The worm has turned – at last!

I’ve never understood why the gender pay gap persists after the Equality Pay Act of 1970 and the Equality Act of 2010. Presumably there are ways round the law but on the face of it you would think that the 40 + women presenters at the BBC who have written to Director General Tony Hall to complain of the unfair disparity between their pay and that of their male colleagues would have a strong case for suing the corporation on the grounds of discrimination.

Jane Garvey, one of the presenters of Woman’s Hour, was all for doing just that but already they have compromised by sending an utterly reasonable letter urging him to “correct this disparity” over pay now rather than waiting until his target of 2020, instead of dispatching a lawyer’s writ. “We all want to go on the record to call upon you to act now” it says. They are prepared to meet him to discuss it.

The release of details in the BBC’s annual report of how much presenters are paid has merely confirmed what anyone who has worked in the BBC has suspected for many years, that women are being paid less than men for the same work. Until now it’s been hard to prove because negotiations over pay are individual and private, but I’m willing to bet that behind the personalities on camera there is a whole phalanx of women producers and technicians also being paid less than their peers and the same will be the case in the independent sector.

So why is it that women are so undervalued? It’s partly historic. Women carry that legacy of decades of enforced housewifery. If you’re married you’re still presumed to be working by choice and likely to change your mind about it at any moment because it’s assumed that you have a husband who earns more and that theirs is the more serious career, or that you will get pregnant and pack it all in. When I worked on 5Live I wanted to change from night shifts to days shifts because my epileptic husband took such strong drugs that it wasn’t safe to leave him overnight in charge of a baby. When I broached the idea with my male manager he looked confused. He said they had arrangements for working mothers in place and I could choose to work part time. The idea of a married woman and mother who was also serious about her career didn’t compute and the notion that I might be the main breadwinner evidently just didn’t enter his head. I didn’t fit with his perception of what a working mother should be.

It goes deeper than that though. There are men who consider men to be superior; just better. When I applied in the early ‘80s for a producer job in radio current affairs which I should have been able to get, I didn’t even get an interview. When I asked the editor for feedback he literally said “I have enough little girls who can do research”. I should have sued him but I was so mortified I didn’t want anyone to know about it, let alone advertise my humiliation and I assumed people in power would believe him not me and I wouldn’t get a job anywhere in the BBC if I spoke up.

It is that insidious way the BBC establishment has of playing individuals off against each other which has also stopped women breaking through this conspiracy of unfairness thus far. Presenters are in a vulnerable position. When you perform on air your self is what you offer – your personality, looks, intelligence, charm, sense of humour, depth of knowledge and experience as well as your ability to read an autocue, write a script and do an interview. So when you put your head above the parapet and say “I’m worth more” you are inviting the answer “no you’re not, for the following reasons…” opening yourself up to a character assassination that doesn’t help you maintain the confidence you need to go on air.

If you have a show named after you or you are the sole presenter it puts you in a much stronger position. Jeremy Vine’s audience figures are twice those of Woman’s Hour but if the Woman’s Hour presenters aren’t making £150,000 they’re earning between a quarter and a fifth of his salary. You can argue he’s worth more because he’s more popular, but not five times more popular. I can see how John Humphrys is worth more than anyone else on the Today programme because he’s the character you associate with the ethos of the programme. But more than four times as much as the least paid presenter? And for Nick Robinson to be on £250,000 – £299,000 while Mishal Husain earns between £50,000 and £100,000 less is outrageous. Nick Robinson is not even a good interviewer; he’s far too interested in his own views to care about what his guests think.

But the most egregious sin is that Sarah Montague doesn’t even make the £150,000 bracket. That means she earns around half what he does. She has been at the BBC since 1997 and has presented Newsnight, Breakfast with Frost and Hardtalk on BBC World, as well as Today. And she’s good! She actually listens to what her interviewee is saying. This is a clear cut case of workers doing the same job – they all start work in the middle of the night, they all have to perform for three hours at the end of the shift when they are their most tired and they all have to stay across the news 24/7. But men are generally more pushy than women. I know for a fact that Nick Robinson makes a point of trying to get the coveted 8.10 interview for himself. This ruthless self-advancement came to a head during the election when it was reported by the Guardian that he was trying to get Sarah off the rota so he could present on the morning after the election.

I’ve worked with several of the women presenters who’ve written to Tony Hall and count a few of them as friends. They are not ruthless egomaniacs and maybe that is their problem. Now there is an opportunity to act together and make a breakthrough not just for themselves and the women coming after them but for the ranks of producers, researchers and technicians who are fed up with being screwed. So I hope the sisterhood stays strong and refuses to be mollified or picked off individually with little sweeteners. Stay strong sisters!

Who even has a woodpile these days?

We spent a happy weekend promoting The Chiswick Calendar and the Club Card at the summer party at Chiswick Village on Saturday and the Party on the Pier at Corney Reach on Sunday, both lovely, fun community events (a dads’ sack race with pillow cases is always a winner). Taking down people’s names and email addresses makes you realise how fully global our London population is. It’s not just that people come from other places, their own heritage is mixed: “It’s a Moroccan name, I’ll spell it for you, but I use my maiden name Cox for my email address … or maybe I’ll give you my business address… That’s Spanish” … “It’s Swedish … Japanese … Sri Lankan.”

It just makes you all the more incredulous that an MP – a Member of Parliament – could be such a Neanderthal. When Conservative MP Anne Marie Morris casually used the phrase ‘nigger in the woodpile’ to describe a hidden problem when talking about something completely unconnected with race she used a phrase which was commonplace in my 1960s childhood, like golliwogs and “eeny, meeny, miny, mo, catch a nigger by his toe”, the standard rhyme for facilitating choice. The fact that it was considered normal then is no excuse. Most of us have moved on. Has she no Black friends? Acquaintances? Colleagues? I know she’s MP for Newton Abbot in Devon but she works in London. Has she never had that conversation with a Black person where they patiently explain why the casual racism they come across every day and particularly the N word is so offensive? I have friends in Devon who don’t come across a Black person from one week to the next but they have the emotional intelligence to understand that using a word which comes from the days of slavery, which says “I own you”, “you are less than human”, “I can do with you what I want” inspires outrage.

You’d think at very least she’d have seen Rush Hour. I love that film. Chris Tucker plays Detective James Carter, an LA cop who is stuck with babysitting Hong Kong Detective Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) who is in town to look for the daughter of the Chinese ambassador, who’s been kidnapped. They go in to a bar so that Carter can talk to his criminally connected cousin. “Just do as I do – but stay there” he says as he walks up to the barman, says “Wassup my nigga” and is admitted to the private room behind the bar. Sometime later, tired of waiting for him, Lee thinks he’ll do the same. He goes up to the bar and with his innocent smiley face and tortured English says brightly “Wassup my nigga?” sparking one of the best bar fights on film. Watch it below.

The moral of the story being that it might be ok for Black people to play around with the vocabulary but not others. The Conservative Party has withdrawn the whip. But they should go further. A programme of re-education by Hollywood beginning with Mississippi Burning (1988 Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe, another great film) and ending with Django Unchained and 12 Years a Slave, and of course Rush Hour. Then maybe a quiet word with Diane Abbott. Or in the words of a ditty with which she will be familiar “out you must go”.

Majority of Chiswick councillors not standing for re-election

Five out of nine of Chiswick’s Conservative councillors will not be standing for re-election in the local elections next year, with a question mark over a sixth, Robert Oulds, who has been booted out by Chiswick Homefields, the ward he has represented for fifteen years. After next May the only familiar faces will be Sam Hearn, Gerald McGregor and John Todd. Robert Oulds may put himself forward for selection in the Turnham Green ward.

In Chiswick all the current councillors are Conservative. With the exception of two Conservative councillors in Osterley and Spring Grove and one councillor whose political allegiance is ‘unspecified’ all the rest of Hounslow council are Labour. I spoke to Sam Hearn, one of the councillors for Chiswick Riverside and leader of the Conservative group, about what’s caused this mass exodus and who we might get instead.

We have progress on the Chiswick Timeline, the big mural at Turnham Green!

We have sign-off on the structural stuff…

When we started this project we naively assumed that the mural would somehow be simply pegged onto the walls by some unspecified but of course very cheap and simple method. It turns out – unsurprisingly in retrospect – that as each metal panel (2.5m x 2.85m) is made of mild steel and weighs 65kg, and there are 41 of them in total, they need some serious framework to hold them on. We are talking serious to the tune of about £18,000-worth – thank you all you donors! There has been much clever discussion (in which we did not participate but merely nodded wisely, if vaguely) about resin anchored studs, elasticity, momentums of resistance, steel welded gusset plates, composite sleeves, and so forth.

We visited the factory

We are becoming Vitreous Enamel bores or, as we prefer to call it, VE experts. We drove down to St Leonards, to the Links Signs factory, which is our preferred supplier. It is a family firm, run by two brothers, James and Tony Kidby. Sarah played ‘pantone matching colours’ with James, while Tony showed Karen how hard you have to swing a hammer to smash a VE panel. (The answer is very).

Then we went into the factory proper and gasped at the first sample panel that Links had created in vinyl so that we could get an idea of the size. We had only previously seen our designs on an A4 sheet, or a computer screen, so we were completely blown away to see it life size. It was so big! And so bright! Then James strode off into the distance to show us how far away the other end of the artwork would be once all the panels were ready. If you people of Chiswick don’t like this mural, we will probably have to flee the country, because it’s going to be … big … and bold!

Next steps

Links will start manufacturing the framework and preparing the panels ready for screen printing the maps and transfer printing the images. They are about to do some test pieces to make sure the colours all come out right. Meanwhile, having got the infrastructure department ticked off, the project now goes to the legal departments of TfL and Hounslow. Who’d have thought there was so much fun involved in a simple little mural. Or even a complicated big mural!

Best regards
Karen & Sarah
Karen Liebreich and Sarah Cruz of Abundance London

Do you fancy being a patron?

Chiswick House is looking for “Summer Parlour Patrons”

Chiswick House & Gardens Trust has recently taken over the running of the Grade 1 listed house and needs the wherewithal to run it as well as the magnificently restored 18th Century Gardens, created by Lord Burlington and William Kent and managed now by Geraldine King and her staff with a posse of volunteers. We rather take for granted the freedom to roam the award winning 65 acre estate from 7.00 am until dusk every day for free and appreciate the lake, the classic bridge, the cascade, the Italian Garden, the Orange Tree Garden and so forth, but keeping it looking so good costs money.

The Trust is pleased to announce that they will be opening the house and holding more events there. I went to ‘Light Divine, Night Sublime’ recently, an evening of Handel’s music with a very entertaining narrator telling us about the life of the great composer, sponsored by Horton & Garton estate agents. It was lovely sitting in the neo-Palladian splendour of the central domed reception room and being transported back to the 1700s by world class musicians.

Director Clare O’Brien announced the launch of the “Summer Parlour Patrons” scheme. For £250 you will be invited to a gala reception in the house with the Chairman and members can also look forward to ‘exclusive tours, insider guides to the history and personalities of Chiswick, and early access to the Trust’s events’. Fundraising Manager Kate Edmunds would love to hear from you. Tel: 0203 141 3365 / email: kate.edmunds@chgt.org.uk

Cultivate London would like you to be their Friend

Cocktails and canapes in the Salopian Garden

What nicer way to spend a summer’s evening than consuming cocktails and canapes at the Salopian Garden in Isleworth. Owned by the National Trust and run by Cultivate London, the garden is a recently restored community and training space.

Cultivate London is an innovative social enterprise which trains unemployed young people in landscaping and horticulture, and works to engage west London in growing our own food.

The history of the Salopian Garden itself is interesting as it is named after the popular 18th century drink made from orchid roots which used to be served when the site was a carriage staging post along the London Road. The last private owner of the house, Miss June Temple, died in 2004 and left her property – a small cottage and the large garden – to the National Trust. After several years of neglect, during which the once-beautiful garden became overgrown, the NT leased the garden to local charity Cultivate London which has lovingly transformed it, creating vegetable beds, an avenue of heritage fruit trees, a herb garden, raised beds, a wildflower meadow, bee hives and a polytunnel for tender fruit and veg.

The garden’s gorgeous, but the evening I went there my attention was taken by the scrumptious nibbles constantly on offer from the chef at the Michelin starred Chiswick restaurant La Trompette and his staff, made in situ from freshly picked ingredients from the garden.

We were invited to become Friends of Cultivate London. As well as the warm rosy glow which comes from the knowledge that you are supporting schools programmes, work experience placements and apprenticeships all encouraging young people to understand the whys and wherefores of wholesome good food, there are more tangible incentives to becoming a Friend. Those who donate more than £150 will receive tickets to Cultivate London’s Annual Celebration, with VIP Cocktails, a Harvest Hamper, Cultivate London Honey, a beautiful Christmas Wreath, Handmade Bird Box, vegetable plants for your garden in autumn and spring, spring bulbs and Salopian Garden produce worth £200 all in.

As the old saying goes, Strangers are just Friends waiting to happen!

The culmination of four years’ work

Saturday 1 July 2017 was a red letter day in the Osborne household. When not editing The Chiswick Calendar website or Out & About magazine, I’ve been working on a TV series – The History of Africa with Zeinab Badawi – the first of which was transmitted this weekend on BBC World.

It’s a history of Africa with a difference, as it is told from an African perspective. That should not be so remarkable, but until the 1960s Africa’s history had been told largely by European historians, if indeed it had been told at all. Hugh Trevor Roper, Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford throughout the 1960s and ‘70s, famously announced that Africa had no history prior to European exploration and colonisation. He said “there is only the history of Europeans in Africa. The rest is darkness”, its past “the unedifying gyrations of barbarous tribes in picturesque but irrelevant corners of the globe.”

Well Africa begs to differ. At the time of independence Africa’s new leaders commissioned Unesco to ‘decolonialise’ African history so it could be taught in schools and universities across the continent instead of the European history taught as standard. Unesco put together a committee of 30 academics, mainly African, which set about writing the definitive history of Africa.

One of the many prehistoric cave paintings which exist throughout Africa, including in the Sahara where they show that the area was teeming with wildlife and people before the area dried out to desert.

‘Darkness’

The ‘darkness’ referred to by Roper was a reference to the lack of written record. Reading and writing was not part of African culture in large parts of the continent until the coming of the Arabs in the 7th century, but as Zimbabwean cultural expert Pathisa Nyathi told us, just because they didn’t use documents it didn’t mean Africans didn’t document their history. The Unesco committee took a much more open minded approach to sources and studied the oral traditions of story-telling and poetry, art and dance as well as linguistics, aerial photography, geography, archaeology and the paleo sciences. The result was a thirty year project which resulted in eight scholarly volumes covering the millennia from prehistory to the modern era.

A few years ago I was with BBC presenter Zeinab Badawi at the Unesco offices in Paris, talking to its Ethiopian-born Deputy Director-General, Getachew Engida when he showed us the volumes and said what a pity it was that they weren’t used in schools and universities as was originally intended. From that conversation was born the idea of a TV series based on the volumes, with African academics as its contributors, to be filmed entirely in Africa with African crews. You may at this point be wondering how come I’ve been involved in this series, being not noticeably African, but Zeinab is Sudanese by birth and as her producer I’ve had the privilege of directing and producing it. Her family are highly regarded in Sudan. Her grandfather set up the first school for girls, which has subsequently grown into a university for women. Her father was imprisoned by the British and went on to be a very well-known broadcaster. Zeinab studied anthropology as well as PPE at Oxford and has travelled the length and breadth of Africa as a presenter for BBC World. We know each other from my 12 year stint as a senior producer on the BBC’s Hardtalk programme and we have worked on other projects for her production company Kush Communications, which has made this series.

Zeinab on a beach in Senegal sitting on one of the colourful ‘pirogue’ fishing boats.

Making the series

So began the process of raising money, reading the volumes, planning the programmes and the best bit – filming in eleven countries. In Tanzania we met the Hadzabe tribe of hunter gatherers, who gave us some idea of what life must have been like for our earliest ancestors.

Zeinab with some of the Hadzabe tribe in Tanzania.

In Zimbabwe and Senegal we saw evidence of Iron Age settlements and in Tanzania we learned a bit about how humankind progressed as pastoralists, meeting Masai tribesmen in the Serengeti who still rely entirely on their cattle.

 

 

Zeinab with the crew in Senegal among the Iron Age barrows.

 

Masai women in the Serengeti.

In Egypt we sailed on the Nile in the beautiful surroundings of Aswan and filmed the pyramids and the Valley of the Kings.

In Egypt the tourism industry has crashed. At the famous pyramids of Giza the guys who give camel rides to tourists begged us to tell our friends that it was safe to come and visit.

More pyramids in Sudan – many more than in Egypt and previously entirely unknown to me – as we filmed temples and palaces of the Kushite kingdom.

Pyramids in Sudan, built by the Kings of Kush.

In Ethiopia and Eritrea we documented the rise and fall of the kingdom of Axum and spoke to the granddaughter of Emperor Haile Selassie about the legend of the Queen of Sheba.

Painting showing the Queen of Sheba meeting King Solomon.

We were lucky to get an interview with the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Addis Ababa and to be given a guided tour of the amazing churches hewn out of the rock at Lalibela.

St George’s church – the most famous of the churches cut out of the rock at Lalibela.

We had unparalleled access to Eritrea at the beginning of this new country’s exploration of its archaeological treasures, travelling through the highlands and pausing at dawn to catch the sunrise through the cloud line and buffeting across the Red Sea on a naval speedboat to visit the Dahlak islands.

On board an Eritrean naval vessel on our way to the Dahlak islands in the Red Sea.

On across North Africa to see how the Berbers survived successive invasions from Europe to retain their own culture and language; the breath-taking remains of Phoenician and Roman cities in Morocco and Tunisia, with the flashing lights of our police escort dramatically highlighting our tour around the extensive Roman remains of Algeria.

There are many beautiful mosques in North Africa, with intricately patterned tiles, light, airy spaces and fountains and pools. This one was in Tunisia.

Maybe it helped that we were three women – myself, Zeinab and our assistant producer Lucy Doggett, fresh from studying African history and in her first media job – less testosterone flying around when things got tricky. We were challenged for filming without the requisite permit in Zanzibar and arrested for filming on the beach in Alexandria (a border). Zeinab can charm the birds out of the trees in English or Arabic and talked the adjudicating colonel out of destroying our footage and confiscating our camera card. Invoking her dead grandmother (who may or may not have been born in Aswan) she managed to persuade him that we and our documentary were harmless and the story we were telling was important.

Unfortunately you can’t see the initial broadcast, as BBC World cannot be viewed in this country, but I hope that it will be shown on domestic TV and meanwhile if you are interested, I can show you some clips. For me it has been an amazing and fascinating journey, so I hope you enjoy them and will get to see the full length documentaries in the foreseeable future.

Click on this link of Kush Communications to watch clips of The History of Africa with Zeinab Badawi.

The Labour party’s shortest lived housing spokesperson?

Did she jump or was she pushed? Pushed by all accounts, but it came as no surprise to Ruth Cadbury, MP for Brentford & Isleworth that she should be sacked by Jeremy Corbyn for supporting Chuka Umunna’s amendment to the Queen’s Speech, which called for the UK to stay in the single market after Brexit.

“I had no doubt that I had to support the amendment moved by Labour colleagues with cross-party support today. The amendment ruled out withdrawing from the EU without a deal, sought a Parliamentary vote on the final negotiations and proposed to remaining in the Customs Union and Single Market. Only then can we protect jobs, trade and certainty for business, as well as protecting the rights of EU citizens, with reciprocal rights for UK citizens. This is a point of principle for me and I felt bound to honour the commitment I had made to voters. I was aware that, as I was breaking the Whip, I could not retain my front-bench role. I have hugely valued working as part as Jeremy Corbyn’s front bench team under Shadow Housing Secretary, John Healey. Since the vote I have been touched by the overwhelming support I have had from Labour Party members and my constituents” she said.

Andy Slaughter, MP for Hammersmith was also sacked but Rupa Huq got her resignation in first. It appears we live in rebel territory!

Sainsbury’s ‘Fairly Traded’ brand slammed by Fairtrade Foundation

Sainsbury’s is launching its own ‘Fairly Traded’ brand this month and the Fairtrade Foundation is not happy. The leading supermarket chain is describing its own-brand tea as “Fairly Traded”, but that is not the same thing as Fairtrade tea at all.

Fairtrade was launched in 1992 by a group of organisations including CAFOD, Christian Aid and Oxfam to work with businesses, consumers and campaigners to connect disadvantaged food producers in the developing world with consumers, to promote fairer trading conditions and empower the producers to combat poverty. It is well supported in Chiswick by the Chiswick Churches for Justice and Peace group, amongst others.

Key to their vision is the idea of empowerment – that they are enabling farmers to take more control over their lives by giving food producers a fair price and leaving it up to them to decide how they spend their money.

What is ‘Fair’?

It’s taken 25 years but the brand is now recognised as a hallmark of ethical food production. By launching their own scheme Sainsbury’s is muddying the waters and if other big supermarkets follow suit, the good work that has been built up over a quarter of a century risks being lost as confused consumers think there’s an equivalence between a variety of schemes which all claim to be ‘Fair’.

Sainsbury’s own-brand Red Label and Gold Label ranges used to be Fairtrade certified but the Fairtrade Foundation has announced that they will no longer give it their seal of approval.

Sainsbury’s say “Fairly Traded” will operate in a similar way to Fairtrade – by guaranteeing farmers a minimum price for their tea, and providing a premium per kilo on top of that for development projects, such as agricultural training and improving health and education facilities. But there is a key difference in how the premium will be paid to producers. Fairtrade’s premium fund is given directly to communities, with an association of farmers deciding how the money is used. Sainsbury’s “Fairly Traded” funds will be managed by the Sainsbury’s Foundation, which will work with the farmers to create ‘action plans’ for how to use the premium. In other words the farmers won’t have the same degree of control.

The Fairtrade Foundation says …

CEO of the Fairtrade Foundation, Michael Gidney says: “we don’t believe the execution of this current model will, on balance, deliver positive changes for tea farmers”.

In an open letter, tea producers from across East and Central Africa and Southern Africa Networks of Fairtrade Africa wrote: “We told Sainsbury’s loud and clear: your model will bring about disempowerment. We are extremely concerned about the power and control that Sainsbury’s seeks to exert over us. We work for, OWN our product and OWN our premium. We see the proposed approach as an attempt to replace the autonomous role which Fairtrade brings and replace it with a model which no longer balances the power between producers and buyers.”

Sainsbury’s says:

“Our Sainsbury’s Sustainability Standards will help their users – our tea farmers – to identify their particular strengths and weaknesses via a robust system of data collection, covering the full range of social, economic and environmental metrics. This will enable farmers to learn from each other, sharing best practice”. “The business case is clear. Our farmers and growers can expect financial security through long-term relationships and a greater level of support to help them plan for their futures. At the same time we safeguard the future quality and availability of the great British cuppa for our customers”. They point out that they remain the world’s largest Fairtrade retailer, stocking over 500 Fairtrade products.

We decided to have a look at where else in Chiswick is a Fairtrade stockist.
Waitrose
M&S
Tesco
Grove Park Deli (Monmouth coffee)
As Nature Intended
Valentina Delicatessen (Dark chocolate hazlenut spread)

There must be other places. Let me know if you are a grocer in Chiswick which stocks FairTrade items or a consumer who knows of grocers which do. I would like to keep a list: bridget@chiswickcalendar.co.uk