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.”

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.

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.

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

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

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

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.

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 . . .

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.