Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category
Which have nothing to do with music or Chelsea!
Apologies for the recent lack of posts in here, I’m going through another of those inexplicable periods that stifles creativity, optimism, the will to write, and a slight depression. Much of it has been brought about by seeing rioters locked away without any real efforts to have them clean up their communities (I knew things were heading in the wrong direction) too many doctors were producing a diagnosis and then prescribing entirely the wrong medicine, the illness will not be cured. Heard a really interesting interview on BBC Radio 5 Live yesterday evening with a former policeman in Glasgow who is now involved in a project to reduce violent crime and gangland culture which has had startling results over the past year, shame it isn’t available as a podcast for you to hear. The crux of his solutions was to offer a stark choice between punishment and reform coupled with multi-partnership early intervention schemes starting with parenting classes and advice centres which put great emphasis on the first three years of life helping (mainly) single parents to introduce empathy, consideration, a realisation of the consequences of poor behaviour, and its effects upon others around you. The scheme also involves parents and teachers working together to reintroduce discipline at school and in the home for children between four and fourteen with rewards for good behaviour and reductions in privileges for poor behaviour. Those who do make the choice to join gangs and enter into a life of criminality in their teens are warned of the “zero tolerance” attitude that their local police will take going right down to the point of possible eviction from social housing, chasing down their mothers if they don’t have a TV Licence, chasing down the family if their car is not taxed, chasing down those who are in arrears with council tax, in other words the police promise to be “in their faces” all day long. Local courts are encouraged to hand down more community sentences which see offenders making real reparations for the damage that they may have caused, they get to meet victims of crime and experience the horrors and fears that many carry with them for life. On the other hand, if they choose not to display criminal behaviour they will be offered places in schemes which channel their energies in better ways such as football teams, youth groups, apprenticeships, art classes, special interest groups that teach music, video editing, video game programming, all the things that modern teenagers would probably love to do.
Unfortunately such schemes can be costly to run, but economically make good long term sense, particularly if re-offending rates begin to collapse, and they have in Glasgow, no wonder that the Strathclyde Chief Constable is one of the favourites to take over at the Met.
Then to cap off a bad week, the politicians in their wisdom decided that everything was more or less solved so they took off on holiday again!
If that wasn’t bad enough to give you the blues, I don’t what is.
As a typical South Shields football supporting lad I was looking forward to yesterday’s derby match between Sunderland and Newcastle, but now working every Saturday prevents me from going to the Stadium of Light to watch Sunderland, (my visits will have to be restricted to Sunday and mid week games now), but two sessions in front of the box watching Match of the Day have simply added to my depression, two games against Liverpool and The Mags should have netted six points if only our strikers could hit the bloody target! I fear a week of solid ribbing from the black and white half of this town. At least yesterday’s game appears to have been trouble free with only 21 arrests at the ground, which is pretty good from a capacity crowd!
So……….hoping that a bit of cricket this weekend will cheer us all up as England try their hardest to secure a test series whitewash of India, two days left to bowl them out twice for a humiliating innings defeat, at least we can say we’re champions at something! For those poor folk who cannot, or would not, dream of paying for a Sky subscription there’s always Test Match Special on BBC Radio, probably the best tonic for the blues and depressions, even without the venerable “Johnners” there are enough characters to give you a laugh, I leave you (for now) with this little classic!
How low can we go?
Let’s be honest there’s nothing like a good old moan is there?
South Shields has its fair share of moaners and ne’er-do-wells particularly when it comes to car parking, charges, visitors, and shopping, Jarrow of course is a safe haven for many in South Tyneside, but really are we beating a well worn path that leads to nowhere or are we justified in our protestations?
Yesterday the Curly family took a ride out into Northumberland for a little history and culture in the hope that it may provide some inspiration for “Junior” and “Missy”, learning something of how other councils treat their visitors can be an eye opener too and Northumberland County Council is not short of detractors! The 160 mile round trip took in stops at Alnwick, Berwick, and Lindisfarne Island with the first being an unplanned emergency toilet stop in the market town of Alnwick where I discovered that the local Morrisons supermarket did not have customer toilets and the £1 parking charge was only refunded after the purchase of £10 of produce, not the £5 limit that we have in South Shields. Furthermore after a hasty walk down to the market place we discovered that the public conveniences in Northumberland carry a 20p usage fee! Parking in charges in Berwick were £1.8o per hour and again the same 20p toilet ticket, so by time we’d taken lunch and made another natural relief visit I was already £5.40 out of pocket. On returning to the car I discovered that the Edinburgh family parked next to me were in a furious fighting mood having picked up a £60 fixed penalty notice because one of their tyres was more than six inches over the white line marking out the bay! I was pretty glad that I know how to park straight!
And so we returned south to visit Lindisfarne just in time to see the last of the sea retreating across the causeway leaving us almost as much time as we wanted to explore the island, charges at the visitor’s car park were £2.80 for up to three hours, which should be long enough for most people, so I happily filled the machine with more coins but blast it did not print a ticket! So I repeated the operation at another machine and took note of the minuscule telephone number and rang the County Council, alas the 0845 number rang and rang and rang! Another few pounds wasted and I’m now down by £11.00, and then to add insult to injury the kids got bored and Mrs. Curly was disappointed not to see any monks distilling the famed Lindisfarne Mead, not sure where she picked up that misconception, but we purchased a few bottles as gifts for the family. So after an hour and a half I reluctantly admitted that I have a family of Philistines lacking in any real education about the north-east and its cultural and religious history, perhaps its the education syllabus to blame, perhaps its the multi-religious approach of the schools, or more likely it was my own fault for not fully advising them in advance of what to expect. However, having to take a reluctant decision to leave after such a short time was pretty gnawing and I rightly or wrongly thought that once again my day had been marred by the British bureaucrats.
The important point about this Northumberland tale is that once you get away from South Tyneside you realise that our 1p a minute parking charges really are a reasonable amount to ask, the current charges at supermarkets are not “out of the box”, and we still have public conveniences that are clean, well maintained, and free! This does not negate the previous comments that I have made about a shoppers car parking scheme. Whether we think that these things are right or wrong is immaterial, the fact is that we are cheap, how low can we go? Perhaps too cheap, and perhaps, as the picture illustrates, higher charges will not necessarily put off visitors, oh if only Bede had been brought up as a skyetender and built a monastery next to the Roman Fort on the Lawe Top!
Northumberland County Council’s parking charges work out at roughly about £1 per hour, but after the first few hours the charges ramp up steeply, I’m not saying that they have the correct formula for retaining visitors and encouraging trade and they have managed on more than one occasion to upset the traders in Morpeth, but seriously here in South Tyneside we probably have gone as far as possible now in setting reasonable charging rates for car parking.
Another important point to note is if a place is worth visiting, if it has important historical artefacts, if it has a place in history, if it has something to entertain and amuse, it will attract visitors in droves without any real problems. Tourists do take a day out expecting to spend money!
Now, who bets that 25000 people would not have been willing to part with £10 to watch Joe McElderry?
South Tyneside Summer Festival 2011 off to a scorching start
Well I missed the big parade in South Shields on Saturday, but my daughter reported that it was just as busy as the best years, the sun was out to bake the entrants on their procession from the Town Hall to the sea front and the Bents Park as thousands of residents and visitors lined the streets to get this year’s festival off to a flying start. Sunshine and warmth is certainly a great help for the Cookson Parade and huge splashes of glorious colour and noise attract visitors and encourage them to spend! “Missy” came back from the fayre in the Bents Park with a giant teddy, so her day was made.
The festivities continued yesterday with the whole sea front area swathed in crowds of summer visitors enjoying the beaches, the parks, the fun fair and the entertainment provided by local artists in the Bents Park. The park was packed as local talent was showcased on the stage in a family fun day involving rides and entertainment for the children, food and drink for the adults, selling opportunities for local businesses, and general good natured fun.
Customs House Director Ray Spencer in his guise of “Tommy the Trumpeter” was enjoying his role as Master of Ceremonies as he told me that:
“This really is as good as it gets for the first weekend, the weather has been brilliant and the crowds yesterday and today really made the effort to come and enjoy themselves. I’m delighted that local bands have got a great audience to play to today we really have some talented people in our community, and I’m looking forward to the other Sundays coming up, lets just hope that the weather continues like this throughout July.”
“Tommy” was enjoying a little break as South Shields actor Dale Meeks, who played Simon Meredith in ITV’s Emmerdale, was fronting his band “Shake ya tail feather” on the stage. The band has now been joined by a female vocalist who helps to balance Dale’s tones and add some width to the range, as they belted out a repertoire of gutsy blues based beats from the Blues Brothers to the Doors, just what the crowd needed to get them moving! We were later treated to a Beatles tribute band of unusual qualities, not as you might expect a four piece bunch of “mop top” lookalikes but a six piece combo including a female vocalist! Looked nothing at all like the Fab Four but their sound was authentic Merseybeat as they ran through a stream of early sixties Beatles covers in a very accomplished manner.
Later after the concert in the Bents Park was over another huge crowd listened to “the Proms” at the amphitheatre from South Tyneside’s youth orchestra with great vocal support.
If you were there, I am sure you will have enjoyed it, if not then you ought to have been, if you are reading this from outside of South Tyneside than can I encourage you to visit the Summer Festival web page to get a flavour of what is on offer this year and suggest that a visit here will be a rewarding experience.
Now, if you are a councillor or a council official can I encourage you to think long and hard about the numbers of people visiting South Tyneside this summer, yes it is great when the weather is this kind to us, the spending power is greatly appreciated by local businesses too, but we let a great opportunity slip by a couple of years ago to get our visitors to make more than just a day trip to the seaside. That’s right, we need to encourage them to stay for weekend breaks, and that means more accommodation in the town centre and sea front areas, the ill fated hotel at Gypsies Green would have fit the bill perfectly. We still have land and development opportunities available in the Town Centre, Harton Staithes, and further along the riverside, we could use a four star hotel and something along the lines of a Travelodge to cover the budget end of the market. We need to be bold and brave and determined to aggressively market these opportunities, let’s not be suckered twice by blinkered opposition.
Enjoy this small picture slide show of yesterday’s events in the Bents Park.
p.s. Following my words yesterday about my dying monitor (which now works again after I fixed a faulty panel switch) I was rather surprised and overcome by the very generous offer of a free monitor from one of my readers! You really were far too kind sir, and your thoughtfulness was that of a typical Sanddancer, thank you very much for your offer I shall not forget your gesture.
Ever thought of getting to know them a little better?
Regular readers here will know that for some time I have been very concerned at how “The War Against Terror”, and the attendant changes in anti terror legislation introduced during the Blair/Brown era, affected the way we viewed ourselves, our civil liberties, and the way in which we approached others within our communities. I have to report that in South Shields, at least, the more general fears and stereotypical views about the followers of Islam have not been realised, although there have been a very few isolated incidents reported in the local press.
I have often criticised in this blog, the apparent failure of government to adhere to its own principles that terrorism would not alter the way of British life, government itself has managed to achieve that by regulating, legislating, monitoring, spying, and gradually eroding many of our centuries old civil liberties that we often take for granted. Following on from the major outrages of 9/11 and 7/7 government has managed to introduce an illogical sense of fear about Muslims in our communities and allowed sections of the press and media to highlight the most extreme extreme examples of expression from teachings and preachings to public demonstrations, yet in the majority of British communities, and most certainly here in South Shields, there is very little evidence at all to support these fears.
We have lived side by side with Muslims in our locality for over two hundred years here, with descendants of Yemenis and more recently Bangladeshis, educated in our schools, working in our community, and generally being normal “Geordies” enriching our lives with an infusion of diversity and culture. I stated in a previous post that I will be writing a little more about our Muslim neighbours during June and July to try and bridge that gap of understanding which still exists, and I am meeting some people who are keen on reaching out into the wider community to help us gain that understanding about their cultural and religious beliefs.
We all need to appreciate, accept and respect each other’s beliefs and be able to come together in those areas where we all share a common path, it strengthens us as human beings, engages us, and challenges us to move forward with greater social integration. We have been blessed in South Tyneside with many years of social, cultural, and religious harmony, but the history of recent more international events risks alienating a section of our community which has done little to deserve suspicion on any level.
The video above is taken from an American website which has broadly the same aims, My Fellow American is also reaching out to bridge that divide, caused by ignorance, and build stronger local communities with greater social cohesion. Just because your neighbour may have a different coloured skin, or may occasionally dress differently, or wear a beard, or eat different meals to you is no reason to view him with a wary eye. We didn’t necessarily do this with those speaking in an Irish brogue in the 1970s did we?
As we approach Ramadam I will be introducing some members of the Muslim community here in South Shields who will talk about their experiences and share them with us, I hope you will find their stories fascinating, interesting, entertaining, and engaging.
I hope that it may encourage you to reach out and get to know your neighbour a little better.
It’s part of what being a Sanddancer is all about.
………or is it the other way around?
I was inspired to make this fetching piece of art having read that Cllr. Allen Branley, the millionaire dentist and property developer, has launched an art gallery. The South Tyneside Independent Alliance councillor (twice removed) has partnered up with Corbridge artist Andy Balman to present and promote works of art within his Complete Smile Dental business in Thomas Street, South Shields.
I wish him well, it is an innovative way to get people to wander into the former Chelsea Cat building to browse some paintings and ponder some fillings and crowns whilst they are there.
I was inspired to make this piece of artistic representation by two things, this painting found at Branley’s new Complete Art website, a fascinating little rural montage featuring a sketch of a bird and a hanging stickman, and the interesting history of Cllr. Branley’s local political career. The new website is quite informative, and once you are finished looking around the works of art in the Customs House, spent some time in the Customs House shop in King Street, South Shields, perused Bill and Ian West’s photography in Harton Village, you can come back to learn that Cllr. Branley splits his time between South Shields and Texas in the USA as a practising dentist, lecturer, and international art collector. He is clearly a very busy man!
I am fascinated by Allen’s taste in art as illustrated and presented on his new website, the two potato heads with the joker’s hat tickled me, as did the tasteful young naked lady, I also found a couple of mad hatters surrounded by small works, all very nice.
If anyone is interested I can provide an A4 print on very plain paper of the above piece “The Road to Westoe” for only £900.
I’d like to finish this post with a piece of music dedicated to those who don’t have tow pennies to rub together, cannot afford to own properties, and to those who need a drink (or three), – just enjoy the art, it’s healthier.