Sunday, June 11, 2006
I took the kids to the Cheltenham science festival. In the Town Hall, they were looking round some exhibits and I wandered into the buffet to get a drink. There was some sort of press conference going on in the buffet. There were three or four people on a panel and one of them I recognized, I'm sure, from the telly. She was a woman scientist of some description and I'm sure I've seen her on Horizon or something like that but I can't quite place her. I didn't catch the question she was asked as I walked in, but from her answer it was something about making science more accessible to the public and discussing how to give science a more friendly face. I wandered back into the exhibition area. The boys had been making playdoh models of molecules, bacteria and other stuff. All very educational. My youngest wandered over to a nearby exhibit which had instantly attracted his attention because it featured a football in some role. I went over to see what was going on. Basically you had to kick the football at a target and a radar gun measured the speed. He scored a respectable 41 miles an hour, which I didn't see any other kids come close to, most of them were around 30. Anyway he was having great fun so I thought I'd get a picture of it to show Grandma and Granddad. No sooner had I taken the camera out than I was approached by a lady jobsworth with an official looking pass who told me I was forbidden to take pictures. I assumed that I'd misunderstood what she said so I asked her to repeat it and she said that I wasn't allowed to take pictures because it was against the council policy because of child protection. Incredulous, I spelled it out exactly to make sure I understood exactly how unfriendly the science festival was. So I said, very clearly, "you're telling me that it's against council policy for me to take a picture of my own son kicking a football?" The lady jobsworth repeated that this was indeed the case and asked me to put the camera away again. Perhaps if they want to have a more friendly face on a science festival for children next year, they should consider somewhere other than Cheltenham, because I certainly won't bother going there again. P.S. What's tragic about this vignette is that it highlights one of the more catastrophic ways in which our country becoming a less pleasant place to bring up a family every day. I haven't the slightest doubt that the council's absurd policy has made no difference whatsoever to the quality of life of any single child in their jurisdiction. All it does is introduce yet another mean and petty restriction on the people once responsible for the Magna Carta. P.P.S. This farcical bureaucracy was of course defeated. I saw countless people taking pictures with camera phones. It can only be a matter of time before Cheltenham Council ban those on the grounds of child protection shortly before they ban all phones because they cause brain cancer.