US election campaign 2016

Barack and Michelle Obama both have outstanding gifts of oration, and the capacity to reach out to people from all walks of life - which they have put to good use in this election campaign.

Hear Barack Obama rouse the faithful in Las Vegas and Michelle Obama in New Hampshire speak so movingly about the rights of women and girls.


Storms, War and Shipwrecks: Treasures from the Sicilian Seas

The fabulous exhibition at the Ashmolean - Storms, War and Shipwrecks: Treasures from the Sicilian Seas - has revealed some little-known secrets of the battles for supremacy in the southern Mediterranean during the Roman rise to ascendancy. 

IMG_4243Battles between Carthage and Rome were especially savage - and the Sicilian coast was on the front line.  IMG_4247

The exhibition displays the astonishing cast-metal rams bolted onto the front of warships, making for devastating weaponry, as well as detailing the superior Roman tactics at sea. 

Intriguing finds show just how precarious was life at sea - but also how far it was the bread and butter of ancient Mediterranean empires.


Finds from the seabed include flagons, pottery and coins. Intriguingly, it seems the Emperor Justinian, keen to win Rome back for the newly-established Eastern Empire, and an enthusiastic Christian, shipped the equivalent of 'flat-pack' churches to newly-forming Christian communities.



1916 Easter Rising centenary in Dublin

Easter 2016 saw the centenary commemorations of the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916 - when an ill-fated insurgency was met by overwhelming British firepower. Many lost their lives and neighbourhoods in Dublin were reduced to rubble. The Rising and its effects had a major impact on the course of Irish history - subsequent struggles led eventually to independence in southern Ireland.

The centenary celebrations included many exhibitions, discussions and performances. Among these were a wonderful series of short films - After '16 - commissioned by the Irish Film Board, which explored different aspects of the 1916 Rising and its aftermath.



Archive footage shows the devastating impact of the British response to the insurgency.



Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum

100_2294A recent visit to the Forum in Rome as part of my research into winter solstice alignments in prehistory and early civilisations threw up a surprise: the temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum may be aligned on the winter solstice sunset! 

Here are some photos of the sun setting directly behind and to the right of the remains of the temple, before disappearing below the horizon. The photos were taken two days before the winter solstice, on 19th December 2015. 

It has long been known that Saturn was associated with the winter solstice, notably through the ancient and popular Saturnalia festival in the old Roman world. Here is yet further evidence of the association....



Green general election campaign 2015

I was privileged to fight the 2015 General Election in the Wantage constituency on behalf of the Green Party. 

FaringdonThe campaign was dominated by issues of new housing, protecting the green belt, climate change (including flooding and drought) and proper funding for the public sector.

My focus in the campaign was on Green Party headline manifesto pledges, including pledges to create a million climate jobs to transition to a low carbon economy, the abolition of student tuition fees and the building of 500,000 new social housing units on brownfield sites during the course of the next Parliament.

Many people are very keen to engage with these ideas, in the context of the 'Green Surge' which has seen party members grow rapidly in 2014 and 15. 

 Coverage of the campaign

Wantage constituency debate from Didcot - BBC Radio Oxford

ROAR protest in Wantage  

Of course, the fight goes on after the election to ensure such pledges are picked up and implemented by the other parties in one of the most interesting elections for a generation....