Monday 21 November 2011

Detecting under the Microscope: New Club Being Secretly Convened?

Mick Turrell organizer of "Leisure Promotions" commercial metal detecting and artefact hunting club, based in Newbury Berks has a newsletter for his members. One of them has passed it on to me and I was astonished to read the "Fortress detecting" attitudes it reflects. So much, it would seem, for the effects of thirteen years of "archaeological outreach", even in civilized Berkshire. Among other things, Mr Turrel writes:
I have heard whispers that someone is trying to whip up support for another organisation along the lines of both the NCMD and FID, but aimed at fighting back at those organisations that seem intent of attacking our hobby.
Well, they need to get in contact with Dave Welsh and Peter Tompa, to "Unite to Defend Collectors' Rights". This sort of thing seems right up their street. The justification for the need of these "Metal Detecting Minutemen" is that despite all the PAS "partnership" and sickeningly pro-collecting press releases in the national media, there is still - horror! - public criticism of the hobby and its effects:
We have had a relatively ‘quiet’ few years but the attacks are becoming more commonplace. For example, there is the Nighthawking Survey that showed that the situation had improved since the last survey, but it was still used to attack the hobby in the media. Then there is the Stewardship Scheme which has curbed the number of large rallies taking place by the restrictions being put in place. Fifty, or more, detector users in an event and the organisers need to give the archaeologists 6 months notice and it can be cancelled at the last minute leaving organisers with a huge bill. Do not think that this will not affect you, as it will shortly be reduced to just 30 detector users, thereby affecting most clubs as well! Then there is the small matter that we have a Code of Conduct, but that did not stop the archaeologists helping to rewrite it to their own specifications. If we suggested ‘helping’ the archaeologists to write a code for themselves, they would probably be quite upset by the suggestion so they will therefore understand why we would equally be upset. Then there is the ‘Voluntary Code’, which is not voluntary when connected with the Stewardship Scheme. If you do not follow it, the farmer could lose his funding. The attacks continue. How much more can we take before we fight back [?] I am not suggesting that our hobby is perfect, there are no doubt just as many ‘bad’ detector users as ‘bad’ archaeologists, but if they really do want us to work along side them, then this is not the way to do it. If it continues, then it would not be surprising if some in the hobby decide to fight back.
So creating a mutually agreed Code of Practice is "not the way" to go about working alongside each other? It is regrettable that Mr Turrel does not state what he condiders is. "Leave us alone, git orf are case" as NCMD's Trevor Austin once said? The people doing the Nighthawking Survey could not have bent over backwards any further in their efforts to stress that nighthawking was a quite separate phenomenon from "bona fide detecting", a superficial view which was a hat-tip to the prevailing mantras in the artefact hunting and pro-collecting archaeological milieus alike. It was nighthawking that was discussed in the media upon the report's publication, hardly therefore an "attack [on] the hobby". '

The Stewardship Schemes are no more no less than conservation schemes, put in place to preserve the resources of the British rural landscape. The accessible archaeological record in those rural landscapes is - whether artefact hunters like it or not - a finite and fragile resource which is being seriously depleted by artefact hunting. Any conservation scheme worth the name should be stopping, or at least managing and mitigating the losses. From our point of view, the
Stewardship Schemes are not doing this to a degree which could be called satisfactory. remember that part of the money being paid to farmers is coming from European funds, and in most countries of the EU artefact hunting is not understood as "conservation' but looting of archaeological sites. Why should we be paying for English farmers to say they are 'conserving" something while they allow the looting of the archaeological resource? No, regulating rallies is NOT enough.

Go on, tekkies "fight back". Show us all how much entitlement you feel to carry on plundering the archaeological record for collecta
ble artefacts for your personal entertainment and profit. Show the public (the real joint stakeholder in the heritage you covet for your personal use) what a lot of agressive oiks you have among you. Oppose the attempts by bodies such as the PAS to impose higher standards ("best practice"), please do, the sooner and more noisily the better as far as I am concerned. Then try and get some public sympathy. Come on, one, two, three, all together now:

"Git Orf Are Case!!
Stop the Gubn'mint Taking Away Are Rights
to Take Away Are 'Istry Fer Areselves!!
Vignette: In 2012, will Britain be engulfed by a wave of populist pitchfork and torch protests spreading out from the epicentre of the "Leisure promotions" movement in Newbury Berkshire only to be crushed in a confrontation with the militant arm of the Young Archaeologists Club on the outskirts of York? And what part will the Portable antiquities Scheme play in the confrontation?

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