Sunday, 28 March 2010

Brighton air pollution kills, and the Argus knows why

The Brighton Argus can produce fearless campaigning journalism, as last week's stories on air pollution in Brighton and Hove showed (Wednesday and Thursday 24, 25 March 2010).

Wednesday's front page headline was "Choking To Death". The story is about air quality levels in Brighton being responsible for over 1,200 deaths annually. The culprits were named as stationary traffic, heavy vehicles and ocean going ships which throng the shipping channel just off Brighton's coast.

The Argus must also be credited with a fearless sense of humour.  Thursday's centre spread feature gave detail to the 1,200 deaths said to result from air pollution. Enclosed within the spread was a 16 page motoring supplement, filled with advertisements for new cars. I did chuckle, grimly.

The Tory-controlled Brighton and Hove Council was blamed for refusing to ban trucks and lorries from the city centre. This was excellent timing because Thursday afternoon was the date of the Council's Environment Cabinet meeting, so it will be fascinating to find out whether a ban on lorries in the city centre will result.

Link to 'Choking to Death' web version.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Hot lead for Brighton Festival: So you want to contact Brian Eno?

I picked up a copy of Brighton Festival's 2010 programme at Lewes station on Friday. I was impressed to see reclusive musician and artist Brian Eno as Festival Director.

In my salad days, the late 70s and 80s, I loved Eno's range, from lyrical-poignant songs like 'Here he comes' to dance chants such as 'Kings lead hat'. Plus he was mates with, and collaborated with people like David Bowie and Iggy Pop in the days of 'Speed of Life', and David Byrne in the days of 'My life in the Bush of Ghosts'. Mystic fire indeed.

So, I thought, let's follow the main lead. The man is coming to Brighton. Get an interview. How to start? With Google of course!

I asked Google "How to contact Brian Eno?" I got an answer, not the answer I was looking for, but it is a good answer and made me laugh. Well worth a visit, click the link:

"why contacting Brian Eno may not be a good idea"

There will be a chance to see Eno in person when he appears at the Brighton Dome on the 23 May, to present "This is an illustrated talk".

The Festival runs from 1-23 May, and features the 1970's short film 'Berlin Horse', with a sound track by Eno, his digital-audio painting '77 Million Paintings', and a live arrangement of his album 'Apollo'. I'm going to try to see all those. I will also be at the Children's street festival (1 May), and I'll try to see AfroBeat on 14 May, with Tony Allen and Seun Kuti. Brian Eno says Tony Allen is "the greatest living drummer in the world today".
For more information and booking: click here for the Brighton Festival website

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Gang fight in Hove park

Saturday 13 March 2010. Parents with toddlers found themselves trapped by a gang fight in a family park in Hove on Saturday afternoon.

A youth was hurt in the fight when two gangs met in a state of high excitement in Stoneham Park. The park is a popular play space for families and children. A parent, who was with children in the toddler section of the park, said she felt trapped by the gang and shouted at them to leave the area where babies were playing.

The parent said that the fight appeared to be prearranged. One gang of around five came from the direction of Aldrington station, and one gang of about thirty mixed male and female youth came from the direction of Portland Road. They initially met in the toddler section of the park. One of the parents said she could hear them discussing who was going to fight whom.

She said: "I told them not to fight there because there were babies there. I shouted "Not in the baby park. Go over there!" There was no way we could move; we couldn't get out of the park. We were just trying to protect the children from seeing what was going on."

The youths moved off a little way, and the fight took place outside the football enclosure in full view of the toddlers and their parents. The fight was brief, because one of the youths punched the other so savagely that he fell to the floor and lay there for some seconds. He was dazed when he struggled to his feet, with blood on his face. The youths then ran off. The hurt boy was having difficulty keeping up and he was helped by some other youths.

One of the parents called the police, who arrived around half an hour later.

Stoneham Park was once the territory of teen delinquents, but has been reclaimed by the local residents association, the Poets Corner Residents Society.

The parent said the incident had made her feel uneasy taking her child to the local park.

Another parent said: "Some say it is 'normal' for teen kids to have fights. But if that's true, can't they do it in a boxing ring instead?"


369 words

England's South East tops extinct species charts

11 March 2010. Almost 500 plants and animals have become extinct in England since 1800, most of them in the South East, according to a report issued today.

The report was issued by Natural England, the government’s advisor on the environment. Entitled “Lost life: England’s lost and threatened species” it documents for the first time 492 species lost from England since 1800. Of these, over 100 invertebrates have been lost from the South East of England.

12% of land mammals, 22% of amphibians and 24% of native butterflies have been lost, though most of these still occur in other countries. In addition to these losses, many more species are threatened and need help.

Dr Helen Phillips, Natural England Chief Executive, said: “Today this variety of life is under pressure from human activities as never before. As a result, many of our native species, from the iconic red squirrel to the much less familiar bearded stonewort, are in a fight for survival.”

Most of the species recorded as lost have been invertebrates (animals without a backbone such as butterflies), and the greatest invertebrate loss has been in South East England. Losses have also been significant in the South West (mainly from Dorset) and the East of England region (primarily from Fenland and Broadland).

There are two main reasons why the greatest losses have been in the South East. Firstly, there are more invertebrate species living in the South East because it is closer to continental Europe, it is warmer and drier than many other parts of the country, and it has a soft geology and a good range of protected woodlands and parklands. Secondly, invertebrates have been well recorded in this area since Victorian times, so the probability of detecting loss is much greater than in other regions.

The report said: “The agents of loss are not precisely known but, typically, habitat loss and damage and hunting have been the principal causes.”