“You want weapons? We’re in a library. Books are the best weapon in the world.” Thus spoke a travelling Doctor while trapped in the Torchwood Estate in 1879, a statement which is carried forward and expanded upon one hundred and forty four years later by Robin Ince as he introduces his Weapons of Empathy, the same Doctor (in an earlier incarnation) making a brief cameo courtesy of the novelisation of The Deadly Assassin by the great Terrance Dicks.
The stage of the lecture theatre of the National Museum of Scotland littered with a mere handful of Ince’s beloved and diverse travelling companions, comics including issues of Mandy and Judy, ephemera such as the Smash Hits Yearbook and books, so many books, he asks the question of himself whether he is indulging in nostalgia, but he already knows the answer.
Modern media focusing on the judgemental, selling outrage and criticism and self-doubt as commodities, Weapons of Empathy is in part a celebration of all the things we knew and loved in our childhoods, the things which collectively shaped who we are today as we face this angry world, but it is also a reminder that this is a good thing, that when we are worn down and besieged we need to be reminded of those things in order to find ourselves.
“Start the day with something wonderful,” Ince declares, arming himself with adventures of the Moomins and around the Magic Roundabout by Tove Jansson and Eric Thompson, but it is not just about an enjoyment of children’s literature, with diversions into science and science fiction with Ince’s fellow infinite monkey Brian Cox and Ursula K Le Guin, literature and romance with Jean Rhys and Barbara Cartland, and even the that most pertinent of intellectual enquiries, The Potato – Master or Servant?
“We don’t talk about philosophers or art because we’re afraid of mispronouncing their names,” Ince laments, and while the loss is ours so is the opportunity to make a change, the written word in all its forms and outlets celebrated, Weapons of Empathy a show which changes ever day depending on what particular selection of material is presented but which is guaranteed to be an hour of uplifting and inspiring discussion.
Robin Ince – Weapons of Empathy runs at Gilded Balloon at the National Museum of Scotland until Sunday 27th August