The world premiere of a new show by poet Ian McMillan will be among the highlights of a four-day music festival later this month (July 16-19).
Last Train to Elvet, which tells the apocryphal story of a circus train visiting Durham Elvet Station in 1953, will be part of this year’s Durham Brass Festival, which runs from July 16 to 19.
The show features brass music, circus themes, drama and live cartooning and also involves Tredegar Town Band, Olympic composer Luke Carver Goss and Private Eye cartoonist Tony Husband.
McMillan, known as the Bard of Barnsley, said:
“Music, words and live cartooning tell the amazing (partly) true story of the circus train that was the last train to Durham Elvet Station in 1953, packed with animals and clowns and acrobats.
“Capriciously, the train breaks down. Now what will the circus do? Come along and find out.”
The festival, inspired by Durham Miners’ Gala and the county’s brass heritage, will also feature brass and classical concerts, workshops, the Fun Lovin Criminals and much more.
Hartlepool employees will be encouraged to ditch the car to get to work as part of a new green travel scheme.
Hartlepool Borough Council, which is leading the Government-funded sustainable travel scheme, says it will work with local firms to promote greater take up of cycling, walking and public transport.
Where car use is necessary, the scheme will encourage employees to share vehicles.
Sustainable travel officer Tony Davison, leading the scheme, said:
“In particular, the greater use of these forms of travel is crucial to us achieving our economic regeneration priorities for the town in a sustainable way by helping to ensure that developments do not adversely affect local roads in terms of congestion and safety.
“In addition, they can play a significant role when it comes to improving the health of local people by increasing their levels of physical activity,” said Tony who cycles 28-miles a day to work from Coxhoe and back.
Looking ahead the council says it is hopes to develop new cycle routes to key employment sites.
A Hexham man is leading a campaign to prevent Tynedale‘s rich mineral deposits from being exploited by high-tech mining interests.
Rather than digging for coal and lead though, the modern day miners want to use the controversial techniques of fracking and underground coal gasification to win natural gas from shale and coal deposits.
Fracking is the process of hydraulic fracturing of rock by injecting a mixture of sand, water and chemicals so that energy sources such as gas, petroleum and brine can be extracted.
And while there are currently no sites designated for such activities on the books of Northumberland County Council, campaigners want to be prepared should any applications come along.
Dr Jonathan Boniface, from Fellside, has become one of the leading lights in the newly-formed Keep Northumberland Frack Free group, which is to hold its first public meeting to discuss the threat of fracking and UCG in Hexham Community Centre on 27 June at 2pm.
Tynedale has been known over the centuries for its rich deposits of valuable minerals, from the lead, silver and zinc of the Allen Valleys, to the vast coalfields which underlie much of the district, from Haltwhistle and Halton Lea Gate to Prudhoe and Mickley.
Only a decade ago, Australian company Roc Oil found “gas saturated tight sands” in a £1m drilling exercise at Errington Red House, close to the Roman Wall near Bingfield.
Cases of syphilis and gonorrhoea have shown a sharp rise in the North-East over the last year.
Figures released by Public Health England show there were 1,447 new cases of gonorrhoea diagnosed in the region during 2014, up by eight per cent on the previous year.
Although the number of new syphilis cases in women fell, they rose by 40 per cent among men taking the total number of cases diagnosed in 2014 to 160, the highest level for five years.
Overall, a total of 18,971 sexually transmitted infections were diagnosed in the North-East in 2014, down 13 per cent on the previous year.
Chlamydia remains the most common STI, making up 51 per cent of all new diagnoses in the North-East, but the number of cases fell from to 9,603 in 2014 – a reduction of 22 per cent over the year.
Forty-four days after David Cameron gained an unexpected majority on a dramatic general election night, opposition parties are still picking themselves up from the floor. But on the streets of Britain, tens of thousands of people took up their placards and filled the streets of London, Glasgow and elsewhere for the first major protest against the government’s plans for five more years of austerity.
Estimates of the size of the rally in central London on Saturday varied between 70,000 and more than 150,000; in Glasgow’s George Square several thousand gathered and there were smaller demonstrations reported in other cities, including Liverpool and Bristol.
“We’re here to say austerity isn’t working,” said Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP, to great applause from the crowds in Parliament Square at the end of the march. “We’re here to say that it wasn’t people on Jobseekers’ Allowance that brought down the banks.
“It wasn’t nurses and teachers and firefighters who were recklessly gambling on international markets. And so we should stop the policies that are making them pay for a crisis that wasn’t there making.”
Marching under the banner End Austerity Now, protesters denounced public sector cuts, the treatment of the disabled and the vulnerable through welfare cuts, the privatisation of the NHS.
Teachers, nurses, lawyers and union groups marched under their own banners. Chants and songs demanded an end to Tory government, equality and more help for the poor. A sprinkling of celebrity faces – Russell Brand, Charlotte Church and actor Richard Coyle – were among the crowd.
The deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness, told the rally:
“It is David Cameron’s cabinet of millionaires – they are the people who are the real spongers. They are the people who are given free rein to live out their Thatcherite fantasies at the expense of ordinary, decent communities throughout these islands.”
Protesters set off from outside the Bank of England, and by the time the march reached Westminster – its final destination – a sea of banners, placards and flags stretched for more than a mile down Whitehall and past Trafalgar Square.
Treasury officials have asked the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to find even deeper cuts to welfare spending, according to reports.
BBC Newsnight’s Political Editor, Allegra Stratton, has reported that treasury officials have asked Iain Duncan Smith to find £15bn of welfare cuts, rather than the £12bn originally promised in the Tory manifesto.
A treasury source allegedly told Stratton that both child tax credits and working tax credit could be in the firing line for £8bn in cuts.
‘Thatcherite’ policies have caused ‘epidemics’ in obesity, stress, austerity and inequality, according to a new book by public health experts.
The authors of the book, from Durham University, argue that the UK’s neoliberal politics, often associated with the economic policies introduced by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, have increased inequalities and literally made people sick.
They suggest that the epidemics could have been prevented, or at least been reduced in scale, through alternative political and economic choices such as fairer and more progressive taxation, strengthened social protection and reduced spending on warheads.
The public health researchers are calling on the new Government to take drastic action to ensure a decent living wage, a fair welfare system and an end to privatisation within the NHS.
The book, ‘How Politics Makes Us Sick’, is due to be published by Palgrave Macmillan on May 20.
The authors, Professors Clare Bambra and Ted Schrecker, show that the rise of precarious jobs and zero-hours contracts has led to an epidemic of insecurity and chronic stress, and austerity measures have widened the gap between rich and poor with destructive consequences for health.
The book points out that the rising economic inequality is resulting in a growing health gap between the most and least deprived ten per cent of local authority districts in England, which is now larger than at any point since before the Great Depression.
Co-author Clare Bambra, professor of public health geography and director of the Centre for Health and Inequalities Research at Durham University, said:
“Our findings show that modern-day ‘Thatcherism’ has made us fat, stressed, insecure and ill. These neoliberal policies are dominating the globe and they are often presented as our only option but they have devastating effects on our health.
More than 5,000 people have signed a petition calling for the north of England to ‘secede from the UK and join Scotland’.
A total of 5,396 people have signed a petition on Change.org in support of the north of England joining Scotland and ‘regaining control over its own destiny’.
Despite being created a year ago, during the throes of the Scottish independence campaign, the petition attracted a number of signatures following the Conservative Party’s win in last week’s general election.
The petition states:
“The deliberations in Westminster are becoming increasingly irrelevant to the north of England.
“The needs and challenges of the north cannot be understood by the endless parade of old Etonians lining the front benches of the House of Commons.
“We, the people of the north, demand that in the event that Scotland becomes independent, the border between England and the New Scotland be drawn along a line that runs between the River Dee and the mouth of The Humber.”
The border between a ‘new Scotland’ and England would see everywhere north of Sheffield joining the newly-created country.
One supporter added:
“I have more in common with the Scots, than the Etonian-led Southerners who do not care what happens in the North.”
Another pointed out that the petition could bring up the topic of increased Northern representation.
Despite being closed, the petition is still gathering signatures since last Thursday’s vote, partly thanks to the #TakeUsWithYouScotland hashtag on Twitter.
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 12 May 2015
The prime minister has announced that the new minister for disabled people is Justin Tomlinson, Conservative MP for North Swindon. Tomlinson has a strong anti-benefits and anti-human rights background.
Tomlinson has replaced Mark Harper, who is now the Conservative chief whip.
Tomlinson is a former national chairman of Conservative Future, the youth wing of the Conservative party and has been an MP since 2010.
He is a party loyalist, with a strong record of voting against the interests of sick and disabled claimants.
According to They work For You, Tomlinson:
- Voted strongly for of the bedroom tax
- Voted very strongly against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices
- Voted very strongly against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability
- Voted very strongly for making local councils responsible for helping those in financial need afford their council tax and reducing the amount spent on such support
- Voted very strongly for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits
- Voted very strongly against spending public money to create guaranteed jobs for young people who have spent a long time unemployed.
Tomlinson also voted in favour of repealing the Human Rights Act.
His responsibilities a minister for disabled people include:
- cross-government disability issues and strategy
- Employment and Support Allowance, Work Capability Assessment and Incapacity Benefit Reassessment Programme
- disability benefits (Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and Attendance Allowance)
- appeals reform
- fraud and error (including debt management)
Tomlinson has some interest in health issues, but does not seem to have shown any great interest in disability issues during his time as an MP.
Source – Benefits & Work, 12 May 2015
The number of people reliant on food banks to help feed themselves and their families could rocket to more than two million, according to new research.
Research by Dr Rachel Loopstra, from Oxford University, forecasts that Tory plans for a further £12bn in welfare cuts could lead to a doubling in food banks users by 2017.
Trussell Trust, who operates over 440 food banks, gave out 1,084,604 emergency food parcels in 2014/15 – up from 61,468 in 2010/11.
The charity is just one of many food bank providers, charities and churches supporting hungry families across the UK.
The research also shows that rising food bank use is due to higher demand, rather than greater supply – as claimed by some government ministers.
According to a formula devised by Dr Loopstra, the number of food parcels given out per head of the population rises by 0.16% for every 1% cut in welfare spending.
Dr Loopstra said: “It coincides with spending cuts, welfare reform and record numbers of benefit claimants losing payments due to sanctions.”
Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves seized on the figures, saying they were further evidence of the hardship and misery caused by Tory welfare policy.
“It would be an absolute disgrace for food bank use to double”, she said.
“The welfare state is there to provide a safety net. It’s not doing what it’s meant to do when people have to rely on charity.”
Reeves said David Cameron’s pledge of more savage cuts to welfare benefits means he has no choice but to cut working-age benefits, because the Tories have ruled out any changes to pensions and pensioner benefits.
“The Tories cannot achieve their £12bn of cuts to social security without doing so and hitting family budgets hard”, she said.
“Child benefit and tax credits are now on the ballot paper next week. Labour will protect them, and families across the country now know the Tories will cut them again.”
Reeves blamed benefit delays, sanctions and the hated bedroom tax for the increased demand on food banks.
She said Labour was the only party committed to reducing the reliance on food banks.
> But hang on… didn’t she say Labour didn’t want to be the party of the unemployed ? And aren’t Labour promising more Workfare ?
“A Labour government would do this by axing the bedroom tax, getting rid of benefit sanctions targets and introducing protections for people with mental health problems, carers, pregnant women and people at risk of domestic violence.”
She added: “It’s inevitable, if the Tories get back in, that we will see further food bank use.”
Trussell Trust’s Adrian Curtis said: “Despite welcome signs of economic recovery, hunger continues to affect significant numbers in the UK today.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 04 May 2015