Category Archives: Informative

Social enterprise plan to teach Barkingside about growing their own fruit and veg

Note: This report was orginally written for the East London Guardian-Series.

A social enterprise aiming to increase the supply of organic food in Redbridge is due to open a new educational site in Barkingside.

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Toni Dipple, the founding director of Organic Ilford CIC

Starting from September, people will be able learn about growing their own organic fruit and veg on a patch of land off Horns Road, Ilford.

Toni Dipple, the founding director of Organic Ilford CIC, said: “Our aim is to provide locally sourced organic vegetables across Redbridge from small scale farms.

“By buying and producing locally you are helping to support the community and environment.”

Along with educating the public, social enterprise Organic Ilford have been offering a selection of locally produced jams, chutneys, eggs and freshly picked fruit and vegetables since May this year.

They now have over 40 regular customers with three collection points across Ilford.

Toni and her volunteers received a £6000 grant in June from Transform and Redbridge Council to create the education site in Barkingside.

The Organic Ilford box scheme has been guided by the Growing Communities Start-up Programme, which works with groups across the UK to help set up community-led box schemes.

Kerry Rankine, Assistant Director at Growing Communities said: “We’re really delighted that the scheme has taken off in Ilford.

“Toni and all the volunteers are really doing an amazing job,” she added.

6 tips to help you launch your start-up while working full time

For a long time I dreamed of starting my own business, and I’m sure there are many of you out there who feel the same way.

So what is stopping most of us from realising this ambition? A family to support, bills to pay, the complexities of daily life – quitting your nine to five to pursue a dream can seem like a big gamble.

But there is another way my friends. If you have the determination to succeed, save money, and organise your time effectively, you can start a business while working full time. This is exactly what I have done and it has been incredibly satisfying. Not only are the financial risks severely diminished, but I’ve had greater freedom to experiment and take risks.

So enough preaching, on to the good stuff. I’ve been on a quest to find some top tips from business owners and experts, who perhaps like yourselves someday, started selling their wares while working full time.

 

1. Get support – work as a team

Taking on a huge task yourself can be daunting, overwhelming, and just downright impossible. But when I first started out I was lucky enough to have a friend to work with.

In my own experience, not only did this lessen the burden, but it also made the process so much more fun. While your ultimate ambition may be to fly solo, if you want to build a successful start-up without quitting your existing job, you’re going to need support.

“It’s difficult to start a business on your own,” said Anees Ikrahmullah, owner of a small start-up called Centre Spot Events. “Having the help of a friends makes it easier to get stuff done. Just be careful who you work with though – I’ve seen failed businesses ruin friendships before.”

Alternatively, you could find a mentor or enlist the help of volunteers. Offering a few close friends free pizza and beers for an afternoon of their help is not such a big request, and can be great bonding. I find most of the time your buddies are willing to help.

 

2. Make the most of the internet

There are a tremendous amount of free resources out there for you as an aspiring business owner. The internet will be your greatest ally in this journey. In fact, you’ve already taken your first step. Websites like AllBusiness can provide the vital information and support you need to get started.

“When I first started out I had no idea what I was doing,” said Miten Sudra, a student and co-founder of ThriftyPanda, a media agency in London. “If it wasn’t for the valuable resources I found online, the tools and guides for start-ups, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Managing your online presence will make or break your business. Get to know about blogger outreach and SEO, start a website using free CMS such as WordPress and merchant plugins like WooCommerce. Make sure you analyse your traffic using Google Analytics and see how effective your website is in converting visits to sales. Investing in a website means you also don’t need to rent out a store. Digital marketing is cheap, effective, and can be managed remotely. Get smart – work less but more effectively.

 

3. Organise your time effectively

Your greatest challenge will be how to manage what little time you have. Certainly your social life will suffer unless you plan ahead. Use tools like Google Calendar to set yourself a schedule. Allocate time to work on your business, but also, time to spend with your loved ones. Use idle time to your advantage. For example, spend your lunch hour at work replying to important emails or managing your social media accounts.

“Fill your time productively,” said Daniel Berwick, owner of SkadooshFitness and a personal fitness Guru. “I found discipline to be the key to success. In my line of work it comes naturally. But even so, there is always the temptation to slack off when you could be getting stuff done.”

You may even want to dedicate parts of your scheduled time off work to getting important projects done. You will have fragmented time and as such these periods will be vital to taking big steps. Use Saturday to work on your business, take Sunday off to relax. Try to find a balance that suites you.

 

4. Reach out

Speak to your boss at work to discuss your plans. See if there is anything they can do to accommodate you. Reach out to other small start-ups that you can work with. Individually you are too weak to compete with big business, but collectively you can offer that personal touch while cutting down costs.

“Reaching out and forming a network of likeminded associates will help you get your name out there,” said Faisal Maiy, who runs a real estate agents called Steptons. “People will help if they like you and feel that it is a reciprocal relationship.”

Human beings are inherently empathetic creatures, but it’s important to remember that it’s a two way street – you’ve got to be willing to work with people towards a common goal. Making allies can help you cut corners and ultimately save on precious time.

 

5. Save, reinvest, and grow

It’s time to start penny pinching folks. While working a nine to five definitely removes the economic risks of starting your own business, it may mean growth will be slow. This is because you are simply constrained by limits on time. But a quick way to boost growth is by investing money instead. You can do this by taking steps to sort out your personal finance. Setting a savings goal can help you realise your business dream. With the money you save, you can inject the extra cash-flow into your business to get the ball rolling.

“It’s all well and good making money, but it’s what you do with it that counts,” said Zubair Patel, a business analyst from London. “You’ve got to be smart with your profits and savings, so reinvest wisely.”

After a few months you might want to think about hiring a part-time employee. You can even hire remote PA’s or a virtual assistant from countries like India to save on money. The key is thinking creatively and having a long term vision. Aim to reinvest as much of your profit back into your business for maximum results.

 

6. Get motivated, believe in yourself

For this last tip, I want to tell you a personal story about my older brother. After our father passed away when we were very young, my immigrant mum struggled to look after our family of four. Being dyslexic, he dropped out of school and soon turned to a life of crime, eventually getting caught and spending several years in prison. It was a difficult period for all of us.

“I struggled for a long time,” said Naeem, who is now the owner of Accurate-Alarms, a UK based security firm.

“After losing my dad when I was a kid, life was always tough. When I went to prison, I lost everything I had, and struggled to come back from the brink. But after getting out, I was determined to change my life. I worked a minimum wage job, used what little savings I had, and committed myself to my business. To anyone out there who’s in a similar situation, my advice to you is this; just believe in yourself.”

The moral of this story is don’t let your past failures, worries and insecurities hold you back. All of us have greatness buried deep inside of us. Be prepared to take risks, but also be ready to take the rough with the smooth. What I’m getting at is, when life gives you lemons, start selling lemonade on ebay.

To all those who have been thinking about starting their own business, I hope this post has inspired you to give it a shot. There are many obstacles ahead of you, but I know you can overcome them with hard work, positive thinking, and effective planning. Try to save what money you do make and invest some time in sorting out your personal finances. If you have any more advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, or a question to ask, drop us a message in the comments section below.

 

 

 

 

Objectivity vs. neutrality on Gaza

 

Note: This post was originally written for openDemocracy.

The Palestine-Israel conflict poses a moral dilemma for journalists. But being objective does not necessarily mean being neutral, and being fair does not mean refraining from making a judgement.

Choosing sides

As reporters swarm the besieged streets of the shrinking Gaza strip, there has been an inundation of harrowing images and reports throwing Israel and its motives into utter disrepute. Palestinian mothers crying in anguish over the death of their children, families searching through rubble for survivors, hospitals littered with blood drenched casualties of the Israeli war machine – these images swell up inside us contempt for the perpetuators of such crimes.

Yet despite the international condemnation, the motives for these actions have been a hotly debated. I have even found it to be a polarising topic within my own circle of friends, despite most of them being strongly against the killing of innocent civilians. Was it the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers? Are they looking for tunnels or for revenge? Is Hamas rocket fire to blame?

Disregarding the constantly changing narrative (and the fact most of these reasons have been largely discredited), social media has been rife with accusations of propaganda from both sides. I myself have been accused of spamming pro-Palestinian articles on /r/worldnews – an internet community that has been targeted by pro-Israel groups such as the JIDF.

So the question remains – is it morally acceptable for reporters to pick a side? Certainly as journalists we have a duty to be impartial when reporting the facts, even though this can be argued to be a futile task. Any effort to disseminate news on a contentious issue will inherently cause accusations of media bias, “because journalists are human beings and journalism is not an exact science,” said Hilary Aked, writing for OpenDemocracy in 2012. “There is a great deal of truth in the assertion that to some extent one’s critique will depend on how the conflict is viewed,” she added.

We are emotional beings at our very core, and view all issues through the lens or prism of our own emotional sensibilities. And so it is of no surprise then that many of us turn to social media to express our outrage when we feel an injusticehas occurred. Quite simply, a significant majority of those who stand by the Palestinians do so because it is difficult to watch an injustice and not speak out. This is in itself a biological response, and is universal to humanity. For over a century now academics have studied this very issue, using anthropological and historical evidence to conclude that this sense of injustice is found everywhere, spanning across all cultures and periods of human history.

The process of evolution itself has carved this sense into humans. Those who witness others being subjected to injustice often respond as though it was an act of aggression towards themselves. This can be a powerful motivational condition. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote it in 1963: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Cognitive dissonance

Despite damning evidence of disproportionate aggression and international war crimes, many Israelis argue that they are the ones who have been demonised, and claim it is they who are in fact the victims of injustice. In turn many such persons choose to discredit opposing views as unduly partisan. But can it really be the case that those all over the world who all condemn the violence – international bodies, humanitarian organisations, world leaders, and so on – are simply liars, paid shills, or anti-Semitic?

In 1956, Leon Festinger and two colleagues released a classic work of social psychology that studied this very kind of unwarranted belief. When prophecy fails follows the story of a small cult that wholly committed themselves to an apocalyptic prophesy told by a woman named Dorothy Martin. She claimed to have received a message from a fictional planet, which revealed the world would end in a great flood before dawn on December 21, 1954. What they found was that some of the group became increasingly dogmatic in their beliefs when the supposed prophesy was unfulfilled. The authors described this as a coping mechanism, and was one of the first published cases of cognitive dissonance – the discomfort one feels when confronted by information that conflicts with or significantly alters their worldview.

Fast forward half a century – in 2013, Dan Kahan, a professor at Yale Law, gave compelling evidence to the source of this diminished ability to reason. His paper, entitled Motivated numeracy and enlightened self-government”, demonstrated hard evidence of motivated reasoning, a symptom of cognitive dissonance and part of this coping mechanism. His conclusion, as described by journalist Chris Mooney, is that partisanship “can even undermine our very basic reasoning skills…. [those] who are otherwise very good at math may totally flunk a problem that they would otherwise probably be able to solve, simply because giving the right answer goes against their political beliefs.”

Essentially, Kahan found that even when presented with the facts, motivated reasoning leads people to confirm what they already believe by ignoring contrary data. As summarised by Marty Kaplan, writing for AlterNet:

“It turns out that in the public realm, a lack of information isn’t the real problem. The hurdle is how our minds work, no matter how smart we think we are. We want to believe we’re rational, but reason turns out to be the ex post facto way we rationalise what our emotions already want to believe.”

This finding is very problematic, for if we are to come to any kind of truth on this matter, or any issue in fact, we must open our hearts and minds to honest and open discourse. As objective observers we must accept that there is propaganda from both sides, but quite often this fact is used to validate unreasonable beliefs.

For instance, to assume Hamas have the same capability as Israel and its allies when it comes to disseminating propaganda seems wholly illogical. From government backed Hasbara to organisations such as CAMERA, this battle of hearts and minds has not been fought on a level playing field. It is only due to the concerted efforts of activists and the public at large that world opinion is now firmly on the side of the Palestinians. This change is largely attributed to the advent of the digital age and the feeling of injustice we have touched upon.

Impartial judgements

Some argue that as reporters we have a duty to remain neutral in such conflicts, and certainly, this is reflected in the ethics of journalism, particularly when it comes to broadcast in the UK. In his paper, Delivering trust: impartiality and objectivity in a digital age, Richard Sambrook, a professor of journalism at Cardiff University and BBC journalist for three decades, outlines some of the key issues surrounding objectivity after the advent of the internet and social media. In the papers abstract he states:

“The ideas of impartiality and objectivity – at the heart of serious news journalism for most of the last century – are now under pressure and even attack in the digital a…Today, in the digital age of plenty, notions of special responsibilities being placed on those with a public voice, and different approaches for print and broadcasting, are rapidly breaking down. As the disciplines of impartiality and objectivity disintegrate, there are increased signs of propaganda, entertainment and fiction seeping into journalism. Broadcasters, regulators, politicians, and journalists are struggling to make the solutions of the last century fit the changed media characteristics and conditions in the new century.”

Through the course of the paper Sambrook proposes a number of principles to help journalism adapt to a world that increasingly demands partisan reporting. He calls for “a growing need to encourage critical awareness of the media” within the public that equips them “with the knowledge and tools to understand what they are consuming”:

“There are currently serious concerns about the quality and practices of news media and their impact on public debate. These principles, supported by greater media literacy, can help us navigate in the new digital world of information abundance and deliver journalism that is trustworthy and fulfils its public purpose.”

Yet despite our need to place an emphasis on trust and objective reporting, we as human beings have a moral obligation to, and often feel a strong impulse to, put an end to perceived injustices perpetuated on innocent victims. Martin Bell, a BBC Foreign Correspondent during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War, said: “You can be fair to everybody, but you can’t stand neutrally between good and evil.”

Sambrook writes that Martin embraced “bystander reporting” while avoiding moral equivalence between the opposing sides. He says:

“Impartiality does not have to strip reporting of moral judgement (as distinct from personal opinion) as long as there is strong evidence to support it…Independence of mind, clear sourcing and evidence, accuracy, openness, and honesty are all characteristics of impartiality as well – and none of these qualities are necessarily require a report to be morally agnostic…In the circumstances of genocide, or a climate of hate speech, it might be argued that the discipline of objectivity (if not impartiality) becomes even more important … [as these] encourage free debate.”

Being objective does not necessarily mean being neutral, and being fair does not mean refraining from making a judgement. While the two may be interlinked, when the facts are laid out in front of us, free of political spin and misleading narratives, the truth does not and should not allow us to remain impassive. Ultimately if we truly believe in a practicable solution to this war of attrition, we must be objective when looking at the facts, but also brave enough to speak out against the injustices these facts reveal.

As so eloquently put by Peter Benenson in 1961, the founder of human rights charity Amnesty International:

“Open your newspaper any day of the week and you will find a report from somewhere in the world of someone being imprisoned, tortured or executed because his opinions or religion are unacceptable to his government … The newspaper reader feels a sickening sense of impotence. Yet if these feelings of disgust could be united into common action, something effective could be done.”

 

East London educational charity launches documentary series on CLR James

An East London citizens TV channel and educational charity, kicked off their documentary series on renowned intellectual CLR James with a debate on the ‘Western Cannon’, after winning a heritage lottery grant to fund the project.

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Every Cook Can Govern: The life and works of CLR James

Last Saturday, Worldbytes, a charity and citizens TV channel based in Hackney, London, embarked on a two year long journey documenting the life and intellectual legacy of renowned black activist, CLR James.

At the Long Room of The Kia Oval Cricket Ground, South London, an expert panel discussed the works of CLR James, and debated whether a revised “Western Cannon” was needed for a new generation of thinkers.

The event began with a representative from The National Heritage Lottery Fund congratulating the charity for winning a £70,000 grant to produce the multimedia project.

The project, dubbed “Every Cook Can Govern: Documenting the life, impact & works of CLR James”, will include a documentary series and an on-line knowledge portal, produced largely by volunteers.

Despite disagreeing on precisely what should be included in a revised cannon, there was no shortage of kind words for CLR James. The panelists all agreed on the significance of his writing and activism.

Education system is “a dull instrument of policy”

Claire Fox, director and founder of the British think tank, the Institute of Ideas, expressed concern that the current education system is a “dull instrument of policy”.

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She said: “There is an injunction between people who want to know and the way they are taught.

“The cannon of great literature has universal experience. It allows us to break out the particulars of our experience,” she added.

Kenan Malik on The Black Jacobins

While Kenan Malik, a writer, lecturer and broadcaster, was pressed by audience members to speak about “The Black Jacobins”, CLR’s most iconic and endearing piece of literature.

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He said: “[CLR James] is perhaps the greatest poet of the anti-colonial movement. There are few figures who can match.

“He was an icon of black liberation. Undoubtedly, The Black Jacobins was his masterpiece.”

James wanted to “change the world”

Fellow panel member Selma James, an author, activist, and partner of CLR for 30 years, believed that he wanted to make the world a better place.

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She said: “James used [The Black Jacobins] as a weapon in the struggle for African independence.

“He had a passion for learning. He brought with him a profound understanding of humanism when he came to England, and offered a radically new vision of the world.”

Beyond a Boundary: More than just a game

Alan Hudson, Director of Programmes in Leadership & Public Policy at Oxford University, focused on CLR’s famous memoir on cricket, “Beyond a Boundary”, first published in 1963.

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He said: “The book is not about cricket, but how the game can express so much more… the cultivating of this powerful cultural embodiment is much more than the game itself.

“[CLR James] was able to unite everybody in a way that nobody else can. He had a powerful sensibility to the working class.”

Volunteer for WorldBytes

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The charity plan to host a “Read-a-thon” in February next year, where volunteers will take part in a sponsored live streamed reading of CLR’s work, to help raise extra funds for the project.

Volunteers can also take part in producing the documentary and on-line portal, learning on the job media skills, such as filming, editing, promotion and research.

Head on over to the WorldBytes website to find out how you can get involved.

*Pictures courtesy of WorldBytes

Attack on Florida student: Was it the Muslim Patrol?

American student attacked in East London

Two weeks ago police released CCTV footage of a man being attacked by a group of five Asian men. A 20-year-old man, Shelim Uddin from Whitechapel, was charged late last month with causing grievous bodily harm to Francesco Hounye, a 22-year-old student from Florida.

Francesco had only been in the country for three days. Shelim was implicated in the footage, seen attacking the student with a bottle on Commercial Road, Whitechapel.

[FULL] US Student Attacked By Five Men In London, Video captures beating of US student in UK

VIDEO: American student being attacked

Description: In a dimly lit street, a young man is walking home after a night out drinking with a friend.  Unbeknownst to him however, is a gang of hooded hoodlums lurking in the shadows. They follow him down an empty street and a confrontation begins to unravel.

As the gang quickly surrounds him, some heated words are exchanged, and he postures up to them ready to fight back. The first punch is thrown, while another grabs the bottle in his hand and smashes it across his face.

A few stretched out moments of panic follow as he makes a dash across the road in front of a passing car, but they chase the man, grab him by the shoulders and pin him against a wall, wildly punching and kicking until he stumbles to the floor.

When the thugs have had their fill of savagery, they scatter like cockroaches, back into the covers of darkness.

Islamist group accused of attack

There were some news outlets that claimed that the vigilante street gang, who named themselves the ‘Muslim Patrol’, was to blame for the attack, while others, such as The Daily Beast, alluded to the possibility of the group being responsible.

However, there is currently no evidence to suggest that these attackers were connected to the Islamist group. The police said that Mr Hounye, who was considering continuing his studies in Britain, was targeted because he was “obviously not local.”

Who are the ‘Muslim Patrol’?

The Stream – 'Muslim Patrol' police London streets

VIDEO: Aljazeera “The Stream, Who are the Muslim Patrol?”

The Muslim Patrol first gained notoriety after uploading their night time crusades onto Youtube earlier this year.

On a few nights in January, the group filmed themselves scolding prostitutes, people drinking alcohol, and women whom they called “naked animals”. The video went viral, spreading across the internet like wildfire. In it they claim that they were “vigilantes implementing Islam upon your own necks”.

A follow up video soon appeared. They increased their range, with a ‘patrol’ in Whitechapel, Tower Hamlets and Shoreditch. They increased in confidence, stating “Islam will take over the world”.

One member of the group started getting violent. 19-year-old gang member Jamaal Uddin, is a British born Muslim convert formally known as Jordan Horner. Last month he pleaded guilty to two charges of assault and using threatening words and behaviour. In another incident, which took place outside Islam4UK’s spokesman Anjem Choudary’s home, Jamaal attacked one photographer and caused nearly £3000 worth of damage to another ones car.

By the beginning of February the gang’s two videos had been removed from YouTube citing policy violations, and two men had been arrested in connection to homophobic assaults. They were held on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm and public order offences, and were bailed to return to an east London police station in February and March.

A further three were arrested in July, bringing the total to five possible gang members, two of which were teenagers. Details of these arrests have yet to be released. None of the arrested persons have been convicted, with having either charges dropped or proceedings still active.

In April this year, PlanetIvy reporter Ben Holt spoke to 22-year-old Royal Barnes, one of the men who was arrested over the Muslim Patrol videos. Royal and his wife were later charged with terror offences over the Woolwich murder video.

In the interview Royal said: “I’m proud of what Muslim Patrol done… I’m encouraging Muslims to speak out against evil.”

Reponse of the British public

The public response to the two clips that surfaced was a mixed one. There was anger; there was hatred; an uproar about the apparent growth of ‘Islamist Extremism’ within our British society.

Many in the Muslim community feared a backlash of violence, and were quick to condemn the assailants. The East London Mosque, which also functions as a local community centre, tried to distance themselves from the group. While Tower Hamlets Inter Faith Forum, a faith network in East London, released a statement in response to the patrols.

Mohammed Shafiq is the chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, a Muslim organisation that campaigns for a peaceful co-existence among communities. He condemned the group’s behaviour in an address given at Ebrahim College, a school and educational foundation in Whitechapel.

He said: “We live in the UK and we are governed by UK law, there should be no mob rule. If people are involved in this behaviour then it is worrying but it is an isolated incident.”

An Islamic Response to 'Muslim Street Patrols'

VIDEO:An Imam’s response to patrol

Yet despite the widespread chastising of the group by British Muslims, there were many who were ready and willing to let the incident stoke racial tensions. Indeed, one Daily Mail commenter, Paul from Chilwell, lamented: “Why don’t these hate filled Muslims go back to their country of origin and leave us brits alone?”

In response, Abdul Mammon from Liverpool said: “I was born in the UK…are you lot going to send me back to England?”

Extremism in the UK

The Muslim Patrol is only the one instance of growing extremism in the UK and across Europe, which is being mirrored by anti-Muslim groups.

Haras Rafiq is the former Director of CENTRI, an organisation that specialises in countering extremism. In an interview with BBCs Shiraz Maher, he said: “The way [extremists] recruit is to create a lens or a prism through which youngsters who have a personal problem, that they may have created in the first place, will find the answers.”

Earlier this month Tommy Robinson, cofounder of British far right group the English Defence League (EDL), left to join Qulliam, a London based anti-extremist think tank started by Maajid Nawaz. Maajid was a former speaker and recruiter for the The Liberation Party, a conservative Islamic political group, until an arrest in 2001 and subsequent departure from extremism.

VIDEO: SkyNews Tommy and Maajid Press Conference

Tommy and Maajid recently appeared in a BBC Documentary “Quitting the English Defence League: When Tommy Met Mo”. Both men are now working together to curb the rise of extremism across Europe. In an article in The Times earlier this year, Maajid said: “The longer we stand by and watch the far Right and Islamists impose their dogma on our streets, the more the extremes will become mainstream for a rising new generation.”

Both sets of right-wing extremists are “attempting to claim the streets” he added.

However, Maajid and Quilliam are not without their critics.

Editor of 5Pillarz.com, Roshan Salih,  lambasted the think tank for a lack of grassroots support, claiming that the organisation had been artificially amplified by government finances. He said: “There is a need for an organisation which has roots in the community, is loyal to it, is critical of the government and Islamophbia, yet also still seeks to address the real problems that exist in the community itself.”

 

London Living Wage in Ilford

Employers are reluctant to adopt the London Living Wage despite last week’s report of growing inequalities across Redbridge.

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At the London Assembly today, Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, urged businesses in London to pay the London Living Wage to their employees.

Responding to a question by South West London representative Tony Arbour, Boris said: “I think a compulsory living wage is not the way forward.

“We’re making considerable headway however,” he added.

The London Living Wage, which was introduced in 2005, currently stands at £8.55.

While the wage is not binding, up to 200 employers back the scheme.

In Ilford, the average hourly wage is £16.46, while across London it is £20.10, according to the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, 2012.

Almost a quarter of people living in Ilford earn below the London Living Wage.

Last week, a report by The London Poverty Profile, compiled by charity Trust for London, showed that wealthy residents lived up to eight years longer than the poorest in Redbridge.

Corps officer John Clifton, from The Salvation Army, based in Clements Road, Ilford, said: “A lot of these problems could be addressed through employers paying a living wage.”

However, employers say it’s out of their hands.

Naeem Hassanali, owner of Accurate Alarms Ltd, Seven Kings, said: “I really want to pay a decent wage, but I simply can’t afford to.

“The government needs to do more to help us pay our workers enough to live properly.”

Earlier this year, Redbridge Council began a consultation process on paying the London Living Wage to Redbridge Council employees.

Lee Scott, MP for Ilford-North said: “I think it would be fair for all to be paid a fair wage.”

 

London Fashion Week and Global Poverty

There are high hopes for this seasons London fashion week to provide a much needed boost to the economy, but critics suggest the event neglects to help those suffering most.

Big Brands, Big Money

Homless man next to women posing during NY Fashion Week

Homless man next to women posing during NY Fashion Week

Big name British designers such as Vivienne Westwood, Paul Smith and Burberry’s Christopher Bailey are among those who will show off their designs during London fashion week starting Friday.

There are high hopes for growth in Britain’s luxury sector.

September is one of the most important months in the fashion calendar as the four big catwalk fixtures – New York, London, Milan and Paris – gear up for next summer.

London’s fashion week is best known as a showcase for cutting edge talent and avant-garde trends.

“It’s an exciting time for London with a host of established brands such as Tom Ford and Burberry firmly on the calendar alongside new talent and labels which are growing,” said Helen David, head of womenswear at luxury department store Harrods.

The Rana Plaza disaster

Garment factory

Combined London fashion weeks attract more than 100 million pounds ($160 million) in orders a year, along with journalists and bloggers from around the world.

However, critics argue that most of this wealth only benefits the already very rich, and does little to alleviate the poverty of those making these clothes for mass market.

Amirul Haque Amin, president of the National Garment Workers’ Federation, intends to join forces with British union campaigners to highlight the plight of workers in the global fashion industry.

The link between cheap fashion in Britain’s shops and shockingly poor worker conditions was highlighted following the collapse of the eight-storey Rana Plaza garment manufacturing building in April earlier this year.

Amin will use his visit to persuade UK retailers to pay a wage far in excess of the £25 (3,000 taka) a month earned by the Rana Plaza workers. He says more pressure is needed to bring equality to the industry.

“The Rana Plaza disaster not only exposed unsafe conditions for workers turning out British stores’ clothes, but the pittance on which they struggle to survive. It is high time UK retail chains, and other companies sourcing from Bangladesh, matched ethical claims with action to lift their suppliers’ workers out of poverty,” he said.

As of mid-September 2013, compensations to families of the Rana Plaza disaster victims were still under discussion, with many families struggling to survive.

Future of the Industry

File photographs of models are seen on the floor during a casting call for Haizhen Wang's Spring/Summer 2014 collection

The British luxury sector is forecast to almost double in size over the next five years. Fashion contributes 21 billion pounds to Britain’s $2.5 trillion economy and is the largest employer of all the creative industries in the UK.

Despite a still struggling global economy, British fashion brands are hoping to cash in on evidence of a rebound in the luxury sector as solid demand in Japan and the United States combined with recovery in Europe offset China’s slowdown.

Advocacy groups however, are concerned that the working conditions of those producing a majority of the clothes we buy are living in economic slavery.

WorldBytes: The Home of Citizen TV

Please take a look at these films I am very proud to have taken part in for WorldBytes as a Volunteer

The Wide Angle: Eco films & Emotionalism

Movie chat has rarely captured what’s at stake so effectively as this bar room banter. In a discussion on three well known apocalyptic eco-films, An Inconvenient truth, The Day after Tomorrow and Age of Stupid, a trio of guest experts take us beyond the usual finger pointing at doom-mongers. A palette of emotions: fear; loss and regret, are used to shortcut politics and convince us to change our behaviour or be seen as morally circumspect. Worse still, we learn, these films portray us as unable to deal with problems altogether. This is environmental determinism summed up; what matters to ecologists is what the climate or science will make us do, not what we decide we want to do about our future. Our options to think big, take control and develop what we need to manage climate change should we want to, are closed down. Given their hysterical claims of looming catastrophe, planetary extinction and ice ages it’s revealing that all we are advised to do is change a light bulb. Treating us like children consigned to the ‘naughty step’, as a scourge on the planet and ultimately ‘stupid’, these films are profoundly anti-human. While these films resemble ‘the rant you’d get from an eco-warrior in a pub’ we’re told, they nonetheless represent ‘the full download of prevailing perceptions’. These films are worth discussing because they represent a political culture that needs to be challenged if we are serious about reclaiming the idea of destiny as something we should control.

 

Alternative lectures: What is Humanism? (Part 1)

Professor of Sociology Frank Furedi answers the question ‘What is Humanism?’ in this short lecture filmed in the WORLDbytes studio. Whilst humanist ideas have been around for a long time, he observes, they have never been more weakly affirmed than at present. In ancient as well as renaissance times thinkers struggled with questions around what forces determine our destiny and began to formulate ideas that human beings themselves, rather than God or nature had a responsibility for making the world. Humanism, we learn, begins to flourish in renaissance Italy and finds more mature expression in the 17th and 18th centuries. Modern determinisms such as 19th century economic determinism or today’s eco-determinism, biological determinism or psychological determinism are all really evasions or excuses that diminish our own sense of taking responsibility for what happens. A Humanist outlook should equip us with an orientation towards reason, problem-solving and a healthy scepticism towards determinisms (or the fates) in the present day. Professor Furedi doesn’t overcomplicate the issue or use mystifying jargon in this refreshing and enlightening lecture.

The Enlightenment and Universalism

I am sure many of us have heard or read about the European Enlightenment.

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The Age of Enlightenment was a profound cultural movement of the 17th and 18th centuries. The first inklings of this revolution in thought were shown by early French philosophers around 1670. It was the well mannered Salons which were at  ‘the very heart of the philosophic community’ of France at the time. In these places of dialectical discourse a new school of thought emerged, namely, it was from these academic salons formed by the aristocratic ‘schools of civilité’ that the European Enlightenment was born.

The Church fought these first revolutionary movements until they ultimately suffered a fatal blow during the French Revolution of July 1789. It was during this uprising of the French working class and left leaning intellectuals that the French Republic was formed, thanks largely in part to the aristocracies own centuries of excess and indulgence.

It was only befitting that the Enlightenment should take shape during this time, as the individual became aware of their own power and ability to shape the world. The Enlightenment was considered to be the “spiritual enrichment of Mankind by means of his own inner values and resources”. Apart from the French academic salons, the groundwork for the European Enlightenment was also laid by renowned British intellectuals and philosophers such as David Hume and Francis Bacon, who popularised inductive methodologies for scientific inquiry.  The Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza is also argued to be an important figure in the Age of Enlightenment. These along with many other proponents of empiricism and rationalism helped lay the seeds of the modern scientific method and democracy as we have come to know it.

Whilst the Enlightenment first began in Europe, it later spread to the American colonies through the writings of Thomas Jefferson and other Founding Fathers, although sadly its principles did not initially extend to slaves. Yet this period of history is still so very important for it has shaped much of the political and moral foundations of the modern world.  Rather befittingly the political and moral issues over which eighteenth century thinkers debated remain so often the issues over which we continue to differ today.

As the Enlightenment spread to Britain and throughout Europe, the Scholasticism of the medieval universities that were so prevalent from the 11th century to up until then, was questioned by this new breed of thinker. Philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes and Hume refuted the divine dogma of these established schools that so closely guarded knowledge. For centuries the majority of European society had been resigned to impotent ignorance. Whilst these two thinkers took different and radical approaches to human nature and the individuals place in society, it was ultimately Hume and other ‘moral sense’ philosophers who restored this notion of humans as social beings, freeing the concept from its theological moorings. These sentimentalists began a radical conception of Enlightenment principles compared to Hobbes,  arguing that it is ‘sentiment’ that invokes an innate understanding of our common humanity, and of our instinctive desire to feel empathy with fellow human beings.

No quality of human nature is more remarkable…than that propensity we have to sympathise with others, and to receive by communication their inclinations and sentiments however different from, or even contrary to, our own.

From the Enlightenment then was this sense of Universalism born. All sentient life has universality in experience – this very idea could only flourish with this notion of sympathy, which allowed philosophers to give humankind an identity independent of God. These new Universalist’s would be attracted to the logic of universally applicable principles, rather than any belief or dogma ordained by supposed divine mandate. Human unity, solidarity, and the perceived need for a sustainable and socially conscious global order, were among the tendencies of this new non-religious Universalist thought. It provided a means of

…Recognising all peoples as of equal worth, and of embracing some kind of common good, without endowing them with immortal souls.

This period in history is very important for it has lead to a huge upheaval in the manner in which we treat another and how we come to learn about and understand the world. No longer are we shackled by blind dogma, no longer a slave to the power of religious and political institutions as we once were. The Age of Reason gave birth to human rights, modern democracy and the scientific method. Many argue that the roots of this enlightenment lay in Eastern thought, and hence the importance of this period is thereby diminished. I do not disagree with this fact, for Far Eastern philosophers dealt with the questions of ethics, morality and justice far before their western counterparts. Even the rise of classic Greek philosophy is in part due to the inspiring influences of its neighbours across the Mediterranean Sea. Still I maintain this is rather besides the point however, for all new thoughts are formed by a synthesis of old. Hence, we must not concern ourselves with the originality of such ideas.

Once we realise that we are the presiding force behind all laws of society, that we give all of societies conventions their governing power, and not a divine entity, then it is important for us to be concerned by how fair and just these regulating rules are. This notion which came from the European Enlightenment, means we must now also consider how we might continue to shape these laws for the betterment of all persons.