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2020-04-15-coronavirus-veteran

Photo: Peter Cziborra/Reuters
Tom Moore, 99, a retired British army captain, walks to raise money for health workers in the pandemic. His initial goal was to walk the length of his garden 100 times before his 100th birthday April 30. He did it and is still going strong.

Public Radio International  (PRI) is a wonderful service. It covers stories from around the world with greater depth than most egocentric US outlets. Sometimes PRI’s stories take off, like this one, which you may have already heard from another news source.

It’s about 99-year-old World War II veteran Captain Tom Moore, who feels deep gratitude to the health-care workers who looked after him in previous illnesses and made up his mind to help them during a pandemic that puts them at risk.

From PRI on Instagram: “He did it! Today, 99-year-old World War II veteran Captain Tom Moore achieved the goal he set up for himself earlier this month: to walk the length of his back garden 100 times before his 100th birthday on April 30.

“But Captain Moore didn’t walk just for recreation. He was also raising money for Britain’s national health service (NHS), now strained because of the coronavirus pandemic. He raised an astonishing 16 million GBP, or nearly $20 million — way above his initial fundraising goal of 1,000 GBP, or $1,200.

“Moore said he wanted to thank NHS workers for the care he received while recovering from skin cancer and a broken hip.

‘The patience and the kindness that I’ve got from all of them from top to bottom was absolutely amazing. So, anybody who is helping with me and the National Health Service, I’d be very pleased, because they’ve done so well for me and they’re doing so well for everybody else at the moment,’ Captain Moore said. ‘I think we must say “Well done, National Health Service.” ‘ “

Listen online to the PRI story, here. And do make PRI part of your ongoing routine. Yesterday alone it had a slew of intriguing topics, and its presentation of international music is as good as I’ve heard anywhere:

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It all started with individuals making changes in their lives to avoid single-use plastic, then moved to small shops offering plastic-free shopping. Nothing wrong with that says the UK version of Wired, but what is really needed more is for large supermarket chains to get on board.

Nicole Kobie writes at Wired, “Plastic-free, zero-waste shops — which include Bulk Market and Harmless in London, and Refill Store in Truro, Cornwall — are a utopia for people looking to ditching single-use plastics, and have even inspired (or shamed) some larger retailers into following their lead and cutting down on packaging. …

“Using reusable containers has benefits; it avoids the environmental costs of manufacturing and disposing of single-use plastic packaging and reduces littering. [But] says Simon Aumônier, principal partner at Environmental Resources Management (ERM). ‘The issue is it’s not always as simple as that.’ … The overall environmental impact can be small compared to other choices, such as reducing meat consumption.

“Here’s how to make the most of shopping plastic-free, and why it matters what you buy, where you buy it, and how you carry it home.

“Plastic-free stores require shoppers to bring their own reusable containers (or buy them in-store) in which to ferry home their pasta, nuts and other dry goods.

Shunning single-use plastic means it doesn’t end up in landfill or choking a turtle. ‘Every time you use your own container, you’re cutting down the amount of plastic you would have been responsible for,’ says Clare Oxborrow, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth.

“However, as with the plastic bag versus reusable tote debate, it matters what you use in place of the single-use plastic packaging, and how often you use it. …

” ‘Replacing a piece of single-use plastic packaging with a Tupperware container means you’ve got maybe ten times the material — therefore you need to reuse it maybe ten or 20 or 100 times before it’s a better solution in material consumption terms,’ says Aumônier. …

” ‘Glass and metal are more robust for the long term and can often then be recycled at the end of their life much more easily than plastic can,’ says Oxborrow. ‘Because of the way the system is set up, only about nine per cent of plastic ever made has been recycled. [We] have to stop using so much plastic in the first place.’ …

“There is a reason single-use plastic is used for packaging: it works. One study shows that cucumbers wrapped in plastic stay fresh for up to two weeks longer than ‘naked’ ones. And a cucumber that gets chucked in the compost bin is a waste of water and transport (and related emissions), regardless of how it was packaged. … Pasta, nuts and the like have a longer shelf-life, so are less likely to be wasted once brought home, and less likely to get damaged in store. …

“Biodegradable plastics are seen as one solution, but [Helen Bird, resource management specialist at WRAP] warns they aren’t necessarily as green as they may seem, as they also require fossil fuels to produce and often aren’t actually compostable. ‘To a large degree, the infrastructure that we have in place at the moment in the UK is not set up to make those plastics actually compost,’ she says – meaning they end up in landfill or are incinerated.

“Budgens in Thornton swapped paper for plastic bags on bread, Bird notes, but that led to problems as shoppers couldn’t see what they were buying. Sales slumped. … The supermarket has now found the right balance, with one store offering 1,700 plastic-free products, showing alternatives can be found.

“Plastic-free stores are usually locally-run businesses, and stock locally-produced food. While that has social benefits, whether local production has environmental benefits depends on the food in question. … How you get to the store also matters. If you’re walking or taking the bus to a local zero-waste store, you’re doing it right. …

“Local, simpler shopping doesn’t require a zero-waste store, of course — old-fashioned local butchers and greengrocers also fit the bill, though many high streets now lack them. ‘A lot of them shut down because they can’t compete with the supermarkets,’ notes Oxborrow. And that means we get into cars and drive to buy plastic-wrapped cucumbers instead. …

“Sarah Laidler, an analyst at the Carbon Trust, notes it’s best to buy locally grown and in-season, and to eat fruits and vegetables quickly so packaging isn’t required. ‘But vegetables don’t account for the bulk of carbon emissions in most people’s diets.’

“And then there’s processing. Those jars of dry beans and other ingredients are light to transport and easy to store, but require home cooking. …

Rather than try to calculate the merits of canned chickpeas versus dry, it makes more sense to make changes we know work, says Aumônier, such as only boiling the amount of water needed for a cup of tea and putting a lid on a saucepan to keep heat escaping.

” ‘These things can dramatically multiply the impact of the food and they’re easily overlooked.’ Laidler adds: ‘A key step Pepsi took to reduce the emissions of its Quaker Porridge Oats was to cook them more in the factory, so it was then cooked less at home.’ …

“And that’s the core issue at the heart of plastic-free stores: there are bigger changes we could make more easily. That doesn’t negate the positive impact of zero-waste shops, notes Bird, as they act as gateways to encouraging people to think when they shop — and they help shame larger supermarkets into action.

“Supermarkets are starting to clean up their act, albeit slowly. [It’s] better for everyone if the supermarkets themselves also change their practices, so the least amount of single-use plastic is used even for those who aren’t within striking distance of progressive shops in Dalston or Cornwall. ‘Ultimately we need to see the supermarkets embracing reuse culture,’ Bird says.” More at Wired, here.

You might be interested in etee, where I just bought a dish soap I’m testing to cut down on plastic bottles and the fossil-fuel consumption involved in transporting what is essentially a lot of water and only a little soap. And for coffee drinkers who compost, consider Dean’s Beans. However, you do need a really robust compost pile to break the bags down, we’ve found.

Part of the movement to bring your own containers to takeout restaurants or as a “doggy bag” after dining out is a shop is in Providence, RI.

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Photo: Karen Robinson/The Observer
Cartoonist Simone Lia can’t resist painting worms, but her interests go way beyond humble invertebrates.

I happened to run into two very different stories about comics yesterday and thought I would make a post referencing both. The featured article is an interview with Observer cartoonist Simone Lia. Kate Kellaway was the interviewer.

” ‘Whenever I was between projects,’ says Simone Lia – comic-strip cartoonist in the Observer and author of a new children’s book, The Secret Time Machine and the Gherkin Switcheroo, about the unlikely friendship between a bird and a worm – ‘I couldn’t stop painting worms. I didn’t know why.’ …

“She knew enough, she goes on, to know she should pay attention to this obsession. And, with a laugh, she explains she realised how much she admired the character of the worm:

‘They’re very humble, live in the ground, do good work, get on with it.’ These qualities, she says, ‘I’d like for myself.’

“If this sounds like a Christian aspiration, it will not surprise Lia’s many fans. In 2011, she beguiled readers with the book that made her name: Please God, Find Me a Husband! The belief in God was no joke. But the book was very funny.

“In one irresistible sequence, Lia, whose boyfriend had just ended their relationship by email, walks disconsolately across Leicester Square. She hears the lyrics of INXS’s Need You Tonight playing from a bar and believes God is communicating with her. Before long, in her mind’s eye, she is dancing friskily with God – a bearded, bespectacled bloke in a pale blue, calf-length dress. Her story leads her to a religious order in Wales (‘I’m so not going to find a husband hanging out with nuns’) and to Australia, where she meets a handsome horseman who, in the way of handsome horsemen, disappears over the horizon.

“It is eight years since that book was published (it has five worms on one of its opening pages). As we sit down in Lia’s front room, I ask how long it took God to get his act together. ‘Ten years,’ she says. …

“Her latest children’s book … The Secret Time Machine and the Gherkin Switcheroo describes the challenge of living with an old bird who does the crossword puzzle and does not want to go out, and a worm who dreams of wriggling back underground. Having said that, the worm overturns Lia’s definition of wormdom by mainly living above ground and by not being humble at all. He swings between feeling he is worthless and believing himself a genius. …

“In the interests of honesty, she feels she should not leave out ‘the dark bit’ of her life. … ‘Putting things mildly, there was a lot of fighting at home. I felt very alone and felt even Jesus was not listening to my prayers – it felt like he did not care. That is when I stopped praying, became interested in art. Drawing and painting was an escape. I could enter another world and forget about feeling lonely or afraid. … That might be how Fluffy came about.’

“Fluffy (2007) was a graphic novel about the relationship between a rabbit and the floundering human being he thinks of as his dad. It looks like a children’s book but isn’t. … It was while researching for Fluffy in Sicily (the rabbit goes on hols there) that Lia rediscovered God. A randomly encountered Mormon asked her whether she still prayed. She went into a baroque church, but all she could think of was to ask God for a better hotel room (she feared she had been staying in a brothel).

“ ‘Despite my rubbishy prayer, I felt something out of the world in that moment. It’s very hard to explain but it was as if my heart opened up. … From that moment, something shifted inside of me.”

Read more about Lia and how her life has affected her comics here. And for a completely different take on cartoons, read the Paris Review article on comics as poetry, here.

On second thought, tying religion to comics and tying poetry to comics may not be so different after all. Depends on where you’re coming from.

In the Paris Review, Ivan Brunetti explains why comic strips like “Jump Shot,” by Lynda Barry (below), deserve to be called poetry.

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Photo: Charlie Burrell/ Knepp Estate Castle
Longhorn cattle were chosen for a UK “rewilding” project as stand-ins for their extinct ancestor, the auroch.

Here’s a concept that was new to me: “rewilding” the countryside — that is, bringing the land back to an earlier and less developed state.

At the radio show Living on Earth, we learn that a UK couple was able to turn a large, unprofitable farm into a profitable one by letting the land go back to nature.

“BOBBY BASCOMB: When writer Isabella Tree and her husband, Charlie Burrell, inherited an estate in West Sussex, England, they assumed they would continue to farm as generations of family had before them. But the intensive agriculture of their predecessors grew increasingly difficult, and they decided that farming was no longer a viable option. So they began to mull over another idea: Give the land back to nature and let it take its course. Isabella Tree’s recent book is titled Wilding, and its the story of what happened to the land when they gave up farming and let nature take the reins. …

“ISABELLA TREE: We inherited this piece of land from my husband’s grandparents [in] the 1980s. And it had been intensively farmed for ever since pretty much the Second World War. [But] the farm was losing money hand over fist. [We] kept buying … bigger machines, throwing more pesticide, more fertilizer, more nitrates, built bigger dairies and changed our types of cows to more higher-milk-yielding cows. …

“We tried contract farming [and] sold all our farm equipment. It was a very, very black day. … Charlie’s ancestors have been here since the Nash castle was built two hundred and twenty or so years ago. It really isn’t for us an option to sell. [We’re] stewards of this land, and we can’t just sell up and move out. …

“BASCOMB: Well, how did you even come up with that alternative? I mean, for most farmers, I think it’s probably pretty counterintuitive to just let the land go. I mean, that’s not what you do as a farmer.

“TREE: It is a very, very difficult thing to do, you’re absolutely right. …

“BASCOMB: You talk a lot in your book about the importance of introducing herbivores. What animals did you introduce and why? …

“TREE: We had to introduce animals that we knew would be able to survive outside all year round without supplementary feeding, that would be able to fend for themselves even in a harsh or wet winter. So, we chose old breeds, we chose Old English Longhorn, wonderful cows with great white finching stripe down their backs and great big horns. And then Exmoor ponies, one of our oldest breeds of horse, they are fantastic at surviving, out in any landscape. Very, very hardy, indeed. And Tamworth pigs, another old breed that’s very closely related to Iberian swine. So, they’re the closest we felt that we could get with an English variety of pig to the wild boar. And then we had roe deer here already in low numbers. And then we introduced fallow deer and red deer. …

“BASCOMB: What does it look like? What does it smell like, even sound like, and how is that different from what you started with? …

TREE: When you walk around Knepp today is the sound of insects, for a start. On a day like this, it’s a hot, sunny day, you’ve just got the sound of crickets and grasshoppers, you’ve got bees, you’ve got hover flies, you’ve got every sort of insect out there. It’s thick with insects. If you go out there on a bicycle, you have to wear sunglasses or, you know, because you’re getting insects in your eyes. …

“This used to be the norm 50 years ago. But in the era of pesticides, we just don’t see insects anymore. So the sound of insects is astonishing. And then, of course you’ve got the bird song, surround sound bird song. Go out into the thickets, it’s sort of like the African scrub. … It’s a wonderful thing to be sitting in the middle of.

“But it’s a double edged sword because we now go on walks in other places in the UK, places where we always used to enjoy, you know, an hour or two to walk, and now we notice what isn’t there. And it’s that, it’s what Aldo Leopold called that sadness, that tragedy of having an ecological education. You know what isn’t there and what could be there, what should be there. …

“We literally haven’t introduced anything apart from the free-roaming animals. So, they’ve all found us on their own. [We] have 13 out of the 18 breeding species of bat in the UK. One of them called the Bechstein’s bat is so rare, it’s rare even in Europe. … We have Peregrine Falcons, we have them nesting in a tree. Usually you associate Peregrine falcons with cliffs and clifftops. They nest in steeples and cathedrals, but not in a tree. Nightingales are another species that is associated with woodland, but at Knepp they’re taking up territories our exploding hedgerows and our thorny scrub. And so they’re choosing a very different habitat because it’s suddenly available to them. So, it’s really changing the science books, we’ve forgotten that this is where nightingales love to be.

“And I think that’s one of the lessons from Knepp, is that we’re so used to seeing species in a very, very depleted landscape, that that’s where we think they want to be. But in fact, they’re often clinging on by their fingernails to habitat that just isn’t optimal for them. And where they’d much rather be is in the kind of habitat that we’re presenting for them at Knepp.”

More at Living on Earth, here.

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Photo: FNRttC /Night Ride Cycling UK
UK participants in the Friday Night Ride to the Coast enjoy the casual pace. Smaller, more family-oriented night riding can be found in cities like Cleveland.

I’ve been meaning to write on this topic for ages — ever since I started seeing Mary Ann’s joyful Facebook posts on cycling at night with friends, family, and like-minded strangers in Cleveland.

In an article by Sam Walker at the Guardian, we learn that night cycling is a thing in England, too, but for more miles.

Walker writes that the Friday Night Ride to the Coast is a “carefully organised event run by the ‘Fridays,’ a club devoted to the singular cause of safely delivering you at a conversational pace from the Smoke to the sea. They do this every month from spring through autumn, requiring only third party insurance and an annual membership fee of £2.

“The FNRttC, as it’s known to veterans, has been spreading the joy of night riding for almost 15 years, flying quietly under the radar of most cyclists. …

“It was started by Simon Legg, who spent a decade escorting thousands to Brighton, Whitstable and other destinations with decent transport links. When he retired he entrusted his legacy to a group of seasoned ride leaders who take turns as mother hen.

“The distance ranges from 55 to 75 miles, and popular routes can attract more than 100 participants. There are tail-end Charlies and human waymarkers, sometimes recruited on the spot, to ensure nobody is lost or left behind.

“Rides begin at midnight with a chat about safety and etiquette, jokes optional. Mechanical problems along the way are met with expert assistance, though you’re advised to give your bike a thorough checkup beforehand. …

“It’s a great social mixer, but there are also opportunities for solitude as you pull each other along on an invisible stretchy rope. Punctures are a communal affair. ‘Houston, we have a problem,’ one of the minders will more or less transmit to the front, and so all will wait, grateful it wasn’t them. This time. …

“We ride at night because it’s there, conveniently out of the way of the usual routine. Less traffic is a bonus, but magic moments are made of more than this.

“There’s the moon, for a start: those times when it paints the road silver and the mist mysterious, inviting you to dabble in poetry. When not moonstruck, the darkness itself is the draw, a coverlet silencing the day’s concerns, yet granting permission for thoughts to drift forever out into space. …

There are bats and badgers and other nocturnal creatures clocking in, which helps rouse you out of any stupor you may have been falling into. Hills become easier. Shrouded in mystery, their summits mere conjecture, they are far less daunting.

“But possibly the biggest draw is the intimacy of cycling with people all on the same mission, getting a buzz off their energy, their tired happy faces in the morning’s light a mirror of your own.

“ ‘Why are you doing this?’ I’ve asked fellow riders … Answers ranged from: ‘I’m getting miles in to help with Paris-Brest-Paris’ – a 1,200km jolly – to: ‘My friend talked me into it.’ There were plenty of dreamy shrugs: ‘Why not?’ … For some, it’s an answer to a question they may not even have been aware they’d been asking themselves.”

More at the Guardian, here.

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Photo: Vincent Kessler/Reuters
Surplus bakery products account for nearly a third of the UK’s total retail food waste. Now Tesco is turning unsold bread into other products.

Remember this post on turning stale bread into beer? Stale bread is good for other products, too. Rebecca Smithers at the Guardian describes how the UK supermarket chain Tesco plans to make money while cutting waste.

“Britain’s largest supermarket chain is launching a drive to reduce food waste from bread by turning unsold baguettes and batons from its in-store bakeries into new products.

“Surplus bread is one of the biggest waste problems for food retailers, according to the government’s food waste adviser Wrap, particularly from freshly baked lines which have a short shelf life.

“Its most recent figures show surplus bakery products account for nearly a third (67,500 tonnes) of the UK’s total retail food waste a year. Bread is the second most wasted food in the home, with an estimated 1m loaves thrown away each day. It is also one of the most wasted items at every stage of the supply chain.

“Tesco said that, as well as being among the UK’s most popular breads, freshly baked baguettes and batons were among bread items left on its selves at the end of the day. The retailer said it had decided to use the unsold products to make a range of olive crostini and bread pudding which will be launched in 24 stores next week. It estimated the amount of unsold fresh bread could be cut by up to a half if the range was made available at all its outlets.

“Currently, Tesco’s surplus bread is reduced in price while still on sale, and some is sent to food distribution charities on the evening of its production. The remainder is then offered free in Tesco’s staff shop, after which it is sent for use in animal feed. …

“Said David Moon, the head of business collaboration at Wrap, ‘Using surpluses in store to make a delicious new product saves good food from spoiling and reduces the cost of waste to the business.’ ” Read more here.

If you would like to know more about the work of the sustainability consultant Wrap, check out the website. It says in part, “Our five year plan, ‘Resource Revolution, Creating the Future’ sets out how businesses, organisations and consumers can be part of a resource revolution that will re-invent, re-think and re-define how we use materials.

“It focuses on the three priority areas that will help best meet our goals – Food and Drink; Clothing and Textiles; and Electricals and Electronics, all of which are underpinned by resource management. …

“We work uniquely, and by design, in the space between governments, businesses, communities, thinkers and individuals – forging powerful partnerships and delivering ground-breaking initiatives to support more sustainable economies and society. We are world leaders in establishing the facts, getting the right people working together, then converting ideas into action and delivery on the ground. …

“Underpinning all our priority sectors is resource management, our focus on maximising the value of waste by increasing the quantity and quality of materials collected for re-use and recycling.”

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Photo: Mirrorpix
In 1968, Hull fishermen’s wives and mothers successfully fought the dangerous conditions perpetuated by trawler owners. They refused to take no for an answer.

It’s good to be strong, but sometimes the tough guys don’t know when to complain, don’t know when complaining can prevent the premature deaths of family and friends that leave children fatherless and devastate communities.

That’s when women have to take charge. And as a group of women showed in Hull, UK, in 1968, angry wives and mothers can be tougher than men.

Lucy Beaumont writes at iNews, “In January 1968, several Hull trawlers set off to the icy, dangerous waters of the Arctic in their quest for the biggest catch.

“They headed straight into one of the worst storms in living memory. Within three weeks, three of the ships had sunk and 58 men had lost their lives. For their families back home in the Hessle Road area of Hull, the news was devastating. It was known as the Triple Trawler Tragedy. Out of this tragedy came something incredible. Hull women – wives, mums, sisters, daughters – rose up to protest against the dangerous working conditions.

“They wanted a safer fishing industry and they were prepared to do anything to get it. They marched, they spoke out and they went straight to the top demanding change. During their campaign they were verbally and physically attacked – one woman was even punched in the face. They made headlines around the world and managed to change British law after getting over 10,000 signatures in support and not giving up until the authorities listened to them. …

“The [so-called] headscarf heroes should always be remembered. The women of Hessle Road were so strong. They had to be because they could lose their husband, their father or their son at any time. They had to cope with it and carry on looking after the family – and that’s exactly what they did. The women’s campaign was one of the biggest and most successful civil action campaigns of the twentieth century and coming from Hull, I’m so proud of those women.”

Beaumont’s personal connection to the story sometimes overwhelmed her as she worked on a BBC documentary about the women. “My grandad is from a family of men and women born and bred in the fishing community on Hessle Road. His granny lost two sons at sea. John was only 19 when he was washed overboard and Herbert died from pneumonia. She had poppies on their photos and swore that she heard John calling for her at the time. It was later confirmed that he had perished.” More here.

The life of a fisherman continues to be one requiring toughness from all the women and men who go to sea. There are a few more protections today than there were in 1968, but no one controls the weather. With global warming reportedly causing more storms, the dangers are actually likely to increase.

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sheku-kanneh-mason-2-credit-lars-borgesPhoto: Lars Borges
As of February 2, 18-year-old Sheku Kanneh-Mason was 2018’s best-selling British debut artist – across all genres.

Here’s another story celebrating a young person who thinks differently and opens a new path. He’s a musician in the United Kingdom who refuses to limit himself to one kind of music — and shows that one can excel in different genres.

Katy Wright at Rhinegold Publishing reports, “Sheku Kanneh-Mason has become this year’s best-selling British debut artist – across all genres – to enter the Top 20 in the Official UK Albums Chart with his album Inspiration.

“The release, which features repertoire ranging from Shostakovich to Bob Marley, has entered the main chart at No. 18, and is at No. 1 in the classical chart.

“The 18-year-old is the first BBC Young Musician to break into the pop chart with his debut album, as well as the youngest cellist ever to reach the Top 20 and the youngest classical artist to break into the Official UK Albums Chart in almost a decade. …

“The album … features Shostakovich’s first cello concerto – the piece which propelled Sheku to fame as the first black winner of BBC Young Musician in the competition’s 38-year history – and Kanneh-Mason’s own arrangement of Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman, No Cry’.

“Kanneh-Mason is the top streamed young classical artist, having received 2.5 million streams on Spotify alone.”

Wikipedia adds some biographical details. “Sheku Kanneh-Mason grew up in Nottingham, England. He is the third eldest of the seven children of Stuart Mason (a business manager) and Kadiatu Kanneh (a former university lecturer), and began playing the cello at the age of six, having briefly played the violin. At the age of nine, he passed the Grade 8 cello examination with the highest marks in the UK, and won the Marguerite Swan Memorial Prize. …

“In 2015, he and his siblings were competitors on Britain’s Got Talent as The Kanneh-Masons. He won the BBC’s Young Musician of the Year contest in May 2016, later telling The Observer that appearing on Britain’s Got Talent had been ‘a good experience for getting used to performing in front of lots of people, with cameras and interviews.’ …

“Kanneh-Mason is a member of the Chineke! Orchestra, which was founded by Chi-chi Nwanoku for black and minority ethnic classical musicians. …

“In 2016, Kanneh-Mason told The Guardian‘s Tom Service that ‘Chineke! is a really inspiring project. I rarely go to a concert and see that kind of diversity in the orchestra. Or in the audience. Having the orchestra will definitely change the culture.’ …

“In January 2018, it was reported that Kanneh-Mason had donated £3,000 to his former secondary school, enabling ten other pupils to continue their cello lessons.” More at Wikipedia, here.

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Photo: fractalx via VisualHunt.com
Street art outside Nottingham Playhouse. The city has a plan to integrate arts and culture into all aspects of life.

What do we know about the city of Nottingham? We know about the sheriff, I guess, and his adversarial relationship with Robin Hood. But did we know that modern-day Nottingham is really into the arts? A website called Arts Professional wants to enlighten us.

Christy Romer writes, “Nottingham has committed to embedding culture in education and healthcare as part of an ambitious ten-year vision for the city.

“By 2027, the city aims to make ‘culturally-inspired lifelong learning’ available for every person in Nottingham, and establish cultural programmes, research and partnerships that enhance health and wellbeing.

“The vision … aims to achieve national and international acclaim for the quality and diversity of locally-produced artistic work.

“ ‘Culture will unlock potential in our city. The next ten years will continue to see a transition that takes the city from its industrial, manufacturing past, paving the way to reimagine the city for generations to come,’ the [Cultural Statement’s] foreword reads. …

“Plans include supporting schools to develop a world-class cultural learning offer and giving every person opportunities to access creative skills and careers. …

“The City Council also aims to work in partnership with public health professionals and local commissioning groups to understand and enhance the health and wellbeing of the city’s residents. …

“The city announced its bid for the European Capital of Culture 2023 title in August.” More.

Alas, the Brexit vote to leave the European Union means that UK cities will not be eligible. Here’s hoping that Nottingham’s worthy ambitions are not derailed by Brexit and that the UK government will help the city find the resources to carry out its plans. (One has to wonder if the ramifications of leaving the EU was ever fully thought out.)

AmeliainHull, it sounds like Nottingham wants to give Hull a run for its money!

Art: Louis Rhead, “Bold Robin Hood and His Outlaw Band,” New York: Blue Ribbon Books, 1912.

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Photo: Alicia Canter/The Guardian
Mohammed, a Palestinian, bakes cheese twists with his host family in London.

Here’s another example of individuals in the UK stepping up to give refugees a welcome — while providing themselves with an experience that feels more meaningful than donating money or sending “thoughts and prayers.”

Alicia Canter, Kate Lyons and Matt Fidler write at the Guardian,
“It’s a simple premise: people with a spare room in their house are matched with a refugee or asylum seeker in need of somewhere to stay.

“And it’s a popular one: before 2015, Robina Qureshi’s organisation, called Positive Action in Housing (PAIH), used to provide about 600 nights of shelter a year to people with nowhere to go. In the 18 months since September 2015 this has risen to 29,000 nights.

“ ‘We were getting bombarded with people. … They said, “I want to do something.” ‘ …

“There are numerous points in the asylum process that asylum seekers and refugees can find themselves becoming destitute and homeless. Perhaps the most common is when they have their claim refused – at which point support payments stop and they are forced to leave their accommodation.

“People in this situation often find themselves homeless, without the right to work or receive benefits, unable to approach the local authority for help, and yet, in many cases, feeling unable to return to their home country. …

“ ‘The ones I feel really sorry for are the people who have been left destitute for years on end. People take them in and let them be human, and take them into a warm home where people care for them,’ says Qureshi.

‘What the hosts found out was that they were meeting a need in themselves – a need to give. Our society is so wealthy and our houses are stuffed full, but there’s that need to help others.’

“Mohammed, 35, from Palestine, [lives] with Joanne MacInnes, an actor and activist, in west London, and on weekends her daughters Malila, 12, and Eve, 14. …

“MacInnes has hosted six people in her house, but Mohammed is, she and her girls agree, their favourite. ‘He’s the nicest of them all,’ says Eve.

“Currently the family are trying to find Mohammed a wife. He uses his local mosque’s dating service, but says that because of his precarious immigration status he is not considered a desirable match. …

“Mohammed says he was shy when he moved in and nervous about how the family would respond to him.

“ ‘First time I come in here, I’ll never forget, Malila gave me a hug and speak with me,’ says Mohammed. ‘I was shy, Malila come in straight away, hug and speak with me and is not shy, you know. Eve is shy and Eve after two weeks spoke with me. And Joanne spoke with me. I feel family. Listen, I don’t speak English, but I hope you understand me. My dad is dead, my mother is dead [and] my sister. Joanne, Mali and Eve are my family.’ ”

More here.

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Photo: The Guardian
One recent immigrant from Pakistan was welcomed into the home of Jo Haythornthwaite of Maryhill Integration Network in Glasgow, an example of individuals stepping up to help refugees.

The hostility to immigrants that fueled the Brexit vote in Britain gets all the attention, but there are other voices. There are always other voices.

Gregory Maniatis writes for the Open Society Foundations about refugee outreach across the British Isles.

” ‘I can’t solve the whole Syrian crisis, but I can do something, for a few people.’ The words of Olwen Thomas, from the port of Fishguard in Pembrokeshire, southwest Wales, probably sum up the feelings of many people around the world, as we follow news reports about the terrible difficulties that have faced refugee families fleeing the conflict in Syria, as well as other crises around the world.

“Thomas, and other members of her community, are now doing something significant through their involvement in the Fishguard Refugee Sponsorship Group. The group was one of the first to respond to a UK scheme first announced last July by the British Home Affairs Minister Amber Rudd and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby — the leader of the Anglican Church.

“Under the Community Sponsorship program, local groups agree to sponsor refugee families and help them integrate into life in the UK by assisting with things such as finding housing, securing access to medical and social services, arranging English language tuition, and supporting them towards employment and self-sufficiency. …

“One Welsh group in the small town of Cardigan has raised £12,000 as part of its application to the scheme. Vicky Moller, a member of the group, told the BBC … ‘People are very, very keen to help.’

“The sponsorship model being launched in towns and cities across England and Wales is partly inspired by a hugely successful effort launched in Canada in 1979, when the mayor of Ottawa, Marion Dewar, mobilized an effort by community groups to settle 4,000 mostly Southeast Asian refugees. To date, Canadian communities and citizens have resettled almost 300,000 refugees through its private sponsorship program. …

“Chris Clements, a director of Social Finance UK, … has noted the shortcomings of ‘traditional’ refugee resettlement in the UK, which has left many refugee families isolated and struggling to adapt to their new surroundings. This in turn results in high rates of unemployment, depression, stress, and other problems.

“Community sponsorship, Clements says, ‘enables local people to take responsibility for resettling a refugee family, supporting and empowering them to rebuild their lives.’ ”

More here.

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Photo: Getty
People take part in an installation entitled Sea of Hull, by artist Spencer Tunick.

The notion that the arts and related fields like graphic design can boost local economies has been an article of faith for decades, causing disappointment when it frequently fails to lift whole cities above poverty.

Nevertheless, done right and with other stars in alignment, it can be a piece of the economic puzzle in a changing world.

Here is a recent angle from Kingston upon Hull in the UK.

David Barnett reports at the Independent, “On New Year’s Day, a firework display heralded the beginning of Hull’s tenure as the Britain’s City of Culture. Multimedia stories from the city’s maritime and industrial heritage were projected on local buildings in front of a crowd of thousands.

“Over in the Hull City Museum they like a bit of culture and they know Hull’s had it for a long time; exhibits go back to the Paleolithic era. There’s also a recreation of a Roman bath house, featuring mosaics discovered in the 1940s in the Roman settlement of Petuaria, modern-day Brough in East Yorkshire.

“But never mind the Romans … what, the people of Hull might be asking, in true Monty Python’s Life of Brian style, has culture ever done for us? …

“It regularly tops the deprivation rankings for the UK’s 326 local authorities – according to the Kingston upon Hull Data Observatory’s latest figures, Hull ranks as the third most deprived local authority generally, and tops the lists of deprivation for education, skills and training. ..

“Perhaps a typical, post-industrial Northern city. Its traditional industries of whaling and sea-fishing have declined, as elsewhere; Hull still remains a large port, though, and there has been a successful drive to attract chemical and health companies to the area. …

“ ‘There might well be degrees of scepticism about what culture can mean to a place like Hull,’ says Robert Palmer, the director of the team that won and managed Glasgow’s successful bid to be named European City of Culture (as it was then known) in 1990. ‘But being designated a capital of culture can bring long-term effects in terms of the legacy it can offer.’ …

” ‘We employ a very broad definition of culture,’ says Palmer. ‘It’s not just what people might think of as “fine culture.” It’s not just opera. …’

“Which is why Hull’s City of Culture website lists events for the coming year that range from acrobatics to walking tours, by way of cabaret, jazz, literature, parkour and, yes, opera. Which is all very nice, but is it just a distraction from the problems facing Hull?

“ ‘There are tangible economic benefits,’ says Palmer. ‘We’ve seen it before in all cities that get a culture status, it’s well documented. Visitor numbers, job creation, the social impact through participation from social groups who are not normally involved in culture. The benefits are incontestable.’ ”

Lots more here.

Perhaps one year of intense focus on the arts and culture can energize enough residents to keep the momentum going. It certainly seems to have done so for Liverpool, another struggling postindustrial city that was a UK City of Culture in 2008.

One wonders if a designation as, say, a City of Math and Science might have the same kind of long-term ripples.

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Photo: Prezi
Something Shakespeare didn’t have to worry about: expensive energy for productions and emissions that increase global warming.

Christy Romer over at the UK website Arts Professional recently posted on the money British arts groups are saving by cutting their energy emissions — a win for them and a win for the environment.

“Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) have saved £8.7m by cutting greenhouse gas emissions since 2012/13, according to a major new report by environmental charity Julie’s Bicycle. …

“The report draws on data submitted via an online reporting tool, an evaluation survey and case studies, ultimately concluding environmental action is making the sector more financially resilient.

“Compared to doing nothing, the reduction in energy emissions has saved £8.7m since 2012/13. The report predicts that if the 4.5% annual decrease continues until 2019/20, emissions will be 46% lower than in 2012/13 and £54m will have been saved in energy costs.

“Alongside a fall in the overall emissions output, and a fall in the amount of electricity and gas used, there has been a 210% growth in the generation of on-site renewable energy since the project started in 2012/13. …

“Julie’s Bicycle pledges to develop Arts Council England’s (ACE) approach to environmental sustainability at the operational, planning and policy development levels. …

“Darren Henley, Chief Executive of ACE, added: ‘Our collaboration with Julie’s Bicycle is introducing us all to new ways of working. … We all believe that art and culture can make the world a better place; this programme shows how our actions can make a real difference.’ ”

More at Arts Professional, here.

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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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One of the things I like about twitter is being exposed to stories I probably wouldn’t read about in the New York Times. This one is from a UK website called Foodism and highlights an effort to build businesses from food leftovers that might otherwise be wasted.

“It’s 4pm at Borough Market and the gaggle of children are elated, having spent the day growing, buying and selling market produce. Now trading time is over, and it’s time for their little stall to close, there’s only one question left.

” ‘What will you do with your leftover produce?’ asks development manager David Matchett, who runs the market’s Young Marketeers project for local schools. ‘We can make it into leftovers for tomorrow,’ pipes up one kid. ‘Or we can give it to people!’ ‘We give our food to my old auntie,’ shouts another.

” ‘I’ve been running this project five years,’ Matchett tells [Foodism reporter Clare Finney], ‘and not once in that time has a child ever suggested throwing the food away.’ ”

Other uses are found, Finney writes, giving a new heat source at home as an example.

“The heat source is used coffee grounds, recycled by the innovative clean technology company Bio-bean into pellets for biomass boilers, biodiesel and briquettes for wood burners. …

“With its sharp branding, smart technology and simple but potentially revolutionary innovation, Bio-bean is irresistibly representative of the new generation of companies applying principles of modern business, as well as slick design, to an issue that can often appear stale and tasteless: wasted food. …

” ‘These are viable businesses,’ Kate Howell, director of development and communications at Borough Market, says of Bio-bean, and of those other companies turning food waste or surplus into consumables. Indeed, many of the biggest names in the world today actually started here with the market, which has provided a seedbed for sustainable businesses like Rubies in the Rubble, which makes a range of chutneys and sauces from supermarket rejects, Chegworth Valley of apple juice fame, and the street food stall selling meat from previously unwanted billy kids, Gourmet Goat.’ …

“A few months ago, [the grocery chain] Sainsbury’s launched a trial of banana breads made from bananas too bruised to sell in store, to enormous accolades. ‘Originally we estimated they would sell 1,000 loaves,’ says Paul Crew, director of sustainability at Sainsbury’s, with palpable excitement. ‘Customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and we’ve already sold 3,000, saving just as many bananas.’ ”

Hey, that’s what we all do with bruised bananas! Now you and I can claim to be trendy as well as thrifty.

Read the Foodism article here.

Photo: Foodism
Bio-bean turns used coffee grounds into pellets for biomass boilers, biodiesel and briquettes for wood burners.

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