Monday, 2 April 2012

Is The Covenant At The Arc Fear Or Freedom?

Colin Roberts
Centre Manager
The Arc

Bury St Edmunds
Suffolk IP33 3DG

Matthew Hancock, Conservative MP for West Suffolk
Paul Derrick, reporter Bury Free Press

Monday 26 March 2012

Dear Colin,

Today I have written to Paul Derrick, reporter at the Bury Free Press to inform them of my being escorted from your ‘private property’, The Arc, by your security officers for the ‘heinous’ crime of taking photographs. I am sending this to my MP Matthew Hancock.

I read you have lived in Bury St Edmunds since 1988. Although I have lived some years abroad, Bury, Thetford and Diss have been my local towns since 1966. I have no criminal record and wide experience of other countries from Texas to Saudi Arabia to Turkey where private security has become an alarmingly huge business. To say the least I was stunned and alarmed that apparently some form of Big Brother style paranoia has hit the streets of my home county Suffolk. I am not obligated to explain my peaceful self to your security guards and if they are going to harass me, I have little option but avoid your shopping complex. I choose not to share in your fear.

I’m asking you to consider this situation and how you might manage your shopping centre in future.

I have been asked to donate a painting for an exhibition to be held in Bury in aid of EACH (Royal Patron Duchess of Cambridge) organised by CHARTS with a known TV/film scriptwriter guest speaker. This is not until October, however, this morning was so lovely, I accepted a lift into town to make sketches and take photos for reference material to produce a new painting of Bury to donate to CHARTS. I walked from the Abbey Gardens, through Chequer's Square, Angel Hill and onto the The Arc. It was a gorgeous day and I in a relaxed mood. I even considered how I might paint an attractive portrayal of The Arc; the relatively new shopping centre which most people I speak to do not find attractive. I took photos all along my way without fuss, until I reached The Arc.

I had been inside The Arc external courtyard area perhaps 5-10 mins at most and taken perhaps 4-5 external shots when I was approached by a security officer who informed me this was private property and I was not permitted to take photos. At first I thought he must be joking. I was stunned and informed the chap he was invading my private space and had no authority that I recognise to make my business his business. I was escorted off the premises to the public highway that runs outside the Bury Free Press offices. The security officer was joined by an accomplice, also in regulation dark suit regalia and ear piece communication equipment, just in case Ned Pamphilon the ‘terrorist artist’ should start firing off more camera shots.

I then walked to BSE police station to ask a police person what exactly the law is concerning this matter. I note I did not see a single police officer walking from The Arc to the police HQ behind the law courts and indeed, within the station there was only a 'special constable' who could not tell me where I stood lawfully and started making a phone call to The Arc to find out more information. My time was restricted, I can phone The Arc myself; so I departed. I called into the BFP offices on my way to voice my irritation; my work had been interrupted and my liberty invaded. It seems there have been previous incidents of ‘photographic terrorism’ at The Arc.

The streets of Bury are apparently more Big Brother-like today than before 9/11. I can only assume 'terrorists' have won when the proprietors of The Arc are prepared to have me escorted from the area because I am taking photographs. This fear mentality will destroy us, while the terrorist will thrive.

My Istanbul studio windows shook the day before 9/11 due to a suicide bomber. I produced the first exhibition at Istanbul British Consulate following the destructive 2003 attack. I have a reputation for my portrayals of Atatürk in Turkey. I was commissioned by a Turkish construction company to paint Gadhafi in 2002 at a time when the UK government considered him friendly, so I have awareness of the international political scene. The ‘war on terror’ is as likely instigated by covert national security agencies as it is by lunatic individuals. This may be shocking to some, but basic research can corroborate this e.g. Gulf of Tonkin leading to the Vietnam War. However, Bury has always remained a relatively pleasant, peaceful and easy going environment. Therefore, I am shocked that I am now being surveyed in the streets of my home town. It is the thin edge of the wedge and I would appeal to the local community to appreciate and defend our freedoms and liberty.

I am 49 and been visiting and walking around Bury since I was a boy. Today I even bought 3 postcards to send to a recipient abroad; as tourists do when they visit Bury. Are you restricting tourists from taking photos? I now wonder when it will be illegal to take photos in the Abbey Gardens. What about every mobile phone carrying individual? Will you eventually install US style TSA X-ray machines at the various entrances? The Arc will never be successful as long as the proprietors treat potential customers as potential terrorists, as I was today. I recall the last time I had an issue taking photographs was from East German security guards at Check-Point-Charlie at the Berlin Wall.

Right now, if I decide to portray The Arc with paint on canvas, I cannot guarantee the resulting image of your 'private property' will be wholly flattering.

Colin, if you wish to create a positive out of my negative experience, I invite you to do so. I spent several years promoting a Rainbow Bridge peace project in Turkey where Noah’s Ark allegedly came to rest upon Mount Ararat. Arc is a poignant word for me. I enclose materials and articles to illustrate how unterrorist-like I have been. If you wish to maintain a ‘private property’ policy and fear mentality at The Arc, I have no wish to return. We must lift the veil of fear that seems to saturate so many aspects of human awareness and endeavour. Is the covenant at The Arc fear or freedom? You have the power to make a difference. I leave the ball in your court.

Best wishes,
BA Arch (Hons), local artist

Subsequent footnotes...

The Bury Free Press replied: Unfortunately we've decided to leave this as it is a policy we've been aware of for a while. Apologies for any inconvenience caused.
So, the local newspaper are content to let the policy be.

Thursday 29 March Colin Roberts called me and the following day, Friday, we met at his office. He stated he was new to the job this week, I was his first complaint and that photographic restrictions would be relaxed. He even showed me empty shop unit space and suggested I display artworks there. Time will tell, but the moral of the story seems to be: speak up and take action.

Friday 13 April 2012 - The Bury Free Press covers The Arc:

The resulting painting:
23 April St. George-Children's Day