All Distinctions Levelled
Ruth Ewan devised a weathervane for Flood House which was made by Karen Green, a specialist in traditional copper weathervanes. The design incorporates the word ‘LEVEL’ positioned above the east – west axis which alludes to the extreme changes in water levels that come with the rise and fall of the tide in the Thames Estuary. The word is also a reference to a speech by the 14th century radical itinerant priest John Ball. In one of his rousing sermons he rails against the injustices of the English tax system and the extreme inequalities that led to the Peasants Revolt of 1381, which began in Essex. With incredible prescience, the work speaks 600 years later to an audience caught up in a system divided between the 1% (the ‘rich’) and the 99% (the ‘rest’), with a political and economic elite still reeling from the fallout of the Panama Papers exposé, broadcast shortly before Flood House launched from the Essex coast.
“My good friends, things cannot go on well in England, nor ever will until everything shall be in common, when there shall be neither vassal nor lord, and all distinctions levelled; when the lords shall be no more masters than ourselves. How ill they have used us!… They have wines, spices and fine bread, when we have only rye and the refuse of fine straw; and if we drink, it must be water. They have handsome seats and manors, when we must brave the wind and rain in our labours in the field; but it is from our labour they have the wherewith to support their pomp.… Let us go to the king, who is young, and remonstrate with him on our servitude, telling him we must have it otherwise, or that we shall find a remedy for it ourselves”
Excerpt from a speech by John Ball, documented by Jean Froissart in The Chronicles of England, France, Spain, 14th c.
‘LEVEL’ is a palindrome which makes it a perfect friend to a weathervane. The earliest English vane dates from c.1340, the period in which John Ball was preaching. There are many rich connections between Ball and the county of Essex and we hope to be able to find a home for the vane in Southend-on-Sea once Flood House leaves the Estuary.
We are extremely grateful to Focal Point Gallery for supporting, funding and facilitating this commission.