Sunday, June 01, 2014

Mark Thomas Cover Gallery

I've been following Thomas since the days of The Mary Whitehouse Experience. Since then we've had TV shows like The Mark Thomas Product, radio shows like It's the Economy, Stupid and The Mark Thomas Manifesto and tours like Serious Organised Criminal (also available on DVD) and Bravo Figaro, which was also published as a CD and broadcast on radio.

The current show is about Thomas performing 100 acts of minor dissent within a year. To motivate his efforts, if he fails to perform them before May 12 next year, he'll donate £1,000 to UKIP.

The show has developed over time; on Wednesday, one of the acts he discussed was a protest, two days earlier, outside the offices of the Daily Star and Daily Express, papers forever complaining about migrants—for the most part a hardworking, tax paying section of the British workforce. The Express papers, on the other hand, contribute less to the British economy than they might otherwise do. "According to Panorama, UK companies in the GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) pharmaceuticals group and the Northern & Shell media group paid interest on substantial loans from Luxembourg subsidiaries. That interest was effectively taxed at less than 1% in Luxembourg, while a deduction for the payments reduced the profits chargeable to UK corporation tax at 28%." Richard Brooks was quoted as saying: ‘The company puts its money into Luxembourg and borrows it back. It just sends money round in a circle and picks up a tax break on the way.’" This isn't the first time Richard Desmond's companies have been investigated by the media.

So you need someone like Mark Thomas who, as he says, has reached 50 and now doesn't care  about what people think of his stunts. And they are stunts ... but stunts with a purpose and stunts that often turn the law in on itself. The show at the moment is a little bitty because events are still unfolding, but Thomas has already been pretty active, working with feminist artist Tracey Moberly to make porn magazines more acceptable to feminists and surprising for their readers, helping organise a GBLT party outside the Russian Embassy in Edinburgh and involving himself with the controversial move by Royal Parks to appoint a company to start collecting payment from people playing organised sports in Hyde Park.

Thomas and others responded by organising a What's the Time Mr. Wolf? championship and, whilst they didn't get charged by the company who collects the fees it highlighted the problem and being forced to pay fees to play in Royal Parks has now been dropped. A win for all of us, not just Thomas, although we can't all take the credit.

Thomas outlines dozens of ways you can enjoy yourself at the expense of corporations, multinationals and chain outlets (but not local businesses). He slips heckles into bad novels and sells stickers for books ("Also available in charity shops"; "Staff recommendation: keep the receipt"). He's trademarked Bastardtrade, his answer to Fair Trade.

These are little things, but little acts of dissent swell over time into movements and eventually into policies from governments. Maybe not everything, but more than you'd imagine. And Mark Thomas makes it look like fun, so go and see the show and think about maybe getting involved.

(* The above was written back in September last year when we went to see Mark Thomas  live during his 100 Acts of Minor Dissent tour. The tour has now finished, as has an accompanying art show held at the Millennium Gallery, Sheffield. There was a review in The Guardian recently noting that Thomas completed his task ahead of the deadline.)

As Used on the Famous Nelson Mandela: Underground Adventures in the Arms and Torture Trade
Ebury Press 978-0091-90921-5, 2006, vii+339pp.
Ebury Press 978-0091-90922-2, 2007, vii+339pp, £7.99. Cover designed by Two Associates

Belching Out the Devil: Global Adventures with Coca-Cola
Ebury Press 978-0091-92293-1, 2008, xviii+364pp, £11.99. Cover design by Two Associates
Ebury Press 978-0091-92704-2, 2009, xviii+364pp.

The People's Manifesto
Ebury Press 978-0091-93796-6, 2010, n/p, £4.99. Cover design by Two Associates

Extreme Rambling
Ebury Press 978-0091-92780-6, 2011, 346pp.
Ebury Press 978-0091-92781-3, 2012, 346pp.

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