The Steeple Times asks former prisoner turned writer and campaigner Ben Gunn: “What’s on your mantelpiece?”
The Steeple Times shares “wit and wisdom”. What’s your guiding force?
Challenging abuses of power and increasing individual liberty.
“Don’t get even, get medieval” is, in our humble opinion, a great motto. What’s yours?
The Gunn Clan motto serves well – “Aut Pax, Aut Bellum” – “Either Peace, Or War”.
Kerry Katona was considered unacceptable in 2007. Who or what is unacceptable in 2014?
Tracksuits as casual-wear are always unacceptable; like romper suits for adults.
Tony Blair misses being Prime Minister. What do you miss most in your life?
A sense of purpose and meaning in this new part of my life.
What might you swap all your wealth for?
Donald Trump was once a case of: “If you owe the bank a thousand, they close you down; but if you owe the bank a billion, you own the bank”. What’s your view on the banking crisis?
That the pursuit of wealth or power without a positive social end inevitably risks causing great social harms. I have provocatively asked the question: “Who causes more social harm – paedophiles or rogue bankers?”
What phrase or word do you most loathe?
“Prisons are like Butlins”: Said by people who don’t compare the suicide rates between these two great British institutions.
In the UK, some people consider charity to “begin at home”. What’s your view and what causes do you personally support?
While it may be inevitable that we care most about those in our own social group, we are all one community spinning through space on a rock. If we can help anyone, we should, no matter how distant. Causes I support are prison reform, cat welfare and conflict resolution.
The judge in Law Abiding Citizen states: “I can pretty much do whatever I want” before being blown up whilst answering her mobile phone. What’s your view on the appropriate use of such devices?
Cellphone bombs or cellphones? I am notoriously rude in my use of my mobile in social situations, but with our whole lives pouring into these devices I think we are in danger of “connecting” with everyone – except the human being standing next to us.
If you could fill a carriage on The Orient Express, who would be your fellow passengers?
Nils Bohr, Paul Dirac, von Manstein, Georgi Zhukov, Mao, Emily Pankhurst, John Howard, Neil Armstrong and Chris Grayling.
If you were unfortunate enough to end up on death row, what would be your last meal and where would you eat it?
Due to a 43 day hunger strike 20 years ago, my brain no longer registers hunger signals. And having lived in an old “death cell”, I’m surprised anyone facing execution has an appetite. That said, I’d have a burger and chips. I’d eat it on the scaffold, chatting to the hangman.
What time is it acceptable to consume the first drink of the day?
I’m not a drinker, so rarely. On a hot day, a cold larger mid afternoon.
A Negroni, a martini or a cup of tea?
A cup of tea, no, coffee.
Whose parties do you enjoy the most and why?
I am profoundly asocial and attend such functions at gunpoint, usually held by my blog editor. Her events are most enjoyable.
Who is the most positive person you know?
Herman Goering: For believing his powerful performance at his trial would actually save him from both the gallows and the condemnation of history.
What’s your most guilty pleasure?
The TV shows Pawn Stars and Sons of Guns.
If a tattoo were to sum you up, what would it be of?
An empty circle.
If you were a car, what marque would you be?
A Nissan GTR: Understated but extremely powerful.
Cilla Black presented Surprise, Surprise. Tell us the most surprising thing about you.
I once saved a female prison officer from being taken hostage and gang raped.
What’s currently sitting on your mantelpiece?
A framed photo of my partner, a bag of mint humbugs, two notebooks, a candle, a seashell and a lollipop.
John “Ben” Gunn describes himself as “the godfather of prison reform”. Convicted of murder at the age of 14, Gunn served 32 years in jail. He is now a writer, consultant and campaigner on issues relating to prison life and justice.
Follow him on Twitter at @prisonerben.
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