Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Iain Sinclair: Banned by Labour, invited by Lib Dems

In certain moods Iain Sinclair is my favourite writer of all, if only because he shares my taste for neglected places and arcane knowledge. The pretentious word for these enthusiasms is "psychogeography".

Sinclair has a new novel, Hackney, That Rose Red Empire, out and had been due to launch it at Stoke Newington public library in the borough.

Terence Blacker takes up the story in the Independent:

After the arrangement was made, an essay written by Sinclair appeared in the London Review of Books, the theme of which was that the Olympics – "this 2012 game-show rabies" as he put it – would have a disastrous effect on London. "The Millennium Dome fiasco was a low-rent rehearsal," Sinclair argued. "The holy grail for blue-sky thinkers was the sport-transcends-politics Olympiad, the five-hooped golden handcuffs, smoke rings behind which deals could be done for casinos and malls: with sponsorship, flag-waving and infinitely elastic budgets (any challenge an act of nay-saying treason)."

That parenthetical aside was prophetic. Stoke Newington Library rang Iain Sinclair to withdraw its invitation to him. The problem, they said, was that he had been critical of the Olympics. A spokesman for Hackney Council subsequently dug the local authority a little deeper into the mire. It would be inappropriate for a public library to host the launch for a book "expressing controversial or political opinions," he explained. The problem with that argument, apart from its sinister daftness, is that the book is three months away from publication has presumably not yet been read by the thought police of Hackney.

The problem for small Labour minds of Hackney must have been Sinclair's London Review of Books essay. As Blacker says:
suggested a high level of dodgy dealing in east London, with developers being given attractive deals if they put money into the financially hard-pressed Olympic project. As a result, the communities, small businesses and historic buildings were being destroyed. "Nothing slows the momentum, the Olympic imperative," Sinclair wrote.
Do read the whole thing for yourself.

This episode has a happy ending - and one that makes me proud to be a Liberal Democrat. Becasue Lib Dem run Islington has offered Sinclair the chance to launch his book in of their libraries instead.

The Islington Gazette quotes Cllr Ruth Polling, the borough's executive member in charge of libraries and culture, who has called the decision "deeply troubling": She says:
"There will never be censorship of this sort as long as the Lib-Dems run Islington. Banning an author from speaking because of his views about the Government's incompetence is monstrous. But what's worse is the Labour council's blanket statement that controversial opinions are no longer welcome in their libraries. Libraries should be a place for discourse and free thinking. I'm pleased to offer Islington's libraries for Mr Sinclair's book launch."


HE Elsom said...

Sinclair had a fair old go at the Lib Dems in Tower Hamlets in Downriver, but it's still a great book. I'm looking forward to That Rose Red Empire. Though in fact the red and orange colour scheme of the theatre's interior dates from the 1920s -- it was originally pink, grey and white, as in the not very Mogul pastoral tondo over the proscenium. The recent restorers decided that the original colour scheme was too horrible to restore.

Frank Little said...

I hope Ruth Polling is given a crack at a winnable Westminster seat. She really is impressive.

Anonymous said...

Well done Ruth and Islington Council!