Kester Brewin teaches mathematics in South East London and is also an author and broadcaster. He has written and presented for BBC Radio 4, and spoke at TEDxExeter in 2013 on Mutiny! – his acclaimed work on pirate culture. See talk below. His latest book Getting High – A savage journey to the heart of the dream of flight explores the human quest for altitude through the prism of the events of the 1960s. It has been praised by Simon Critchley, author of Bowie and Hans Jonas, professor of philosophy at the New School, New York, as ‘a beautiful meditation on flight, memory and meaning in a world still struggling to come to terms with the loss of the most high’
His son kept getting invited to pirate parties, but what to wear? Stereotypical eye patch, or should it be an AK47 and inflatable boat, or a basket of dodgy DVDs?
Pirates are everywhere, on merchandise from baby bottles to ties. But why are they so popular? Because his son never got invited to any ‘aggravated robbery’ parties.
In the golden age of piracy, England, France and the other colonial powers were trying to enclose lands and sea. This involved ships, and the engines of the ships were the sailors. But the sailors were brutally treated. To be a sailor in the Navy was to be close to death, and a sailor’s death was marked in the ship’s log as a skull and crossbones. Sailors turned to piracy because they were fed up with brutal treatment. And the life of pirates was much better, equal and empowered.
Pirates were thieves, but then so was everyone else. So pirates were not hated because they stole, but for refusing to pass on the stolen goods to the King and for refusing to be treated as scum. Moving to piracy is towards emancipation and freedom.
Whenever the resources of the many are enclosed for the benefits of the few, pirates rise up. The BBC had a monopoly on radio, but broadcast only 1 hour of pop a week… leading to Radio Caroline, which gave music back to the people.
Biography published 2017
Kester also talked at TEDxExeter 2013 – you can watch his talk below.