The alternative Magna Carta festival

This Saturday, in London, will be a gathering to celebrate the genuine meaning of Magna Carta - come!

Sashy Nathan
8 June 2015

Paul Mason, Zoe Williams, Martin Rowson, Suzanne Moore, Keir Starmer QC, Bob and Roberta Smith and many others - collaborating with Free Word and eleven partners including Apples and Snakes, Article 19, BRITDOC, Little Atoms, openDemocracy, Open Rights Group and many others, to build an alternative Magna Carta celebration.

In June 1215, King John’s hand was forced into setting his seal to Magna Carta – or The Great Charter of the Liberties of England - by the Thames at Runnymede.

In the eight centuries since, its symbolism has been invoked as the foundation and template for limited and responsible government, and as a metaphor for freedom and justice under the law for all. As a living document, it envisages a limit on the untrammelled powers of the executive.

In June, the Government will be organising official commemorations of the sealing of Magna Carta. The Queen, the Prime Minister, and the leader of the Opposition will preside over a fawning sanitised memorial to an historic moment of great rebellion.

There should be an alternative celebration - one which recognises the importance of Magna Carta in curtailing the powers of the executive,and one which challenges and appraises modern Britain’s attitude to civil liberties.

On 13 June, we're bringing in some of the biggest names in economics, literature, journalism, politics, think tanks, and law to an audience of over five hundred people from across society. We need a Magna Carta event with teeth - and where better to do this than Clerkenwell, an historic place of dissent? It will be multi-layered and encompass film, music, literature, debate, speeches, poetry and polemic.

The festival is designed to be a relaxed but informative atmosphere bringing together eclectic themes and audiences around Britishness and liberty.  We will ask difficult questions about how free and powerful we are and consider where we need to hold the state to greater account and how. 89up, the organisers of the festival, are excited that openDemocracy are supporting us with their valuable ongoing analysis of rights and the state of our national politics. 

Let’s gather a cross-section of society to debate a range of important issues and get involved in what is sure to be a memorable day.  We want to bring the spirit of Magna Carta into 2015 and we need your help so join in the festival, celebrate, and discover where and how we should rebalance power in modern Britain.

Fuller details and ticket purchase are here:

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Join us for a free live discussion on Thursday 22 October, 5pm UK time/12pm EDT.

Hear from:

Paolo Gerbaudo Sociologist and political theorist, director of the Centre for Digital Culture at King’s College London and author of ‘The Mask and the Flag: Populism and Global Protest’ and ‘The Digital Party: Political Organisation and Online Democracy’, and of the forthcoming ‘The Great Recoil: Politics After Populism and Pandemic’.

Chantal Mouffe Emeritus Professor of Political Theory at the University of Westminster in London. Her most recent books are ‘Agonistics. Thinking the World Politically’, ‘Podemos. In the Name of the People’ and ‘For a Left Populism’.

Spyros A. Sofos Researcher and research coordinator at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University and author of ‘Nation and Identity in Contemporary Europe’, ‘Tormented by History’ and ‘Islam in Europe: Public Spaces and Civic Networks'.

Chair: Walid el Houri Researcher, journalist and filmmaker based between Berlin and Beirut. He is partnerships editor at openDemocracy and lead editor of its North Africa, West Asia project.

Who is bankrolling Britain's democracy? Which groups shape the stories we see in the press; which voices are silenced, and why? Sign up here to find out.


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