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« Saturday night at the movie | Main | He's football crazy, they're effing mad »

Hockney: Brighton breezy

Hockney_100.jpg Another excellent article by David Hockney (see HERE). Hockney first came to our attention as a protagonist in the smoking debate when the New York Times published a letter of his attacking the NY ban. That was in 2004. A short while later I wrote to him in California, inviting him to attend a private dinner hosted by Forest - and heard nothing. In fact, I forgot about it.

Cometh the day, cometh the man. Halfway through the evening, an elderly man with a distinctive white cap and two companions wandered in, sat down, and lit up. It was Hockney, arguably Britain's most famous living artist. Apparently, he had just flown in from Sicily where he had been on holiday. His manager met him at Heathrow, showed him my letter, which had been faxed to London, whereupon he ordered the cab to drive straight to the restaurant.

He didn't say much (he's partially deaf, which is why he's not a huge fan of large public events) but he later declared the evening to be a "life-enhancing experience". The following day he was sufficiently inspired to fire off a letter to the Guardian. This in turn led to a feature on Newsnight and, subsequently, a series of high profile interviews on radio and television.

Together, our greatest 'success' took place in Brighton, at the 2005 Labour party conference. Forest had planned, months in advance, a fringe meeting at the Metropole Hotel where many of the Cabinet were staying. The event was to be chaired by Claire Fox of the Institute of Ideas, and confirmed speakers included Joe Jackson, Sue Carroll of the Daily Mirror, and Sue Brearley, co-author of The Joy of Smoking. David was interested but couldn't commit. We took a chance and printed 3,000 flyers featuring his name. Less than 48 hours before the event, his manager confirmed he would be coming. Cue pandemonium.

A team of students was enlisted to distribute the flyers to every corner of the conference. We issued a press release. The BBC were the first to respond. The following morning, before he set off for Brighton, Hockney could be heard, on the Today programme, berating a junior health minister for being "boring" and "dreary". (The London Evening Standard declared it to be the most uplifting moment on radio that year.) Moments later, on BBC Television, he was featured - live from his London studio - with a homemade poster either side of him declaring 'Death comes to us all'.

Down in Brighton we were besieged by journalists wanting to interview the great man. In rapid order, we arranged one-on-one interviews with The Times, Independent, Guardian, Telegraph and Press Association. We also got him on Andrew Neil's The Daily Politics, which was broadcasting live from the conference. But first, there was the little matter of a photo call at the Hilton that got completely out of hand when a lone anti-smoking campaigner decided to butt in, prompting security staff to wrestle him out of the building via a fire exit while 30 or more cameras clicked and flashed in unison. Throughout it all, David Hockney smiled benignly and exuded an air of amused detachment.

That evening, after an event full of laughter (it was described as "one of the best fringe meetings for years"), we went for dinner at Brighton's Havana restaurant. The Sunday Times came too, columnist Jasper Gerard arriving hot foot from London with the specific task of interviewing Hockney for the paper's Review section.

Later that night, as we walked along the promenade to our hotel (without David who had returned to London after dinner), we got caught in the most torrential downpour. It was two o'clock in the morning and the rain was bouncing off the pavement. We were exhausted, and we were soaking wet. But we were also exhilarated. I shall never forget it.

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Reader Comments (20)

Nice story Simon. I am somewhat amused at the idiocy of the Independent journalist. "last stand" indeed.

May 27, 2007 at 12:30 | Unregistered CommenterBernie

Just read an article (Bolton Evening News) about a protest at a pub on July 1st in Bolton, Lancashire. Looks like this just might be one of the first stands!!! Hopefully there will be many many more.

May 27, 2007 at 14:36 | Unregistered CommenterJenny

Yes, I raised the criticism of Forest in a post a while back when the language used was "last chance to smoke indoors" or whatever similar. Our language has to change too and we must not throw hostages to fortune by assisting the press to write rubbish.

Stuff The Independent, they write almost as much PC nonsense as The Guardian.

May 27, 2007 at 23:40 | Unregistered CommenterBlad Tolstoy

Bernie, we should not blame journalist or anyone also but our inactivity.

We should organise political organisation with clear and simply strategy that is easy understandable to everyone.

At this point anything also is just one drop in the ocean.

May 27, 2007 at 23:47 | Unregistered CommenterLuke

As an interval for light relief, looks like smoking may be on the way back in New York:

May 28, 2007 at 0:26 | Unregistered CommenterBlad Tolstoy

No longer available Blad. I'd like to have seen that.

May 28, 2007 at 2:29 | Unregistered CommenterBernie

Actually it is available Bernie. What happened is that the link could not be transfered completely to this thread.

However, if you go to:

you will see the heading "Cig ban? What cig ban?"

Follow the links and you'll get to the article.

May 28, 2007 at 11:22 | Unregistered CommenterBlad Tolstoy

Thanks Blad. That is great to see.

May 28, 2007 at 16:31 | Unregistered CommenterBernie

Unfortunately Bernie, with the mania in the USA now to produce nicotine free cigarettes, then it doesn't seem to matter what people do as a "natural" action.

In addition, I am nonplussed as to why they think producing nicotine free cigarettes is some sort of winning formula. Who would buy them and even more to the point who would make them?

Better start cultivating your tomato and aubergine plants. They have more nicotine in the leaves than tobacco, so I am told, and they can't touch you for smoking them.

May 29, 2007 at 0:22 | Unregistered CommenterBlad Tolstoy

Never mind the salad veg Blad you can grow tobacco in your garden if you want.

May 29, 2007 at 12:37 | Unregistered CommenterBernie

I have to agree with Bernie as regards the idiocy of the journalism. How can it be a revolt to smoke while smoking is legal? As for a last stand, Jenny has it right the BASH in BOLTON will be a stand- and not the last, either... not while I and thousands of others have breath in our bodies.

However, it is typical of the media to present the ban as a fait accompli. NO, no, no, we all know there is resistance- and the number of those resisting is growing as we reach a wider audience.

May 29, 2007 at 17:37 | Unregistered CommenterBelinda

So far I haven't managed to find out about any events elsewhere (other than in Bolton) - it will be interesting to find out if and where other similar events are to be staged.

May 29, 2007 at 19:36 | Unregistered CommenterJenny

Never mind having a last legal smoke in pubs and clubs on 30th June , do what is going to be happening on Bolton on !st July, organise a "Light-Up " and defy the law.

May 30, 2007 at 0:32 | Unregistered CommenterEddie d

Jenny. All it takes is a few friends to go to any pub and light upon !st July.Spread the word by e-mail, phone etc and ask all your friend to do the same.

May 30, 2007 at 0:35 | Unregistered CommenterEddie d

also theres an event in London: - if you cant make it in Bolton that is.

May 30, 2007 at 1:05 | Unregistered CommenterCarlo

Eddie - I shall work on this - I just might have found the right pub - will let you all know if I make progress.

May 30, 2007 at 10:36 | Unregistered CommenterJenny

There was once a very brave group of people who objected to the British tyranny of the day merely because they wanted to impose a few meagre taxes to raise money to pay for their wars.

Here is an inspiring speech from one of the best of them;

May 30, 2007 at 15:07 | Unregistered CommenterBernie

Researching Patrick Henry further I have just discovered that he did not attend any school or college. He was home schooled. Yet his vocabulary and obvious intelligence seems to be greater than some of our children who have had a state education.

May 30, 2007 at 15:55 | Unregistered CommenterBernie

Bernie - I work in the field of education and Patrick Henry's command of language/abilities are definitely infinitely superior to the vast majority who have experienced secondary education. Today's young people are not educated ( from Latin - drawing or leading out greatness and ability which lies within a person) - they are subjected to instruction (thrusting in of facts) - if you have read Muriel Spark's 'Prime of Miss Jean Brodie', (which I did very many years ago) this aspect was explained by Miss Brodie and I thought about those words carefully then (at the age of 15). However, I am a product of the old system and we were taught how to think and analyse :) !!!

May 31, 2007 at 10:21 | Unregistered CommenterJenny

Saw the film many years ago but I think it will be worth reading the book. Thanks for the recommendation.

May 31, 2007 at 16:26 | Unregistered CommenterBernie

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