Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Never Mind the Bollocks....

The Sex Pistols reunion (more cash from chaos and more filthy lucre) and re-release of back catalogue has reminded me of the legal dimension to the Sex Pistols. There is of course the Bill Grundy show and the infamous four letter outburst, the transcript of which was captured for posterity in the Guardian 'Great Speeches of the 20th Century' series earlier in the year. There were of course the court cases and in particular the squabbles between Lydon and McClaren, but it was their output, or (some) product that really created mayhem all those years ago. Banned from performing at many venues the band were forced to tour incognito ('The Spots' - 'Sex Pistols on Tour' at one point and their recorded output was similarly maligned - God Save the Queen memorably prevented from reaching Number 1 during the Silver Jubilee and 30 years later on its reissue prompting an NME campaign to take it to its rightful place at top of charts - it failed of course!

They only released one album proper during their extremely short lifespan, and this had a number of tracks that some felt pushed the boundaries of taste and decency such as 'Bodies' and 'Holidays in the Sun'. The subject matter today seems pretty tame given what has followed it but it neatly captures the shock to the system that the Pistols were in the mid 1970's, a time when my colleague Steve Greenfield was still into Yes and Rick Wakeman on Ice, but a piece this month in the Guardian to launch the Guardian and Observer Digital archive really reminded me of an interesting legal dimension to the Pistols; http://century.guardian.co.uk/1970-1979/Story/0,,106929,00.html

The case seems like an antique now, the Indecent Advertisements Act 1889 even provided for 6 months hard labour as a possible penalty! It neatly illustrates the amorphous notion of censorship, and illustrates how many attempts to censor are very much of their time. This can be seen in film where we see different approaches to films such as Straw Dogs over the years. Anyway, an undergraduate Sex Pistols fan who wore a t shirt emblazoned with the album cover above to a tutorial reminded me of this and the ripe field of legal and extra legal censorship that they leave in their wake. anyone interested in reading more on this see for example Jon Savage's fantastic England's Dreaming and also parts of Martin Cloonan's book Banned. I believe that John Mortimer, who acted for Virgin Records in the case, also discusses the case above in his autobiography. All of this activity shows that the Pistols are perhaps ripe for a legal excavation.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Play the Game Conference in Iceland

Last week I attended the Play the Game conference in Rekjavik. Arriving in Iceland you are struck by the landscape – it really is like nothing you have seen before. As you leave the airport there are no trees, in fact not much of anything except beautiful rock formations topped with a dusting of snow.

The Conference itself was fantastic. Its focus was on sport, and particularly issues around good governance, but its constituency was much more diverse than many of the law conferences I often frequent, with ex professional sportspeople, well known journalists and consultants mingling with academics from fields as diverse as economics, physical education, law and marketing.

It really was the sort of conferences that all conferences should aspire to. As my friend and colleague, Steve Greenfield, put it; ‘if Carlsberg did conferences they would be like this’ – fitting given that playthegame is an initiative founded by three main sports organisations from Denmark and supported by the Danish Government. Details of playthegame can be found below:


The fact that the conference was important and accorded some gravitas was seen by the fact that the President of Iceland opened the conference and speakers were of the caliber of Dick Pound from WADA, Sunday Times journalist David Walsh, author Andrew Jennings and recently retired professional footballer Shaka Hislop amongst others. Details of the speakers and some of the papers are available on the website.

The days were long – starting at 8.15 and finishing at 10.00 at night, and even then there was the option of a worthy sport related film to watch! A particularly innovative idea was to get student journalists to run a parallel website called the pulse. This included videoed interviews with participants at the conference, an interactive section where attendees at the conference and beyond were able to post comments and responses and other great ideas that made the conference truly interactive and made you really feel part of the conference. See http://www.thepulse2007.org/ to get an idea of this.

Finally, as all academics know, the mark of a good conference is in its freebies, usually a T shirt or perhaps a bag. Unsurprisingly, playthegame trumped this with a superb Cintamani jacket, seen above sported by the organiser and Director of playthegame, Jens Sejer Andersen at a windy, wet and cold Gulfloss on the conference outing (thanks to conference photographer Niels Nyholm for the photo). See http://www.cintamani.is/ if you too want to look like this!

I will return to some of the issues raised at this conference in later posts, but suffice to say it provided much food for thought and lots of potential and possibilities...