January 2008 Archives

Prague tram snow 07.1.24 Img3674.JPGaa.jpg The first months of the year offer a drama all of their own in great Central European cities such as Prague. But the people and the life of the city carry on, whatever. It took just one day for the snow in that enchanting city to transform Prague into the frozen wonderland seen here.

Prague snowstorm 07.1.24 490x674 Img3675a.jpg

See also:
Camera And Calendar
Prague Old Town, Celetna Street
Impressions Of Prague
Carbon-Neutral Villages, British And Czech Alike

Dusk streets 137x113 4312a.jpg Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has told it as it is: many of us, men and especially women, are fearful of being out alone at night. Only really unimaginative or insensitive people - or perhaps some opportunist political opponents - would disagree with Ms Smith. This is not a new state of affairs. We have but to recall past feminist campaigns to 'reclaim the night' to know that.

So Jacqui Smith, the UK's first woman Home Secretary, doesn't enjoy being out alone at night.

This is surely not a new or startling revelation. The Home Secretary's 'admission' - to me, a simple statement of a truth recognised by many - feels far more like reality than much of what we read in the papers.

Reclaim ('retake') the night
The idea that there is something to fear, out alone at night, is instilled in many girls (and some boys) from a very early age. In 1976 a movement began to recognise and act on this fear, by 'reclaiming the night' from the men who were deemed to make it dangerous.

Women across Europe and the USA marched thirty years ago to demonstrate their belief that streets should be safe 24/7; but only more recently has this action begun again.

Telling it as it is
It feels very disingenuous that male politicians should denounce a woman in their midst who speaks candidly on a matter as fundamental as personal safety.

I hope these same men would not encourage their own female friends and family to walk the streets unaccompanied at night.

Making the streets safer
Sometimes people have to travel alone in the dark. To make their journeys safer, it is first necessary to speak the truth, to acknowledge realities, even when unpleasant.

Only after we know and understand problems can we ameliorate them.

Let's start by thanking Jacqui Smith for being candid; and then let's see how we can all, together, conscious femininists or not, reclaim those scary streets.

What's Regeneration For?

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City model regen. 131x93 604a.jpg The British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA) annual conference is in Liverpool this year, on 30th and 31st January 2008. The conference, bringing together some 300 people, will see brisk debates between professionals and community leaders from across the U.K. One important focus may be the search for consensus on what regeneration is 'about'.

BURA is an organisation moving forward with increasing momentum and confidence in both its own role and the direction and meaning of regeneration in Britain.

What is regeneration?
We, as members of the Board of BURA, are beginning to understand anew, or at least consciously to explore in a new way, what ‘regeneration’ means. The discussion will doubtless continue for a long time yet; but for me some clarity is emerging from many years in the business.

Regeneration is much more than ‘construction’, ‘development’ or even 'capacity building'.

In the end, regeneration is about adding long-term shared value to all these activities.

A win-win
Regeneration’s a real win-win; it’s about creating a more equitable, more sustainable life-context for everyone.

The challenge is, how to do it.

The UK is often said to be at the forefront of regeneration. BURA's annual conference discussions this week should prove interesting.

08.1.11 Preparing for Capital of Culture, St George's Hall 'Delays likely' 142x84 019a.jpg 08.1.12a CoC Launch Programme Book 125x99 005a.jpg 08.1.12 Liverpool European Capital of Culture Official Launch Hilary @ The Arena 123x99 036b.jpg Liverpool's European Capital of Culture Year is finally launched.

First, we went to the pre-launch of the Liverpool Echo Arena on Friday 4 January.
08.1.4 Liverpool Echo Arena & Convention Centre 495x336 021a.jpg 08.1.4 Liverpool Echo Arena Pre-launch  Tony (Martin) Burrage 495x353 010a.jpg

Then we went to St George's Plateau for the 'People's Opening' on Friday 11 January, where after much frenetic construction all day Ringo Starr sang from a box on the roof of the Hall and we saw some fireworks and lights.
08.1.11 Preparing for Capital of Culture, St George's Hall Contractors & cranes 495x354 020a.jpg 08.1.11a Liverpool Capital of Culture is launched St George's Hall 495x254 026a.jpg 08.1.11a Liverpool Capital of Culture is launched Lime Street Chumki Banerjee, Colin Dyas, Felicity Wren, Tony Siebenthaler, Jason Penswick, Tony (Martin) Burrage  &c 008aa.jpg

And finally we found ourselves in the Echo Arena again on Saturday 12 January for the formal opening of that venue and Liverpool's 2008 events. The Arena ceremony offered a colourful performance of Liverpool - The Musical by artists ranging from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra with Vasily Petrenko (who all played valiantly throughout the show) to performers such as Gary Christian, The Farm, Sense of Sound, Ringo Starr, The Welsh Choral Union and The Wombats.
And so began our city's European Year of Culture....
08.1.12 Liverpool European Capital of Culture Official Launch The Audience awaits 040b.jpg 08.1.12 Liverpool European Capital of Culture Official Launch Kris Donaldson, James Purnell MP, Louise Ellman MP 495x324 039b.jpg 08.1.12 Liverpool European Capital of Culture Official Launch Alan Hardbottle, Adeyinka Olushonde, Minkao Ueda-Jackson, Tony (Martin) & Hilary Burrage 495x348 033b.jpg 08.1.12 Liverpool European Capital of Culture Official Launch 'Psychedelic!' 'on stage' 495x337 050a.jpg 08.1.12 Liverpool European Capital of Culture Official Launch Space-scene 'on stage' 495x409 051a.jpg 08.1.12 Liverpool European Capital of Culture Official Launch RLPO 'on stage' 495x295 049a.jpg

Everyone worked very hard to make it all happen. The preparations were no doubt complicated and frantic, the general mood was convivial and fun, and the outcome was by and large convincing and festive.

This was certainly not the weekend to be negative; though it has to be said that there is a lot still to do. Watch this space....

(But after this posting we shall, I promise, begin once again to acknowledge the world outside Liverpool 2008.)

For more photographs please see also Camera And Calendar.

Science bottles & test tubes The Liverpool city region (Merseyside) looks on available evidence to have only about half the number of scientists which might be expected on the basis of the overall national statistics. So by what indicators might Merseyside measure progress in the retention and development of graduate scientists and technologists?

In 2008 the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University between them will, excluding medical doctors, produce more than 2000 new Science and IT graduates. There will also be nearly 500 post-graduates, including those, a considerable number of whom studied part-time for Master's degrees, in the field of information technology - which is noted as a strength on Merseyside.

Here indeed is potential in every respect. So why do Liverpool and Merseyside stay so near the bottom of the national economic stakes?

Who's economically active?
Just under half the UK population (i.e some 28 million people) is economically active, nearly a tenth of whom (2.67 million, in 2005) have a Science or Engineering HE qualification – which is about two fifths of all graduates; and some 88% of these are currently in employment.

But the Merseyside conurbation has a population of nearly 1.5 million. Of those of working age however, against a national average of 74.5%, about 68% (551,000) are in employment (62%, or 167,000 in Liverpool itself) .

Whilst it is very difficult to obtain accurate and up-to-date statistics on exactly how many scientists live and / or work in Merseyside, some approximations are possible. These suggest that numbers are significantly lower than they 'should' be, if the overall numbers of scientists and technologists were distributed evenly across the UK.

Approaching 30% of the UK newly adult population is now qualified to degree level (in any subject), whereas even after considerable recent improvement the figure on Merseyside is around 21% .

The Liverpool city region clearly needs to keep (or, better still for everyone over time, attract, and 'exchange' freely with other places) as many of our current annual output of 2,500 science graduates as possible.

Measuring retention, exchange and employment of graduates
How this can be done is, of course, a matter still under debate. But one sensible place to begin might be to set up a formal method of collating data about who, with a degree in what, stays on, comes to live and work in, or leaves the Liverpool city region. How else are we to measure progress or otherwise in our 21st century economy?

That these figures, for every stage in graduates' careers and lives, are not routinely available on a Liverpool city region basis, is an indicator of how far we have yet to travel in the knowledge economy stakes.

Useful statistics and references
BERR SET (Science, Engineering & Technology) Indicators 2005
City of Liverpool Key Statistics Bulletin August 2006
Office of National Statistics 2006
Knowledge Exchange Merseyside Graduate Labour Market Report
Merseyside Economic Review 2007

You are particularly invited to offer Comment below if you can tell us more about these statistics, in respect of Liverpool, Merseyside and / or the Manchester-Liverpool conurbation. Thank you.

Read more about Science, Regeneration & Sustainability
and The Future Of Liverpool.

Liverpool Victoria Monument & street lights + banners for 2008 launch 136x108 058aa.jpg This is the Victoria Monument in the heart of Liverpool's commercial quarter. However special the occasion, one can only imagine what Queen Victoria might have thought about being festooned by Christmas lights in preparation for the Liverpool European Capital of Culture in 2008; but for passers by on a very chilly evening this festive sight is one to raise a cheery little smile. Perhaps Queen Victoria would not have been amused, but in a different age we can surely innocently enjoy.

Liverpool Victoria Monument illuminated for 2008 launch 496x662 061a.jpg

PS Little did I know, when I wrote this posting, that Queen Victoria was also to be featured in a very contemporary (one might almost say Pythonesque?) mode during the opening scenes of the formal launch of the European Capital of Culture Year, on 12 January 2008 at the Liverpool Echo Arena...
08.1.12 Liverpool European Capital of Culture Official Launch Queen Victoria 'on stage' 496x288 047a.jpg

For more photographs please see also Camera And Calendar.