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This week in Tortoise: The Lost Ark

This week in Tortoise: The Lost Ark

Giles Whittell has gone in search of the Lost Ark. In February, Giles edited a ThinkIn to consider whether it’s time for the British Museum to return the Elgin Marbles – AKA the Parthenon Sculptures – to Greece. For some months, he’s also been investigating a lesser known, but an even more contentious set of treasures that the British Museum has held largely in secret and entirely out of sight: the Ethiopian tabots. These wood and stone plaques, looted by the British over 150 years ago, are considered by the Ethiopian Orthodox church to be the dwelling place of God on earth. They serve as a replica of the Ark of the Covenant and such is their religious importance that they cannot ever be displayed or studied, either in private or in public. When Giles asks why the British Museum won’t return them to Ethiopia, he’s met by a telling silence. Listen out for it in this week’s Slow Newscast: The Lost Ark.

It’s hard to remember a UK government policy that has been decried by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York for its moral failure, Conservative politicians for its waste of public money, the permanent secretary at the Home Office for its lack of fact-based decision-making and the New York Times for its abandonment of post-war values and Britain’s historic promises. But Boris Johnson and Priti Patel’s scheme to send asylum seekers to Rwanda has done just that. In today’s Sensemaker, we examine the details of the Unkind Kingdom’s new asylum policy. 

In our newsroom, we’re looking up:

  • Tonight at 6.30pm London time, we’ll be joined by the playwright Jez Butterworth, as his play Jerusalem returns to the West End. (Matt d’Ancona previewed it in last week’s Creative Sensemaker: “Jerusalem in 2022 represents a reprieve for all that is best, most anarchic and most bawdily generous in the English soul.”)
  • On Wednesday, at 6.30pm, we’re holding our Open News meeting, where we’re talking through reporting plans for May and June. 
  • On Thursday at 6.30pm, author and singer Will Young will be joining us for a ThinkIn on how we can be happier.

In case you’ve missed it, we’re now all back in the newsroom: we’re happy to see you online and all the more so to meet up again in person. In one way or another, you’ll spend some time with us this week.


James Harding
Editor & co-founder