Public Debate: Art, Blasphemy, Offence and Censorship in Frome, Somerset, January 26

I look forward to a visit on January 26 to Frome in Somerset, to the Black Swan Arts Centre. A year ago at this gallery, the American artist, Leslie Glenn Damhus’s painting, Madonna and the Chimp, was shown. It offended some residents, and a local debate followed about which you can read here and here. You can see the controversial painting here.

One year after that controversy, the arts centre has organised a public debate, on 26 January, at 7:30 pm. I will be participating in the debate with Rev Canon Melvyn Matthews.

Details about the event can be found at the website of the arts centre and at the English PEN’s website. (I chair the Writers-in-Prison Committee of English PEN, and am a member of its board of trustees).

Among other things, I will mention how adherents of all religions claim the right to be offended, and in the process, narrow cultural and artistic discourse.

The details:

Public Debate
Wednesday 26th January, 2011

7.30pm – 9pm, in Divas Café

When Leslie Glenn Damhus’ painting Madonna and Chimp was shown during the Open Art Exhibition in Spring 2010, it prompted a flurry of letters in the local papers regarding the appropriation of Christian imagery.

Black Swan Arts will be hosting a debate around this issue. Please come and join the discussion.

Speakers include:

Revd Canon Melvyn Matthews

Until his recent retirement, the Revd Canon Melvyn Matthews was Chancellor (and latterly Acting Dean) of Wells Cathedral where he had responsibility for the cathedral’s programme of education and spirituality. He is a well known and respected as a devotional writer: his previous books include God’s Space in You (Hunt and Thorpe), Finding Your Story, (DLT) and our own, Rediscovering Holiness, Both Alike to thee, Nearer than Breathing… and Lit by the Light of God.

Salil Tripathi

Salil Tripathi is an Indian-born writer based in London. His books include “Offence: The Hindu Case” (Seagull, 2009), about censorship by Hindu nationalists, and a forthcoming collection of travel essays (Tranquebar, 2011). He chairs the English PEN’s Writers-in-Prison Committee, and is a member of its board of trustees.

Salil has written extensively on politics, economics, literature, business, and on issues related to free speech for over 25 years in publications around the world. He has been a foreign correspondent based in Singapore and Hong Kong during the 1990s and was a correspondent in India before that. He is a frequent contributor to The Wall Street Journal, The New Statesman, The Independent, Index on Censorship, The International Herald Tribune, Far Eastern Economic Review, The New Republic, and The Washington Post, among others. In India, he is a columnist at Mint and contributing editor at Caravan magazine. He also writes for Global Asia in Seoul and The National in Abu Dhabi.

In a parallel universe, he is policy director at the Institute for Human Rights and Business. He has been a non-resident fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School on business and human rights, and is on the advisory panels of major global initiatives on human rights and business. He graduated with a masters’ degree from the Tuck School at Dartmouth College in the United States.

Come, if you are in the area!


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