You can always rely on Livejournal to focus on the debates that really count, and yesterday was no exception, with an argument raging over Philip Howard, better known as “Sinner Winner man”. Londoners will be familiar with Sinner Winner man, who has for some years been preaching through a megaphone at shoppers around Oxford Circus, demanding to know whether they’re going to be sinners, or winners. Over time Sinner Winner man has become something of a cult figure – at least for those of us who don’t live or work in the W1 area – and is now, I think it’s fair to say, regarded as part of London’s rich, if garish, cultural fabric. Not by everyone, however, and in May last year Westminster City Council successfully brought an ASBO against him, after Horseferry Road Magistrates’ Court was told he’d said to a passerby “you’re a sinner”, adding “Buddhist with Buddhist hair” and “King of sinners”, and told another passerby “Be a winner not a sinner”. You can see how he got his nickname, can’t you. Mr Howard now plies his trade at Piccadilly Circus, as you can see from the picture below (he’s the one on the right) that I’ve stolen from James Hyman.
As evangelist preachers go, he could be a lot worse. In this interview, his response to the question “What’s your stance towards gays and hippies? Do you hate them?” is the relatively PC “No, I don’t hate them. The gays should give women a go though, that was God’s plan”, although he lets himself down a bit here, where he expresses his somewhat unorthodox belief that “women are weaker vessels; it is Satan’s nature in them to rebel. It’s man’s job to calm them down”. Still, he can exercise tact when required. Asked whether he thinks Michael Winner is an “idiot”, he deftly sidesteps the question, answering “a winner is someone in God’s eyes who overcomes sin”. That’s a “yes”, then.
But now a campaign has been launched to banish him from Piccadilly as well. Livejournal user amuchmoreexotic – why can’t these people have sensible names like wardytron, I wonder – has complained to Westminster City Council about Mr Howard’s “nuisance behaviour”, in “using a voice amplification system to broadcast Christian propaganda”. In response to this, ruudboy issues a stirring defence, saying “Yes, he’s annoying, but having to put up with annoying people who aren’t actually doing you any harm is one of the drawbacks that we have to put up with for living in a free society”, while offensive mango echoes my own thoughts exactly, pointing out “Dude, he’s part of our culture, like the monarchy“. But all is not lost – there’s an online petition defending Sinner Winner man, who it says is “part of London’s cultural landscape”, a bit like Benjamin Mackie is here. The last time I was in the W1 area I was sure to listen out for him, and in the distance I could just make out his distorted Scouse tones as he harangued some poor and unsuspecting shopper or tourist. It was reassuring somehow, like seeing the ravens at the Tower of London. I say defend Sinner Winner man.
From the b3ta interview:
Q: Do you smoke?
A: Nah, if you smoke you’re a joke. If you smoke you choke!
Q: Favourite food?
A: Spiritual food.
Q: Oh come on, is there something that you would choose to eat?