Sunday, 7 May 2017

Some notes on "The Place is Here" exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary

Interesting exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary a while back entitled "The Place is Here". BFTF had a walk round and learnt a lot!

The gallery describes the exhibition thusly :
"...This exhibition traces some of the urgent conversations that were taking place between black artists, writers and thinkers during the 80s. Against a backdrop of civil unrest and divisive national politics, they were exploring their relationship to Britain’s colonial past as well as to art history. Many artists were looking to the Civil Rights movement in America, Black feminism, Pan-Africanism, the struggle over apartheid, and the emergent fields of postcolonial and cultural studies..."
and was also covered by the Guardian. Nice review here too.

Here are some of the works that most caught BFTF's attention.

GLC Anti-Racism Mural

An example of the Greater London Council's (GLC) anti-racism murals had BFTF going on-line to learn more - which you can check out at A London Inheritance, AliceRoseBell and the London Mural Preservation Society. The specific mural above (located on Lowood Road, E1), however, has not been mostly erased, as can be seen in this GoogleMaps image

The Anti-Racism mural as it appears today

BFTF wonders how many murals there are in Nottingham, how many have been lost, and where there is any Nottingham archive of this artform.

Rasheed Araeen "For Oluwale" 1971-75

It was disturbing to learn, in Rasheed Araeen's montage "For Oluwale" about the 1970s dictatorship in Portugal, who continued to hold onto their colonial "possessions" Angola, Portuguese Guinea, Mozambique and Goa well after the UK and France had granted independence to theirs. The Portuguese authorities became increasingly brutal in their attempts to quash independence movements such as FRELIMO - resulting in massacres such as that at Wiriyamu which was reported in the Times just prior to the 1973 visit by the Portugese Prime Minister Marcello Caetano to the UK.

You can read about how India took back the territory of Goa here; and about the African Portuguese Colonial War here.

Separately, but importantly, the "Oluwale" in the title refers to David Oluwale, who was beaten on multiple occasions by Police in Leeds, eventually dying trying to escape a beating in 1969. You can, and should, read about his story here.

David Lewis "The Game " 1985

This image by Dave Lewis, entitled "The Game", needs no commentary.

Toussaint Louverture artwork

Have you heard of Toussaint Louverture? Until this exhibition, neither had BFTF.

Gavin Jantges - A South African Colouring Book (1974-5)

Another exhibit entitled "A South African Colouring Book", by Gavin Jantges (1974-5) laid bare the ridiculous contortions that South African Apartheid had to tie itself up in; given that skin colour is a spectrum - not a series of discrete shades.The Population Registration Act of 1950 states in section 1 that :

"(a) a "white" person means a person who in appearance is, or who is generally accepted as, a white person, but does not include a person who, although in appearance obviously a white person, is generally accepted as a colored person"

over a period of time, this definition seemed to be allowing too many brown skinned people to be classed as white the definition was changed in 1961 to:

"White person means a person who, a) in appearance obviously is a white person and who is not generally accepted as a Colored person; or b) is generally accepted as a white person and is not in appearance obviously not a white person."

However, this also proved to be insufficently impervious to "misapplication", one notable case being that of a child who was darker skinned than her ("white" siblings) and was placed in the "coloured" category, meaning that she could only live at home as a domestic servant.

So it 1967 further legislation used, predictably complex, wording which included the following:
"..in deciding whether any person is in appearance obviously a white person or not a white person within the meaning of the definition of “white person” in subsection (1), his habits. education and speech and deportment and demeanour in general shall be taken into account; (b) it shall, in the absence of proof that any person is generally accepted as a white person or a Bantu, be assumed that he is generally accepted as a coloured person except where such person is in appearance obviously a member of an aboriginal race or tribe of Africa;
(c) a person shall be deemed not to be generally accepted as a white person, unless he is so accepted in the area in which or at any place where he—
(i) is ordinarily resident;
(ii) is employed or carries on business;
(iii) mixes socially or takes part in other activities with other members of the public,
and in his association with the members of his family and any other persons with whom he lives;"

This was by no means the limit of ridiculousless that Apartheid legislation reached - see here about "Honorary whites"

Lumaina Himid "Thin Black Line(s)"

Lastly but not leastly, an interesting "underground" map of Black artists by Lumaina Himid

Monday, 6 February 2017

INEOS vs FrackFreeNotts Debate Feb 2017

Went to a fascinating debate between Gary Haywood of INEOS (who would like to undertake fracking operations in Nottinghamshire) and Denis May of FrackFreeNotts (who are very much against fracking operations)

Very interesting to see both sides present their arguments, and then have them taken down by the other side of the debate.

From the INEOS side, and amongst other things, Gary commented that:
-fracking installations ("pads") typcially house 10 individual wells;
-North Sea Gas is declining (50% of UK gas is now imported);
-it will take decades to change domestic gas boilers/ cookers to electric ones;
-using UK shale gas would help the balance of payments;
-operational wells needed little maintenance and were not an eyesore;
-seismic activity around wells is similar to activity that happens around the country anyway;
-that Public Health England and the Royal Society have been found no fundamental problems with fracking in the UK;
-that the UK has stringent safety legislation;
More information on the INEOS viewpoint can be found here.

Following on, Gary presented the FFN case with comments including that:
-To extract 15% of the shale in Lancashire would require 33,000 wells;
-Each fracking operation requires 6,000 tankers of fracking fluid;
-wells have to be refracked every 3-5 years;
-the Royal Society and Public Health England reports did not consider the effect on communities;
-A DEFRA report was critical of fracking and heavily redacted when published;
-that wells go through the aquifer and failures would put water supplies at risk;
-INEOS does not have a good safety record
-Pennsylvania (in the US) has now banned new fracking drilling operations.
More information on the FFN viewpoint can be found here.

Both sides then had a chance to respond to the other and there was a Q&A. Items in this section that caught BFTF's attention were:
-INEOS saying that 200 wells was a more realistic estimate than 33,000 wells.
-FFN relating the story of an elderly couple who were in shock that their house, 300m from a well, was now unsellable.
-FFN saying that investment in energy efficiency measures would reduce gas demand by an equivalent amount to shale output.
-INEOS commenting that shale gas extraction had (by replacing coal) reduced USA CO2 emissions so much that they had been able to meet their Koyoto targets.

Very interesting to see what each side chose NOT to say, which arguments they chose NOT to counter,how logical flaws in their arguments were glossed over and also where both sides they got caught presenting misleading information.

To BFTF, it seemed that the underlying issue was that the UK is using a lot of gas, and will continue to do so for decades. Should we :
a) Continue to import gas
b) Develop UK shale fracking (according to INEOS this may reduce imports by up to 50%)
c) Focus on energy efficiency improvements instead of shale fracking
d) Some combination of the above.

Not sure what the answer is, but BFTF does feel that the event at least helped to define what the question was!

 
UK Gas Useage 2015

Related Content:
Living on Fractured Earth - Talk about peoples views about fracking

Saturday, 31 December 2016

"Are Trams Socialist? Why Britain has no Transport Policy" by Christian Wolmar

Recently read a very interesting book by Christian Wolmar called "Are Trams Socialist? Why Britain has no Transport Policy" that, quite concisely, reviews how policies have have changed over the years. This post is based on the book, with a little added linkage.

Wolmar starts back in the 19th century, describing how roads were not up to the challenge of supporting the heavy steam engines being developed at the time, and that the necessary steering and transmission technologies had not yet been developed. This resulted in the 1865 Locomotive Act (knows as the Red Flag Act) which restricted the speed of self propelled vehicles to 4mph in rural areas.

1875 Grenville Steam Carriage

But it also resulted in focus moving towards railways, which did not need steering, were more efficient and could handle the heavy steam engines of the day. By 1900 there were some 18,700 miles of track and mainline speeds averaged about 45mph. Meanwhile, within towns, tram systems became increasingly popular.

An interesting point made by Wolmar is that it was cyclists, in the 1870s, who lobbied for improved roads. Unfortunately for them, these improved roads proved ideal for the first motor cars and soon motorists were lobbying for roads to be prioritised for cars over cyclists, people or animals. These latter groups came to be seen as "obstructing the highway" - a view that still colours thinking today.

Wolmar also mentions that, at the time of WW1, imported cars were being hit with an import duty of 30% - which seems incredible in todays globalised world.

After WW1, the newly formed Ministry of Transport had road and rail in separate sections, with road getting increasing importance as the years went by.

Lobbying by the British Roads Federation during WW2 resulted in postwar commitments and action by Labour and Conservative governments to build a national motorway network, starting with the Preston Bypass in 1958.

In contrast, all of Britain's tram networks (except Blackpool seafront) were closed between 1930 and 1960. Trollybus systems lasted a little longer, as they were cheaper than trams. But soon all of the approximately 50 systems in the UK had closed too. This was happening elsewhere as well - France closed all its tram systems after WW2.

A 1925 Dick Kerr Type Tram,from Leeds.

Wolmar notes however, and with some surprise, that the Conservative Government of the mid 1950s had spent a lot of money (some £26bn in 2016 prices) in modernising parts of the rail network) in order to make it profitable. Something the rail network failed to do.

Huge cuts were made in the rail network following the Beeching report in 1963, again to bring the railways to profitability.

Government started to face the facts in 1968, with a Transport Act that recognised that railways needed government funding for socially useful lines, and closures slowed down dramatically.

Remarkable, even after this there were determined attempts in the 70s and 80s by BR managers and civil servants to cut the rail network very significantly, for example in many of the options presented in the 1982 Serpell Report . [Incidentally, a debate at the Science Museum claimed that 1970s Labour "assumed that as only rich people travelled by rail, it was not right to subsidise the railways by taxpayers"]

From this rail nadir of the early 1980s, passenger numbers increased and there is now cross party support for investment in the rail network, with a planned £38bn of investment between 2014 and 2019.

Wolmar comments that many European cities took a very different view about the value of trams and public transport in general.

Rail Passenger Numbers

Roads are not an infinite resource, so roads lobbyists looked to remove capacity constraints and, with government resigned to a future that was built around cars, the result was the Buchanan Report in 1963. This report tried to reconcile the need to accommodate traffic growth with the need to avoid excessive use of motorways within cities. One of the key recommendations was for the separation of motor traffic and pedestrians. Another was that towns should consider redesigning themselves to meet future car traffic volumes. There was no consideration in the report of how how the recommendations would other forms of transport.

The sheer cost requirements of "Buchananisation" meant that many towns could only afford to implement it in part, as can be seen in the short stretches of dual carriageway, ring roads etc that can often be seen in towns across the UK - with these sections often being built by bulldozing the previous infrastructure.

Fast forwarding to the 1990's and the government mood began to change. This was the era of the Twyford Down bypass and also of a report, in 1994, that found evidence that new roads were, of themselves, attracting new traffic. For example, just 18months after commpletion in 1986, the M25 had reached the traffic flows expected in 2000. This dramatically changed the cost-benefit calculation for a new road and many proposed new road programmes were cancelled.

According to Wolmar, this was when a major opportunity was missed in that a coherent approach to the alternative approaches (public transport, car pricing) was never really developed.

The M4/M25 motorway junction, near Heathrow Airport

Commenting on buses, Wolmar describes how, following reduced passenger numbers (and higher subsidies) in the 1980s, there was a free-for-all privatisation and how the cherry picking of popular routes by the commercial companies has left local councils having to pick up the tab for rural services. All of which is in marked contrast, according to Wolmar, to the way whole operations are franchised out in many European cities, with the authorities specifying what levels of service are required. Wolmar notes how council run bus franchises, such as Nottingham's, routinely win industry awards, showing that the public sector can deliver a high quality service.

Wolmar also comments on the efforts by John Prescott in his 2000 Transport plan to use road pricing to pay for 25 tram systems around the country - but neither the trams nor the road pricing came to pass (with the exception of London's Congestion Charge and Nottingham's tram system) - Wolmar comments on how this partly because other cabinet members did not see transport as a high priority and partly because politicians were terrified of provoking a truckers fuel protest like that seen in 2000.

Modern Tram in Nottingham

Thinking further about (the lack of) joined up government, Wolmar shows an email sent by transport author Oliver Green in which Green explains how Oxford desperately needs trams due to severe traffic congestion and that the trams could link to nearby rail services - but all efforts are stymied by the fact that the City Council, County Council, Network Rail and Highways Agency are incapable of working together effectively. So all that happens is that half hearted park-and-ride schemes and bus lanes are provided.

A very interesting book, concisely written and with some gems of information about the history of transport policy in the UK.

Are Trams Socialist? Why Britain has no Transport Policy"
by Christian Wolmar

A Little Note
Just wanted to mention that the only reason BFTF read this book is because it was mentioned by Jilian Greenwood on Facebook and BFTF happened to later see it on sale at Five Leaves Bookshop. Funny how these thin threads of chance can knit together, no?

Related Stuff
Train Manufacture in Derby
History of Coal Mining in the East Midlands
Nottingham Architecture and Urban Design
Relevant article of Notts urban design by Jones the Planner

Image Sources
Steam Carriage, Tram, Rail Passenger Numbers, M25, Nottingham Tram

Monday, 26 December 2016

Himmah Foodbank 2016

Introduction
The Himmah foodbank was set up by concerned individuals in the Muslim community to provide help to those in dire economic need in Nottingham - irrespective of faith or no faith - and works with a number of agencies and other organisations in Nottingham to this end. If you wish to donate to the Himmah Foodbank, whether in goods, cash or your time, visit www.himmah.org

Made up Foodpacks, ready to go our to those in need....


Contents of a typical foodpack, costing around £5


Each Foodpack cost around £5 and typically contains :
1kg pasta/rice
2 cans soup/bakes beans
2 cans tinned veg/tinned tomatoes
1 item dessert (tinned fruit/biscuits etc)
20 teabags
1 litre UHT Milk
1 pack cereal
1 item from each of any other categories in stock (e.g. pasta sauce, toiletries....)

Below are some of the foodbank donations that have been kindly provided to Himmah and also some of the resulting events that have been undertaken - in particular it is worth noting that Himmah donate food parcels to the Tasty Tuesdays events held every week at Thomas Helwyn Church in Lenton.

A lot is omitted from the list below, especially committee and social justice campaigning that is constantly going on in the background.

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Dec 2016 : Via Himmah : Himmah's first ever Christmas Day Meal for vulnerable, people who are on their own or those who are Homeless in Nottingham was held at Kabul Express in Hyson Green on 25th Dec 2016. All were welcome and it was free. So many thanks are due:
To Kabul Express Restaurant for hosting
To Annie's Burger Shack & Freehouse for food donations
To Louise for for sorting out the non-alcholic mulled wine too.
To Hillocks Primary School for the donations of Crackers
To Charles Washington for ending the event with a reflection/thought/prayer in the form a short song
To Anmarie Spaziano, Louise Regan, Shoana Qureshi-Khan, Vita, Spark Hillocks Primary School, Faizan Brosefzai, Shazia Khan, Maxine Forbes, Paul Singh AND MANY OTHERS

Himmah Christmas Meal

Himmah Christmas Meal Poster

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Dec 2016 : Via Himmah : Louise Regan has been a volunteer and Donator for what seems like years. and she has been the go between for Himmah and those at Sherwood Labour Party who have been collecting for Himmah. Thank you to folk at Hillocks Primary School for the donations of Crackers for the Xmas Dinner. Thank you also to Janet Hautenne for a very kind donation and to Ivan Wels for being a Rock.

Donation from Louise and Hillocks Primary School

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Dec 2016 : Via Himmah : Vita has donated flapjack she made today for the Himmah Christmas Party , also spiced fruit slice. and then boxes of breakfast bars, mash, peanut butter , ketchup , loo roll, kitchen roll, boxes of cereals.

Donation from Vita

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Dec 2016 : Via Himmah : Thanks today to the Wonderful Anmarie Spaziano Emma 'Loki' Kitchen and Steve from Annie's Burger Shack & Freehouse for dropping a quite amazing donation to Himmah. They brought down lots of food donations for the food bank as well as Sacks of Potatoes, Carrots, Brussell Sprouts, Stuffing and Chicken for The Himmah Christmas Community Meal. Pictures cannot show how generous and huge this donation is. they had to use a van and a car!

Donation from Annie's

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Dec 2016 : Via Himmah : We at Himmah would like to thank Javeria Burwood for collecting some lovely Children's items including some lovely Baskets to give to some local parents in need.

Donation from Javeria Burwood

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Dec 2016 : Via Himmah : The Himmah Food Bank Himmah would like to thank Staff and Pupils at The Berridge School in Hyson Green for a wonderful food collection.

Donation from Berridge School

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Dec 2016 : Via Himmah :Visiting the lovely Louise Cooke at Sharewear today....we are donating duvets and sheets!!

Visit to Sharewear

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Dec 2016 : Via Himmah : Himmah had the Honour and privilege of being asked by The Syrian Community to help them organize their gathering in Nottingham today. Syrian Refugees and the established Syrian Community of Nottingham all gathered today, to eat and celebrate and also reflect.

Syrian Community Gathering

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?? 2016 : On at least three occasions, BFTF has had the trusty i10 rear seat filled with kind donations - once from Shaheen Hafeez; once from a member of the Bahai community called Ali; and once from a kind person in the Sneinton area.

i10 full of donations

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Nov 2016 : Via Himmah : A massive thank you to our fabulous sisters at An Nisa Network tonight providing over 75 people at our Salam Shalom Wednesday evening dinner!! It was so professionally prepared and organised as always....even seconds and takeaway for our most vulnerable and needy in our community.

Al-Nisa at SaSh

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Nov 2016 : Via Himmah :Himmah would once again like to thank the Sherwood Labour Party for a very generous donation to the Himmah Food Bank. you guys have donated on several occasions over the past year or so and we are very grateful for your continued support.

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Nov 2016 : Via Himmah :Thank you to the wonderful Caroline Kerr and the good folk at Campfire Convention with a generous donation of food.

Donation from Caroline Kerr / Campfire Convention

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Sep 2016 : Via Himmah : A big thank you to the NCVS (Nottingham Community Voluntary Services) for collecting all this food for our food bank. NCVS is a collection point for the Himmah Food bank, so please drop off donation there. Thank you.

Donation from NCVS

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Sep 2016 : Via Himmah :Himmah Food Bank would like to thank the wonderful Andrew Calder would another great donation. he is our Rock.

Donation from Andrew Calder

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Aug 2016 : Via Himmah : A short video of our work can be found here.

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Jul 2016 : Via Himmah : Himmah would like to thank Ali Akhbar, Hussain Manny, Mohammed Aamir Ali, and Saqib Mahmood for their very generous donation to the Himmah Food Bank helping those in Need in Nottingham. on their behalf of those in need we thank the family for their generosity.

Donation from Messrs Akhbar, Manny, Aamir Ali and Mahmood

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Jul 2016 : Via Himmah : Himmah would like to thank the family of Khaddam Al Hajjaj Lala Abdul Malik for their very generous donation to the Himmah Food Bank

Donation from the family of
Khaddam Al Hajjaj Lala Abdul Malik

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Apr 2016 : Via Himmah : Many wonderful people took part in the Himmah "Food Parcel Challenge" and raised a total of £2,608.68

The Food Parcel Challenge

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Apr 2016 : Via Himmah : Himmah would like to thank Swaira Alvi and the TSB Nottingham Mortgage Team for volunteering. They helped with shopping for the food bank and then packed Food Parcels ready to go out. they were AMAZING, and even cleaned up the food bank. we cannot thank them enough.

Volunteering by TSB

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Mar 2016 : Via Himmah : Last Wednesday, SASH welcomed the Pakistan Forum. A huge thank you to Dr. Raoof and all his group. Everyone had a wonderful night, the food was delicious and the atmosphere was delightful. We couldn't ask for more!

Pakistan Forum at SaSh

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Mar 2016 : Via Himmah : Himmah would like to thank Andrew Calder for another very generous donation to the Himmah Food Bank

Donation from Andrew Calder

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Mar 2016 : Via Himmah : Himmah would like to thank the Trustees of MERCY Malaysia UK for a very generous cash donation towards our work in Nottingham with Syrian Refugees.

Donation from Trustees of MERCY Malaysia UK

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Mar 2016 : Via Himmah : Himmah would like to thank Islamic Society - University of Nottingham for collecting for the Food Bank and Syrian Refugees.

Donation from UoN ISOC

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Mar 2016 : Via Himmah : Himmah would like to thank Javeria Burwood for collecting Fem Care products and Baby Products for the Food Bank and Syrian Refugees.

Donation from Javeria Burwood

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Mar 2016 : Via Himmah : Since 2011 Himmah has been supporting the Anti-Destitute Group at The Refugee Forum in Nottingham, providing a hot meal at least 1 Saturday every month. we hope this year to be extending this to twice a month and also providing Food Parcels.

We also want to thank the support of Al Majlis Restaurant and it's owner Iftikhar Ahmed who provides the food at no cost to Himmah, volunteering his time and resources for the sake of others. we recommend that you check out Al Majlis Restaurant in Sneinton. the food is great.

Food at Anti-Destitution Meal

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Feb 2016 : Via Himmah : Himmah would like to thank Julie Kenny and staff from The Clinical Haematology department at the City Hospital for a very generous collection of items, from creams, shampoos, soaps, too many to mention.

Donation from Julie and the Clinical Haematology Dept

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Feb 2016 : Via Himmah : What an interesting evening we had last night, as Himmah invited the Syrian Community to join us for food but also an opportunity for them to be listened to and heard. they shared their experiences of being in Nottingham. and told us how they can be helped and supported by the Nottingham. we will publish our findings very soon. it was noisy, Chaotic but so important. they told us that they were happy that they were finally being listened to , and that what they wanted was being seen as valued.

We have many to thank. our partners at Nottingham Arimathea Trust (Caron Boulghassoul ) and Nottingham & Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum (Rebecca Wilson) for their support with this event.

We served 150 meals on the night and want to thank the food provider Al Majlis Restaurant is working in partnership with Himmah to create positive employment and training opportunities for Syrian Refugees in Nottingham. As a start from Five Star Syrian Chef will start to train 2 trainees to work in the catering industry. This is really a positive initiative which will help to integrate refugees in to mainstream society and enable them to find jobs thereby lessening the burden on the public funds.
this is actually quite exciting
Syrian Community Event

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Feb 2016 : Via Himmah : Rev Dr Megan Smith , Vicar at Lenton Holy Trinity , taking delivery of Food Parcels from Himmah (Food Bank) to be given out to those in need at Tasty Tuesdays in Lenton, organised by Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum (DLPF). Tasty Tuesdays is held at Thomas Helwys Baptist Church.

Rev Dr Megan Smith with Himmah Foodbpacks
at Tasty Tuesdays

Related Content
Himmah Foodbank 2015 and earlier

Other Information
Tips on organising a "Bring A Tin" event
It's dead simple and some basic tips can be found here. Contact Himmah (via Sajid 07786 333929 or Farzana 07590258902) if you need food collected.

Other Foodbanks in Nottingham
You can read about the Foodbanks operating in Nottingham, and some testimonies from the people who are helped by them, here.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Conservative Government 2015 - 2020

A post to hold stuff related to the current Conservative administration, with some references to previous governments.

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6) Some examples of sanctions and the effect they have:
Liverpool mum-of-four went without food for a week so her kids had enough to eat
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5) Charity says DWP has "no direct evidence for the effectiveness of sanctions"
Link here.
"..a recent report from the National Audit Office (NAO) showed that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has no direct evidence for the effectiveness of sanctions, has failed to analyse the data it holds about sanctions, and has refused to share data with other researchers or assist those researchers.

The DWP made itself deliberately blind to the failures of the sanctions regime. But we have seen the harm these sanctions cause. In 2015, our report Time to Rethink Benefit Sanctions revealed that 100,000 children were affected by benefit sanctions in one year. The NAO now tells us that, on average, these sanctions reduced people’s short- and long-term job prospects, and led to reduced earnings for those who got work."
Emailed and Tweeted Conservatives asking why the DWP were acting in this way, which goes against British Values of transparency and evidenced based policy:
I've received an email from "Church Action on Poverty" which claims that the National audit Office says that sanctions, on average, reduced people’s short- and long-term job prospects, and led to reduced earnings for those who got work. And that the DWP has failed to analyse the data it holds about sanctions, and has refused to share data with other researchers or assist those researchers. Are these claims true?

I can certainly imaging that, if I were sanctioned, I would be less able to search for work as I would be spending my time ensuring that my children had food to eat and that the heating was not cut off. Also I would be less able to buy petrol / bus tickets to attend interviews. It all looks very counterproductive to me.


. --------------------------------------------
4) Government accused of poor response to low Housing build rates
Article here
Comments from the Chairman of the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee:
"The Government have accepted the Committee's analysis of the problem, but shied away from the steps needed to address it. In particular, the Government continue to rely on the private sector to build more houses when, as the Committee heard, these builders are incentivised to maximise profit margins not increase the number of houses they build. The Government have failed to recognise the need for local authorities to build more homes and for them to be freed from unnecessary and arbitrary financial restrictions which severely curtail their ability to build...

We are also disappointed that the Government has ignored our suggestion to give a single Cabinet Minister responsibility for ensuring suitable unused public land is made available for developing homes. Without a champion for that work at the highest level in government there is a danger that an opportunity to bring those spaces into productive use will be lost."
Tweeted to Conservatives that their failure to act on this issue was making life very difficult for young people.

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3) From Nottingham Labour :
"On Wednesday 14th December the Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening announced a new funding formula for schools up and down the country. The Conservative Government’s new method of funding directly targets schools in Nottingham for big budget cuts. While our schools in Nottingham are set to lose tens of millions of pounds by 2019/20, schools in some of the wealthiest areas of England are set for big gains... This latest move quite simply takes money from children in Nottingham only to hand it to wealthy, rural and mainly Conservative voting shire areas such as Wokingham and West Sussex. Other large cities, urban areas and areas with the highest levels of child poverty such as Birmingham and Manchester have been targeted in the same way.

The National Audit Office has said that the scale of the cuts mean that schools in England will have to reduce spending by £3 billion between now and 2019/20.

98% of Nottingham schools will receive lower funding under the new Tory school funding structure (87 out of 89 schools)."

Asked Nottingham Conservatives to comment on these funding changes and why education was being targeted for cutbacks at the same time as corporate taxation was being reduced, corporate tax evasion remains rampant and the number of tax inspectors has been culled.

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2) From a Guardian article
NHS Income from private patients
2011-12 : £454 million
2015-16 : £558 million

Patients waiting more than 18weeks for treatment
Oct 2011 : 234,030
Oct 2016 : >360,000 (increase of 54%)

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1) A campaign email sent out by Theresa May on her election as Prime Minister, together with BFTF's response (slightly edited)...

I have just been to Buckingham Palace, where Her Majesty the Queen has asked me to form a new Government. And I accepted. In David Cameron, I follow in the footsteps of a great, modern Prime Minister. Under David's leadership, the Government stabilised the economy, reduced the budget deficit, and helped more people into work than ever before. But David's true legacy is not about the economy, but about social justice.

From the introduction of same-sex marriage to taking people on low wages out of income tax altogether, David Cameron has led a One Nation Government, and it is in that spirit that I also plan to lead. Because not everybody knows this, but the full title of my party is the Conservative and Unionist Party. And that word 'Unionist' is very important to me. It means we believe in the Union - the precious, precious bond between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

But it means something else that is just as important. It means we believe in a union, not just between the nations of the United Kingdom, but between all of our citizens. Every one of us, whoever we are, and wherever we're from. That means fighting against the burning injustice that if you're born poor, you will die on average nine years earlier than others.

If you’re black, you’re treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you’re white. If you’re a white, working-class boy, you are less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university. If you’re at a state school, you’re less likely to reach the top professions than if you are educated privately. If you’re a woman, you will earn less than a man. If you suffer from mental health problems, there's not enough help to hand. If you're young, you will find it harder than ever before to own your own home.

But the mission to make Britain a country that works for everyone means more than fighting these injustices. If you're from an ordinary, working-class family, life is much harder than many people in Westminster realise. You have a job but you don't always have job security. You have your own home, but you worry about paying the mortgage. You can just about manage, but you worry about the cost of living and getting your kids into a good school.

If you're one of those families, if you're just managing, I want to address you directly. I know you're working around the clock, I know you're doing your best, and I know that sometimes life can be a struggle. The Government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours. We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives. When we take the big calls, we'll think not of the powerful but you. When we pass new laws, we'll listen not to the mighty but to you. When it comes to taxes, we'll prioritise not the wealthy but you. When it comes to opportunity, we won't entrench the advantages of the fortunate few. We will do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you.

We are living through an important moment in our country's history. Following the referendum, we face a time of great national change. And I know, because we're Great Britain, that we will rise to the challenge. As we leave the European Union, we will forge a bold, new, positive role for ourselves in the world. And we will make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us.

That will be the mission of the Government I lead, and together we will build a better Britain.

Thank you,

Theresa May

Prime Minister

--------------------------------------------
Dear Theresa May

I received the message in the email below from you back in July.

It resonates very deeply with me. It is what I want to hear. You are proposing actions that will make this country a better place.

But, at the same time, I know the following facts :

i) University fees, some of the highest in the developed world, are imposing a crippling burden on young people as they try to make their way in the world, while historically low levels of house building mean prices are high and they will struggle to buy their own homes.

ii) As we speak, this government is ripping the heart out of the NHS by trying to stretch 5 days of elective care into 7 days without extra funding, indeed while imposing BILLIONS in cuts, sorry, "efficiency savings"

iii) Day after day, I read of instances where vulnerable people with physical or mental illness are subjected to heartless and grossly unfair benefit sanctions.

These are not the actions of a government that cares about the common man or woman.

These are the actions of a government that is trying to become a British version of the Tea Party.

...I will have no faith in you while you are treating our young people, our NHS and our most vulnerable in this way.

Yours, very disappointed

Ash Choudry

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Gabions (rocks in wire cages)

Over the last few years, BFTF has noticed the appearance of wire cages filled with rocks (known as "gabions") as a construction material for buildings and in civil engineering - and has been wondering what they are and why they have suddenly started appearing.

Gabion Wall at Nottingham 1

Example of a Gabion abutment
Initially, BFTF thought that they were being used for environmental reasons, to allow wildlife to grow and live in all the nooks and crannies between the rocks.

Then BFTF thought that they were being used as an anti-grafiiti measure, as it is hard to make a recognisable image when the surface is so irregular.

Turns out that gabions have been used for a long time to stabilize shorelines, stream banks or slopes against erosion. They are also increasingly being used in architectural applications for their "natural" look. Maccaferri, a world leader in the technology comment that :
"The Gabion is, in fact, a peculiar tool. It does not impose itself on the surrounding environment: it perfectly blends into it. A Gabion is almost always filled with natural materials: stones/rocks and, where possible, locally available materials can be used to fill the structure, thereby ensuring that very little is added (and removed) to the surrounding nature....The Gabion, furthermore, “joins” the nature that hosts it: plants and trees can “sink” their roots in the interstices left free by the rock fill, helping to strengthen the overall system. Nature is no longer a passive actor: it is indeed called to “work” in synergy with man-made structures. This is the environmental engineering of the future."

Gabion wall at Nottingham 1

Worth noting that, in the urban environment, its a good idea to ensure that "youths" can't get the stones out through the mesh, as this cautionary tale from Sneinton, Nottingham illustrates.

Image Sources
Abutment