Here come the girls! (as you’ve never seen them before...) P8
Winter 2017 - People vs Profit #01
A TABLOID FOR THE PEOPLE BY THE PEOPLE
it starts today working behind bars P4
Meet the real:
‘the world’s becoming
DISCOVER THE NORTH EAST’S BEST KEPT SECRET - see P14 + P15
02 we are our media
GET INVOLVED If The Eclipse is something you want to see continue, then we ask you to join us as we build an alternative tabloid together. There are many ways that you can get involved in the project, from writing to drawing, distribution to learning, administration or fundraising or perhaps,
There is a problem in our society Andrew Wilson There is a problem in our society, We encounter it most days, yet we might not quite acknowledge it. It’s there, on the bus to town, in the doctor’s waiting room and it’s with us as we scroll through our news feeds. Silently it seeps into our subconscious and it affects our lives, our communities and our country as a whole. As we scan the daily papers we consume a voice which is not our own. A voice that will unlikely ever hear our voice in return. This is the voice of a media which serves itself, legitimised by the purchasing power that buys the ink and paper that prints it. This voice is lazy, divisive and unjustly demonises the most vulnerable in our society. Something needs to be done Over breakfast in the summer of 2016, Jessie and I, having just met, began to talk about an alternative. This conversation, that started that morning, is still ongoing and now contains many, many others including - activists, artists, teachers, trade unionists, jobseekers, nurses, comedians, football fans, ex-journalists and doctors. What you hold in your hand today is product of that year-long conversation and where we are at today; or rather what you hold in your hand is a proposition, or perhaps an invitation, to you the reader to be part of this alternative narrative, this ongoing conversation. Why a Tabloid? We have often been asked “why make a paper?” and informed “newspaper
simply offering us advice. We are currently fundraising for our second issue – you can do so, however large or small. £1 will pay for one paper de livered directly to our readers door £50 will pay for 50 papers delivered directly into an area £100 will get you 100 copies to distribute within your local area. firstname.lastname@example.org www.weareourmedia.com circulations are in rapid decline.” Yet, it was important for us from very early on, to make something tangible, something that can be given to someone, and literally put into their hand. In the UK if you are poor you are less likely to have access to the internet. Unbelievably almost half of the lowest income group (earning £12,500 a year or less) do not use or do not have access to the internet. Therefore if we were to create an alternative media exclusively for the web, it would exist predominantly for the (relatively) rich. But that is only part of it. I have often thought of the newspaper as an elaborate excuse, a humble communication technology that brings people together to talk and to learn about the things that are happening around them. Having spoken to hundreds of people over the last 12 months we are aware of both the thirst for this conversation but also the void of public space that can suitably hold it. Perhaps a tabloid, created and distributed by and for its readership can be a vehicle to create such a public space? Begining We have printed 10,000 copies of this, our first issue. When we distribute the paper we intend to put it into people’s hands, to give it away with a smile and perhaps a conversation. We will need to do this in numbers, which means people will come together to carry, to lift and deliver. On the face of it 10,000 copies, may seem like a large number, but, for perspective, compare it to the (almost) 2 million copies that The Sun shifts every day. This is just the beginning, but our ambition is bold. If this is something you want to see continue, then we ask you to join us as we build an alternative tabloid together. Get involved!
Issue #1, Winter 2017 Section Editors Esther Beadle, Rachel Bollen, Jessie Jacobs, Andrew Wilson Photography Amalia Read, Phyllis Christopher, Janina Sabaliauskaite Editorial Support David Baines, Mark Blacklock, George Gibson, Gordon Morris, Graeme Patterson, Yvonne Watson
Thanks: ReCoCo, Broadacre House, Chilli Studios, Settle Down Cafe, Campus North, Laundpad NT, Chilli Bizzare, The NewBridge Project, The Bristol Cable, South Leeds Life, Real Media, and of course, perhaps most importantly, everyone who has contributed to this publication.
TAX PAYER HAND-OUT TO MINISTER FAMILY FARM Jessie Jacobs
The family of Iain Duncan Smith, a Tory minister who imposed cuts to benefits, has claimed over a million pounds in taxpayers’ ‘money to help bankroll a family farm. As Universal Credit is rolled out in more towns and cities, threatening to make more poor people suffer, it has been reported that the millionaire minister’s family are recipients of taxpayerfunded handouts. The shake-up of benefits and introduction of the Work Capability Assessment, and more recently Universal Credit, has caused misery for families across the country. It has even been blamed for suicides, as people have been left destitute and without money. Yet while the Government was taking away from the needy and desperate with one hand it was also giving it out to
The town where colour doesn’t count Jake Campbell
AN ONLINE archive celebrating Yemeni people in South Tyneside has passed its two-year milestone.
the family of the multi-millionaire minister. Details of the handouts paid to Swanbourne Home Farms were revealed by The Guardian. The farm business, which operates off the country estate part-owned by Mr Duncan Smith’s son and has the minister’s wife as a trustee, has received more than £1million pounds in taxpayer-funded farming subsidies, known by the EU as “income support for farmers”. The news provoked an angry response from welfare reform campaigners such as John Yorkshire, an organiser for Unite Community who said: “It’s disgusting one minute he’s attacking poor people saying it’s to save taxpayers’ money and in the next he’s filling his families pockets with taxpayers’ money.” A spokesperson for Mr Duncan Smith told The Guardian that “neither Smith nor his wife receive any income from the Swanbourne Estate”.
‘The Yemeni Project’ website honours co-operation between different races and generations by documenting the history of the first settled Muslim population in the UK. It tells the stories of seafarers who arrived on the banks of the Tyne in the 1800s and made their home in South Shields. Founder Leyla Al-Sayadi said: “The Yemeni Project is an online resource showcasing the history of the South Shields Yemeni and wider local community. “It celebrates the town’s tradition of cultural, racial and religious tolerance with lessons as relevant today as over
we are our media 03 Image: Janina Sabaliauskaite
CHILDREN’S EDUCATION IN JEOPARDY Amy Hunt
Mum-of-two from Gosforth
Laura says: ”What kind of bees make milk?” Answer? “Boo-bees!”
100 years ago when the first Yemenis arrived.” At a time of rising Islamophobia, the Yemeni Project tells the story of a community that has sometimes been misrepresented - such as during the so-called ‘race riots’, where Arab seamen were made scapegoats for issues about working conditions in the early 20th century. Rare archival photographs and stories from members of the Al-Azhar mosque in South Shields, the first purpose-built mosque in the country, also feature on the site. theyemeniproject.org.uk
Slashed funding, combined with rising costs, are leaving schools so strapped for cash that they are cutting subjects, raising class sizes and asking parents for contributions. Unions say that since 2015 £2.8bn has been cut from school budgets, with the average primary losing £52,000 and the average secondary £178,000. They accuse the Government of
harming education and say more money is urgently needed to reverse the decline. The ground-breaking School Cuts website (schoolcuts.org.uk) was set up by a group of unions representing teachers and teaching assistants (TAs), in an attempt to get across the scale of the cuts. The site shows the cash loss for each school, along with the number of teachers or TAs it would have to shed to cover the shortfall. Continued on Page 8 >
04 we are our media Deliveroo Riders with large blue boxes on their backs are now a familiar sight in Newcastle. They are RooMen and RooWomen (Deliveroo’s name for them), delivering food to homes and offices from local restaurants. But their quick-fast pedalling to get a warm supper to homes aross the city is tempered by increasing concerns over their pay and rights. The UK is racing headfirst into a socalled ‘gig economy’, where jobs are temporary and short-term, with little security, supposedly in return for flexibilty. Deliveroo riders are one such cohort, and now the pedal power behind one of Newcastle’s fastest-growing trends is speaking out. Attacks They all like cycling but dismiss the stereotype in Deliveroo press releases of dashing young riders freely choosing to make a little cash while pursuing their careers. They’re all ages, from 18 to 66, live locally and some have families. No one in this group left school with qualifications and only one was continuing in education. They all have other jobs to “make ends meet”. They’re an ethnically diverse mix of men and women: 70% of the cyclists and 90% of those on motorbikes are male. They have all experienced attacks and thefts but agreed it’s hardest for women, who are often sexually targeted by customers and men on the street. None were in a trade union but were interested in the Independent Workers Union (IWUGB). “We stick together and are there for each other. If we take on the bosses we’ll go to them or another union.” The riders are key to Deliveroo’s ‘on demand’ delivery operations, started 2013 and now worth hundreds of millions of pounds. It operates in over 80 cities in 12 countries and is growing fast. The founder has sprayed his old motorbike gold: a gaudy symbol of his self-image as ‘a cool game-changer’ in the booming UK gig economy. The riders asked: “Where would the bosses be without us? And agreed: “Nowhere!” Hire and Fire Instead, as their stories reveal, behind Deliveroo’s golden image of success, is an unpredictable business model by which they can be dumped at any time. “It’s dangerous work. We have to pick up and deliver by the fastest routes and we’re out in all weathers from morning till late at night. Yet we’re on zero hour - ‘hire and fire’ - contracts (ZHCs) without a guarantee of minimum work hours, sick pay or holiday pay.
What is it like working for food delivery company Deliveroo? Mary Maguire caught up with a group of riders to find out
deliverwho? “We know ZHCs work for Deliveroo and other apps in the gig economy, as it allows them to take on people like us without any responsibility or risks. “Their boast that they work for riders is rubbish. Okay, some riders like ZHCs, but not with Deliveroo. We don’t benefit from their success at all.”
Employment rights According to one rider: “The contracts have few employment rights such as sick pay or holidays. I’ve been promoted and demoted twice by email with no change to my contract. There is no training or development incentives and our only contact, even after an accident, is through an email with a London supply centre. They’ve reduced our hourly rate of £6.25 plus £1 per drop to £4.75 for each delivery. “They make tiny concessions when pushed but they’re not concerned for us as real people who need to eat, sleep and rest between drops. The boss calls us ‘valued riders’ but he’s growing rich from our efforts while writing us out of Deliveroo’s success.
“No-one in this outfit knows our names or has any interest in us except as breathing machines from which they can squeeze more and more.” Riders for Deliveroo are known as ‘independent contractors’, not entitled to worker rights such as minimum rates of pay or claiming unfair dismissal. They are ‘onboarded’ rather than ‘recruited’, need to purchase their own equipment including the RooBox and don’t clock on to shifts but log into the rider app. All agreed with the judgment of one angry rider, who said: “Deliveroo’s a nohope company and not cool. It’s geeky and clumsy, poorly executed through their app. It’s a joke. “It’s not flexible or new: it’s old fashioned exploitation of us workers, pure and simple. They’ve shovelled away everything that makes us secure, safe or have hopes for a future with them. “So, why are we still here? It’s simple. Without qualifications there’s only courier work with another app like Uber who may treat us better.”
Time to Lauren Conway ‘Wetherspoons offers zero hours employees fixed contracts’ boasted the headlines this time last year. The pub chain had been blasted for having most of its bar, floor and kitchen staff on the zero hours contracts, where employees don’t have any security over their hours. When I started working for the pub chain I was instead put on a new, different and apparently much better ‘guaranteed minimum hours’ contract. What a victory for the workers! I was guaran-
we are our media 05
“We stick together and are there for each other”
Image: Janina Sabaliauskaite
Every year billions of pounds are going to big bosses and company shareholders instead of to the workers. Workers’ campaigners say this is related to the decreasing numbers of people in a trade union, which stands at an alltime low. A recent report by the TUC found workers are experiencing the longest pay squeeze since Victorian times. In 2016, average real weekly pay for UK workers was around £1,200 a year less than it was back in 2008. At the same time, profits in many companies and sectors are at an alltime high. J.D Weatherspoons profits rose nearly 30% to over £100million this year. Tesco reported a £1.28bn annual profit and Costa Coffee owner Whitbread reported a 6% rise in prof profits to over £500m. That’s huge sums of money, so it begs the question - how much is gogo ing into the workers’ pockets? Alan Milne, of the Bakers Union, says it is because unions that could fight for better conditions are kept away. He says: “Just look at McDonalds, their boss is on £11m a year, but their lowest workers can earn as little as £8,000 a year. Unions are avoided like the plague, and that’s how they get away with it.” He
compares this to the North East company Greggs, which encourages trade union membership. “Greggs has pensions, better salaries, workers get a share of profits and they are on the whole treated well. The big difference is trade union membership. “People have to join a union so that it can organise collectively for a better deal. This year, supported by the Bakers Union, workers from McDonalds went on strike. It was the first time in British history that McDonalds workers had taken industrial action. Ben Sellers (pictured), an activist and researcher into trade union history thinks it is unions that need to change though: “Historically, trade unions have always been at the forefront of change, in society and the workplace. From the campaign for a 5 day week to the strikes at Ford Dagenham that led to equal pay for women. “Yet trade union membership is at an all-time low, with now just under 6m people nationally in a trade union,” he said. “We need to get better at educating and reaching unorganised workers, to give them the knowledge they need to bring about that change. e We need more pay campaigns, not just for fast food workers but for baristas, chefs, retail workers, bar stewards and others.”
Illustration: Rachel Bollen
WORKERS MISS OUT ON BILLIONS OF POUNDS EACH YEAR
Regional Secretary for the Trade Union Congress, Beth Farhat, added: “The difference between being in a unionised workplace and a non-unionised workplace can be up to £4,000 a year, “ In 1978, around 82% of workers in the UK had their working conditions set through collective bargaining. The figure is now 20%, compared to a European average of 60%. “This may help explain why, despite statistics showing record numbers of people in work and continued economic growth, the UK is the only large advanced economy in which wages have got smaller.”
call ‘last orders’ on zero hour contracts teed FOUR hours a week! (Although during the interview I was assured by the manager that I would get at least 15 over the course of the weekend). Holiday pay had to be earned. I had no paid sick leave and if I put a holiday day in, it counted as my four hours working. Luckily, I wasn’t counting on Wetherspoons as my only source of income as I was at university. Some of my colleagues, however, were. During term time, I regularly worked 20-25 hour weekends. As it drew close to the summer holidays, I asked my manager if I could increase my hours to full time over the four-month summer period. I am a 24-year-old student living independently with rent to pay, and I needed the security. My managers said yes. However, when the summer rotas were released
I was shocked to see that in two weeks’ time my hours had been reduced to six. I frantically started looking for additional work to supplement my income, knowing that rent was due in a fortnight and I had bills to pay. I am just a woman on my own, I’m quite flexible and have plenty of experience in other professions, so I was able to find a job in the nick of time. I avoided the food bank. How can anyone with children or with less flexibility live with this insecurity? I started asking questions at work. It turned out that even my team leader, who had been in the position for six years, was only guaranteed 12 hours a week, even though he usually works 45
hours. One fear is that pub managers could take on more staff and reduce everyone’s regular hours to their guaranteed minimum. This would mean that staff who had been regularly working over full-time hours would be left with less than part time wages. Wetherspoons employs about 37,000 people across the UK. If such a policy goes ahead, it has the potential to put people out of their homes. Wetherspoons bar associates work for below the living wage, unsociable hours, have no sick pay and clean up more bodily fluids than the average nursery worker (true story). Wetherspoons’ workers deserve better!
“Staff clean up more bodily fluids than the average nursery worker”
Are young people ‘exploited’ in apprenticeships? p10 >
06 we are our media
10 things you probably didn’t know about land
How student flats are taking over one Newcastle neighbourhood
1. 69% of land in the UK is owned by 36,000 people. That’s 0.6% of the UK population. 2. UK housing is concentrated on 5% of the country’s land. 3. Home and land ownership is in decline. 4. A third of British land is still owned by the super-rich. 5. The value of ‘dwellings’ (homes and the land underneath them) has increased by four times between 1995 and 2015, from £1.2trillion to £5.5 tr. 6. The top 10% richest households have five times the wealth of the bottom half of all households combined. 7. Landlords own almost 40% of all former council houses with the Government’s ‘right-to-buy’ scheme. 8. The annual amount of overseas investment in the UK housing market rose from around £6bn per year a decade ago to £32bn by 2014. 9. 74% of house price increases between 1950 and 2012 in the UK can be explained by rising land prices, with the rest due to increases in construction costs. 10. Land often increases in value due to public investment in infrastructure, such as roads, public transport, housing, etc. As a result, such publically funded infrastructure projects almost always involve a substantial transfer of wealth from a large number of taxpayers to a small number of landowners.
Shieldfield or studentville? Julia Heslop An explosion in student housing, including luxury flats for university-goers, has people fearing one Tyneside neighbourhood is being taken over by “student ghettos”. Homes built especially for students have quadrupled in the Ouseburn ward of Newcastle, rising from 662 bed spaces in 2007 to 2,818 in 2016. Students now make up almost a quarter (24.8%) of the area’s population - by far the largest increase in the city. And it is the small, yet densely populated community of Shieldfield, directly beside Northumbria University, that is really feeling the brunt.
Not anti-student While many people in Shieldfield highlight that they aren’t “anti-student”, the influx university-goers has many concerned for the future of their community. It is even reported to have prompted some people to move out the neighbourhood. One 38-year-old mum, who has lived in Shieldfield all her life and currently lives in Shield Street, said: “A friend of mine moved away. There was an issue with students next to her and she sold up and it broke her heart… we’re literally surrounded by student accommodation, we’re actually closed in.” One of the largest developments is Portland Green Student Village which lies on the western edge of City Stadium and can house 1,694 students. Many of the private developments in Shieldfield are marketed as ‘luxury’ and
include gyms, cinema rooms and social spaces. Even Shieldfield’s last two remaining pubs, The Queen’s Arms and Harrogate House, have been turned into student accommodation, with one concerned resident adding: “They’ve destroyed social life in this area”. Council planning bosses admit that the rise of “purpose built student accommodation” (PBSA) has affected the character and social mix of areas af affected. Newcastle City Council’s ‘Maintaining Sustainable Communities’ planning document recognised that students change on an annual basis and have little relationship with the surrounding area.”
“It won’t be delivered by developers but by people themselves” Noise and litter issues, the report add added, have also increased. One journalism student living in a new PBSA block said of the area: “It’s like a student village,” adding, that a lot of student friends “won’t even know what’s surrounding them. It’s like their own little place now.” Lack of local services One resident highlighted a lack of
services for local people satyng: “Everything is for the students isn’t it? It’s a bit unfair for the locals.” Newcastle City Council’s report admitted there was a potential “oversupply” of housing built especially for students. In 2007 the council predicted that up to 5,030 extra bedspaces would be needed to meet future demand across the city. Yet 9,500 bed-spaces were completed to the end of 2016, with planning permission granted for a further 5,172. If all proposed developments go through there will be an “oversupply” of PBSA by two thirds. But what has caused this oversupply? The council initially wanted to ‘engineer’ the movement of students from the areas of Jesmond and Heaton into PBSA - what one local Shieldfield resident described as “student ghettos”. The aim, as stated in the council’s report, was to free-up private lets for non-students - but it seems this has just concentrated students elsewhere, to the more economically deprived community of Shieldfield. The game One local employer, who The Eclipse has agreed not to name, said they believed that developers knew how to take advantage of a now cash-strapped council. They added that developers “know how to play the game and find it relatively easy to hook into the political arena.” Liberal Democrat councillor for Ouseburn, Gareth Kane, said: “The council has lost a number of appeals when the
we are our media 07
PROPERTY DEVELOPERS PLAYING GAMES WITH PEOPLE’S LIVES A real-life game of Monopoly played by investors is making ordinary people’s lives a misery and destroying the environment, according to a property watchdog. Land use in Britain has become dominated by the need to make money rather than improving people’s lives or building better communities, said the Land Justice Network. Robin Grey, a spokesman for the group, which campaigns to change the way land is owned, used, distributed and controlled, claimed investors were little more than Monopoly players. He said they buy up vast amounts of land and property primarily to make huge profits - and people living on the developers’ streets and houses end up paying the price. One new area of difficulty is the buybuy ing up on land in cities to build student accommodation. Mr Grey added: “These investors are Image: Julia Heslop getting away with it, to the detriment of planning committee has refused permispermis- everyone but a small few. sion for a student hall. This simply puts “The most recent growth area, particucouncil-tax-payers’ money into the pock- larly in cities like Newcastle, is the boom ets of rich lawyers. in purpose-built student accommoda“I believe there is a planning case for tion, or PBSA. These investments have rejecting further halls in Shieldfield un- continued to provide a good return for der our existing policies on sustainable investors and so are increasingly popucommunities and housing mix, but our lar.” planning department disagrees. A recent There have been repeated complaints new policy on student halls may limit about the number of these PBSAs befurther development, but its announce- ing built in Newcastle. “This is because ment led to a rush of applications before profit is being put before people,” said it came into force.” Mr Grey. Yet Labour MP for Newcastle East, “With the excuse of that old lie that Nick Brown, said residents and students what’s good for the economy is good needed to be “drawn together” to solve for people - but that just doesn’t hapthe problems of the neighbourhood, pen. These buildings affect the vibrancy stating that: “It won’t be delivered by developers but by people themselves”.
“we’re surround by student accommodation, we’re actually closed in.”
Community But some claim Shieldfield lacks effective community organisations. Hotspur Primary School head, Miles Wallis-Clarke, said: “The natural leaders aren’t there and what is left is a diminished community”. Shieldfield’s future is hard to predict. Whether the community will continue to be ‘done to’ in the name of development, or manage to create a community voice for future development matters, remains to be seen.
The Eclipse tried to contact head of Newcastle City Council’s planning committee, Councillor George Allison, for his take on the issue and response to claims, but he did not respond.
and character of local communities. They also price local people out of the market. How is this good for people?” Peter Hetherington, the author of ‘Whose Land is Our Land?’, said the problem was a relatively recent issue. “Previous governments, Conservative and Labour, had vision, commitment, and a compulsion to deliver decent homes for all, using the powers of the state to drive through big building programmes,” he said. In the immediate post-war years, in which the foundations for the NHS and a welfare state were laid, land was singled out as one of the most basic resources to be nurtured, safeguarded and ± most of all ± used for the public good rather than for private profit. Mr Hetherington added: “Labour had a manifesto commitment to move towards the public ownership of land.” This began with the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act, which effectively
nationalised the right to develop land, as a first step. The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act worked in parallel to safeguard 14,000 miles of public rights of way. New Towns were created to move people out of shoddy or bomb-damaged housing. The state bought land at cheaper agricultural prices and then benefited from a rise in value ± known as betterment ± once it was developed. “At a local level, councils too had ambition,” said Mr Hetherington. One example of this vision cropped up in Newcastle in the early 1960s. Former leader of Newcastle City Council, T. Dan Smith saw land as the key to redeveloping a great city. Mr Hetherington said: “He once recalled: ‘We were buying land left, right and centre [...] buying up the city centre. No development would be allowed unless the council had an equity in it.’ ”
“SO WHAT IS THE HOUSING CRISIS AND WHY HAS IT HAPPENED?”
John Tomaney Since 1970, house prices in the UK have grown at a faster rate than household income. House prices have risen and fallen much more than in other countries and the rate of people owning homes is falling. Why is this? After the Thatcher Government removed rules that controlled how banks lend money, banks have gone from supporting investment in production to lending against the collateral of land. This
has fuelled rising land values that form the basis of rising house prices. In places where demand for homes is high and land is expensive, such as in London and the South-East, house prices have gone up rapidly. But for those who do not own a home, this means it is impossible to buy. In places where demand is low and land is cheap, the value of homes remains depressed. In large parts of the North East, house prices remain below what they were in 2007. This creates a big gap between
rich and poor and North and South. The homes crisis has happened alongside housing changing from being a place to live into an asset and a way for some owners to make money without having to earn it. Property is now the single largest source of wealth in the UK. It makes up half of all total household assets, but this is unevenly distributed among people. This skews our economy and our politics, creating a dangerous house of cards.
08 we are our media
SECOND CHANCE FOR OLD HOME Jake Campbell A FORMER children’s home has been converted into a shelter and workplace to help people out of homelessness. Charity Emmaus North-East recently opened a centre in South Shields, where it offers training and employment opportunities, a bite to eat, and a home under a warm roof. The base on Stanhope Road is an important asset for people in the area who may have nowhere else to go. It also serves as a timely reminder to us that homelessness must not be allowed to remain a ‘hidden’ issue. According to its website, the Emmaus centre will be a home for up to 15 formerly homeless people who will be able to work upcycling furniture. The project builds on the work of two charity shops set up by the group on Tyneside, in Low Fell and Hebburn. In a region hit particularly hard by Government cuts, the Emmaus centre is hoped to provide much-needed support for people who have fallen on hard times, often through no fault of their own. Emmaus welcomes donations and fundraising help, and is always on the lookout for volunteers. www.emmaus.org.uk > Continued from Page 3 CHILDREN’S EDUCATION IN JEOPARDY
Although Education Secretary Justine Greening recently announced an extra £1.3bn for schools over the next two years, albeit taken from elsewhere in the education budget, unions say this will not be enough to make up for what they have already lost. Despite this cash injection 88%, of schools still face cuts. Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the new National Education Union (NEU), said: “The cuts schools are already having to make are only going to get worse, with most schools being faced with cutting subjects, increasing class sizes, cutting staffing, reducing the support for vulnerable children and providing a less rounded education for pupils.” On October 24 teachers and parents lobbied MPs in Parlia-
on the smash Smashing Tabloid Lies & Stereotypes Catherine Ellis
“Parties in Newcastle are some of the most supportive and exciting you could hope to find”
ment to demand more cash for schools in November’s Budget. Whitburn Academy in South Tyneside is one of a number of schools in the region to ask parents to put their hands in their pockets to help make ends meet. And some 94% of teachers are forking out to pay for school essentials such as books, stationery and storage equipment, according to a recent survey by education magazine TES and the National Education Union. However there is evidence the cash crisis in schools has not hit everyone equally. Academy chain bosses hit headlines recently when their high pay was revealed. Sir Dan Moynihan, chief executive of London-based Harris Group, was awarded the largest salary in 2016, of £420,000, with Toby Salt of Ormiston Academies Trust the next biggest earner on £205,000.
An alarm goes off several times a year in the offices of some tabloid newspapers. It rings once before Christmas, once on New Year’s Eve, and then on two or three bank holiday weekends. It reminds them that the North East exists. It’s finally time for Newcastle to reappear in the national press after months of being ignored (apart from regular coverage in the sports section), and always in the same way: pictures of scantily clad drunk girls on big nights out. Anyone who’s ever gone to any city with a bar knows that partying isn’t a Geordie phenomenon, even if up here it’s almost an art form. But the Newcastle that gives us so much art, architecture and culture is used and abused by sleazy journalists looking exclusively for vulnerable, drunk women falling out of nightclubs. Now the Diamond Strip and the Bigg Market aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Maybe you prefer supping craft beer at the Free Trade. Or maybe you go to recitals at the Lit & Phil before heading home for a cocoa. Whatever you choose, it’s clear there’s more to Newcastle’s nightlife than the mainstream media would ever want to show. But even in the loudest, most cocktail-fuelled nightclubs, parties in Newcastle are some of the most supportive and exciting you could hope to find.
“Everyone knows the pictures. Even my lad has mentioned it. They’re minging and it’s not how things are. Just let people have good fun and a good time.” -Demi , 23, Walker, hairdresser
we are our media 09
“They make women look bad, and are taken at the worst point of the night. Women take a long time to get ready and in seconds it’s gone” -Amanda, 21, Leeds, carer
The city is full of people laughing and celebrating, filling the streets with colour, sparkle and impeccable hair that puts most of us to shame. And the atmosphere is supportive, friendly, and pretty well behaved. For every woman who falls off her heels after too much prosecco, there are dozens who will help her up, dust down her frock and make sure she’s safe for the rest of the night. And if you need someone to tell you you’re beautiful and your dress is amazing, just head to any ladies’ loo and make conversation by the sinks. You’ll leave feeling like a princess. But this isn’t what gets reported. Instead, we get the same tired photos, clearly taken without consent. Cherry-picked attractive women in little dresses, sitting on the pavement holding their high heels, judged across the country for doing the sensible thing of scrapping their uncomfortable shoes and getting some chips and fresh air after a few cocktails.
Or maybe they’re tired, emotional, and in need of a hug, a glass of water and a safe taxi, not a camera lens stuck in their face. These pictures might be of Newcastle, but they aren’t for Newcastle. All the papers hunt for is their stereotype of a ‘Geordie woman’ that readers can look down on while they look up her skirt. This isn’t journalism. This is exploitation. We should celebrate our city’s women going out on the town. Women’s freedom to wear what they want, go where they want, and party how they want was hard won. We don’t need judgmental articles written to make Middle England feel smug. And we don’t need creep-shot photos of people enjoying their lives, just so the mainstream press can pretend the North East is a wasteland of Sambuca and debauchery, getting off on pictures of beautiful ‘bad girls’ in the process. So to the mainstream journalists, I say this: treat partygoers like people, and respect the joy Newcastle’s nightlife brings. And if you’re going to take pictures, why not ask first, eh? You might even make some friends.
“We get the same tired photos, clearly taken without consent -women in little dresses, sitting on the pavement holding their high heels”
Images: Phyllis Christopher
“People look at these stories, and say ‘look at the state of them’ but they never show the men. Like that lad we saw the other week, slipping on his own sick at 6.30pm” “This isn’t journalism. This is exploitation”
-Emma, 32, Kenton, Subway staff
10 we are our media
Are young people ‘exploited’ in work apprenticeships?
CHEAP LABOUR “An alarming number of apprentices in the North East are being used as nothing more than a source of cheap labour ” says Craig Dawson, Chair of The Trades Union Congress (TUC) Young Workers Forum. “Apprenticeships should be the gold standard of vocational education however for a growing number of apprentices in sectors such as construction, hairdressing, and education the reality is often low pay and very few opportunities to advance to higher qualifications. We have a productivity crisis in this country and young workers sit at the heart of that.” said Mr Dawson. Following the publication of research carried out by the teaching assistants union GMB, where they state 75% of workers are paid the absolute minimum wage of £3.50 an hour to do the same job as other teaching assistants, we decided to carry out an investigation to find out what is really going on in the North East. We uncovered numerous stories about
bad apprenticeship experiences, and found it isn’t only small businesses that are taking advantage of what should be a good opportunity for young people to learn and develop their skills, larger corporations are also at it. All of the people we spoke to who had bad experiences said that they felt there was no other option. It was either that or a zero hours contract. They have asked to remain anonymous within this article as many are fearful of the consequences of speaking out so we have changed their names. With a large amount of young people being subjected to appalling conditions during apprenticeships, it is refreshing to hear that some companies out there have just got it absolutely right though. In our attempt to find more out about what opportunities are on offer for the region’s youth, we spoke to some workers who couldn’t speak highly enough of their employers. Here are some of the stories we uncovered.
Sarah’s story Sarah, 18, from a North East costal town, was on a business administration apprenticeship but was forced to leave before her qualification had finished as she felt massively let down by the company. Sarah said the reason she had chosen to do this apprenticeship was because there were a lot of applicants and the course on offer was something she had wanted to do for some time. “It sounded interesting and I was excited at being chosen to do it,” she
“I basically taught myself”
said. The firm was a local estate agents claiming to be family owned and she thought this would be the start of a good career. Instead, Sarah said she was treated so badly she had to leave. “In my first week they all randomly took a holiday and I was left with one other girl in the office, who was also on an apprenticeship. I ended up just taking phone calls which helped my customer service, but I basically taught myself.”
“We have a productivity crisis and young workers sit at the heart of it.”
Craig Dawson, chair of The Trades Union Congress (TUC) Young Workers Forum
Jane’s Story Jane, 18, from one of the North East’s major cities, worked alongside more than 200 other apprentices in her role at a large travel firm. The company claims to offer a diverse range of training options for people aged between 16 and 30. Jane started a customer service and business administration course when she was 16, but quickly realised the role wasn’t for her when she discovered she was doing the same job as normal staff, only for much less pay.
Image: Amalia Read
Laura Lee Daly
“Managers did nothing”
“Most of my shifts were spent doing all the work the normal staff did while the managers sat about and did nothing. I had to make tea and coffee for everyone and go out and get dinners. That was about it,” she said. Jane wasn’t the only person there to feel this way, she added. “Loads of people were leaving for the same reason and as far as I know not many of the people who stayed actually got a job at the end of it.”
we are our media 11
a positive apprenticeship:
Ethan McGhin, 19, from Seaham is curcur rently working at Great Annual Savings on a customer experience apprenticeship. He feels as if this position has been more than he had hoped for. “I can honestly say it has gone above my expectations. I’ve learned so much already,” said Ethan. One of the main reasons he is enjoying his apprenticeship is that he is being treated well and feels like part of the team. “I am being treated as a colleague and not a student, which certainly seems to be a more effective way of learning that when I went to college.” Ethan’s course offers twice what is currently the minimum wage of an apprentice, and money was also a factor when choosing this role. “I hope to have a full time role which adds great value to the business, but I also hope to have skills which can be transferred to any other industry. All without the burden of university debt.” Chris Hobbs, the customer experience manager at Great Annual Savings, explained that the company wanted to create a more diverse range of employment opportunities in the North East. It hired its first apprentice in 2015 when they took on nine
“I am being treated as a colleague, not a student”
people from 800 applicants. They offer these positions to people fresh out of education or in a job they didn’t see as a long term career, although their positions aren’t limited by age. “We’ve never put an age limit on our apprenticeships, so they are for anyone with the drive to succeed,” he said. There is potential for progression within the company. During their first year all apprentices hired were taken on in full-time roles within the company. Chris said that everyone got something out of the apprenticeship schemes: “Nurturing a young person through an apprenticeship programme has also enriched the development of our management. It’s genuinely been a win-win for everyone involved to date.” In fact the company has done so well it is actually now an award winning business, being listed in the Sunday Times Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers in the UK. There will be another intake for Great Annual Savings in 2018 for anyone looking for an apprenticeship visit: theacademy.greatannualsavings.com
Ethan (left) and colleagues at Great Annual Savings
Images: Graeme Patterson
YOUNG PEOPLE PAYING THE PRICE Mick Hills The past few years have been devastating for young people, particularly poor young people. Getting a job that does not end in a dead-end is now an ultra competitive struggle. Competition for the low paid jobs, those with the basic pay, dismal conditions, and uncertain hours, is at an all time high. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation published depressing facts that highlight the plight of the young seeking employment in austerity ravaged Britain. It reveals that over two-thirds of job applications (69%) received no response at all. Furthermore 78% of the jobs applied for paid under £7 an hour, while 54% offered the minimum wage. Just 24% of the vacancies offered full-time, daytime work. In the weak labour market 10 jobseekers chased every job compared to five jobseekers in the previous stronger climate. The new flagship apprenticeship scheme, hailed to end youth unemployment, has been condemned by some, for disproportionately favoring young people from affluent backgrounds. The social mobility watchdog found
youngsters from poor families took up only 10% of apprenticeships. There are also many examples of poor quality apprenticeships that do nothing more than simply offer a lower salary for workers doing the same job. The North East’s proud industrial heritage is being ripped apart as manufacturing jobs are shipped abroad to even lower waged economies. The young are all but abandoned to a future of unskilled, low paid labour. Then there are our children who once they proudly gain their degree, find themselves doing jobs that require little academic rigor. Education cuts to staffing levels and a mass of bewildering changes to how children are judged in exams, plus growing class numbers, is failing most children. And let’s not forget the youth services, supposed to help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, have all but gone in many towns and cities. Worried mums and dads are starting to understand that the situation can not go on. As Jeremy Corbyn said: “Things have to change.” It’s just a matter of when.
12 we are our media
‘For people, not profit’
Unique initiative faces new challenge Iris Priest Between 2006 and 2015 the big, wooden double doors at the top of Stepney Bank overlooking the Ouseburn Valley became something of an alternative Newcastle landmark. Whether painted blue or purple, in rain, sleet or shine, those doors welcomed through them people of all ages and backgrounds. With a membership open to anyone willing to volunteer and free cinema entry given to asylum seekers and the unwaged, the Star and Shadow Cinema offered something unique: a free space in the city for the people to create their own communities through culture. As Christo Wallers, one of the film makers behind the Star and Shadow said: “any of you can be involved if you wanted to […] come to a Monday night meeting and just start volunteering.” As is often the case with flourishing DIY initiatives, in 2015 the owners of the cinemas’ premises decided to take their land back for redevelopment (i.e. private housing). However, a dedicated core of Star and Shadow volunteers de-
cided they were not going to allow this to be the closing scene for the grassroots cinema and arts venue. “Everyone agreed. We’re going to buy somewhere and be in control of our future,” said Rachel Bollen, volunteer and site supervisor. In the early part of 2016, after some searching and negotiation with Newcastle City Council, the Star and Shadow acquired a new space (the former SCS carpet warehouse) on Warwick Street less than 10 minutes away from the old site. The feeling among volunteers was that it was important to maintain a relationship with the old site and even more so with the community of which it was a part. Following the move to Warwick Street a series of local community consultations were held to gauge local resident’s opinions and gather their feedback. “This is what being a Community Benefit Society is about” said Carmel McGrath, a Star and Shadow volunteer. “We are a cooperative, run for the benefit of the people of our community, not for financial profit.” What are co-operatives? Page 22 >
We’re going to be in control of our future”
NO Boss, NO Employees completed mainly by unskilled in individuals all working and learning together. Get Involved Anyone can join the project, receive a volunteer induction and get involved with the build, regardless of experience. The building site is open 10am till 6pm Monday to Friday, and at the weekend, 11am till 5pm. Tea, coffee, and lunch is provided, with cooked meals at weekends. If building is not your thing there are other ways to get involved. Other groups are working tirelessly behind the scenes on fundraising, volunteer recruitment, marketing, cooking volunteer meals and campaigning, as well as constantly improving the way the cinema is run. Whatever experience or skills you would like to contribute or develop, the Star and Shadow Cinema appreciates any and all contributions and always supports volunteers whatever hours they are willing to put in. starandshadow.org.uk
“It is compelling that so many peo-
ple are willing to dedicate their free time to a building project that will earn them no financial rewards”
Images: Janina Sabaliauskaite
The Star and Shadow is a commu community cinema and venue run by volunteers. Having operated out of rented premises for nine years the group are currently building a new home on Warwick Street. The ethos of the Star and Shadow is one of inclusion, peer-to-peer learning and consensus decisionmaking. There is no boss, no employees, no directors and no formal hierarchy - which means there is no single curatorial vision. Everyone involved has a part in making The Star and Shadow Cinema what it is. The building project on the new site is overseen by site supervisors (all volunteers themselves) who coordinate the daily work undertaken by a dedicated, ever growing, team of volunteers. Sticking with their Do It Yourself principles - much like this newspaper - the group decided to complete the build themselves rather than employ trained professionals. This means that the build is being
we are our media 13
building a ‘Reel’ Alternative Volunteers work daily to transform empty warehouse into a DIY cinema
“Things don’t always go to plan, but what keeps me motivated is being part of something bigger than just myself”
Iris Priest Almost two years after the Star and Shadow Cinema closed its doors, volunteers have been working daily to build a new venue. Gutting a vast warehouse on Warwick Street volunteers have been laying the foundations and building walls which will eventually play host not only to a cinema but also to a bar/cafe, a library, a gig venue, meeting spaces, artist studios and dedicated workshops (including screen printing and darkroom facilities). “We are none of us builders, bricklayers, carpenters or plumbers,” said
Stephen, a volunteer and site supervisor, during the cinema’s Annual General Meeting in September. “We are all learning as we go.”
Value In a society dominated by profit, it is compelling that so many people are willing to dedicate their free time to a building project that will earn them no financial rewards. The energy and enthusiasm of the volunteers - not to mention the responsibility many of them have taken on becoming site supervisors, scissor lift operators, bookkeepers and first aiders - is testament to the other systems of value
which they are investing in and benefiting from. Values which include civic and social capital, wellbeing and happiness, art and culture, lifelong learning, and the personal and social connections. “It’s hard work,” said one volunteer in a high vis and covered in dust, during a recent site visit. “And things don’t always go to plan, but what keeps me motivated is the being part of something bigger than just myself.” Together One of the aspects of the Star and Shadow Cinema which sets it apart from other cinemas and cultural
venues is the way in which it is programmed, run and now (literally) built by its audience. As volunteer Christo Wallers said: “The idea was, if we all build the space together … physically build it, then we will all want to use it. So gradually the audience becomes more and more involved. Deeper “It’s very important that the Star and Shadow Cinema can be a platform for creating cultural agency and also changing the consumption element from something that’s purely market-led to something deeper.”
14 we are our media
THE BIG GEORGE & YVONNE INTERVIEW: Our fave double act meets The
Davy King at ReCoCo
Y: Hello, I’m Yvonne and this is George, and we’d like to interview you today. What’s your name please? DK: Hi, my name’s Davy King. I work at ReCoCo but I’m also a student at ReCoCo. I mainly deal with benefits in my work, not all but two of the main benefits. I help people complete their forms and I prepare them for appeal and we try to see it all the way through, because we know that many appeals win. Y: And do you enjoy doing that? DK: I do, I find it very rewarding. I do get anxious. I don’t mind saying, anxiety is one of my problems but in a sense the anxiety means I’m conscientious, and I never miss a deadline and I’m proud of that. Y: How does coming to ReCoCo change people’s lives? DK: Well, it changed my life. I wasn’t happy where I was and I found this place and I’ve seen it for what it is – so many different things. By just talking to people you realise ReCoCo means the world to people and there are so many things to do, so many ways to help or be helped. It’s just a great place. G: What do you think if the college closed down? DK: Well, it would be devastating. We are not respected and that makes me cross.
‘We will find somewhere we’re too important’
”If anybody knows the Reuben Brothers point them in this direction”
George & Yvonne
NOTICE TO QUIT Mary Maguire Broadacre House in Newcastle is a very special place full of voluntary, community and trade union groups providing valuable resources to workers, people in poverty, those with mental and physical difficulties. It includes the amazing Recovery College Collective (ReCoCo) which supports people with mental health conditions towards finding and maintaining their own recovery. They all have to leave the building and are looking for other premises so they can continue helping people across the North East and stay as near to each other as possible. They need our help to do that. Here’s what you can do to help spread the word. Contact your local MP and ward councillor or anyone you know with influence and ask them to rise the issue and help them. You can also contact the building owners, the Reuben Brothers, the richest people in the whole country who describe themselves as philanthropists. Email: email@example.com to get in touch with them.
Y: Hello, what’s your name? AG: I’m Angela Glascott I’m coordinator of the Recovery College, part of ReCoCo. Y: And what do you do here? AG: We are a peer-led… not really a service. We are kind of an educational establishment but also give people a lot of support and help them realise their strengths and give them opportunities to keep well, stay strong. We provide people with some understanding around courses and workshops, or why they feel or behave the way they do, and hopefully equip them with some skills to manage their emotions
G: So what was your illness like, before here? Or do you not want to discuss it? AG: I don’t mind, I don’t mind discussing it. Not so much an illness more a kind of disorder maybe, that’s what they call it. I have a personality disorder, so I think the old term is ‘borderline personality disorder’ but it’s kind of called ‘emotionally unstable’. So, yeah, that’s from having a difficult childhood and having to wait until I was in my 30s and 40s before I
Y: And do you offer any specific courses? AG: Yeah we do a lot of courses around, well that really: understanding emotions, understanding where they come from, understanding why sometimes we have difficulty, I guess, on a day-to-day basis and not becoming overwhelmed by things.
Angela Glascott at ReCoCo
Image: George and Yvonne
‘There are so many ways to help’
we are our media 15
Recovery College Collective and hears fears for its future George & Yvonne: ‘Our fave double act’
could learn how to manage my emotions.
AG: I did social work. I became a social worker in the 90s, because I’d had some difficulties when I was younger and I’d kind of wandered round and lived abroad for a few years I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And then I thought well, I’ll help people. Then I became unwell again, so I didn’t work for a long time. And then when I did want to work again, when my daughter was two, I was sick to death of sitting in the house watching Teletubbies. I thought ‘What am I going to do?’ I had been off for years with mental health problems so who is going to employ me? And then I saw there was a few jobs advertised for those who have had mental health problems. I got a job at Pathways in Gateshead and I got that one and from there I went on to work in the NHS. Y: Do you enjoy doing your job? AG: Yeah I do, I do. It can be stressful sometimes but it’s worth it. But I like it. I feel as I’m doing something here. Whereas for a long time I was working in the NHS and you can’t actually do anything. You can’t make things happen because there is that many obstacles it is ridiculous. They have got lost in processes and systems that they forget what it
Image: Amalia Read
Y: And how then did you manage to get into this kind of job?
“Broadcare House is a fantastic building full of wonderful organisations”
is about. We’ve ended up in Broadacre House, which is a fantastic building that is just full of wonderful organisations and we all kind of use each other. So it’s been useful to be able to send people down to different places in the building. So, we have got a rape crisis centre, we’ve got Tyneside Action Against Unemployment, and they send people up here as well. So it’s been brilliant. Y: Why do you have to leave? AG: Well, Yvonne, because the billionaires that own the building would like to earn more money on it. Though, they don’t actually know that we’re here and I think if they did
know what happened in this building, I don’t think they would be in so much of a rush to put us out. Y: Could we try and get them here to show them what’s going on? AG: I’d love to. I think we have had a couple of dozen of people email the foundation, but with them being billionaires they are in the kind of circles where they only speak to other billionaires. G: So we’re Donald Ducked? AG: Yeah. But if anybody knows the Reuben Brothers, point them in this direction.
‘Caring people, just like family’ Yvonne Watson I have always suffered with depression, for 30 years off and on, and been put on meds to help me cope. I have my good days but more bad days. Most days I feel like shit. Depression is horrible, it makes you feel so low that I have felt that I should not be here and did not want to live. It makes you feel that no one cares, lonely, worthless and not
in control. I let myself go, not wanting to get out of bed. People talking about you like some kind of freak, and a hell of a lot more. I was fed up going to my GP. All he would do was give me tablets and not even look at me when he was talking. I thought I had done something wrong to him. I have had a long way to go but I feel a lot better now. I have
joined ReCoCo and it is a great place to go: friendly, welcoming and everyone understands each other. I wish something like this was open before I had my children. I just want to be well and have a good life, to be happy and to help others the way I have had help. The people are great, so understanding, caring and friendly people, just down to earth really, and just like family.
rich list Brothers buy up the toon Gordon Morris Broadacre House, in Market Street, Newcastle, where the Recovery College and other charity and voluntary groups have been based, is owned by the Reuben Brothers. They have decided to put the building to other uses, as part of extensive plans for the Pilgrim Street area of the city centre. They are doing this through Montcomb Estates, which they own. Their projects include converting the former fire station in Pilgrim Street into a boutique hotel and restaurants. The design work is being done by Ryder Architecture. Other schemes include converting the former Magistrates’ Court and police station, as well as the site of the nowdemolished Odeon Cinema, to new use. The Reuben Brothers ± Simon and David ± were born in India. They are now in their 70s and last year were listed by the Sunday Times as being the richest people in Britain, with assets of more than £13billion. They live in Monaco, and David has a home in Florida. They started their business careers in the scrap metal trade. They went on to become major property owners. Among their substantial range of premises in London are Milbank Tower, the John Lewis and American Express offices in Victoria, Carlton House, the Primark store in Oxford Street, as well as various other shops and office buildings.
16 we are our media
You’ve seen the film, now meet Alan Evans: A real
I know nothing about the film, ‘I, Daniel Blake’. I had been told not to watch it. Everyone that had seen the film was advising me not to watch it because, as I was told, I was living that film. If it was on TV now I’d probably watch it. I’d be interested to see if the story is as bad as what I was going through and what other people go through.
I ended up drinking quite a lot, stupid amounts of alcohol, and one day realised that enough was enough. I was homeless for a bit, living in a tent in a mate’s back garden. I started doing courses at Crisis Skylight, music and Streetwise Opera. I then started to go to Chilli Studios as well and made some really good friends, my life was going up and up. Things were going well until about October, when I got the forms for PIP (Personal Independence Payments). I had been on DLA (Disability Living Allowance) for 20 years. So when I filled in the new form I thought I didn’t need any help, and then about one month later I got a date for my PIP assessment. Scared People were saying, “you’ll get through it no bother”, but I didn’t know what to expect and was I was scared. I’ve got problems with my leg - a split bone in my knee from playing football. I get pain and I’ve got arthritis so my mobility’s not great. I’ve got other health problems too, high blood pressure and a hearing aid, but my mental health is the big thing. At the assessment I found it bizarre that they didn’t ask questions about my knee, even after I hobbled over to the bench in the room. The main thing they had me doing was touching my nose. I’ve got nothing wrong with my upper body, it’s all lower. On my way out, in the reception, I stumbled and had to grab onto the wall just to keep myself upright. In January I got a letter saying that I hadn’t qualified for PIP. I read the whole thing and I couldn’t make sense of it. I got zero points. Surely I should have got points for my hearing aid? I couldn’t process the news. My DLA stopped and I didn’t know what to do. I was still attending Chilli Studios but my mood was low. Bills needed paying and I didn’t have any money. Both my TV and a washer was from a hire/purchase company, and I couldn’t afford to pay them. The only thing I was claiming was Jobseekers. I couldn’t afford food so I was given a foodbank voucher from Crisis. I was a reluctant to use it at first as I felt other people deserved it more than me. I’m a single man living on my own, there are families out there that are struggling and I had the mind-set that they needed it more than me. When I went to the foodbank I realised there were so many people in the same boat as me. They gave me everything I needed, soap so I could have a wash, toothpaste so I could brush my teeth; I think it was four bags of stuff. The volunteers were really nice, they asked how I was and if I’d like a cup of tea, and a biscuit. That was a big thing for me. I was in need of things and I was expecting them to look down their noses at me, I feared I was going to be judged for being poor, but it wasn’t like that. I sent my washer back, I got my TV payments down and I got my phone bill reduced. But I couldn’t see where it was helping. I was saving all this money that I didn’t have. It felt like I should have extra money, but I still didn’t have enough for food and I fell behind with my council tax. Adamant My mental health was on the floor. I was contemplating suicide, I just couldn’t see any way out. I couldn’t pay bills, I couldn’t buy basic shopping, I couldn’t cope. This was in January, but this was also March, April, May and June. This was a seven or eight-month journey of having absolutely nothing. I was adamant I was going to appeal the PIP decision, but I didn’t know how. Then Crisis introduced me to the Tyneside Centre Against Unemployment who support people like me with the appeal process. They told me I had a good case and supported me to write my letter of appeal.
I was getting Jobseeker’s Allowance so every week I had to commit to looking for work and talking to my advisor. I had to do it otherwise I’d get sanctioned and I’d end up with no money and then I’d be fucked. I was one of the lucky ones because I was classed as disabled and only had to do 16 hours a week of job search. For an abled body person (I hate that description) it’s 30-40 hours a week. My Jobcentre advisor was hard with me at first, but over a matter of months she got to know me. Her hands were tied, she couldn’t do anything more but I could see if she could she would have. I would spend my days at Chilli Studios and at Crisis Skylight. I should have been out of Crisis by January but because I was vulnerably housed they couldn’t progress me. So I’m still there. Rock Pete was at Crisis before me but it was here at Chilli Studios where we met. Pete is a close friend, we have really bonded over this last year. He has been amazing, it’s hard to explain the type of person he is but he doesn’t take any shit. He doesn’t have me going up to him saying I feel really bad, or this, or that, he’s like “so fuck, get on with it” and that is what I needed at the time. I didn’t need people feeling sorry for me I needed his bluntness and I’ve returned the favour to him as well. So when he’s coming in saying this or that I’ll say “I’m not arsed, mate”. But we do music together and we have performed, it’s been great. He is a great mate. In hard times you find out who your friends are and Pete has been a rock.
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Alan, with Bob Malpiedi at Chilli Studios
”Her hands were tied, she couldn’t do anything more”
Gail Ward Karen Sherlock was a wife and mother and a dear friend to many. She worked all her life in the NHS and paid her dues until she became seriously ill due to diabetic complications that she had from childhood. Atos, a private contractor for the Department of Work and Pensions(DWP), medically discharged her from employment. Karen described her first work capability assessment (WCA) in spring 2008 as a ‘joke’, she never heard the results and was called for another WCA in August 2008 when she was placed in the work related activity group. For all these reasons she was correctly found unfit to perform her role in the NHS. But the WCA is not designed to consider whether someone is fit to work in their job of training. It is a brutal tool intended to separate people out into three categories:. Those who are unfit for any kind of work are placed into the support group with no conditions attached to their benefit receipt; those who are considered entirely fit for work are transferred to Jobseekers Allowance; and the work-related activity group (WRAG), intended for people with some disability or health problems considered able to return to the work-
supporting others like herself whom were struggling to survive, while her husband Nigel was working, supporting and caring for her. Eventually with Karen’s health rapidly declining and awaiting further surgery, on May 30, 2012, she was finally placed in the support group where she should have been all along. I remember that call well, as it was full of tears of relief that finally she would be free from being harassed by the DWP for a while until her next assessment, and she and her family would have money to survive. Little did we know that merely 10 days later Karen Sherlock would be no longer with us. She suffered a cardiac arrest and died. This is a far cry from the supposed ‘lazy benefit scrounger’ rhetoric the public are led to believe when reading the headlines in the press or on the media of claimants claiming social security. Karen Sherlock These are people whose hardworking lives are turned upside down when need. Yes, you know that safety net they need support at a vulnerable point in their lives, who are inevitably we were all promised. I can still hear her laughter ringing denied the support they require. in my ears from the dark humour we shared about the process and those RIP Karen Sherlock- age 44. implementing it. She was just a mid- Died June 8, 2012, leaving her husband dle aged woman who was fighting the and two children. machinery of the DWP, helping and place in some future capacity. Karen and I used to speak daily, as she did with many other campaigners. I tried to reassure her that it would come right in the end, but she had to challenge these ludicrous decisions to get her into the correct group. Karen had four WCAs between 2008 and 2012, with subsequent appeal processes which caused her and her family untold anxiety and distress from a bureaucratic system designed to obstruct claimants their rightful entitlement to support in times of
I went for my appeal on a Monday. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. It was basically court, where you have got me in the middle of John, from the Tyneside Centre, and Bob Malpiedi, the manager from Chilli Studios. On the other side you have the Judge, a disability expert, a doctor and then sitting at the far side was the court clerk. For two hours I was getting questions fired at me: How far can you walk? Could you walk over the road without stopping? What was your childhood like? It was a blur. I couldn’t look at them. They stopped me halfway through because I was rubbing my head quite hard. I hadn’t realised, but I was getting really anxious. They said, “do you know you are rubbing your head?” It was horrible, to the point where Bob was affected. Bob is normally a bubbly person but there was nothing he could do, he couldn’t say anything. I waited for about an hour or so for the result. They had decided to overturn the previous decision, so I got awarded PIP, the standard rate for mobility and the standard rate for care. I missed out on the enhanced rate by two points. I was on a high but I still didn’t have anything. It would take another two months before I got a payment. I would still struggle to pay bills, to buy food, everything.
and Ralph McTell. I said, “Yeah, yeah, I’ll do that”. It was surreal, one week from getting my appeal overturned and the following week getting this charity single invitation with Annie Lennox. I can’t put into words how much help I got and how low I had been, thinking that killing myself would be better than the situation I was in. But I got help from those around me, at Chilli Studios, at Crisis Skylight, at the Tyneside Centre for Unemployment, at the foodbanks and the opportunities that came my way. I think I’ve realised recently that the money is good, it helps, but it hasn’t solved any of the problems i’m having. Yes, I can now pay my rent on time, I can pay my bills but I’m still in pain with my knee and I still have mental health problems.
Surreal Shortly afterwards I went for counselling at Crisis Skylight and as I was leaving one of the managers asked to speak with me. She explained that for their 50th anniversary Crisis were going to release a charity single. It sounds surreal, but he asked me if I would like to represent Newcastle on the record as a backing singer for Annie Lennox
www.crisis.org.uk 0191 222 0622
www.chillistudios.co.uk 0191 209 4058
Tyneside Centre Against Unemployment 07999967792
Image: Amalia Read
”There are families that are struggling and I had the mindset that they needed it more than me”
Karen Sherlock: A real ‘I, Daniel Blake’ story
18 we are our media
‘I wrote to the PM and her team, I called them idiots’ Peter Bell
Do It Ourselves Journalism Can we? Really? Sue Lewis Some of the items in the newspaper you’re reading just now have been written by people just like you. Not professional journalists, but ordinary people living in Newcastle and the North East. In April this year a group of us came together to start learning about being citizen journalists. And what a group! A mixture of students and retired folks, people from different cultural and religious backgrounds, Geordies and others not lucky enough to be born in the city. One from sunny California. A comedian, artists. But also people struggling with ill health or have first-hand experience of current welfare issues and the effect of austerity on people’s lives. You could say it didn’t start too well. A power cut across half of Newcastle meant that to get to our first meeting we had to use the stairs to the fifth floor of Broadacre House. Phew! Everyone made it, though: the young and the notquite-so-young, the fit and notso-fit. It was clear that everyone was keen to make this work. Everyone was eager to produce something that’s different from mainstream newspapers. “it’s all crime and misery […] we want a happier paper,” said Yvonne. And we want to dig deeper into a story, and include good news pieces on local characters and unsung heroes: “voices that aren’t being heard in mainstream media, that should be heard,” said George. We signed up for seven training sessions, over 14 weeks. The paper’s initiators, Andrew and Jessie, hosted the sessions and we also got advice from two ex-journalists
Image: Esther Beadle
(both used to work on North East papers) who teach at Newcastle University. In the first couple of sessions we thought about how the mainstream tabloids work. They mix the big stories with entertainment, and their stories are short, snappy and easy to read. There are things to learn from that. We looked at other community newspapers to see how they work. Some are internet “papers”, but we decided we wanted ours to be printed on actual paper, so that people who don’t have a computer or smartphone can read it. Or so you can shove it in your pocket or your bag and take it to read on the bus. And when you’re done, we won’t mind if you wrap your chips in it, or hand it to somebody else. Next, we began learning how to create a story, use photos and write a headline. Steve summed up another session with his practice front page headline which simply read, “What are facts?” So we learned how to stay within the law when investigating and writing stories. No “fake news” here. A few weeks after the end of the course we had another get-together. Andrew and Jessie, encouraged us to decide what to investigate and write about. A scary thought, but we’ve done it. That’s what you’re reading today. As one of our editors, Andrew, said, “it’s news, but telling it differently”. Get Involved It’s been challenging, but we’ve had fun. Inspired to get involved? Visit our website:
“Not All Disabilities Are Visible” This statement was on a sign on a disabled people’s toilet in a local supermarket. It was there because a wheelchair user had complained about an apparently fit person had used the toilet before them. That was me. I have irritable bowel syndrome. I cannot go anywhere where I can’t have immediate access to a toilet. This is not something I’m proud of. Try this sometime. If you aren’t in a wheelchair, try to borrow one. Get someone to push you around some shops for a while. Try not to get angry at all of the people who talk to the person pushing you, but not you. I bet you can’t. I used to get Disability Living Allowance (DLA). I was awarded it indefinitely, forever. This is being replaced by Personal Independence Payment (PIP). I had to fill in a form, which reduced me to tears. And send in medical evidence. Then I had to go for a medical assessment. The person who assessed me is known as the Medical Professional (MP). (This is not the same as MPs in the House of Commons). She was a physiotherapist. I am an alcoholic. I drink alcohol, sometimes in pubs. This is BAD. I am a manic depressive. I used to be a teacher in a secondary school. I went through an extended depressive episode. I was bullied. Deliberately. I was given bottom set’s in every year group, every day. The biggest problem these kids have is that they have been taught to have low expectations of themselves. It is hard work to overcome this. I lasted two months. Went on the sick. I was about to go back to work, when my immune system collapsed, I went into anaphylactic shock (this happens to people who have food allergies). It was my 46th birthday. I was given a steroid injection. This gave me Type-1 diabetes. I have to take insulin. I have hypos three to four times a week. A hypo is where my blood sugar goes to low. If it’s too low I should eat or drink something with a high sugar level. If I am on my own, I get confused. I could DIE! This doesn’t happen every day. To get PIP you have to be ill every day. I didn’t know I had diabetes. I was sent home. I got thirsty. I drank full sugar Coke. My
blood sugar went too high. My body started to produce ketones (the most common ketone is acetone, it’s used in nail varnish remover). My wife can smell ketones. Not everyone can. She phoned for an ambulance. We have two kids. She didn’t come with me, but told the driver about the ketones. He didn’t pass this information on. The people in the hospital couldn’t smell ketones. Dying is interesting. You just lie down and wait for the pain to go away. A doctor saved me by getting a drip into a major artery. They also inserted a tube to take away urine. When I woke up this brought back some of the pain. This gave me Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I have flashbacks. But not every day. I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). On my 60th birthday I was looking at my CD collection. I have thousands. I have some that I have never listened to. I felt guilty. So now I am listening to them in alphabetical order. Today I am up to Shostakovich. This insanity is GOOD. It does happen every day.
Illustration: John Harrison
PIP relies on a points system. I was awarded no points. That’s right. Zero. Nada. Nowt. At this point I did something you’re not supposed to, I wrote to the PM and her management team, and I called them idiots. I told them I have a biology degree. This is true. They changed their minds. I now get the full amount for daily care. When I was researching this article I interviewed several people. They were all scared. Didn’t want to be named. Some were near-suicidal. I have written evidence to prove my case and if anyone wants to challenge it, go ahead!
we are our media 19
A nuclear winter is coming? Game of May?
So, in the past three months Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump have engaged in a glorified troll match in the comments section of the world’s most popular local paper. A man who can barely read, representing the worst capitalism has to offer vs the bloke in the pub who keeps asking every other punter “what ye looking at?” trading trash talk while the world looks on. It’s like the Mayweather/McGregor fight was a predictive satire piece. Except these two aren’t fighting in a ring. They’re fighting in the media, in foreign policy, and on Twitter. Twitter have been so affected by Trump’s presidency, they’ve extended their character count just to keep up with his ramblings. But the fighters aren’t being paid $100million this time. The cost of this match is far higher. I don’t need to explain the risk of nuclear war, but just imagine Trump on Twitter for the next two years.
He’s young, Geordie and Asian, Rahul Kohli warns us that ‘Game of Thrones’ is bleeding into reality “Citizens didn’t leave North Korea cause of SAD KIM. Now they don’t leave cause they’re quarantined. #GreatJob” “NK Citizen’s never had 5 potatoes or 1 vote a year. Now thanks to me they have 12 fingers. #RealGrowth” “WReal Sorry bout what happened to Japan, least it not our fault this time, besides: own fault. They had massive debt. #WeTried” It’s ultimately our lives, and our children’s lives, at stake. A simple case not of profit over people, but of power over people, and certainly ego over reason. Is it any wonder how Game of Thrones, a fantasy about monstrous leaders using political machinations, war and dragons to cling onto power no matter how many smallfolk die, is the most popular show in the world? Meanwhile in the UK, Theresa May has gone from “Brexit means Brexit”, to “there will be a transitional period till
2021 which smartly pushes the problem onto the next government.” Watching the Florence Speech was like watching a comedian whose first five minutes died, but they need to do 15 minutes more if they want their cheque. Boris Johnson has reiterated a lie about giving back £350,000 a week to the NHS if we get the hard Brexit he wants. Not the soft Brexit that JUDAS May’s after in an attempt to push for leadership with the further right of the party. And who suffers while the Tories play Machiavelli? The same people who have suffered since David Cameron played it June 2016: the British public. Except this time, Remainers get uncertainty and Brexiteers don’t even get Brexit. Another case of power over people. And it is any wonder how Game of Thrones, a fantasy about monstrous leaders who use political machina… Oh. Finally, Uber was banned from operating in London. Those for the ban
Confessions of a Hedgehog Murderer A tragic, one-in-a-million, road accident has highlighted how traffic is pushing wildlife to the edge of extinction. Trainee teacher Michael Holt, 28, was telling passengers in his car about the perilous state of Britain’s hedgehog population - when he accidentally ran over one and killed it. The freak death on a quiet backroad at Trimdon, Co Durham, left the driver, from Hartlepool, with a mixture of guilt and determination to make amends. Michael said that the UK’s hedgehog population has fallen from an estimated 30m in the 1950s to barely a million and he was devastated to kill one of them.
“I feel extremely guilty,” he said. “I was lecturing the passengers in my car about how close hedgehogs are to extinction, only to find myself running one of them over minutes later.” He said he has since tried to make amends by rescuing hedgehogs he sees out during daylight - a telltale sign that
the animal is ill or in distress. Michael added: “Whenever I see a hedgehog out in the daytime I have taken it to a nearby hedgehog sanctuary to nurse it back to health.” “I’ve killed one, but saved two. That’s how I am justifying it. According to the British Hedgehog Preservation Society the UK hedgehog population is in serious decline. The BHPS says a third of the loss is thought to have taken place in the past 10 years. Its 2015 report found rural populations had declined by at least a half and urban populations by up to a third since 2000.
argue they treat drivers awfully, they’ve deliberately hidden driver assaults, and they don’t pay tax. Those against the ban argue less choice for consumers, it’s bad for business confidence and 40,000 mainly BME (black and minority ethnic) workers are now jobless. But whether you’re a BME Uber driver, a pissed consumer, or frustratingly arguing for the umpteenth time why the ban is good, it’s us who suffer, however first-world the problem is. Personally I don’t see why many UK companies who’ve openly avoided corporate responsibility are allowed to ‘reform’, but Uber is now banned, but then again I think we should ban companies that don’t pay tax. * *This article was written on a MacBook purchased from Amazon using jokes I posted on Facebook. If you’re not sure of any of these references, please Google.
Hedgehog experts say there are steps which could be taken to arrest the Heddecline:
-Better public transport to re reduce car use, reducing the chances of hedgehogs being run over -Better urban planning which ensures suitable habitats for hedgehogs -Encouraging farmers to pro provide hedgehog-friending environments, like bushes, in which the population could recover. -More hedgehog openings in garden fences to ease their travel between homes
20 we are our media
Writing’s on the wall for handwriting
These changes reflect their own privileged, private school experiences. This is a far cry from the childhood of most children in England. Learning facts and grammar are at the heart of the new curriculum. The idea that this will provide the foundation for an effective workforce of the future is outdated and highly flawed. Recalling facts is unnecessary in this day and age. A few clicks and any question you have is answered. In fact, will our ability to memorise and recite facts disappear as humans evolve? Education should be focussed upon helping children to become well-
rounded human beings with exceptional thinking skills and creativity. They will need these attributes because we can’t predict the challenges that they will face. Children must be prepared for jobs we can’t even begin to imagine. They should be learning to think creatively, have ideas, use imagination, persist and show resilience. A vital part of the Early Years Curriculum (for children aged 0 – 5 years) is lost as these children progress through school. We don’t need a private school style education for all. We need a broad and balanced curriculum that empowers children to become well-rounded young people and adults who live fulfilling, enriched lives. Wouldn’t that improve our communities? It’s a shame this government seems to be looking backwards at a time when technology and the world is changing so rapidly. They say that “writing [...] depends on fluent, legible and, eventually, speedy handwriting.” For now perhaps. But shouldn’t we be looking forward? After all, as Whitney Houston once said, “I believe the children are our future”. But that future will probably not depend on penmanship.
tainly not the grandkids to come. Yea, yea, yea, so what do we say, about what Thatcher did? A lot thought, hey we are okay, we will get by, probably the old cow is right. Yes we did think that, and it was because of the foundations our own parents left for us. A workforce represented by trade unions who put in place our rights. We parents who voted in a Labour Government that gave us ‘cradle to grave’ care. We allowed Thatcher to destroy the world that our kids would inherit.
So we owe them big time and we owe our grandkids too, if we are lucky to have the love they bring. So as the Small Faces sang, “What ya gonna do about it”? Tell you one thing you can do for starters, just give your head a shake and start taking some notice. Then when the penny drops start agitating. Annoy someone to action like I am trying to annoy you now. Because we deserve to be annoyed, we owe our kids and grandkids. We can put it right but we are in the last chance saloon.
Should all writing be handwritten? Our Government seems to think so. Primaryaged children now need to meet a ‘handwriting element’ of the curriculum in order to do well. How often do you use a pen and paper? I even write my shopping lists on my phone these days. So for how long can we cling to this outdated idea that writing must be handwritten? When will we acknowledge the realities of technology and abandon these archaic methods of showing knowledge? Surely the current six-year-olds will not still be writing out handwritten essays for their exams in 10 years’ time? In 2027? Already some young children begin their education blissfully unaware of pencils and their purposes. A few demonstrate a new technique of dangling a pencil by the very top, in the vain hope that marks might magically appear. Others might swipe right along a piece of paper and wait for magic ink to appear from the tips of their fingers. In the near future, these children will write. They will write reams - mainly on social media. But it is highly unlikely that they will write with a pen or pencil.
Illustration: Rob Wilkinson
They will write often and in many surprising ways in order to express themselves. They will be largely concerned with the content, and not the presentation of their writing. As should we. Many will write for a living. They and their employers will not be concerned about their poor tripod pencil grip - not while typing or swiping on some form of as yet unknown technology. They won’t need good handwriting if their thoughts are dictated into voice recognition software. The Department of Education has made changes to the school curriculum for children aged five to 11 years old.
In the last chance saloon Mick Hills Remember when Great Britain made you think of fairness, honesty and standing up against the spiv and the fly-by-night? What happened while we were growing old? What happened to our fine principles? Yes ours, and our responsibility to make sure Britain stayed that way. Yes, I’m talking to you. Our kids and grandkids are now the most exploited in Europe. Wages are down with the Greeks. Kids fobbed off with fake apprenticeships, any damned thing, just get them off benefits. These are our kids our grandkids and we have let them down. Yes, us. We had our apprenticeships, real ones, the oil boom the offshore yards with big money, the easy mortgages, the lot. And don’t give me that “oh well the world has changed we can’t afford a life for them now” business. So there is no money about now, hey? Wanna bet? Top bosses getting paid
183 times what the average wage earner gets, off-shore tax dodging done by those same bosses and their companies, oh just £67billion a year - and that’s just this country alone. My age group has had the best, a cracking NHS, probably a proper apprenticeship and a half decent education after the war. Better than our fathers had, who fought to get us the world we have lived in. And what have we done? Taken it all, put our feet up, allowed ourselves to be brainwashed that there ain’t anything left for the next generation, and the one after that, and it’s inevitable that just a few take the lot. Not good enough my friend, not good enough by a country mile. Not only have these kids a lousy deal at work, if they want an education they get thrown into debtor’s jail or go bankrupt for doing it. And it’s all happened on our daddy and mammy shift. We have allowed this to happen, not them, not the kids and cer-
Image: Graeme Patterson
We’ve let our children down
we are our media 21
WE ARE OUR MEDIA
LifeStyle Grandma’s Top Sounds a-peeling 10 tips: ‘Make do and Mend’ Jessie Jacobs I was brought up by Grandma. She was an amazing woman who lived through the war and always had a good tip or two to ensure things lasted that little bit longer. We have been asking people what their grandmas’ tips were and here are 10 of our favourites. 1. Keep jam jars, rinse them and use them as glasses, or add holes and use them as candle holders. 2. Cut the feet off a babygro means you go from winter PJs for baby to summer ones and they last a whole lot longer. 3. If your hem falls down while you are at work, use a stapler to keep it in place until you get home.
REfUSE are a food-waste organisation setting up a permanent cafe in Chester le Street. They’ve been running pop-up restaurants across the County for two years, picking up food from supermarkets, shops and suppliers which would go to waste and feeding it to people. They also provide food for four primary schools in Ferry Hill as part of their Fuel For Schools Project. All their meals are pay as you feel. They have provided this scummy recipe that makes the most of old Bananas.
Banana Bread 3 (very) ripe bananas 1/3 cup butter (about 1/4 of the block 1 tsp baking powder pinch of salt 2/3 cup sugar 1 egg 1 1/2 cups flour
4. Cut off the end of a toothpaste tube to ensure you don’t waste any (also works for foundation).
6. Buy cheap pound shop lipstick in the colour of kids’ shoes as a cheap stain/ touch-up for little leather shoes. 7. If shoes are pinching, soak them and stuff with newspaper to expand.
Any other tips? Email them to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Preheat the oven to 175C 1. Mash the bananas until smooth and mushy, the beat in the egg. 2. Mix together the butter and the sugar until pale and fluffy. 3. Add the flour to the butter/sugar mix, then blend in the banana and beat until smooth. 4. Pour the mix into whatever tin you have. Ideally it would be a loaf tin, but if your tins are flat, then just follow the instructions below to change the cooking time. 5. Put your tin in the oven for 50 minutes. If you’re using a shallow cake tin then start checking from 25 minutes, otherwise, check from 45 minutes. If your loaf tin is deep then it might even need longer. To check if it’s done, just pierce a fork into the middle of the cake and when the fork comes out with no cake batter on it, you’ll know it’s ready.
8. Touch-up leather sofas with some shoe polish and rapeseed oil.
10. Use clear nail varnish to stop a ladder in tights from running.
I hate washing up the scales so prefer to use ‘cups’. You don’t need standard ‘measuring cups’, just fill a standard coffee mug filled two thirds.
Depending on what we get we add raisins, chocolate or berries to the mix too. As long as its not too moist, like orange pieces or strawberries, then have a go adding anything and see how it turns out!
5. Boil white socks in a pan to make them whiter.
9. Use old T-shirts as dusters.
We always get given boxes of bananas going slightly soft. If I’m feel lazy, I’ll mash/blend them up with milk to make a banana milkshake, adding porridge oats to bulk it out, but if I’ve got a free afternoon. I love this simple banana bread.
top S ) t ’ n o D ( le) p p A ( e h T Press
APPLES from your garden or allotment can be swapped for free bottles of cider after a call from Urban Apples in South Shields, producers of the pun-tastic Tyne Cider. You will need to offer a minimum of 5kg of apples in exchange for a 20% return on the ‘dry weight’ of your haul. Urban Apples co-founder Cameron Ross, who started producing cider in his garage using a kit he received as a Christ Christmas present, said that the aim of Urban Apples was “to make great-tasting cider using the apples from people’s gardens
that would normally go to waste.” For those who find plenty of bruised apples on their lawn but only have time to bake the odd pie or crumble, Urban Apples, on Henry Robson Way, could make an ideal home for unwanted fruit. Riffing on the trend for ‘craft’ beer – small-batch real ales, often inspired by hop-forward US styles, using local produce wherever possible – Urban Apples hopes to offer the next logical step in using an abundant British product. We’ll drink to that!
22 we are our media
WE ARE OUR MEDIA
Solid as a Northern Rock? Mark Dixon
Our Bank The ‘Rock’ was our bank. It was an organisation that local people invested in because the Rock cared about the health, wealth and culture of our region. Of course those shareholders lost virtually everything when the Labour administration effectively nationalised the bank in 2007. Fast forward 10 years, and the current Government is, reportedly, set to turn its ownership of the Rock into an estimated £9.6billion profit, whilst the Rock’s original shareholders are yet to receive any compensation whatsoever. The collapse of the Rock was catastrophic for the many pensioners and local investors who lost their shares, but the bank’s demise has been felt across the wider region too. Profits From its humble beginnings in 1850 as the Northern Counties’ Permanent Building society, the Rock was set up to support for its northern membership. Such was the ethos of NR that its members demanded 5% of profits be used for causes that benefited the North East when it was demutualised in the 1990’s. And so, the Northern Rock Foundation was formed, and in the years before the bank hit the buffers it put over £200m of Rock profits to good use in the region.
Illustration: Rachel Bollen
September 2017 marked the 10th anniversary of the Northern Rock collapse and the beginning of the financial crisis. Ten years on, and local authorities in the North East are still struggling to make the necessary cost savings that the Government’s austerity programme demanded in the wake of the banking meltdown. The demolition of local services is without doubt a national tragedy but the Northern Rock story, even today, tells uniquely of the North East’s growing economic powerlessness and of the government’s disregard for the North’s regional prosperity. Grants The Foundation’s ‘Aspiration’ and ‘Regeneration’ schemes helped small community-based projects, giving grants to the likes of the Cumbria Deaf Association, St Helen’s Millbank Youth Club and Bearpark Community Centre. The charity also helped many of the organisations that form the cultural backbone of the North, with Middlesbrough’s MIMA, the Baltic, and the Sage Centre for Music all receiving substantial support during the years leading up to 2007. Indeed, before the bank collapsed under the stewardship of Adam Applegarth, the Northern Rock Foundation was the region’s most important charitable investor, having given over 4,000 grants to a wide variety of regional projects. When Virgin Money, of Richard Branson fame, hoovered up the remnants of the Rock in 2012, many were hopeful when the buyout included an agreement to maintain the work of the Foundation - albeit with a reduced 1% donation from profits. Slashed Having given just £1.5m to the Foundation, Virgin Money ended its relationship with the charity after just two years, and the region’s biggest charity saw its yearly income slashed from
£31m in 2006 to absolutely nothing in 2013. Inevitably, the Northern Rock Foundation ceased work in 2014. Virgin Money’s commitment to the Foundation was, perhaps, just enough to acquire a viable UK banking presence at a bargain price. It held onto the Foundation, perhaps, for a conveniently acceptable grace period - just enough time, one might argue, for it to avoid any adverse publicity at the time of the buyout. No organisation has since replaced
the scope of the Foundation’s charitable work, nor does it look likely that one will, given the Rock’s unique historical association with the North East. What’s more, the huge sums lost by the bank’s 150,000 shareholders coupled with the demise of the Foundation has resulted in a catastrophic flow of investment capital leaving the region for good. Discount The proceeds of the bank’s profits have been terminally diverted from causes that helped the region, whilst the losses felt by local shareholders have helped a global-profit driven multinational buy a viable banking business at what many think is a discount price. Whilst shareholders lost their life savings, chief executive Adam Applegarth received a resignation exit bonus of £785,000 and a £2.6m pension as reward for his disastrous stewardship of NR. Having shown little remorse for the part he played, recent reports suggest he has recently taken up a lucrative position in the financial services company Pine Brook Partners. It’s nice to see that Adam Applegarth, at least, has recovered from the financial crisis of 2007-2008.
What are Co-ops? James Doran
Unlike traditional businesses, co-ops are companies owned by their members and run on a democratic basis. The Co-operative supermarket is the most well known co-op in Britain. But there’s more to co-ops than supermarkets. There’s credit unions, pubs, and housing co-ops. In every part of the economy there are co-ops providing goods and services. And there are a great number of worker co-operatives, businesses owned by their employees. During 2017 there were nearly 7,000 co-operatives active in the UK, employing just over 225,000 people.
we are our media 23
Can business put people first?
Bex Dawkes Most of us don’t believe that business puts people first, and maybe we are right not to trust them. Media scandals have shown us time and time again that companies put their profits and shareholders before their customers, employees, the environment and society as a whole. We say ‘them’ as though businesses are evil forces with minds of their own. A business is, we must remember, just a collection of people. People who have come together to achieve more than what they could achieve on their own. The word ‘company’ originally comes from the French word ‘companion’, which itself comes from ‘pain’, the French word for bread. A company is, therefore, literally a group of people to ‘break bread’ with ± i.e. share a meal. In recent times, we’ve forgotten this
idea that companies are actually just made up of people. If we choose to remember it, we should believe that for a company to be successful, it must put people at the centre of all of its decisions - its staff, customers, suppliers and the wider community. But many companies don’t. We all know of businesses that are guilty of zero hour contracts, low pay, bad working conditions, factories overseas, air pollution, environmental damage. All are signs that a company is more focussed on making money, than it is on respecting the people and environment that it depends on. The fact that many companies do not put people first, is the reason why many of us are unfulfilled in our jobs, or maybe aren’t reaching our potential. It’s why so many of us hate our ‘workplace
culture’. It’s why the UK is facing a productivity crisis. But we’re at a fork in the road. Start-ups can see that traditional business models don’t put people first. So new entrepreneurs are choosing dif different ways to run their companies. BCorp stands for ‘Benefit Corporation’. This new type of for-profit company has been created to redefine what success means in business. In order to become a BCorp, a company is rigorously assessed against social, environmental and transparency criteria, to make sure they are actually benefitting our society. These businesses, in addition to social enterprises and Community Interest Companies, have exploded in number across the UK over the last three years. These organisations have ‘social good’ built into their founda-
Co-ops all tend to stick by a range of principles to keep them working in the best interests of their members and customers.
to team up to increase their power and have a louder voice. Women were able to vote in co-operatives before they got the right to vote.
4. Autonomy and independence. Co-ops are independent organisations - they are not controlled by the state or local councils - but they do have a concern for local communities.
1. Voluntary and open membership. Membership of coops is entirely voluntary and are open to for people to join on an equal footing.
3. Member economic participation. This is one of the defining parts of co-operative organisations. Members contribute to, and democratically control, the way money in the co-op is used - whether it is saved, invested back into the group, shared back among members or spent on outside causes the co-op membership approves of.
5. Education, training and information. The Co-operative Bank and Co-operatives UK, the network for Britain’s co-ops, provide support to people wanting to start or grow co-ops. “The Hive” offers online advice and support, working with existing coops to put on training events across the UK.
2. Democratic member control. The first co-operatives were set up before ordinary people had the right to vote in elections for parliament. They allowed working people
Mim and Nikki from Durham-based food waste café Refuse tions. Their popularity only looks set to grow. Newcastle-based investment firm Numbers for Good, Durham-based food waste café Refuse (pictured), and region-wide North East Community Energy company are all local examples of these new pro-social business mod models. It’s not just small businesses though. Since the global financial crisis, big business leaders have been waking up to the importance of people too. Evidence shows that companies with a purpose that benefits society, are more profitable than companies without one. Other research shows that focussing on people rather than profit, leads to more loyal employees and customers. Because of all of this evidence, a ‘purposeful business’ movement is growing in the UK. More companies are trying to improve their behaviours, cultures and values. They are trying to treat people more fairly, like human beings, rather than like human ‘resources’. Our Government seems keen for business to put people first too. This year, two important reports have been released: the Mission-Led Business review and the Corporate Governance review. Both of which conclude that business behaviour is changing for the better. There is still a very long way to go before all businesses operate in the way we’d like them to, but progress is definitely being made. The key point though, is that if we want business to put people first, we must first remember that businesses are just people.
6. Cooperation among cooperatives. One of the most important co-operative principles is co-operation between co-operatives. Without solidarity, the movement cannot grow in strength. Because the first co-ops were established as part of the struggle for democracy, the co-operative movement has a shared heritage with the trade union movement. Trade unions, like co-ops, are an attempt to increase democracy at work. In the UK, the trade union Community has joined forces with Indycube to launch a union
co-op. Indycube Community aims to organise the self-employed, offering services such as the guaranteed payment of invoices and access to shared office space. 7. Concern for community. Cooperatives work for the benefit of their members or the community in which they are based. For example, customer-owned retail co-ops invest twice as much of their profits in local areas than their competitors.
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UNIVERSAL CREDIT: One benefit but many drawbacks Gail Ward Universal Credit is the Government’s new way of paying benefits, aimed at ‘simplifying’ Britain’s notoriously complex welfare system. But in its effort to ditch old complications, there are real concerns the move will introduce new problems all of its own. The new UC will be a single payment that replaces six current income-related benefits, and affects people both in and out of work. Out will go: Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance ( JSA), Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), and Income Support Instead claimants will receive a single payment of Universal Credit. However, as some people have already discovered, it is not as straightforward as it should be. The key to making it easier for yourself is to be prepared. To begin with, all applications have to be made online - a paperbased version is NOT available. This will be of some concern for those who do not have internet access, and will have to seek help and support to complete this process. Claimants will need to provide documents to process their claim so it is best they have these prepared in advance of starting the online process. A major consideration is that UC is paid monthly not fortnightly as current benefits are, so people will need to prepare for this. There is also a seven-day waiting period for most claimants. This means it could take up to six weeks before your first payment arrives. Not every one can be bugged to cover something like this, so there is something called a ‘short term advance’ for which people can apply. People should ask their advisors to explain this to them. However, there is also professional advice available - most of this is online but people without internet access can call into Citizens Advice Bureau for face-toface help.
MONEY FOR NOTHING
What would you do with free money? Toby Lloyd Would you rather be paid a lot of money to do a job that you hate or earn a lot less for doing something that you love? For a growing number of people working 40 hours a week in return for a secure lifestyle is not a reality. Many don’t have enough work to pay the bills and others have so much work to do that they do not have any free time to spend with their family or friends. The impact of this on society is being felt by all of us. Mental health problems increase, in-work poverty is rising and household debt is higher than in 2007 when the banking crisis happened. Some believe that a way to relieve these pressures and help us to develop a more equal society would be to give everyone a ‘Universal Basic Income’. This would be a non-means-tested payment from the Government, which would be enough money to cover our basic living costs and keep everyone out of poverty. An important feature of Universal
Basic Income is that we would all receive it whether we have a job or not. A full-time fire fighter, a part-time teacher or a stay-at-home parent would all get the same payment each month.
For example, raising children, caring for the elderly, volunteering and other activities we enjoy which also benefit our communities, like gardening, playing sport and socialising. The common argument against Universal Basic Income is that it would reduce the incentive to work and make everyone lazy. But what if we thought of it like the state pension. How many lazy pensioners do you know? Because the high cost of childcare, many families have to rely on retired parents to look af after their children so they can afford to go to work. Universal Basic Income may sound idealistic but it would allow us to earn a living by doing things that we care about instead of being forced into work that we hate just to keep a roof Instead of dividing us into those above our heads. It will not solve all our who are employed and unemployed, problems but it could be the first step to Universal Basic Income would be a help reform many of the systems that are way to invest in our society and rere currently in place and enable us to build ward us for all of the unpaid work a fairer society. that is done in order for it to function.
Each year British people lose 30 times more via tax dodging than benefit fraud
Britain loses around £30billion a year to tax avoidance and evasion it is estimated. This is 30 times that of benefit fraud, so why is it we only seem to be talking about benefit fraud? Tax is the price all of us pay to live in a safe, secure and healthy society. Tax is also our money. It is spent on the things that benefit all of us - police, healthcare, roads, schools, fire services, parks, community centres, child care, the army and our prisons. Without these things our country would not function and none of us would be safe. This is why the issue of tax evasion (the illegal practice of defrauding HMRC) and tax avoidance (the
immoral practice of hiding profits through clever loopholes in the law) is something we should all be talking about. Big companies make big money by doing business in the UK. If we were not the safe, secure and healthy society that we are, they would be much less likely to do business here. Companies like to know their money is safe. They want to know workers will come to work and won’t be ill. They like to know the economy is secure. Yet more and more these big companies, such as Amazon, have found ways to avoid their important contributions to the British economy and the public purse.
In 2011, Amazon had UK sales of £3.35b yet only reported a £1.8m ‘tax expense’. They used loopholes in the law to hide their profits and avoid paying much tax at all. Tax avoidance has been going on for a long time and things don’t seem to be getting any better if you look at how little the big companies still pay in tax each year. Yet the public outcry always seems to be directed towards benefits cheats. It is not maybe surprising then that the Government has 3,315 people investigating benefit fraud cases. Yet HMRC only employs 300 people to investigate tax fraud within big businesses. This seems upside down to me. If we really wanted to fix the supposed holes in our economy, why don’t we go after the people who are cheating us of the most? Maybe if there was more of an outcry, they would do something?
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Universal Basic Income it’s just common sense If it is broke, fix it. Because it is broke, a joke in fact, the way we live, our thwarted aspirations. Animal Farm sadly still rings true “We are all equal, some more equal than others.” Equality is seen as left wing or idealistic, greed as ambition. Consider this, most people who have considerable wealth are ultimately very unhappy, it only ticks shallow surface boxes. The happiest people on earth are those that can respect themselves, with decent values. Nothing can feel
like the pride in doing something good, helping someone. Wealth is a fallacy. Tribal communities who take care of one another and have only what they need are the most staple example of human coexistence. Universal Basic Income is radical. However we need to take very radical changes in the way we live. Just because things have always been this way does not make them right. The planet and its resources should be protected and all humans should be utterly equal.
Universal Credit Michael Holt
I became unemployed at the start of summer, having not visited a Jobcentre for years. “Jobseeker’s Allowance” has now been replaced by the “Universal Credit” system. From registering as unemployed, it took six weeks before receiving my first payment of £317.82 (£52.97 a week). This was not such a difficult situation for myself (as I live with my parents and I was able to eke out my last wage). It is easy to see how somebody in a more financially precarious position could be
Many people may be activists without even realising it. signing a petition, or joining a protest or march are all a way to try and change something which makes you angry or put right something you think is wrong. But many people also do not think of themselves as activists. Well maybe it’s time to change that. There are many ways you can get involved in community activism, you can join a union such as Unite Community Membership (which is not restricted to people doing a particular job) or you can join a local campaign group or a political party that represents the views that you are passionate about. Don’t be afraid to stand up and speak out, get involved, I mean who wouldn’t want a fairer more compassionate country to live in? Over the decades many have fought to give us the rights we now enjoy. If you are looking for specialist groups here are a few examples; Welfare advice: citizensadvice.org.uk/ keepournhspublic.com/ lawcentres.org.uk/ thepeoplesassembly.org.uk/ turn2us.org.uk/ peoplesmomentum.com/ Disability: blacktrianglecampaign.org/ dpac.uk.net/ carerwatch.com/
Get active! Get involved! The sooner you start, the sooner you can make a difference.
pushed into the red with such a long delay. I had to rack up debt on my credit card to purchase new shoes and pay for travel to job interviews. The system itself requires a high standard of IT skills to navigate, I could see it leaving many applicants that struggle with IT frustrated (especially since the Government’s ‘helpline’ was priced at 55p a minute!). Conclusion: we need a less punitive social security system
“It is easy to see how somebody in a more precarious position could be pushed into the red with such a long delay”
Image/Illustration: John Harrison
GET ACTIVE, GET INVOLVED
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Council Land Grab: Nothing New In 1771 the Common Council of Newcastle enclosed a part of the Town Moor with the intention of letting it. This land grab provoked a furious campaign against the enclosure. After a long legal battle the Freemen of the City were granted permanent grazing rights to the Moor. That’s why we see all the cows there. But questions about rights to land use didn’t go away. One of Tyneside’s radical heroes, the much-forgotten Thomas Spence, was inspired by the Town Moor incident. Born in Newcastle to a working-class family, Spence became a schoolteacher and eventually a bookseller, publishing his political ideas on the streets of Newcastle and then London. His dangerous views ± he championed the ‘rights of man’ over money and vested interests ± landed him in prison several times. Spence thought that land should belong to the people who live on it. He argued for the abolition of landlords and for all land to be owned by selfgoverning parishes, local community government by local people. His ideas are worth thinking about today. Green spaces in Newcastle are under threat. Since 2010 Newcastle City Council’s parks’ budget has reduced by more than 90%. In 2017 it has been widely reported that the Labour city council is considering handing over the running of the bulk of its parks and allotments to a new charitable trust. This charitable trust would carry out the funding and management of 33 parks and 50-plus hectares of allotments. Although the city council says it is
Ilustration: M. Duckett
committed to keeping access free for all, questions remain. How is a charitable trust going to secure funding? How would it be accountable to the public? Access to green space is important for physical and mental health and wellbeing. Parks provide a space for people to relax and have fun. And Newcastle has some of the most beautiful parks in the country. In trying to find funds though, it is easy to imagine businesses being given priority to access over local people and community groups. Or some land being sold off. Surely, we the people, should decide how our parks are funded and run? As well-meaning as a charitable trust might be, the voice of the people has to be central when deciding the future of our shared natural resources. That’s where Thomas Spence comes in. It’s time to give Newcastle’s open land to all of us to use and share. We don’t need backroom deals but transparent decision-making in which we can all have a say. Parks owned and governed by the local community. A democratic parish where we all have a vote, not a charitable trust run by a small board. If not, we might find that our free green spaces disappear.
That apprentice‘ship’ has sailed
Remember when an apprenticeship may have meant a job for life? My apprenticeship started in 1979 as a craft electrical fitter. This was installing and maintaining heavy electrical plant, transformers and switchgear. My apprenticeship lasted four years, the first two was split into time spent at a training centre in Leeds, where I weas taught the practical skills and Rotherham College of Technology where I did a City and Guilds qualification in electrical engineering. The second two years were spent on-site working alongside and under the supervision of established tradesmen. For the first three months we were
on probation, but of the 60 or so apprentices only one was let go because he was more academic than practical. We had free transport provided from Barnsley to Leeds, and to Rotherham, and a lunch provided every day. They were long days though. I was out of the house 12 hours a day when we were at Leeds. We had fixed holidays eight weeks a year I think. The pay was £36 a week the first year, which I guess would equate to about £200 now. By the end of the four years I was earning four times that amount.
This Person Aaron Bowman This person lived until the age of 25. Moving from job to job, trying to figure out their way, like many of us, they got a little lost. This person lived in Gateshead and was being treated by an NHS trust. This person felt comfortable being open and talking about his problems. This person talked at length about what was going on his head. This person would find laughter in the darkness. This person moved from Gateshead and into a new NHS. After contacting his GP, this person felt positive, supported and safe. This person found his care being reviewed. This person waited. This person tried the over-thephone care that he was referred to. This person made a complaint to the trust regarding this referral. His complaint was destroyed by the trust. The same trust recognised in a document in 2009 that the North East traditionally had a suicide rate that is higher than that of England. The NHS trust denied that this was a letter of complaint, although recognised that it would be the regular procedure to keep a document of its nature on file. This person’s complaint letter was presumed lost. This person has many stories. This person has lived many lives. This person is you, your brother, your father, your friend, your son. This person took their own life and will think about taking their own life and will take their own life, or try to. This person was a number. He had to go through the motions of completing the ‘How’re You Feeling’ tickbox exercise that begins most mental health services. His care plan was completely different after he moved from one postcode into another.
This person took their own life on Tuesday August 23, 2016. He died in the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne and left behind two parents and an extended family who love and remember him dearly. He left me, and a cacophony of other friends behind. This person remains one of the mass of people that take their own life in the UK ± one of 6,000 each year, one every two hours. He will remain a number, as he was treated when he was alive.
“This person is you, your brother, your father, your friend, your son”
At the inquest, which was subject to significant delays for one administrative reason or another, it emerged that this person’s letter had been held by the police since his suicide. As we broke for lunch, we read his words and heard his voice for the last time. Instead of blaming ‘the cuts’ or ‘middle management’ or ‘a broken NHS’, lets move our thinking on. Most notable charitable, CCG and Government funded suicide-prevention campaigns talk about ‘sharing’, ‘opening up’ and ‘talking’. But talking isn’t enough when NHS waiting lists for therapy stretch into months, rather then weeks. It’s time we started shouting. It’s time we stood up, got angry and demanded change. It’s not my job to suggest ways to fix a broken system, but it’s still up to me to get up in the face of those in power and get really fucking mad. Change will never happen unless we do.
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Greatly loved and always will be for my brother, martin Marsha Garratt My brother had it all. From a toddler he was a natural sportsman and a winner. He overcame great odds after our mother died suddenly from a brain haemorrhage just before he turned two. He was written off by others but not by himself. On reflection, his young mind needed grief counselling to begin to cope with her death but that was never offered and I believe a contributing factor to his later poor mental health. As he got older his self -belief in his sporting ability was comparable to Usain Bolt, and all of the family knew he would become a professional footballer. A dream of so many, yet few make it. He did.
Football At 18 he was a pro footballer, playing for York City in the first team. A handsome young black man with a beautiful girlfriend, a weekly four-figure wage and a sports car. He had it all, until his mental health began to suffer. Then he had nothing. That’s the reality and I learned it the hard way. In order to achieve your potential and be happy you need your mental health to be in alignment with your body. Without good mental health, we have nothing. His story, my story, is not unique. He began acting differently at the age of 22, slight changes in behaviour at first which became more erratic. He could no longer play football and was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2005. The football dream was over, but his and our nightmare was just beginning. After his diagnosis, he was sectioned under the The reality of poor funding in mental Mental Health Act and put on heavy health services began punching me in sedatives. the face. Visiting him was like going to Mental health the morgue. Often he was slumped in a Initially I was relieved. Finally he would chair sometimes drooling and barely able get the help he needed and be able to live to talk. He begged me to get him out and his life again. I was deluded. No one ever stop the ‘sleep drug’. Every visit broke explained what schizophrenia actually my heart to the point where I almost was and having done research I under- didn’t want to go. But I did. He needed stand why. See, mental illnesses are not to know we loved him and would always a ‘one size fits all’, straightforward you be there for him. have this which means you will act like I asked the doctors about alternative this. How the illness manifests, is a very medications that would allow him to still individual thing thus finding appropriate train - exercise is known for supporttreatment can take a very long time. ing good mental health - but they were
overworked and under resourced in a very difficult working atmosphere. I can see that now, but at the time I felt abandoned, let down and paralysed, unable to help him. I spent hours researching his condition and reviewing successful mental health treatments, none of which were available in our location. The next 12 years of his life after release from the hospital revolved around being refused support by the crisis team, homelessness, drug/alcohol addiction, prison and eventually death. He died in 2014 at the age of 34 after living years in misery. I know he felt alone despite ef ef-
forts to be there I couldn’t connect with him or understand him.
You are not alone His death was an accident but caused by years of stigma, rejection and racism. I hadn’t heard him laugh in seven years. My only aim from writing this article is to let others know they are not alone. You have no choice but to keep fighting and I hope this story gives you the strength to do so. I am committed to speaking about mental health going forward and for all those individuals and families, I support your struggle.
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FROM THE BEDROOM TO THE BIGTIME DIY ethics have put British Wrestling back on the map Nick Malyan On a rainy Sunday night in September recently 10,500 people crammed into London’s Alexandra Palace for one of the year’s most in-demand cultural events . On this occasion however it wasn’t Beyonce, The Rolling Stones, or Liam Gallagher they were to see but PROGRESS Wrestling. PROGRESS is a London based wrestling promoter. They sell out events across the country and their big night at ‘Ally Pally’ was the single largest British wrestling event to take place since Big Daddy versus Giant Haystacks at Wembley Arena in 1981. Wrestling holds an unusual place in British culture. For my grandma’s generation it’s forever locked into a permanent timewarp alongside, say, the darts world of Bobby George and Jocky Wilson. For anyone growing up in the late 80s onwards it’s an All-American world of spandex, body oil and bleached moustaches. So many are surprised to find that British wrestling has made a comeback and is more popular than ever. PROGRESS is just one of the promotions that has made a big name for itself in British Wrestling in the past five years or so. The movement’s watershed moment probably came with the BBC 3’s 2014 documentary ‘Insane Fight Club’ following Glasgow’s Insane Championship Wrestling. The programme covered how ICW’s founder Mark Dallas struggled to balance the company he founded in 2006 alongside supporting his family. The show also featured emerging ICW talent as part of what was then still a very local and proudly DIY promotion. Grado, now a full-on wrestling star, was seen still living with his mam, Jack Jester was documented going to a local seamstress to get his own costumes made. Since then the promotion has set up its own streaming service, merchandise line and regularly tours in the UK with annual shows in Newcastle, Leeds, Liverpool and Birmingham. In 2016 ICW welcomed more than 7000 people to Glasgow’s Hydro. Yet there’s still something fiercely independent about ICW. It seems the DIY ethic is as much part of British wrestling
SWAPPING YOUR SOUL FOR A SOULLESS BOWL as bikinis and fake tan is for American wrestling. PROGRESS describes itself as both ‘punk rock’ and ‘strong style’ ± the first part reflecting the independent, spirit that has been behind the British wrestling boom, and ‘strong style’ being a Japanese trend for more realistic, quick-paced wrestling. Recently however this has started to change, with mainstream broadcasting picking up on the revival. This April ITV screened a ‘World of Sport’ special with many stars from PROGRESS, ICW and other British promotions stepping into the squared circle in a primetime, Saturday night slot. And it’s not just here that British wrestling is growing in popularity. All over the world wrestling promotions from New Japan Wrestling to Global Force and TNA have increasingly started to populate their rosters with British talent. TNA’s Impact Wrestling has produced two series of a reality tv-style talent show called British Boot Camp bringing Marty Scurrl, Grado, Rockstar Spud, Mark Andrews and others to perform regularly on the other side of the Atlantic. Of course, the largest wrestling or ‘Sports Entertainment’ company in the world recently went one better, setting up their own British wrestling Championship competition and United Kingdom title belt. WWE’s Triple H in a 2015 interview with TalkSport described British stars and promotions as being “vital to wrestling’s future”. With WWE’s various nightly line ups now supplemented by 12 British and Irish wrestlers, it seems, British Wrestling is becoming an increasingly popular export.
Dante Clarke laments the loss of old football grounds My interest in football lessens every time a traditional ground with personality is replaced by a faceless bowl. A part of my football soul dies when a club thinks it’s a sensible idea to move from their current ground and replace it with an uninspiring arena in order to modernise.
Filbert Street My first ever football game was when I was just two years old, Leicester City versus Everton at Filbert Street, our old (and real home), and ironically the same fixture that took place in May 2016 when we lifted the Premier League title. Filbert Street was a place that used to play host to the likes of Gordon Banks, Peter Shilton and Gary Lineker. Now what lies there is halls of residence for the city’s university students.
Filbert Street once had. Unfortunately, this seems to be the growing trend for most modern football stadiums in England these days. Maybe I’m a bit of a traditionalist, but many football fans build an emotional attachment to their own ground. Traditions have been set over decades and we find it difficult to move on. You only have to look at West Ham United to see that a football ground forms the soul an identity of a football club.
Buzz Upton Park was an old-school ground where fans were housed in close proximity to the pitch. That intimacy and hostility has now gone and it’ll never be replicated. I was fortunate enough to visit the Boleyn Ground on a couple of times; you got a real buzz and sense of anticipation as you walked through the east end of London, past the tube station, mar“The little imperfections, ket stalls, cafes and pubs, much of this the drains that leak, the has now closed down, unable to survive creaky toilet doors and rusty without Upton Park. old stands will be replaced Match days are now entirely different, for a gleaming but 3.4 miles away and an hour’s walk from soulless bowl” the Boleyn. Their East London delicacy of pie mash, liquor and jellied eels has been swapped for Jamie Oliver’s restaurant or Pret a Manger sandwiches at Westfield shopping centre. When inside, We moved into our current ground, you can’t help but think you’re watchthe King Power Stadium, in 2003 and ing football in a stadium that simply despite major success; winning League isn’t built for it. The large running track One, the Championship and the Pre- around the pitch is dispiriting, creating a mier League in the 14 seasons we’ve sterile, soulless and deeply unappealing played there, I have little affinity to- feeling. wards it. It’s a replica version of SouthSouth Affinity ampton’s St Mary’s but in blue. It’s It’s alright for pundits to sit there and characterless and lacks the charm that say *enter team name* “new stadium is
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The Premier League of Public Health
What would the Premier League look like if teams “scored” according to the health in their region? Sue Lewis Here’s the final “public health league”. London-based Chelsea is top, but northern clubs Liverpool and Manchester City are in this league’s relegation zone. Newcastle and Sunderland aren’t far from the bottom. But northern club Manchester United is still near the top. Why? As well as health differences between north and south, there are differences within cities too. Although only a couple of miles apart, life expectancy is four years higher in United’s part of Manchester, compared to City. Everyone needs to be aware of how serious inequalities in health and the North-South divide are. As former Liverpool’s manager Bill Shankly once said, “Some people believe
fantastic and an upgrade on their previous ground”. They don’t have an affinity with the club. They don’t pay their hardearned money to go to games. They don’t go week in, week out.
“with no pubs in sight it is going to put off supporters regardless of success on the pitch”
football is a matter of life and death.” In this league, he was right. How it works Instead of games played (P), teams get points based on the Percentage of smokers in their neighbourhood. Instead of games won, W is Weight (percentage obese or overweight). And so on. Deaths (D, drawn) for mortality per 100,000 people. Life expectancy for males (L, lost), and Females (F, for); Alcohol-related hospital admissions per 100,000 (A, against); and the Gap or Difference in male life expectancy, comparing most and least deprived areas (GD, goal difference). The higher the stats, the fewer the points. Final points (Pts) depend on the teams’ rank in each category.
would be difficult to form an argument to suggest so. All the clubs listed above struggled to fill over 50% of their stadium capacities last season; Cardiff ’s stadium holds 33,280 but averaged 16,564; Bolton’s Macron Stadium holds 28,000 but averaged under 15,000; Coventry averaged just over 9,000 in a 33,000 stadium. Colchester’s Western Homes Community Stadium has a 10,000 capacity but averaged under 4,000. I made the mistake of visiting Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium last August. They topped League Two for large parts of the campaign but averaged just over 6,000 in a 15,000-seater stadium, about 40% full. Even when they achieved promotion, there were still 5,000 empty seats.
The likes of Cardiff City, Colchester United, Coventry City, Bolton Wanderers and Doncaster Rovers have all made Lifeblood the move since the turn of the century. Fans are the lifeblood of any football But have any of those been successful? It club and in cases such as Doncaster
Using statistics from 1965 to 2015, Manchester University have published research showing that the health of people in the North of England is considerably worse than those in the South. The Public Health League Table, produced by Professor Clare Bambra at Newcastle University, is an unusual look at the 2015 figures.
Rovers, Reading and Bolton Wanderers, when a stadium is built outside the town centre, a 45-minute walk from the train station and with no pubs in sight it is going to put off supporters regardless of success on the pitch. Crowds may have increased at Derby County, Leicester City and Manchester City since departures from their former grounds, but if you asked supporters which ground they preferred then it would likely be a simple answer. White Hart Lane was the latest ground to be dismantled in May, the 33rd English club in the last 29 years to make the move. The likes of Everton, Brentford, QPR, Luton Town and Southend United will all soon follow in the near future. The little imperfections; the drains that leak, the creaky toilet doors and rusty old stands will be replaced for a gleaming but soulless bowl.
Swapping your Soul for a Soulless Bowl First published online by The Football Pink on August 22, 2017. Thanks to Mark Godfrey, Editor at The Football Pink footballpink.net
30 we are our media
‘at the club we’re trying to get that spirit back’ >From Back Page
In Horden, near Peterlee where the old Colliery Welfare team inin spired the first footballing steps of England internationals Stan Anderson and Colin Bell, that scene was almost lost when the club, in business since 1908, ran into trouble. A dispute with the parish council over unpaid rent left them homeless. Close to collapse, salvation came at the price of relocating to become Darlington Reserves. A village that once worked for coal and lived for footie suddenly had neither, a much-battered community faced another blow. Grassroots
The new Horden Community Welfare ± Horden CW by another name ± started small. The Durham County Alliance League is the eighth tier of nonleague football in the region. If the Premier League is England’s ‘Division 1’, this is Division 12. Most of its teams play on open fields with no spectator facilities. The constitution prohibits charging fans to watch games. This is true grassroots. And yet, the club is attracting three-figure crowds. There’s new life in the old Welfare Park ground, after a year of disuse and neglect. For club secretary Graeme Wetherell, once a player with the old Colliery Welfare, the wave of interest is proof that Horden needs a team. “One old fella, Frankie Clark, comes along every game from the local residential home. He used to be part of the
“It’s not just sporting success, it’s friendship and identity”
old Horden CW, he was actually my coach when I first started playing. He’s been to every game, and we’ve got him a tracksuit like the rest of the team. When you see people like that coming along you realise that it’s not just something for us, it’s for the community as well.” Decay
Outside Welfare Park, Horden’s ‘numbered streets’ form a grid that runs down towards the vast ‘miner’s cathedral’ built in 1913 at the peak of the Durham coal field’s productivity. If the football club represents a community hub, here the sense of decay is inescapable. Wetherell grew up here, and describes its current state as ‘heartbreaking’. “The village itself needs a massive input,” he said. “It’s not just money, but attention from people who care about Horden. I don’t know where that old spirit’s gone, but at the football club we’re trying to help get it back. “Right now, it’s mostly people
we already know, people who’ve grown up here. Now we’re trying to reach people who have moved here ± often who have been moved here ± and hopefully get them more involved with the life of the village.” The next steps will make Horden CW into a larger community. Youth football can play a big part. Working with kids makes it easier to attract grant funding, kickstarting a virtuous circle where more people have more opportunities to get involved ± kids, women, over-40s ± which widens the community appeal. Local Industry
The pattern is increasingly familiar in non-league football. Mike Amos, who stepped down as league chairman in 2016 after 20 years in the role, has seen how the region’s teams have adapted to radically changing circumstances as local industries evaporated and the towns around them began to splinter. The pressure was on for clubs like Horden to build their
own communities. “The days have gone when you could expect people to come to you,” Amos said. “It’s not the 50s and 60s any more, when nonleague clubs could get gates of 5,000-6,000. There’s a need to appeal to the community. It’s a way of making a real distinction from the big clubs, the Premier League clubs, which are not really part of a community any more. “In the non-league game, both village clubs and suburban teams, like Newcastle Benfield, benefit from making people feel that they belong to a larger community […] Perhaps it’s where your kids play, or some of your mates. It’s not just sporting success, it’s friendship and identity.” South Shields
At its best, this process can galvanise a town. In South Shields, a team that was homeless and playing in front of crowds of barely 70 back in 2015, they have a side that is roaring up the leagues and attracting crowds
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Images: Andy Potts
Toon Fans Can Stop Rot Alex Niven
“One old fella has been to every game, we’ve got him a tracksuit like the rest of the team” of more than 1,000. Four trophies last season, plus FA Cup wins over Darlington and York City already this term, make the Mariners a flagship for the local non-league game. Claret and blue shirts are becoming as familiar as the striped colours of Tyne and Wear’s big guns. Club secretary Phil Reay, one of the stalwarts who kept the club alive through the dark days, describes the current success as ‘another world’. “You see a lot of youngsters at the games,” Reay said. “It’s families, mums and dads. Some people are saying ‘where were all these when we were at Peterlee?’, but don’t forget that when I first started watching Shields in the 60s they would get thousands at Simonside Hall. There’s always been an audience, and now we’ve provided a team for that audience, people come in their droves. We know plenty of people who’ve given up season tickets at Sunderland and Newcastle to watch us instead.”
Ambitious South Shields took promotion to the Evo-Stik League last summer, moving from regional football to a competition spanning an area from Blyth to Birmingham. The Mariners are climbing a national football pyramid that offers the opportunity ± at least theoretically ± to progress from the Northern League into the Football League. But that progress could threaten the very clubs it aims to encourage. Not every team has the financial muscle, nor the desire, to rack up the motorway miles every other weekend. Some, such as Morpeth Town chairman Ken Beattie, argue that the community feel of local and regional competitions works perfectly for many clubs, and raising the stakes offers big risk for limited reward. No Guarantee
It’s a problem that concerns Amos as well. This season, for the first time, the Northern League champions will be obliged to move up. Games that once took-
place in nearby towns ± S hildon, Bishop Auckland, Morpeth and Ashington ± will be replaced with trips to Merseyside and Greater Manchester. The local connections can become frayed. The exceptional success of South Shields is no guarantee of similar results elsewhere. “I’m worried that if too many clubs are encouraged ± at best ± or even coerced into taking promotion away from the regional leagues then that community might be endangered,” Amos warned: “Sometimes by ‘community’ we mean something fairly small, a place where most people know each other and look out for each other. For a football club, that’s not always possible on gates of 1,500 or 2,000. There’s a real place where this can work with crowds of 50-250 people. I really hope that the national non-league pyramid will ensure there is still a space for clubs of that size.” groundhoppers.blog
Newcastle fans are used to looking at the world with a heavy dose of pessimism. After years of exploitation by the club ownership, perhaps this is to be expected. Everyone in the region knows by heart the misdeeds of Mike Ashley. But we should remember that his predecessors were little better (remember when the late Freddy Shepherd called supporters “idiots” and Geordie women “dogs”?) Reversing this trend, and embedding some lasting optimism into the soil of St James’s Park, will take some doing. For many of us, so long as the team are playing well (as they are currently) we’re just about happy. But for others, the calamities of the last few decades have shown that only a total overhaul of the structure of NUFC can guarantee long-term improvement. With Ashley once again putting the club up for sale, some seek salvation in the form of a wealthy foreign owner. But this would be a short-term fix. Would an anonymous billionaire stick with the club through downturns and dry spells? It is becoming blindingly obvious that only a club owned by the fans, in the context of a Premier League subject to strict anti-business regulation, will be able to entertain, inspire and enrich the lives of the people of the North East. These are radical times, and Toon fans must be prepared to dream big if they are to ensure there will never be another Mike Ashley. Taking control of the club, and campaigning for wage caps, ticket price caps, advertising bans, and above all, collective decision making involving supporters, is the only way to stop the rot on Tyneside.
Image: Andy Potts
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Horden Community Welfare vs Felling Magpies July 2017
back to their roots Footie fans unite forgotten communities
South Shields vs Morpeth April 2017
The North East’s passion for football is well known but it doesn’t begin and end with the region’s big three of Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough. Away from the sky-high salaries and hype of the professional game, there is a sizeable world of grassroots, community sport. The contrast with the lavish wealth of the Premier League is stark: no VIP suites here, no plate-glass-andsteel super stadiums. It’s a world of pitches tucked among rows of redbrick houses, meat pies and scalding hot tea on an open terrace. Full story on Page 30
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