London University Introduces Cycle Hire Scheme

Angela Shine reports from Brunel University where wheels are in motion to introduce their own cycle hire scheme.

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Kay Burley, Carla Buzasi, Anne McElvoy, Lisa Markwell & Sarah Sands – Meet the Queens of the Newsroom

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(left to right – Kay Burley, Carla Buzasi, Anne McElvoy, Lisa Markwell, Sarah Sands)
The Press in a Dress – Photo: Angela Shine

When Sarah Sands, Carla Buzasi and Lisa Markwell hold court in their news domains; you can bet everyone listens. These three names sit within the heart of news in the United Kingdom and beyond. However, if the names don’t ring a celebrity bell, that’s because they’re are not supposed to; these are the women BEHIND the news. The embodiment of true ‘girl power,’ respectively they represent the Editor of the London Evening Standard, Editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post UK, Editor of the Independent on Sunday plus long serving Sky News Journalist and Presenter Kay Burley. The evening was chaired by ex-Deputy Editor of the Spectator and Presenter Anne McElvoy.

Front page news when you consider that just 20 years ago (Huffington Post excused) you might have expected that same panel to comprise of a line of less attractive, harrumphing, weather beaten hard news men; remnants of a bygone Fleet Street era.

Sponsored by Skoda, The London Press Club’s ‘Women in Media’ Forum was held at Stationer’s Hall, a magnificent 17th century setting near St Pauls. In candid fashion, having worked their way through an industry laden with clichéd references to gender, the panel spoke about female depiction in media, female journalism, confidence, men, boobs, blogging and work-life balance.

On the subject of women in the media, Sarah Sands said ‘There are no physical barriers to being a woman in media, no heavy lifting’. It isn’t long before the subject of being taken seriously rears its head and Carla Buzasi comments ‘How can you go from writing about lipstick to writing about politics? I believe you can.’

They discuss the tendency of papers to get women to write about ‘women’s issues.’ Kay Burley said ‘Someone said they want news presenters to be men who look like they’ve survived a war…F*** off, I’ve survived wars.’ We laugh, but it’s a statement that echoes many women’s concerns. Carla Buzasi quotes the statistic that ‘Last year only 22% of newspaper front pages featured a woman’s byline’. While Lisa Markwell comments ‘Gender equality in the media has a long way to go.’

Confidence
The audience debate women’s self-worth asking if women play down their abilities and achievements. Kay Burley responds that women lack confidence, they need to be more confident to get where they want in their careers. ‘Of course you can interview the Prime Minister, the only thing stopping you is yourself.’ She offers.

Children
The audience asks about pregnancy and how raising a family can affect careers. They wonder how long those mums on the panel took for maternity leave. Anne McElvoy jokes that she practically gave birth under her desk. Lisa Markwell comments ‘My husband took 5 years off to bring up the children so I could work, I highly recommend it’ she took 4 months off. I have such respect for her honesty. These superwomen in charge of whirling media machines battle human issues like the rest of us…who knew?

Kay Burley comments ‘When I was pregnant, I was told by a senior official that I wasn’t of use any more’. She admits things have changed over the ensuing years. ‘Things are changing in all walks of life, not just the media’ she adds.

Work-Life Balance
Carla Buzasi recalled a valued male employee who asked to leave early to attend a parents evening, he was surprised when she immediately said ‘of course.’ She said she believes in work-life balance. At 33, with no children, she believes that you shouldn’t have to work 24/7 to prove you deserve the job. It’s an uplifting thought. In an interview in April 2013 on HuffPost Women, when asked what ‘having it all’ means to her, she replied ‘I don’t tend to think so much as ‘having it all’, as having lots that makes me happy. Does that sound selfish? Maybe being happy and having those around me feel happy, too.’

Boobs and Media portrayal
The discussion naturally flows to women in the workplace and after a mixture of fun anecdotes about some hair-raisingly sexist remarks; I seize my chance and throw a question out there relating to the phenomenal response to my recent article about Page 3 and The Sun Newspaper. I refer to the Sun Editor David Dinsmore’s forum, where he spoke about his newspaper’s strong female support for Page 3, I ask ’Do you think Page 3 sends out the wrong message for women to be taken seriously?’ The panel takes this subject seriously. Kay Burley responds first, looking at the issue from a commercial angle, ‘It must be working as its selling papers’ and ‘If t**s didn’t sell, they wouldn’t be in the paper.’ Lisa Markwell has something different to say on the matter ‘Well I certainly don’t want to open my paper in the morning and see a pair of breasts looking at me.’

It is Sarah Sands who comments that Page 3 is starting to get old and the question is directed at Carla Buzasi who says ‘It surprises me the amount of Page 3 passivity about those women on those pages.’ She also mentions the No more page 3 campaign. Adding to this the fact that she wrote her own article called ‘Stop writing about my body’ published on HuffPost Women, which talks about how much is written about women’s bodies. An excerpt reads ‘What with the endless articles devoted to Kate’s boobs, the revelation that the ‘average’ woman spends 17 years of her life on a diet….’ You see where she’s going, it’s refreshingly sincere.

Professional and Proud
These women make huge decisions on a daily basis, they decide what is important in the public interest; they gauge their audience’s tastes and then feed our appetite for news using distinctly different mediums. They lead the way in their media careers, often to the surprise of some of their male colleagues; who strangely never saw them coming.

Kay Burley spoke about being a parent to her 21 year son who was asked who his best friend was, he replied ‘My mum.’ she tells this story with immense pride. She certainly doesn’t look like she has a 21 year old son. Anne McElvoy asks her why she felt she needed to have her facelift. She replied ‘If I worked at Tesco, I would still have had a facelift. It’s not to do with being on TV. I just want to look the best that I can.’ She also said ‘I’m a good journalist because I ask the right questions, not because I’m easy on the eye.’

Having glimpsed their priorities through the forum, I am aware I have been at a very special viewing; a window into the balancing act they all seem such masters at. To achieve so high professionally is a great lifetime achievement, but to achieve personally at the same time is something most of us must surely aspire to.

Linked not only by gender, but by profession and grounded ethics, their solidarity for women in journalism is evident. Carla Buzasi reassuringly confirms that the door in media is now firmly open commenting ‘women who don’t help other women have a special place reserved in hell.’  The Queens of the newsroom – long may they reign.

To give your opinion by comment or vote and to read the Editor of The Sun, David Dinsmore’s view click here

Jazzing it up London Style

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Frank Griffith – Photo: Angela Shine

Jazz saxophonist and clarinet musician Frank Griffith will perform at the 2013 EFG London Jazz Festival, which starts this week and sees its landmark 21st birthday year. As the Festival comes of age; the 10-day spectacular’s claim to be the capital’s biggest pan-city music festival is reinforced by approximately 2,000 musicians attending from all over the globe.

Mr Griffith, 54, born in Oregon, is on the judging panel for the renowned Dankworth prize for Jazz composition and is a purveyor of jazz. He started playing clarinet aged 6 and began to develop as a jazz musician at 16. A composer, arranger and performer; he will perform and arrange the Café Society Swing show, which celebrates a venue in New York called the ‘Café Society Club’ back in the late 1930’s and 1940’s with songs from this era. Written and produced by musical composer Alex Webb, this one-off performance is a rare treat as its sell-out run at the Tricycle theatre finished last year.

The legendary Café Society Club, owned by Barney Josephson, who died in 1988, historically broke convention by promoting racial equality. Hosting some of the most celebrated black musicians in history such as Billie Holiday, Count Basie and Lena Horne amongst others.

Mr Griffith said ‘It’s the story of a club. The club was besieged by what they call redbaiting, which was McCarthyism in the 1940’s and 50’s when people who were accused of being communists were brought back down to their knees and their businesses and their livelihoods were destroyed. Many of those accused, who didn’t whistle on their mates, had to leave the States, so there’s a lot of drama, it’s not just a bunch of songs.’

With performers like Alexander Stewart, Gwyneth Herbert and China Moses (daughter of Dee Dee Bridgewater) on stage, this promises to be a unique re-enactment and well worth the £16-18 fee.

The London Jazz Festival has an impressive partners and supporters list but this year secured title sponsorship for the event from private bank group EFG International. Talking about the banks sponsorship, Keith Gapp, EFG’s Head of Strategy and Marketing said ‘What’s good about jazz is it’s not a musical form where there’s a lot of posturing or pretence, it’s a passion that connects with people for the rest of their lives.’ The self-proclaimed jazz fan added ‘Organisation of the London Jazz Festival is absolutely first class. It’s one of the greatest jazz festivals in the world.’

The Festival has venues ranging from Café OTO to the Barbican, so whether you prefer an intimate setting or a full-on concert hall; there is certainly a wide choice; over 280 performances in more than 60 venues. The next week and a half will see established names like Bob James and David Sanborn amongst a diverse range of worldwide respected musicians plus newly emerging stars. An expected 75-80,000 jazz lovers from far and wide will descend on our nation’s capital to consume this musical feast.

Ronnie Scott’s

Ronnie Scott’s, one of London’s famous jazz venues has events running throughout the Festival and already some shows are sold out. Paul Pace, Music Bookings Co-ordinator at Ronnie Scott’s said ‘We are a business and it is an important and very positive collaboration.’ He also added that they choose their acts by ‘Booking best quality jazz with musical excellence.’

Evolving from the Camden Jazz Festival, the Festival’s journey to adulthood has grown and progressed with the help of Arts Council England National Portfolio organisers ‘Serious’. Publicist for Serious, Sally Reeves said ‘We are delighted to be celebrating the 21st birthday of the EFG London Jazz Festival, it’s going to be one of the best years yet.’

The events include free debates, interviews and performances as well as ticketed shows. There are also jazz and sing-a-long workshops for children.

The Café Society Swing Show is on the 21st November at the Arts Depot in North Finchley. The London Jazz Festival runs from the 15th to the 24th November.

China Moses sings ‘What is this thing called love?’ from the Cafe Society Show

Further details are available online at http://www.londonjazzfestival.org.uk.

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Paddington Cleaners Fight Dirty Over ’London Living Wage’

RMT Strikers in London

RMT Strikers in London  Photo: Angela Shine

Workers at Mitie Group PLC are on their second 24 hour strike within a month as they demand ‘The London Living Wage’. The RMT members, mostly train cleaners, were chanting and waving flags outside London’s Paddington Station in a bid to gain attention from employer Mitie Group PLC, who are under contract to First Great Western Railways. The strikers are demanding to be brought back ‘in house’ so that they get the benefits associated with working for the company.

Steve Hedley, Assistant General Secretary of the Rail Maritime Transport Union said ‘Boris Johnson promised everyone a London Living Wage of £8.50 an hour, but some of these workers are on £6.37.’ He continued ‘We’ve been in negotiation for a period of years; we don’t get proper sick pay, we don’t get pensions, we don’t get free travel like everyone else who works for First Great Western because we’re contractors. ’Mitie Group PLC and the RMT met yesterday, the second time in a fortnight but without resolution. Strategic outsourcing company Mitie Group PLC have been contracted to First Great Western for two years and the RMT believe that Mitie Group PLC have agreed  Boris’s 2012 promise of a London Living Wage of £8.55 for other cleaners elsewhere in the London’s capital after heavy negotiations.

Erica Lockhart, Head of Corporate Affairs for Mitie Group PLC said ‘We have met with them but I don’t want to comment further.’ Mitie Group PLC then released a statement ‘We have only recently confirmed an extension of our contract with First Great Western, and as are now in a position to have further discussions with the RMT. We hope to reach an agreement with the union but have full contingency plans in place to ensure no disruption to passengers travelling during a strike.’

Inside Housing.co.uk reported that Mitie Group PLC posted preliminary results for the 2011/12 financial year and reported a 5.9 per cent increase in turnover to £2 billion. Its operating profit before other items increased 7.2 per cent to £111.7 million while its pre-tax profit increased 8.9 per cent from £86.8 million to £94.5 million.

As the workers united in their shouts for a better working package, Steve Hedley added ‘if this doesn’t bring them to the table, it will be longer periods of strike’