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Bury St Edmunds: Time Team TV archaeologist looks to past for social future

16:33 13 March 2014

Dr Helen Geake with Green Party candidate Rupert Read in the Abbey Gardens, in Bury St Edmunds.

Dr Helen Geake with Green Party candidate Rupert Read in the Abbey Gardens, in Bury St Edmunds.

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A Time Team archaeologist came to Bury St Edmunds earlier this week in a bid to convince the town that its illustrious past could hold the key to a brighter future.

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Dr Helen Geake visited the town to join up with the Green Party’s European election candidate Rupert Read and discuss the area’s importance to the Magna Carta.

The town is in the midst of organising celebrations marking 800 years since the Magna Carta was sealed.

A group of barons met at St Edmund’s Abbey Church in November 1214 – believed to be on St Edmund’s Day – where they agreed to make King John sign the Charter of Liberties.

This was a direct precursor to the Magna Carta, which was signed a year later and remains one of the most important democratic documents ever to be drafted.

Dr Geake, a Green Party member, met Mr Read at the town’s Abbey Gate, close to where the meeting took place, and the two used their surroundings as an inspiration to discuss the democratic reforms they would like to see in the modern day.

Dr Geake said: “The people who met that day in Bury St Edmunds were determined to make the king obey English law and to make justice available to all. Juries were to decide guilt or innocence, so for the first time in medieval England ordinary people – not just the nobles – got involved.

“Improvements in rights and democracies are often slow. It took over 700 years after Magna Carta for women to get the right to vote or sit on juries. Remembering and celebrating these anniversaries will inspire us today to get keep working to keep working to make all voices heard equally.”

Mr Read, a writer and lecturer on philosophy, said one change that should be brought from European to national elections was a more representational voting system.

He added: “It is long overdue that proportional representation is extended to the English local councils and the UK Parliament.”

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