Saatchi fire, Green future and others

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Whole chapters of achievement wiped out in Saatchi fire

Whole chapters of achievement wiped out in Saatchi fire

Sir: As one of the artists who lost work in the disastrous fire at the Momart warehouse, I am writing to express my disgust at the article by your art critic Tom Lubbock ("Lost art isn't irreplaceable. But it probably won't be replaced", 27 May).

I consider myself fortunate to have lost (as far as I know) only one work. Many of my friends and colleagues - including Martin Maloney, Damien Hirst, Tracy Emin, the Chapman brothers, Richard Patterson, Patrick Caulfield, Gillian Ayres, and the family of the late Partick Heron - have lost work of such importance, and for some cases in such numbers (Patrick Heron more than 50 paintings), that whole chapters of their achievements have been wiped out for ever. Only the most insensitive person could fail to recognise that this is a time of trauma for many artists.

Mr Lubbock shows a complete failure of understanding about works of art and the way in which they are created when he grandly pronounces that "with the will and the funding many of these works were perfectly replaceable". And he is not just referring to large scale constructions - he makes a point of including painters such as Patrick Caulfield, Gary Hume and Chris Ofili.

Few if any of these lost works can be remade. And those that are will always be just that - re-makes. Mr Lubbock seems unaware that creating a particular work of art is possible only at a certain time in the context of an artist's life. It is no more possible to do later than it was to do earlier.

With my own lost painting, I can assure him that everything that compelled, motivated, and enabled me to make that work at that time is gone for ever, and it is not possible for me to simply will myself into "doing it again".

When Mr Lubbock says that the reason artists like myself won't remake these lost works is that we cynically "can't be bothered", he reveals how little value he places on the most essential requirement of all creative activity - emotional engagement.

Without the level of emotional engagement that propelled the making of the original, remaking a work becomes an empty task, and that emptiness will of course be readable in the new work. This disaster not only touches many people who care about art but will have a lasting impact on the cultural history of our period.

London NW5

The green future begins at home

Sir: James Lovelock's flip-flop from whole-earth mystic to nuclear industry lobbyist must represent one of the most spectacular transitions from the sublime to the ridiculous of all time. Surely this can't just be the result of a few wind turbines spoiling the view?

What was remarkable about his recent article and subsequent letter (31 May) on climate change was not only the complete absence of a single reference to energy efficiency but also the assumption that centralised power supply systems would remain the model for the future. Few would dispute his analysis of the overriding seriousness of climate change. But a total reliance on nuclear would be the most expensive and dangerous way of dealing with the crisis.

For the first time in history we now have the possibility, through eco-efficient design and the exploitation of the new renewable technologies, of every home in Britain being self-sufficient in energy. Micro-generation and decentralised supply systems offer the best possibilities of safe, secure and affordable energy for the future. They have the additional advantage of being comparatively unattractive to terrorists.

Meanwhile, we look forward to James Lovelock's campaign for a new nuclear power station, and an associated radioactive waste store, in Devon. Or are the only suitable sites in somebody else's backyard?

(Bury North, Lab) Chair, All Party Group for Intelligent Energy
House of Commons

Sir: I am pleased to see letters again stating the fact that only nuclear energy can provide the medium-term solution to the very serious threat to the earth posed by global warming. I was also very disappointed by correspondents who seemed to think that by encouraging people to conserve energy and using wind farms, wave generators, solar panels etc. to provide energy the problem could be solved.

Encouraging people to conserve energy is proving as difficult as it is to encourage people to give up drugs, to stop fighting each other, to use public transport or for burglars to go straight or obese people to diet. Unfortunately we are addicted to massive energy use and for nations it is a sign of affluence and success. And we want the poor nations to succeed. Therefore we must provide energy for them to expand. Renewables are good and will help a little but they only work when the wind blows and the sea is rough or the sun shines.

We are a very resourceful and inventive species and eventually we will find the near perfect solution to the problem (perhaps nuclear fusion), but in the meantime, in order to survive, we must use the nuclear energy technology that exists and is becoming increasingly safe as it develops.

Great Bookham, Surrey

Challenge to Brown

Sir: Gordon Brown is right to stress that more action is needed now if we are to tackle global poverty and promote growth, fair trade and overseas aid. ("We need irreversible progress in tackling world poverty", 1 June)

However the challenge is to move beyond the rhetoric to a sustained commitment, which will deliver a tangible difference to the lives of the world's poorest people. The truth is that the G7 countries are not giving their fair share when it comes to aid, contributing on average less than half as much of their income on aid as other donor countries outside the G7.

The UK government does give more than most in the G7 - overseas aid has increased from 0.26 per cent of GDP in 1997 to 0.34 per cent under this government. However we are below the EU average and the Chancellor could and should do more. A start would be to announce a timetable for reaching the UN agreed 0.7 commitment by 2008.

So, Chancellor, it is time to back up your words with the much- needed resources. The world's poorest children and their families cannot afford to wait.

Director General, Save the Children

UK Director, Action Aid International

General Secretary, BOND

Director, Christian Aid.

Chief Executive, War on Want
London EC1

Legislating a lie

Sir: Years ago my youngest son developed an extraordinary attitude: he believed he was a dragon, a sort of superhero. Along with other very definite lifestyle requirements, dragons did not respond unless addressed as "dragon". The strain on family and friends in meeting my son's demands proved too great.

The only real difference between what my son demanded some 25 years ago and what the proponents of the Gender Recognition Bill require is their ages. The Bill requires the rest of society to join in the world of make-believe of a number of unhappy people who clearly suffer from a psychological disorder. They certainly need help, but that is not what this Bill is about.

It will, in effect, introduce same-sex marriages. The Government says it has no plans to do so, but by allowing the possibility that two biological males, complete with male genitalia, may be legally married - because one has a certificate saying he is a legal woman - it will have prepared the ground for its real goal.

It will become a legal requirement to lie - on pain of a hefty fine. Church ministers will be particularly affected, and exposed to all sorts of possible legal actions. For such a thing to happen outside of Orwell's 1984 is appalling, but that it should take place under a prime minister described as a committed Christian, simply beggars belief. Or perhaps this Government has always believed it's all right to lie?


Hospital holidays

Sir: Yesterday was a bank holiday. I received my copy of The Independent and I shopped in a local supermarket.

I have a friend with serious malignant disease currently in hospital and recently had a close relative in hospital for six months following a stroke. Services to both of these people in hospital in terms of investigation and treatment closed down over bank holidays, causing considerable distress - no physiotherapy, no continuing radiological or haematological investigation, no doctor who knew their case.

I wonder if anyone has studied the impact of bank holiday weekends on the health care of patients in hospital. If I can receive a newspaper and do my shopping why can't the proper health care of the sick in hospital continue?


Baffling elections

Sir: I write in response to your leader (31 May) concerning low voter turnout. Over the past two weeks I have attempted to explain the forthcoming elections to a class of very bright 11-year-olds. It has not been easy.

The European elections use a closed list system, the mayoral election has a supplementary vote system where two votes are cast and one may or may not be counted, and the London Assembly needs two votes, one for a local person and one for someone else, I think.

There have been no communications from the parties until Saturday, and these were full of platitudes and failed to be at all specific. No one has ever heard of the candidates for the Assembly and there were no biographical details supplied. No one knows what these people do.

Despite my best efforts a fog of confusion envelops us all, and I was not surprised when many pupils said that it was unlikely that their parents would vote.

The one matter on which they were all agreed was that those elected should represent the community and that there should be equal numbers of men and women and that black or other minorities should also be certain of some seats.

If there are lessons from this, it is that voters need information, clearly written and presented in good time, and the voting system needs to be the same for all elections.

London SE7

Sir: Want to vote? Haven't got a ballot paper? Perhaps you would like to buy one. My daughter has been sent two; she thinks she might auction one through the internet, but I've told her there'll be no bidders.


D-Day debt to US

Sir: Before going off to war in 1940, my father arranged for our family to be evacuated from Penge, South-east London, to Cookham Dean near Maidenhead. In the build up to D-Day thousands of American troops were bivouacked in the fields and woods that surrounded our house there.

As a four-year old on the day that the Yanks moved out to take part in the invasion, I vividly remember standing on the five-bar gate with my three-year-old brother, watching with excitement and yelling "Got any gum chum?" at the departing soldiers and being showered with packets of the magical stuff. I often wonder just how many of those men that we watched going off to take part in the greatest invasion in history actually survived to return home.

Those who are so quick to condemn the Americans as arrogant and self-serving, particularly among the younger generation, need to be reminded from time to time that were it not for their incredible generosity in terms of both lives and money, we could never have been victorious in the war against Hitler.

Boscombe, Dorset

Powerless MEPs

Sir: Philip James asserts in his letter (27 May) that "MEPs have the power to hold the European Commission to account". Curiously, I seem to remember a time when the entire Commission was forced to resign, but then mysteriously reappeared a matter of months later. Either there is no power of the kind Mr James suggests, or worse, the MEPs choose not to exercise it.

Alresford, Hampshire

Pitch of confusion

Sir: David Farndale ("Steer clear of the football pitch as a unit of measurement", 31 May) might be amused to hear that the British fire service has always used "well defined" units of measurement for roughly assessing the size of large incidents in the open. However a few years ago we changed from using acres to hectares. Upon inquiring what size a hectare might be I was told, "Roughly the same size as a football pitch."

Havant, Hampshire


Sir: Is there any chance of informing Colonel Tim Collins (Podium, 28 May) that Machiavelli wrote two books on politics? The other one is called The Discourses. And it's all about the intrinisic superiority of republics. Machiavelli spells out, 500 years before the event, why Saddam Hussein didn't stand a chance against any reasonable-sized democracy. Read it back to back with The Prince and note that the author never actually contradicts himself - he just doesn't include in The Prince the bits that Lorenzo the Magnificent wouldn't have liked.

Ashford, Ken

Take no notice

Sir: Have any of your readers witnessed a phenomenon I saw advertised on a sign in Pembrokeshire. Despite years of walking in the British countryside I have still not found where it is that "Sheep Keep Dogs on Leads".

Axbridge, Somerset