Friday, November 23, 2007

Buy Nothing Day

Just a reminder that tomorrow is Buy Nothing Day. No explanation needed, just the opportunity to opt out of consumerism.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Night with the Stars

I had a fun time on Friday night at the BBC Children in Need Off Air Party! The food and drink were great and flowed all evening. We were waited on throughout the night. But most important of all were all the celebs that I spotted (well more like vaguely recognised or knew they were famous courtesy someone pointing them out!)
Here is a list of Who's Who:

Eastenders: Dawn, Minty, Jane, Ian Beales kids, Gus, the large lady cant remember her name, Billy, Deano’s Mum (Shirley),
Strictly Come Dancing: Alesha, Gabby, Matt, Arlene, Brendon, Anton, Dominic and some others
Michelle from Hello Hello

Prunella Scales

Andrew Marr
Various news readers
Lizo (Newsround/CBBC)
2 reporters from Newsnight
An old bloke always on Newsnight (politician?)
Shane from Boyzone
Chris Evans
John Craven
Bill Oddie

Bobby Davro

City cast including Robert Powell
Ben Nicholas (Stingray from Neighbours)
All 5 Dragons from Dragons Den and their kids
Jo Brand

Raymond Blanc
David Gray

Hotel Babylon people
Tony Blackburn
Alan Yentob

Lil Chris

There are photos on Facebook via Jennifer Harvey in my friends if you are interested in seeing some of these.
It was most fun,

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Friday, November 16, 2007

The Mummy Diaries

There are a series of three programmes on Channel 4 called The Mummy Diaries and I caught the 2nd one last night. It was excellent. Julie Stokes, founder of Winston's Wish, a charity that works with bereaved children, does group therapy for families where the mother has aggressive cancer (usually terminal). It wasn't sad and depressing but there were moments of sadness and I was very touched. 5 year old Imogen in the programme was lovely: bright, articulate and clued-up. She was describing how the most important part of mummy had gone to heaven and that bones were all that were left and that soon the bones would be ash and then the ash would disappear. I was just getting to the point where I couldn't believe the resilience of this child when she curled up in a ball upset. I loved seeing how grief in all the people on the programme, including the mums was expressed and moved through so the camera didn't cut away from tears, it saw them through to hope.
It was good.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Art Therapy

Had a fantastic time away with the YMCA School's Team conference. Not the sort of thing I've had to (co) organise before but it seemed to go relatively well and I certainly felt a development in team spirit and camaraderie.
One of the workers led a workshop on Art Therapy which was good on several levels: as a tool for workers to take away and use at school but also as a way of relaxing and engaging with staff. We also had a creative writing workshop which was good too and I did that session first. Part of that was to look at a picture and to write a story based on what we saw in the picture. This picture for me was of a lake with heavy, stormy clouds gathering over it and a jetty stretching off into the distance. After a time of relaxation during the art therapy, this picture came back to mind and was what I drew. I chose dark blues, purples, gray and black to build up heavy clouds and enjoyed the whole process. It was only when the group facilitator came round did it occur to me that this picture was supposed to represent my state of mind and might actually be quite a concern!

The mind is a mysterious thing and I'm sure deep down you can read a lot into what I drew but I'm quite convinced that my state of mind isn't really gloomy or depressed or with deep worries hanging over it. I just had a fun hour making marks on a page using pretty colours.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Wordless prayers

From Sacred Space:

Ignatius Loyola spent the best of his energies on teaching people to pray. Before his conversion, his idea of prayer was reciting Our Father's and Hail Mary's. When he started to read the scriptures, he found that God was talking to him, especially through the stories about Jesus. He wrote about it later, "God taught me like a schoolboy." As the years passed, his prayer became more wordless - so does the prayer of many Christians as they mature in their spiritual life. Ignatius had such an appetite for prayer - such heart-wrenching delight in it - that he had to ration himself, because the tears of joy were affecting his sight. God was for him not a word but a touch. One of his friends recalled his going up to the roof of his house at night. "He would sit there quietly, absolutely quietly. He would take off his hat and look up for a long time at the sky...and the tears would begin to flow down his cheeks like a stream, but so quietly and so gently that you heard not a sob nor a sigh nor the least possible movement of his body."

I want to explore wordless prayers

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Ethical Clothing

An interesting preach on social responsibility at church last night which drew my attention to this report from War on Want. I have selected the majority of the conclusion to highlight here but obviously you should check out the whole thing to get the bigger picture. The main conclusion appears to be that Gap, New Look and Next are the High Street fashion retailers that are starting to develop policies and admit they have more work to do in the area of providing ethical conditions and wages for their clothing manufacturers.

1. The worst offenders
These brands make no meaningful information available to suggest that they have engaged with the living wage or other labour rights issues, and continue not to respond to our inquiries about their policies and practices. They deserve the most severe criticism and consumer scepticism. They are: Bhs, Diesel, House of Fraser, Kookai, Matalan, MK One, Moss Bros, Mothercare, Peacocks/BonMarche, River Island, Rohan Designs, Ted Baker.
Example: Matalan
Matalan did not respond to our enquiries in 2006 or 2007, despite repeated requests. Matalan’s website displays a code of conduct that claims to be based on the ETI base code, yet it has omitted key provisions on freedom of association and collective bargaining. With no information on how the code is monitored and implemented, we have to assume that it isn’t. LBL recently approached Matalan about one of its Indian suppliers, a factory which workers say has a long history of workers’ rights violations. All Matalan did was tell us that it believed the company to “be a well run business” and that it, “didn’t feel it appropriate to interfere with them.”

2. Nothing to show
Unlike the previous group, these brands did respond to our enquiries, but their responses did not come close to dealing with the issues we raised. They are not members of any multi-stakeholder initiative, such as the ETI, and this shows from their lack of understanding of more advanced subjects such as the living wage. Their ethical trading programmes seem to be largely a paper exercise. They are: French Connection, Laura Ashley, Mosaic Fashions (Oasis etc).
Example: French Connection
For two years in a row, French Connection has responded, but failed to say what it was doing about a living wage, freedom of association, or monitoring and verification in any depth. In 2006, it excused itself by saying that it was planning to, “develop our monitoring policies and processes.” In 2007 it had apparently made no progress whatsoever.

3. The new starters
These brands are relatively new to the ethical trading game (in itself a cause for criticism), and as such are playing catch-up. They accepted that they were not able to give us what we want this year, but there was very much a sense of ‘come back to us next year and we will have something to show’. The important question is how ambitious they are: will they simply emulate the failed procedures of the bulk of the industry, or will they pull off something special? They are: Arcadia, Jigsaw, Primark.
Example: Jigsaw
The Jigsaw group was heavily criticised in our 2006 report, because it seemed to have little understanding of the problems faced by workers and the questions we had asked. This year, Jigsaw has taken the criticism on board, and told us of its plans to put together an ethical trading programme, which will include worker training in the bulk of its supplier base, as well as a living wage study with a commitment to implement it.

4. Disappointingly slow
These brands were the most frustrating. With a long experience of working on ethical trading, we would have expected them to be much further ahead, yet they didn’t seem particularly concerned about the slow pace of progress, or else they seemed to think that things were going pretty OK in their supply chains. In some cases, they took exception to our criticism last year, but this only confirms our feeling that these brands were in denial. They need a reality check, and they need to move much faster. They are: Debenhams, George at Asda, H&M, John Lewis, Levi’s, M&S, Monsoon, Pentland, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, TK Maxx, Zara.
Example: Levi Strauss & Co
Levi’s is the only company to move significantly backwards this year: it turned its back on the idea of a living wage, and as a result was suspended from - and then left - the ETI. Levi’s makes much play of being the first fashion company to adopt a code of conduct, yet this is precisely why we are so disappointed: surely Levi’s would be at the forefront of the next big challenge, implementing the living wage, not turning its back completely on the concept

5. Going up a gear?
These brands are not new to ethical trading, and like the ‘business as usual’ crowd they should really have more to show by now than they do. But like the ‘new starters’, they admit that they need to do more: open about the problems in their supply chains, they acknowledge that they have not done as well as they could have done in the past. The proof of the pudding is of course in the eating, and with more resources going into their ethical trading efforts, we will wait to see whether this means more of the same, or something fresh and exciting next year. They are: Gap, New Look, Next.
Example: Next
Next is unique among all the companies we spoke in having what appears to be a genuine plan to implement the living wage in its supply chains. It has undertaken a study of living wages across the countries from which it sources, and appears to accept from this research that a significant increase in wages is needed. It admitted at the time of meeting that it didn’t actually know how it would use the data once it was gathered, but the fact that it is gathering this data moves it much closer to implementation than most brands and retailers. Clearly we’ll be more comfortable once Next has worked out its next steps, but we’re pleased that it didn’t hide behind any of the trite excuses made by other brands

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