FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

History Markers

Like the National Park Service’s Register of Historic Places in the US, ceramic, blue plaques mark places in the United Kingdom where people of note once lived. Not long ago, the English Heritage Society unveiled one of these in London at the site of the artists’ studio where my father and his collaborator Donald Swann lived and worked for much of the 1950s.

The ceremony, as you can imagine, had me thinking about history and markers and passers-by and place. I’ve always been one of those annoying people who holds everyone up to stop and read the markers on the street. This happened here. The markers are about the past, but also the present.  They’re prompts to possibilities. I like them because they’re reminders that anything’s possible right here—that history is made by real life people who trod these real-life streets.

They also pierce the public-private divide, revealing what happened behind closed doors. Inevitably, I end up wondering, what’s happening here now? If that person could, could I? What’s going on right here behind that door today?

Past, present, public, private. This particular plaque for my father made me think about something else too: inclusive design. You see, my father Michael Flanders, who, with Swann, went on to become a well-known performing duo, contracted polio in World War Two. Having kicked off an exciting acting career in college, he came home from the Navy partially paralyzed. He spent three years in a nursing home. His college refused to let him return to finish his studies. “We’re not a home for cripples,” they said.

But at Scarsdale Villas, he was able to make a home thanks to a curb cut for his wheelchair, a government-issued custom car for veterans, and a whole lot of handmade furniture, which I remember growing up with years later. It had all sorts of low surfaces with edges and secret storage bins.

Standing outside that building in Kensington, which was reachable then by a stair-free path from the street, I celebrated the unveiling with my sister Stephanie, her kids, and a whole crowd of friends and fans of Flanders & Swann who turned out and sang their greatest hits. I couldn’t help wondering about those history-makers and artists we might be missing because of too few curb cuts or too many closed doors or stairs from the street. And I couldn’t help giving thanks to that curb cut and that inclusive design, which made a whole lot of great songs, and me, possible. Without them, I literally would not exist.

More articles by:

Laura Flanders is the host of GRITtv now seen on the new, news channel TeleSUR English – for a new perspective. 

December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
Jasmine Aguilera
Lessons From South of the Border
Manuel García, Jr.
A Formula for U.S. Election Outcomes
Sam Pizzigati
Drug Company Execs Make Millions Misleading Cancer Patients. Here’s One Way to Stop Them
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Agriculture as Wrong Turn
James McEnteer
And That’s The Way It Is: Essential Journalism Books of 2018
Chris Gilbert
Biplav’s Communist Party of Nepal on the Move: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian
Judith Deutsch
Siloed Thinking, Climate, and Disposable People: COP 24 and Our Discontent
Jill Richardson
Republicans Don’t Want Your Vote to Count
John Feffer
‘Get Me Outta Here’: Trump Turns the G20 into the G19
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail