Arms dealers arriving at the Tower of London for a swanky reception on Wednesday 6 November got a little bit more than they bargained for.
Instead of friendly stewards and helpful Beefeaters, they found a ribald collection of ghosts and ghouls. Zombies rubbed shoulders with scythe wielding “Deaths”, masked executioners discussed the finer points of law with a high court judge (always ending with, “Send them to the Tower!”). Even the Queen was there, the Tower being a Royal Palace and Fortress after all, passing judgement on the arms dealers.
Protesters from Campaign Against Arms Trade and Stop the Arms Fair were saying no to arms dealing in creative fashion!
Watching over proceedings were giant eyeballs, their lidless gaze meeting the cold eyes of weapons traders. The reason for these was because of the main speaker of the evening. Sir Iain Robert Lobban KCMG CB, Director of GCHQ was giving a talk. His organisation is responsible for electronic eavesdropping on emails, texts, even phone calls. His eyes are on all of us, so it seemed right that giant eyes should be on him!
Ghosts and ghouls praised the security guards ushering arms dealers speedily into the Tower with calls of “Quite right too”, “Send them to the Tower” and “Send them to the Traitors’ gate!”.
The serious point is that the Royal Palaces are important public institutions, containing priceless national treasures, and should not be acting as a backdrop for weapons deals. And the people making those deals should not be able to enjoy entertainment in these important spaces without challenge. It’s this message that successfully brought an end to the National Gallery’s support for arms dealers. Now campaigners want to challenge other cultural institutions too.
So, the point was made, in a creative but clear fashion.
Let’s hope the next time arms dealers come to the Tower, it is not to enjoy drinks or dinner in lavish surroundings. Rather that they have realised the error of their ways and sent themselves to the Tower of London in penance!