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March 30 2012

Letters: Art and arms trade

Today sees the launch of a campaign calling on the National Gallery to end its support for the arms trade. The gallery regularly hosts events for the arms industry, as a result of a sponsorship deal with global weapons manufacturer Finmeccanica. These events include receptions for the weapons fairs Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi) and the Farnborough air show.

Such arms fairs are a key part of the global arms trade, bringing authoritarian regimes and weapons manufacturers from around the world to the UK to do business. In 2010 Libya, China and Saudi Arabia were among the customers being courted at Farnborough. In 2011, Bahrain and Egypt were shopping at DSEi, even though both were using lethal force against protesters at the time.

By entering into this deal the gallery not only provides a gloss of legitimacy for a reprehensible trade; it is also providing very practical support for the arms industry. How can an institution which celebrates the creative spirit of humanity open its door to those dealing in products designed to kill and destroy?

We urge the gallery not to host a reception for the Farnborough air show in July and to end its sponsorship arrangement with Finmeccanica.
Peter Kennard Artist
Will Self Novelist and journalist
Matthew Herbert Sound artist/composer
Mark McGowan Artist and associate lecturer at Chelsea College of Art
Lisa Wesley Artist
Steve Duncombe Co-director, Center for Artistic Activism, New York
Tim Jeeves Artist and writer
Ian Mack Painter
Leila Galloway Artist and senior lecturer, DMU
Space Hijackers Artists
Leah Borromeo Journalist and film-maker
Brett Bloom Artist
Hayley Newman Artist
Brian Holmes Art critic
Cecilia Wee Curator and writer
Noel Douglas Artist
David Caines Visual artist
Nathan Witt RCA
Sarah Waldron Campaign Against Arms Trade
Stop the Arms Fair Coalition © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

May 14 2010

How should we remember Bomber Command? | Open thread

Sixty five years after VE Day, a monument to the bomber crews who helped defeat Nazi Germany raises difficult questions

Just over 65 years after VE Day, Westminster council has finally given the go-ahead to a memorial dedicated to the memory of RAF Bomber Command and the bomber crews who flew over occupied Europe during the second world war and died in their thousands in what was one of the most dangerous missions for any wartime service personnel.

Among the UK's copious collection of war memorials are many famous and less well-known tributes: "the Few" of the Battle of Britain have two monuments, in Kent and in London; the Merchant Navy's memorial is at Tower Hill, London; the Desert Rats are commemorated at Thetford in Norfolk; Liverpool has a statue dedicated to those who crewed the ships of the Atlantic convoys, and there is another in Murmansk marking those lost in the Arctic convoys; and not forgetting the animals' war memorial next to Hyde Park in London. So why is it only now that the 55,573 bomber crew members killed – a casualty rate that meant a life expectancy of six weeks, only slightly longer than that of the estimated 540 fighter pilots killed in the Battle of Britain?

Winston Churchill said, in 1940: "The fighters are our salvation but the bombers alone provide the means of victory." Yet Bomber Command's celebrated leader, Sir Arthur Harris, was not granted a memorial until 1992, and this monument to the crew has waited more than 65 years. There is a perception that the commemoration of the bomber crews' sacrifice was postponed because of a widespread moral unease about this aspect of Britain's wartime conduct: that dropping bombs on one's enemy is intrinsically unheroic; that the bombing of Germany was not "our finest hour"; that the heavy civilian loss of life was cruel and, some have argued, even criminal.

Was this memorial overdue or is it right to have qualms? If both are true, how can the two considerations be reconciled? © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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