Saturday, 23 February 2013

Charles Bradlaugh – the musical!

Well, not quite. But there is a new play.

Charles Bradlaugh is a hero of several members of the Liberator Collective. He was Liberal MP for Northampton from 1880 to 1891, and an atheist. When he first entered the House of Commons, he asked to be allowed to affirm instead of swearing a religious oath of allegiance. After a protracted battle, including imprisonment and several by-elections, he eventually won the right for members of both houses of parliament to affirm instead of swear an oath. It is thanks to Bradlaugh that non-believers won the right to sit in parliament, and it is for this achievement that he is best remembered.

However, Bradlaugh was also an early campaigner for birth control. Together with Annie Besant, he published a pamphlet advocating birth control and was prosecuted for “obscene libel”. The ensuing trial is the subject of the new play – the National Secular Society has more details:
A new play by Derek Lennard, The Fruits of Philosophy (Such a scandal!) which examines secularism and free thought in Victorian Britain will be presented at Conway Hall on Friday 15 March at 7.30pm.
It is based on the true story of the trial of Annie Besant and Charles Bradlaugh (founder of the National Secular Society) who were accused in 1877 of publishing “Obscene Libel” – a sixpenny pamphlet advocating family planning and describing contraception.
The play will give a dramatised account of the trial, the scandal that surrounded it, the way it affected the lives and careers of the accused, and the impact on wider society.
Entry to the play is free (book a place here) but there is a suggested donation of £5.

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