Monday, 29 April 2013

A State of Mind

Fascinating programme on BBC4 (10pm, Thu 25th Apr 2013) recently entitled " A State of Mind".

Filmed in North Korea in 2003, the crew were given free access to the lives of two young gymnasts as they prepared for the "Mass Games", a periodic event in which thousands of male and female gymnasts perform highly organised routines that emphasizes group dynamics rather than individual prowess.

The thousands of gymnasts (mostly school children) selected to take part in the event practice daily for months before the annual event, which is held in a large sports stadium and comprises a performance that is repeated twice a day for some 40 days

As well as the performance on the floor of the stadium, one side of the stadium is given over to a display comprising thousands of cards held up to form an image. The cards are part of a flip-book, allowing the creation of beautiful very sophisticated displays.

Each "pixel" is a page in a flip-book, held up by a child

The film makers state that, while there were interpreters and minders present at all times, they did not prevent the crew from going where they wanted and filming as they wished.

The footage of the Mass Games is very impressive, with the performers giving a display that would not disgrace an Olympic opening ceremnony.

Beautiful choregraphy allows the gymnasts to form waves etc

But what really caught BFTF's attention was the time given to showing what the daily life of the gymnasts and their families was like. Given the current news portrayals of North Korea as a place of greyness, misery and hunger, BFTF was surprised (somewhat embarrasingly) to see that the families had food, furnishings in their flat and entertainment available to them.

That it not to say that North Korea was portrayed as some kind of idyll, the programme pointed out that each flat had a radio feed that could be turned down - but not off. And that the TV the family had could only receive one channel, for five hours a day. And the famine that the coutry had suffered had even been felt here in Pyongyang, with the mother of one of the gymnasts saying that, during this time, she had only been able to serve porridge for her daughters birthday party - half a bowl for everyone except the birthday girl (who got a whole bowl).

The propaganda of the government gives a narrative of the country as being one that is striving to survive and be self-sufficient against the overbearing and evil United States.

Against this, one elderly man who is interveiwed says that he had not been against the US until he saw the devastation that they wrought on the country during the Korean War...

Fascinating programme, not least for the huge chasm between its portrayal of North Korea and that which is shown on news media.

Respect to BBC4 for showing it.

Update 30th April
Another documentary on BBC (10.50pm 22nd April 2013) was entitled "Crossing the Line" and focussed on the story of James Dresnok, who was one of four US soldiers to defect to North Korea during the 1960's. Again, what struck BFTF most was the normality of life (heck, there were even bowling alleys!)

Image Sources
Wikipedia and Wikipedia

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Talk : Field of Spears

Café Sci hosted another fascinating talk recently entitled “Field of Spears - The last mission of the Jordan Crew”.

Presented by Professor Gregory Hadley, the talk described the background to the downing of an American B-29 bomber over the Japanese town of Niigata in Japan on Jul 20th 1945, in the closing weeks of WW2. The incident, and its aftermath, has been written up as a fascinating book and forms the basis of this blog post, together with some extra links and information. The story of how Prof Hadley came to write the book is an interesting tale all of itself, which you can read here.

The Historical Background
Prof Hadley argued that the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were the “Age of Empire”. The Japanese leadership had seen how Western Powers had forced trade agreements onto China, and how the native North American peoples had been decimated by the new European immigrants. The lessons that the leadership learnt were that their previous policy of isolation was unsustainable, and that they needed to adopt - fast - the military and technological systems of the West and that they needed an “Empire”. These, then, were some of the forces that, along with the rise of a more very nationalist government a propelled Japan into the second World War,

Niigata
Niigata is a port city on the West coast of Japan. As it had not been bombed during the conflict, by 1945 it had become home to much of Japans intelligentsia and was placed on the initial list of nuclear bomb targets. Prof Hadley suggested that this was with the aim of destroying much of Japans cultural and academic resources with one bomb - something that Prof Hadley described as being “a cruel strategy”. However, it was later taken off the list, partly because the lack of surrounding hills reduced the blast effect of nuclear weapon and partly because its relatively northern location represented an additional risk for the somewhat unreliable B-29’s.

The Jordan Crew and their fateful last mission
Prof Hadley pointed out that while the image of British aircrew was that of gentlemen, the US air force was crewed by young rebellious men from the working class and the Jordan Crew, lead by Captain Gordon Jordan was no exception. With many missions already under their belt, the crew were part of a five plane flight that was tasked with flying from Tinian (near Guam), and mining Niigata’s harbour, part of a countrywide campaign to starve Japan into submission. The mines would be dropped from the relatively low height of 600m.

A B-29 Superfortress


The Jordan crew, whose B-29 was called the "Sharon Linn", had performed this type of mission on a number of occasions before and, on the night of Jul 20th, they deviated from the flight plan by flying directly south after dropping the mines. This was a shorter (and so quicker) route back home than the planned flight path, but took them over the Niigata city instead of around it. The crew had done this on previous missions without problems. But tonight there was a difference - the city now housed radar controlled searchlights and fresh anti-aircraft batteries. The searchlights homed in on the bomber and lit it up for the AA guns to target.

The bomber was hit and the inboard left engine and fuel tank began burning. Attempts to put out the fire with steep dives failed and the plane began to lose what little altitude it had. Parachutes were seen emerging from the plane before it hit the ground

Of the 11 crew, only 7 survived, with some of the 4 who died doing so under mysterious circumstances.

The survivors were placed in military custody and classed as “Special Prisoners”, somewhat akin to the “enemy noncombatants” of today. Special Prisoner status was given to soldiers who had violated the rules of combat and thus, in the view of the Japanese military and political leaders at the time, had forfeited any rights nominally given to POW’s. In this case, the violation had been the firebombing of Japanese cities that had happened earlier in the year.

The survivors were taken to an interrogation camp in Tokyo where they were kept, until the end of the war, enduring terribly cramped and unsanitary conditions, as well as many beatings during the frequent interrogations. Some of the trauma techniques were similar to those who suffered at Abu Ghraib. Indeed, the trauma of these few weeks would haunt the survivors until their 70’s.

The legacy
Perhaps the most interesting part of the talk, and of the resulting discussion, revolved around the long-term effects of trauma suffered in war.

Prof Hadley explained that, in the case of Japan, the returning Japanese soldiers had not wanted to talk about their experiences overseas. This left the national narrative as being the one experienced by the women and children who stayed behind, a narrative of hunger, bombing and defeat.

The fact that the US lost the Vietnam war is one reason why many US police dramas of the 70s and 80s had a Vietnam vet with a tortured past as one of the characters.

Most troubling of all was the way in which returning soldiers who began to suffer PTSD (often several years after the end of the conflict) cause terrible stress in their families, and that their children can often grow up to show the same problems that their soldier parents had (e.g anger control, alcohol abuse) - thus repeating the cycle through multiple generations. One of the daughters of a Jordan crew member commented to Prof Hadley how she had felt that there was “a huge invisible B29 in the living room” throughout her childhood

But engaging with the tramatised could really make a difference, even a long time after the event. For example, one of the Jordan crew had refused to talk to Prof Hadley during the research for his book, but the Prof had sent him a copy of it afterwards anyway, just in case he or his children might want to read it later. A couple of months later, the Prof received a long letter from the crewman which began “This book is about me. I had a good cry. I can talk now…”, and later discussions with his family revealed that the book had been a catalyst for a change in his character, from a quiet angry man to someone who was more at ease and cheerful.

In another example, the daughter of one of the crewmembers went back to Niigata, and in a meeting facilitated by Prof Hadley, talked (via a translator) with one of the (now elderly) villagers who had seen the crash. Prof Hadley noticed how, as the villager explained what he had seen that night, his body language and tone of voice both became softer and gentler, and that this of itself encouraged others to come and give their perspectives too.

And, perhaps most touchingly, please read the testimony of a US soldier who was captured in the Philippines,endured death marches and was sent to work in the Niigata POW camp. After the war, he had problems dealing with the anger that his war time experiences caused. He found some measure of peace, unexpectedly, in a trip to Japan...

Image Sources
B-29

Saturday, 20 April 2013

The Big Drive - As it happens

BFTF's Brother is taking part in Muslim Hands "Big DRive" event in which a fleet of ambulances are being driven to Pakistan for use in rural areas where many die simply because they cannot get to hospitals in time.

Thanks are due to National Police Aid Convoys and Nottingham Forest FC for supporting this project.

This post will, inshallah, be updated daily with news of how the conoy is doing (latest updates at the top)

Follow on Twitter with #theBigDrive and on @MuslimHandsUK and @PoliceAidConvoy

The Big Drive Route (click to enlarge)


Wednesday 1st May2013
The convoy has crossed the border into Pakistan !

Tuesday 30th April 2013
No news from the convoy today.

Monday 29th April 2013
Day 11 saw the convoy continue on their journey through Iran with the evenings stop being and the famed city of Bam (Image Source).

The ancient city of Bam


Sunday 28th April 2013
Day 10 saw the convoy travel south to the legendary city of Isfahan (image source).

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Isfahan


Saturday 27th April 2013
Day 9 saw the convoy leave Erzurum and set off for the Iranian Border with the intention of entering Iran and making it to Zanjan for the nightstop. Along the way the convoy must pass the majestic 5137m peak of Mount Ararat. To the south lies the 74mile wide Lake Van, which was renamed thus in the 1960's to recognise the opening of Ford's first light commercial vehicle production line in the country (allegedly) ..

Heading towards Iran (via @HaseebIqbal)....


The rather Tellytubby-esque scenery in Eastern Turkey (via Ummar Yousaf)

 


By some distance the most awesome picture of the trip so far - Mount Ararat looming up in the distance as the Ambulances drive through Dogubayazit (via Ummar Yousaf)


Friday 26th April 2013
Day 8 saw the convoy arrive at leave Erzurum...

Erazuram (via Ummar Yousaf)


Thursday 25th April 2013
Day 7 saw the convoy travel through the heartland of Turkey, passing through the capital Ankara on their way to Sivas where they will stop for the night. Well, that was the original plan, but the convoy is now going to keep on driving for an extra 400 miles through the night to Erzurum...

Istanbul, which looks unexpectedly like Milton Keynes (via @HaseebIqbal)


Wednesday 24th April 2013
Day 6 saw the convoy continue to struggle through the Greek/Turkish border, but eventually managed to enter Turkey proper and travelling to Istanbul for a rest day. With Ankara beckoning tomorrow...

At the Turkish Border


Nice hat, Imam Sahib


Zaf C does his Jonny Bravo impersonation


Just waiting for a few words from Kofi


Beautiful Masjid,Istanbul, Turkey


Tuesday 23rd April 2013
Day 5 saw the convoy, which was now back to full strength ambulance-wise, arriving in Greece and setting off across the country towards Turkey. They reached the Turkish border in the evening (UK time) and spent the entire night there as first the Greek and then the Turkish border guards took a close look at the fleet of ambulances. Incidentally, all round dude Hafiz Zubair is also travelling alongside the convoy with his own set of charity ambulances.

Leaving Italy (?) on the ferry


A lot of Ambulances


Zaf B(left) and Zaf C(right) - both looking ice cool


Monday 22nd April 2013
On Day 4 the convoy left Ancona and travelled further south before getting onto a ferry for a mammoth 18hr sea journey to the sunny Greek port of Igoumenitsa .

All aboard the ferry to Greece! (via @MuslimHandsUK)


Sunday 21st April 2013
Day 3 the convoy (which had sadly lost a few ambulances along the way to mechanical problems) reached the port of saw the comnoy enter Italy and travel about half way down along the Adriatic coast before stopping ofr the night at Ancona.

Austria (via @HaseebIqbal2)

Saturday 20th April 2013
Day 2 continued the journey by crossing into Luxembourg, then Germany and into (apparantly very chilly) Austria where they will stop for the night at Innsbruck. Three ambulances have broken down. Inshallah hoping that there are no more in the rest of the trip. Hoping for pictures tomorrow.


Zaf C


Friday 19th April 2013
Following several weeks of intense fundraising, which saw Zaf C raise over £10,000 for the Project (and which included this memorable event) the Big Day for the Big Drive arrived, and the fleet of 25 decommissioned and refurbished NHS ambulances setting off amidst much fanfare from the Nottingham Forest Ground, and welcome coverage from regional media.

Soon the convoy had reached southern England and were boarding the EuroStar for the channel crossing and were able to arrive safely at their first night stop in Belgium.

The Convoy, ready to set off (via @BeneCareMedical


Boarding EuroStar (via @HaseebIqbal2)


Thursday, 18 April 2013

Talk - The Allotted Recreation Grounds of Nottingham

Café Sci recently a fascinating talk by June Perry from the “Friends of the Forest” group.

Entitled “The Allotted Recreation Grounds of Nottingham” the talk explained how the 1845 Inclosure Act resulted in the creation of 130 acres of green spaces in Nottingham – and how these green spaces are constantly under threat of lost through redevelopment. The talk forms the basis of this post.

The Inclosure Acts
Enclosure (spelt as "Inclosure" in the Acts of Parliament) is the process which ends traditional rights such as grazing livestock on common land formerly held in the open field system. Once enclosed, these uses of the land become restricted to the owner, and it ceases to be land for commons.

The process of Enclosure took several hundred years until, by the late nineteenth century, there was virtually no unenclosed land left.

While some enclosures were performed with the approval of small holders and commoners, in other cases they were not. Indeed riots occurred as a protest against some enclosures.

For Nottingham, the key event was the 1845 Enclosure Act, which covered a large area of land around the city of Nottingham. It was an important piece of legislation, as the fast growing Nottingham was constrained by its inability to grow, and the severe overcrowding was causing significant public health issues.

There were some 550 claims (mostly for the land or for common rights) and it took 20 years (!) to sort through all the claims and counter claims.

But one aspect of the enclosure was pursued by the council with vigour, this was the giving of 130acres of the newly freed land for the purposes of public recreation- the Allotted Recreation Grounds. This was much more than in enclosure acts elsewhere in the country, where 1-2acres, or none at all, was the norm.

The Act gave the city Queens Walk, Queens Walk Rec, Victoria Park, Robin Hood Chase, Corporation Oaks, St Ann’s Hill (around Belle Vue Reservoir), Elm Avenue, The Arboretum, Waterloo Promenade (actually part of The Forest), The Forest (which should not be called "The Forest Rec") – as well as the General and Rock Cemetaries.

All this was given to the city “FOREVER” by the Act and the council was required to maintain and fence it.


A view over the Forest Rec

Threats to the Allotted Recreations Grounds
With land at the centre of the city being at a premium, the Allotted Rec’s are always at risk of being used for other purposes by the council. Critically, when areas become divorced from their original purpose, they can be sold off with no-one realising that this is an illegal act and is selling off recreation land that was given to the city- and its inhabitants- FOREVER.

Examples from the past are the open air schools of the 1920’s, which resulted in parts of the parkland being lost (e.g the Forest Rec Scouts Hut and the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall.)

Another example is that of a park (called St Michaels Rec) that existed at the bottom of Huntingdon Street. It began to be used as a car park, then a bus station, then it was sold off. Because the nature of the use had changed so much, nobody questioned the selling off of this part of the Allotted Recreation Grounds – which is a shame as a park is something that is sorely needed by the high-rise flats that are nearby. Any opposition to changes is labelled as NIMBYism.

A further example is that of the gradual build-up of cars on The Forest. At first it was only for three days before Christmas, then it was also for the January Sales, then for weekends, then all year round – and then was formalised as a car park to support the tram line. If the car park loses its purpose then the land has to be restored to its original state and handed back to be part of the open space again, and it;s present status is still that of being part of the park land. However, if in 20-30years time, no one remembers that this is the case, there may be little to stop the land being sold off. And this piecemeal loss of the Allotted Recreation Grounds is still ongoing, with the Queens Walk (and its beautiful rows of tress) being ripped out to make way for a new tram line (although some replacement land is being provided elsewhere).

Viewing the Allotted Recreation Grounds in their true light – as a gift to the people of Nottingham FOREVER, changes ones perception of them. In BFTF’s case, it was a sudden realisation that the artificial pitches on the Forest Rec were not some special Council Facility that could only be used with the permission of some official or other, but were rather an amenity for the local community to use when they liked. Certainly, the pitches should never be locked up and made unavailable for use.

But how many of the local residents were aware of this? How much more would the pitches be used if the local residents truly perceived them as being THEIRS, as opposed to be the Councils.


The Lake at the Arboretum 

So now what?
People interested in supporting the protection of the Allotted Recreation Grounds may wish to join the “Friends of the Forest” group, who can be contacted on 0115 960 9221.

Another interesting point that was raised in the question and answer session was that of ensuring that councillors were aware of this wonderful legacy that the City of Nottingham possesses and that a brief introduction to this should be a standard item in the induction pack for new councillors. If you would like to lobby for this, the best person to contact seems to the Portfolio Holder for Portfolio Holder for Leisure, Culture and Tourism, currently Councillor David Trimble, who can be contacted on dave.trimble@nottinghamcity.gov.uk.

BFTF will also be emailing his local councillors asking whether they are aware of the gift that the Alloted Recreation Grounds represent, and whether that will confirm that they will do all in their power to preseve and protect them, in their entirety, for future generations.

Update 27 April
Received an admirably quick response from David Trimble, which encouragingly said :

"The vast majority of Council Members take a very active role in the parks & Open Spaces in the ward they represent and a reasonable number of them are aware of the 1845 Inclosure Act with many Councillors having taking part in the annual walk organised by the Friends of the Forest. June Perry also regularly contacts Councillors on issues to do with this and I have absolutely no problem if anyone wanted to e-mail Councillors a simple one page introduction. The Inclosure Acts are a great force for good though I may not always agree with every interpretation."


A walk through Nottingham's Allotted Recs and Walks (click to enlarge)

Related Posts
Nottingham Architecture and Urban Design Image Sources
Forest Rec, The Arboretum

NB: This post modified to correct a few errors on 21st April.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

"X" - Cultural icon or private property?

BFTF recently participated in a charity fundraising event dressed in the costume of a a-well-known-childrens-character-henceforth-known-as-"X" and had a great time - it was heartening to see so many children smile on seeing "X". But the resulting blog post drew the ire of lawyers from "The Copyright Group" who said they represented the Paddington Bear Company. They were upset that BFTF had worn a costume without any "permission or licence" from them (a modifed "approved" version of the blog post can be seen here and the full dialogue can be found at the end of the post).

BFTF is very, very annoyed about this, for the reasons shown below:

Copyright for over a hundred years
Current copyright law in the UK grants copyright for 70years AFTER THE AUTHORS DEATH, meaning that much material could remain under copyright for well over 100years.

Yet, if BFTF were to invent a life saving cure for cancer, it would remain under patent protection for just 20years.

Does that make any sense to you?

The chilling effect of this law on cultural creativity (which is all the UK has left now that it doesn't make ships, trains or other manufactured goods) cannot be overstated. As an article in the Guardian points out "How would the creativity of society be affected if we had to pay for every idea we lifted from Wikipedia or a painting or piece of music to express in a different way? Current laws would have wiped out most of Elizabethan drama at a stroke."

And the value of creativity that comes from works entering the public domain has been recognised by Cambridge University economist Rufus Pollock, who has calculated where the balance between copyright (to incentivise artists) and the public domain (where works can inspire creativity) - and has found 14 years to be the ideal term.


BFTF as "X"

The effect of the copyright jackboot on community
In the specific instance involving BFTF, the warning shot from the laywers has stopped a whole host of activities from happening, all of which were for the common good of society.

BFTF wanted to shout out on Twitter about the great reception he had received as "X", both from the Muslim and non-Muslim communities - but is too scared to now.

BFTF wanted to circulate the blog post, complete with pictures, as an encourgement for others, especially those in minority groups, to claim some of Britains wonderful cultural heritage as their own and use it for the common good - but with the photos having been eviscerated, there seems little point in doing this now.

BFTF had a great fondness for "X", but now feels that, rather than being a British Icon that everyone can love and feel a part of, "X" is in fact owned by a paranoid company that will come knocking at your door within 24hrs of your having the temerity to engage with the character in any way that is not previously approved by them - and if you are a charity other than their single approved one - Action Medical Research - then it won't matter what you do, the answer is always going to be "no".

BFTF wanted to spend yesterday evening writing about a wonderful public lecture he attended at Nottingham Trent University recently, but instead has had to spend the time responding to the lawyers and writing the post you are reading - so there has been a significant opportunity cost involved here too.

The sheer pettiness of the lawyers acting on behalf of "X" has also been demoralising, in particular their comment that, once BFTF had turned all the images of "X" into silhouettes, their client was "happy to let matters rest there". It all makes Mr Burns look like Father Christmas.

A passing motorist gets the thumbs up

A Proposal for "Cultural Icon Status"
Of course, it is easy to get mad, but somewhat harder to suggest something that will improve the situation.

Aside from changing the outrageous copyright laws, perhaps there is some merit is allowing characters to achieve "Cultural Icon Status" - this would be an award given to characters or other artworks that had become part of the country's cultural heritage. In return for this badge of approval, companies would allow the character to enter the public domain in some, non-profit, ways and be used by communities and charities for events and fundraising activities.

Emails
Many emails are likely to flow from this post...

Email sent to local MP explaining that the email from lawyers had resulted in a loss of enthusiasm for engagement with British cultural icons and would reduce possibilities for community cohesion work.

Email sent to The Paddington Bear Company asking them whether they approve of the lawyers going after some bloke waving at cars in a fundraising event?

Email sent to Action Medical Research asking them if they are happy that lawyers are using the exclusivity of their agreement with the Paddington Bear Company to ruthlessly stamp down on small time charity fundraising events (resent 6th May).

Dialogue with "The Copyrights Group"

Original email from "The Copyrights Group":

"I am writing to you regarding a recent internet blog which I believe was initiated by you regarding some fund raising activities on behalf of BFTF. The fund raising activities involved a Paddington Bear costume which was being used in public.

If I may introduce myself my company, The Copyrights Group Limited, acts as the worldwide licensing agent for Paddington Bear. We represent Paddington and Company Limited which owns all the intellectual property rights including all copyrights relating to Paddington Bear. Paddington and Company was set up by Michael Bond Paddington's creator many years ago to protect Paddington Bear and is now run by his daughter. Your blog has been brought to my attention as we have not issued any permission or licence for this use of Paddington Bear which is necessary and I am therefore writing to you about this.

As you can no doubt appreciate Paddington Bear is a popular British character and as a result we get many requests from members of the public and organisations for the use of Paddington to raise money for worthy and charitable causes. Over 20 years ago Michael Bond decided that rather than have the charitable use of Paddington randomly managed it would be better to concentrate his charitable use to the benefit of a single cause. Consequently an agreement was entered into with Action Medical Research, which is a leading children's charity funding medical research which particularly affects children. This charity has the exclusive use of Paddington Bear to help raise money for their work and as a result when we find Paddington Bear being used by other charitable causes we have to write and ask that they cease their use of Paddington for this reason.

I am unclear from the blog whether you are the head of the BFTF charity or officially associated with it. If you are merely a supporter of the charity then if you can direct me to whoever heads BFTF I will write to them to raise this matter with them and need trouble you no further.

Apart from the conflict with our authorised charity we are also concerned about the use of a Paddington Bear costume which we had not previously seen for creative approval. If the costume was home made then that would explain its appearance but if it had been hired from somewhere then we need to track this down so as to prevent its further use as unfortunately it does not meet the standard of appearance that we require. Additionally, as I am sure you will understand upon reflection, with a children's character it is important that any costume appearance is appropriately managed so that the cosume only acts in character and does not do anything inappropriate. Safeguarding children is a serious consideration for us. I would be grateful therefore if you could advise the origin of the costume that was used.

I am sorry to write regarding this matter but I trust you will understand our position and that we have to look after the interests both of our authorised charity as well as Paddington Bear himself. Provided that we are able to prevent any recurrence of the use of Paddington by BFTF in this way or further use of the costume then we will be happy to let the matter rest there."
BFTF replied as follows:
I have amended the blog-post to remove all reference to Paddington Bear and hope you can confirm by return that the post is now acceptable to you (http://bftfblog.blogspot.com/2013/04/two-days-as-x.html). I have no easy way of determining the provenance of the costume in question but can advise that, as a precautionary measure, I will not take part in any events featuring Paddington Bear in future. Again, could you please confirm by return that the blog-post is now acceptable to you.
And received a final response as follows :
"Thank you for your prompt response to my e-mail. In light of the action you have taken to resolve this matter my client is happy to let matters rest there."


Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Two days as "X"

Zaf C is BFTF's brother and also one of the 25 driver teams taking ambulances to Pakistan in Muslim Hands "The Big Drive" project.

The Project team have a "demo ambulance" that drivers can borrow for their fundraising efforts, and Zaf had booked it for this weekend with the aim of using it as the focus of a fundraising effort in Bury Park, Luton (see also Zaf's JustGiving "AnAmbulance" page).

But this was fundraising with a difference.


BFTF as "X", in front of the demo ambulance

(Note : All images of BFTF as "X" have been blanked out following receipt of an email from ""The Copyrights Group" who said they represented the Paddington Bear Company, see end of post for further details)

Whereas many groups fundraise by waving buckets at people and essentially saying "if you had a heart you would give us your money", the AnAmbulance team took the approach of trying to give something back to the public in the form of a little entertainment from a-well-known-childrens-character-henceforth-known-as-"X" and a Winnie the Pooh-esque character , as well as free coconut macaroons, cakes and pakoras.

Making some small people happy

For much of the time, the person inside "X" was BFTF, with No3 son inside the Winnie the Pooh-esque costume.

And we were GOOD.

Whereas other volunteers loooked like people inside a costume, BFTF and No3 son looked alive - and had some bad ass kung-fu moves!

"We love bus drivers, we love bus drivers!"

And BFTF took it upon himself to wave at as many passing vehicles as possible, with an overwhelmingly positive reaction.

Buses were greeted by BFTF and No3 son with the loud call of "We love Bus drivers! We love Bus drivers!" while men in very sporty cars received the words "Looking good my friend, looking good!"

A passing motorist gets the thumbs up

What struck BFTF in particular was the fact that "X" and Winnie were a great hit with the non-Muslim community. It really warmed BFTF's heart to be able to raise a smile from children and parents of all cultures as they passed by in their cars.

And BFTF wonders how often the Muslim community tries to give some enjoyment and fun to the wider society.

No3 Son photobombs a picture

Indeed, and in all seriousness, perhaps an effective way for the Muslim community to engage positively with wider society would be for some enthusiastic volunteers to dress up in animal costumes and make passers by smile of a weekend.

So long as they had some good moves of course, and could do kung-fu.

No3 Son taking a nap after a day of waving and kung-fu


Dialogue with "The Copyrights Group"

Original email from "The Copyrights Group":

"I am writing to you regarding a recent internet blog which I believe was initiated by you regarding some fund raising activities on behalf of BFTF. The fund raising activities involved a Paddington Bear costume which was being used in public.

If I may introduce myself my company, The Copyrights Group Limited, acts as the worldwide licensing agent for Paddington Bear. We represent Paddington and Company Limited which owns all the intellectual property rights including all copyrights relating to Paddington Bear. Paddington and Company was set up by Michael Bond Paddington's creator many years ago to protect Paddington Bear and is now run by his daughter. Your blog has been brought to my attention as we have not issued any permission or licence for this use of Paddington Bear which is necessary and I am therefore writing to you about this.

As you can no doubt appreciate Paddington Bear is a popular British character and as a result we get many requests from members of the public and organisations for the use of Paddington to raise money for worthy and charitable causes. Over 20 years ago Michael Bond decided that rather than have the charitable use of Paddington randomly managed it would be better to concentrate his charitable use to the benefit of a single cause. Consequently an agreement was entered into with Action Medical Research, which is a leading children's charity funding medical research which particularly affects children. This charity has the exclusive use of Paddington Bear to help raise money for their work and as a result when we find Paddington Bear being used by other charitable causes we have to write and ask that they cease their use of Paddington for this reason.

I am unclear from the blog whether you are the head of the BFTF charity or officially associated with it. If you are merely a supporter of the charity then if you can direct me to whoever heads BFTF I will write to them to raise this matter with them and need trouble you no further.

Apart from the conflict with our authorised charity we are also concerned about the use of a Paddington Bear costume which we had not previously seen for creative approval. If the costume was home made then that would explain its appearance but if it had been hired from somewhere then we need to track this down so as to prevent its further use as unfortunately it does not meet the standard of appearance that we require. Additionally, as I am sure you will understand upon reflection, with a children's character it is important that any costume appearance is appropriately managed so that the cosume only acts in character and does not do anything inappropriate. Safeguarding children is a serious consideration for us. I would be grateful therefore if you could advise the origin of the costume that was used.

I am sorry to write regarding this matter but I trust you will understand our position and that we have to look after the interests both of our authorised charity as well as Paddington Bear himself. Provided that we are able to prevent any recurrence of the use of Paddington by BFTF in this way or further use of the costume then we will be happy to let the matter rest there."
BFTF replied as follows:
I have amended the blog-post to remove all reference to Paddington Bear and hope you can confirm by return that the post is now acceptable to you (http://bftfblog.blogspot.com/2013/04/two-days-as-x.html). I have no easy way of determining the provenance of the costume in question but can advise that, as a precautionary measure, I will not take part in any events featuring Paddington Bear in future. Again, could you please confirm by return that the blog-post is now acceptable to you.
And received a final response as follows :
"Thank you for your prompt response to my e-mail. In light of the action you have taken to resolve this matter my client is happy to let matters rest there."


Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Water - An exhibition at the Lakeside Gallery

The Lakeside Gallery at University Park Nottingham often has fascinating exhibitions about the history of Nottingham, its people, infrastructure and industries.

A good example of this is the current exhibition entitled "Water - Pipes, Pumps, Floods and Drains in the UoN's Water Archives, which runs until 19th May 2013.

The exhibition looks at the history of the Victorian network of pumping stations, water mains and sewers that served Nottinghams inhabitants during the boom years of the late 19th century - and much of which is still in use today.

The exhibition contained a lot of surprising information - for example the fact that the primary purpose for building Wilford Suspension Bridge was to carry water main pipes across the river Trent.

It was also fascinating to see images of Victorian workmen laying sewers in Bobbers Mill.

A brief wander around the Interweb reveals a number of places that one can go for further information on this subject...

Wikpedia entry on the City of Nottingham Water Department which includes a memorable quote describing the flow of water from the Trent Bridge Water works as being "at a rate of 10 Hogsheads per minute"

The Papplewick Pumping Station Association have a page that provides a detailed history of Nottingham's water supplies, including the story of Thomas Hawksley (1807 - 93) who was a tireless advocate for measures to improve the quality of life for Nottingham's citizens, especially those living in squalid accomodation. Hawsley was the designer of the Trent Bridge Water Works mentioned earlier, and which was the first pressurised mains water system in the country. A measure of its effectiveness in improving public health can be gained from the fact that, whilst Nottingham suffered like the rest of the country in cholera outbreaks in 1832 (before the opening of the works), Nottingham escaped almost unscathed during another outbreak in 1848 (when much of the city was enjoying a high quality water supply)

Picture the Past, is a site that "is jointly managed by the local authorities of Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham, and Nottinghamshire with financial assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund" and "aims to conserve and make publicly accessible the photographic heritage of the North East Midlands, thus enabling people to see the richness and diversity of the area's photographic collections.", including this pic of water mains being laid during the construction of Western Boulevard.

A BBC article covers a lot of ground related to public health and slum clearances, including a description of the "ash pit privies, usually three or four per yard for as many as 250 people, were the norm. If you were lucky you might even get them emptied every ten years! The principle was that you mixed the ashes in the pit with the effluent. Often the pits overflowed, ran down the yards and into the living rooms of the houses. Intermingled with the houses were the slaughter houses, knackers yards and manure yards"

And, of course, the University of Nottingham has some great images and information.