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THePETEBOX in New York

THePETEBOX INTERVIEW NYC

To call THePETEBOX a musical genius is not overstating the fact in any way.  Seeing him perform live can be almost hypnotic in the way he effortlessly layers incredible vocals on top of all manner of instruments created by his mouth, while tapping and bashing away on an array of technical loop equipment.

It’s live art at its very finest.

THePETEBOX has over 30 million views on youtube and is in the process of finishing a new album in amongst his first tour of the U.S. – where we caught up with him after his gig at Rockwood Music Hall in Manhattan.

“This tour has been crazy” THePETEBOX enthused, after another incredible show.  “We’ve been traversing vast distances, making new videos everyday, played shows to super diverse crowds, and seeing America in all its glory.”

THePETEBOX had to make a last minute dash across Manhattan for a new guitar just minutes before getting on stage.  If he hadn’t explained to the crowd during the gig you’d never know, such is the adaptability of the guy.

THePETEBOX playing in New York

The Rockwood Music Hall is in the Lower East Side district of Manhattan and boasts its own label and three live stages that cater to a wide range of musical tastes.  We took advantage of the warm evening to talk a stroll around the neighbourhood after the show.

We were keen to find out more about the recording project THePETEBOX had been working on earlier in the day: “I’ve been recording a few acoustic sessions in beautiful scenery out here with a portable recorder and with friend and videographer Seb Drewett on the camera. We’re super inspired by the nature out here so I’ve also been arranging a song where each part is recorded in a different location.”

Seb was accompanying THePETEBOX for the entire tour and had already created some stunning images and videos by the time the pair had reached NYC.  You can keep up to date with the artwork on instagram https://www.instagram.com/thepetebox/

It was a few days later that we had word back from THePETEBOX while he was travelling across America for the last few dates of his tour.  We wanted to know what he had enjoyed most about the adventure. “The whole thing is a highlight really. The West coast is always very good to me as I’ve toured here before but that’s the nature of the hustle – you play somewhere once, you smash it, more people come on your next visit. Crowds – they’re the same all around the world. People like to drink, like to dance, like to have a damn good time.”

With the tour coming to a close it was nearly time to focus on life back in the UK and what was next on the agenda for the award-winning beatboxer. “I finished recording my album Use The Fire before I left for the USA so just reconnecting with that, finishing the final bits and planning the release schedule.”

And what next in terms of gigs and tours – who will get to enjoy THePETEBOX next? “I’ll be heading out for shows in India and Kenya, then onto Australia – global travels through music.”

http://www.thepetebox.com/

 



RAQIB-LEAD-IMAGE

Raqib Shaw Whitworth Gallery Review

Raqib Shaw  – Whitworth Gallery, Manchester.  A refreshing change from the norm.

If you haven’t taken a trip to the Whitworth Gallery already this summer then treat yourself to a brew in the relaxing Whitworth cafe and check out Raqib Shaw’s solo exhibition.  If, like me, you enjoy a little fantasy and opulence once in a while, then this is a must see.

Drawing on his family’s troubled past in India, current politics and Indian mythology, Kashmiri born Shaw’s surreal paintings and sculptures are fantastical, weird and wonderful with overtones of irony and eroticism. Rich in detail and colour, Shaw’s paintings are incredibly intricate and he even includes his family dogs within the scenes which are often luxuriously encrusted with rhinestones for extra opulence.

Inspired by an ancient Byzantine pottery technique known as ‘cloisonné’, Shaw’s unique painting practice involves a process of outlining each individual motif with embossed gold using a porcupine quill, then pooling and meticulously manipulating enamels and metallic paints to create a jewel-like surface – pretty impressive, I’m sure you will agree.

The exhibition is on until November so there is plenty of time to catch it.

For more information on Raqib Shaw go to

www.whitecube.com

www.whitworth.manchester.ac.uk

RAQIB1Artmuso



#MigrateProject - Alice Aedy

MIGRATE Photography Exhibition London

The MIGRATE photography exhibition on the theme of human migration opens on 29th August at Omeara in London Bridge.

Eight international photographers will display their work and an accompanying book featuring the photographs and the stories behind them will be on sale with proceeds going to Unicef’s Children of Syria Emergency Appeal.

The exhibition features a panel discussion on 31st August examining the role of photography and social media in humanitarian crises. Visitors interested in instant photography can benefit from workshops on 2nd September teaching photo techniques using classic Polaroid cameras.

The event is organised by Unicef’s NEXTGen London and supported by analogue instant photography company the Impossible Project.

MIGRATE is running an Instagram competition for submissions from anywhere in the world, giving entrants the chance to be included in the exhibition in the form of a carefully-selected digital display.

#MigrateProject - Cyrus Mahboubian

#MigrateProject – Cyrus Mahboubian

For more information visit: www.nextgenlondon.com
To buy tickets go to: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/migrate-exhibition-opening-book-launch-in-aid-of-unicef-tickets-36807529311
For the Instagram competition keep an eye on: https://www.instagram.com/migrateofficial/

Featured image at top of page by Alice Aedy



peas-recipe-mid-20170709-01274

Give Peas A Chance

On a mission to cut down the meat and try more vegetarian meals we’ve created this pea-based dish in homage to the tasty British staple.  Perfect at this time of year too!

Pea Fritters with Parmentier potatoes, Parmesan Crisp, Pea puree, Basil emulsion, Horseradish creme fraiche, china rose and rambo radish sprouts.

This is a great summer dish, light and colourful.  Use vegetarian versions of Parmesan cheese and edible flowers instead of the sprouts to decorate.

 

Pea Fritters (inspired by healthylittlefoodies.com)

400g frozen petit pois

3 free range organic eggs

200g self raising flour

75g feta cheese crumbled

2 tbsp chopped parsley

Pinch of salt

 

  • Boil peas for 3-4 minutes and drain
  • Mix flour, eggs, and half the peas in a food processor to make a batter (add a splash of water if the mix is too dry)
  • Fold through the remaining peas, feta and parsley
  • Fry batter mixture in a splash of oil for a couple of minutes on each side until golden
  • For presentation, cut out a circle using a cookie cutter

 

Parmesan Crisp (inspired by myrecipes.com)

50g Veggie equivalent of Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon thyme

½ teaspoon paprika

Black pepper to taste

 

  • Finely grate the vegetarian hard cheese and mix with thyme, black pepper, and paprika.
  • Sprinkle a fine layer of the mix onto a baking sheet or silicone sheet and grill for 3-4 minutes until golden.
  • Remove and leave for 30 seconds before cutting discs from the mixture – or break into shards when cool.

 

peas-recipe-mid-20170709-01272

Parmentier potatoes (inspired by bbcgoodfood.com)

3-6 Maris Piper potatoes (or your favourite variety) cut into 1cm cubes

2-3 sprigs of rosemary finely chopped

Sunflower oil

1 tablespoon melted butter

2 tsp dried parsley

Salt and pepper

 

  • Cook the cubed potatoes in a frying pan in a tablespoon of sunflower oil stirring to prevent sticking.
  • Melt the butter and mix with the parsley
  • Transfer the potatoes to a baking tray and combine with the melted butter/parsley mix and sprinkle with the chopped rosemary and seasoning.
  • Roast in a hot oven for approximately 30 minutes shaking half-way through.

 

Horseradish Creme Fraiche (inspired by greatbritishchefs.com)

2 tbsp creme fraiche

1 tsp horseradish (or more to taste)

Squeeze of lemon

½ tsp paprika

 

  • Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and chill for 10 minutes

 

Basil Emulsion (inspired by gabekennedy.com)

Bunch of fresh basil

3-4 ice cubes

½ cup olive oil

Juice of ½ a lemon

Pinch of salt

Bowl of iced water

 

  • Blanch basil for 30 seconds in boiling water
  • Drop into a bowl of iced water to stop further cooking and retain the colour
  • Squeeze out the water from the basil and put in a blender with the ice cubes and oil
  • Squeeze in the lemon juice and pinch of salt if required and blend well
  • Store in a presentation bottle in the fridge
  • The emulsion will separate so shake before use.
  • Nutri bullets are great for blending this up.

 

Pea and Mint Puree (inspired by greatbritishchefs.com)

400g frozen petit pois

Handful of mint leaves

Knob of butter

  • Blanch peas for 2 minutes in salted water
  • Add mint leaves and leave for 2 more minutes
  • Drain (but reserve the water) and put in a blender
  • Add 100ml of the cooking water and blend
  • Add more water if required and blend to the desired consistency
  • Pass puree through a fine sieve (push through with the back of a ladle) to create a smoother puree
  • Add in a knob of butter and blitz in the blender
  • Put in the fridge to cool

 

We paired this meal with a Pinot (Pea-no) Grigio from Sainsburys.

peas-recipe-mid-20170711-01287

 



Statue of Liberty

Five Reasons To Visit New York In September

It must be the most iconic city in the world and should be on everybody’s bucket list.  If you’ve been before see what you think to our suggestions below and if you haven’t then go book your tickets for September immediately!

It’s not as expensive as you think – see our tips at the end of this article – and we’ve chucked in a bunch of free activities while you’re over there so travelling on a budget is not a problem in the city that never sleeps.

1: New York Weather

Manhattan skyline

September sees the oppressive heat of the summer die down and a much more pleasant 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit (23-26 Celsius) with temperatures often peaking over 90 degrees (32 Celsius) in the early part of September.

While the subway stations can still be hot, the trains are air conditioned and if you’re the kind of New York visitor that prefers to stay in Manhattan then you’ll find the breeze flowing through the skyscraper-lined straight streets a little refreshing.

Pack light – shorts and t-shirts can usually be worn in the evenings as well in Brooklyn – but take a waterproof and something to wrap up in in case the nights get a bit chilly.  Sensible footwear (cross trainers are a good bet) is imperative to avoid blisters and sore feet. 

2: Sports

Americans love their sport and September gives you the best combination of events.  It’s the final stages of the soccer season (New York Red Bulls playing out of the Red Bull Arena and the recently established New York City team whose home is the Yankee Stadium).

The New York Mets and New York Yankees are both seeing in the end of the baseball season while the NFL begins during September providing opportunities to see the New York Giants or the New York Jets.

For tennis fans the US Open runs from the end of August into September at Flushing Meadows in Queens and is the scene of the first ever Grand Slam title for Britain’s Andy Murray.  Tickets are much easier to come by than for Wimbledon and it doesn’t tend to rain as much.  The night sessions can run past midnight on occasion and offer a unique atmosphere for watching tennis matches.

US Open Tennis

Arthur Ashe Stadium

3: Festivals/events

Arriving in September you won’t be too late for the tail end of the various free summer music events and gigs (and the paid events at the big stadiums).  For example 2015 saw Beyonce play in Central Park along with Coldplay and Pearl Jam for the Global Citizen Festival.  There are endless other events around the city in September including:

Feast of St Gennaro – Held each year in Little Italy this 11-day festival showcases the best Italian cuisine and party atmosphere with live music and pizza and cannoli eating contests among the parades and cooking demonstrations.  All in honour of the patron saint of Naples.

New York Fashion Week – Not everyone’s taste but for the glamourous among you then the glitzy New York Fashion Week may well feature highly on your agenda.  There are always a number of free events each year if you haven’t bagged tickets to the A-list parties.

Film Festivals – September sees a glut of silver screen celebrations which incorporate: Harlem International Film Festival, Coney Island Film Festival and the biggest of the three – the New York Film Festival.

Broadway Week – Broadway gets into the September spirit with its annual two for one ticket offer. If you’ve got a Broadway show on your ‘must see’ itinerary then this option makes it more affordable.  (Important note: It might still be possible to get cheaper tickets from the TKTS office in Times Square if you’re prepared to chance it on the day).

4: Sales/shopping

Curiosity Shop Soho

Curiosity Shop Soho

Labour (Labor) Day sales to get rid of the summer clothing lines and bring in the winter collections mean an opportunity to pick up a bargain or two. Century21 is a bit like a massive TKMaxx over 5 floors while areas such as Park Slope in Brooklyn feature plenty of independent stores if the Manhattan madness is not your shopping scene.

The pound is still relatively strong against the dollar so there’s plenty of opportunities to bag a bargain (or even to bag a bag!) from the huge department stores such as Macy’s (the biggest in the world), Bloomingdales, Barney’s, or try a spot of window shopping from the pricey boutiques along 5th Avenue stretching from the Upper East Side down to Midtown.

Farmers Market New York

Farmers Market New York

Markets – Brooklyn is home to dozens of markets throughout September and among the biggest are the Brooklyn Flea (incorporating Williamsburg and Fort Greene flea markets), Smorgasboard (a food flea market), and the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket.  Chelsea Market near the High Line in Manhattan is worth a look as well.

5: Free Sights

Ok so technically these are available all year round but September is a great time to experience them.

Parks – Both Central Park and Prospect Park (Brooklyn) are spectacular feats of environmental design and engineering with rolling fields, forests, lakes and zoos, they are both worthy of a stroll barefoot in the September sunshine. (There is an entrance fee for the zoos).

Central Park

Great Lawn Central Park

Brooklyn Bridge – probably our number one attraction in New York a visit is not complete without a walk across the 1.8km iconic structure built in 1883.  Aim for just before sunset to get the shots of the sun descending behind the Manhattan skyline, or very early in the morning for a photo uninterrupted by commuters and tourists.  Once you arrive in Brooklyn head for pizza at Juliana’s just a block away (ok we know this bit isn’t free).

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

9/11 Memorial – a very solemn and moving tribute to the events of September 9th 2001 – the ‘footprints’ of both towers of the World Trade Centre have been retained and transformed into a water feature with all the names of those that lost their lives in the tragedy.

Grand Central Station – You’ll have no doubt seen this in countless movies and photos but there’s nothing like the real thing.  A huge train and subway station Grand Central contains a food market, bars, restaurants, shops, and much more.  Get there at rush hour for the craziest experience.

Staten Island Ferry – A free ferry service that runs past the Statue of Liberty giving you ample opportunity to get your classic NYC holiday snaps.  Don’t waste your time walking around the island unless you’ve got tickets up in the crown.

Chelsea Galleries – Dozens of completely free galleries available for your perusal in Chelsea, Manhattan between about 20th and 27th streets and 10th to 11th Avenue.  Not open Sundays and Mondays but turn up on a Thursday evening and you might find yourself in the middle of opening night for the latest exhibiting artist.

Tom Fruin's Color Study

Tom Fruin’s Color Study at Mike Weiss Gallery

The High Line - An old elevated freight train track along Manhattan’s west side has been transformed into a 1.5 mile urban park with planted areas, water features, and several seating areas for watching the world go by on the streets below.

Wall Street / Financial District - While you can’t actually get in to the see the trading on the stock exchange you can walk around the Wall street area with your head pointed up at the seemingly endless rows of skyscrapers or wait patiently to get your perfect snap at the statue of the bull of Wall Street – don’t forget to look up!

Almost free:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) and the American Museum of Natural History face each other across Central Park and both have pay what you want schemes.  While they suggest a $25 and $27 entry fee for adults respectively, you can actually pay anything you like.  Of course, we recommend that you pay what you feel you can afford but the schemes are a great way to make the museums accessible for all.

If you don’t think you’ll get round the whole museum in your visit or you’re only interested in one or two exhibits then you might want to pay less.  If you find that you’ve enjoyed your visit so much then you can always pay more on the way out!

If you only have time for one then it’s a no-brainer – The Met wins hands down and don’t forget a glass of wine or a cold beer on the roof terrace overlooking the park.

The Met Museum's Rooftop Bar

The Met Museum’s Rooftop Bar

New York City on a budget?

Getting there:

We tried Norwegian’s new transatlantic flights on the Dreamliner ‘planes taking 7 hours from Gatwick to JFK with prices from £199 each way (plus luggage and food on board).  Don’t expect endless free alcohol or first class service but expect comfort and great in-flight entertainment systems.  Another option would be Virgin from Heathrow who appear to have reduced their prices to compete with Norwegian.

Staying there:

Use Airbnb (possibly one of the greatest ever Internet innovations) and bag yourself some affordable accommodation ranging from around £40-£60 per night ($60-$90) in the best areas of Brooklyn (Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn Heights).  Find somewhere with kitchen access so you can make your breakfast or pack lunches for more savings.

Eating there:

Eating out doesn’t have to be expensive – particularly at lunch as you can grab a hotdog or a slice of pizza for around $2-$3 to keep your energy up.  Mains at reasonable restaurants in Brooklyn should set you back around $12-$18 (£8-£12) and look out for the happy hour offers to get cheaper beer as it can be expensive – although the local beers are much stronger than your typical English ale.

Travelling there:

The subway is incredibly cheap and a 7-day pass is only around $30 (£20) for unlimited travel anywhere in the city.  Are you reading London?!

Even cheaper is walking – and you’ll do a lot of it.  It’s the single best way to experience the sights, sounds and smells of the great city and it’s well worth investing in some decent trainers to get you safely through the miles and miles you’ll inevitably walk (great for burning off the pizza, burgers, and beers!)

Have fun – don’t forget to tip!

 

 



rich-hall-1

Rich Hall

Comedian, actor, author, playwright and quite possibly the lovechild of Tommy Lee Jones and the Simpson’s Moe Szyslak, American funny man Rich Hall is an all round ‘stand up’ guy. Fresh from regular performances on our best telly shows in the UK, he’s embarked on a mammoth live tour and we caught up with him in Nottingham four dates in.

You had the responsibility for opening the new Glee club recently…
I didn’t really think about it that much. The expectations are that it’s going to be a good show regardless of whether it’s a new club or not. I’ve got to come out and be the best Rich Hall that I can. Everything seemed to go fine.

You interact a lot with the crowd – how much of the show is pre written and how much is off the cuff?
A lot of it is written, at some point it got written down and worked out. It’s kind of a safety net. It’s always there and eventually you get round to it but because I have that, I have a tremendous amount of confidence to go off and people are there thinking, ‘oh is he making this up?’ well then, some of it’s not made up, it’s kind of a mixture of both. Even a song that apparently sounds improvised has some structure to it otherwise you wouldn’t know what to play. So, I know where I’m going. But I think it creates an element of originality, It’s more fun for me if I try and wing it a bit.

And of course, you have several hundred dates to do.
Yea, and they’re not all going to be as glamorous as Nottingham, there’s Yeovil, er, some real shit holes. Nottingham is one of the more classy gigs.

As a US comedian, you’ve done a lot of stuff in the UK, how do you find the difference over here to the US?
It’s not a lot different, I don’t really change, I haven’t developed some different persona for the British audience, this is what I do. I work in the UK and I work in the US as well and obviously there’s things I can talk about here that Brits can relate to and if I talked about in America they wouldn’t be interested and vice versa. But in America it’s still my sense of humour, I still do what I think is funny.

Americans are actually used to people staying on the script. American comedians are a bit slicker and a bit more polished and a bit more ‘this is what I’ve written, this is what I’m going to do’ and so when you kinda come out of that and actually talk to them, they really sometimes go ‘ahh, woah!’ I think they’re probably more impressed than Brits about that. Brits want you to talk to them, they kind of want you to break the barrier and acknowledge where you are. I want to entertain myself as well and the only way to do that on stage is to keep it interactive.

rich-hall-2In the show you talked about President Obama, do you think the time has come when it’s OK to ‘diss’ him? Do you really think he’s doing a bad job?
Er, I had higher expectations. He seems to be doing lots of things for his self accomplishment, like pushing through a health care programme, that’s great but it seems more like ‘look what I did and what the last president didn’t do.’ But that doesn’t really affect me and it’s a bureaucratic mess. I don’t know, I think by nature I’m going to be sceptical of anyone and I was very celebratory about when he got elected and I was very much for him, and I’m still for him, but it’s been two years now and there’s a lot of unrest in America and a lot of money just being wasted.

Britain has a sort of slash and burn kind of approach to being in recession, Britain’s going to cut and cut and cut and you’re going to have to sit back and take it. And America’s trying to pretend that nothing’s wrong, and it’s not working, there’s a lot of f**king unemployment and a lot of stuff going under you know. I’m from a small town so I see it really manifest itself very specifically, there’s a bar that was open two weeks ago and now it’s closed. I don’t know, it’s two different approaches. Americans are blind or something, Obama’s such an eloquent speaker I think he’s convinced people to do stuff but I think he’s convinced them to do the wrong thing.

Maybe it’s a sign that the president doesn’t run the country but the people behind him do?
Well there’s a lot of bitterness between parties. I don’t give a f**k whether you’re Democrat or Republican, it drives me nuts. Americans are like ‘oh I’m a Democrat because my dad was a Democrat’ so you follow the party line when in fact you might have some really conservative ideas about certain things. I refuse to tow either party line.

I think there should be some real conservative stuff done in America so people say ‘oh you sound like a Republican’ well, no I’m not but I think this needs to be done it’s pretty austere and maybe it’s right wing but it depends on the issue. Electing Obama was such a big moment in America, it’s an achievement, it kind of overshadows so much other stuff you know. If Obama wasn’t a black president, he’d just be a kind of good president, like Clinton, to be honest I think at this point in his tenure, Clinton had accomplished a lot more.

So he’s in danger of being a token gesture?
No, it’s not token because it’s very significant gesture. But if the greatest achievement happened before he set foot in office, because he went in there a black president, then it would be sad. If I could predict it now, I’d say Hilary Clinton is gonna be the next president of the United States.

Setting new ground?
Yea, and Obama would have paved the way for it. Then he’d be like ‘oh great, I’m the black guy that made a woman president’ but I kinda think Hilary would be a better administrator, it’s hard to say. I’m as impatient as anybody, I just want the economy to get better you know, turn Detroit around, get the f**k out of Afghanistan get out of Iraq, stop wasting money on something you can’t win and start making cars that run on grass, do something!

It’s clear that it can be turned around really quickly if you’re someone who’s not led by huge global corporations… Or greed, greed is worse, you say corporations but I actually say greed and greed isn’t a corporate thing, there’s so much f**king greed. And there was so much money that was made and things had so much value, overvalued to a point where, lets say you have a house that’s worth a million dollars and now a real estate agent comes along and says it’s only worth 700,000 and you’re thinking ‘but it was worth a million so I’m not going to sell it for 700,000 because it was worth a million’, but it’s not now! People have a hard time letting go of that, and there’s a certain amount of greed in that. Think about cars and all that, you can go back to the 60s and 70s when they paid people to design f**king kick ass cars and that’s true all over the world. The minute someone designs a really good looking car no-one will give a f**k what it runs on. ‘Oh I gotta have that, what does it run on?’ Canolo oil? Ok, then put canolo oil in…as long as it looks cool.

 

This article was originally published in November 2010.



socialist-jesus

A Message To Christians For The Election

Christianity and Conservative politics are completely incompatible.

Voting for the Tory party and for Theresa May is electing a government that doesn’t care about the ordinary people.  A government that wants to cut funding to vital services such as the NHS and the police, services that take care of us all, but importantly look after the more vulnerable people in society.  Cutting those services is in direct opposition to a Christian belief where Christians are tasked with taking care of those less fortunate than themselves.

For years the Tories have mismanaged our economy, paying billions to prop up bankers, but not offering considerably less to help nurses. Their ongoing desire to reduce the state and allow big companies to exploit our systems has increased the gap between the elite and the rest of us – and we all know the love of money is the root of all evil.

And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”

Luke 3:11

You might be a Conservative voter.  You might not realise or fully appreciate the harm that party does when in control of our society.  You should care very deeply though, as it is set to get much worse.

The growth of food banks in the UK shows no sign of slowing.  Many of these are funded and operated by local churches up and down the country.  The Tory government expects you to foot the bill and pick up the fallout of their damaging policy decisions.

The Conservative election pledges on the environment are in stark contrast to Christian beliefs too.  They want to provide MPs with an option to bring back fox hunting and allow fracking.  They have been criticised by the Green Party for a ‘scandalous’ lack of focus on the environment. Christian’s first purpose on this planet was to look after it – the Tories are not the party to make this a reality.

 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

Genesis 2:15

If you are a Christian Tory voter, you should consider very carefully how you can possibly rationalise the two beliefs.  You should consider very carefully whether what the bible and Christian teaching tells you about helping the poorest and weakest, about the feasibility of a rich person to enter heaven, and about the obligations to care for our environment.

If those things matter to you as a Christian – and if they don’t you should consider finding a new religion – then your vote should be for anyone but the Tories on Thursday.  There is even a website to help you work out the best way to vote to do just that – https://www.tactical2017.com/

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.

Acts 4:32

What Would Jesus Do?

 

(image credit)



vote-election

A Guide To Voting: General Election 2017

Have you read the manifesto for each of the main political parties? No?  Not sure what a manifesto is or who the main political parties are?  Don’t panic – we’ve digested all the key points from the Conservative (Tory), Liberal Democrat (Lib Dem) and Labour party manifestos (election pledges) and made it simple to understand below.

If you’re suffering from voting fatigue, not really sure what the fuss is all about, or simple have no idea how to mark your card on June 8th at the polling booths then read on for our analysis.  We promise it’s (probably) the easiest guide to understand in the world.

First, some basics.  Feel free to scroll down if you’re not a politics beginner.

General Election Beginner’s Guide

The general election to be held on 8th June is a vote to decide which political party will run the country and make the key decisions for at least the next 5 years.  Everyone over the age of 18 and who is registered to vote is able to have a say in who they want to win.

The day of the election people will head down to their local polling stations (often a school or church hall) and vote for who they want as their local MP – the main choices are between Labour, Lib Dem, and Tory but some areas have strong support for the Green party and Scotland is predominantly the Scottish National party.

The main difference between the political parties is their views on how the country should be managed in terms of the relationship between private companies and the state.  This is sometimes referred to as capitalism versus socialism.  Capitalism favours private companies and a small state, socialism favours nationalised companies (a larger state) and more equality.

If you imagine a horizontal line then Capitalism (the Tory party) is regarded as being on the right and Socialism (the Labour party) is on the left.  The Lib Dems are somewhere in the middle but slightly more towards the Labour side. This might make sense of the terms ‘left wing’ and ‘right wing’.

left-wing-right-wingCriticisms of the left:

People tend to use the argument that privatisation is good as it creates market forces that compete to find efficiencies in services and production – thereby driving down costs for consumers.  They say the wealth created by people at the top will ‘trickle down’ to improve wealth and life for everyone else.

The criticism of the left and the large state is that these market forces don’t exist without private companies and the state is inefficient and unable to develop as quick as the private sector.

Criticisms of the right:

It tends to be much easier to criticise the right. A small state and deregulation of markets to allow privatisation has seen huge growth in inequality in the UK.  The ‘trickle down’ argument has been shown to not work in practice and putting large amounts of power and wealth in the hands of a small group of individuals is incredibly dangerous.

Privatisation of traditionally public services (trains, water companies, energy suppliers) has not seen the desired effect in terms of forcing down prices and improving services.  In fact the taxpayer now pays more to private rail operators in subsidies than it did when the rail system was nationalised.

The Media

Unfortunately, due to privatisation and deregulation over several decades, our media is mostly controlled by a handful of people who are very much supportive of the right wing and are being increasingly criticised for portraying labour in a negative light.

Just three companies own more than 70% of the national print circulation. One of the biggest – The Sun newspaper – is very right-wing (as it is owned by Rupert Murdoch) and has previously taken credit for ‘winning’ the elections for the Conservative party.

Social media is playing a more important role in political PR and has a similar problem in that there are only a handful of people controlling the information displayed and promoted through social channels.

What are the parties promising this election?

There are a number of key areas that the three main parties focus their election pledges on, these are:

  • Health
  • Education
  • Economy
  • Brexit
  • Tax/Spending
  • Immigration
  • Environment

We’ll summarise their promises for each of these areas and then provide our take on it all with a quick overview to help you decide how to vote if you don’t have time to read through the summaries or you’re struggling to make sense of it all.

Health

What does the Conservative Party say about Health?

  • Spend 8 billion pounds over 5 years to fund NHS services
  • Recover health costs from non-EU nationals
  • Invest in primary care and mental health facilities

 

What does the Labour Party say about Health?

  • Remove the NHS pay cap and invest 30 billion pounds over five years
  • Reduce waiting lists with an 18-week maximum wait for treatment
  • Increase funding to GP services
  • Make parking free in England at NHS facilities

 

What does the Liberal Democrat Party say about Health?

  • Spend 6 billion per year on NHS services funded through a 1p rise in income tax
  • Improve waiting times for mental health services
  • Cap the cost of social care

Who gets the points?

Labour 3

Lib Dem 2

Tory 1

Our verdict:
Labour is the only party fully committing to properly funding the NHS.  If the government can spend £85 billion on bailing out bankers, it should be able to spend more than £8 billion over five years on our health.


Education

What does the Conservative Party say about Education?

  • Scrap free school meals in favour of free breakfast for primary school pupils
  • Increase schools budget by £4bn by 2022
  • End ban on new grammar schools

 

What does the Labour Party say about Education?

  • Abolish university tuition fees
  • Free school meals for all pupils
  • Bring back Education Maintenance Allowance for 16-18 year-olds

 

What does the Liberal Democrat Party say about Education?

  • Pledged to invest almost £7bn in schools budgets
  • Oppose new grammar schools
  • Triple the Early Years Pupil Premium to £1000 to benefit disadvantaged children

 

Who gets the points?

Lib Dem 3

Labour 2

Tory 1

Our verdict: The Tory proposal to pay for primary school breakfasts means a budget of 7p per child – 10 times less than budgets for prison food.  Labour costings have also been criticised leaving Lib Dem top of the points in this category.


Economy

What does the Conservative Party say about the Economy?

  • Balance the budget by 2025
  • Cap energy tariffs for vulnerable people
  • Increase living wage to 60% of median earnings by 2020

 

What does the Labour Party say about the Economy?

  • Renationalise rail companies and cap fares
  • Nationalise energy system and Royal Mail
  • Balance day to day government spending within 5 years

 

What does the Liberal Democrat Party say about the Economy?

  • Boost economy with £100bn infrastructure investment
  • Balance day to day spending by 2020
  • Independent review on established cross-sector living wage

 

Who gets the points?

Labour 3

Lib Dem 2

Tory 1

Our verdict: Tories originally pledged to eliminate the deficit by 2015 and now say by 2025.  They also removed previous pledge not to increase NI or income tax.  Labour’s plan to renationalise the rail companies is a popular one with the public.


Brexit

What does the Conservative Party say about Brexit?

  • Leave the single market and customs union
  • Believe that ‘no deal’ is better than a bad deal
  • Maintain a common travel area

 

What does the Labour Party say about Brexit?

  • Don’t believe ‘no deal’ is a valid option in negotiations
  • Guarantee existing rights for EU and UK citizens living abroad
  • Prioritise negotiations around retaining single market and customs union

 

What does the Liberal Democrat Party say about Brexit?

  • Have a second referendum once the terms of leaving are agreed
  • Focus on protecting rights of EU citizens in the UK and expats in the EU
  • Continue membership of the single market and customs union

 

Who gets the points?

Lib Dem 3

Labour 2

Tory 1

Our verdict: Liberal Democrats are the only party to offer a second referendum once a deal has been reached with Brussels and we know what leaving looks like.  Experts are suggesting the Brexit vote is now impacting on households with rising costs and falling wages and say being part of the EU increases security against terror attacks.


Tax & Spending

What does the Conservative Party say about Tax/spending?

  • Personal tax allowance to increase to £12,500 and higher rate to £50,000 by 2020
  • Cut corporation tax to 17% by 2020
  • Scrap pension triple lock (the scheme that determines how pensions increase in value) after 2020

 

What does the Labour Party say about Tax/spending?

  • No tax increases for people earning less than £80,000 per year
  • Guarantee state pension triple lock
  • Increase corporation tax but maintain level below most major developed economies

 

What does the Liberal Democrat Party say about Tax/spending?

  • Increase income tax by 1p to spend on NHS and social care
  • Continue with the triple lock pension scheme
  • Reverse corporation tax cuts and reverse cuts to capital gains tax and marriage allowance

 

Who gets the points?

Tory 2

Labour 2

Lib Dem 2

Our verdict: This very much depends on who you are.  Older people have been upset by Tory pension plans while businesses would prefer the further cuts to corporation tax.  Those wanting more investment in health might like the Lib Dem plans on tax increases ring-fenced to spend on the NHS.


Immigration

What does the Conservative Party say about Immigration?

  • Sustainable levels of immigration in the tens of thousands
  • Overseas students counted in the immigration stats
  • Reduce asylum claims but allow refugees affected by conflict or oppression

 

What does the Labour Party say about Immigration?

  • Take in a fair share of refugees
  • Crackdown on fake colleges but not include overseas students in immigration stats
  • End freedom of movement as part of leaving EU

 

What does the Liberal Democrat Party say about Immigration?

  • Want to continue freedom of movement as part of EU negotiations
  • Bring in 50,000 vulnerable people from Syria
  • Portray the benefits of immigration

 

Who gets the points?

Tory: 1

Labour: 1

Lib Dem: 1

Our verdict: Another tough call on a highly emotive subject.  We need net migration to the UK to fill jobs but the unemployment rates of migrants is around three times higher than across the UK generally.  A focus on migration for skilled workers should be the key for all parties.


Environment

What does the Conservative Party say about the Environment?

  • Supportive of fracking
  • Opening up the option to reverse ban on fox hunting
  • Take action against poor air quality

 

What does the Labour Party say about the Environment?

  • Introduce a ‘Clean Air Act’ to tackle poor air quality
  • Ban fracking
  • Move to a low carbon economy and meet climate change targets

 

What does the Liberal Democrat Party say about the Environment?

  • Introduce air quality plan to reduce deaths
  • Oppose fracking and expansion of Heathrow airport
  • Create five new green laws covering carbon emissions, transport, and waste

 

Who gets the points?

Lib Dem 3

Labour 2

Tory 0

Our verdict:
Clear win for the Liberal Democrats here and if it was possible to give minus points then the Tories would be in trouble with very little commitment to the environment in their manifesto. The fact Theresa May appears to want to bring back fox hunting says it all.

 

FINAL SCORES:

Liberal Democrat = 16

Labour = 15

Conservative = 7

 

How To Vote On Election Day

You need to weigh up what’s important to you and then look at what the situation is in your constituency.  If you lean towards Labour but the seat in your area is contested between Lib Dem and Conservatives then you’d be better represented voting for the Liberal Democrats as their policies are more closely aligned to Labour then the Tories.

The reverse is true for those Liberal Democrat voters.  The Conservatives are so far from what your party is standing for that you’d be better served voting for Labour to prevent the Tories from being elected.

There is a website on how to vote tactically to ensure the Tories don’t get in if you’re that way inclined – you just enter your postcode and the computer magically lets you know who to vote for. https://www.tactical2017.com/

 

On a Greener note:

The Green Party have no chance of being elected just yet – which is a shame.  They have some excellent policies on the economy, health, education and of course the environment.  If you’re in a constituency where the Green Party have a shout of winning then you’d be doing a good deed by voting for them.

 



Brexit flags

Brexit Stage Left?

Why didn’t Remain get a catchy little moniker that was attached to the Leave campaign?  The entire issue has been reduced to the portmanteau ‘Brexit’ – even before voting we were bombarded with media coverage promoting the idea of Brexit; a not-so-subtle attempt to normalise the idea of voting leave.

Why were most MPs previously opposed to the idea of leaving, then so determined that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ once the referendum results came in?  The fact that more people voted to remain than voted in the Tories in the general election seems to have gone under the radar.  The fact that many leave voters were doing so on the basis of lies and impossible promises and have now changed their minds also appears swept under the carpet.

Why is this happening?  Why aren’t MPs – mandated to look after our best interests – heading blindly towards a scenario that is going to be economic carnage for the majority of Brits?  It *has* to be about money.  There are some clues – one hedge fund manager made £220million betting on the outcome of the referendum by shorting on property companies and moving his funds into gold (which shot up in value as the pound plummeted).  Many others continue to profit from the ongoing choppiness of the markets.

The recent triumph (albeit possibly just temporary) for the Remainers in the High Court ruling parliament must vote on triggering article 50 is a decision the government are now appealing.  Ironic that May is determined to uphold the misplaced votes of many in opting to leave the EU but is attempting to overturn the court’s decision.

Does this mean people power can trump the legal system now?  If enough of us vote to lock up the cast of TOWIE with no particular legal reason then the government will make it happen?  Don’t forget this is a country that twice voted a dog as Britain’s ‘most talented’.  We aren’t responsible enough and too easily manipulated by the media to make decisions on long term foreign policy.

Instead, our MPs, those that we chose to represent us, are charged with making important decisions about our future where we don’t have all the information or the requisite intelligence (supposedly) to make these choices ourselves.

We can see the damage caused already by the referendum and it will only get worse.  Just this week a leading ratings agency is preparing to further downgrade the UK’s rating as it warns of a bleak outlook for the economy.

The High Court ruling that requires MPs to now vote on triggering article 50 (as long as it’s not overturned at appeal) gives all sane Brits the opportunity to lobby your local MP to vote against pulling the trigger.

Make sure you contact your local MP and ask them to vote against article 50 and campaign to remain in the EU, or at least for a second referendum once we know the terms on which we would leave.  We need MPs to realise that the public vote was tainted and what was promised is not what is deliverable.  It’s time the politicians stood up and did something useful.



feederportrait

Feeder – O2 Birmingham Institute

With bands struggling to last much beyond a third album today, it’s refreshing to see a seasoned band such as Feeder still packing out venues and connecting with an audience that have generally aged with them.

Having taken a four-year hiatus following the fairly mediocre reaction to eighth studio album ‘Generation Freakshow’, Grant Nicholas and fellow long-standing member, Taka Hirose, strutted on stage to a rapturous welcome, allaying any fears that any ‘Feeder-fatigue had developed. Beginning with a new track – ‘Another Day on Earth’ – the song felt as unimaginative as its title. The majority of tunes played off their latest LP ‘All Bright Electric’ were a little vague lyrically and felt as if they were Feeder-by-numbers.

The show shifted up a gear when they played the gloriously poppy ‘Pushing the Senses’, inciting the sort of physical explosion in the crowd that Feeder gigs were often notorious for. The irritatingly catchy ‘Lost and Found’ was tossed out as a reminder of how Feeder have often marred albums with novelty rock songs.

Conversely, when they get it right, Feeder possess a collection of euphoric rock songs full of great depth and soaring melodies. 1997 single ‘High’ is a Feeder benchmark, and tonight was no different. The song resonating even more after Nicholas – somewhat uncharacteristically – introduced the song with an articulate polemic about the destruction of the music industry and how it was an  easier and more successful time to be in a band back in the 1990s. A simple but effective point as the fragmentation of music in the last decade has seen music diminish as a highly-valued art form.

The middle of the set felt a tad plodding and featured the gentile ‘Tender’ and newbie ‘Paperweight’, a pair of songs that witnessed the audience’s focus drift. However, football-style chanting of “Feedeeer” sparked a smiles from the band and gave credence to the hardcore element of fans who have followed the band since the days of the tragically departed former drummer Jon Lee, who committed suicide over 14 years ago. The interaction between band and audience was excellent throughout.

‘Come Back Around’ increased the tempo and made a welcome return to the setlist, having been omitted from their last tour. It was start of a top-heavy hit-laden final chapter of the set – albeit blighted by excessive feedback that spoilt the turbo-charged ‘Insomnia’ and new song ‘Infrared-Ultraviolet’. Not that the crowd seemed to mind, as signature tune ‘Buck Rogers’ brought the house down before a double-whammy of ‘Seven Days in the Sun’ and ‘Just a Day’ saw Feeder climax on a high. At their best, Feeder can be joyous, but their flaws were a little too evident to suggest this was a classic.