Have Your Say!

October 17th, 2016

On Thursday, 20th October 2016 we are holding another HAVE YOUR SAY event in the Lecture Theatre of BSix College, Kenninghall Road, Clapton, E5 8BP: 12.30pm – 1.30pm.

Amongst those on the panel will be Hackney Council’s Speaker (civic Mayor), Ken Warman, Principal of the College, Lee Sterry, an Environmental Health Officer and a senior police representative.

A lot has been happening recently: Brexit, Donald Trump (sic), England’s football team defeated by Iceland, the Marmite shortage….there are lots of serious (and not so serious) things to talk about. We’ll also be launching our Song for London competition.  Come along and make your voice heard.

A Song for London

September 28th, 2016

Let”s face it, the Eurovision Song Contest is an exercise in masochism, we know we’re not going to win, or get anywhere near winning. But we slavishly watch it, usually offering a pretty crummy song,  moaning in defeat as if we’ve discovered a new syndrome – not Society Syndrome, maybe Iceland syndrome, after our infamous football capitulation against them. True, voting can be biased and no one loves us – strange, the Millwall catchphrase has now become synonymous with the nation – don’t expect any sudden change, now we’ve further antagonised close friends and neighbours (sic), by voting for Brexit! We must do better, we have the talent, ability and history to put forward a great song and show what we”re made of. Maybe selection of the song has been under the thumb of the BBC for too long, after all, it is our country being represented, not just them as broadcaster.

More easily sortable – and closer to home, is London; yes the old smoke. The Big Apple has Sinatra’s New York, New York, Alicia Keys more recent belter and many more; what have we got representing the greatest city in the world? Not much, apart from Hubert Gregg’s 1940’s classic Maybe It’s Because I’m a Londoner. It’s not exactly contemporary – or quite what’s needed in the 21st century.

We’re asking composers and performers to come up with a real show-stopper, one that truly reflects London’s multi-racial, multi-cultural, sporting and social heritage. Maybe it is because I’m a Londoner, I see such an urgent need for it. We’ll be asking Sadiq Khan and commercial sponsors to provide something for the winning entry – but let’s do this for London, we could do with a dramatic, emotional, vital, passionate song to cheer us up, just as Hubert Gregg’s, written to combat war fatigue, showed the world doodlebugs wouldn’t beat us, let’s show everyone we’ll not be frazzled or knocked out by the ludicrous Brexit!

Entries for our Song for London competition will close at midnight on Sunday, 21st October 2018 and be judged the next day. Get composing, start singing, London needs YOU!

Only Connect – nothing vaguely interesting or worth connecting….

September 28th, 2016

Directed by a brouhaha about Victoria Coren Mitchell’s clothing, I dipped my toe into the tepid waters of Only Connect, barely glancing at her dress, nor the nerdy ensemble of garments worn by self-righteous eggheads exposing their eccentricities in earnest, trying to connect motifs, paradigms and superficial subject matter – or rather, subjects that didn’t matter – but had to leave after twenty minutes of the worst television quiz I’ve ever seen, venturing to more fertile territory for amusement, a 40 year old Dad’s Army repeat on catch-up.

How could commissioners agree to take on such vacuous, sad, rubbish? What was Chris Stuart thinking when he divised it? “What have apples and pears got in common? Oh yes, teeth, people with teeth sometimes eat them.” That sort of supposedly intelligent thing. Great!

We must save the world from clever people, so clever they know almost everything, but understand nothing. Not that stupidity is good, you only have to look at the Leader of North Korea to know that. A quiz show should reflect perception, cognisance, insight…this merely reflects self-indulgence and blandness.

There was about as much atmosphere as you’d find on a lunar landscape, which would have provided more fertile territory for whimsy, wit, erudition and stimulation. This was drab, elitist, nonsense without rhyme or reason. Who CARES if any of the banal clues connected, they certainly didn’t connect with me!

As for Victoria, normally warm, convivial and – when needed, with a poker-face. I really don’t need to think of Michael Portillo naked – I certainly don’t connect with HIM in THAT way – or this tripe in any way.


September 15th, 2016

We need a few more bon viveurs, raconteurs and wits, to help make the world a better place – or at least, take our minds off its’ worst faults. Yes, there’s the saintly Stephen Fry, he can’t keep it up (only a metaphor) for ever, he needs help. From all of us. Let’s amuse each other.

Chatshows used to be awash with anecdotes, avid anecdote-tellers and rapacious wit, even politicians once showed commendable good humour: Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, following a bout of illness: “Die, my dear doctor! That’s the last thing I shall do.” Another at death’s door, asked how he felt replied: “Better than the alternative.”

Disraeli, accused of unparliamentary conduct by The Speaker, was asked to withdraw his assertion that “half the House were mad”. “Very well,” he declared, “half of the House are not mad.” And of course, Churchill’s historic riposte to Bessie Braddock, after being accused of being drunk. “Madame, you’re ugly. But tomorrow I shall be sober.” Not quite as well known, is the continuation: Infuriated by the exchange Braddock said: “If you were my husband I’d put poison in your drink.” To which Churchill retorted: “Madam, if you were my husband, I’d drink it!”

Suave David Niven and debonair Robert Morley, must have talked the hinges off the Gates of Heaven upon arrival, at this moment, they’re probably regaling some devilish story of demonic decadence to a coterie of listeners, none, hopefully, sporting horns. It’s one place fancy dress is inadvisable.

Wit is different from humour, it is unassuming, almost accidental. Joyce Grenfell: “Happiness is the sublime moment when you get out of your corsets at night” was quick-witted in what was, at the time, very much a man’s world, more recently Julie Burchill reflected: “Sex without using is like eating without chewing”.

On one occasion I complained to a young woman during a visit to Budapest that no one had said anything even vaguely amusing. “Say something witty”, I implored. Looking around, seeing several deposits of dogs mess on the pavement, she responded instantly: “There’s either a lot of dogs here, or one dog with a big problem!” Not bad, you try doing better, though not if it necessitates canine deposits outside my modest terrace.

Mark Twain was a great one for wisecracks: “Man is the only animal that blushes….or needs to” being one. King of wit, Oscar Wilde, said of Twain’s birthplace: “America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilisation inbetween”.

To get contemporary, let’s end with another Fry-up: “It is a cliché,” said Stephen, “that most clichés are true, but then, like most clichés, that cliché is untrue.” Like the snake that swallowed itself, Fry’s bon mot leaves no obvious conclusion. But it’s certainly witty.


Aspiration and Cynicism post-Brexit. How do Londoners compare with those who voted Out in Sunderland?

September 13th, 2016

We’re carrying out a Post-Brexit survey on Alienation, Cynicism and Idealism to see how views of Londoners – who voted In – compare with those from Sunderland, most of whom, voted Out.

In our (humble), aspirational opinion, you should want to make the world a better place to live in; do people?

Question to be asked: Do you want to make the world a better place to live in?

We also want to know if people think they can make the world a better place?  Question: Do you think you can make the world a better place?

Finally, do people think they have made the world a better place? Question: Do you think you’ve made the world a better place to live in, in any way, large or small?

Asking similar questions to young people in Kiev before the Maidan Square revolution, there was such cynicism about corruption, dishonest politicians and the all-pervasive untrustworthiness, it’s a miracle anyone got out of bed in the morning! It should be very different here.

Shouldn’t it?

We’ll see.

Biggins should not have been turfed out of the Big Brother House

August 8th, 2016

I am sometimes invited to visit Big Brother’s Elstree set for Bit on the Side and was there last Thursday. The current series of Celebrity Big Brother is not among my favourites; most housemates don’t seem to have attended charm school, if they did, they should ask for their money back.

There have been unpleasant, aggressive scenes, Stephen Bear may now find work as a pantomime villain impossible, it’s a role more usually associated with a twinkle in the eye, he uses alcohol to energise his vitriol. Why wasn’t he kicked out for throwing a mug and breaking a mirror? Behaviour that would not be tolerated in the Crooked Billet, Bald Faced Stag or any other hostelry, should not be tolerated in the BB house. Heavy D – a name which conjures-up more than his character offers, lacks finesse, sophistication or even a modicum of self-respect. These guys are not role models, more a rogues gallery. Some women in the house seem enured to them – Lewis and Bear in particular;  there’s no accounting for taste!

Which brings us to Christopher Biggins – removed because of an inappropriate comment relating to the holocaust and ‘theories’ about the onset of AIDS. He made a concentration camp “joke” to Katie Waissel as she waited for the bathroom, saying: “You better be careful or they’ll be putting you in a shower and taking you to a room.” The comment was not broadcast. He also seemed to blame bisexuals for the spread of AIDS.

It’s wrong to use the holocaust – something uniquely evil – for humour, especially to someone from a Jewish background. But Biggins apologised profusely to Katie, clearly didn’t mean to be malicious and has now said he will visit Auschwitz in the autumn. As a Hackney resident, I’ll invite him to our next Holocaust Memorial at the Town Hall and to visit Hackney and East London synagogue.  His agent is Jewish, his best friend is Lesley Joseph – he said something stupid without thinking.

Compare his fulsome apology with Ken Livingstone’s response to outrage after telling a Jewish journalist: “You are just like a concentration camp guard, you are just doing it because you are paid to, aren’t you?” He made no effort to apologise whatsoever, after.

Conspiracy theorists spout nonsense on any number of things – the giveaway is in the word ‘theorists’ – you can have a theory on anything really, apart from the moon being made of cheese, although apparently, Neil Armstrong had a particular penchant for cheese and pickle sandwiches – according to one such theorist.

I don’t think for one minute Biggins was right about bisexuals, but again, he was not seeking to be malicious, threatening, throwing mugs at mirrors, abusing, ranting or bullying. The house is not a microcosm of society – it contains more egos than you could reasonably fit into the House of Commons and Lords put together. If only we could have George Galloway back, playing the cat, licking cream from Rula Lenska’s generous hand: such innocent times!

Biggins – who won I’m a Celebrity – should not be demonised for making a mistake. The Jewish community has a great sense of humour – go to any hospital ward, ask nurses about the amazing wit and wisdom shown by so many members of the community, often in extreme adversity – it comes from hundreds of years of persecution, an unsettled diaspora, even now, some living in fear in certain countries. You cannot make jokes – or even amusing asides – about the Holocaust. But you can learn from your mistakes, as I’m sure our celebrated Hackney resident, Christopher Biggins has done.


Little Englanders – let’s think again and stay in the EU

August 5th, 2016

We’ve now released our take on the Referendum – Little Englanders – please share it, hum it in the shower, whistle it to Nigel Farage (not in the shower) or Boris. Here’s the link:

We’ve already seen the serious damage the THREAT of Brexit has caused – a slump in the pound, reduction in industrial output, huge fall in consumer and business confidence….it looks like those 600 economists were right! Our reputation as a progressive, modern, forward-thinking democracy has suffered – our European friends and neighbours can’t understand our logic; nor can many of us!

It was like ordering a food from a restaurant without a menu! No one talked about whether we were going to remain in the single market – and if so, what we would pay for the privilege. Or even how we were going to negotiate. Anyway, what’s the point of being an outsider in a club, but still have to pay membership fees?

Many farmers, Cornwall residents, holidaymakers abroad finding the pound worth much less than before, and others swayed by misleading claims on the battle bus, now want to stay. As the economy deteriorates, the torrent will turn into a flood. No Parliament can tie the hands of its successor, our new PM should allow us another vote when we actually know the terms for Brexit, we can make a final decision then.

One of the few to come out of this shambles with any credit, is Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England. The 0.25% cut in interest rates may or may not steady the ship. But not if it’s the Titanic.

Would you ask a starving man to go on diet, a turkey to vote for Christmas, a vegetarian to work in a butcher’s? No! Let’s make sure we know what we’re letting ourselves in for before we vote again, instead of lies about money going to the NHS, lets properly analyse where we’re going – all of us. And ensure arrangements are in hand for each constituent part of the U.K. to reach a consensus. For if we do invoke Article 50, we will lose more than our credibility and respect. We’ll lose Scotland – and possibly, Northern Ireland, too!

As a couple of comedians – no, not Michael Gove and Boris – once said “that’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into….” We need a way out – but not of the EU!

Graham Norton’s “Sycophantic” Show – Complaint to OFCOM

January 7th, 2013


Graham Norton’s Show, broadcast on New Years’ Eve, which achieved a record audience, included a number of leading celebrities – which was great. Unfortunately, the biggest name, Tom Cruise, was treated in a sickly, sycophantic, fawning, gushing way by the host – he’s an actor, not a messianic figure!

Worse still, the film he was promoting with co-star Rosamund Pike has been labelled “an unfortunate accident all round” by Tim Robey in the Daily Telegraph, Philip French in The Observer wrote “Tom Cruise fails to measure up as Lee Child’s action hero”.
No objective or balanced assessment was made by Norton, who inferred the movie was great! He asked no questions of significance to Cruise, just lauded him as a superstar. Cruise, himself, said nothing of note during the show, despite the audience being whooped up to a frenzy.

Our criticism is that firstly this breaches BBC Guidelines on Advertising and Promotion. Secondly, and more importantly, it is demeaning for viewers to see a major host kowtowing to a celebrity guest, failing to ask anything other than the most banal questions.

Finally, at the end of the show, a charming non-celebrity went into the infamous “Red Chair” and began to tell an interesting anecdote about what happened during her travels in Canada. Before we could discover, she was unceremoniously tipped off – treated with contempt because she is NOT a superstar! What sort of an impression does that give to impressionable young adults? Suck up to the stars, treat your peers like dirt!

This was the worst example of exaggerated celebrity culture we have seen, sadly, it will have seeped into viewers’ consciousness.

Next time, put Tom Cruise in the Red Chair – we’ll pull the lever! Or abolish it altogether – it is demeaning.

We never did get to hear the end of the interesting anecdote.

For your assistance, relevant points from BBC Guidance on Promotion and Advertising are below.

Kind regards
Michael Desmond
(07931 526697)

BBC Guidelines on Advertising & Promotion:
•Promotional activity must not undermine the values of the BBC brand

•The nature of the presenter’s on-air role will affect what is appropriate

•Any presenter who appears on-air in a journalistic capacity will have considerable restrictions on what, if any, promotional activities they may undertake

•There will be fewer restrictions on entertainment presenters or lifestyle presenters providing their integrity and the integrity of the programme they present is not undermined

ANY QUERIES? Info@societysyndrome.co.uk – or contact Michael Desmond on 07931 526697 www.societysyndrome.co.uk

Have Your Say Day

July 11th, 2012

An extraordinary event took place at Hackney Town Hall on Wednesday, 27th June 2012, the UK’s first “Have Your Say Day” for young people was held in the Council Chamber. The event was introduced by Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North & Stoke Newington and Shadow Public Health Minister. She explained the importance of Freedom of Speech but said what was being espoused had to be listened to and heard. “Young people have less opportunities to get their views and opinions across,” she said, “Have Your Say Day gives these young individuals a chance to express themselves on some of the different issues important to them.”

The event was chaired by Cllr Michael Desmond, who also chairs Society Syndrome, he said he had been on the original Planning Committee for the Olympic Games and did not want them disrupted by campaigns or protesters, it was far better for people to have their say today – exactly a month Read the rest of this entry »

Have Your Say Day – 27th June 2012

May 29th, 2012

We are very pleased to announce the details of Britain’s first ‘Have Your Say Day’!

Have Your Say Day will be on Wednesday, 27th June 2012

– exactly a month before the start of the Olympic Games
– from 10.00am to 11.30 am in the Council Chamber, Town Hall, Mare Street, Hackney,E8 1EA
– Opened by Diane Abbott, MP, Shadow Public Health Minister
– An opportunity for young people 15-19 to say what they think on issues of the day
– Time for people of any age to Have their Say after
– No need to disrupt the Boat Race or Leveson Inquiry. You can Have Your Say on any non-racist topic.

We look forward to welcoming all who wish to have their say! Read the rest of this entry »