John Redhead:'He's not the Messiah,he's a very naughty boy' according to Climb's Dave Pickford.
"May I kindly suggest that you move to either Pakistan or Afghanistan, both countries in which you will find a great many bearded and wonderfully masculine gentlemen who will be deeply sympathetic to your views......Oh, but watch out whilst you're there. I gather that some of them don't much care for artists, either." ........ When you eventually make your journey to Afghanistan to meet your new friends in the Taliban high command - a group of gentlemen uniquely distinguished by their hatred of sport and their benighted view of women - I am certain you will be very well received, provided you don't show them any of your paintings. British climbers do not care either for your verbiage or for the abhorrent views underlying it, John. They never have, and they never will.'
Climb joint editor Dave Pickford email to John Redhead
The story so far.... Well known climber/artist John Redhead expands on an article published on Footless Crow which questioned the motivation driving some female climbers and pours derision on the soul-less commercial dynamic driving sports climbing. Climb magazine indicate they will use it then get cold feet and kick the controversial article into the long grass. Not surprisingly, the author who is not renowned for being a wilting violet, responds with acerbic tweets and emails to the commissioning editor, Dave Pickford, someone who is, according to Redhead ‘ clearly a slave to the recent twisted aberrations in feminism.‘ Continuing his dispatch by declaring .....’He (DP) hasn't a whiff of the soul that I know to be at the heart and essence of true climbing for an individual - man or woman!
Meanwhile the aforementioned Climb editor continues in a surprisingly intemperate fashion himself by declaring
"Because a magazine should represent the community in which it is involved, we report on the activities of women climbers in Britain and around the world. We also feature interviews with leading female climbers and mountaineers. Because of this, many women climbers read the magazine. And I am certain that the majority of them would find your line 'muscled women athletes are not at all feminine' offensive and misogynistic, as I do.
Fortunately, Britain is a tolerant country. I have been climbing for over twenty years, and no British climber I know is sympathetic with your repellent view of female athletes, with your nineteenth century attitude towards women generally, and with your ill-informed disgust of competition climbing.’
Ironically, Climb magazine had recently listed John Redhead’s ‘and one for the crow’ as one of the most influential climbing books of all time.
I don’t know Dave Pickford personally but I’ve always thought that he and Ian Parnell seem to be making a good fist of keeping Climb magazine ticking over in these difficult times for traditional media. God knows, I find it hard enough to get one article a week out so I can imagine how hard it must be to get a monthly magazine on the streets these days. Especially one covering the multi-faceted world of modern mountaineering. However, I think Dave Pickford has been a bit daft here. In fact his response to John Redhead is almost Richard Littlejohn-esque in its tone. As for his claiming to speak on behalf of ‘British Climbers’ well what can I say? He certainly doesn’t speak for me...how about you?
Now I have to admit that it’s difficult to be totally objective here because in recent years I’ve got to know John well enough for him to assume ‘mate’ status. I’ve been delighted to put out his writings on Footless Crow. An exercise which has been mutually beneficial for all parties concerned. In truth, there will be few outlets in the traditional media for John’s left field work. Certainly the conservative outdoor media are not interested in essays which don’t fall within their narrow, commercially defined parameters.
Recent front cover of Climb Magazine
The bigger picture outside of this little local difficulty is, for me, the aforementioned conservatism at the heart of UK climbing. The commercial agenda which drives outdoor publishing acts as a dead hand on creativity. Publications these days live in terror that the sponsors will pull the plug on advertising revenue should they put out a controversial or politically incorrect article. However, there is also a socio/cultural undercurrent to all this. Climb, like most outdoor publications shares a ‘Guardianist’ approach to issues like feminism, ecology, racism etc. That’s fine as far as it goes but there comes a point when political correctness assumes an authoritarian tone when dealing with views which fall outside of the considered norm. Witness the Guardian’s Draconian approach to moderation on their ironically titled ‘Comment is Free’ range of articles. The irony being that the Tory Telegraph is much more liberal in its moderation of right to reply articles and than the left of centre Guardian. As someone who has always supported freedom of speech and a right to reply, I find politically correct censorship as bad as authoritarian censorship. In fact it’s probably worse in that those with liberal/progressive views should know better!
To get back to the offending article in question. John Redhead is certainly no misogynist. I think a lot of the time his celebratory approach to sexuality, the explicitness which appears in his painting and writing and his ribald language unnerves and confuses people who don’t know him. I’ve read the offending article and I certainly didn’t find it in any way offensive; just typical Redhead thinking outside of the box. As for Climb magazine, well, to be honest, I haven’t read a copy in years but then I don’t really read any paper publication these days apart from books. At least the current trend for self publishing and online media breaks the stultifying stranglehold of the conservative commercial media and bypasses the farcical censorship of work, using political correctness as a blunt instrument to batter creativity into submission.