Beard of the Six Nations: which team’s beards are having the most impact?

In Uncategorized on February 22, 2020 by kmflett

The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that with what could to be the most hirsute Six Nations Rugby Championship ever in progress, the Beard of the Six Nations poll is well underway.

The campaigners say that the Beard of the Six Nations is not just about beards in the abstract but also crucially about the impact they make on play.

This impact of beards on the field has meant that even noted pogonophobes such as Clive Woodward who argued in 2013 on the BBC that he wouldn’t select players with beards, are now marginal voices.

The Beard Liberation Front’s long campaign against the Woodward’s of the rugby world has achieved considerable success so much so that in 2020 there are too many hirsute players to run an individual poll. This year the focus is on the Six Nations teams

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, our panel of beard experts will be reviewing the play in each match but ultimately the team not only with the best beards, but the best beards that have the most impact on play will win

Beards of Six Nations poll


The beards of Victorian Socialist leaders: H M Hyndman v William Morris

In Uncategorized on February 22, 2020 by kmflett

The beards of Victorian Socialist leaders: H M Hyndman v William Morris

Noting a tweet from well-known hirsute socialist Michael Rosen that his father’s grandfather had complained that H M Hyndman was not radical enough I suggested that this may have been because he was a supporter of William Morris.

Hyndman was the leader of Britain’s first Marxist Party, the Social Democratic Federation but Morris and a number of others split from in 1885. They disliked Hyndman’s style of leadership and the League was a broader organisation including anarchists and some Fabians.

While Engels was a firm opponent of Hyndman and happy about the SDF split he was no more optimistic about the League’s prospects.

That said Hyndman had one of the most iconic of Victorian socialist beards and indeed it features on the Beard Liberation Front banner.

Morris has been called on twitter the ‘god father of East End hipsters’ but the BLF says Morris was more complex than this suggests.

He grew his beard in 1856 and kept it for the last 40 years of his life. It was as much a part of the man as his fiery temper, socialist politics and love of ancient buildings.

BLF organiser Keith Flett said, when he died in 1896 his doctor said he died simply of being William Morris and his beard was an integral part of that. As for Hyndman, he ended up backing the First World War underlining that his beard was ultimately not progressive.


15th February 2003: the biggest protest in UK history 17 years on

In Uncategorized on February 22, 2020 by kmflett

15th February 2003: The biggest protest in UK history 17 years on

It is seventeen years this week since the biggest march in British history, against war in Iraq, on Saturday 15th February 2003.

Below is a slightly edited version of what I wrote on the 10th anniversary.

The march is not yet history and is some way from being so. The political arguments about war, imperialism, defence and intervention continue and many of the leading players in 2003 remain active today, holding, as they did then, a wide range of  views on the world, but still including opposition to illegal wars.

A few have sadly passed including the veteran activist and banner maker Alice Kilroy just this week who was working in the national STWC office in 2003.

It is interesting that post-Jeremy Corbyn, who was closely associated with the march, as both his supporters and detractors have continued to underline, contenders for the Labour leadership still feel they have to make it clear that they were not supporters of the war.

It does however continue to be important to keep remembering that the event took place and left a mark on a generation. Perhaps not surprisingly the blockbuster film has yet to appear and perhaps never will. But what happened and what it achieved should continue to be something that is discussed and debated.


10 Years After: The Historical lesson of 15th February 2003- Keep Marching On

Many readers of this will have been on the central London demonstration called by the Stop the War Coalition on Saturday 15th February 2003 as I was myself.

It was the biggest demonstration in British history and remains so.

The British Government still has imperial ambitions. But whereas before that cold Saturday ten years ago it would have been a minority of left and peace voices that spoke out, today it is legitimate for a broad range of opinion to question why the country is intervening in  wars elsewhere and what purpose it serves.

The media are unlikely to be devoting special supplements and programmes to the anniversary although in truth that is what it deserves. The Stop the War Coalition have held a conference to mark the continuing fight against neo-liberalism and war.

Making sure the demonstration is remembered and underlining the historical point that popular mobilisations make a difference is important.

While there were many young people on the march, the fact remains that there are people in their twenties and thirties today who are too young to have either been on the march or to remember it. If in today’s environment it was said,’ we can mobilise well over a million in people in central London for an important issue’, eyebrows might well be raised. Yet just 10 years ago we did exactly that.

So making sure that the event is remembered and remains in the popular memory is an important task not just for historians but for the left generally.

For those who were there, and it was estimated that someone from most households across the UK was, the question ten years on remains one of what impact was made, and whether marching changes anything.

Here history can provide some pointers.

As the historical sociologist Charles Tilly argued in his book Repertoires of Contention- looking at Britain in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries- people fighting injustice can follow a range of strategies. These can vary from petitions through strikes to armed revolts and from riots to large indoor meetings that agree to lobby Parliament.

It depends what is thought to be effective at the time and what mobilises numbers for the maximum impact. In recent times a march with a large and broad turn-out, although far from the only strategy, has often made a significant and sometimes lasting political point.

There is another angle made by the late Peter Sedgwick in his introduction, Farewell, Grosvenor Square to David Widgery’s 1976 volume about the left in the 1960s.

Sedgwick argues that until the rise of CND in the late 1950s the idea of going on a demonstration to make a political point seemed an odd one for many. If you wanted change you wrote to your MP and voted for a Government from time to time.

The minority who did march were watched by many more from the nearest pavement.

From the 1960s all that changed. As Sedgwick noted when delivering leaflets door to door for a protest the reaction was no longer puzzlement from the householder but ‘thanks luv see you at t’demo then’.

Even if a march does not have the precise consequences that were  desired it often does beg significant political questions and may do so long after the last marcher has returned home.

That’s why it is important to keep remembering that cold Saturday of 15th February 2003 and to keep in mind that it can happen again.

But while we are remembering 15th February it is important not to forget some other points.

The march did not stop the drive to war with Iraq as the usual suspects have been busy reminding us. But the war itself did not come until a month later on March 19/20th 2003. At that point the aim of anti-war activists was to take protests beyond demonstrations towards walk-outs and industrial action. Numbers did take place, but not sufficient numbers to reinforce the impact of 15th February. It suggests that in the circumstances of the time the mass march was far from being our best strategy to stop the war but in fact the best shot we could muster. Unfortunately it was not enough

Finally a literal footnote. Despite the concern of the Royal Parks and the then Culture Secretary, the late Tessa Jowell, the grass in Hyde Park survived the march and last time I checked was still thriving.


Beard Friendliness of lager subject to review

In Uncategorized on February 21, 2020 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front

21st February

Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266

Beard Friendliness of lager subject to review

The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that it is reviewing whether or not lager can be beard friendly.

The focus is not on mass produced industrial lagers like Carling and Fosters but on properly produced ‘craft’ lagers which may nevertheless be big sellers.

Beer writer Melissa Cole has written on the Guardian on the rise of authentic lager:

Meanwhile another beer writer Matthew Curtis has run a session at Manchester’s Cloudwater breweries’ Friends and Family festival today on lager.

Mr Curtis told the BLF that numbers of beard wearers were to be observed drinking lager.

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, it is not just question of whether people with beards drink lager. Obviously they do. The matter at issue is how beard friendly a good lager is. Can it nourish beard follicles in the same way as an imperial stout for example. We are reviewing the case for the beard friendliness of lager.


Politician, Actor, Footballer? Who will be the 2020 St.David’s Day Beard of Wales?

In Uncategorized on February 21, 2020 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front

Press release, 21st February

Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266

Politician, Actor, Footballer? Who will be the 2020 St David’s Day Beard of Wales?

The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that voting is open and will close at midnight on Friday 28th February in the 2020 St David’s Day Beard of Wales poll.

Politician Hefin David, actor Michael Sheen and footballer Joe Ledley are the early leaders

The vote aims to determine the St David’s Day Beard of Wales, the Welsh beard that offers the most positive national image.

The campaigners say that images of St David suggest that the Welsh Saint himself may have had an organic beard

Welsh rugby prop Adam Jones won the Award in 2013, voted for by BLF supporters, just shaving former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. Another rugby player Leigh Halfpenny won in 2014. In 2015 the Award went to Thee Faction musician Chris Fox in 2016 footballer Joe Ledley and in 2017 to Charcutier Illtud Llyr Dunsford, with Chris Fox winning again in 2018. In 2019 journalist Grant Tucker shaved the opposition to claim the accolade

It is the eighth time the Award has been given following the traditional UK Beard of the Year at the end December each year and the BLF says it is a mark of Wales as a modern nation on St David’s Day that beards are now playing an increasingly significant role in national life.

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, with the rugby this weekend there could be fresh hirsute challenges to come

Beard of Wales 2020

Jake Ball, rugby player

Chris Elmore, politician

Michael Sheen, actor

Tom Jones, singer

Grant Tucker, Sunday Times journalist

Joe Ledley, footballer

Gruff Rhys, musician

Hefin David, politician

Huw Irranca-Davies, politician

Gwilym Pugh, model

Adrian Masters, ITV Wales political editor


Who are the Beard Liberation Front?

In Uncategorized on February 21, 2020 by kmflett


It is probably time for the Beard Liberation Front to restate and update its programme for the 2020s but in the meantime this interview with journalist Alexi Demetriadi in the Morning Star is a useful guide for those keen to know who the BLF are and what we stand for. (and yes my name is misspelt…)


Growing more dangerous as he gets older. Neil Young backs Bernie Sanders

In Uncategorized on February 21, 2020 by kmflett

Neil Young, who is 74, has posted a brief letter to Trump on his website underlining that he doesnt support him but rather backs Bernie Sanders as the next US President.

The Washington Times report is here:

Young writes to Trump:

“Every time ‘Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World’ or one of my songs is played at your rallies, I hope you hear my voice,” Mr. Young wrote. “Remember it is the voice of a tax-paying U.S. citizen who does not support you. Me.”

So next time you’re tempted to think that people get more reactionary as they get older ponder the case of Neil Young…