Revolution In the Fashion World: The Catwalks Face Up To the Social Media Challenge:

IMG_1392Has London Fashion Week (and the ones in New York, Milan and Paris) become an anachronism? The BBC clearly thinks it’s still important: It devoted at least half of its prestigious “Today” morning radio programme on Friday 15th September (the first day of the latest LFW, which finished on Tuesday 19th September) to the event, with one of it’s presenters, Mishal Husain, broadcasting from the venue at The Store Studios in the Strand. As she pointed out, British Fashion Council (BFC) statistics show that the fashion industry is worth around £30 billion pounds to the country’s economy and that it supports 880,000 jobs in the UK.

LFW is thus “ an international event that showcases British fashion and the global brands that choose to exhibit in London because of its reputation for creativity”. However, the industry is all about “big business” and so is evolving rapidly. Nearly 7 out of 10 women (as the BBC’s business reporter, Lucy Burton noted) have bought clothes online. Sian Westerman, the BFC’s President of Business & Investment, acknowledged to Husain that e-commerce has caused “a great fashion revolution”, that it has dramatically changed customers’ expectations in terms of speed, delivery and accessibility to fashion. The “fast fashion brands” now turn to social media platforms as much as to the fashion weeks for an indication of the latest trends.

Richard Christofoli, Debenham’s Marketing Director, likewise accepts that it is “a fluid, dynamic and challenging situation” for the established high-street retailers:  Customers can now shop online and then collect at the store, or browse in the store then use their smartphone to decide what to buy and from whom. Christopher Bailey, formerly Burberry’s chief executive but now it’s chief creative officer, believes that LFW is all about “trying new things, experimenting and innovating, making sure we are talking to customers, media and buyers, pushing ourselves”. He agrees, however, that the rise of social media has created a completely different way of looking at every industry, not just fashion and that it has had a disruptive impact on “the fairly rigid timetable of fashion weeks around the world”.

This view is shared by Jo Ellison, Fashion Editor for the Financial Times, who pointed out to Husain that “the fashion industry has always been a very visual medium for most people, which makes Instagram the perfect platform for people to understand it”. Brands can now deliver their messages to a global audience to whom they didn’t previously have access. People are now able to find out things for themselves – they don’t really need the “ordination” of newspaper or magazine fashion editors anymore. Furthermore, brands are now offering “trans-seasonal” clothes: customers are merely “adding to their wardrobe each time, there’s not an abrupt change each season, there’s much more continuity”.

Nevertheless, as Christopher Bailey emphasizes, London continues to be “a creative hub for the creative industries”. That’s because we have “the best creative art schools in the world, which attract people who want to be educated here and then set up their businesses here”. Bailey argues that this provides enormous potential for post-Brexit Britain, that “Britishness” resonates globally due to the combination of the country’s “beautiful, historic, almost Victorian values” with its island culture, eccentricity and self-expression and that “street style”, which began here, is still “the strongest than anywhere else around the world” . He desperately hopes, though, that the current “anti-immigration climate” doesn’t undermine the openness with the rest of the world or inhibit “the collaboration with people of different cultures which is fundamental to any creative business”.

Bailey’s assertion that London is ideally placed to enhance its leading role in the global fashion industry is fully supported by the BFCs statistics: More than 5000 guests, including “the international press, buyers, broadcasters, influencers and industry insiders from 70 countries” attended the latest LFW. There were 85 catwalk shows and presentations and 33 other events. Burberry presented its new collection, as did Versace’s VERSUS, Fashion East and House of Holland. New participants were Tommy Hilfiger (USA), Nicopanda (USA), Emporio Armani (Italy) and Ralph & Russo (UK). Also featuring prominently were “internationally celebrated British designers” such as Emilia Wickstead, Fyodor Golan, Margaret Howell, Pringle of Scotland and Temperley London. The BFC described the diversity of the LFW schedule as “ a testament to the inclusive and innovative British fashion industry on display in London”.


Filed under: Media, Society | Posted on September 18th, 2017 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

“Bags For Life”: Less Plastic & Much Better For The Environment?

Which supermarket do you use: Tesco’s, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Waitrose or one of the discount chains such as Aldi? Your choice is probably influenced by a range of factors, especially price, proximity to where you live or work, the layout of the store, the brand style, habit, familiarity and whether you’ve signed up for one of the “loyalty schemes” such as Sainsbury’s “Nectar” or the Tesco Club Card. Whichever one you prefer, do you take a shopping bag with you or do you pay for one at the cash desk?

If it tends to be the latter and you’re a Tesco customer, you might already be aware that the organisation has recently changed its plastic bag policy. After conducting a ten-week trial in three of its stores, in Aberdeen and Dundee (Scotland) and Norwich (East Anglia), it has decided that, from August 28th, it will no longer sell “single use” 5p plastic bags and will replace them instead with “thicker, re-usable bags for life”. These will be made from 94% recycled plastic and cost between 8p – 10p. They will also fall outside the provisions of the plastic bag regulations introduced by the Government on 5th October 2015 and hence mean that the company will not be obliged to pass any of this new income on to “good causes”. Nevertheless, so Tesco insisted to the Daily Telegraph’s Consumer Affairs Editor, Kate Morley, on May 24, it “would not profit from the bags and would continue to support environmental charities”.

In effect, Tesco is following the example of Sainsburys who, after the new law was implemented – as the Independent correspondent, Hazel Sheffield, has pointed out – “did away with single-use plastic bags in favour of a sturdier orange bag that can be recycled and exchanged for a new one when it becomes damaged”. This costs 5p and – as with Tesco’s new “bag for life” – is not covered by the 5th October 2015 regulations. The Guardian has reported that just 1p of the 5p goes to charity (“lower than some other retailers”) and that Sainsburys say they can’t confirm how much they give to charity because the information is “commercially sensitive”.

As the Gov.UK website emphasises, the regulations apply to all retailers (not only to supermarkets) who have 250 or more employees: “Smaller businesses can also charge on a voluntary basis if they wish”. The levy does not apply to shops in airports, on board trains, airplanes or ships, if the bag contains items such as raw meat and fish, prescription medicines, uncovered razor blades, seeds, bulbs and flowers or if it is made of paper. Furthermore, as The Independent commented with some scepticism when the scheme was first introduced, “Despite government guidance that the money raised should be donated to good causes, there is no legal requirement for stores to hand over the cash to charities. Retailers can deduct costs for administration and staff training from the money they collect”.

On 21st July, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) released statistics showing that “the seven main retailers issued 83% fewer plastic bags in 2016-2017 compared to the calendar year 2014”. This works out (estimates as a reduction from 7 billion to 2 billion , equivalent to each person in the UK population using around 25 bags during 2016, compared to around 140 bags a year before the charge was applied”.

According to the DEFRA survey, the 168 retailers who provided data had donated over £66 million to good causes. However, the Sunday Times journalists Helen Croydon and Jonathan Leake indicated, in an article on 13th August titled “Charities Barely See 5p Carrier Bag Cash”, that they were unconvinced by these figures. On the contrary, that although “the 5p charge on plastic bags cost shoppers £105 million last year, only £25 million went to named charities”. They noted that fifty firms , among them Iceland, Argos, Halfords and River Island, all declared that that net proceeds did go to charity but opted not to disclose specific details.

Also, that others deduct substantial costs: For example, in the year ending April 2017, the music chain HMV earned £135,000 from the sale of 3.2 million bags but kept £60,000 in costs; WH Smith raised £206,000 from 4 million bags but retained £76,000. More generously: Tescos- £32 million from 637 million bags, donated £23 million; Sainsburys- £2.6 million from 52 million bags,donated £2.1 million. The main problem with a “bag for life”, Dominic Hogg of the environmental consultancy Eunomia told the journalists, is that it weighs three times as much as a single use bag “ which means using three times as much plastic”.

Sarah Coles, a commentator for AOL UK Money, has been more inclined to believe in the retailers’ good intentions: On 18th July, she asserted that Iceland, Asda, Tesco, Morrisons and Waitrose now all “tend to focus their charitable giving on local or environmental causes”. Among others: “B&Q passes on the full 5p to “Children in Need”; M&S sends half the 5p to local charities and community causes chosen by individual stores and the other 50% to national charities such as the Marine Conservation Society and Macmillan Cancer Support; Aldi donates money from the sale of its carrier bags to an educational partnership with the RSPB (Royal Society For The Protection Of Birds”).

On 29th August, The Guardian reported that, the previous day “the world’s toughest law aimed at reducing plastic pollution” had come into effect in Kenya, where supermarkets have been handing out an estimated 100 million bags each year: Anyone producing,selling or even using plastic bags risks imprisonment of up to four years or fines of £31,000. The justification for such an extreme measure, in the opinion of Habib el-Habrir, who works for UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) in Kenya, is that “If we continue like this, by 2050, we will have more plastic in the oceans than fish”.

Meanwhile, Andrew Pendleton, Head of Campaigns at Friends of The Earth, has endorsed the attention “now being given to the millions of non-recyclable coffee cups that go to landfills as well as to the oversized boxes and excess packaging which are the by-products of online shopping”.



Filed under: Healthcare, Society | Posted on September 4th, 2017 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

The “Silly Season” Is No More: It’s Been Replaced By Something Much Worse:

Have you ever heard about “Nessie”? If yes, then you’ll know that it’s a monster that reputedly lives beneath the waters of Loch Ness in Scotland. On 11th May, The Scottish Mirror journalist, Natalie Evans, reported that a video taken by a tourist from Wales, Robb Jones, suggested that “the world famous mythical creature may have returned – 9 months after a previous reported sighting”. Evans also quoted the reason given by Gary Campbell – the “keeper of the Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register” – as to why “Nessie” is invariably seen more in the summer than at other times of the year: “There are more people around, there are much longer daylight hours and the weather is usually better”.

However,the many sceptics who doubt whether “Nessie” exists at all offer a somewhat different explanation – namely, that the print media tends to be a little short of news stories during the peak vacation period, so the apparent re-emergence of a popular monster helps fill the gaps. The Conservative MP for South Dorset, Richard Drax, has pointed out on his website that throughout his 17 years working as a journalist, the month of August was always referred to as “the silly season” – and indeed, that it still is, due to Parliament being in recess, schools closed until September and many people on holiday. Hence, “items that would normally attract little attention are elevated to the front pages”.

Suzi Christie, the owner of Blueberry Public Relations Ltd in East Sussex, has noted that some editors can be so desperate for input that they will give prominence to “ludicrous” reports such as one that featured in The Independent about “squirrels addicted to crack” and a claim by a group of residents in St Osyth, Essex, that a “large lion” had been seen prowling the surrounding countryside. The Daily Mirror concluded that the culprit was probably not “the king of the jungle” but more likely “ a 12-year-old ginger tomcat named Tom who lived in a nearby old people’s home”.

The controversial Daily Mail commentator, Richard Littlejohn, acknowledged on 15th August that “hacks” like him often have to “scratch around to find something to write about when “real” news is in short supply. He then highlighted several stories that he considered farcical – for example, a sheep race in Scotland which had been “abandoned after a campaign by animal rights fundamentalists” and the decision by the organisers of the Frome Carnival, Somerset, to replace their traditional carnival queen with five “carnival ambassadors” – on the basis (so they told the Sunday Times) that “ a beauty pageant is out of step with 21st century values”.

There have been a number of other stories that have appeared in rival newspapers during August that their editors presumably judged as newsworthy but of which Littlejohn may have disapproved: In the Sunday Times on 6th August, Roland White revealed in his “Atticus” column that the Labour MP, Paul Flynn, is calling for cannabis users “to descend on Parliament for a mass smoke-in as a token act of civil disobedience”. The same publication that day devoted half a page to an article by White’s colleague, Robin Henry, about dog walkers on the beach at Llandudno, north Wales, who claim they are at risk of a £75 fine if they are caught with their pets off their lead and that they are “being watched through binoculars, covertly filmed and followed by intimidating black-uniformed security officers working for Conwy Council” when they take their dogs across the sand dunes.

The previous week, the Sunday Times had described as “not so savvy” the pink linen dress which Prime Minister Theresa May was photographed wearing while she was on holiday in Lake Garda, Italy and which can be bought online from Next for £26. Both the Daily Mail and the Sunday Times gave space to rumours that the divorce between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie may be off or at least postponed “after he gave up boozing to win her back”. Meanwhile, the Observer correspondent Nish Kumar focused on the sale of the Brazilian player Neymar by Barcelona to Paris St Germain “ for a head-exploding sum of £198 million, a figure almost eight times larger than the GDP of the island nation of Tuvalu”.

n the opinion of the Stir PR Ltd website, the description “silly season” no longer applies either to August or any other time of the year. It emphasizes that “with the rise of social and digital media, consumers now get their news fed to them on their smart phones, linking them in lightning-quick fashion to their favourite website, blog or influencer. It doesn’t matter if the reader is at work or lounging by the swimming pool, these channels don’t slow down over summer and they don’t change how they report”.

In what has become a sombre August 2017, media editors have not needed to resort to fabricated stories: On 1st August , British Gas raised its prices for its 3.1 million customers by 12.5%, effective as from 15th September. The Government then did likewise for rail passengers: a 3.6% increase in January 2018. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un threatened each other with nuclear war. Europe was hit by a “Lucifer heatwave”, with Sicily suffering the highest temperature, 46%. Many survivors from the June 14th Grenfell Tower fire are still awaiting alternative accommodation and financial help. White supremacists clashed with protesters in Charlotteville, Virginia.

And then: The attacks in Barcelona & Cambrils, in Spain and the Finnish coastal city of Turku. The “silly season” is no more. It’s been replaced by something much worse.

Filed under: Media, Society | Posted on August 21st, 2017 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

Don’Take Me To A Cattery! What To Do With Your Pet When You Go On Holiday:

According to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) – quoted in The Guardian on 22nd July – a record of 2.4 million British holidaymakers will go abroad this year. This means that over the weekend of 21st – 23rd July, more than 500,000 passengers were expected to fly from Heathrow airport, 335,000 from Gatwick and 136,000 from Stansted. They were going off to enjoy their summer vacation – but what happens to the pets that many of them left behind?

The website has estimated that there are 54 million pets in the UK: Dogs are the most popular at 24%, followed by cats (17%), indoor fish (5%), rabbits (2%),  reptiles (1.5%) and hamsters (1.4%). The majority of dog owners tend to either leave their animal with friends or family or (if they are travelling by car) take it with them. This is not, however, an option usually available to cat owners, 54% of whom ask their neighbours to go into their house to feed their pet and 16% of whom leave it with a cattery.

Any guilt complex these owners may feel about apparently abandoning their animals will not have been alleviated by an article in the Daily Mail by columnist Caroline McGuire captioned “ Take me too! Upset pets look the picture of misery as they watch their owners pack for their holidays”. This was accompanied by photos of cats and dogs with sad faces sitting in their owners’ suitcases and refusing to move.  The Telegraph’s science editor, Sarah Knapton, however, seems to regard this as something of an exaggeration. She has noted that research conducted by the University of Lincoln has concluded that “cats, unlike dogs, do not need humans to feel protected, preferring to look after themselves”. Furthermore – and especially relevant in the summer vacation context – that “Although owners might worry that their pet is nervously pining for their return, in fact cats show no sign of separation anxiety”. As a consolation for cat owners “despairing about their aloof house guests”, Knapton also highlighted the opinion of animal behaviourists that “if a cat stays around, it shows it really wants to be there”.

A report on “pet translators” by the Guardian journalists Sarah Butler and Hannah Devlin  on 22nd July cited the author of “Learning The Language of Animals”, Con Slobodchikoff, Professor  Emeritus with the Northern Arizona University’s Department of Biological Sciences, who told them that many people would dearly love to find out what their dog or cat is trying to communicate. He suspected, however, that a lot of times, the cat would just want to say “You idiot, just feed me and leave me alone”. Christopher Hitchens, the English-born American author, journalist and literary author, was similarly sceptical about feline attitudes, pointing out that “ If you provide dogs with food, water , shelter and affection, they will think you are god. If you do the same with cats, they draw the conclusion that they are gods”.

Meanwhile: If cat owners who are going on holiday don’t want to bother their neighbours, what’s the solution? The “Home Loving Cats” website is adamant that “most cats really hate catteries” and that when they are “forcibly taken away from their familiar home environment (their central territory) they will often become stressed, unhappy, sometimes stop eating and are quite unable to adjust to their new surroundings”. It’s not so much the fact that they don’t want to be taken to a cattery, but more “that they don’t want to be taken anywhere”. If, however, a cat owner really has no alternative, they should “be careful to exercise appropriate care and due diligence when choosing a cattery”.

David Fellingham, the proprietor of the West Wimbledon Cattery, concurs with the view that “dogs need people, cats don’t”. He’s been running his business, authorized by Merton Council, for almost 25 years, works from 7 am – 8 pm seven days a week looking after around 24 cats on site and another six based in houses in the area. He says there are no seasonal fluctuations, that he is busy all the year round. Some cats will be left with him for just a couple of weeks, others for much longer, such as two years in the case of a cat from America. He charges £13 per day for one cat and £17 per day for two, though they have to be from the same household.

The Animal Boarding Establishment Act 1963 requires anyone operating a cattery or kennel to acquire a license from their local authority, which will also specify the number of animals that can be accommodated. As the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) has emphasized, the facilities have to meet specified minimum standards: The enclosure, for example, must “provide sufficient space to allow each cat to turn freely and to easily stand, sit and lie in a comfortable position”. It should also be maintained in good repair to protect the cats, contain them, keep other animals out and enable them to remain dry and clean.

There is a considerable variation of prices, depending on the cattery: Silverdale Kennels in Feltham charge £11.83 + vat per cat and £20.66 + vat for two cats sharing; The “Cat’s Whiskers”, on the Middlesex / Surrey border, £15 per day for one, £20 per day for two sharing. By contrast, a suite in the West Wing of the Pawchester “five star luxury cat hotel” in Fulham SW6 costs a minimum of £45 per night. It also has two bungalows (£30 per night) and ten “high rise” suites (£25 per night): “Relaxing classical music is played throughout the premises, premium food is used for all the guests and there is Cats TV in every room”. For anyone interested, the Pawchester is now being offered for sale.



Filed under: Society, Travel | Posted on July 24th, 2017 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

The Cashless Society Postponed: The True Value Of The Money In Your Pockets:

What do you think of the new one pound coin? Even if you like the design, your priority is probably that it should be worth the same as the old version when you do your shopping. Since it was first introduced on 28th March, however, there have been what the Guardian journalists Rebecca Smithers and Julia Kollewe have described as “a few teething problems”: Not all ticket machines at railway stations, vending machines, launderette tumble dryers and parking meters (for example) were adapted in time for the launch – and many of them around the UK still don’t accept the 12-sided £1 coin. Tescos had to temporarily unlock 100,000 of its coin-operated supermarket trolleys and when the Guardian journalists tried to use the coins in a phone booth, “they fell straight through”.

So why did the Royal Mint in Llantristant, South Wales (whose employees have been unable to use the coin in the vending machines of their local pub) produce it? According to the MBNA Banking Corporation, “over half the UK population thinks cash could be on its way out, is being replaced by contactless card payments and a third of us have days when we don’t carry any cash at all”. On June 30th, the Daily Express columnist, David Maddox, revealed that the former Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Cameron Government, George Osborne (now editor of the London Evening Standard) wanted to “scrap 1p and 2p coins and phase out cash altogether by 2020”.

The Guardian article has taken a different view, pointing out that “Despite the rise of card and contactless payments, coins remain popular: There are currently nearly 29 billion of them of all denominations circulating in the UK, with a value of more than £4 billion”. It also notes that the new £1 coin has been given a deliberately complex shape to make it harder to manufacture and counterfeit: Apparently, an estimated one in 30 of the original round pound coins are fake. Even the genuine ones – as Dan King, head of Nationwide’s current accounts department has emphasized – will cease to be legal tender on 15th October, so we should all start checking to see if we can find any down the back of our sofas. The “” website has suggested several other places you might find “lost coins”: Check all coat and trouser pockets, they advise. Also, zippered compartments in purses and shopping bags, behind furniture and in the drawers, under the bed, inside washing machines and tumble dryers, in “piggy banks” and wherever you keep your keys.

Coins can be notoriously difficult to locate, especially in poor lighting, which is perhaps why – as the Guardian reported on 21st June – the Royal Canadian Mint has unveiled “the world’s first glow-in-the-dark coin”: There are now 3 million of these, worth $2 Canadian dollars, in circulation. A luminescent UK equivalent would have been of definite advantage to the BBC TV Breakfast Show on March 27th. While one of the presenters, Dan Walker, was demonstrating to viewers what the new £1 coin looked like, he dropped it down the studio’s big red sofa and spent several minutes scrambling to retrieve it while the programme continued live.

The company which produces the £5, £10, £20 and £50 notes for the Bank Of England – De La Rue, whose headquarters are in Basingstoke, Hampshire – similarly considers that the predictions of the demise of cash “have been greatly exaggerated”. In it’s 2017 Report, it highlights the fact that 38% of the global population (1.8 billion people) don’t have bank accounts, that cash “is the world’s most socially inclusive payment method” – and that (in their opinion), it will remain so for the foreseeable future”. Furthermore (it states), “In December 2016, more cash was withdrawn from ATMs (Automated Teller Machines) in the UK than any month in history and even Sweden, probably the most cashless society in the world, has had to backtrack on its policy of removing ATMs, due to public outcry”.

The Daily Telegraph’s Industry Editor, Alan Towey, has categorised De La Rue as the world’s biggest commercial printer of banknotes: It produced 7.1 billion of them in 2016/17 and its 27% market share provides 70% of its £472 million annual revenue. As the De La Rue Chief Executive, Martin Sutherland, told Towey: “If you’re going on holiday, you will have notes we printed in your wallet, the passport you use to get out of the country was manufactured by us and when you get off the plane the currency you will use is either designed or printed by us or has some of our security features in it”. The company is coy about identifying the 140 countries for whom it designs banknotes – though Venezuela, Kuwait, Kazakhstan, Samoa, and Mauritius are reputed to feature on the list. The company has many competitors – among them Giesecke & Devrient (Munich & Leipzig, Germany) and Royal Joh Enschede (Haarlem, Holland) who both print Euro banknotes and The Royal Canadian Mint, who “make coins for countries from Indonesia to the United Arab Emirates”.

Traditionally, banknotes have been “printed on a substrate that consists of pure cotton or a mix of 75% cotton and 25% linen”. ( Now, though, there is a trend towards using polypropylene, mainly because plastic banknotes (such as the new UK £5) are more durable, they repel dirt and moisture, are twice as expensive to produce but last much longer and they can be recycled, so there’s an ecological advantage.

The main consideration, however, is undoubtedly that they are far more difficult to counterfeit. Bank of England statistics show that around 347,000 false banknotes with a “face value of £7.5 million” were taken out of circulation in the UK during 2016.

Filed under: Society | Posted on July 11th, 2017 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

Comida Fest 2017: A Project That Aspires To Embody The Spirit Of London’s Latin American Community:

Have you any idea how many Latin Americans are currently resident in the UK? As the “Latino Life” website has pointed out, no-one is really sure of the numbers, mainly because “On British Government documentation, “Latin American” is not given as an ethnic group”, so anyone from that part of the world filling in a form has to tick the box marked simply “Other”. In London, nevertheless, the “Latin American Recognition Campaign UK (LARC) has managed to persuade the local authorities in Southwark, Lambeth, Islington and Hackney to officially acknowledge the existence of the community, thereby “fostering its inclusion at all levels from access to services to political representation.

The latest estimate of the UK population by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) – reported in the Guardian on 23rd June – is 65,648,000, an addition of 538,000 over the previous year. London “accounts for a significant chunk of this increase” – indeed, as the London Evening Standard noted on 22nd June, the capital’s population has “surged to an all-time high of 8.8 million, with a growth rate of 1.3%, more than twice that of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the North of England”. According to the Daily Mail, “White Britons now constitute just 44.9% of London’s inhabitants, with more than 600,000 of them having “fled” the capital over the past decade to rural areas such as South Derbyshire, Mid Suffolk and South Norfolk.

In their place, “residents originally from India dominate ten of the capital’s 32 boroughs while Londoners born in Nigeria, Poland, Turkey and Bangladesh have the highest numbers in at least three areas each”. The Mail has produced a map showing where the different ethnic groups are concentrated: For instance Haringey and Hackney (Turkish), Bromley (Indian), Merton (Polish), Kensington & Chelsea (French), Wandsworth (South African), Lambeth (Jamaican).

This map, however, makes no reference at all to the Latin American community – despite the fact that (as Queen Mary University of London has pointed out in its survey titled “Towards Visibility”) “it is one of the fastest growing migrant populations in the capital, with two-thirds having arrived since 2000”. The survey calculates that there are around 250,000 Latin Americans in the UK, of which 145,000 live in London, especially in Lambeth, Southwark, Newham, Haringey, Westminster, Brent and Barnet.”Brazilians are the largest national group, followed by Colombians, Ecuadorians, Argentinians, Venezuelans, Mexicans, Peruvians. Chileans and Bolivians”.

The Independent journalist, Sarah Morrison, in an article captioned “Caramba! Latin America Takes A Hold On London”, has quoted the Mexican Chef, Fernando Stovell (who has appeared on the BBC’s “Saturday Kitchen”), as pointing out that “People are starting to interact with what Latin American culture is all about: We tend to be very happy – maybe that’s what they want to discover”. Morrison has highlighted the fact that “the community’s cultural presence can be felt all over the capital. There are now Latin American music, film and dance festivals, as well as an abundance of Latin clubs, eateries and art exhibitions”.

It is this Latin American “spirit” that the three Brazilian founders of “Comida Fest – Alicia Bastos, Simone Ruotolo and Gizane Campos – believe they can capture and build upon. Last year (the first), it took place in just one location, on the South Bank behind the ITV studios. This year, they are being even more ambitious, holding it in three different parts of London during the summer “to promote the brand”: In Greenwich (Cutty Sark Gardens, 8th & 9th July), Potters Field Park (Southwest of Tower Bridge, 12th & 13th August) and Bishops Park (Putney Bridge, Fulham, 16th & 17th September). Although “some people will come to all three events”, they acknowledge that Greenwich is a bit far for many who live elsewhere in London and expect the largest crowd to be at Potters Fields Park. They are anticipating an attendance of around 50,000 over the six days, though are well aware that this will depend on the weather and what else is happening on those dates.

In their advance publicity, they describe Comida Fest as “the newest trend in the London street food scene”. In addition to the “experienced traders showcasing the diversity and uniqueness of Latin American countries” by providing “delicious food and drink”, the three events will also offer “ a rich cultural programme with dance, music, literature,special performances and workshops for adults and kids”. No-one else, they say, has attempted what they are now doing. Yes, there are different Venezuelan and Argentinian food traders, but Comida Fest “is putting it all together”. There will be no “repeat menu” – in other words, only one stall selling, for example, arepas or tapas, so “ you can come to all six days and have a wide range of different food”.

The organisers accept that the logistics involved in this enterprise are formidable and that they have to prove that they can make a success of it. There’s no funding from the Arts Council or the Lottery, so they have to raise around £140,000 to cover the cost of issues such as Health & Safety, Insurance, Security and musical entertainment” as well as dealing with the owners (local council, landlord, trustees) of the spaces they are using. When you don’t have money, you have to shrink your budget and maximize your income” , which is why it’s not cheap for traders to participate.

The three girls know full well that they are taking financial risks and quote a Brazilian proverb proclaiming “You have to dance according to the music”, but are convinced they are creating something worthwhile. They are amused by the fact that they are already perceived as millionaires and are being asked to sponsor or fund other activities. Their real situation, though, “is quite the opposite”. They will welcome anyone who wants to take part with open arms: “Get in touch. We need volunteers. Come along”.

Filed under: Immigration & Visas, Music & Dance | Posted on June 29th, 2017 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

The Price Of Failure: Northern Ireland’s Protestants Throw British Politics Into Turmoil:

Have you ever heard of the expression “The Luck Of The Irish”? This “peculiar phrase” (states has often been interpreted as simply meaning that (despite their turbulent history), the Irish are “inherently fortunate” and seem to be able to land on their feet when bad circumstances occur. It has also, however, been attributed to the large number of Irish miners who became rich by taking part in the gold & silver rush in the American west in the second half of the 19th century.

For Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the results of the UK General Election on June 8th has become their version of discovering “a pot of gold”. As the Huffington Post pointed out the following day, the DUP “might be about to take on a pivotal role in British politics”. Since 9th June, international attention has been focused on whether the ten DUP Members of Parliament will “prop up” the Conservative Government and so keep Theresa May in power as Prime Minister.

Although Theresa May has been excoriated by the British media (especially the many newspapers that supported her) for having conducted “a disastrous campaign” and thus winning far fewer constituencies than expected, she will still outnumber the combined opposition parties in the House of Commons if she has the support of the DUP. This would probably – so the Guardian has concluded – be on the basis of a “confidence & supply arrangement”, whereby the DUP would support the Conservatives’ main legislative programme rather than establishing a formal coalition. Despite the Government in theory needing 326 MP s in the 650-seat House of Commons to achieve a basic majority, in reality the required number is smaller: The Speaker and his three deputies don’t vote and the seven elected Sinn Fein MPs won’t attend because, as Republicans, they consider the institution to be “illegitimate” and refuse to swear an oath to the Queen. “This means a working majority actually needs 315 MPs” – which would be exceeded by the 318 Conservative and 10 DUP MPs.

The drawback with these calculations is that the DUP of course will want substantial rewards in exchange,such as (contends the BBC’s Parliamentary correspondent, Mark D’Arcy)“extra funding for all things Northern Ireland, localised tax concessions, more powers for the NI executive and the continuance of the open border with the Republic of Ireland (a member of the European Union)” – hence no checkpoints or customs controls, which “could arouse the anger of the hardline Conservative Brexiteers”.

The Guardian has similarly highlighted the “clear blue water” between the two parties, especially the DUP’s anti-abortion attitudes, its climate change scepticism, its disapproval of the Conservatives’ plans to change the welfare system for pensioners and its opposition to same-sex marriage – which has led the Scottish Conservative Leader, Ruth Davidson to demand reassurance from Theresa May that LGBT rights will not be eroded in return for DUP support. It is highly unlikely that the DUP would ever enter into any deal with the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, mainly because of “his past links with Sinn Fein and his sympathy with the IRA (Irish Republican Army)”.

Ireland is also known as “The Emerald Isle – mainly, according to “Irish”, because the description is “synonymous with the country’s rolling hills and resplendent green valleys”, though it was first portrayed as such in a poem by the 19th-century Belfast political radical William Drennan. The current population of the Republic – which became independent from Britain in 1922 – is estimated at 4,7748,513, of whom 84% are Catholic In the six counties of Northern Ireland, which remained with the UK, the figure is around 1.85 million. In the view of Pauline Hadaway, a writer with “Spiked”magazine, the partition of the island was designed precisely to maintain the supremacy of the Protestants/ Unionists/Loyalists in the north.

The “Good Friday” peace agreement of 10th April 1998 included a guarantee that the constitutional status of Northern Ireland would not be changed without the consent of the majority of its people. The big problem now for the DUP – which, as its name indicates, represents the Unionist community – is that the Protestant population in the province has dropped below 50%, down to 48%, whereas the number of Catholics has risen to 45% and is continuing to increase. In the capital city of Belfast, the Catholics (who tend to be younger) comprise 49% of residents, whereas the “ageing” Protestant community has declined to 42%.

The new leader of Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland, Michelle O’Neill, has declared that Brexit will be a “disaster” for the province and that there should be a referendum on joining the Republic “as soon as possible”. For the moment, reports the Independent, opinion polls show that “a firm majority of NI residents, Catholics as well as Protestants, favour remaining in the UK. Nonetheless, Peter Shirlow, head of the Institute of Irish Studies at Liverpool University, considers that “if Brexit makes the Catholic support for staying with Britain slip away, a future referendum on Irish unification could be very, very tight”.

The decisive factor could be what happens to the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. It now exists, notes the BBC’s Business Presenter, Dominic O’Connell, virtually in name only and runs through farms,roads, hedges and even houses: “The only visible indication when crossing between the two countries is the change in speed limit signs from miles per hour to kilometres”. A reinstatement of a “hard border” could have “deep implications for the Northern Irish economy” as well as potentially undermining the peace process. In May, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, met business owners based near the border who could be negatively affected if trade tariffs are imposed between the UK and the EU. “If there is a will (he asserted) there is a way to resolve the Irish border situation”.


Filed under: Politics | Posted on June 10th, 2017 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

Getting Down To The Roots: What’s In Your Toothpaste? (& How To Squeeze The Tube):

Did you know that the actress Julia Roberts doesn’t use toothpaste? Probably not, unless you’ve ever lived in the same house as her. But does that mean, if you by chance meet her, you should keep at a discreet distance from her? According to Sarah Pope, a columnist for the “Healthy Home Economist”, Roberts shocked “InStyle” magazine by telling them in an interview that she just uses baking soda to brush her teeth – because “it’s what her grandfather always did and he had only one cavity in his entire life”. So that’s how, notes Pope, “Roberts maintains the beautiful smile that has made her famous. And don’t expect her to be promoting any brand of toothpaste on TV any time soon”.

Unlike, for example, the Colombian singer Shakira, who has featured in TV commercials for Crest 3D White Toothpaste, the American actress Brooke Shields, who has marketed Colgate-Palmolive dental products on the basis that they provide “Advanced Protection and a Healthy Mouth” and the English TV presenter, Katy Hill ,who “insisted in a TV commercial that Arm & Hammer’s Advanced Whitening Toothpaste could deliver a shiny, bright smile – just like hers”.

In the case of this last one, as the Daily Mail reported, the ad had to be withdrawn “after 43% of people who used the toothpaste said their teeth looked the same or darker afterwards” Johnny Depp, however, (as rumoured by the “CelebsNow” website) refused to endorse a special “Captain Jack Sparrow” toothpaste as part of the merchandising for the third “Pirates of the Caribbean “ movie: “How can a guy with gold teeth (he apparently asked) sell toothpaste? It’s like a bald man selling shampoo”.

The fact that Julia Roberts doesn’t use toothpaste removes at least one potential source of domestic friction with her husband, the cameraman Daniel Moder. A survey by “UK Bathrooms” has indicated that among the main causes of petty arguments between cohabiting couples are: “Uneven sharing of chores such as the washing-up, the choice of television channels, wearing shoes in the house – and the best way to squeeze the toothpaste tube.

The Guardian journalist Guy Browning considers that squeezing it from the bottom and then carefully rolling it up is “sensible and environmentally friendly”, whereas squeezing it in the middle is “reckless and wantonly self-indulgent”. When the Tellwut Research organization investigated this issue, it discovered that 13% of those questioned squeeze from the top, 35% in the middle, 44% from the bottom, 2% don’t use toothpaste, 1% never brush their teeth and 2% don’t have any teeth so don’t need toothpaste.

The Avenue86 Blog has conducted a “Toothpaste Personality Test” so you can “find out what your toothpaste says about you”. It’s conclusion? If you squeeze the tube from the middle, “You are usually very impulsive, in a hurry, like to party and have a lot of fun”. From the bottom: You are very thrifty and “need to liven up a bit”. From the top: You are very stubborn, quite carefree but can “lose your cool” if someone annoys you.

A subscriber to “Warn International”claims he can recognize immediately which category his office colleagues belong to: The ones who squeeze from the top “never put paper in the photocopier, never put another pot of coffee on and never wash their own cup”. Those who squeeze in the middle “are usually in a bit of a rush, their office is untidy yet functional”, and those who start from the bottom of the tube tend to be “fastidious in their work habits and use every last piece of whatever resource they purchase”. The obvious solution for couples .as “” has pointed out, is for them to buy two tubes: “It won’t cost you any more than sharing the same one and as an added bonus you can also each pick your own preferred taste or variety of toothpaste”.

That of course raises the question as to which is the best, safest and most effective toothpaste. The American marketing expert, Brandon Gaille, based in Houston, Texas, has detected a “consumer trend away from the basic fluoride and white toothpaste options” towards fancy, coloured and flavoured choices. The leading manufactures – especially Colgate-Palmolive and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) – continue to be locked in a fierce battle for global market share, often using allegedly misleading slogans such as “Number 1 Recommended By Dentists”, “It Stops Cavities Before They Start”, “Fights Germs For 12 hours” (all from Colgate), “Most Recommended Toothpaste For Sensitive Teeth” (Sensodyne /GSK) and “Look Mum. No Cavities” (Crest).

While Colgate has complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about GSK’s “unsubstantiated” claim that its “Sensodyne Rapid Relief Toothpaste” works in 60 seconds, it has itself been reprimanded by the ASA for “falsely depicting that its toothpaste products are endorsed by the nursing profession”. The company achieved particular notoriety in 2001, just before the Iraq war , when US President George W Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair acknowledged that their “special relationship” extended to both of them using Colgate toothpaste.

In the London Evening Standard on 23rd May, the newspaper’s “lifestyle correspondent” Kate Hilpern quoted Karen Coates, dental adviser at the Oral Health Foundation, as recommending that we should “Ideally, brush for two minutes with toothpaste which contains between 1,350 – 1,500 ppm fluoride, using a soft-to-medium-headed toothbrush”. This view has been challenged by others who believe that “although fluoride might help prevent cavities, it is also linked to numerous health problems such as rashes and impaired glucose metabolism.

“Eluxe Magazine” and the “Hollywood Homestead” website suggest we should all avoid toothpastes which contain “harmful chemicals like triclosan, sodium lauryl sulphate (which is also used in shampoos) and saccharin and instead opt for “natural alternatives” such as “Jack & Jill Organic Banana Toothpaste”, “Lavera Toothpaste” (contains sea salt and minerals as well as propolis and echinacea extract) and “Aloe Dent Triple Action Toothpaste”. Anyone concerned that these items are unlikely to be stocked in their local pharmacy has been assured by “Eluxe” that they are easily obtainable online.







Filed under: Healthcare, Society | Posted on May 29th, 2017 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

A Night-Time Tour Of London: Thousands Turn Out To Support The Moonwalk Charity’s 20th Anniversary:

GALMW17_PR-008 Do you trust organisations who ask you to contribute some of your money to others who are “more in need”? If not, then you are among the many people around the UK who are certainly well disposed to help “good causes” but are sceptical about what will happen to their donation and how it will be spent. A recent survey conducted by the consumer research agency Populus for the Charity Commission (which regulates this sector in England & Wales) has revealed that “public confidence in charities has fallen to the lowest recorded since monitoring began in 2005”.

This can be partly attributed, say Populus to “critical media coverage of charity practices”, a prominent example of which has been a report for the Mail On Sunday by Daniel Craig, the author of “The Great Charity Scandal”. The figures, he contends, are “astonishing”. There are, he points out more than 195,289 registered charities in the UK that raise and spend close to £80 billion per year and employ over a million staff, “more than our car, aerospace and chemical sectors”. In his opinion, they have become “hungry monsters”, needing ever more of our money to feed their own ambitions and many “spend at least half their income on management, strategy development, campaigning and fund-raising – not what most of us would consider ‘good causes’”.

Craig is particularly critical of the proliferation of organizations that purport to have virtually identical objectives and are thus competing against each other for donations – citing as examples the “£368 million pa Oxfam, the £95 million Christian Aid, the £59 million Action Aid and the £39 million Care International UK who all state that their aim is to reduce and end poverty in the Third World”. So indeed, he adds, do War On Want, World Vision, Concern Worldwide and Comic Relief.

Furthermore, notes Craig, in England & Wales there are 1,939 active charities focused on children; 581 trying to find a cure for cancer; 354 for birds; 255 for animals and 81 for people with alcohol problems: “All have their own offices, executives, administrators, fundraisers and communication experts, but few will admit they are duplicating each other’s efforts”.

The charity sector, however, can’t simply blame the media for the poor image it has acquired. The Populus survey also indicates that 74% of the public are “uncomfortable with the high-pressure fund-raising techniques such as phone calls and street collections” employed by many charities, which in turn “makes them feel less inclined to give money”. Comic Relief, whose “Red Nose Day” this year raised more than £73 million for good causes, has also been exposed by the BBC TV “Panorama” programme as having invested some of the cash it had been given “in companies which manufacture cigarettes,alcohol and armaments” – something that the Independent journalist Paul Vallely has described as “ a real shocker”.

According to Populus, 67% of the public share Craig’s view that charities spend too much of their funds on wages and administration and thus disapprove of the “huge salaries” that Emma Woollacott, a columnist for AOL.UK, has stated are “ being pocketed by many charity bosses”. She has quoted statistics provided by the “Third Sector” magazine that show there “are now 12 charity bosses earning more than £300,000 pa and 32 getting more than £200,000, among them the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of Cancer Research UK (£240,000 pa) and Amnesty International (£210,000 pa)”.

The number of charity advertisements “ flooding our TV screens” has also become a controversial issue: A contributor to a Yahoo debating site on precisely this topic asserted that he had counted “5 begging requests for donations in just one advertising break on Sky News, for tigers, leopards, donkeys, Oxfam and Save The Children ”. He also fulminated that “there is no such thing as giving £3 a month for as long as you can” – in effect, once you’ve committed yourself by phone, the “sales people” at the other end will obstruct any attempt to cancel the payment. Another contributor expressed indignation at “charities that seem more interested in building an empire than the “cause” and whose personnel were allegedly sitting in flash offices, driving executive cars and staying at exotic hotels”.

None of this opprobrium, however, has been attached to the “Walk The Walk” health charity, the organizers of the Moonwalk London 2017 which took place overnight on Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th May. The main objective of this “flagship event”, as they emphasized in their press release, was to raise money for making significant research into breast cancer and to help those living with it; indeed that the annual Moonwalk has produced £116 million subsequently available for grants since the first one took place 20 years ago.

Starting on Clapham Common on the Saturday evening, the more than 15,000 participants (most of whom, including the men, wore decorated bras) followed a route that included Battersea Park, Buckingham Palace, St Paul’s Cathedral, The London Eye, Tate Modern, the Tower Of London, Big Ben and eventually finished again at Clapham Common the following morning. It consisted of a “Half-Moon Marathon” of 13.1 + 2 miles and a more challenging “Full-Moon Marathon” of 26 miles, the two groups separating at the 12-mile stage.

Musical entertainment was provided at selected points on the route, with the “Bahareque” Latin American Rhythms Band performing from 11 pm – 1 am for the participants as they passed through Battersea Park, then the Manouche Gypsy Band at the Wellington Arch (Hyde Park Corner) section, the Fleur de Paris trio in Sloane Square and finally the 1920′s Jazz Band Quartet at the finishing line.

The organizer and founder of “Walk The Walk Worldwide”, Nina Barough CBE hailed the night as “awe-inspiring for every Moonwalker”. The occasion, she declared, was an exciting and unique experience that had united thousands of like-minded people in a common bond – women and men who “not only want to achieve a personal goal but also to make a tangible difference for those with breast cancer”.






Filed under: General, Healthcare | Posted on May 15th, 2017 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »

Summer In the City: London’s Pickpockets Prepare For Their Busiest Time Of The Year:

As the weather gets warmer and you don’t need to put on a jacket or coat, where are you going to keep your credit cards, cash and mobile phone? If you haven’t thought about this yet, it would be advisable – in the opinion of Adam Powell, Head of Operations at the insurance company “Policy Expert” – to consider how to protect your most valuable possessions, especially when travelling by bus or on the underground. As he’s pointed out, London’s public transport system is at it’s most crowded during the summer months, the “peak period” for overseas visitors to the UK capital. It’s therefore important, he emphasizes, that you “remain vigilant and ensure you don’t become a target for either opportunistic or professional thieves”.

According to the London Evening Standard, snatches of mobile smart phones, bags, purses and other items on the Underground have continued to increase sharply. In a report on 27th April, the newspaper’s Crime Editor, Justin Davenport, cited as an example “a gang of pickpockets jailed last year for 30 years after making £5 million from stealing mobile phones from commuters on the Tube”. He also expressed considerable concern that the British Transport Police (BTP) have decided to disband, effective from the end of April, “the so-called ‘Dip Squad’ which has achieved hundreds of arrests of pickpockets in recent years”.

In the opinion of “Strawberry Tours”, passengers should be particularly alert when the train/bus they are on is about to stop “as it’s easy for a thief to grab something and rush out of the door before you have time to process what’s just happened”. Some of their advice, though, is not entirely practicable, such as “Don’t ever travel when you’re sleepy, hungover or drunk”, “Don’t look like a tourist”, which is quite difficult if you are one and “Don’t ask random people for directions” if you’re not sure where you are. They also suggest that you should “try to look as poor as possible when walking around the major tourist attractions, don’t wave around your flashy new phone, carry a handbag that loops around your shoulder and never leave it hanging off a chair in a restaurant”.

The BTP has also published it’s own list of “top tips” to avoid becoming a victim, among them: “Zip up hand and shoulder bags, keep the straps short and carry the bag in front of you with the flaps against your body, don’t display jewellery, install a tracker app on your smart phone, keep your money safely in a pocket out of sight”. The problem with this last recommendation, as the International Business Times journalist, James Lillywhite, has noted is that “Trouser and coat pockets are among the most common places to steal from, with over 75% of victims not realizing they have been robbed” and moreover that “ a good pickpocket understands human psychology and knows that people can only direct their attention at one or two things at the same time”.

The BTP acknowledges that it’s not easy to defend oneself against the “pickpockets’ top tactics”, namely: A single ‘dip’ into a bag, operating under the cover of a newspaper or jacket; a group surrounding and jostling the target; Distraction: spilling a drink, apologizing and then stealing the target’s property; Bag Slashers: Teams of two or four surround the target and cut the strap of the bag or slit the bag itself. The Daily Mail has warned tourists to beware of “helpful strangers” who “lull their victims into a false sense of security while stealing items from their bag”.

As the BBC correspondent ,Caroline Williams, has observed, this doesn’t only happen on the bus, train or underground. She describes a “classic trick” known as the “stall” and used by pick-pocketing gangs all over the world: A “blocker” walks “accidentally” into the path of the victim, another gang member then bumps into both of them and then starts a fabricated argument with his co-conspirator. Amid the confusion, one or both of them steal what they can and pass it to a third member of the gang. Knowing about all these tricks can therefore “make it less likely that your valuables will be pilfered”. Pickpockets will “avoid like the plague people who are demonstrating a very open awareness of their environment” – but they also “tend to loiter near ‘Beware of Pickpockets’ signs because the first thing people do when they read it is to check whether they still have their valuables, thus helpfully revealing where they are”.

Meanwhile, The “Mail on Sunday” columnist, Sally Hamilton, has identified the underground routes on which you should “ hang on more tightly to your wallet, phone and handbag”: The results of a Freedom Of Information request to the BTP have shown that you’re most at risk from pickpockets on the Central and Piccadilly lines, followed by the Northern, Victoria, Circle, District and Bakerloo lines. The Waterloo & City, Docklands Light Railway and Metropolitan are the safest in terms of keeping hold of your valuables. Passengers aged 25 -31 are most likely to be victims, followed by those aged 18-24 and 32-38. The highest number of thefts occurs on a Friday, and women are targeted more often than men. King’s Cross St Pancras “has emerged as the pickpockets’ favourite station”, followed closely by Oxford Circus, then Victoria, Liverpool Street, Stratford, Bank/Monument. Holborn, Green Park and Euston.

Another Daily Mail journalist, Max Margan, has highlighted “The five European cities where you are most likely to be pickpocketed”. They are (based on a TripAdvisor survey): Barcelona, Paris, Madrid, Prague and Rome. The pickpocket gangs of Europe, he has asserted “Are masters of their trade” and will completely ruin your holiday if given the slightest opportunity.

Filed under: Society | Posted on May 2nd, 2017 by Colin D Gordon | No Comments »


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