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Photo: Hayley Madden/Spread the Word
Theresa Lola is the new young people’s laureate for London. Her writing has been described as “breathtakingly beautiful.”

Poetry will survive at least one more generation, judging from the numbers of young people who are enjoying it and even buying poetry books.

Sanjana Varghese writes at the Guardian, “Poet Theresa Lola, named the new young people’s laureate for London, says she hopes to use the role to help the capital’s demonised youth to find confidence in their voice.

“The 24-year-old British-Nigerian from Bromley, south London, studied accounting and finance at university before turning to poetry. She is the third young people’s laureate, after Caleb Femi and Momtaza Mehri. The joint winner of the 2018 Brunel international African poetry prize, her debut collection, In Search of Equilibrium, was published in February, and was described as breathtaking by author Bernardine Evaristo. …

“ ‘It’s easy for us to demonise young people and social media,’ [Lola] said. ‘Poetry was instrumental for me, to find my voice and to find my confidence, and hopefully it can do that for other young people too.’

“Sales of poetry books have increased over the last three years, hitting an all-time high of [$15 million in the UK] in 2018. Two-thirds of poetry buyers are now under 34, with teenage girls and young women identified as the biggest consumers last year. …

“ ‘A lot of young people are seeing that yes, [poetry] is reflective of their experiences and upbringing. They’re getting to understand that [it] exists anywhere. I’m hoping to meet so many different young people and help them see the poetry in their lives,’ Lola said.

“ ‘London is so important to me, especially for my craft – it’s such an eclectic city. It inspires me to be a form of myself in every poem.’ …

“The young people’s laureate title was established by writer development agency Spread the Word in 2016. Lola … will work on four residencies around London and a PoetryLab, which aims to nurture talented young poets in the capital.

“Spread the Word director Ruth Harrison said: ‘At a time of political uncertainty, when young people’s lives, concerns and aspirations are often ignored and dismissed, it is vital that their voices are heard by those in power.’ ” More.

My grandchildren are big on finding words that rhyme. Not that a poem has to rhyme, but sometimes that’s where nascent poets get hooked. I have made up some silly poems with the kids while driving home from school, and I expect they’ll always get a kick out of making words go together in surprising ways.

 

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Photo: REUTERS/Toru Hanai
Insects are facing habitat loss across Europe, so London and other cities are taking action.

This story is for Jean, whose booth on MeadowScaping for Biodiversity I visited today at the high school’s sustainability event. Forward-thinking students at our school want this town of many lawns and too many lawn chemicals to change its pollinator-killing ways.

Charlotte Edmond at the World Economic Forum reports on how the city of London is getting serious about making bees and other important insects welcome.

“At any one time it’s estimated there are 10 quintillion insects alive. … Many of us hold no great affection for creepy crawlies, so it’s easy to overlook the crucial role they play in supporting ecosystems. Sitting at the bottom of the food web, they are also nature’s waste disposers, crucial to decomposition. Without them we would more than likely go hungry, with many crops needing pollinators to thrive.

But habitat loss and widespread use of insecticides and agrichemicals has led to insect numbers plummeting in recent years.

“In London, as with many other cities, you’re more likely to hear the buzz of cars than insects. But the UK’s capital is looking to give bugs a boost by creating an insect highway through the north-west of the city.

“A seven-mile wildflower corridor is being planted in parkland to provide a safe haven for insects. To support a range of bees and other pollinators, a mixture of seeds has been chosen.

“There has been a catastrophic loss of flower-rich grasslands in England since the 1930s, often as a result of intensive farming or redevelopment of green sites. … Recent studies have shown some species of pollinators in Britain have decreased by up to a third in the past two decades. There has also been a dip in the range of insects seen: in contrast to the sharp decline seen in some species, other insects, particularly those that [eat] crops, have become more prevalent.

“Experts are concerned by the impact the falling bug count will have. The UK government is five years into a strategy to curb pollinator loss, and is working with bodies such as Buglife to introduce more spaces to support pollinating insects. The charity is introducing a network of insect pathways throughout Britain, running through towns and countryside to connect existing wildlife areas together.

“Alongside this, it is working to create ‘urban hotspots’ for insects, transforming mown and unused areas of land by introducing shrubs, flowers and so-called bee hotels.

“Elsewhere, Norway has built a ‘bee highway’ through its capital, Oslo. And Berlin is one of a number of cities around the world to have introduced urban hives in a bid to support bee populations.

“Honey bees, bumblebees, wild bees and other pollinators are estimated to bring at least $25 billion to the European agriculture industry, ensuring pollination for most crops and wild plants.”

For more on London’s biodiversity efforts, go to the World Economic Forum site, here, where you can also find related stories.

Student-run fair to encourage town residents to use sustainable practices in their yards.

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Photo: Evening Standard
According to a UK newspaper, environmentally aware millennials are driving increased demand for milk in glass bottles. Plastic bottles are out.

I’ve been trying to be more thoughtful about cutting down on household items that aren’t good for the environment. But sometimes I’m a little clueless, carrying the recycling to the street on a regular basis and not noticing that all our milk comes in plastic bottles.

The last couple weeks, though, I’ve been buying cardboard bottles of milk. Unfortunately, they are not for sale everywhere and they cost more. That’s why the following story about the new popularity of glass bottles caught my attention. There is no milk delivery where I live, but it’s definitely available where Suzanne lives.

In England, Ella Wills reports at the Evening Standard, “milkmen and milkwomen are making a comeback in London as millennials have started using glass milk bottles in a bid to cut down plastic waste.

“Dairies in the capital told of a ‘phenomenal’ upsurge in interest from younger customers at the start of the year amid growing public upset over plastic waste.

“Both UK-wide company milk&more and east London dairy Parker Dairies have seen increased demand for glass bottles in 2018, citing David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II as the ‘catalyst’ for the new uptake. The firms said younger consumers and families seem willing to pay more for the service in a bid to help the environment. …

“The industry body [Dairy UK] said figures showed doorstep deliveries make up 3 per cent of milk sales in the UK — around 1 million pints per day — and glass milk bottles make up 3 per cent of all milk sales. But depot manager of Parker Dairies Paul Lough said interest of late in glass bottles has been ‘absolutely phenomenal.’

“He said the dairy, which has a fleet of 25 electric milk floats covering all of east London, the city and the West End, has gained 382 new customers since the beginning of the year. Of these new calls, 95 per cent are having milk delivered in glass bottles. …

“And the dairy has attracted a younger clientele, Mr Lough said, meaning the firm has expanded its product line to cater to the new demographic.

“ ‘Without a doubt [they are younger],’ he said. ‘That is why we are trying to change our product list. We do sourdough and honeys. … We sell 250 loaves a week to new customers.’

“Meanwhile, UK company milk&more said it has gained more than 2,500 new customers in [February] — the equivalent of five new milk rounds. And some 90 per cent of these customers across the country are ordering in the iconic glass bottles. …

“Milkman Ian Beardwell has been doing the same round in Wimbledon for Hanworth Dairy for 27 years. He said: ‘Since Blue Planet that has been the catalyst of the revival in glass. I used to do 550 calls before and in four weeks I’ve gained another 35 to 40 calls — 90 per cent glass.’ …

“Patrick Müller, managing director of milk&more, [added that] new customers were aged around 35 years old, coming from young families with a double income. … ‘Customers [said] they enjoy the experience of the glass bottle — the childhood memories — and they want to reduce their plastic wastage.’ ”

More here.

 

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Photo: Gil Sans
These folks started a theater with no money and filled a gap in neighbors’ lives. “If you build it, they will come.”

A recent article at Arts Professional shows that money isn’t the only tool for getting things done. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Anthony Briggs writes about what happened after he agreed to join Peter Tate in implementing a dream of creating truly relevant theater in London.

“When Peter asked me to join him as Co-Artistic Director of The Playground Theatre in May last year, I had been looking for a new challenge. [The] Playground’s previous life as a developmental space intrigued me, and Peter and I shared a vision of bold, imaginative and highly theatrical new work, developed with the local community in Latimer Road.

“Within a few weeks of us joining forces, the fire swept through the nearby Grenfell Tower. The events of that night had a huge impact on our vision for the theatre and our role in the local community. It was immediately apparent that what was needed was a place where people could share stories and grieve, and also hope and aspire for a better future for our area.

“North Kensington is a postcode of extremes with huge wealth sitting next to appalling poverty. It also includes probably the broadest ethnic mix of people in the UK. Finding a way to appeal to all our residents would be a challenge.

“When we first walked around the space there were only wall lights, so the first thing was to raise the money to kit the venue out and turn it into something fully functioning. … At the same time as raising funds and getting the theatre up and running, we faced the challenge of raising awareness and attracting an audience. …

“Doing anything for the first time can be an anxious experience, so we do all we can to make people feel welcome. We regularly post on local social media boards and leaflet along Portobello Road. Slowly the word is getting out.

“Everyone has an opinion about what we should be doing and that can be tiring. But to be a community theatre you have to be part of that community and that means engaging in constant conversation, even if it isn’t what you want to hear. We are dedicated to reflecting the diversity of our community through the diversity of our programming. …

“We have established good relationships with a nearby secondary school, Kensington Aldridge Academy, which is on a temporary site while its main building is being repaired following the Grenfell Fire. … Another partner is Grief Encounter, a child bereavement charity that has been active in our area following the fire.”

Read more here about how this new group is making theater that is relevant to people’s lives and thereby filling a gap.

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Photo: Lucy Young/Evening Standard
Jonathan Privett, co-owner of Word On The Water inside the barge.

I love stories about unusual libraries and unusual bookstores. Here’s one from the New York Times about a bookselling endeavor powered by the famed eccentricity of Englishmen.

Rod Nordland writes, “The two men who run London’s only floating bookstore, Word on the Water, are living proof that there really is something you can do in life with an English lit degree, other than teach English literature.

“The store — a 50-foot-long canalboat stuffed to its bulkheads and overflowing onto the towpath with books — has a permanent berth on the Regent’s Canal, around the corner from the British Library. This comes after years of its owners staying one step ahead of eviction from the canals, by relocating fortnightly.

“It is doing so well that Paddy Screech, 51, an Oxford-educated Cornishman with a close-trimmed beard and a soft-spoken manner, and Jonathan Privett, 52, a gaptoothed Yorkshireman who has trouble staying still for long (except with a book), finally took their dream vacations this year. …

“The men got the idea for the store from a book, of course — ‘Children of Ol’ Man River,’ in which Billy Bryant recounts how his British immigrant family arrived on the Mississippi River, homeless, living on a floating board, which they built into a theater, and then into the showboat craze of the late 1800s.

“When they met, Mr. Privett was living on a canalboat, part of a subculture of boat dwellers who berth on London’s canals for free — as long as they keep moving periodically. Mr. Screech had been working with homeless people and drug addicts, while caring for an alcoholic mother at home. ‘Overnight, she stopped drinking and turned into a little old lady who only drank tea,’ he said. …

“Mr. Privett had the book-business experience. Before settling on his canalboat, he had at times been a homeless squatter who supported himself selling used books from street stalls.

“A French friend, Stephane Chaudat, provided a boat big enough to be a store, a 1920s-era Dutch barge; he remains their partner.

“Mr. Privett had a stock of used books. Mr. Screech borrowed 2,000 pounds from his then-sober mother as capital, and their business was born in early 2010. …

“Things went downstream fast. Forced by the berthing laws to move every fortnight, they often found themselves on parts of the nine-mile-long Regent’s Canal with industrial buildings and no customers. …

“Mr. Screech said. ‘For years, it just felt like it was going to sink.’

“Then it did. A friend used the sea toilet on the book barge and left an inlet open, and the boat sank to the bottom; even their prized copy of ‘Ol’ Man River’ was lost. Shortly later, the boat Mr. Privett lived on sunk as well, and he lost all of his family photographs.

“ ‘[We] were just sitting there on the towpath, crying,’ Mr. Screech said. …

“As the canal trust peppered them with legal notices, fines and threats to have the boat barge lifted out of the water and broken up, their supporters got busy, too. One rallying cry of a Twitter post, from the science-fiction author Cory Doctorow, was retweeted a million times, Mr. Screech said.”

Read the whole saga here.

As small blurbs filling out New Yorker magazine columns were once titled, “There’ll always be an England.”

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To me it’s tragic that languages are disappearing and, with them, unique cultures.

Small, determined efforts can bring attention to the problem, as I noted this morning when the filmmaker behind Marie’s Dictionary retweeted this from North Carolina’s Pilot Mountain Elementary School (@pilotMtnElem).

Third grade students are learning about Marie’s Dictionary and endangered languages. @goproject #scsed #pmespirates @UNESCO

Excellent. Third graders are sure to spread the word.

Recently, I came across an article on another threatened language, Hawaii Sign Language.

“In 2013, at a conference on endangered languages, a retired teacher named Linda Lambrecht announced the extraordinary discovery of a previously unknown language. Lambrecht – who is Chinese-Hawaiian, 71 years old, warm but no-nonsense – called it Hawaii Sign Language, or HSL.

“In front of a room full of linguists, she demonstrated that its core vocabulary – words such as ‘mother,’ ‘pig’ and ‘small’ – was distinct from that of other sign languages. …

“The last-minute arrival of recognition and support for HSL was a powerful, almost surreal vindication for Lambrecht, whose first language is HSL. For decades, it was stigmatised or ignored; now the language has acquired an agreed-upon name, an official ‘language code’ from the International Organization for Standardization, the attention of linguists around the world, and a three-year grant from the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. …

“An initial estimate of up to 280 surviving HSL signers was soon revised down to 40, then down to just 10 or so old-timers still likely to be competent in HSL. ASL had made deep inroads even among these signers, but there was evidence, especially from Lambrecht’s signs, that HSL was distinct, and lay close enough to the surface to be recovered. Spoken languages such as Basque, Welsh, and Hawaiian have come back from the brink of extinction – could HSL be the first sign language to do it?”

The article is from the Guardian by way of the blog Arts Journal. Read it here.

Photo: Eugene Tanner Photography, LLC
Linda Lambrecht, left, teaches Hawaii Sign Language.

 

 

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Sometimes I get blog ideas from Facebook, which is one reason I can’t see myself pulling out despite all the irrelevant, unwanted clutter there.

Former colleague Scott G. recently posted a curious item on Facebook about turning pineapple waste into leather — real leather, not “fruit leather.” It’s much better for the environment than animal-based leathers and more appealing to sustainability-conscious consumers than petroleum-based ones.

Adele Peters at FastCoexist says that Carmen Hijosa got the idea for a new, sustainable industry on a visit to the Philippines years ago. But first she needed a PhD.

“When leather expert Carmen Hijosa visited the Philippines to consult with the leather industry there, she discovered two big problems: The leather was poor quality, and producing it was bad both for the local environment and the people involved.

“But as she traveled around the country, she had an epiphany. The Philippines grows a lot of pineapples — and ends up with a lot of wasted pineapple leaves. The leaves, she realized, had certain features that might make it possible to turn them into a plant-based leather alternative. …

“She also looked at other local plants, such as banana fibers and sisal. But only pineapple fibers were strong and flexible enough to handle the manufacturing process she had in mind.

“Hijosa left her work in the traditional leather industry and spent the next seven years at the Royal College of Art in London, developing the material into a patented product while she earned a PhD. Now running a startup — at age 63 — she’s ramping up manufacturing of her pineapple-based leather, called Piñatex. …

“Her startup, Ananas Anam, has built its production from 500 meters to 2,000 meters, and [by August], she expects the next batch to be around 8,000 meters. But as the company’s capacity grows, demand is already outpacing supply. Companies like Puma and Camper have made prototypes with the material, and others are already using it.”

What an impressive woman! More here.

Photo: FastCoexist
Because pineapple leaves would normally be wasted, turning them into leather, is an extra source of income for farmers.

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