issue 100

7 February 2013


'Truth: lies open to all'


Every fortnight during term-time.

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CONTENTS: editorial, music and silence, subtext – the lineage, the first seven years, an editor's tale, the editors so far, discarded books, musical memories, it started with a bus stop, a brand new look, letters.



In a mood of mild and we hope forgivable self-approbation, we have marked the 100th issue of subtext with contributions from readers which deal either directly with subtext and its context or more generally with changes in the University's culture and infrastructure. So the content and tone of this issue differ from the usual mix – with the notable exception of the piece immediately below on the fate of Music (and music) at Lancaster. We hope to return to this in the next issue.



subtext understands that all seven of the academics in the Music section of LICA were notified this week that they are to lose their jobs. This follows the suspension last term of student recruitment to the Music BA. This led to the formation of a committee in LICA to develop growth plans to incorporate music and sound, but these have apparently been rejected by the Faculty Management Committee, which is imposing its own 'solution'. The unions are being consulted.

The teaching of music performance may now be irrecoverable. But without at least a remnant Music Department there will be threats to all sorts of other activities and facilities on this campus. In issue 99 we published a piece on the Redlich collection and the scores etc. in the Library. But could there also be a threat to the University's orchestras and bands? Their instruments? The halls they play in? Anyone concerned about music at Lancaster, and about the cultural life of the University as a whole, should be asking these questions and trying to get answers.  



Marion McClintock (Honorary Archivist and former Academic Registrar)

subtext's hundredth issue offers a moment for brief reflection on its lineage.  

In the earliest days of the university, when the student publications John O'Gauntlet and Carolynne were contending for top dog status, the inaugural number of Lancaster Comment in October 1970, price 1/- (one shilling), was intended to provide 'a forum for discussion on many issues confronting the university' and as a means of communication. Its founding editorial board was chaired by Ninian Smart, first professor of Religious Studies and pro-vice-chancellor, and was completed by Elizabeth Brunner, later professor of Economics, and Colin Lyas, illustrious lecturer in Philosophy and second Public Orator. Subsequent early members included Susan Bassnett, later to have her own named and anonymous columns in the THES, and Bill Fuge of Independent Studies fame.

Copy was typed on manual machines, and pasted into a template that was then sent for printing, with the great advantage that illustrations could be included. There were reports from Senate and Council meetings, a strip cartoon featuring Professor Latrine of Sewerage Studies and his departmental colleagues, vigorous debate on matters ranging from Zimbabwe to Ireland and from the relative merits of coursework to examination, copious correspondence, and a regular Lancaster Diary by invited columnists. In addition, a column of Inkblots, giving snippets of local information and gossip on topics from the UGC allocation to the quality of catering coffee, gradually increased to a double page spread. 

Fulcrum, edited by the new Press and Information Officer, began publication in 1974, also featuring vigorous debates, while SCAN, which had begun as a cyclostyled events sheet in 1969, took on a broader news and commentary role for students. When combined with Lancaster Comment, any half-awake member of the university in the late 70s and early 80s could readily keep up to date with a three-dimensional insight into contemporary Bailrigg affairs.

Sixteen years and 146 issues later, Lancaster Comment's demise in 1986 was primarily due to the sheer exhaustion of its editorial team at a time of institutional post-Thatcher exigencies. In June 1993, however, the first issue of the free, electronically-circulated Inkytext appeared, with Gordon Inkster building on his Inkblots precedent but enormously expanding its range. During its seven years of irregular but well-informed appearances, the university passed through a second major phase of financial difficulty (1995-97) and, working solely on his own, Gordon heroically charted the onlooker's analysis and observations of unfolding events. Ostensibly 350 numbers had been published by May 2000, when he signed off with three farewell issues, but this is seriously to underestimate the level of output, since a single issue might often include three parts and two supplements ( The sacrifices that he made in the cause of communication were considerable, not least to his own health, and it seemed fitting when his family came for the award of the university's sole posthumous honorary doctorate, awarded to him on 11 July 2002.

When the subtext warehouse creaked open for the first time in December 2005, did the new collective sense the shadows of their predecessors? It is to be hoped they did, and that in continuing the Lancaster tradition of open discourse, they will be sure to replenish and renew themselves, to sustain their efforts for the future.



Ian Reader (Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion)

Well, happy 100th birthday subtext. Or rather, since how can one be an academic without some recourse to pedantry, this is not actually the 100th issue of subtext since there were also two 'special issues' on the George Fox Six trial that came out between Issues 6 and 7, in which various members of staff attended every day of the trial to report on proceedings ( Still, in the modern world of robust synergies and commercial go-ahead marketing opportunities one cannot let a mere technicality spoil the celebration of subtext's 100th issue, especially since I have been hired in, as a founder-member but now former member of the subtext collective, at a huge fee (well, I hope someone might buy me a pint) to act as a consultant on this commemorative issue.

The origins of subtext were in a collective anger at several intersecting issues, the most immediate of which were the decision to prosecute a group of student protestors on campus (known as the George Fox Six), and proposed top-down changes to the corporate governance of the university (initiated, we felt, by a VC who was also deeply involved in the decision to press charges against the George Fox Six, and a Pro-Chancellor who seemed more at home in business than education). Quickly other matters of concern, including university links with a company involved in arms manufacture, surfaced. The George Fox Six prosecution struck at issues we believed to be fundamental to the very concept of a university and of education in general: free speech and the tolerance of dissenting opinions. Yes, the students had disrupted a meeting at which a government minister (and a Lord at that, for heaven's sake!) was present along with some arms-industry panjandrums, and the VC had apparently been embarrassed. But we felt it was symptomatic of a growing culture of top-down managerialism (symbolised by the ways in which the VC and Pro-Chancellor were seeking to 'reform' corporate governance and reduce democratic structures) and of the university’s seemingly overarching concern with pandering to business interests, that the institution was prepared to prosecute students for conducting a protest.

The initial response to all this was a letter raising concerns about the GF6 issue, signed by large numbers of staff and sent to and published in LU Text. There was a general sense that more was needed and that Lancaster's tradition of alternative news media (see Marion McClintock's article above) needed to be revived. A group of us got together (I recall a room somewhere on campus with a group of people, most of whom I had never met before) to talk about the need for a new outlet for our anger, for our concerns about the seeming erosion of academic freedoms, and simply as a way of alerting people across the campus to some of the things being done in our collective name. Other meetings followed, with the IT people about how best to house the new production, and with fellow members of the emerging 'collective' (a term that developed immediately to describe our sense that everyone involved in subtext should take collective responsibility for what was produced, even if, as was practical, each issue was overseen by specific editors within the collective).

Thus was subtext born, out of a mixture of anger and concern. 

Of course, once the idea of subtext developed in the first flush of idealism and enthusiasm, came the grim reality that it had to be written (see Bron Szerszynski's article below). And of course we had to deal with the diverse concerns of different collective members. For some, the concerns with university governance were paramount, others were more directly concerned with the GF6 case or with university links to arms firms. Some favoured direct informative and factual reports, others (myself for sure) believed  that ridicule and mockery were the best tools with which to express our views, and there was a tendency at least early on  towards sub-Private Eye satire and cynicism. We argued a lot and I was taken to task from time to time for the colourful nature of my planned insults of certain ceremonial figures within the university's collection of the 'not all that great and good' who sat in what I felt were pompously titled posts on university bodies and beyond. 

The early subtext collective invented, among other things, a fictional parallel university (LUVE-U) with a VC anagrammatically called Nigel Wallups.  Since at the time the university seemed to be spending unwarranted sums on external consultants, we decided to call in our group of fictional consultants who, we claimed, did all our work. The Times Higher even sent a reporter to campus and published an article about subtext (, which led to groups of academics at other universities contacting us for advice on how to develop their own alternative newsletters. subtext also quickly included in its readership some of those we most often wrote about; one of the early discussions in the collective was not if but when Paul Wellings, our then VC, would sign up. We knew he would, since he always showed a keen interest in knowing what was going on throughout the university - and of course he did, on the second day, our 216th subscriber. 

And so the first issues came out and a pattern was set. People came and went – some just leaving subtext, others the university as well. I was in the latter category, heading off in 2007 to graze in new pastures down the road in Manchester, but remaining a subtext subscriber and occasional letter-writer. Nearly six years at another university that really could do with a subtext has made me more appreciative both of Lancaster and of the continuing health of subtext. It's changed of course, as collective members have come and gone, and as issues have changed. But the need for it remains as before - especially as external pressures and insidious scattergun 'politics' from government (Ed: believed to be a reference to Gove and his cronies) have affected the sector and had made life increasingly difficult for those charged with running universities as well as those at the coalface. And for me it remains one of the things that make Lancaster not a bad place to be.  It also reflects well on Lancaster as an institution that it was born so quickly and was given university server space to so do. Perhaps the powers-that-be felt it would have been too much of an own goal to deny such support. But I like to think that it reflected the realisation, even among those we so often criticised, that universities have to be hotbeds of argument, discussion, criticism and free speech if they are to remain vibrant. I have worked at other universities in the UK and am not at all sure that similar support would have been forthcoming there. Dissent is an important element in the healthy life of universities, and long may it thrive at Lancaster.



Bronislaw Szerszynski (Department of Sociology)

If ever you have an hour or two to spare, I recommend going to the library, requesting a couple of bound volumes of Lancaster Comment (kept in the 'stacks' downstairs at 7J6), and leafing through them. 24 A4 pages of articles, reviews, reports of meetings, cartoons and comment, often irreverent and containing a lot of free thinking, published fortnightly for sixteen years (see Marion McClintock's article above). But perhaps the most striking thing is that all the pieces are attributed, despite coming from all levels of the University - students, lecturers, professors, Heads of Department, senior administrators - and even the first Vice-Chancellor Charles Carter himself! Reading them one gets a vivid sense of a university engaged in inventing itself, in public, at a time when the question of what makes a good university was far more open than it is today.

The mood was very different in late 2005 when we set up subtext in the middle of the George Fox Six affair (see Ian Reader's article). The idea of a University as an open space of critical debate was on the wane, and managerialism in the ascendant; academic jobs were in shorter supply, and there was a growing climate of performance monitoring and job insecurity.  Yet in this inhospitable climate we wanted to embolden others to air their views in public. As a compromise we established a policy of collective voice: each issue would be signed as a whole by all members of the editorial collective, in alphabetical order. Thus we behaved more like a prey species than a predator: keep close, move as one, and you'll be harder to pick off. That tells you a lot about the times.

We quickly established a way of working that blurred editorial and journalistic functions - we had a termly rota, with pairs of duty editors for each issue, and undercover reporters for Senate and Council. Over time we evolved rough rules of thumb: don't lightly embarrass those in the University who are less powerful; if there's a crisis on campus that is at a delicate stage and livelihoods are at stake, check on the likely consequences before going public; don't print anonymous contributions without good reason; circulate a good draft of the issue early enough for fellow editors to scrutinise it properly; don't feel you have to agree with every nuance of every article, as long as you don’t strongly disagree. And so on. Generally, it's worked well: articles were greatly improved by the constructive criticism of others, and most errors of fact and judgement were spotted before they went out.

The 'collective voice' policy has been important in emboldening people to put their name to the subtext enterprise at a time when the University seemed a less welcoming place for critical comment and debate. But it has also created its own problems. It has meant that subtext became regarded less as a valued forum for the frank exchange of different points of view, and more of a unified voice which one might endorse or simply dismiss. 'subtext says this', 'subtext thinks that', one would so often hear. At times, we played into that perception, and tried to act as a counterweight to moments of group-think, or at least group-speak, within the University's senior management. But we also craved more diverse voices (especially those from people who didn't happen to be male academics in the humanities and social sciences); letters and other contributions were always very welcome. But we were largely left to write our own copy. Our readers have been good at pointing out when we perhaps got too narrow in our preoccupations. But generally our attempt to help recreate a lively, participatory 'republic of letters' within the university has been of only limited success.

The joint authorship policy also made disagreements between editors much harder to handle. Some of those that occurred were about policy, and could have happened even if we hadn't had joint authorship – whether, for example, we should publish the name of a student standing for the BNP. Others occurred when people felt deeply unhappy about putting their name to someone else's article, or, on the other hand, when they weren't prepared to withdraw or edit a piece to which others felt they couldn't put their own name. Such disputes led to more than a few noisy departures from the editorial collective. We did consider abandoning the policy, but by then it seemed too 'locked in'. And eventually, when I became a Head of Department, it was the collective voice policy that led to me finally standing down as an editor, two issues shy of a centenary: doing both roles effectively was becoming impossible.

Being on subtext was hard work, and often involved making very difficult judgements. Sometimes I thought the other editors were all idiots. Sometimes I even thought you, dear readers, were idiots, but I wasn't thinking clearly at the time. Sometimes I thought I was the biggest idiot of them all. But at other times it has felt like one of the most rewarding and significant things that I have done in my time at Lancaster. I'll miss being on the collective.  I'll still read subtext, contribute items for it, be annoyed at it, but most of all be glad that it exists and survives. Would I want to work at a university where something like subtext was not valued, or worse still not possible? I'm not sure that I would.



Compiled by Ronnie Rowlands

Rhona O'Brien: 1-10

Steve Fleetwood: 1-11

John Law: 1-11

Maggie Mort: 1–11

Patrick Hagopian: 1–12

Ian Reader: 1–16

Lenny Baer: 1–31

Gavin Hyman: 1–83

Bronislaw Szerszynski: 1–98

George Green: 7–present

Alan Whitaker: 12–61

Sarah Beresford: 32–45

Noel Cass: 62–69

Catherine Fritz: 62–69

Peter Morris: 62–69

David Smith: 62–present

Rachel Cooper (PPR): 62-90, 99–present

Martin Widden: 62-present

Mark Garnett: 84–present

Ian Paylor: 94–present

Sam Clark: 95-present



In a letter to subtext some months ago, Michela Masci of DELC drew attention to the university's practice of dumping discarded library books in a skip (see subtext 94, and Letters below). While understanding that the library has to make space for new volumes, the collective could also appreciate the argument that staff and students should at least be allowed to look at any materials sitting on the condemned shelf before books and journals were treated in this fashion. One was almost tempted to update John Milton's plea, and cry that it would be better to kill a person than to send a good book off to recycling.

The official rationale is that books which are not taken out of the library for a certain period can be spared; clearly they are no longer useful to students (if they ever have been); and when space even in the basement is limited, the university is under no obligation to retain materials which might, on some fanciful hypothesis, be useful for the purposes of teaching and research in some hypothetical future. Yet colleagues in many disciplines are (painfully) aware of changing academic fashions. Books which have seemed outmoded for decades can become prized possessions overnight.

The latest news obtained by subtext is mixed. On the one hand, discarded volumes will no longer be consigned to the skip. However, the new situation is scarcely an improvement. Apparently a company will be allowed to sell 'unwanted' books. Presumably the university will benefit financially to some extent. But as things stand, academics, postgraduates and undergraduates will not be given a chance to sift through the books before they are taken away. Arguably this 'solution' to the lack of space is worse than the previous dispensation, which gave those who heard about the presence of the skip the chance to search it in the hope of unearthing a half-forgotten classic of their subject.

Struggling to find a rationale for the university's decision, only two arguments occurred to us: first, that an invitation to rummage freely through the neglected stock would entice bibliomaniacs to cart the whole lot off campus; and second, that scholars faced with the departure even of little-read volumes in their personal subject areas might claim that the works in question were indispensable to any serious-minded student, and that they were fully deserving of the shelf-space which the whole exercise is designed to free up. Some members of the subtext collective would happily admit that there might be something in these arguments; but any fears could have been allayed through judicious consultation. Even if this took the shape of an agreement that no staff member could purloin more than (say) ten books, it would be better than the past and future practice of the university in this respect.

The fact is that books which have been published in the distant past, and bought in good faith by the university, can subsequently lapse into undeserved obscurity; so that scholars can only be reminded of their intrinsic value by their physical presence – on the main library shelves, ideally, but more likely in the 'stack' or even when they have been consigned to a skip. Now that it has been decided that our stock should be spared the latter fate, surely some compromise can be reached to allow members of the academic community a voice in the disposal of these documents?



A survivor writes:

The Great Hall was the scene for a number of memorable gigs in the 1970s. The late, great John Martyn played Lancaster University a number of times during the 1970s – the first time being 1971 I think. I say 'think', because 'remember' is not a word one would associate with John Martyn concerts of that era.

It was customary during concerts for members of the audience to join him on stage, share a joint or two with the man (never bogarting, of course) and then attempt to re-join the enthralled masses. One wonders what would happen to current Lancaster University students engaging in such behaviour. It would be interesting to learn about how LUSU coped with the notorious 'riders' that John Martyn attached to his concert appearances (these involved requests for specific brands of alcohol and quantities of illicit substances).

Another concert of this period that sparks very fond memories was the occasion that Van Morrison played the Great Hall. This was Van the Man at his electrifying best – he blew the audience away. Engaging and interacting with crowd (unimaginable now to those who have seen him since) and rocking and rolling like a man possessed. Perhaps this was in response to what had gone before – support acts were common in those days.

Before Van the Man we were treated to a beautiful, gentle and very funny set from Earl Okin that I still remember (astonishing given the behaviour described below). Those of you not familiar with this artist might wish to check him out – he is still recording and performing. He has a degree in philosophy from the University of Kent (1968) and worked as a schoolmaster for 11 years before going full-time as comedic musical performer. Just think of George Formby supporting AC/DC or Donovan supporting Yes (that really happened, though not at Lancaster).

Security for gigs in those days was non-existent, or apparently so. Concert-goers brought all sorts of substances along with them. Our merry band of Van the Man fans each brought with them a bottle of wine, kept about our person whilst we sampled a glass or two of beer in one or another of the Campus bars prior to the gig. We watched the concert from the balcony at the side of the stage and waved our half empty bottles over the edge just as Van Morrison and the band passed beneath us. Just the thought...

Two other events (well three – Supertramp's stupefyingly dull concert is best forgotten) are lodged in the memory. Joan Armatrading's concert and the subsequent rumours about her and Valerie Singleton – friends still insist they saw her that night. Finally, the Redskins playing a benefit gig for the Miners during the 1984/85 strike, which raises interesting questions about the relationship between LUSU and the Lancaster Miners Support Group – more of which perhaps later.



A parent writes:

Each day as I progress along the University Drive I look at the bus stops and zebra crossing and smile. At the top of the hill I note the activity around the 'new' Pre-School. Of course to many people it is not so new, having been there for about 18 years. And to many people none of these facilities may mean much, but to me they are a sign that some things that were once seen as 'impossible', 'dangerous' and 'just out of the question' by the University have become possible, and indeed have been built and integrated into the infrastructure of the campus. Positive change can happen, but it often takes time and more often than not the means to the end could not have been imagined at the beginning.

Years ago SPROG, a small band of students with young children, campaigned for a bus stop at the bottom of the hill, near the original Pre-School Centre, where the new sports centre now stands. Why? Well, it would have made our lives so much easier. At that time each morning we scampered from the underpass bus stop, down the hill, waited until we were allowed into the Pre-School at 8.45 am, deposited out little ones with a kiss and then dashed back up the hill to lectures. It did not stop there. At lunch time the whole process was put into reverse as we whisked our babies out of the Pre-School and into the old sports pavilion, to feed them before they were allowed back for their afternoon session. Back up the hill. Back down the hill for 4.15 to collect children, take them up the hill to the bus stop and home. It was great fitness regime but it did nothing for your mental wellbeing.

The solution to the dash was simple, we thought: why not have a bus stop at the bottom of the hill? So we put this to the relevant University Officers, who assured us that this was 'impossible' as the bus company would not agree, and it would slow traffic coming into to the university and thus require an additional access road costing many thousands of pounds. We wanted a bus stop, not a new road. So we tested the first assertion, that the buses would not stop, by producing a mock bus stop – which proved very effective, as the buses did stop. This in effect also tested the second argument, as it turned out not to slow the traffic much. 'Ah', said the University Officers, 'but that was only the individual drivers who stopped, it was not company policy', which would be difficult to change – so they never asked if it could be changed.

And so the second campaign: a request for a zebra crossing so ensure safe access and egress from the Pre-School for all pedestrians across the driveway. The traditional dash across the road was wearing and at times, to be honest, dangerous since as parents of small children we were not always fully wake at any time of the day. 'No', came the response – this could not be done. The huge numbers of parents and children who would use the crossing would slow the traffic unacceptably. And a crossing would be dangerous because of the poor driver visibility on the crest of the hill, especially with all those trees. We argued that it could not be more dangerous than hauling our tired or hyperactive children across the road with no crossing. But apparently it was.

Then for a time we looked at the possibility of having a bridge across the pond (sorry, Lake Carter) to open up another route up the hill. There was no pathway directly up the hill but we did walk that way through the mud and grass as this was quicker than following the road. We even proposed that the territorial army, or perhaps a team of Engineering students, could build it to keep down the cost (yes, we were becoming desperate by now). By this time I was in my second year. My little four month-old had grown into a bouncing and very active toddler. I was not sure how long my back could support books and baby. Quietly the idea of the bridge faded away. We always knew it had been a bit of a long shot.

There was only one option left – to move the Pre-School to the top of the hill. When this was raised with the University Officers there was a sharp intake of breath. We had overstepped the mark; this was a proposal too far. What did we actually want? (We wanted a bus stop!) But we went on to make what even then was coming to be called a business case for the Pre-School. We pointed out the increased numbers that a new Pre-School could accommodate. We spoke of developing the market as the premier provider in the area. We noted the advantages of having full time staff rather than the patchwork of part-time contracts that barely supported the whole enterprise. We even noted that the current number of hours allowed to a student barely covered lectures, let alone time to read. And crucially, we wrote warning the University of the danger of having no crossing across the driveway, and the likelihood of an accident, in the event of which the University would be liable. 

This may have been the decisive argument. At any rate, the ground suddenly shifted. The answer, after all, was not a bus stop but a new Pre-School at the top of the hill. A shiny, new, prestigious Pre-School to accommodate more children and generate greater income from non-students (as we had suggested). And we have a new, shiny, prestigious sports centre that may well generate income...served by a bus stop and a zebra crossing.

So things that were once 'impossible' and 'dangerous' are now mundane, for many people not worth a second glance. And although it took time, too long for my child to benefit directly, she has been able to see that did see that ordinary people, even student parents, can make a difference – a lesson worth remembering.  


A BRAND NEW LOOK FOR SUBTEXT (report subcontracted to Ronnie Rowlands)

In 100 issues, subtext has acquired 1134 subscribers, which seems a reasonably satisfying number. However, subtext is nothing if not forward- thinking and ambitious, and the first instance of immediate unanimity among the drones occurred at the last meeting in the warehouse, where it was agreed that we need to extend our outreach.

Things have changed since 2005; subtext cannot afford to stand still. Academics these days do not have the time to fit a minimalist, in-jokey email newsletter into their Hectic Lifestyle. Put simply, we need to up our game in an Ever Changing and Fast Moving Landscape.

With this in mind, subtext enlisted the services of Baz Whammo from 'It's Better Now - Branding Experts'. This entailed a callout fee, train booking, taxi fare, hotel booking, restaurant table reservation, escort agency tab and payment by the minute. But we are confident that the result has been to make the subtext brand sturdier and more sustainable.

You may have noticed that subtext has invested in more of the asterisks we use to divide articles. Each article is now separated by 60 asterisks, rather than the previous 53. As Baz Whammo sharply observed, we need to define more clearly which article is which. The last thing we need is for the readers' Hectic Lifestyle to lead them to suppose that a LICA Concert took place during senate, or that the management of the underpass has merged with Theatre Studies. [In fact these changes proved too radical for us to implement – Eds.]

We have also italicised, underlined and emboldened the post colon sentence in our motto. After all, certain Hectic Lifestylers want to know that this publication is NOT the product of the University press office, but (ahem) a subtle, satirical newsletter. We have made this more obvious.

So welcome to this, the new era of subtext. Mr. Whammo also recommended that we append a user survey to this article, so that readers can give us their feedback. Any comments on our new look would be greatly appreciated.

Are you SATISFIED now?

Definitely/Absolutely/Very probably/Most likely/Likely/Yes/No.

What can we do to 'improve'?

More issues/Fewer issues/No issues/Switch to online version/More computers in Furness toilets/other (please specify).



Dear subtext,

I just wanted to drop a line to say congratulations on the 100th issue.

subtext for me has been a great way to keep updated as to the goings on of the University. It has certainly been more valuable than the official alumni literature in terms of its ability to make me feel connected and a part of the community of Lancaster.

Many thanks for all of your efforts, keep up the good work!

Best regards,

Daniel Haslam (County, 2006 & Graduate, 2008) 


Dear subtext,

I was recently interested to note the use of withdrawn library books in an art installation between Bowland and County, outside the Great Hall complex, in which a tree was coated in leaves torn from books, and had other books hung from the branches, no doubt in order to highlight the importance of written knowledge which of course does NOT grow on trees.

I wonder, however, if subtext and its readers think the methods involved are appropriate given the role of the university as a place of learning. Given the prevailing weather conditions in Lancaster, it is surely unlikely that the books involved will remain in a usable state once they are taken down. Of course, the library may no longer feel they are useful, hence the decision to withdraw them from service, but as heirs to the scholastic tradition of the likes of Bede it is surely our duty to preserve all that we can, even if it is not currently being widely appreciated - to quote A.E. Housman, 'all human knowledge is precious, whether or not it serves the slightest human use'.

Of course, I understand library space is limited, but when books are removed from the catalogue, should they not be made available to staff and students to keep? There were several books among those attached to the installation which would interest me, even if I have not actively sought them out while they were in university stock. If they were no longer wanted by the library, it does not mean that they were no longer wanted by anyone, and should surely be distributed in the spirit of the University's motto: Patet omnibus veritas.

Can something so unavoidably destructive be art? I'd be intrigued to get some wider opinions on this.

Jack Fleming, Bowland College


The editorial collective of subtext currently consists (in alphabetical order) of: Sam Clark, Rachel Cooper (PPR), Mark Garnett, George Green, Ian Paylor, David Smith, and Martin Widden.