanities at Trinity College Dublin began a new Masters programme: Public History and Cultural Heritage. It should give a ‘thorough grounding in public history, providing students with unique preparation for the management of cultural heritage’. This reflects the increasing importance of history, heritage and culture to the Irish economy as a whole. The course considers cultural memory (its construction, reception and loss), public status of history in modern society and examines political issues surrounding public commemoration and ‘sites of memory’ (museums, archives, galleries and the media) as public perceptions of the past are shaped. It’ll also study conservation, presentation and communication of physical past heritage, … Read entire article »

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Scottish Historic, Cultural and Heritage Environment

History, heritage, culture and natural environment contribute hugely to the Scottish economy and national pride. Do they need so much bureaucracy to thrive? A view about the over-governance of Scotland was expressed by Andrew Gilmour on The Courier (Sept 2010): Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) do not have enough Parliamentary business. He claimed that Scotland was ‘one of the most expensively over-governed countries in the world’. He asked why it took two MSPs and one MP in Scotland to deal with the same workload as one MP south of the border. He demanded a hard look at the ‘massive bureaucratic set-up in Edinburgh’, without advocating abolition of the actual Scottish Parliament. The mechanism was unnecessarily heavy. Considering just one aspect of what the bureaucratic machine deals with, how the vast Scottish natural, … Read entire article »

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The Happening Was the Progenitor of Performance Art

Installations, Events, Happenings, Environments were favoured by 1950/60s art and drama students: just kids having a laugh, or claim to a serious artform? The term ‘happening’, as in ‘what’s happening, man?’ was a very 1960s one. In fact, it described a particular form of performance theatre arising from and fusing with visual arts. It’s not fully understood in contemporary performance circles, but The Happening was instrumental in paving the way for performance art to be an artform in its own right. It was an ‘event’ or ‘situation’ sometimes billed as ‘art in random places’ (empty shops, old houses, warehouses, streets), with little linear narrative, but reliance on mixed art forms with the audience frequently involved, willingly or not. Scope for improvisation (much as Commedia dell’Arte actors did in the 16th … Read entire article »

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The Cultural and Economic Importance of the Eisteddfod

There are eisteddfodau around the world, but it’s the big International August one that brings cultural and financial benefits to the whole of Wales. The term ‘eisteddfod’ (plural: eisteddfodau) derives from the Welsh eistedd (to sit) and bod (to be). Bod is mutated to fod, and the whole means ‘sitting/being together’. It’s a gathering that has become a fixture in the Welsh calendar (first week of August) along with Christmas and Easter. Alternating between north and south Wales, the Eisteddfod celebrates Welsh language and culture, and is the largest of its kind in Europe. It’s a mix of daily competitions with evening concerts, plays, gigs, comedy and exhibitions. Unlike many cultural festivals, this is competitive, with contests in dance, recitation, singing, brass bands, poetry. Events are conducted in Welsh, but as … Read entire article »

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