Saturday 21 February 2015

Celebrating Linguistic Diversity

Today is UNESCO international mother language day - if you're in or near Brum the event to be at is at the Library of Birmingham.

'The United Nations' (UN) International Mother Language Day annually celebrates language diversity and variety worldwide on February 21. It also remembers events such as the killing of four students on February 21, 1952, because they campaigned to officially use their mother language, Bengali, in Bangladesh.'
Time and place

Birmingham has a long history of welcoming migrants, and indeed non-conformists running back to the 18th century and earlier.  In the late 18th century wars abroad, xenophobia, religious intolerance and a nationalist upsurge led to riots on the streets of Birmingham (the Priestley riots).  Are we entering a similar period of unrest in Birmingham and worldwide?  If so could events like IMLD and the tolerance and understanding it represents counter a fearful and destructive nationalis upsurge?

The theme for IMLD 2015 is "Inclusion in and through education: Language counts.  Its focus is on one of the main challenges that cuts across many of the goals, i.e. Inclusion (equity/quality). -

Our own Brummie, Malala has become a symbol of hope for Birmingham, and the world.  Let's hope the Library she loves (and opened) could be a beacon of hope in troubled times.

Thursday 19 February 2015

Youth Hostel Experience

It hasn't always been sunny but this is the third February half term we've returned to Treyarnon Bay Youth Hostel with our buddies, the Hill-Daniels.

Youth Hostels aim:

To inspire all, especially young people, to broaden their horizons, gaining knowledge and independence through new experiences of adventure and discovery
We've visited a few of the 30,000 hostels worldwide, all in excellent locations. This one is probably our favourite so far.  We are actually well placed to find put about YHA in Birmingham, as the official Youth Hostel Association Archive is in the special collections, University of Birmingham.

Here's some of the things we've done at Treyarnon:


Bird watching - murmuration

Tig in the sand dunes

Rock painting

Sculpture Park



Conservation work

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Timebanks - people matter

At the end of 2014 we saw the launch of Kings Heath Timebank
'Kings Heath Timebank is a skills and time-sharing co-operative set up and run by people who live and work in the Kings Heath area of Birmingham, England. We use time as a currency – so that people can get things done without money.'
A fabulous alternative means of sharing your skills and expertise locally, which could really benefit indiviuals, smaller businesses, everyone, and it doesn't have to cost a penny.

There are, of course, financial reasons to be involved, but there are also social ones, opportunites for 'co-production', and a wonderful means of building a real, co-dependant local community, with all the rather harder to measure, but easy to see, benefits.

It is one of a number of measures recommended by NEF - The New Economic Foundation  :
'The UK's leading think tank promoting social, economic and environmental justice. Our purpose is to bring about a Great Transition – to transform the economy so that it works for people and the planet.'
NEF are politically independent, and have conducted long term and sustained research, making both accurate economic predictions and suggesting measures we can take (both as individuals and collectively) to really transform our economy.

The Time bank is just one of them, and well worth investigating!

Here's my local:

Thursday 12 February 2015

Woodcraft folk taming dragons

There's nothing more satisfying than watching dragons dance - particularly if you've helped make the dragons, and got a whole team of your mates to operate it.  That was the Elfin challenge tonight, and with ten minutes to go, it looked like we weren't going to do it, but with one last negotiation between head and bottom, drummer and dragon trainer, suddenly it all happened:

Woodcraft folk believe passionately in equality and co-operation - a great ethos, but in terms of what we do, it might be hard sometimes to see a difference between our activities and activities at Scout troops and other youth movements.  Perhaps not surprising if you start to delve a little into it's history, that Scouting and Woodcraft paths have crossed.  I might be as happy making dragons with Scouts or Cubs, but there is something about being part of the cooperative movement, strongly pacifist, non-nationalist, non-religious, not a woggle in sight, that warms the cockles.

Here's the song we sing at the end of every session.  I learnt the words, but still not clear on the tune:
Link your hands together
A circle we make;
This bond of our friendship
No power can break.
Let's all sing together
In one merry throng;
Should any be weary
We'll help them along;
Should any be weary
We'll help them along.

And here's some folders of activities Elfins from Moseley & Kings Heath have been doing over the last couple of months:

Elfins Dancing Dragon
Elfin plastic flowers
Efins Christmas tree
Elfins Circus skills

Wednesday 11 February 2015

DIY Sustrans on our High Street

An impressive turnout for this event, forming part of the consultation process Sustrans preparing and now presenting their designs for Kings Heath High Street to Birmingham City Council.

A longer clip below, discussion in full.  I felt discussion moved at times from issues of safety for the most vulnerable High Street users (old and young) to graffiti, parking and seating - important issues, yes, but whatever the design has to deliver, it has to make things safer, and I think that has to be a priority.  To make things safer the design is only a small part - There's still loads to do to make sure improvements proposed happen, and more action to make all our roads safer.

Some of the many links, related things:

Monday 2 February 2015

Standing up for human rights

Every couple of days another horrific human rights abuse makes it's way into the headlines.  You feel powerless to do anything about it.  Is there nothing we can do?

The photo is of Raif Badawi, imprisoned for 10 years, and has had the first 50 of 1000 lashes:
'Raif Badawi established Liberal Saudi Network, a now-closed online forum that sought to encourage debate on religious and political matters in 2008'
He was due for his second set of 50 lashes last week, but this has been delayed on health grounds - unusual in that 1000 lashes would more typically kill a man anyway.  Does pressure from groups like Amnesty International, who have led calls to free Raif, have some influence?

As a regular letter writter and petitioner, I'm not always sure how much influence it does have, but it's got to be worth a try.  Our group meets the first of the month, mostly, and is quite a social thing, between horror stories of human rights abuses.  1st December we take a month off writing/emailing to MPs, dictators and ministers of justice to send a card directly to those prisoners of conscience who might receive them.  Occasionally we get letters/ emails back, which can be quite touching when they come from the prisoners themselves.

If you're concerned about human rights and want to act either as part of a group or as an individual, Amnesty International could be the way to do it.  Please see useful links below:

Facebook: Birmingham Uni Amnesty International 
Twitter: @UoB_Amnesty