At this time of year there’s an event in the lobby at Ronaldsway Airport called the Festival of Trees – or something like that. To be honest, it’s organised by a major charity I have no respect for, roping in smaller, similarly pointless, others, so yet another non-event I ignore.
The general idea is that the little charities pay an entrance fee to Save The Children and build Christmas trees reflecting their work. The public then votes on the best tree and the winner gets a prize at a glitzy shindig attended by the kind of idle rich lame-brainer who goes to that sort of thing because….. well, they have nothing better to do, I suppose.
Though they are never the prize-winners, some trees can still be quite inventive. For example, a year or two back one charity which donates toilets to villages in developing countries made a “tree” out of toilets. I mention this one specifically because nobody took offence at a quite literal example of lavatory humour or demanded it be taken down.
And this year one of the trees was a joint effort by two groups (one of whom is Amnesty International) promoting a modest scheme to bring a few Syrian refugees to the Isle of Man. The proposal is that if Cameron can promise to resettle 20,000 in the UK over five years then, working to the same scale, maybe the Isle of Man could take 25. That’s just five (or one family) a year.
Not a big ask, especially when over 100 people have signed up offering a room. Also, to my certain knowledge, two owners of finance sector companies – one a member of the British Board of Deputies of Jews, the other a child refugee from Budapest in 1956 who was overwhelmed by the sight of Syrian refugees there while visiting relatives two years back – have offered to rent houses.
So, the tree explaining all this was built around a combination of life jackets and pictures of famous refugees such as Ann Frank, with the message “Refugees Welcome” around the base, snippets of information and a few links urging people to sign a petition which will go to the Manx government in late January. Not exactly an ISIS recruiting drive, I think we could agree.
I’d forwarded a few pictures of it to friends, urging anyone who passes through the airport to take a look, maybe even cast a vote for it. ‘You can’t miss it’, I’d told them, ‘big orange lifejackets everywhere and REFUGEES WELCOME signs in big red letters’.
Some people then went out of their way to look and came back puzzled. After going round the lobby a few times, they finally spotted the lifejackets, but nothing about refugees, just some Save The Children leaflets on a totally unrelated matter. When pictures of the exhibition opening appeared in the local press, what was left of the “tree” could be seen in the background and, yes, it had definitely been tampered with in a major way. Without the refugee material it made absolutely no sense. No wonder nobody noticed it.
So what happened? The first suspicion was that airport management, knowing that the Governor was due to open the exhibition, had assumed he might take offence. Nope, asked around and there was definitely no government tampering. In fact some airport employees had quite liked it when it first went up and had signed the petition online.
Which leaves the awful thought that the censoring must have been done by someone who, in theory, is concerned enough about the plight of children in war zones to want to help. Or at least, hold social soirees to raise money for other people who, in theory, are employed to do something practical for such kids.
Fundraisers for a major development agency deliberately sabotaging a campaign of the world’s most respected human rights group? That would be obscene. But what other explanation is there?
Unless one emerges, I would have to politely suggest that anyone with a shred of decency should boycott a “charity” whose fundraisers, contrary to what it says on the tin, do not seem remotely interested in a practical project to save a few children from psychopathic dictators who think nothing of bombing their own subjects – even in hospitals where they’re being treated for their injuries.