Act 54 Oyster Project, Lewes


Act 54 Thursday 02 May 2013

A non public recitation to camera by members of the Oyster Project for their  Heritage funded film on Human Rights and Disability  to be released later in 2013

Filming in progress for Our Histories, Our Heritage, please click on the image for more details. photo: Philip Wise

The Oyster Project is a  disability self-help charity founded and run by people with disability working in and with the community.  We are entirely run by our members all of whom are volunteers. We are  based in Lewes, East Sussex and it’s all about taking part, making things happen and doing things. Activities are organised by members and friends with an emphasis on empowerment and involvement for disabled people of all ages.  We encourage and support our members to initiate projects that can become self-sustaining and useful in the community including managing bookings for the historic Westgate Chapel. Each member is encouraged to build on their enthusiasms and skills and then involve others.

Our main project for 2012/13 is the Our Histories, Our Heritage project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund,please check it out here:

The Oyster group’s base is close to the former home of Thomas Paine who wrote The Rights of Man and played a key role in the American and French Revolutions. The sites of events which had a significant role in the development of our Rights and Freedoms in the UK are also nearby.

Below are some Research notes by Mik Anthony for the film 

Lewes has often been involved in the long fight for human rights.

In 1264 there took place the Battle of Lewes between the King and Simon de Montforte who led an army of Barons and Londoners opposed to the power of the King.  They were fighting to defend the “Provisions of Oxford” by which the King had agreed to rule in consultation with a Council and Parliament.  Simon’s victory enabled him to enforce this agreement; and he was instrumental in inviting commoners to take part in the resulting Parliament for the first time.  This marked the beginning of the House of Commons and of representative government in this country.  The Right to representative government is the base on which all other Rights rest.

Freedom of conscience and belief were Rights which were fought for not by killing opponents but by suffering martyrdom.  In 1555 – 57 a total of seventeen men and women were burned alive in Lewes for refusing to give up their Right to worship God in their own way.  The first to be burned was Dirick Carver.  Here, in the centre of town a barrel was placed on top of a pyre and Carver was put in it together with his Bible.  As the flames leapt higher Carver Threw his Bible to the crowd saying: “Lord have mercy on me”.  This Bible can still be seen in the Lewes museum, spattered with his blood!  People in Lewes still remember the Martyrs every 5th of November and there is a memorial to them on the hill above the town.

From 1768 until 1774 Thomas Paine lived in Lewes.  He became involved in local politics and formed a debating society called: “The Headstrong Club” which met regularly in the White Hart Hotel, near to where the martyrs were burned.  It was in Lewes that Paine formed his political ideas; and, perhaps, the radical independence shown by Lewesians in the past had its influence on him.  He fought for Universal Human Rights with his wit and his pen using logical argument to win his case.  He wrote many pamphlets and essays, but is best known for three books.  The first was titled “Common Sense”, and was instrumental in  rallying support in America for independence.  The second was “The Rights of Man” which had a profound effect on attitudes to government and freedom.  He advocated universal sufferage and democratic repuplican government, as well as welfare for the poor paid for from redistributive taxation.  The third was “The Age of Reason” which was against organised religion and the need for either the Bible or Priests.  This last polemic made him many enemies and ruined his reputation in America.  Many see him as the father of republican democracy and an important influence on both the American and French revolutions.  He also advocated abolition of slavery, equal rights for women, and fair wages and working conditions.

Oyster Group’s film will be released and premiered in Lewes later this summer. Please check their website and facebook pages for details.

We also run a Community Cafe at the All Saints Centre, Friars Walk, Lewes every Wednesday 11.30 – 2pm (except August) why not drop in and say hello?

The Oyster Project – UK Registered Charity 1132007
Founded and run by disabled people for disabled people and their community
For full details of our activities see 
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