I can’t quite believe I am writing this, my Dad has been terminally ill for over a year now, quite some feat in itself, I never would have thought I’d write this blog post. Last year I explained my dilemma to anyone who was reading, my Dad had a birthday coming up but didn’t want for anything. All Dad has ever wanted for his birthday is ‘three well behaved children’, so last year he got a tray of double chocolate brownies and I held a Macmillan Coffee Morning to raise some money for Macmillan.
This year, all bored of being well behaved and not around for The World’s Biggest Coffee Morning I have made a more conventional choice for a birthday pressie. My Dad served in the Navy and loves travel and has many tales about his time around the world so I’ve bought him a beautiful book, Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I have not visited and never will by Judith Schalansky. I’m delighted with it, it is an atlas of remote and lonely places; the product description on Amazon says it better than I can:
Judith Schalansky lures us across all the oceans of the world to fifty remote islands – from St Kilda to Easter Island and from Tristan da Cunha to Disappointment Island – and proves that some of the most memorable journeys can be taken by armchair travellers.
The other thing I’m hoping to do is use Dad’s birthday as a chance to get some support for a mobile app I’ve put forward in the Department of Health #mapsandapps campaign. The app suggested is Picture Prompts, in my head it’s a directory of simple drawings and diagrams that can be shared with patients, carers and staff when explaining anatomy, procedures and treatment. You can read more about my thinking behind this app – essentially I think it would have helped a lot when Dad received his diagnosis of cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer) and I’m sure there would be many other uses for it.
The way the campaign works, an idea needs votes to push it up the table – I’ll be honest with you, this is a little faffy and requires people to create an account (should only take one email) *but* that five minutes of your life, could make all the difference to someone else’s quality of life, if this app was ever developed.
So please, do go give it the thumbs up. Thanks.
Not your average Friday today…
At lunch time I jumped in my car and headed over to Torquay, Torre Abbey to be precise, to meet a lady with a sofa! Not your average sofa either:
As you can see the sofa is advertising the Interrogate Festival which is taking place at Dartington in a fortnight. I posted about it last week, you can read it here. The festival aims to put income equality centre stage and is structured around a different theme each day – Friday focuses on causes, Saturday the effect and Sunday the response – what action we can all take to respond and address the challenges of income inequality.
Since last weekend the team behind the festival have taken on board feedback they have received and have opened the festival on Sunday to anyone who can attend, free of charge. The need to respond is considered to be so important that they want to give everyone a chance to come, contribute and action plan. Tickets are also now available to purchase to attend individual events, so you don’t have to attend the whole weekend, although I suspect once you look at the programme you might choose to.
It was fantastic to get outside in the fresh air at lunchtime today, to talk to people and start a conversation about income inequality. Unfortunately I’m off on holiday a week today so won’t be there but I hope some of the people who seemed interested do get up to Dartington – I can’t think of a more beautiful setting to have some very needed, challenging conversations. It’s an inspiring place Dartington, with a long history of curating ideas to address challenging situations so I hope Interrogate conditions with that tradition – and I hope several of you get to enjoy it.
I don’t know an awful lot about poverty or income equality, but I have got more interested of late as the Interrogate Festival has gained momentum at Dartington Hall.
If asked about poverty I would usually think about income, and inequity, between what people have and have not got. I might also think of the impact of poverty, in terms of health factors, quality of life or social needs. One of my favourite people who talks about health, income and statistics is the Swedish Professor of Health, Hans Rosling. You can watch Hans Rosling in a number of TED talks, including The Best Stats You’ve Ever Seen:
He is also one of the founders behind GapMinder, a fact tank, a non-profit venture focused on ”Fighting the most devastating myths by building a fact-based world view that everyone understands’. The GapMinder World Map shows the health and wealth for all countries of the world – this is the sort of explanation of poverty I’d usually be familiar with. I’ve embedded it below:
However, back in 2009, The Spirit Level was published that challenged this approach to poverty and equity. It claims that the real challenge is not so much about income equality between countries, but income equality within society.
I’ve been browsing through the book this week and it definitely makes a compelling case, based on really solid evidence. I also came across The Equality Trust, an organisation established by the books authors, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, to progress the evidence based campaign working to reduce income equality to improve quality of life in the UK. The campaign has a relatively simple message behind it:
People in more equal societies live longer, have better mental health and are more socially mobile. Community life is stronger where the income gap is narrower, children do better at school and they are less likely to become teenage parents. When inequality is reduced people trust each other more, there is less violence and rates of imprisonment are lower.
If we want to build a better society, it is essential we take action now to reduce the gap between rich and poor. The Equality Trust is working with others to build a social movement for change. We analyse and disseminate the latest research, promote robust evidence-based arguments and support a dynamic network of campaign groups across the country.
If you’d like to know more about the book, check out this overview by puppets!
If you’d like to engage more in the debate you can visit The Equality Trust website, or better still, take a look at the Interrogate Festival which is happening at Dartington later this month – there are still tickets available so you can go along to the festival and join in the debate. There’s an excellent line up including a debate with the authors of the Spirit Level, comedy from Mark Steel, and if you’re more interested in your music then don’t miss Saturday night’s performance from Spiers and Boden, the founders of Bellowhead. It should be a great weekend.
This is Brogan McKay.
Brogan is 10 years old and is from Derry. She is one of the stars of Jig, a documentary about Irish Dancing that was shown on BBC2 last night and is available to view on iplayer for the next week. Jig follows competitors in the 40th Irish Dancing World Championships, through a year of preparations for 6 minutes of competition. I’ve always been a little interested in Irish Dancing and found the documentary compelling viewing.
Brogan absolutely stole my heart, she was an intelligent, dedicated and compassionate young girl. My favourite point was when she was asked about whether she gets private lessons, she replies as follows:
‘Oh no, I don’t get privates, because we’re so together, we’re like one big family at the McConomys’
Her teacher goes on to explain that ‘The reason we don’t do private lessons is because we’ve got 90% in our class who just couldn’t afford it’
Brogan concludes quite simply with ‘It’s not fair for any of the other children, because if I got privates, like my friends in my age group, they wouldn’t get it, so it’s just not right, we don’t do that’.
I don’t want to spoil the film for anyone who wants to watch it so I’ll not tell you the outcome, suffice to say Brogan is some plucky and equitable young lady. You’d be proud if she was your daughter, student or friend.
I think Brogan’s words particularly struck a chord for me this week, as I’ve been reflecting a lot about equity and poverty in the run up to the Interrogate Festival at Dartington Hall. For those of you who haven’t heard about it yet check out the website, there is a fantastic line up of debate, film, performance, comedy and art. There are a whole range of tickets available, still some stewards places for people who wish to volunteer (I think) and the team behind it are hoping to live tweet the festival on #Interrogate2011 so go take a look – again, I’m confident you’ll not be disappointed.