Thursday, 29 May 2014

Supreme Court art: Museums at Night event

I've spoken in desiccated meeting rooms, ill-converted sweatshops and a pub in Farringdon where the post-punk audience smuggled in supermarket lager. Classy.

So it was very nice to give a slide show in the well-ordered surroundings of Court 2 as part of the Supreme Court's Museums at Night event in May, held in the spirit of open justice.

My theme was quick and dirty drawing, the kind I blog about here, and I pinched the idea from a sentence (taken wildly out of context) in Lord Neuberger's Tom Sargant memorial lecture last year called Justice in an age of austerity: 'In many cases, quick and dirty justice would do better justice than the full majesty of a traditional common law trial.'

I showed how I emerged from the primordial soup of life class to draw and write about people under the Westway (where the A40 flies over Portobello Road). Then I depicted the tragi-comedy of Occupy's London protest camps before arriving at the Supreme Court, where emotions are inspired and yet mercifully cauterised at the same time by the legal process. It's all here on the blog.

I invoked Hogarth, Dame Laura Knight (The Dock, Nuremberg - what a gig), Sir Peter Blake, an Expressionist Occupy protester called Rupert, Sidney Paget (creator of the iconography of Sherlock Holmes and great-grandfather of Michael Paget of Cornerstone Barristers), and Jacques-Louis David, whose sketch of Marie-Antoinette en route to the guillotine is the ultimate quick and dirty legal drawing.

I handed out postcards of the three drawings above.

Among the other entertainments was the Inner Temple Drama Society's jolly murder mystery in Court 1. The sketches below are from a rehearsal.


Monday, 26 May 2014

Supreme Court art: things some visitors don't know

There is plenty I don't know about the Supreme Court, but let's run through a few basics:

Your Swiss Army knife and other sharps will be well looked after during your visit.

My neighbour who helped to rescue Apollo 13 goes there just for the café.

There is no jury, no witness, no cross-examination. At hearings, the QCs and barristers don't usually wear wigs or gowns, the justices never, so you can amuse yourself by working out which suits are bespoke.

Photography is not allowed during hearings. If a dishevelled woman with leopard-print spectacle frames glares at you when you reach for your camera, thank me afterwards - I've saved you from being pounced on by an usher.

Some people experience panic (atavistically, the terrifying presence of the great god Pan) when entering a courtroom. This feeling is not confined to the barristers. There is an inexorable coded system at work here with a faint folk memory of human sacrifice.

But keep calm - we are not in America. People don't bang gavels or jump up crying: 'Objection, your honour!'

More key facts coming shortly. Meanwhile, my last visit to the court started badly when my canvas art bag was eaten by the door of a Routemaster (real Routemasters don't have doors). The hearing was brief so here's just one drawing - of George Spencer Watson's portrait in Court 1 of Sir Montagu Sharpe, who deserves more than 'Forgotten Man of Middlesex' as the subtitle of his biography.