Saturday, 23 March 2019

Get Happy...

...or the Pearly King & Queen edition
Here we are again - another day, another blog - and in a week when the Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance held its first conference, your blogger was chuffed to see such a range of people under one roof for this annual event. Huge thanks to Victoria, Hayley, Alex and Zoe for pulling it all together (and numerous others who I apologise not for naming). Highlights of such a full-on event are difficult to share. Of course meeting people I only really know through this blog, was such treat - you know who you are. The moon on Wednesday evening was just ridiculous and the biggest most wonderful thing. Thanks to the organisers for pulling that off!

It was great to hear Liz Ellis, who is Policy Advisor Communities and Diversity at the National Lottery Heritage Fund, speak so passionately and eloquently about our fundamental human right to the arts - and the ways in which all human rights are bound up in each other. Errol Francis set the scene with his pitch perfect observations around definitions of culture and cultures. The poems of Zodwa Nyoni were visceral and moving. From the floor, of all the questions and comments uttered and asked, it was Dr Dave Camlin asking something more sticky about the nature of us, (the delegates/speakers) in this unfolding landscape - my frustration was not being able to hear more of that, and have the space to dig deeper. 

Much was made of the social prescribing agenda and the place of artists (as I have already commented on) offering free social cures. I did hear some toe-curling justification around this, as yet unformed agenda, but by and large, people appreciated the growing political awareness, so long as it doesn’t undermine the progress that organisations and individuals have made over the last few decades. Let’s hope those cheap salesmen selling the ‘scaling-up’ agenda for all things, have the decency to take time to listen to and learn from some of the excellent practitioners who were there. Talk of a Social Prescribing Academy and a National Centre still rattles many of the people working on the ground, so these are very interesting times.

Lord Howarth gave a rousing speech to this agenda, full of nuance and informed by his rich political experience and personal drive. He took on the poisoned nature of our political times and spoke refreshingly in terms of the collective, as opposed to the individual. Words that tally with the Manchester Declaration. On that note, many apologies to those of you who wanted copies, but who might not have got one. I brought a couple of hundred and they vanished very quickly.

Great to hear the collaborative work of sound artist Jason Singh and visual artist Fabric Lenny (Paul Slater) from their work at Chester Zoo exploring the plant life there, recording live biometric data from a variety of orchids held in their extensive collection of Nepenthes, Orchids and Cacti. Find out more and listen to these soundscapes HERE. 

Only a few of days left to apply for the early career research post working with me over the next year at Arts for Health. Full details are HERE.

Our Deluded Little Island
I haven’t really commented much on the whole Brexit shenanigans on this blog, for fear of losing my sanity completely. This week I was sent a rather excellent and brief feature from the counterpunch website, via our Australasia Special Correspondent. The article by Kenneth Surin who teaches at Duke University in the USA, neatly unpicks the legacy of Margaret Thatcher’s policy of selling off publicly-owned services, so that British individuals and businesses could all be share-owners in Albion. Well, while we’re aware of the failings of privatisation across the NHS, rail services and much more, what I hadn’t understood was that many of the enterprises privatised by Thatcher have now returned to government ownership, but alas for Brits these are foreign governments! So to cheer you up and propel you into the final stages of our catastrophic European Union end-days, here’s a list complied by Surin and as ever, you can read the full article HERE. Read it and weep - then laugh hysterically at the irony of the who damn thing.

“…the town of Romford, in the London borough of Havering, had the distinction of being named as the most Eurosceptic place in the country in a 2016 YouGov survey.

The Brexit motto is “take back control”, but at Romford station there’s a choice of trains into London: you can travel on one run by the Dutch, or one run by the Chinese. Someone going to neighbouring Basildon has to change at Upminster and buy a ticket from the Italian firm that operates C2C. Here’s the fuller picture.

ScotRail is operated by Abellio, which is wholly owned by the Dutch national rail operator Nederlandse Spoorwegen.

Abellio also owns 60% of Greater Anglia trains (the remaining 40% is owned by the Japanese company Mitsui).

West Midlands trains is 70% owned by Abellio, the remaining 30% is shared between Mitsui and another Japanese company JR East.

Arriva Rail London is operated by Arriva, which is owned by the German national rail operator Deutsche Bahn.

Arriva also operates Chiltern Railways and CrossCountry, Grand Central, and Northern.
The already-mentioned C2C is owned by the Italian government’s Trenitalia.

Eurostar is operated by EIL, which is owned by the French government’s SNCF (55%), Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) (30%), Hermes Infrastructure (10%) which is majority-owned by a US investment fund, and NMBS/SNCB (5%) which is the state railway company of Belgium.

The Chinese corporation MTR owns TfL rail and 30% of South Western Railway.

Transport for Wales is owned by Keolis, a Franco-Québécois private operator of public transport.

In fact, European state railways now own more than quarter of the UK’s passenger-train system.

The same situation exists with regard to the UK’s energy, water, and telephone companies.

London Electricity, SWEB, Seeboard and British Energy are owned by EDF Energy, a subsidiary of the French Government-owned energy company EDF (Électricité de France) Group.

Powergen is owned by the German group E.ON.

Calortex, Independent Energy and Midlands Electricity are owned by Npower, a subsidiary of German energy company RWE Group.

ScottishPower is a subsidiary of Spanish company Iberdrola, which also owns Manweb, the energy company supplying Merseyside and North Wales.

Anglian Water is owned by a consortium consisting of Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Colonial First State Global Asset Management (owned by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia), IFM Investors (an Australian investment management firm), and 3i. The same consortium also owns Hartlepool Water.

Northumbrian Water is owned by Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings (Hong Kong). Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings also owns Essex and Suffolk Water.

Wessex Water is owned by YTL Corporation (Malaysia).

Affinity Water is part owned by Morgan Stanley (USA).

South East Water is owned by Hastings Diversified Utilities Fund/Utilities Trust of Australia.

Sutton and East Surrey Water is owned by Sumitomo Corporation (Japan).

Level 3 Communications (USA) owns a national optical fibre network.

O2 runs a GSM-900 network and is owned by Telefónica (Spain).

EE runs a GSM-1800 network and is a joint venture of Orange (France) and Deutsche Telecom (Germany).

The UK’s bus and airport companies are also largely foreign owned.

Arriva buses is owned by the German national rail operator Deutsche Bahn.

Bus and coach companies are also owned by ComfortDelGro (Singapore), RATP (France), and Transdev (France).

Heathrow, Glasgow, and Southampton airports are owned by the Spanish Ferrovial (25%), Qatar Holding (20%), and Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (12.62%).

Gatwick airport is owned by Global Infrastructure Partners (USA).

The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan owns 48.25% of Birmingham airport.

IFM Investors (Australia), in addition to part-owning Anglian Water, also owns Manchester airport, the MM6 tollway, and the telecommunications company Arqiva.

All this has been the consequence of asset-stripping undertaken on a massive scale.”

“The British public, which owned these assets, got stiffed. All this has taken place in a context where the wealth-gap between the Have-Lots and the JAMs (Just About Managing) has grown to levels not seen since the 1930s.”

…oh - what’s the bloody point?*

*The final entry in Kenneth Williams diary on 14 April 1988.          

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