Week 13: Hero – Carol Ann Duffy (and the Howard League)

by George_East on March 30, 2014

hero_icon2This Week’s Hero of the Week Award goes to poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy and the Howard League’s protest against Chris Grayling’s ban on sending books to prisoners

Fyodor Dostoevsky once said wrote that ‘the degree of civilization in society can be judged by entering its prisons’.  The decision of Chris Grayling (extraordinarily backed by Simon Hughes!) to ban books from being sent to prisoners, shows that  we are well on our way to barbarism under this government..

Encouragingly, this hideously small minded and vindictive policy has been met by an overwhelmingly negative response, even from the right wing tabloid press which presumably was its intended audience.

Perhaps more expectedly the nation’s leading authors have spoken with pretty much one voice.  Carol Ann Duffy, the most political poet Laurent we have ever had, organised a poetry reading protest outside of Pentonville Prison, along with penal reform group, the Howard League last week.  This protest went under the wonderful name, freely adapted from the title of a poem one of literature’s most famous prisoners, Oscar Wilde:  The Ballad of Not Reading In Gaol.

The readings included pieces by the likes of Shelley,  Byron and even John Lennon.  There were also newly penned works.  Samuel West read a Mark Hurst piece called 50 Shades of Grayling including the line:

less likely to give the nonces a shakin

if your wife has sent you the new Ian Rankin’

AL Kennedy spoke  movingly of running a weekly reading group in prison and how books were ‘spiritual food’.

Now this protest won’t change the policy, but its heroism in helping hugely to give the Howard League’s campaign to reverse the ban huge publicity and was a reminder (if one was needed) that Grayling is, as Shami Chakrabati said a ‘spiteful and disgusting’ little man.

Even the most embittered right wing hacks of Fleet Street don’t like being seen as illiterate philistines.    Siding with Grayling would make them look just like that.

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