Founder’s Day is one of the most prestigious dates in the Gladstone’s Library calendar.
On July 7 members of the Gladstone family, Trustees, Fellows of the Library and their special guests gathered for the annual Gladstone Lecture.
Founder’s Day also marks the presentation of Fellowships, awarded to distinguished and dedicated supporters of the library.
This year, fellowships were awarded to Ros Aiken who sadly passed away earlier this year, and to writer and theatre-maker Stella Duffy. Ros was a regular, longstanding and enthusiastic contributor to many of our courses, the Gladstone Umbrella in particular. Her husband Tom accepted the fellowship on her behalf. Stella, who was one of our Writers in Residence in 2012, was also made a Trustee.
This year the Gladstone lecture was held by Peter Tatchell, who has campaigned for human rights for over 40 years.
Founder of the Peter Tatchell Foundation as well as a leading member of OutRage!, his activism has taken various forms over the years: standing for election as a Labour candidate in Bermondsey and as a Green candidate in Oxford East as well as classic direct action such as sit-ins and public protest.
Theatricality infuses his protests – his infamous disruption of then Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey’s sermon in 1998 is a striking image. Though he is best known for his campaigns for LGBTI rights, Peter Tatchell has also developed or taken part in anti-imperialist and anti-apartheid activism as well as animal rights and environmental issues. He is author of seven books and contributor to many collections, as well as a journalist and columnist. Peter has most recently been seen contributing to the debates surrounding equal marriage.
Below you can read our interview with Peter Tatchell, and watch part of his talk.
Gladstone’s Library (GL): Could you describe ‘Peter Tatchell’ for those people who may not be familiar with what you do and stand for?
Peter Tatchell (PT): I have been campaigning for the last 47 years on issues of human rights, democracy, LGBT freedom and global justice. Currently, I am the Director of the human rights advocacy organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation
GL: You held an event on July 7 (Founder’s Day) at Gladstone’s Library on Liberalism vs Multiculturalism. Could you give a quick overview on your talk?
PT: I explore the tensions and problems around multiculturalism and challenge those who uncritically either oppose or support it. Multiculturalism has an upside and a downside. I support the principle, but not the way it is sometimes interpreted, which can conflict with liberal humanitarian values.
GL: Could you tell us about the Peter Tatchell Foundation and its current priorities?
PT: We are a small NGO that works for human rights in the UK and in selected other countries. Within the UK, we played a leading role on the battle for same-sex marriage and for opposite-sex civil partnerships. We won the first but not, yet, the right of male-female couples to have a civil partnership. Internationally, we mostly specialise in supporting little-known, neglected human rights causes such as West Papua, Balochistan, Somaliland, Western Sahara and the ethnic persecution of Arabs, Baluch, Kurds and others in Iran.
GL: Your schedule is always a busy one, but could you tell us what you are focused on at the moment?
PT: Our big upcoming campaign is around the Commonwealth Games, which start in Glasgow on July 23. We are pressing the organisers to require all competing nations to sign a declaration of non-discrimination in athlete selection, including on the grounds of ethnicity, caste, gender, faith or non-faith and sexual orientation or gender identity. We know that most countries would, for example, be very unlikely to select a gay or lesbian athlete. This conflicts with Article 7 of the Commonwealth Games constitution, which prohibits all discrimination.
GL: What are your plans for the remainder of 2014?
PT: Later in 2014 we’ll be launching ‘Gays & Muslims Unite - Fight all Hate’. It involves promoting dialogue, understanding and solidarity between the often conflicted Muslim and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities. Both communities suffer prejudice, discrimination and hate crime - and have a shared interest in working together for our common good.
GL: Finally (just for fun) – what book are you currently reading, what is your favourite tipple and where do you love to holiday?
PT: I’m reading Michael Meacher’s The State We Need, which sets out ideas for an alternative economic model that rejects austerity and promotes justice and sustainability. To unwind, my favourite drink is a good red wine. I’m too busy campaigning to take a proper holiday, but I often grab a couple of days in the summer to go cycling in Devon or Cornwall.