All the world’s a stage – or should be
May I, as a fellow actor and admirer of Derek Jacobi, add a word to his valued concerns (“Today’s actors have lost art of vocal technique, says Jacobi”, News)? Here in Britain, we have had, for four centuries, the greatest of creativity in drama and theatre performance since the days of Aristophanes and Sophocles in ancient Athens. Since few politicians have a clue about this – more than 80% of professional performers being unemployed through lack of performance space – and most people are deprived of the opportunities to see live works by anyone from Shakespeare to aspiring young dramatists today, should we not now ensure that the theatre has a place in each and every community, akin to the free lending libraries and the parks? Every town and city should have its own repertory theatre, playing classics and local work by young and older people, with residential companies working hand in hand with schools and other institutions. As Laurence Olivier said in his maiden speech in the House of Lords: “I believe in the theatre… as the first glamouriser of thought.”
Who would pay for all this? The thousands who would flock to Great Britain, the world’s drama centre, from all parts of the globe, as many do already.
Nursery places, a solution
Michael Savage highlights the shortfall of government funding for free nursery places, which may cause some nurseries to close when the provision is extended to one- and two-year-olds (“‘This will be the end of nurseries’ warn childcare providers after budget giveaway”, News). It amounts to £2.30 an hour. Given that this is new funding that will save parents thousands of pounds a year, why not just ask the parents to make up the difference? The vast majority would far sooner pay £20-25 a day than not have the option of a nursery.
Ordinary, yet extraordinary
Martha Gill’s excellent piece was a salutary reminder that the life lived by upper-class and aristocratic women was not the experience of all women – in almost every age of history (“Think women have never had it so good? You should take a look at medieval days”, Comment). I write historical novels and am working on one set in London in the early 18th century, which concentrates on ordinary people and the underworld. Someone objected that my heroine – a former “woman of the town” who sets up in business running a coffee house – was too “empowered”. But women like her were commonplace, and not only at that time. Yes, she would need money. But without the need to be respectable, with all the restrictions that imposed, and without a man who wanted to rule her life, a woman could set herself free.
I’ve found countless examples – coffee house owners, actors, courtesans, silversmiths, artists, authors, midwives, shopkeepers – who had choices, who had energy and talent and ambition and could forge their own paths with success. The “upper crust” is just that – a very thin, seductive and glittery crust that deceives the reader into thinking that was all there was. But probe beneath and you find a rich mixture of real, full and fulfilling lives that hardly ever get noticed, yet are much more representative of society at the time.
Make mould history
Black mould is a horrific problem (“‘This doesn’t feel like my home any more… the mould owns it’”, News). Working with social tenants in my role as a unitary councillor, I have been shocked at how widespread it is, even in newer properties. The root of the problem is always the same: inadequate insulation, failing windows and doors, and a lack of ventilation.
One housing association we work with has been an exemplar since the inquest into the death of toddler Awaab Ishak in Rochdale last year. We have identified priority cases where the mould is severe and the tenants have young children. The tenants have had extractors and window vents fitted. Problem walls have been treated with antifungal paint. However, a neighbourhood officer for another housing association reverted to the standard myth: black mould is the fault of the tenants. The suggestion is that tenants don’t keep their place clean. They create excess moisture by not having extractors on, even by boiling the kettle.
Social landlords need to stop making excuses for black mould in the properties they own. They need to bring them up to standard. To end the scandal of tenants’ health being damaged. To prevent another tragic death of a young child.
Andy Boddington, Shropshire councillor for Ludlow North, Ludlow
Beat ChatGPT the oral way
ChatGPT undoubtedly presents problems for academia and teachers (“Peer-reviewed academic paper on dangers of ChatGPT was written by… ChatGPT”, News). However, one way to deal with this was hinted at in the final paragraph, viz “If you can’t hear your student’s voice, that is a warning”. In the face-to-face PhD viva, the candidate’s true understanding of their subject is invariably revealed, whatever appears in their written thesis. Time-consuming, but perhaps we will have to use this method more widely.
Dr Russell Greene
Voulez-vous? Absolutely not
So liking Abba shows a sure sign of maturity (Barbara Ellen, Comment). At 76, I must be the most immature person on the planet. I loathe their music and always have done. It makes my flesh creep. Perhaps I need a psychiatrist.
Guaranteeing food for all
The extraordinary efforts of food bank teams, increasingly backed by corporate involvement, should not blind us to the fact that an emergency food parcel cannot do more than temporarily alleviate hunger. The latest plea for an essentials guarantee from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Trussell Trust and others is testament to the reality that growing reliance on food banks, backed by surplus food redistribution, is an ineffective substitute for poverty-reducing policies.
All 38 member countries of the OECD now rely on a privatised charitable food aid model, often dependent on volunteer labour. The ubiquity of corporate food charity in high-income countries should provide a stark warning. The European Federation of Food Banks and the Global Foodbanking Network collectively operate in 76 countries, including low- and middle-income states. Their mission is to expand “the presence and influence of food banks all over the world”, further anchoring corporate charitable food aid provision as a means to address hunger through surplus food redistribution.
While the expansion of organised surplus food redistribution might seem like a win-win solution, this practice fails to reduce food waste levels while undermining policies designed to address food insecurity. We need long-term solutions based on rights and social justice. Only governments can guarantee these rights. Adopting a “cash first” approach to food insecurity is vital to ensure people can access income before charity, but equally vital is the prioritisation of systemic changes to truly tackle poverty and inequality.
Guaranteeing the right to food and a living income through real living wages, together with adequate social security provision, is essential to ending the need for charitable food aid in all societies.
Dr Kayleigh Garthwaite, University of Birmingham; Professor Graham Riches, University of British Columbia; Sabine Goodwin, Independent Food Aid Network; Professor Valerie Tarasuk, University of Toronto; Professor Janet Poppendieck, City University of New York; Professor Martin Caraher, City University of London; Professor Liz Dowler, Warwick University; Kath Dalmeny Sustain; Professor Mariana Chilton, Drexel University; Mark Winne Author, Closing the Food Gap; Dan Crossley, Food Ethics Council; Peter Kelly, The Poverty Alliance; Professor Tiina Silvasti, University of Jyvaskyla;Andy Fisher, Author Big Hunger; Dr Sinead Furey, Ulster University; Professor Rebecca de Souza, San Diego State University; Dr Joshua Lohnes Center for Resilient Communities, West Virginia University; Professor Adam Pine, University of Minnesota Duluth; Professor Elaine Power, Queen’s University; Professor Molly Anderson, Middlebury College; Alison Cohen, National Right to Food Community of Practice; Professor Anne Bellows, Syracuse University; Deirdre Woods, Granville Community Kitchen; Dr Charlotte Spring, Wilfrid Laurier University; Victoria Williams, Food Matters; Dr Helen Crawley; Professor Pat Caplan, Goldsmiths, University of London; Professor Jon May, Queen Mary University of London; Dr Dave Beck, University of Salford; Dr Andy Williams, Cardiff University; Imogen Richmond-Bishop; Dr Madeleine Power, York University; Dr Clare Pettinger, University of Plymouth; Professor Stephanie Lemke, University of Natural Resouces and Life Sciences, Vienna; Professor Ernie Lightman, University of Toronto; Dr Rod MacRae, Food Policy Analyst; Dr Adrienne Chambon, University of Toronto; Audrey Tung, PhD candidate, University of Victoria; Professor Sabine Pfeiffer, Friedirch Alexander University; Sofia Monsalve, FIAN International; Dr Kate Haddow, Newcastle University; Dr Gizem Templeton, World Food Policy Center, Duke University; Davide Marino, Universita di Molise; Francesca Benedetta Felici, Universita di Molise; Dr Tammara Soma, Simon Fraser University; Dr Amaia Inza-Bartolome, University of the Basque Country; Professor Mabel Gracia-Amaiz, University of Rovira i Virgili; Professor Leire Escajedo, San Epifanio University of the Basque Country; Dr Igor Filibi, University of the Basque Country; Dr Karlos Perez de Armino, University of the Basque Country; Dr Ainhoa Lasa Lopez, University of the Basque Country; Professor Stephan Lorenz, University of Jena; Professor Fabian Kessl, University of Duisburg-Essen; Professor Holger Schoneville, University of Hamburg; Ville Tikka, PhD Researcher, University of Jyvaskyla; Professor Vesna Leskosek, University of Ljublijana; Dr Christophe Golay, Geneva Academy; Dr Sue Booth, Flinders University; Dr Michael O’Brien, University of Auckland; Dr Katharine Cresswell Riol, Food Poverty and Social Justice; Professor Mustafa Koc, Toronto Metropolitican University; Professor Tim Stainton, University of British Columbia; Professor Miu Chung Yan, University of British Columbia; Professor Jay Smith, Athabasca University; Prfessor Ken Collier, Athabasca University; Professor Jim Harding, past Director School of Human Justice University of Regina; Moe Pramanick, Community Mobilisation Coordinator FoodShare Toronto; Dr Jennifer Black, University of British Columbia; Ian Marcuse, Vancouver Neighbourhod Food Networks; Laura Castrejon Violante, PhD Candidate, University of British Columbia; Professor Rebecca O’Connell, University of Hertfordshire; Professor Gary Craig, University of Newcastle; Dr Naomi Foyle, University of Chichester; Professor Donna Baines, University of British Columbia; Tim Li, PROOF Research Program Coordinator, University of Toronto; Professor Marit Rosol, University of Wuerzburg; Dr Kathryn Machray, University of Glasgow; Rowan Burdge, BC Poverty Reduction Coalition; Dr Daniel Warshawsky, Wright State University; Alana Haynes Stein, PhD Candidate, University of California, Davis; Paul Taylor, Laetitia Eyssartel co-CEOs Evening and Weekend Consulting, Toronto; Professor Julia Brannen, University College London; Dr Christina Pollard, Curtin University; Dr Timo Sedelmaier, University of Tuebingen; Miroslav Budimir, PhD Candidate, University of Ljublijan; Professor Kate Pickett, University of York; Dr Ciara Fitzpatrick, Ulster University; Dr Stephen Crossley, Durham University; Dr Andrea Gibbons, Food For Life Get Togethers; Ben Pearson, Food Poverty Campaigner; Professor Martha Jackman, University of Ottawa; Professor Evelyn Forget, University of Manitoba; Dr Hayley Bennett, University of Edinburgh; Stephen Bartlett, Sustainable Agriculture Louisville; Andrew Kang Bartlett, Food in Neighborhoods Community Coalition; Leonida Odongo, Haki Nawiri Africa; Herman Kumara, National Fisheries Solidarity Movement; Lea Winter, FIAN Switzerland; Nurul Alam Masud, Food Security Network – KHANI Bangladesh; Joanthan Peuch, FIAN Belgium; Mugove Walter Nkiya, ReSCOPE Programme; Ahmed Sourani, Gaza Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture Platform (GUPAP); Joseph Schechla, Housing and Land Rights Network, Habitat International Coalition; Judith Hitchman, URGENCI International Network of Community Supported Agriculture; Ashka Naik, Corporate Accountability; Pramesh Pokharel, All Nepal Peasants Federation; Andrea Ferrante, Schola Campesina; Omar Aziki, ATTAC CADTM Morocco; Alison Katz, People’s Health Movement; Marisa Macari, El Poder del Consumidor; Juan Carlos Morales Gonzalez, FIAN Colombia, Sophie D Ogutu, World March of Women Kenya; Patrice SAGBO, ADeD, Benin ; Sophea Chrek, Social Action for Community and Development; Philip Biswas, Rural Reconstruction Foundation; Amparo Miciano, National Rural Women Coalition; Danny Carranza, Kilusan Para sa Repormang Agraryo at Katarungan Panlipunan (Katarungan); Mohamed Hakech, Fédération Nationale du Secteur Agricole; FNSA/MAROC, Morocco; Daoude Ndiaye, CNPS Senegal; Tammi Jonas, Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance; Abdallah Mkindi, TABIO; Professor Ruth Hall, Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, University of the Western Cape; Jordan Treakle, National Family Farm Coalition; Betsy Garrold, Food for Maine’s Future; Christina Wong, Northwest Harvest; Professor Aaron Reeves, Oxford University; Professor Paul Havemann; Shalmali Guttal, Focus on the Global South; Alon Shepon, Israeli Forum for Sustainable Nutrition (IFSN); John Peck, Family Farm Defenders; Dr Kathryn Teigen De Master Berkeley University of California; Mauricio Saraya Ley, Alianza por le Sud Alimentaria; Katie Sandwell, Transnational Institute; Professor Jeff Collin, University of Edinburgh; Antonio Tovar, Farmworkers Association of Florida; Ali Aznague, Siyada Network for Popular Sovereignty over Food and Resources; Alimata Traore, COFERSA Mali; Dr Sue Kleve, Monash University Convenor S.H.A.R.E Collaboration; Heather Day, Community Alliance for Global Justice; Ruchi Schroff, Navdanya International; Magali Cano, Guatemala Sin Hambre; Johanne Scheepmans, Mouvement d’Action Paysanne; Nora McKeon, Terra Nuova; Brazilian Alliance for Healthy and Adequate Food; Karyn Moskowitz, Executive Director, New Roots and the Fresh Stop Markets; Yildiz Temürtürkan, World March of Women; Sofía Castellanos, Alianza por la Salud Alimentaria (Alliance for Nutritional Health); Dr Mira Shiva, Initiative for Health & Equity in Society; Paulina Solis, ASEED Europe, Amsterdam; NGO Adig Mauritania, Mohamed Bneijara, president; Anna Veillon, Enda Pronat, FIAN Portugal; Magdalena Ackermann, Society for International Development; Joana Rocha Dias, ACTUAR – Association for Cooperation and Development;Klara Knapp, Solidarity Sweden Latin-American/Latinamerikagrupperna; Tozie Zokufa, Coalition of African Animal Welfare Organisations; Paolo Venezia M, Slow Food Roma; Ibrahima Seck, Federation Nationale pour l’Agriculture Biologique; Penny Walters, expert by experience; Kenyan Peasants League; Andrea Pinto, Habitando Fundación Habitando Conservación; Alison Blay-Palmer, UNESCO Chair on Food Biodiversity and Sustainability Studies; Robin Burgess; Dr Lopamudra Patnaik Saxena, Coventry University; Dr Alison Briggs, University of Manchester; Prof Lisa Scullion, University of Salford; Adrienne Montani, Executive Director, First Call Child and Youth Advocacy Society; Meredith Kerr, Parkdale Food Centre Ottawa; Dr Bradley Wilson, WVU Center for Resilient Communities; Dr Angela Babb, Indiana University Ostrom Workshop; Rachel Blais, Executive Director, Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre Professor; Margot Young, University of British Columbia; Kemi Akinola, Be Enriched; Councillor Jane Corbett, Deputy Mayor for Fairness and Tackling Poverty, Liverpool; Harry Morgan, This is Rubbish; Graham Whitham, Greater Manchester Poverty Action; Jane Middleton, Labour Hunger Campaign