Beard Liberation Front


Beard Liberation Front

The Beard Liberation Front (BLF) is a British interest group which campaigns in support of beards and opposes discrimination against those who wear them. Founded in 1995 by socialist historian Keith Flett who continues to organise and represent the organisation, its continuing success at exposing what it calls "beardism" resulted in the word being entered into the Oxford English Dictionary. [cite news|title=A shave new world|first=Jennie|last=Bibbings|publisher=Wales on Sunday|date=9 June 2002] [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/2481379.stm|title=Are you a beardist?|date=18 November 2002] [cite news|url=http://www.zoominfo.com/people/Flett_Keith_210025849.aspx|title=Business People, Information on Keith Flett] Apart from its numerous campaigns in support of beards and against discrimination in the workplace and against those who wear beards as part of their religion, it currently hosts the annual Beard of the Year award. [cite news|title=They do what ...? Byways of the charity world - Beard Liberation Front|first=Ashley|last=Mastandrea|publisher=Third Sector|date=21 June 2006]

On the face of it the campaign is semi-humorous, with its outwardly frivolous aims, its occasionally outlandish claims of discrimination and conspiracy and its founder, who is also the spokesman for the Campaign for Real Conkers. [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/hampshire/4322534.stm|title=Action to tackle conkers cheats|date=8 October 2005|accessdate=2006-12-30] However, the organisation has drawn attention to more serious issues, having spoken out against, among other incidents, the suspension of a fireman for refusing to shave off his goatee and the banning of beards among ExxonMobil oil workers (in both cases employers claimed that beards interfered with breathing apparatus). [cite news|title=We won't take it on chin|first=Neal|last=Keeling|publisher=Manchester Evening News|date=14 May 2003] [cite news|title=Oil workers facing beard ban|publisher=The Times|date=5 January 2004] Flett believes that an issue of "real discrimination" exists against men with beards. Although he admits that a beard, unlike race and gender, is a matter of choice, he has claimed that beardism is associated with more serious forms of discrimination: [cite news|title=Right of Reply - Keith Flett|publisher=The Independent|date=24 March 1999]

The size of the organisation is unknown; Flett refers to the organisation as "an informal network" and has claimed "a few hundred supporters" in the past.cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2481379.stm|title=Are you a beardist?|publisher=BBC News|date=18 November 2002|accessdate=2006-12-30] He is the organisation's sole spokesman in the media.

Campaigns

On the occasion of its founding, Keith Flett claimed that "Beards are politically progressive. All the great revolutionary socialists had a beard. Stalin had a moustache." The BLF soon took up the cause of beards in British politics. In 1996 the BLF called for a bearded man to be appointed to the Cabinet. According to "Independent" diarist Eagle Eye, sources from the Labour Party, then in opposition, promised that if they were elected, the cabinet would include the first bearded minister since Baron Passfield in 1929. Upon Labour's victory in the general election one year later, the bearded Robin Cook was duly appointed Foreign Secretary. Since then, however, the BLF has regarded New Labour as obsessed with a clean-shaven image, with some notable exceptions (including David Blunkett and Charles Clarke). [cite news|title=Dear Sir, I've written 20,000 letters, but you've only published 1,000|first=Mark|last=Jones|publisher=Evening Standard|date=7 November 2001]

In 1998 the BLF expressed outrage at actor Sean Connery being denied a knighthood, claiming that "normally reliable New Labour sources" had told them that the reason was his beard. [cite news|title=Scotsman Diary|publisher=The Scotsman|date=26 February 1998] Connery himself claims that his knighthood was delayed because of his support for Scottish independence, [ [http://www.seanconnery.com/biography/knighthood/ Official website of Sean Connery] , accessed on 2006-12-30.] while others have pointed out his tax exile status and previous remarks that some complained condoned violence against women. [cite news|title=People and places in the news|publisher=Associated Press|date=26 February 1998] Connery was eventually knighted in 2000.

In 2000 the BLF joined the anti-capitalist May Day protests with a "mass beard waggle", decrying the waste of natural resources involved in producing shaving foam and brushes. [cite news|title=Richard Wilson, the actor who found fame late in life...|first=Pandora|publisher=The Independent|date=1 May 2000] It also claimed that Robert Burns had a beard, and that contemporary pictures of him which depict the Scottish poet as clean-shaven were a manufactured image designed to make him more popular to the English. The Burns Federation said that there was no evidence to support Flett's claims, and said that he was "talking through his beard". [cite news|title=Is this the real face of our national Beard?|first=Robert|last=McNeil|publisher=The Scotsman|date=22 January 2000] .

In 2002 the BLF called for a semi-boycott of the second Harry Potter film "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets", citing the continued presence of obviously fake beards worn by actors Robbie Coltrane and Richard Harris. Flett claimed that the Christmas season was the worst time of year for beardist taunts, with the Potter movies adding to the ammunition already given by Father Christmas. Acknowledging that the pressure from beardies' children would be too great to consider an outright boycott, he said that supporters were merely being encouraged to hiss and boo at the screen.

In 2006 the BLF joined the ranks of organisations issuing health advice during the record-breaking summer heatwave by advising beard-wearers to trim their beards, cover them with handkerchiefs and to keep them cool by "placing it in briefly in the freezer department of a fridge or dipping it in a pint of real ale". [cite news|title=Britain set to swelter as heatwave goes on|publisher=Press Association|date=3 July 2006]

The BLF boycotted the 2007 World Beard and Moustache Championships as they claimed the event was over obsessive about the cutting and styling of whiskers rather then the pure cultivation of beards. They were also angered by the Handlebar Club who were hosting the event because of their full club membership ban of those who possess a beard of any description.

Renowned handlebar moustache wearer and satirist Michael "Atters" Attree who sat on the organising committee of the 2007 championships (and is a committee member of the Handlebar Club) hit back at the BLF claiming that their attitude towards his London based clubs handling of the WBMC was "Nonsense and utter Poppycock." He stated "One's personal grooming is of the utmost importance if one is to be a gentleman. Often it's the beard clubs that have been the WBMC hosts. We are just showing the beardies how to do it properly". [cite news|title=Plans to Boycott Beard and Moustache Championships|publisher=Sunday Herald|date=1 September 2007http://www.sundayherald.com/display.var.1655725.0.0.php?act=complaint&cid=546763] Commenting on the Socialist aspirations of the BLF Attree stated "I'd rather be shot by a moustachioed fascist than bored to death by the BLF". [cite news|title=The Mens's Issue|publisher=Flaunt|date=March 2008]

In 2007 during the Labour leadership campaign, the Beard Liberation Front held group discussions and decided to endorse Charles Clarke for the position, although he eventually announced he was not standing and would be backing Gordon Brown.Organiser Keith Flett was reported as saying [cite web| url =http://www.eveningnews24.co.uk/content/news/story.aspx?brand=ENOnline&category=News&tBrand=ENOnline&tCategory=news&itemid=NOED18%20Apr%202007%2009%3A11%3A11%3A470| title = Beardie weirdies back Clarke for next PM | author = David Powles| date =2007-04-18 | work =Norwich Evening News | publisher = ] :

He has a very recognisable public persona and it is a million miles from the clean shaven man in a suit image that characterises the Blair and Brown years and which both David Cameron and Sir Menzies Campbell copy. We believe Britain is ready for a bearded PM.

Beard of the Year

In 2000, Frank Dobson was named "Beard 2000", amid controversy over Dobson's claim that Labour spin doctors had told him to shave off his prize-winning beard for the upcoming elections for Mayor of London. Dobson said that he had told them to "get stuffed". [cite news|title=Dobson rejects 'clean-shaven' image|first=Brian|last=Groom|publisher=Financial Times|date=13 March 2000]

Labour politician Jeremy Corbyn, who considered his beard "a form of dissent" against New Labour, beat Rolf Harris to 2001's award. [cite news|title=Beards - Diary|first=Jack|last=Malvern|publisher=The Times|date=10 January 2002]

2002's winner was Education Secretary Charles Clarke, who beat comedian Ricky Gervais and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams for the title, despite Flett saying that the beard was probably a "pragmatic" one to conceal multiple double chins. [cite news|title=Three cheers (and chins) for Charlie, Beard of the Year|first=Black Dog|publisher=Mail on Sunday|date=5 January 2003]

The 2004 Beard of the Year was held jointly by cricketer Andrew Flintoff and NATFHE union leader Paul Mackney, due to the close polling between them. [cite news|title=Bearded duo win by a whisker in contest|publisher=Newsquest Media Group|date=31 December 2004]

After the English cricket team regained the Ashes for the first time in 16 years, Andrew Flintoff won the award again in 2005, this time unshared, to go with his BBC Sports Personality of the Year award and his MBE. Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson came second, while former joint-winner Paul Mackney was pushed into third. [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4566352.stm|title=Flintoff takes Beard of the Year|publisher=BBC News|date=29 December 2005|accessdate=2006-12-30]

England's losing the Ashes the following year did not prevent the 2006 award going to a cricketer for the third year running; this time to England Sikh spin-bowler Monty Panesar, who narrowly won with 30 percent of the vote. Cuban President Fidel Castro was second with 29 percent; Paul Mackney was again third, tying with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams with 10 percent each. [cite news|title=Panesar grabs beard of the year award|publisher=The Morning Star|date=29 December 2006] [cite news|url=http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/tms/2006/12/monty_beard_of_the_year_2006.shtml|title=Monty - Beard of the Year 2006|first=Pranav|last=Soneji|date=27 December 2006|accessdate=2006-12-30]

Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds and Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan shared the award for Beard of the cricket World Cup 2007 with Panesar the runner-up. [cite news|url=http://sport.guardian.co.uk/cricketworldcup2007/story/0,,2068013,00.html
title=Over-by-over: Australia innings|work=The Guardian | author= Andy Bull|date= 28 April 2007
]

In 2007 the Beard of the Year was announced as Robert Plant, the singer from Led Zeppelin. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7162740.stm Plant awarded 'beard of the year'] ]

References


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