Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Lib Dem Sheffield bans Ian McMillan from children's writing workshop

When Labour-run Hackney withdrew an invitation to Iain Sinclair to launch a book in one of its libraries because he had been critical of the London Olympics, I was happy to report the story. I wrote that Lib Dem Islington's invitation to launch it with them instead "made me proud to be a Liberal Democrat".
So I had better report a story the Sheffield Politics blog posted yesterday:
Poet, broadcaster and comedian Ian McMillan has been banned from appearing at a childrens’ creative writing workshop by Sheffield City Council, over fears he might make “political comments”.
The event was due to take place at Upperthorpe Library, and was intended to highlight the value of public libraries.

The blog credits the story to Library Workers For A Brighter Future, but does not give a link (which is against The Bloggers' Code we have all signed). But you can find their version here.

The Guardian has picked up the story this evening, but I spotted it first.

It is obviously wrong and fatuous to ban anyone from anything because they might make political comments. And I am sure McMillan is professional enough not to preach and bore the children. So this ban should be reversed.

If I were a proper journalist I would have contacted the council for their side of the story, but I am a blogger with a full-time job. Still, I would be very happy to be contacted from Sheffield Lib Dems to be told that the story is not as it has been reported.

One other thing...

If the ban is not rescinded then I might take to hanging out in Sheffield's libraries. I have nothing against Ian McMillan except that he is everywhere. You cannot turn Radio 4 on for five minutes without hearing him. So I tend to turn it off when he does.

It reminds me of my schooldays when the only poet you ever heard from was Roger McGough. I suppose the idea was to show "kids" that poetry wasn't posh, could be fun and even be about football. I heard so much of him that, quite unfairly, I also turn the radio off when he comes on.

Now read about censorship in Rutland's libraries too.

Later. Sheffield Politics, in a comment below, says that the council's "Executive Director of Communities" has issued a statement:
We were approached by Library Workers for a Brighter Future, which is a group campaigning against library cuts locally and nationally. Our understanding was that they wanted to hold a workshop event in a library which would both celebrate libraries and be part of their campaign against cuts. We gave the advice that at this time, when Councillors haven’t made any decisions about funding for libraries in the coming year, it would not be appropriate to hold an event like this in a library.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link. Thanks for pointing out I hadn't linked to the source. You're right, it's bad form and I've fixed it now.

Also, we've had a response form the Council. The event would have been "inappropriate".


dreamingspire said...

Does the Council fear that holding such an event would trigger 24 hour mobbing of the fancy public area close to the Town Hall, then? Demands for the Council Leader to stand down and leave the country?

Anonymous said...

But the turning-off-Roger-McGough policy has deprived you of some good broadcasts. I'd consider reversing it at least for a trial period.