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Archive for the ‘Comment and Opinion’ Category

Manchester’s Unsung Heroes: Mustard Tree manager leaves life of drugs to mentor homeless with art therapy – Mancunian Matters

In Art Reviews, Charity, Comment and Opinion, Leeds and Manchester Local News Contributions on October 15, 2013 at 2:35 pm

As homelessness figures continue to soar, with an increase of almost 10% in Greater Manchester last year, it appeared to be one of the only growing businesses during the recession. 

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But spending time on the streets, in shelters and behind bars has not deterred one man from devoting his life to helping those who suffer as he once did.

Just off Oldham Road lies a street full of secrets. On that street is a place where dignity, faith, grace, joy and truth are not just values that reflect off a painted canvas, but emanate, filling everyone inside with a glow of silent, selfless goodwill.

As you walk upstairs a giant, psychedelic portrait of Jimi Hendrix gazing at its admirer through knowing, hallucinogenic eyes.

This place is the Mustard Tree. It is a place that creates the sense of home for the homeless, downtrodden and displaced.

Caring 52-year-old Graham Hudson is Mustard Tree’s Creative Programmes Manager. He uses an informal mode of art therapy to encourage his students to rebuild their lives.

“They know that they’re not all going to be artists – but all of them are going to have to go on and continue with their lives afterwards,” he said.

He cites the example of one student, Gina, whose life was full of self-loathing and misanthropy, insisting that she couldn’t paint. Read the rest of this entry »

Miley, Don’t Make Me Cry – The Vagenda

In Comment and Opinion, Internet, Magazine Contributions, Music Reviews, Women on October 3, 2013 at 4:34 pm

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Saturday night. I’m babysitting. I’m also, by chance, engaging in anthropological research regarding the social implications of Miley Cyrus’s very public, orchestrated ‘breakdown’ for a pre-pubescent audience, as her music blasts out of the television.

“What’s happened to Miley Cyrus?!” quoth ten-year-old Amelia.

“It’s all the fame,” ten-and-a-fifth-year-old Sophie sighs. “It’s got to her. First Britney, then Lindsay, and now Hannah Montana.”

Hannah Montana is a squeaky clean Disney Channel character. Miley Cyrus has grown up and metamorphosed into her alter ego in a powerful Jekyll-Hyde-esque transformation that has left young girls confused to say the least.

They know what ‘twerking’ is. They just about know that ‘humping’ is ‘sexy’. But they don’t know what sex is – and so they shouldn’t! Call me prudish if you must.

“Have you seen the video for wrecking ball?” Amelia whispers, quite horrified, “She hasn’t got any clothes on!”

These girls, whom Hannah Montana lured into her pop-princess bubblegum lair, have been duped into ‘twerking out’ what adolescence is just a tad too soon. Read the rest of this entry »

Reflections on Yom Kippur: The importance of admitting that people make mistakes – The Independent (IndyVoices)

In Comment and Opinion, Features, History Reviews, Newspaper Contributions, religion on September 14, 2013 at 7:15 am

That’s the one thing all religions have in common

Moses_with_Ten_Commandments

According to biblical tradition, when Moses descended Mount Sinai to find his people had built and deified a golden calf, he shattered the Ten Commandments in anger.

Today, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Jewish people all around the world will be fasting and praying to God to forgive their sins, just as they did when they built the calf. It is the most sacred day for Jews who use this High Holy Day reflection and repentance.

It’s also the forty-year-anniversary of the Yom Kippur War/ Ramadan War/ October War or the 1973 Arab-Israeli War – depending where you draw the lines. I am Jewish and I will be fasting. I will turn my phone off. I may attend synagogue. I definitely will be asking for forgiveness for my many sins. I believe there are lessons in my religion, and in others’ that can be learnt by everyone.

The one thing all religions have in common is admitting that people make mistakes. That’s why they put precautions in place – Catholics have confession, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists have their karma and Muslims will have their Day of Judgement.

Read the rest of this entry »

Prostitutes and the recession: How David Cameron’s cuts are affecting British women – The Independent

In Comment and Opinion, Features, Interviews, Newspaper Contributions, Women on May 25, 2013 at 7:40 pm

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The sex industry like most others is feeling the effects of the credit crunch. But in a grim role-reversal, it’s not the booming industry that’s suffering but its workers. As the cost of living rises and wages remain ruefully stagnant, increasing numbers of women have turned to prostitution in order to support themselves.

Its lucrative potential to put a meal on a plate or a bill in an envelope has meant that from the depths of these Dickensian hard times re-emerges the archaic truism: women are driven to prostitution by economic misfortune.

I spoke to a member of the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) which campaigns for the protection and decriminalisation of prostitutes, without endorsing or morally sanctioning prostitution itself. They told me that in light of Mr. Cameron’s cuts, “every time there’s a benefit cut, it forces women onto the game.”

The sucker-punch effects of the economic climate and the scathing cuts to welfare and benefits are even driving many women who had left the trade and turned their lives around to return in order to feed their families. As one travelling sex-worker who works with the ECP explains, “Prostitution is certainly not the worst job I have ever had. I have worked on the fish market and as a cleaner where I was working for people who didn’t care if we were cold or tired or how we were spoken to. I was fed up of being a cleaner, bar maid and shop assistant, often all on the same day.”

There is a gross misconception about prostitution in the UK; about what type of person a prostitute is, and who could never be one. Many have been thrown out of their homes, raped, and are not yet old enough to claim benefits. Many others are women who are forced to supplement their incomes. As the think-tank The Resolution Foundation reported in October 2011, more than one in five employees earn less than a “living wage”.

Another member of the ECP’s network, a part-time street worker, blames benefit cuts and job losses for driving women onto the game, along with negative stereotyping for the lack of awareness surrounding prostitution today: “Everybody has their own view of what a prostitute is. In reality it is your sister, your neighbour, your mother, that has struggled to feed, clothe, heat a home and provide a safe environment for the people she loves. This is becoming more apparent with all the benefit cuts and job losses. The reason it has been so well hidden is because of the criminality of it. That is it.”

Most sex workers are mothers who think “just this once”, “just this week” to cover a heating bill or make something a bit special to eat. Then we get stuck in something we can never get out of. I never thought the first time I went out that I would still be here at my age. Now I have a record so can’t get another job. It was because I care that I did go on the street.” Read the rest of this entry »

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