UPCOMING GIGS (see all)
NUJ members under police surveillance mount collective legal challenge
Six NUJ members have discovered that their lawful journalistic and union activities are being monitored and recorded by the Metropolitan Police. They are now taking legal action against the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and the Home Secretary to challenge this ongoing police surveillance.
The NUJ members involved in the legal challenge include Jules Mattsson, Mark Thomas, Jason Parkinson, Jess Hurd, David Hoffman and Adrian Arbib.
All of them have worked on media reports that have exposed corporate and state misconduct and they have each also previously pursued litigation or complaints arising from police misconduct. In many of those cases, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner has been forced to pay damages, apologise and admit liability to them after their journalistic rights were curtailed by his officers at public events.
The surveillance was revealed as part of an ongoing campaign, which began in 2008, during which NUJ members have been encouraged to obtain data held about them by the authorities including the Metropolitan Police ‘National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit’ (NDEDIU). The supposed purpose of the unit is to monitor and police so called ‘domestic extremism’. In the course of the campaign, a number of NUJ members have obtained data held about them and the union fears there are many more journalists and union members being monitored.
The NUJ has instructed Bhatt Murphy Solicitors to pursue the case. The cases raise significant and wide-ranging concerns about: the impact on privacy, the chilling effect on the ability of NUJ members and journalists to do their jobs, and their ability to take part in legitimate trade union activity.
The claim challenges the surveillance and retention of data on the basis that it is unnecessary, disproportionate and not in accordance with the law. Journalists and union members have no way of knowing the circumstances in which their activities are monitored, retained, disclosed and systematically stored on secret police ‘domestic extremism’ databases.
The NUJ continues to offer support and assistance to the members involved and extends its support to other media workers who may be affected.
The union is extremely concerned by the lack of legal safeguards to protect the press and trade unions from state interference, and believes the actions of the authorities do not abide by domestic law and the European Convention on Human Rights, including Article 8 on privacy, Article 10 on freedom of expression and Article 11 on freedom of assembly and association.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: "It is outrageous that the police are using their resources and wide-ranging powers to put journalists under surveillance and to compile information about their movements and work on secret databases. There is no justification for treating journalists as criminals or enemies of the state, and it raises serious questions for our democracy when the NUJ is forced to launch a legal challenge to compel the police to reveal the secret evidence they have collected about media workers. The union will continue to give its full support to the members involved in the case and we are committed to putting a stop to this unacceptable state interference and monitoring that labels our members as domestic extremists."
Shamik Dutta, from Bhatt Murphy solicitors, representing the claimants, said: "Journalists who seek to expose corporate and state misconduct are entitled to legal protection which enables them to do their job. Likewise, union members should not have to fear blacklisting by the state. We have yet to receive any satisfactory response from the Commissioner or Home Secretary as to how it could possibly be reasonable, proportionate or necessary for the police to monitor and retain information about them for any purpose, let alone for the purposes of policing ‘domestic extremism’."
Frances O'Grady, TUC general secretary, said: "There is growing concern that the authorities are using surveillance against union members, journalists and campaigners. Political policing has no place in a democratic society, it threatens press freedom and any unjustified conduct must stop. I fully support the NUJ members in their campaign to know what information is being held about them in secret. We must expose and challenge wrongdoing wherever it exists and act against those who undermine the rights of journalists, union members and everyone who supports an open, transparent and democratic society."
Jules Mattsson, national newspaper journalist, said: "In the disclosed information from my file, there isn't even a hint that I'm suspected of any offence, nor do I have a criminal record. Instead the entries held about me contain such obvious statements as the fact I am ‘always looking for a story’ and ‘has previously recorded police officers’.
"I can see no justification for keeping this information, or reasonable defence of the impact it has on my ability to do my job - like disclosing it to third parties when I apply for press accreditation, which notes on my file show to have happened.
"I hope the Metropolitan Police won’t fight this action. If they argue these files should continue to be retained, it would in my view contradict previous statements in which they have expressed their respect for press freedom and support for the rights of journalists."
Mark Thomas, journalist and comedian, said: "The fact that none of the journalists are suspected of criminality but all of them cover stories of police and corporate wrong doing hints at something more sinister, that the police seem to be spying on those who seek to hold them to account.
"The inclusion of journalists on the domestic extremist data base seems to be a part of a disturbing police spying network, from the Stephen Lawrence family campaign to Hillsborough families, from undercover officers' relationships with women to the role of the police in the construction blacklist.
Jason N. Parkinson, freelance video journalist, said: "My file is 12 pages long and holds around 140 separate surveillance logs spanning nearly a decade. The files make it very clear they have been monitoring my movements, with whom I associate and even what clothing I wear, in order for police intelligence units to build up a profile of me and my network of associates and contacts. The files also show signs that my social media and internet activities have been monitored. They also logged that I was asked to give a speech at a conference in 2011, which ironically was about police surveillance.
"The disclosure of my domestic extremist files seem to show what I had suspected for the last eight years, the police have been keeping journalists that cover political protest under surveillance and it is not merely an intimidation tactic that should be ignored, as some have suggested in the past.
"My video work has been published across the world and, among many other things, it has exposed police, state and corporate misconduct from the UK to the Middle East and Central America. I have faced multiple legal battles to defend press freedom under the Human Rights Act. I have endured years of harassment, repeatedly detained under the Terrorism Act and other laws and I have faced abuse and even violence at the hands of police.
"My detailed files read like I am some kind of public enemy, simply for doing my job as a journalist."
Jess Hurd, freelance photographer, said: "I have faced intimidation, surveillance and on occasion violence, from the police all my profession life. It should not be the case that I sometimes fear going to work. The very creation of a 'domestic extremist' database which stores details on innocent people feels like state intimidation. Either the police do not like the journalistic work that we do or the trade union and press freedom campaigns we have been involved in, either way this is no justification for targeted state surveillance and squandered tax payers money.
"I am proud to stand alongside my NUJ colleagues in this legal challenge which aims to hold the police to account for their sinister activities. We want an end to the surveillance of journalists and all those lawfully exercising their democratic and human rights."
David Hoffman, freelance photographer, said: "In 2011, I finally managed to obtain a heavily redacted copy of an entry under my name on the database held by the National Coordinator for Domestic Extremism. There can be no reason for my name to be included in such a register. I have never been involved in any form of extremism.
"Simply being documented on a state extremism database is itself harmful. I fear my face is likely to be flashed up at pre-protest police briefings and my name passed to officers for special attention. I fear officers that I meet in the course of my work will be mistrustful. The normal constructive and professionally cooperative relationships that might otherwise exist between journalists and police feel sabotaged: in tense situations my requests for access are more likely to be denied and the police are less likely to share any information with me that would otherwise help me to report properly on public events.
"We want all records on us to be revealed to us together with their associated metadata and then we want these records destroyed. If they are to restore the trust betrayed by these excesses the Metropolitan Police need to make public for discussion the basis on which decisions to put journalists under surveillance are made."
Adrian Arbib, press and features photographer, said: "The unsettling part of the Police holding data on you is not knowing who is accessing it, who is party to it? Potential employers? What work was I not given because of it?
"I’ve been a press and features photographer for around 30 years having studied photography at the London College of Printing in the 1980’s. I’ve been particularly privileged to be able to cover stories on social documentary and environmental issues. This has taken me all over the globe to cover key topics of the time.
"I did all these stories and many others, as any journalist should do, with a keen eye for the truth. It seems that this fundamental and important exercise now makes journalists subjects of covert surveillance and intimidation."
Please get in touch if you would like to request pictures.
Jules Mattsson (twitter) - @julesmattsson
Mark Thomas (website) - www.markthomasinfo.co.uk
Jason Parkinson (website) - http://jasonnparkinson.com/
Jess Hurd (website) - www.jesshurd.com
Jess and Jason surveillance videos and photos - http://reportdigital.wordpress.com/2014/11/20/pics-and-hd-video-police-surveillance-of-journalists-and-activists/
David Hoffman (website and photos) - http://hoffman.photoshelter.com/gallery/Police-Surveillance-of-NUJ-Members/G0000HheiHQiBfok
Adrian Arbib (website, photos and footage) –
Press Freedom: Collateral Damage (video) - https://vimeo.com/87556015
Press Freedom: Hostile Reconnaissance (video) - https://vimeo.com/87514833
I’m A Photographer Not A Terrorist (NUJ supported campaign, website) - http://phnat.org
European Convention on Human Rights:
Article 8 – Right to respect for private and family life
1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
Article 10 – Freedom of expression
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent states from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.
2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.
Article 11 – Freedom of assembly and association
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
2. No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. This article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on the exercise of these rights by members of the armed forces, of the police or of the administration of the state.
The National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit (‘NDEDIU’) is described by the Association of Chief Police Officers of England and Wales (ACPO):
"The [NDEDIU] supports all police forces to help reduce the criminal threat from domestic extremism across the UK. It works to promote a single and co-ordinated police response by providing tactical advice to the police service alongside information and guidance to industry and government.
One of the key responsibilities of the NDEDIU is to provide intelligence on domestic extremism and strategic public order issues in the UK. Police will always engage to facilitate peaceful protest, prevent disorder and minimise disruption to local communities. Where individuals cross over into criminality and violence, the police will act swiftly and decisively to uphold the law."
Cuckooed wins Amnesty Award
Cuckooed wins 2014 Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award at the Edinburgh Fringe. Director Emma Callander and Mark picked up the award on the 22nd of August at a ceremony in the Edinburgh City Art Centre. Mark's speech consisted mainly of the words "This is bloody great."
Also you can now buy a copy of the programme and play script from our online merchandise store.
Cuckooed wins Fringe award
Cuckooed wins Fringe First Award at Edinburgh Fringe festival. One of the nicest ways you can start the fringe is to pick up an award, thanks to the team and all involved.
Picture L to R - Tine Selby (Tour and Tech Manager), Emma Callander (Director), MT (Gobshite), Mike McCarthy (Producer and Agent) and Sooz Glen. Picture by passing stranger.
Cuckooed in action at the Traverse. Picture by Murdo MacLeod (nicked from guardian website … hope that is OK Murdo)
Mark's New Show
No sooner has he finished one show than the next is in view. "Cuckooed" premiers at the Edinburgh Festival and is for the Traverse Theatre. "Cuckooed" sees Mark in more theatrical form as he explores the true story of how BAE Systems infiltrated the anti arms trade movement and ended up spying on a comic, himself.
It is a tale of hubris, deception, planes and betrayal, directed by Emma Callander who worked with Mark on Theatre Uncut shows at the Traverse and the Young Vic.
Mark will be doing some work in progress shows before the festival, dates are over there on the riight >>
Get yer lovely stickers here
Those who saw the previous "100 Acts Of Minor Dissent" show may want some of these stickers, well now you can get them, along with other 100 acts goodies, in our merchandise store, buy lots and give them to your friends as presents!
The Art of Dissent exhibition at the Millennium Gallery in Sheffield.
Most comics finish a tour with a DVD Mark finishes the 100 Acts with an art exhibition featuring work that features in the 100 Acts of Minor Dissent show by the artists Tracey Moberly and Noel Douglas, designer Greg matthews and cameraman Rikki Blue. 3,500 people visited the exhibition in the week it was on.
Here are some photos from the exhibition:
Mark has answered some commonly recurring questions in the new "Frequently Answered Questions" section on the FAQ page.
Bravo Figaro recording released!
Mark's award winning show Bravo Figaro is at last released on CD. The show, recorded at the Royal Opera House for BBC Radio 4, was first broadcast on the 1st April 2013 and is available through our merchandise store or at Mark's shows. Cost is £6 plus £1.50 p & p.
The ATOS questionnaire
If you have been unfortunate enough to have taken part in an ATOS work capability assessment and had a bad experience then now it's time to "assess the assessors" with your own response: http://t.co/fc8sEjv7KB
The final 100 Acts Gig!
TICKETS FOR FINAL 100 ACTS GIG ON SALE ON MONDAY 2nd Dec
The final ( and only) show will see Mark listing all 100 Acts of Minor Dissent on the 15th May 2014 at The Leadmill in Sheffield. There will be only 1 show. Ever.
The show will last between 4-5 hours and Mark will provide some form of refreshment during the evening.
UNFORTUNATELY IT IS ALREADY SOLD OUT!!
See you there. X
Frolics in the park
One year after the Olympics the Royal Parks are charging people to play sport in parts of Hyde Park, using a private company Will to Win. On the 8th of August I was fortunate enough to hook up with the London Charity Softball League and ran the worlds first ever What's the Time Mr Wolf Championship without Will to Win coming out to demand payment.
The softballers are challenging the Minister for the Department of Media Culture and Sport Maria Miller MP in the courts over the legality of the charges. Meanwhile it is time for another championship… Stuck in the Mud.
You are all invited to come and play. Sign up to play! http://stuckinthemud-MTW.eventbrite.com
This is the pic from the finalists of What's the Time Mr Wolf:
The NEW show - 100 Acts Of Minor Dissent
Mark's new show, "100 Acts Of Minor Dissent" is now touring. It's a load of fun. Mark has committed to doing 100 act of minor dissent in the coming year and he's about 20% done. There will be lots of mayhem ensuing!
PS also see here: http://www.wewilldrivethemtotheairport.co.uk
An act of Dissent for you
On 03 June 2013 a flashmob was organised at the Regents Street Apple store, videos below and the pages that the browsers in the store were pointed at is here. You can always go do your own protest at any apple store by pointing their browsers there.
A "Thank You"
During the Bravo Figaro tour the Brewhouse in Taunton had its funding completely cut by Somerset County Council(Wednesday night) and went into receivership the next morning (Thursday), I was due to perform at the Brewhouse on the Friday. With no venue and no likelihood of tickets being refunded for the show I announced on twitter that I would try and find another venue, though at such short notice did not anticipate I would be able to do so. In stepped Junction 24 , an auction house and conference centre who offered to stage the gig and anyone with a ticket (including those who had not managed to pick their tickets up from the Brewhouse box office) got to see the show.
I have never done a gig in a cattle auction house before nor indeed had an auction ring as the backstage area but it all added to the impromptu adventure. Thanks is due to the hard work and generous spirit of the Junction 24 team , especially Patch.
"Here it is! After requests for the music played at the start of the show here is the playlist. This is a personal compilation culled from some favourites in my collection. Enjoy!
Rollin' Danny - Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps
That's it man - The Valentines
Fujiyama Mama - Wanda Jackson
Psychedelic Train - Derrick Harriott and the Chosen Few
Mr Pharmacist - The Other Half
Lament 1 " Bird's Lament" Moondog
Jungle Rock - Hank Mizell
Boom Sacka Lacka - Hopeton Lewis and the Chosen Few
$ F--Oldin' Money $ - Tommy Blake
Rumble - Link Wray
Isralites - Desmond Dekker
Psychotic Reaction - Positively Thirteen O Clock
Know your Product - The Band Who Knew Too Much
Funnel of Love - Wanda Jackson
Ubangi Stomp - Warren Smith
That's the Bag - Fabs
Gibble Gobble - Willie Wright and his Sparklers
Radar - Link Wray
New - Bravo Figaro Programmme and Play Script For Sale
For the first time Mark has produced a full programme and script for the latest show and you can buy it right here in the Merchandise Shop.
What people are saying about Bravo Figaro!
Bravo Figaro! Tour
Here's a short video of Mark talking about Bravo Figaro! interview recorded by Too Tall Too Small Productions- sound by Paul Thorp, Camera and interview by Gabi Herrett.
Bravo Figaro! is Mark's new show and already picked up two awards at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2012, a Fringe First award recognising outstanding new theatre work and a Herald Angel award for performance. Here's Mark with his awards at the Traverse Theatre- with thanks to the helpful box office staffer who took the pic.
Bravo Figaro! is in London from the 10th September to the 6th October at the Tricycle Theatre and then touring the UK. Details of dates and venues are on the full gig details page.
Comedian Mark Thomas: why I wrote a show about my dad
As a teenager working on my dad's building sites, I used to cringe when he blasted opera out to the workers. Now I've written a show about him – in all his grumpy glory
Ten years ago, my dad, Colin Alec Todd Thomas, was diagnosed with a disease called progressive supranuclear palsy, a degenerative and incurable condition that is often misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis. He is now nearly blind, can't walk, can barely talk, can't swallow properly, has diabetes and dementia, and last week my mum, his carer, was told she could add gout to the list. It is likely he will die of hypostatic pneumonia. Frankly, he was a grumpy bastard to begin with and none of this has improved his mood.
I have responded to witnessing this cruel slide downwards with the appropriate dignity, and written a show about it for the Edinburgh festival. Bravo Figaro! is about my dad, me, love, death and opera. It came about as the result of a series of coincidences. I was the first ever guest on Radio 4's Saturday Live Inheritance Tracks slot, talking about music that reminds me of my family. This led to Mike Figgis commissioning me to write a show for a festival he was curating for the Royal Opera House; and this became the starting point for Bravo Figaro!, which, after many rewrites, now appears at the Traverse theatre.
But the larger story of how Bravo Figaro! came about started one Friday night 24 years ago, when Ben Elton introduced me to a live TV studio audience. Sweaty with fear, I stared at the crowd – then, mangling vowels in a youthful mockney accent, indignantly shouted one word: "What!" I paused, waited, rode out a few titters then, glowering into the darkness, continued: "Are they talking about …" I paused again, held it, made the wait significant, then bellowed incredulously, "… in opera?"
This was the springboard for a torrent of filth sung fast and furious, a paean to obscenely bad sex, belted out in alternating falsetto and tenor tones, thus reducing an entire artform to a series of grunts, shafts, shags and squelches. Although not the stuff of legend, the routine became my calling card on the comedy circuit, regarded at best as comedic filth with a dash of righteous toff-bashing. Hardly anyone knew that the routine was actually aimed squarely at my dad.
Colin Alec Todd Thomas was a working-class Tory and self-employed builder who discovered a love of opera as an adult and, like many a late convert, his zeal burned brightly. On Sunday mornings, our neighbours were blasted with Rossini and Verdi played at such volume that even now I have an impulse to apologise. He would take a cassette player to work, playing his favourite operas across the rooftops and building sites of south London, singing along at the top of his voice. It was excruciating. As a teenager working alongside him, I would cringe in embarrassment; I was avenged when I spat and sang my obscene parody of his beloved opera on national telly.
My father was born in the wrong century: he wanted a world where men were masters, women were quiet and children had rickets. When he said, "They should bring back the death penalty and if no one else will do it, I'll throw the switch," not only did he mean it, he would also have brought his own jump-leads and a car battery as back-up. Unsurprisingly, he was frequently the focus of my early routines.
Over time, my shows became increasingly political and theatrical, and over that same period he became just slightly more tolerant. As the well of material he provided dried up, so did my desire to draw from it. It was not my intention to return to my family as source material again. We had reached a kind of agreeable stand-off. I went off and did exposés on arms dealers and expounded the virtues of the right to protest and, in return, he stopped wincing every time a lesbian character appeared on TV.
Colin Alec Todd Thomas now sits in the corner of a room with his eyes shut, shaking, sweating and unable to remember what he had for lunch. I'm drawn to opera, the artform he loved, in an effort to reach out to him before he vanishes. So the decision to do Bravo Figaro! was more instinctive than rational; but, with so personal a story, it raised the question of how to represent him on stage. Should I treat him differently this time round because his time with us is short? Well, yes and no. Once again, my dad is resolutely lambasted as there seems no point in telling so private a tale without being truthful. And, to be honest, the stories of him being a bastard are comedy gold.
It is not all one-sided: my dad does get to speak for himself, as audio interviews with him and my mum have been woven into the script. But there is one significant change in the way I represent my dad this time around, 24 years after that torrent of filth: now, the image of him standing on scaffolding, singing opera across the rooftops of south London, is the one I cherish most.
New paperback version of "Extreme Rambling"
The new paperback format is out now. Hurrah and hooray!
Manifesto - The App!
The Manifesto IOS App for the iPhone is now available here (Don't worry Android/Windows phone users, we'll have a version for you too soon).
The app has three main sections. A manifesto policy browser containing a selection of the winning manifesto policies from Mark's shows over the last 2 years, an implementation of one specific manifesto idea and a handy stop and search card that you can have with you at all times in case of need. It's IOS 5.0 only we're afraid as we followed a development path that excluded earlier versions of IOS. If we get time we will re-write it for older versions.
The manifesto policy that has been implemented is the idea to change the word "devil" in the bible with the word "Bagpuss". There are a selection of quotations (which you can add to and amend) and a selection of substitution words that you can also add to and amend and switch on and off. It's good fun and the results can be very amusing. Get creative and send us your custom results so we can have a laugh too.
Unfortunately the promised DVD of Extreme Rambling will not be being produced due to lack of funding for the project - apologies to those who have been waiting for it but it's just not possible,
Here is a wee photo gallery from the 2011 tour and another gallery of Mark's ramble in the West Bank. If you have any photos please send them in to email@example.com and we'll add them here.
During 2010 Mark decided to go rambling in the Middle East and walked the entire length of the Israeli Separation Barrier, crossing between the Israeli and the Palestinian side. This is the story of 300 000 settlers, a 750 km wall, six arrests, one stoning, too much humuus and one simple question...
Can you ever get away from it all with a good walk?
Extreme Rambling has been performed across the UK, from the Highlands and Islands of Scotland to the Cornish seaside of St Ives. It cropped up at the Glastonbury festival (the first time a two hour set had been performed on the comedy stage), sold out a months run at the Tricycle Theatre, was performed as a benefit for Rabbis for Human Rights at the North Western Reform Synagogue and was nominated for the Amnesty Freedom of Expression Award, the first time a comic has been nominated for the award.
There are some videos of Mark explaining why he decided to go rambling in the West Bank on the Audio/Video page.
Read the article about Mark's ramble in the West Bank in the Guardian by clicking here.
The more keen eyed amongst you will notice the War on Want, FBU and Fairtrade Foundation logos on the poster, this is because they have helped with the project to 'walk the wall.' However, special thanks goes to the Metropolitan Police who, as some of you might know, paid compensation when they wrongfully stopped and searched me. Half of the money awarded in compensation was given to the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation that campaigns for the release and treatment of those wrongfully imprisoned. The other half was used to fund the walk, it is therefore only fitting that I thank the Metropolitan Police for their financial assistance.
***** “Moving and inspiring… as gripping as any live performance you will see” THE GUARDIAN
“… A brilliant investigative journalist disguised as a comedian…very funny indeed" DAILY TELEGRAPH
Welcome and thanks for visiting!
Here you can find out what Mark is up to, his current work and campaigns, tour dates, appearances and assorted general mitherings.
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