A C20th ‘rotten borough’?

Wikipedia offers the following on ‘rotten boroughs’.

” A rotten or pocket borough, more formally known as a nomination borough or proprietorial borough, was a parliamentary borough or constituency in England, Great Britain, or the United Kingdom before the Reform Act 1832, which had a very small electorate and could be used by a patron to gain unrepresentative influence within the unreformed House of Commons. The same terms were used for similar boroughs represented in the 18th-century Parliament of Ireland.”

The term has graced the pages of ‘Private Eye’. I remembered this when I read the BFI announcement  kindly bought to my attention by Mark Newell.

“The BFI Board appointed Gerry Fox, long-time BFI Member and award-winning filmmaker, as a Governor (Member) for a renewable four-year term from February 2017.

The BFI is the lead organisation for film in the UK with the ambition to create a flourishing film environment in which innovation, opportunity and creativity thrive. We are a Government arm’s length body, a distributor of Lottery funds for film and a registered charity governed by Royal Charter.

The BFI Board of Governors, chaired by Josh Berger, includes one Governor (Member) position. When the post is next vacant, BFI Patrons, Champions and Members, with an active involvement and/or knowledge in film, will be eligible to apply as long as they have the support of at least two other Patrons, Champions or Members. Suitable candidates will then be interviewed by the Nominations and Appointments Committee who will make a recommendation to the Board of Governors.

Governor positions are unpaid, except for the reimbursement of travel expenses, but BFI Governors enjoy free BFI Membership and have opportunities to attend BFI and film industry events.

Please note that the BFI Board of Governors resolved in January 2016 that this application process should replace the election process as the last two elections were invalid because less than ten percent of the electorate voted.”

I do not know Gerry Fox, he is probably a nice person and good at what he does. But he does not represent the members. Representative democracy involves proper elections. It is not about ‘unrepresentative influence’ by Patrons and Champions who are considered suitable persons.

It would seem that Mr Fox lives and works in London, he has been an ‘artist in residence’ in Camden. So we have another member of the Metropolitan elite on the Board of Governors. As far as I can ascertain there is not a single member who lives and works outside the ”home counties’; certainly not from ‘up North’, Scotland or Wales. Recent BFI policy statement, including ‘Film Forever’, make commitments regarding ‘diversity’. A good place to start would be the BFI Board of Governors.



  1. John David Hall

    The National Media Museum, although with a new sexed-up name, seems to be in terminal decline as a showcase for modern and classic cinema. Indeed, it could be argued that the humble Hebden Bridge cinema is doing a better job in this regard with ‘Certain Women’ getting three days airing towards the end of this week. This concentration of BFI leadership in the London area is just another symptom of the progressive weakening of the cinematic arts in this and other areas.

  2. keith1942

    A good point about the Hebden Bridge Picture House, I go there for there for their frequent 35mm screenings. And the programming is almost repertory, something that has almost disappeared from the cinema landscape.

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