October 13, 2011
By Daniel Goodwin
Back from a short break, I thought I should follow up on the Magna Carta celebrations. Following a very nice mention of our Kubrick exhibition in the Guardian on the 9th June, the 11th-13th June was a busy weekend in St Albans celebrating the Magna Carta, as mentioned in a previous post. The celebrations started the run-up to the 800th anniversary, to be celebrated nationally in 2015.[ Coverage of the celebrations]
Why is all this important? Well there is much thought going on in a range of places and think tanks extending well beyond the coalition government’s notion of ‘big society’ to widespread coverage of co-production and societal change and potential adjustments to the constitutional settlement, including electoral reform. These are important changes which need to be based upon consultation and understanding in the wider community. The run up to the 800th anniversary celebrations provide a useful focus for such thought and I’d therefore like to set out what we did in St Albans.
Despite the fact that Lord Tom Bingham was unable to attend to deliver his talk on the Magna Carta due to illness, the lecture still took place, read authoritatively by Judge Michael Baker. This can be summarised as follows:
The Magna Carta is effective because of the historical impact of what is written within it rather than the detail itself. The result has been the rule of law, which can (and must) be expressed in the form of straightforward principles. The problems of today are not limited to national boundaries and the challenge for the rule of law will be whether states, as much as monarchs, accept that they are subject to the law.
The second major event was a concert at St Albans Cathedral, which showed what can be done by a local orchestra with a bit of encouragement. The St Albans Symphony Orchestra is a very proficient pro-am orchestra, which had worked hard on the programme and had included some brass players from the Royal Academy of Music for Copeland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, and two professional singers plus the RAM players for a fantastic rendition of Mahler’s second symphony, The Resurrection. The European premier of a little known piece by Howard Hanson appeared between these two pieces. Entitled Song of Human Rights, it sets to music elements of the declaration of Human Rights and to our knowledge has had only one or two performances in the US.
The formal celebration on Sunday 13th consisted of a procession by members of the judiciary, representatives from the charter towns and the Magna Carta trust, led by Sir Robert Worcester, to a service of celebration and thanksgiving in St Albans Cathedral, with a fascinating sermon by Rev. Nick Holtam, vicar of St Martin in the fields. Nick argued that the church, like all human endeavours, must subject itself to the rule of law.
The weekend also featured a range of events designed to engage the whole community, including an art show by the local FE college a range of community events including hands-on mediaeval displays, an open day in the old courtroom and an exhibition by the Museum service which begins their run-up to a national level exhibition in 2015.
Over the next few weeks we will review the events and start working on our part of the national celebrations, details of which will appear on the Magna Carta Trust website. We’ll be working with the Magna Carta trust the Ministry of Justice, the National Trust and the other Charter Towns, to bring together a five year programme of events and activities which I hope will provide a useful focus for further thought and activity.
June 27, 2010