Sunday, 15 November 2009

The Scandal of the Child Migrants

With the recent apology from the Australian Prime Minister over the plight of the so-called Child Migrants, no doubt there will be renewed calls for a similar apology from Gordon Brown, and possibly from reresentatives of the charities and church groups involved.

The plight of the children is so harrowing that I coudn`t possibly do justice to it in the limited spare time I have for this sort of thing, and to deal with it hastily would be an insult. In any case, the Nottingham-based Child Migrants Trust are quite capable of explaing the issues themselves, and can probably do it better than I can in any case. Check out their website at


Also in the UK, it seems that a row has broken out within the government over the proposed sell-off of British Waterways, with Environment ministers claiming they will be unable to do their job properly in affected areas if the sale goes ahead. No doubt there will be comment in due course from the general public and from affected groups such as conservationists - especially those connected with canal preservation groups - and the relevant trade unions.

Speaking personally, I never feel entirely happy with this selling-off of the country`s assetts to the highest bidder, I don`t like to resort to smear tactics but I have to say I always feel there`s something unpatriotic about it. Anyway, check out the links below and form your own opinions.


British Waterways -

Waterscape -

There are number of links to canal preservation groups and other conservation-related bodies at

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Power2010 and the Well-Known Chocolatier

New kids on the block  in the UK are Power2010, a new pressure group seeking to capitalise on voter discontent, a big issue over here. Their initial statements do seem likely to strike a chord with the  population at large ; "Our democracy is in crisis. MPs fiddle while the planet burns...Bankers blow billions and the taxpayer fooots the bill", as is their solution ; "A healthy democracy that works for all and not just a powerful few".

At present it`s unclear whether the new organisation itself plans to become democratic (though they would no doubt claim that their method of working, which is to solicit suggestions for campaigng issues from the public and then take up the most popular, is in itself an open and democratic process). It`s also not entirely clear how the new organisation will differ from Unlock Democracy or 38 Degrees, particularly given that Director Pam Giddy`s previous posts include a spell as Director of  Charter 88, one of the bodies that merged to form Unlock Democracy. I should make it clear that Unlock Democracy have welcomed the new organisation, and are looking to work co-operatively with it.

Interestingly, start-up funding for Power2010 comes from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. Rowntree was a Quaker and chocolate manufacturer, a man of liberal and philanthropic views, whose influence is still felt today. Traditionally, there has often been criticism of philanthropists from the political left, often on the grounds that they address the symptoms of social ills and not the causes. Interestingly, this was a view that Rowntree shared, he was very much concerned with causes, as well as the alleviation,  of poverty. In this, he may have been influenced by his son, the strangely-named Seebohm Rowntree, a noted anti-poverty campaigner and author of Poverty ; A Study of Town Life (1901).

In light of his interest in identifying the causes of poverty, he set up the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to "help to overcome the causes of poverty, disadvantage and social evil". This was one of four trusts founded by him (the others are The Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust , The Joseph Rowntee Charitable Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust), all of which are still active today, as we`ve already seen.

For further information on the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Rowntree Society, see the links below.


Power2010 -

Unlock Democracy -

38 Degrees -

Joseph Rowntree Foundation  and Trusts -

The Rowntree Society -

Saturday, 7 November 2009

The Search for Common Ground

Interesting to learn recently of the annual Common Ground Awards, given by Washington baed charity Search for Common Ground, which works internationally to find non-violent ways for communities to deal with conflict.

I like to keep these articles short, but here are just a couple that struck me as interesting.

Cease Fire - The Campaign to Stop the Shooting is run by the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention. They rely on outreach workers and `violence interrupters` (individuals `familiar with gang culture` who have now channel their energies into preventing violence). The organisation also goes in for more traditional activities, such as marches, rallies and vigils after shootings. They believe in mediation and changing community norms.

Dr Izzeldin Abuelaish is a medical man who seeks to bring about reconciliation between the Palestinian and Israeli communities. He refuses to become discouraged, despite losing three daughters and a niece to an Israeli shell earier this year. In their memory he has begun Daughters for Life, a charity aiming to provide access to education and medical care to women throughout the Middle East.

Full details of awards and nominees on the Common Ground website (see below).


Common Ground -

Cease Fire -

Daughters for Life -

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Kinder Conservation and a Historic Mass Trespass

Located in the Peak District area of Derbyshire, UK, Kinder Scout is a high upland/moorland gritstone plateau, mostly 600 metres above sea level. It`s highest point, Crowden Head, is the highest point in the Peaks.

Recently, it has been declared England`s 23rd National Nature Reserve, on the advice of conservation body Natural England. The land, once privately owned, is now the property of the National Trust. 

On 23rd April 1932, it was the scene of the celebrated Mass Trespass, a protest against English law of the time which denied the public access to areas which had been (and are now), `rights of way` (a right of way in English law is a footpath or similar which the public has a legal right to walk on, even if it crosses private land, as many do. While enforcement is patchy and varies from area to area, landowners who fail to allow access can be prosecuted. Buildings such as barns that are `accidentally` built across a right of way can be simply demolished to re-establish access).

The spark for the protest was an incident where a group of factory workers were set upon by gamekeepers (men employed by landowners to keep out trespassers and to maintain supplies of wild  `game` , such a grouse and deer, for shooting parties). The Peaks at the time were a popular area for young men and women, often factory workers, miners and mill girls, seeking to escape the noise and cramped cramped living conditions of  the cities.  There were many confrontations between the youngsters and gamekeepers, leading to a deep mutual distrust and resentment.

The protest itself attracted considerable attention, with a large police presence and more protesters apparently than the organisers had ever expected. Benny Rothman, a young Manchester Communist, emerged as a leading figure on the day, although it is unclear what role he played prior to that. Apparently, the young Benny was not even scheduled to address the crowd, but simply `filled in` when one of the speakers was overcome by nerves. 

On the day, a group of young men ascending Kinder Scout via William Clough (a `clough` was a local name for a river valley) clashed once again with gamekeepers and a number were arrested, Benny Rothman among them.  The subsequent trial was felt by many to be unfair and the sentences unduly harsh. The resultant public backlash paved the way for new legislation and the emergence of walkers (`ramblers` as they were known) as a formidable lobbying force. It`s no co-incidence that most walking groups including, the largest, the Rambler`s Association, trace their origins back to the `30s (though some, such as Peak and Northern, have a history going back much further).

Over 70 years later, walking groups continue to be an important lobbying and conservation group in UK society, though perhaps a little less conscious of their `rebel roots` than they used to be, thanks in part to efforts of Benny Rothman and others.

ON THE WEB  , , , , .

There are many entries on the web for Benny Rothman, which you can easily find for yourself. His own account of the day was contained in his 1982 book, 1932 Kinder Trespass ; A Personal View of the Kinder Scout Mass Trespass. I belive he also contributed to the Kinder Scout  Mass Trespass 50th Anniversary Programme.

I expect this is very sentimental and a bit over-done, but I`d like to dedicate this article to the memory of some of my companions whose walking days are over, these being Trevor Smalley, Arthur Weldun and my oldest friend Chris Watkinson. I would also like to dedicate it to the memory of my late father, who did as much as anyone to encourage my love of the great outdoors.