October 2007 Archives

Women's No Pay Day

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Women & shopping trolleys 3916a (89x111).jpg Today (30 October) is UNISON and the Fawcett Society's 'Women's No Pay Day' - i.e. the date in the U.K. year when, compared with men's average wage for a given job, women doing it cease to be paid. But there are many people, men and women alike, who are determined that things will change, and change much more quickly than to date.

This is what the Fawcett Society has to say about women's pay in the UK:

Facts on the inequality gaps
There has been a revolution in some aspects of women’s lives over the past 30 years.

And yet, social and economic justice remains a distant dream for women in the UK, which is why Fawcett's work is needed as much as ever.

Women working full-time are paid on average 17% less an hour than men (or 38% less if they work part-time)

Women make up less than 20% of MPs and ethnic minority women make up just 0.3% of MPs.

96% of executive directors of the UK's top 100 companies are men.

Sign the petition to Gordon Brown
As Fawcett says, it only takes a few seconds to support the Women's No Pay Day campaign. By signing a petition on the Number 10 website everyone who values equality can ask the Prime Minister to take stronger action on the pay gap .

Click here to sign the Equal Pay Petition to Gordon Brown, asking the Prime Minister to 'admit that current pay laws are not working and bring in stronger measures'.

Dusk at Aigburth Vale 07.10.27 116b 95x125.jpg 'Incremental' is the mode of choice when we talk about the massive changes required for the sustainability of ourselves and our planet. People find it hard to make large or sudden changes, so we try to do them bit by bit. Seen like this, the benefits of daylight 'saving', keeping lighter evenings, become increasingly compelling.

The big health news of the past week or two has been obesity... how it's becoming an epidemic and how difficult it will be to reverse the demands which people being overweight put on the health services and on the exchequer.

Then we are told that we must conserve energy in every way possible. Carbon expenditure must, urgently, be reduced, climate change is happening even more quickly than we had thought.

Looking for solutions
In these contexts it is surprising that the sensible advice about behaviour adaption - go gently, to take people with you - has not yet been applied to the benefits of 'daylight saving'.

We know that lighter evenings offer more encouragement for people to take exercise; we know that the extra light also reduces fuel demands. (Jim Fiore estimated recently that in the US context 'only' 0.25% savings would be achieved - but that's a massive amount of oil which could be conserved with no effort by anyone.)

Joined up thinking
The clocks go back on Sunday, tomorrow, 28 October, at 2 a.m. From then on until next March (British Summer Times begins on 30 March, with the new US Daylight Saving Time starting on 9 March) we shall have afternoon murk.

Scottish farmers may be happy with these murky afternoons, and they are of course welcome to any arrangement the Scottish Parliament wants to make. For the rest of us, a bit of (evening) light needs to be shed on the subject of incremental health and energy improvements.


The full debate about BST is in the section of this website entitled
BST: British Summer Time & 'Daylight Saving' (The Clocks Go Back & Forward).....


See also:
Making The Most Of Daylight Saving: Research On British Summer Time
Save Our Daylight: Victor Keegan's Pledge Petition
The Clocks Go Forward...And Back... And Forward...
British Summer Time Draws To A Close
Time Is Energy (And 'Clocks Forward' Daylight Uses Less)
The Clocks Go Forward ... But Why, Back Again?

Join the discussion of this article which follows the book E-store...

The New Harvest Festival

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Seasonal vegetables harvest festival pumpkins 2520 (88x103).jpg This is the time of year when churches urban and rural across the nation urge us to attend their services for Harvest Festival. For many of us however this annual celebration is now marked more secularly, observed at one remove, via our newspapers, rather than physically in our communities. Media celebration of seasonal food is the order of the day.

The Guardian, like other similar publications, is hot on seasonal food. A story in that newspaper today gives a flavour of that theme: 'Green' shopping possible on a budget, watchdog says.

What then follows is that irresistible combination of knocking the supermarkets (fair enough if they're not up to scratch), going rustic with references to in-season fruit and veg. (why not, it really is good for you), and angst about affordability and carbon footprint (fair enough again).

Contemporary perspectives
So here is the contemporary version of We plough the fields and scatter...

Way back over the centuries people have known about crop rotation and storage and the seasons, and have celebrated all this with Harvest Festivals of one sort or another. Now we know about food miles, sustainability and ethical buying.

Appreciating our sustenance
This is the better informed (or at least more techno) version of the wisdom of the ages, translated for those of us who hope for the future but have no bedrock of faith on which to base an annual thanksgiving.

Perhaps it doesn't matter how we demarcate the changing seasons and the beneficence they offer. What does matter is that at least we notice.

Science Museum Valencia 06.08 132 (115x122).jpg 'The next president of the United States of America will control a $150 billion annual research budget, 200,000 scientists, and 38 major research institutions and all their related labs. This president will shape human endeavors in space, bioethics debates, and the energy landscape of the 21st century.' So says Chris Mooney in his seriously impressive review of the options - options in reality about human beings, not 'just' about knowledge - awaiting electors of the next President of the USA.

Chris Mooney, in his recent Seed Magazine blog piece entitled Dr President, examines the options for American science and suggests what needs to happen now.

America's relationship with reality
During the past seven years of the Bush administration, Mooney tells us, America has been subject to 'what can only be called antiscientific governance'. Scientists, he says, have been 'ignored, threatened, suppressed, and censored across agencies, across areas of expertise, and across issues...

'Under George W. Bush—the man who pronounced climate science "incomplete," who misled the nation in his first major address about the availability of embryonic stem cells for research, who claimed that Iraq was collaborating with Al Qaida—America's relationship with reality itself has reached a nadir.'

What's next?
Chris Mooney is right. The status of science is in crisis, at least as far as States-side politics is concerned - and also in terms of what people in many parts of the world, even many sophisticated knowledge economy parts, understand about what science is and does.

'To better grapple with emerging science controversies', Mooney proposes that the in-coming president 'reconstitute something akin to Eisenhower's President's Science Advisory Committee, but with a strong emphasis on forecasting the looming problems of tomorrow. ...The conversations wouldn't shy away from controversial or speculative topics. They would be designed, at least in part, to spark discussion in the media, on the Sunday-morning talk shows, and also at the kitchen table.'

Engagement beyond the science
This paper on antiscience, and its resolution through widespread debate and respect for scrutiny of the evidence base, offers many rich seams for us all to explore. But I think it also offers a new perspective on what I might call the 'Post-Science Century' which is before us.

The term 'post-science' means much more to me than simply the arid 'total value' anaylsis deriving from Milton Friedman et al. Instead, it focuses attention on the socio-political impacts and synergies of science and technology (one of a multitude of examples might be IT and the developing world) rather than on measures of money.

No longer can it be said that 'knowing the science' is enough - and Mooney is clear on this. We need to understand the future of climatalogical, environmental, genomic, military and many other applications of developing knowledge.

From tested knowledge to the human condition
In seeking to grasp what all these enormous issues, with their huge budgets, mean for each of us, we move from formal and tested knowledge to insights concerning the nature of human experience.

Perhaps it's an irony of the twentyfirst century that the human condition itself will force us to think about science, rather than any new-found urge to look dispassionately at evidence bases and how to test them. This is what should drive the Science Advisory Council of the next President of the USA.

It's not what we know, but why we all need to know it, that will spur this critical agenda.

Liverpool Radio City & 08 Tower 616  93x96.jpg Abrupt curtailment of the 2007 Mathew Street Festival, silly ideas about removing fish so the docks become a concert arena, questions about preparations for the Big Year.... Liverpool 2008 is a drama unto itself. The leading arts venues have devised a pretty good cultural programme for European Capital of Culture Year, but concerns about what else needs to be done remain.

There’s a jolly good row going on in Liverpool just now.

The minority Labour Group on the City Council wants an independent review of the 2007 Mathew Street Festival – not to mention an explanation for the recent Sir Paul and the Fish fiasco - whilst the ruling LibDem Group so far appears content to receive a previewed Mathew Street report from their own officers.

Costs and concerns
This furious debate concerns the abrupt cancellation of the international Mathew Street Festival as an outdoor event, and questions about hundreds of thousands of pounds apparently expended on a now-abandoned plan to stun (and remove to claimed safety) the piscine inhabitants of one of Liverpool’s splendid docks, before draining it to create an arena for Paul McCartney’s much trumpeted appearance in the city during the 2008 European Capital of Culture year.

Given such corporate Who Dunnit dramatics, one might well ask whether professional entertainers are required at all.

Liverpool life as theatre
But of course there’s more than this to add into the ever-changing theatre which constitutes the City of Liverpool. In less than one hundred days (as I write) the momentous 2008 will be upon us.

And, to be fair, some excellent cultural events have now been announced for the year. We are to have Klimt at the Tate, Simon Rattle with the Berliner Philharmoniker (and later with the RLPO, as a member of which he began his career), adventurous programming from the Everyman and Playhouse, the Turner Prize, the Anne Frank Exhibition and much else.

It’s a huge relief that these events have been secured; many were afraid we were about to have a ‘cultureless’ European Year of Culture, with all the embarrassment that would bring.

Culture and leadership
But, perhaps as at this stage in other cities who have been through the Year of Culture experience, there remains continuing concern about how it all fits, and who’s in charge.

There seems little convincing evidence those being paid the most (who some say are departing in droves) have brought the most to the cultural agenda. That was very largely done by the individual arts organisations.

And this brings us to the big question: What’s it for? And which of our white, male hegemony of leaders is going (or able) to tell us?

Bringing in the real world
One place where we can begin to find answers is the Grosvenor (Liverpool One) development. This 17 ha mixed use site in the heart of the city centre has an investment value of £920m and will be completed in 2008. It is almost entirely privately funded and has a huge emphasis on retail and leisure.

Leading this venture is the sharply focused Rodney Holmes, a man who knows a challenge when he sees one. Unflappable and consistently approachable, Holmes is nonetheless ready when events so demand to articulate his requirements.

Recently, these demands included specific actions for the preparation of Liverpool for its year of glory (and, as it happens, the opening of the Grosvenor venture) – demands also supported by Jim Gill, the respected CEO of city-centre regeneration company Liverpool Vision, who now chairs the Countdown Group to deliver what is required.

Past or future?
Slowly, then, the cultural and commercial components of Liverpool’s future are falling into place. But it would be hard to give full credit to city leaders in all this. Rather, it feels that individual elements of the visible fabric of the city have taken things into their own hands and, in the end, just got on with it.

And this is perhaps the problem. Whilst those with vision look to the future, the official powers-that-be continue to hark on about the Beatles and Scouse (a traditional hotpot meal or a dialect, depending on context). Scouse and the Beatles are both in their different ways attractive elements of our heritage for visitors and residents alike, but can they take us forward?

Leadership and local understandings
Whilst the heritage elements of Liverpool life still resonate with many Liverpudlians, fewer feel any warmth towards the great cultural events and enterprise opportunities which 2008 presents.

There is a failure of leadership, an unwillingness to articulate ambition and opportunity, which it seems cannot be shaken off. Frequent cries by the local citizenry that ‘all this is fine, but it’s not for me’, meet only with reassurance that there will ‘also’ be things for ‘the community’ (as there surely will).

Missing is head-on challenge to the notion that excellent formal culture and serious enterprise are somehow not for ‘ordinary people’.

Involving the people
Grosvenor’s Liverpool One has a significant community engagement programme. All the flagship cultural organisations have their versions of the same. How do these fit into the greater scheme of things? Where are the cultural and entrepreneurial horizons and ambition? The missing link is our civic leaders.

There’s no longer any civic mileage in The Beatles’ When I’m Sixty Four. Paul McCartney is now older than that. And Scouse is a matter of minor gastronomic / historical interest but hardly the whole story in a city which aims through Liverpool One shortly to offer the full five stars for its more affluent cultural and business visitors.

Exclusion zones?
Whilst some in Liverpool 8 (Toxteth) still believe, or feel comfortable declaring, that the city centre is a ‘no-go’ area for people of colour, whilst those in the outer zones continue to claim total invisibility, whilst the roles of education and enterprise are seen as so irrelevant by so many, Liverpool’s resurgence remains painfully fragile.

Tempting as for some it may be to lay blame here or there for this state of affairs, blame takes us nowhere. It’s action which will do the trick.

Courage to change
We need leaders who seek out and actively nurture Liverpool’s diversity in talent and persona;
leaders who proudly proclaim they personally attend and enjoy the best of our cultural offerings formal and informal, and they want everyone else to as well;
leaders who have the courage to explain that heritage is precious but also that sometimes things need to change;
leaders who see the fit between culture and knowledge, who value Biotech and Beethoven as much as the Beatles;
and leaders, most importantly of all, who understand the fundamental difference between ‘disloyalty’ to a city and serious citizen engagement in the on-going debate.

Change of this sort cannot be achieved by default or vague sentimental aspiration. It requires deep focus, a core shift in the culture of our city. And it requires absolutely no more silliness involving, say, festival financial fiascos or stunned fish and Macca.

The cabbie is correct
One takes the views of cab drivers with a pinch of salt. But my driver yesterday was spot on. Liverpool’s buzzing at the moment, he opined. But what will it be like in 2009?

Party multi-coloured windmill 6101 (98x95).jpg Well, happy birthday to us all!
Today is two years to the day from when I posted my first 'real' blog - a day my website designer Nick Prior and I had worked towards for several months. And a whole twenty four months later, we're still going fine, with ever-growing numbers of visitors and well more than three hundred pieces, about 'all sorts', up and on-line.

It's been a great trip so far. It's a real challenge - to which you can say, better than I, whether I've risen - to write clearly and, hopefully, in an interesting way, about the things I see around me and become involved in. But whatever, I really enjoy trying....

The stats
When we started I was delighted if just a tiny handful of kind friends visited the site in any one day. Now hundreds (still I'm sure kind friends, but often at a heck of a distance - my website statistics tell me there have been visitors from 130 countries) pop in and out over the twenty four hours.

And now too the website's Google rating is (fingers crossed) a steady five, a measure I could only dream about a year ago. Nick Prior told me it would take about this long, if I worked hard to keep things going; and, as usual, he was right.

The content
But much more importantly than Google ratings, I think I'm beginning to learn 'what works'. I have always wanted this website to be a pleasant place to visit, somewhere of course where you can read a particular take, as well expressed as I can make it, on issues which engage me; but also somewhere which offers enjoyable and interesting photographs and ideas.

In short, I wanted to create a sort-of on-line 'magazine' for people who share some of my interests... as I really appreciate when they (you) share ideas back with me via the Comments box or in emails.

Thank you!
So, thank you Nick for deciding to take time (then and still now) to get me up and running, and for suspending belief enough to think maybe, just maybe, I'd do something with this website for more than just a few weeks.

And thank you, Dear Reader, for bearing with me too. I really hope you're enjoying what you see.


Read more articles on Hilary's Weblog.

Bulldozer & big hole, old building 6144 (103x129).jpg All regeneration and strategic planning professionals need to have excellent formal qualifications and wide experience; the job is far too important for anything less. But what other characteristics are also required to make a good regeneration official into an outstanding agent of delivery on the ground? Here is a list of such characteristics, from a rather specific observational position.

Here are some suggested stereotypical characteristics of the ideal regeneration or urban / rural planning worker:

Ø Willing to listen and learn; everyone has something to offer

Ø Open to the idea that communities change over time

Ø Realistic about the balance in plans and designs of art and application

Ø Knowledgeable about the area’s infrastructure and transport arrangements

Ø Involved in the community and active in establishing good local facilities

Ø Not afraid to challenge the status quo, but also keen to keep the peace

Ø Gets quickly to the bottom of the issues; there’s lots to do!

Ø Manifestly focused on what works and what’s sustainable

Ø Ultra-aware that time is precious; opportunities need to be seized

Ø Motivated by making things better for all stakeholders

Ø Sensitive to the requirements of those less able to articulate their needs


Have you spotted the tongue-in-cheek subtext of this list?
The 'hidden message' is of course offered only fun; but the actual listed characteristics are in my view a fundamental requirement of any competent regeneration worker, however formally qualified they may be.

What do you think?


This list was devised as part of a discussion about developments inhigh-rise living, for an Urban Design Week Coffee Shop Debate in Liverpool, September 2007. It was also published as a New Start external blog.