Monday, 24 November 2008

Sir Gawain

Simon Armitage's modern translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight adapted for the stage is coming to Southport's Art Centre in the new year.

I read this earlier this year after it had featured on a Radio 4 book programme. A colleague at work is a real fan and when she was poorly we bought her his new book. I was amazed to see reproduced a letter to the young Armiatge from Richard Wainwright. Richard was the Liberal MP for the Colne Valley where Armaitage grew up and like the good MP Richard was he had written him a letter on his 18th birhday. I'm not sure how Richard -a Methodist lay preacher-would have reacted to how the letter was used. Apparently Armiatge used it as an ID to get into pubs!

I had great respect for Richard, he chaired the Party's National Policy Committee when I was a member. I served under four different chairs; Wainwright, John Pardoe, Alan Beith and Clement Freud. Richard turned out to speak for me in Southport in the run up to the 1983 General Election, he volunteered to do so again when I stood in Congelton. When I was Chair of Radical Youth for Europe Richard helped with a grant from the Rowntree Trust.

I remember after the 1991 General Election discussing things with Chris Davies ((now our MEP). Chris had fought Littleborough and Saddleworth( essentially Richard's old seat) and our results were very similar. Chris, of course, went on to win a by election but that was all in the future. At the time he seemed to think that I had come off better as I had a chapter in Edward Pearce's book 'Election Rides'. Richard joined the conversation and made some very shrewd observations about the election.

I discovered an article by his son-a Guardian journalist-which tells how Richard opened his home to a family of refugees from Uganda. I knew nothing about this action by Richard but I well remember the Labour and Tory parties response to the crisis. It was shameful.
More about Richard here:

For a while in the early 80's a lass who escaped from Uganda worked with me Christine Kiboke Musoke . If my memory serves me well her father was a supporter of Milton Obote and when Amin came to power(another UK foreign policy cock up) they had to leave quickly. Years later Christine needed a passport to replace the rather hastily compiled documents she had used to get out of Uganda and she was greatly assisted by a young solicitor who is now an eminent Southport legal bigwig