Last week I attended the Leveson Debate at the Conway Hall, organised by the Soho Skeptics. In my anti-Rupert zeal I confess I hadn’t really considered the issue properly. Certainly not the arguments of those warning against “state regulation”.
The hall was packed (at least for the start of the debate), with a mixture of earnest young pretenders and sage, nodding old-timers. Someone in front of me was showing to her friend a letter she had received from from Mary Macleod MP in response to her Leveson query, illustrating I suppose that lots of the audience were quite committed on the issue. The first part consisted of comments from the four people on the panel, followed by discussion between them. The apparent rancour between Nick Cohen and Evan Harris was surprising – perhaps they’ve had a spat that I’ve missed? Cohen thought the continued focus on newspapers to be a distraction, given their rapid decline. Early on he asked for a show of hands from the audience in answer to the question “How many of you here tonight are journalists”. Quite a few. Davis tried to counter the impression that the report did not address the internet. Suzanne Moore embraced her recent notoriety while Natalie Fenton was the less strident of the two in the pro-Leveson camp. Naturally there was a lot of tweeting going on, including from those not in attendance, the latter divided between affected sneering “I can’t imaging anything worse than attending the..”, eager interest and puzzlement.
After an interval, during which I heard that the entire stock of the bar was consumed, it started again with the moderator (Helen Lewis) reading out selected tweets and inviting questions from the audience. It was at this point that I found I was attending more to Twitter than to the debate itself, which rambled around somewhat. Helen Lewis should perhaps have tried to restrain the speakers (and questioners) more.
What I had learnt by the end was that there is some nuance in the regulation-sceptic camp. Still, you know, Rupert Bad.
The following day some investigation revealed that I did in fact have a free ticket to the Helen Mirren Screen Epiphany at the BFI, having applied for one a while ago and not having received the normal confirmation. On my way to the entrance I noticed a quite un-BFI-like man on station by the doors often used by speakers. His stolid frame and stern face were quite out of place. It turned out, of course, that he was one of two security men for Helen Mirren…
American Express do seem to sponsor various BFI events. Walking in from the back of NFT 1 I spotted some bags and cards on the seats, presuming that they were for special people in reserved areas. An addition to the usual notes available as you enter. However, they were in fact for everyone. There was a card advertising the play in which Mirren will be performing from February and a black canvas bag, which had the American Express logo on one side and a promotional logo on the other. Inside were a small bottle of water (“American Express welcomes you to…”) and a similarly marketed bag of posh popcorn with caramel and sea salt. An unexpected corporate air. As usually seems to happen, a few seats on my row were empty, so I moved across to be nearer the middle, thereby meeting the wishes of my neighbours to the right. This meant, of course, that there was extra sponsored popcorn available.
The discussion between Stephen Daldry and Helen Mirren was entertaining and they did both seem to be genuine enthusiasts about L’Atalante, poor Jean Vigo’s masterpiece, albeit she said she’d only seen it for the first time five years ago. Discussing her old films, Mirren related how on Excalibur John Boorman had elevated the camera for a particular fight scene, so that slain knights could crawl around again unseen and return to the fight, such was the lack of budget.
It’s been many years since I last saw the film and it truly was as poetic and moving as I remembered. In fact, along with a Channel 4 masterclass on the Battle of Algiers, I think it was a Christmas showing of L’Atalante on BBC2 twenty five years ago that set me on the path to be a film bore. A simple story, so beautifully told.
Afterwards, I saw people carrying their special bags, including one extravagant fellow who performed a special twirl with it. My two were out of view in my bag.