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Posts Tagged ‘britain’

I’ve been a fan of the English dormouse since performing in Alice in Wonderland at age 10. My friend Carole played the Dormouse.

Or maybe my first exposure was the A.A. Milne poem about the dormouse and the doctor. In any case, I greet news stories like this one as a matter of great interest.

Steven Morris writes, “The first black dormouse ever recorded in the UK has taken up residence in a nest box in the Blackdown Hills of Somerset. Britain has only one native species of dormouse, the hazel dormouse. The one discovered in Somerset is a hazel dormouse but instead of having the normal golden-brown fur it is black. …

“The discovery was made when staff, trainees and volunteers from the Blackdown Hills Natural Futures project were checking dormouse nest boxes as part of the national dormouse monitoring programme.

“This year, the project provided 300 nest boxes and more than 60 volunteers have installed and regularly checked them. One was found to have the black specimen inside.

“Conrad Barrowclough, the project officer, said: ‘Learning about and protecting our natural heritage is what we’re all about so finding such a rare dormouse on our doorstep is fantastic, especially at a time when Britain’s dormouse population is under threat.’

The People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), which collates national dormouse monitoring programme findings, confirmed the rarity of the find.

“Ian White, the PTES dormouse officer said: ‘The national monitoring programme has been running for more than 25 years, with volunteers collecting data on thousands of dormice at nearly 400 sites. Not once has anyone come across a black dormouse.’ ”

Goodness, what delightful jobs these men have! Who wouldn’t want to be a “dormouse officer”? As the New Yorker used to say, “There’ll always be an England.”

More at the Guardian, here.

Photo: Natural Futures
The first black dormouse ever recorded in the United Kingdom. What a cutie!

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Here’s a nice story by NY Times reporter Dan Bilefsky about a British Muslim bake-off contestant who is a winner on many levels.

Bilefsky writes, “Prime Minister David Cameron praised her coolness under pressure. Bookmakers monitored her performance as they do election candidates.

“Television watchers admired her raspberry mille-feuille and soda-flavored cheesecakes — along with her blue chocolate peacock, and a mountain of éclairs in the form of a nun.

“The victory of Nadiya Jamir Hussain, a petite 30-year-old, head-scarf-wearing mother of three from northern England, in a wildly popular reality show called ‘The Great British Bake Off’ on [Oct. 7] has been greeted by many in Britain as a symbol of immigration success …

“Ms. Hussain’s popularity, bolstered by her self-deprecating humor and telling facial expressions, helped the final episodes of the baking program, in which contestants vie with one another to make a variety of desserts, attracting well over 10 million viewers per show, according to news reports. She has also become a darling of social media, with more than 63,000 followers on Twitter as of [Oct. 8]. …

“Ms. Hussain’s triumphant final dessert, a ‘big fat British wedding cake,’ offered a multicultural message of sorts by fusing her Bangladeshi and British identities. The lemon drizzle cake was decorated with jewels from her own wedding day in Bangladesh and was perched on a stand covered with material from a sari in red, blue and white, the colors of the Union Jack.”

More here.

Photo: Mark Bourdillon/Love Productions, via BBC
Nadiya Jamir Hussain, the winner of “The Great British Bake Off.” 

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In Ethiopia, you can eat the plate, in the UK the coffee cup.

Stephanie Strom writes at the NY Times, “Diners at KFC restaurants throughout Britain soon will be able to have their coffee — and eat the cup, too.

“KFC, one of the chains operated by Yum Brands, is going to test an edible cup made from a wafer coated in sugar paper and lined with a heat-resistant white chocolate. …

“The new cup addresses several of the trends bedeviling the food business today, including consumer concerns about the environmental impact of packaging, as well as their desire for simplicity.

“ ‘This type of edible packaging is definitely aligned with the global consumer mind-set in terms of sustainability and simplifying their life,’ said Shilpa Rosenberry, senior director of global consumer strategy at Daymon Worldwide, a consulting firm that works with many food companies. ….

“Ms. Rosenberry said she had even seen examples of retail packaging that could be turned into furniture, and boxes that could be repurposed for practical uses. …

“The new Scoff-ee Cup to be used at KFC, first reported by USA Today, was made in partnership with the Robin Collective, which calls itself a ‘purveyor of curious events and experimental food.’

“The chocolate lining will melt and soften the crisp wafer in the same way that a biscotti softens when dipped in coffee.” For those of us who drink our coffee fast, while it is still hot, that should work. The cup will soften but not too much. Family members who leave a half-filled cup around all morning would end up with a puddle, I suppose. It’s almost worth a trip to England to test it out.

More here.

Photo: KFC
KFC is introducing edible coffee cups at outlets in Britain, and will start serving Seattle’s Best.

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Time for a new post on street art. Have you been following the Banksy-in-New-York saga? He was living in the city for a while last year, creating a new piece of street art every day. People ran around to find it, some New Yorkers even trying to charge admission. An HBO movie was made about it.

Banksy is always interesting, but today I want to tell you what street artist Stik has been up to.

The Londonist website says, “Street artist Stik has just finished creating the tallest piece of street art in the world — a 38.2 metre high mural on a condemned council tower block in Acton [a district in the west of London].

” ‘Big Mother’ depicts a mother and child looking forlornly from their council block at the luxury apartment complexes being built around them. The mural is visible from not only the Piccadilly Line, but also on some London flight paths.

“Stik, who was once homeless, said: ‘Affordable housing in Britain is under threat; this piece is to remind the world that all people need homes.’ ”

And I guess in this season a homeless mother and child is especially resonant.

Thank you to @ecpulford for retweeting the story from Bernadetta Keefe (@nxtstop1).

Stik’s website is here. His minimalist, wistful beings remind me a bit of Finnish artist Tove Jansson’s children’s books about the Moomin family.

First picture below, cover of paperback Finn Family Moomintroll

Second picture: Joyce/Division
The 38.2 metre mural has been painted on a tower block which is due for demolition in 2016. Image © Stik

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ArtsJournal.com is a great source of leads from around the world, which is why I sometimes come up with stories from far away places like Belarus. The ArtsJournal blog covers art, theater, film, books, dance, music, media — and interesting creativity tidbits from the world of psychology.

Recently a link to the British publication The Stage highlighted a story about UK policymakers taking steps to build the next generation of artists.

Nicola Merrifield writes that the national strategy, Building a Creative Nation, “is calling upon the UK’s 107,000 creative sector employers to each recruit a person aged 16 to 24 by 2016.

“The initiative is designed to ensure that young people are able to gain paid jobs in arts organisations. It will urge employers to join organisations such as the Royal Opera House and Ambassador Theatre Group in signing up to the Fair Access Principle, which encourages responsible recruitment practices.

“As part of the campaign, Creative and Cultural Skills, the sector’s leading body for skills development, will create 5,500 apprenticeships, paid internships and traineeships across the UK by 2016.

“This is part of CC Skills’ £15 million Creative Employment Programme launched earlier this year to combat unpaid internships in the arts sector, which aims to subsidise 6,500 training schemes for people aged 16-24. This scheme, which was financially supported by ACE, has seen employers take on 1,000 unemployed people so far.

“Industry leaders including former Royal Opera House chief executive Tony Hall, ticket provider Live Nation’s international chief operating officer Paul Latham and Dirty Dancing founding co-producer Michael Jacobsen are backing the Building a Creative Nation strategy.

“Pauline Tambling, joint chief executive of CC Skills, said: ‘We’re looking to build upon the work that our supporters have been doing to help young people into work across the creative industries, which has already achieved so much.’ ”

More.

Photo: Tristram Kenton
Laura Evelyn in “Once Upon A Christmas” by Look Left Look Right in Covent Garden Piazza

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There is always something new to learn about Stonehenge, a site shrouded in mystery for centuries.

Rossella Lorenzi writes at Discovery News, “Using noninvasive technologies such as ground-penetrating radar and geophysical imaging, a team from the University of Birmingham’s IBM Visual and Spatial Technology Centre, known as VISTA, and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology in Vienna, discovered evidence of two huge pits positioned on a celestial alignment at Stonehenge. …

” ‘This is the first time we have seen anything quite like this at Stonehenge,’ said project leader Vince Gaffney, an archaeologist from the University of Birmingham. ‘When viewed from the Heel Stone, a rather enigmatic stone which stands just outside the entrance to Stonehenge, the pits effectively mark the rising and setting of the sun at midsummer days.’ ”

Read more here.

On YouTube you can find both boring videos about Stonehenge and funny ones. A comedy routine by Eddie Izzard made me laugh, but it’s a bit too naughty for Suzanne’s Mom’s Blog. You can check out a few of Spinal Tap singing “Stonehenge” in the movie This is Spinal Tap. And here is a great scene about Druids from that movie.

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It’s amazing how much the arts can help people.

I have blogged about programs that use the arts to turn convicts toward something positive, to build up the self-worth of the homeless, to turn Brazilian slums into more hopeful places. The list goes on.

Recently ArtsJournal.com alerted me to a BBC story on an arts initiative that helps veterans reacclimate to civilian life.

“Many veterans are turning to charities for help. One is using the unlikely weapon of art to help fight the psychological wounds of war, while another organisation is actively encouraging artwork in the army. Outside of the [national health service] the charity Combat Stress is the biggest provider of support to armed forces veterans with conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety.

“Art therapy is one of the treatments it uses. Drawing, sculpting and painting are helping patients manage their symptoms with great success.

” ‘Traumatic memories take a different path from our normal memories and tend to be frozen in the body in the central nervous system,’ explains Janice Lobban, who has been a trauma therapist at Combat Stress for the past 10 years. …

“Group sessions typically begin with the therapist giving a one or two word brief to inspire creativity before veterans are given a selection of materials for painting, modelling or writing. After 45 minutes of quick work, the group then get together to talk about and describe what they’ve just created.

” ‘I try to keep a blank mind and just let images and feelings rise out from my unconscious to my hand and things start appearing,’ says Richard Kidgell … who served in the Royal Air Force from 1978 to 1985. ‘What surprises me is that while I’m drawing I don’t know what it is — they’re just images, but by the end of the session I’ve made a complete story. It’s quite enlightening as sometimes I’m not entirely sure what I’ve drawn until I speak to others about it.’ ”

Read more of Genevieve Hassan’s story on arts therapy for veterans here.

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