Posted in Events

ATOS/DWP “Fit for Work” protest

To coincide with the Paralympics, Up to 150 disability rights campaigners including members of Disabled People Against Cuts and UK Uncut, have been protesting outside IT Firm Atos headquarters in protest of the “fit for work” assessments which it carries out on behalf of the Government, This culminated in an attempt to bring the French firm’s headquarters in Triton Square, Marylebone, to a close. and Includes A protester who was seen carrying a banner for Cecilia Burns at the protest outside Atos HQ (Who had her benefits cut in February and recently died) Protesters have also targeted the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) building in Westminster and a small break-away group, including two wheelchair users, blocked the doors of the office in a “surprise secret action”, UK Uncut said.However Protesters who got inside the DWP building have since been removed.

The government – which makes decisions based on Atos Work Capability Assessments – has said it is trying to control the cost of disability allowances and isseeking to reassess all 2.6 million people on incapacity benefit – and its successor employment support allowance (ESA) – by 2014 in an effort to encourage more people back to work and to cut the welfare bill. It says more than £600m a year is being spent on overpayments to people who no longer qualify for the level of benefits they are receiving and has said checks are important to make sure the benefit system supports people and does not trap them. Claire Glasman, Winvisible campaigner has cerebral palsy and is on incapacity benefit. She said her group has campaigned for a mother with a spinal injury who was injured at work and found unfit to work but scored zero on her assessment meaning she must apply for Job Seeker’s Allowance, find waged work or rely on relatives. Campaigners say its tests for people on disability allowances are “damaging and distressing” and have even led to suicides and Work Capability Assessments have been cited as a contributing factor.

Cancer sufferer Cecilia Burns 51 from Strabane, County Tyrone, had her benefits cut by government officials from Atos Healthcare who said she was fit to work, and she fought a decision to cut her benefits and started a campaign in February to have the decision overturned. During her campaign she said she was “disgusted” after the government cut her sickness benefit and told her she was fit to work.Cecilia Burns had her Employment Support Allowance reduced by £30 a week even though she was still undergoing treatment for breast cancer and described the medical test as a “joke”. She had her benefits reinstated just a few weeks ago but sadly passed away on Monday.

As a result  Disability Rights campaigners have been deeply critical of all aspects of the current assessment and decision-making process  and this has led to calls to improve the Work Capability Assessment process with many saying that the current assessments are causing huge damage and distress to disabled people and want to see a much fairer system which does not penalise those who need the help most, and targets Benefit cheats who are conning the system instead of the most vulnerable in society, and those who can’t fight back. Campaigners have also questioned the objectivity of these decisions given that many genuinely disabled people who have severe disabilities, chronic conditions and life limiting illnesses are being disallowed, and   feel like they are being treated like second class citizens by the Government Having said that the system was subject to an annual review recently and 15% of “fit for work” decisions have been overturned on appeal and there is an increase in the number of severely disabled people being given long-term unconditional support.”

Posted in aviation, Events, Science-tech

60th Anniversary tribute to the Avro Vulcan

To mark 60 years since it first soared into the sky, the worlds only remaining air-worthy Avro Vulcan 558 will be flying at the Bournemouth Air Festival this weekend.

The Prototype Avro Vulcan No.698 first flew on August 30 1952, and now Sixty years later, the last flying example of that plane, which was later named the Vulcan, will celebrate its Diamond anniversary with air displays at the Bournemouth Air Festival and Shoreham Airshow this weekend. Now a famous example of British engineering heritage, the Vulcan was designed to carry Britain’s new nuclear deterrent, codenamed “Blue Danube”. Its vast size and large delta wing ensure it is perfectly distinctive today, let alone in 1952, when some thought they’d seen an alien spaceship. It was, indeed, the first large delta wing aircraft (leading directly to Concorde), and featured innovations such as electrically-operated flying controls and an early version of ABS braking. Compared with its Avro Lancaster predecessor, which had first flown just 11 years before the Vulcan prototype climbed into the sky, its speed and agility were astonishing.

The plane only entered combat once, and not in its nuclear capacity, when it flew 8,000 miles to Port Stanley Airport on the Falkland Islands in 1982, dropping bombs that prevented Argentina operating its own Mirage III fighters. Two years later the Vulcans were withdrawn from service and today only one, XH558, still flies. This is owned by the Vulcan to the Sky Trust, which returned XH558 to the air in 2007. Since then the charity has managed to display the Vulcan at numerous airshows, which attract up to seven million people (including me) annually. Now Airshow organisers talk about ‘the Vulcan Effect’ and have also described the aircraft as a national treasure.”

Bournemouth Air Festival will take place on September 1st & 2nd 2012 ahead of a Jubilee Tour in September which will visit locations key to the Vulcan’s development and is one of the only UK shows where the aircraft display over the sea, giving more opportunities to put on a really dramatic show.  The plane will be flown by Squadron Leader Martin Withers DFC  who says of the Vulcan. “It is a delight to fly and a fine example of British achievement at its best.” (I wish the Government didn’t keep getting rid of more fine examples of British achievement too such as the TSR 2 and Concorde), I’m all for keeping it going. The only reason Concorde crashed was because it encountered something which fell off another plane, and yet they kept that plane going whilst grounding Concorde. surely if something drops off a plane it is not airworthy and should be grounded.

Posted in music, Uncategorized

Happy Birthday Rudolf Schenker

Guitarist, and founder member of German Rock Group The Scorpions  Rudolf Schenker was born on this date 31st August 1948. Formed in 1965 , the Scorpions first had beat influences and Schenker himself did the vocals then things began to come together in 1970 when Schenker’s younger brother Michael and vocalist Klaus Meine joinedthe band. In 1972, the group recorded and released their debut album Lonesome Crow. Sadly Michael Schenker left the band, which led to the breakup of the band In 1973, however In 1974 a new line-up of Scorpions released Fly to the Rainbow. This album proved to be more successful than Lonesome Crow and established the band’s sound. In 1975 the band released In Trance, The album was a huge step forward for Scorpions and established their heavy metal formula and contained songs like “Dark Lady”, “Robot Man”. In 1976, Scorpions released Virgin Killer, which featured rather controversial artwork, that brought the band considerable media exposure but resulted in the album being “pulled” in some countries. The music itself garnered demographic praise for its music from select critics and fan base. The follow-up album was Taken by Force,  They also recorded material during the band’s Japanese tour, and the resultant double live album was called Tokyo Tapes.

In 1979 The Scorpions released the album “Love Drive” which some critics consider to be the pinnacle of their career. Containing such fan favourites as “Loving You Sunday Morning”, “Always Somewhere”, “Holiday” and the instrumental “Coast to Coast”. The album’s provocative artwork was also named “Best album sleeve of 1979″ by Playboy magazine but was changed for American release. In 1980 the band released Animal Magnetism,  which contained  “The Zoo” and “Make It Real”. In 1982 The Scorpions released their next album, Blackout, which became the band’s best selling to date eventually going platinum andspawned three singles “Dynamite”, “Blackout”, and “No One Like You”, but It was not until 1984 and the release of Love at First Sting that the band finally cemented their status as metal musicians. Propelled by the single Rock You Like a Hurricane, Love at First Sting climbed the charts and went double platinum in the USA a few months after its release.

The band toured extensively and recorded their very successful second live album, World Wide Live in 1985. The bands next album Savage Amusement was released in 1988 containing the songs Don’t Stop at the Top and Rhythm of Love, which represented a more polished and mature sound. During the Savage Amusement tour, Scorpions became only the second Western group (not American) to play in the Soviet Union as a result, Scorpions developed an extended Russian fan base and still return to perform.In 1990. Crazy World was released and displayed a less polished sound. The album was propelled in large part by the massive success of the ballad Wind of Change which muses on the socio-political changes that were occurring in Eastern Europe and in other parts of the world at the end of the Cold War. On July 21, 1990 they joined many other guests for Roger Waters’ massive performance of The Wall in Berlin. Scorpions performed both versions of “In the Flesh” from The Wall. In 1993, Scorpions released Face the Heat but this did not come close to matching the success of “Wind of Change” and was only a moderate success.

Their 13th studio album, 1996s Pure Instinct, contained the singles “Wild Child” and the soothing ballad “You and I” which both enjoyed moderate success. 1999 saw the release of Eye II Eye and a significant change in the band’s style, mixing in elements of pop and techno. The following year, Scorpions had an artistic collaboration with the Berlin Philharmonic that resulted in a 10-song album named Moment of Glory. In 2001, Scorpions released Acoustica, which featured acoustic reworkings of the band’s biggest hits, plus new tracks. In 2004, the band released Unbreakable, which was hailed by critics as a long-awaited return to form. The album was the heaviest the band had released since Face the Heat, and cintained tracks such as “New Generation”, “Love ‘em or Leave ‘em” and “Deep and Dark”. Scorpions released their 17th studio album, Sting in the Tail, on March 23, 2010 and announced that it would be their last album and that the tour supporting it will be their final tour. On 6 April 2010, Scorpions were enshrined in Hollywood’s Rock Walk in a handprint ceremony, with the band members placing their hands in a long slab of wet cement, which was placed on the Rock Walk.  The  Scorpions also recently re-record versions of their older material  for an album entitled Comeblack which was released on 7 November 2011, and also recently headlined the Wacken Open Air Festival on 4 August 2012 Alongside Saxon, Sepultura, Napalm Death and Dio Disciples.

Posted in Art, Events, music

Bridgnorth Music and Arts Festival 2012

Here is what is happening during the final weekend of Bridgnorth Music and Arts Festival. I’ve seen Ross Kirk and Clear Vinyl a few times, I think they are really great. Plus a few songs from “Bird” who incidentally played the High Street Stage last Weekend and have also released an EP which can be obtained from Amazon

Friday, 31 August

21:00 Ross Kirk @ The Bell and Talbot
21:00 Rob Cooper & Si Davies @ The George
21:00 Clear Vinyl @ The Bear
21:00 Anthony Doyle @ Gabrielle’s Wine Bar
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Saturday, 1 September

12:00 Family Funday @ The Castle Grounds, Bridgnorth
16:00 Middleman @ The New Inn
18:30 The Yarchesters @ Severn Valley Railway Station, Bridgnorth
20:00 Comedy Extravaganza @ The Castle Hall
21:00 Dangerous Dave @ The Bell and Talbot
21:00 Midset Buka @ The George
21:00 Ross Kirk @ Gabrielle’s Wine Bar
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Sunday, 2 September

15:00 Hoist up the John B’s Sail on the terrace at The George
16:00 Bridgnorth Music Festival Folk Event @ The White Lion
21:00 Stu Henry @ The Bell and Talbot
21:00 Clear Vinyl @ The George

Posted in Art, Events, music

Bridgnorth Music & Arts festival open Studios

As part of this weeks ongoing Bridgnorth Music & Arts festival, it is Open Studios Night on Thursday 30th August from  6pm to 9pm. Giving people the chance to Visit the  a participating  artists in their studios, see them at work and chat to them in their natural environment. There is also plenty of great live music being played at various pubs around the town.

Posted in books

Dissolution by C.J.Samsom

After my previous post about the forthcoming Television Adaptation of Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, I recently found about that BBC Radio 4 has also made A ten part adaptation of C. J. Sansom’s Tudor crime novel Dissolution, which is to be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 from Monday 3rd to Friday 10th September. Adapted for radio by Colin MacDonald and produced and directed by Kirsteen Cameron, it Stars Jason Watkins as Shardlake and Mark Bonnar as Cromwell. there will be two transmissions each day – one at 10.45am and one later on at 7.45pm. Having read plenty of C.J Sansom books I am really looking forward to it.

Set during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Henry VIII has proclaimed himself Supreme Head of the Church and the country is waking up to savage new laws, rigged trials and the greatest network of informers ever seen. Under the order of Thomas Cromwell, a team of commissioners is sent through the country to investigate the monasteries. There can only be one outcome: the monasteries are to be dissolved. But on the Sussex coast, at the monastery of Scarnsea, events have spiralled out of control. Cromwell’s Commissioner Robin Singleton, has been found dead, his head severed from his body. His horrific murder is accompanied by equally sinister acts of sacrilege – a black cockerel sacrificed on the alter, and the disappearance of Scarnsea’s Great Relic.

So a lawyer and long-time supporter of Reform, named Dr Matthew Shardlake, has been sent by Thomas Cromwell into this atmosphere of treachery and death. But his investigation soon forces him to question everything he hears, and everything that he intrinsically believes . . .

Posted in books, Events, Humour

Bridgnorth Music & Arts Festival Poetry Evening

Building on the success of the first poetry event in 2011, Bridgnorth Music & Arts Festival hosted another Fantastic evening of poetry, rhyme, wit and insights at Costa on Wednesday 29 August 2012. Starting at 7pm it featured a fantastic line up of poets including compere for the evening Emma Purshouse, who headlined the event in 2011 and brought the house down with her upbeat and insightful performances,

This year Emma was joined by Birmingham’s Young Poet Laureate in 2007/8, Matt Windle, who is Known as “The poet with punch”, and uses his poetry with people all over the country in schools, libraries, prisons, foster homes, young offenders etc. He was also an Olympic Torchbearer for 2012 and is currently Birmingham’s Featherweight boxing champion.

Local poet and retired teacher Paul Francis who performed to huge applause in 2011, also made his way back from the distant lands of Much Wenlock for this years event. Paul keeps sane by writing different kinds of poems…comic, serious, rhymed, regular and political.

Fergus McGonigal brought his rapid and animated slam-winning poetry to Bridgnorth Music and Arts Festival. With exasperation as his muse, he is on a mission to ‘share the despair’.

Big Bilston Love Slams 2012 finalist, Lorna Meehan also performed Her poetry which ranges from shameless rants to uplifting insights. She is one of the Decadent Poetry Diva’s and has performed at various events and festivals over the country. Meehan is also an actress, theatre practitioner, frequent meditator and lover of jaffa cakes

In addition to the scheduled performances, there were also open mic slots which were included throughout the evening ranging from 1min – 3mins long The event finished at 9.15pm and raised money for Cameron’s Fund.

Posted in Events, sport, Television

Paralympic Opening Ceremony

Tonight’s event will open with the words ‘O wonder! How many goodly creatures there are here’ from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, as read by  actor Sir Ian McKellen, 73,  with a young actress playing the character of Miranda who will lead the audience through the ceremony. Six athletes will then ‘fly’ into tonight’s spectacular Paralympics opening ceremony in golden wheelchairs,  The dramatic scenes will be at the heart of the showpiece opening. Among those flying into the stadium in wheelchairs will be Britain’s greatest ever paralympian, 11-time champion Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, 43.

The ceremony, which is entitled Enlightenment, begins at 8.30pm and will kick-start 11 days of sport in front of unprecedented crowds – the event is on course to be the first sell-out Paralympic Games in history.Great Britain is hoping for a record haul of medals surpassing the 102 won in Beijing in 2008 as athletes are inspired by their home crowds, as happened during the Olympics. It is hoped that the Paralympics would be A ‘wonderful way to change the preconception of disabilities for good. Performers from The National Youth Theatre were also Flying the flag: as they marched through the streets surrounding the stadium in Stratford

The Opening Ceremony will also be a celebration of scientific achievements, and will include references to the Big Bang theory and the Large Hadron Collider, which earlier this year enabled physicists to confirm the existence of the Higgs Bosun or so-called  ‘God particle’ which gives all matter its mass.It will also feature world renowned scientist Professor Stephen Hawking. The 70-year-old Oxford-born academic, author of A Brief History Of Time,who is severely disabled from motor neurone disease  is said to be ‘thrilled’ to have been asked to take part in the ceremony and has filmed a pre-recorded message for spectators inside the Olympic Stadium.

A disabled dancer will also take part in tonight’s Paralympic Games opening ceremony despite falling out of her wheelchair and breaking her pelvis less than a week ago. Diana Morgan-Hill fell at her home on Sunday and even managed to make it through the dress rehearsal the same day along with 14 other wheelchair dancers.To help her get through the pain she is being given the drug Entonox, which is normally given to women in labour. Mrs Morgan-Hill, from Kensington, West London, danced with Boris Johnson for Strictly Come Dancing’s spin off, Dancing on Wheels, while filming with swimmer Mark Foster.According to her biography on the BBC she lost both her legs 19 years ago. She ran for a train but as she went to jump on board fell through the gap losing a leg.Her other leg was then run over by the train and she was electrocuted twice.

Others attending tonight include the Queen and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.Singers appearing will include blind soprano Denise Leigh, who performed four years ago in Beijing, and Beverley Knight, who officials say was chosen for her ‘stadium-filling voice’. The ceremony also features more than 3,000 volunteers, including 50 disabled performers who have been learning circus skills from scratch. The athletes will enter the stadium earlier than during the Olympics opening ceremony, sitting on the track to form part of the audience.

Lord Coe, head of London 2012, said: ‘the ceremony focuses on that extraordinary period in European history and the great intellectual revolution that took place between 1550 and 1720. Everything from Newton making sense of gravity and motion to Napier with logarithms and Harvey with blood circulation. ‘It’s really about ceilings, about human understanding, about limitations and the importance of knowledge. Local performers, including three East London disc jockeys, will also appear alongside international stars, and there will be a spectacular light display will be created by aeroplanes flown by disabled pilots.

A highlight near the show’s climax will come with the lighting of the Paralympic cauldron featuring athletes representing the past, present and future.Margaret Maughan, 84, a veteran of five Paralympics, is expected to play a pivotal part. The winner of Britain’s first Paralympic gold medal when she became archery champion at the inaugural 1960 Rome games, she has been unable to walk following a car accident in 1959. A teacher, she also won gold in the backstroke in Rome – her victory was almost guaranteed because she was the only competitor in the event – and competed in four further Paralympics, winning four more medals, including two golds. It is understood she will be joined during the lighting ceremony by David Clarke, 32, captain of Britain’s football five-a-side team and the most experienced member of the squad, and 24-year-old triathlete Joe Townsend, a Royal Marine Commando, who lost his legs in a Taliban bombing in Afghanistan.Townsend has already competed in the Ironman UK triathlon, and has set his sights on qualifying for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro where the event will feature for the first time.Demand for tickets is expected to outstrip that of any previous Paralympics, with up to 215,000 spectators expected to visit the Olympic Park on most days.

Posted in Events, sport

Tribute to Ludwig Guttmann

Here is my tribute to the inspirational Jewish German neurosurgeon Sir Ludwig Guttmann, who saved many fellow Jews from Nazis before fleeing Germany and became the  founding father of the modern day Paralympics after WWII.

Born in the coal-mining district of Upper Silesia (now Poland) in 1899 to an orthodox Jewish family, he took a volunteer job at a local hospital for mining injuries when he was 18. He was particularly touched by the plight of one young miner he tended. This man had a fine physique but had broken his back in a mining accident.  He was paralysed from the waist down and the doctors held out no hope. The accepted method of treatment in those days was to encase patients in plaster and isolate them. They would die within weeks. This is what happened to that young man, who got a urinary infection and blood poisoning, and died within five weeks. Guttmann said later: ‘Although I saw many more victims suffering the same fate, it was the picture of that young man which remained indelibly fixed in my memory.’

After failing to find a job in paediatrics, he returned to Breslau and enrolled in the neurology and neurosurgery department. He continued at Freiburg, and developed an interest in physical training and sport.  By1933, Guttmann was director of Breslau’s Jewish hospital and gis growing reputation led to many offers to work abroad. He turned them all down — until Kristallnacht.

During Kristallnacht 1938,  Nazi stormtroopers unleashed their hatred on Jewish businesses, synagogues, shops and homes and arrested Up to 30,000 people across Germany who were then beaten, murdered or sent to concentration camps. So He instructed staff to admit Any traumatised Jews who turned up at his hospital that night, even if their injuries were too minor for an overnight stay. When the Gestapo arrived to round them up, he persuaded the officers that they were all too sick to leave, and in this way He saved 60 people from certain death in concentration camps.

He escaped Nazi Germany in 1939 and upon Arrival in the UK  He got a job a at the specialist Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury, Bucks. where he Led an inspirational initiative to treat people who had become paralysed during World War  II and although there were many who thought his ideas fanciful. He tirelessly argued, though, that with proper treatment paraplegics could live full and rewarding lives and made such an impression, that in September 1943 the government asked him  to open a centre for spinal injuries, anticipating a rise in patients after the planned D-Day landings against Germany.  He agreed on the condition he could implement his own treatment theories, and picked Stoke Mandeville for his base, taking up his post on February 1, 1944, and Sport was a critical part of the therapeutic programme he designed for his patients.

Before 1948, when Britain last hosted the Olympics, patients with severed spinal cords were rarely rehabilitated, let alone to the extent that could compete in sports. With no active life to look forward to and poor care, they contracted infections, gave up hope, and were usually dead within weeks or months.But World War II meant hospitals were flooded with servicemen who had suffered this type of injury and Dr Guttmann was a passionate believer in the power of sport to inspire and motivate and transformed many people’s perceptions of disabilities so he introduced an athletic competition in the grounds of the hospital to coincide with the London Olympics in 1948. His first event was wheelchair archery. Though only 16 competitors took part, including two women, the notion of paraplegics becoming athletes was ground-breaking. The archery competition at Stoke Mandeville was the precursor to the modern Paralympics, giving war veterans with terrible injuries strength and confidence

His games gave birth to the Paralympics, and  changed the course of thousands of lives after he opened a news sports stadium for disabled athletes on a site adjoining Stoke Mandeville Hospital, near Aylesbury, in 1969. Guttmann ended up inspiring thousands — and changing the way the nation thinks about paraplegics.

Posted in books, films & DVD

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

I like reading historical Fiction and recently read that The BBC is to adapt Novellist Hilary Mantel’s fantastic multi-award winning best-selling 2009 Booker Prize winning historical novel Wolf Hall,into a six-part mini-series. The book is the first in a planned trilogy; and the sequel Bring Up the Bodies was published in 2012

Set in England in the period from 1500 to 1535, Wolf Hall (which is named after the Seymour family seat of Wolfhall or Wulfhall near Burbage, just outside of Marlborough, Wiltshire,  is a fictionalized biography which follows the exploits of Thomas Cromwell, who rises from humble beginnings as the son of a brutal blacksmith in the slums of Putney to become a mercenary, merchant and member of Parliament finally becoming the right-hand man of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, adviser to the King, After surviving Wolsey’s fall from grace Cromwell eventually takes his place as the most powerful of Henry’s ministers, during this time he oversaw Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon and subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn, was present during the religious upheavals of the Protestant reformation, the English church’s break with Rome and the dissolution of the monasteries.

The story exposes the political machinations of Henry’s court and the vicious realities of the court of Henry VIII, Cromwell’s manipulation of the king and the court and how he re-shaped English politics and the balance of power. The story has more betrayals, affairs, alliances and scheming than a soap opera and also shows the nation on the brink of disaster and the very real threat of civil war looming large because the ageing king has no male heir.

I would also like to see an adaptation of her follow-up novel Bring Up The Bodies or possibly C.J.Sansom’s Shardlake series of books, or maybe after Having enjoyed Pillars of the Earth, starring Ian McShane, a TV adaptaion of World Without End by Ken Follett.