Posts Tagged ‘University of the West of England’

The Emergence of ‘Cyborg’ Chic?

August 8, 2017

Last weekend’s Sunday People carried a feature, complete with ‘tasteful’ nude piccie, of a former female British squaddie, Hannah Campbell. Campbell, had lost a lower leg while guarding a building in Basra a decade, and was mentally still scarred with PTSD. The accompany photo showed her wearing only Union Flag body paint and her artificial leg.

Aside from the questionable morality of using pictures of women in states of undress to sell newspapers, I’ve absolutely no objection to disabled women – or blokes, for that matter – appearing as sexy or glamorous. I don’t mean in a fetishistic sense, such as amputee fetishism, but simply as people, who remain glamorous and attractive despite their injuries.

But the picture also set me wondering how long it would be before disabled people also became style icons, because of the quality and aesthetic style of their prostheses.

A few weeks ago there was a piece on the news about a company based at UWE here in Bristol, which has developed relatively cheap artificial hands, which people can make for themselves. The designs are only, and I’ve got a feeling some of the components can be manufactured using a 3-D printer. The journos talked to one little chap, who was very well impressed with his new hand. One of the company’s directors also said that they were currently negotiating with Disney for the rights to use some of their characters. They were interested in developing an Iron Man artificial hand, based on the Marvel character’s body armour. I can see children absolutely loving that, and the lad, who wore one of their hands already said that the other kids really admired it. This is great, because the company’s turned something that could easily be a mark of shame – a missing limb, and its artificial replacement – and turned it into something cool.

These two stories have made we wonder how long it will be before models, celebrities, fashionistas and other style icons include those with disabilities, but who have managed to incorporate the latest trends in cybernetic or bionic aesthetics with their own natural good looks or stylish clothes. After all, a few years ago one newspaper, reviewing Britain as the centre of cool design, selected various pieces of technology – I can’t remember whether it was computers or mobile phones – as examples of British design excellence. And just as style is a part of modern computer design, it’s also a factor in that of artificial limbs.

And so there’s the distinct possibility that as the technology advances, so we could see the emergence of a kind of ‘cyborg’ chic, of glamorous people sporting equally glamorous artificial hands and legs. It’d be what the Transhumanists – those extreme technophiles that want to upload their minds into robots and computers – have partly been looking forward to all these years.

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Book Review: The Great City Academy Fraud – Part 1

July 13, 2016

Academy Fraud Pic

By Francis Beckett (London: Continuum 2007)

This is another book I managed to pick up from a cheap bookshop, in this case the £3 bookshop in Bristol’s Park Street. Although published nine years ago in 2007, it’s still very acutely relevant, with the plan of the current education minister, Thicky Nicky Morgan, to try to turn most schools into privately run academies. According to the back flap, Beckett was the education correspondent of the New Statesman from 1997 to 2005, and also wrote on education for the Guardian. The book’s strongly informed by the findings of the NUT and other teaching unions, whose booklets against academies are cited in the text. And its a grim read. It’s an important subject, so important in fact, that I’ve written a long review of this book, divided into four section.

Academies: Another Secondhand Tory Policy

Much of New Labour’s threadbare ideology was just revamped, discarded Tory ideas. This was clearly shown before Blair took power in the early 1990s, when John Major’s government dumped a report compiled by the consultants Arthur Anderson. This was immediately picked up, dusted off, and became official New Labour policy. Similarly, PFI was invented by the Tories man with a little list, Peter Lilley, who was upset ’cause private industry couldn’t get its claws into the NHS. This again was taken over by New Labour, and became the cornerstone of Blair’s and Brown’s ideas of funding the public sector. Academies, initially called ‘city academies’, were the same.

Basically, they’re just a revival of the City Technology Colleges set up in the mid 1980s by Thatcher’s education secretary, Kenneth Baker. Baker decided that the best way to solve the problem of failing schools was to take them out of the control of the local education authority, and hand them over to a private sponsor. These would contribute £2 million of their own money to financing the new school, and the state would do the rest. Despite lauding the scheme as innovative and successful, Baker found it impossible to recruit the high profile sponsors in big business he wanted. BP, which is very active supporting community projects, flatly told him they weren’t interested, as the project was ‘too divisive’. Another organisation, which campaigns to raise private money for public projects, also turned it down, stating that the money would best be spent coming from the government. It was an area for state funding, not private. The result was that Baker was only able to get interest for second-order ‘entrepreneurs’, who were very unwilling to put their money into it. From being a minimum, that £2 million funding recommendation became a maximum. And so the scheme was wound up three years later in 1990.

After initially denouncing such schemes, New Labour showed its complete hypocrisy by trying out a second version of them, the Education Action Zones. Which also collapsed due to lack of interest. Then, in 2000, David Blunkett announced his intention to launch the academy system, then dubbed ‘city academies’, in 2000 in a speech to the Social Market Foundation. Again, private entrepreneurs were expected to contribute £2 million of their money, for which they would gain absolute control of how the new school was to be run. The taxpayer would provide the rest. Again, there were problems finding appropriate sponsors. Big business again wouldn’t touch it, so the government turned instead to the lesser businessmen, like Peter Vardy, a car salesman and evangelical Christian. Other interested parties included the Christian churches, like the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, and evangelical educational bodies like the United Learning Trust. There were also a number of universities involved, such as the University of the West of England here in Bristol, and some sports organisations, like Bristol City Football club. Some private, fee-paying schools have also turned themselves into academies as away of competing with other private schools in their area.

Taxpayers Foot the Bill

While the sponsors are supposed to stump up £2 million, or in certain circumstances, more like £1.5 million, in practice this isn’t always the case. The legislation states that they can also pay ‘in kind’. Several have provided some money, and then provided the rest of their contribution with services such as consultation, estimated according to a very generous scale. For Beckett, this consists of the sponsors sending an aging executive to give his advice on the running of the new school. This particular individual may actually be past it, but the company can’t sack him. So they fob the new school off with him instead. Sometimes, no money changes hands. The Royal Haberdashers’ Society, one of the London livery companies, decided it was going to sponsor an academy. But it already owned a school on the existing site, and so did nothing more than give the site, generously estimate at several millions, to the new academy. Other companies get their money back in different ways, through tax rebates, deductions and the like.

But if the private sponsors are very wary about spending their money, they have absolutely no reservations about spending the taxpayer’s hard-earned moolah. An ordinary school costs something like £20 million to build. Academies cost more, often much more: £25 million, sometimes soaring to £37 million or beyond. Several of the businessmen sponsoring these academies have built massive monuments to their own vanity, using the services of Sir Norman Foster. Foster was, like Richard Rogers, one of the celebrity architects in favour with New Labour, whose ‘monstrous carbuncles’ (@ Charles Windsor) were considered the acme of cool. One of these was called ‘The Learning Curve’, and consisted of a long, curving corridor stretching across a quarter of mile, off which were the individual class rooms. Foster also built the Bexley Business Academy, a school, whose sponsor wanted to turn the pupils into little entrepreneurs. So every Friday was devoted exclusively to business studies, and the centrepiece of the entire joint was a mock stock exchange floor. The school also had an ‘innovative’ attitude to class room design: they only had three walls, in order to improve supervise and prevent bullying. In fact, the reverse happened, and the school had to spend more money putting them up.

Unsuitable Buildings

And some of the buildings designed by the academies’ pet architects are most unsuitable for the children they are supposed to serve. One academy decided it was going to get the local school for special needs children on its site. These were kids with various types of handicap. Their school was not certainly not failing, and parents and teachers most definitely did not want their school closed. But closed it was, and shifted to the academy. The old school for handicapped youngsters was all on the same level, which meant that access was easy, or easier, for those kids with mobility problems. The new school was on two floors. There was a lift, but it could only be used by pupils with a teacher. The parents told the sponsor and the new academy that they had destroyed their children’s independence. They were greeted with complete incomprehension.

HM School ‘Belmarshe’

In other academies, conditions for the sprogs are more like those in a prison. One of the schools, which preceded an academy on its site, had a problem with bullying. The new academy decided to combat that problem, by not having a playground. They also staggered lunch into two ‘brunch breaks’, which were taken at different times by different classes. These are taken in a windowless cafeteria. The result is a joyless learning environment, and the school has acquired the nickname ‘Belmarshe’, after the famous nick.

Morning Star Reports UKIP Porn Star Reported to Policy for ‘Incitement to Prostitution’

April 11, 2015

Back on Thursday I wrote about two reports in the Bristol Post and the Mirror about John Langley, the Kipper candidate for Stockwood ward in Bristol. Langley had been outed as a porn star, who had been threatened with legal action by the University of the West of England last year for filming one of his grubby epics there.

Now the Morning Star reports in their piece Ukip Candidate Accused of ‘Incitement to Prostitution’ that the Feminist charity, Object, has contacted the police about his attempts to persuade volunteers to perform as extras in group sex scenes in his movies last year. They consider this to be ‘incitement to prostitution’, which is illegal.

The article begins

Feminist activists made a police complaint against pornographer and Ukip council candidate John Langley yesterday after he advertised pay-to-perform “gang bangs” online.

Anti-sexist charity Object reported Mr Langley to Bristol police after the candidate allegedly broke the law by “inciting prostitution for gain.”

Mr Langley, known in the industry as “Johnny Rockard,” runs a porn actors’ agency.

He was “happy to confirm” that he had been working in porn for over 40 years when he was outed by the press on Thursday.

But Object chief executive Roz Hardie said: “We have become aware of the practices of ‘Johnny Rockard’ over recent months.

“He appears to be treading a thin line between making pornographic films and profiting from the unlawful sale of sexual services.”

The article can be read at: https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-0483-Ukip-candidate-accused-of-incitement-to-prostitution

Hat tip to the SlatUKIP site for posting this.

I don’t think Object will be successful in getting a conviction, as despite Langley’s advert coming very close to the crime, it’s still about appearing in a movie, rather than prostitution per se. They are still right to make the complaint, however.

The girls in Langley’s films are teenagers, which should worry anyone concerned about the exploitation of the young and naïve. The University of the West of England were absolutely right to threaten him with legal action when he shot his movie there. It showed him asking the female students for sex, until he finally found ‘Xzena’, who was willing to perform with him.

This is particularly dangerous as the burden of tuition fees has forced many students to turn to the sex industry, including prostitution, to pay them off.

Langley stated in the newspaper interviews that UKIP appeared entirely comfortable with his choice of career. Well, this says much about the Kippers in Bristol, and none of it admirable or complimentary. The Kippers managed to get into the news before, as they were caught liking various neo-Nazi groups on Facebook. They then got very irate and complained when one of the local schools in Bristol linked them with the Nazis and other race hate organisations in a lesson about racism.

It also shows how desperate the Kippers in Bristol must be, if they don’t have any other candidates to stand in the Stockwood ward apart from a porn baron. They’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel this time.

UKIP Vice Chairman Bristol Is Pornstar

April 9, 2015

More weirdness and sleaze from the Kippers in Bristol. Their vice chairman, John Langley, is in the Mirror and the local paper, the Bristol Post. It seems that the ‘vice’ section of his job title is particularly appropriate. He’s a porn star, plying his sordid trade under the monicker ‘Johnny Rockard’, and has been running his own company making porn films for eight years. Last January he stood for the local elections in Brislington East, where he came second with 886 votes. He is now standing as their candidate for Stockwood in the local elections there, hoping to unseat the Tories Jay Jethwa.

One of Bristol’s two universities, the University of the West of England, threatened him with legal action last January after he made a 23 minute dirty movie on campus. This featured him walking around the university asking female students for sex, until one of them, ‘Xzena’, agreed.

The mind boggles at the thought of this porn baron trying to represent the good people of Stockwood. It’s a quiet, residential suburb in the south of Bristol, just across the Wells Road from my little bit of Bristol. I’m not trying to make the people out to be paragons of virtue, but as areas go, it’s hardly Babylon.

Langley claims that the Kippers haven’t mentioned or objected to his line of work. This suggests to me not so much that the party is entirely comfortable with a porn baron in their midst, but that they’re desperate. After all, if you’re a party trying to present yourselves as a reasonable, creditable choice as democratic representatives, you tend to choose respectable candidates. People’s, whose integrity appears genuine and who can be trusted. This tends to rule out automatically the grubby denizens of the sex industry.

It looks to me that Langley has been selected simply because the Kippers in Bristol don’t have anyone else more suitable.

Not that this is necessarily an either/or issue. It could also be that the party is also full of raging perverts, like the numerous paedophiles in the BNP and other parties of the far right. At least of those on the blatant Nazi fringe owns a sex shop in London selling the date rape drug, Rohypnol.

There is far more serious side to this, however, beyond being astonished at how weird and sordid the Kippers are. Langley’s antics at UWE are seedy and pernicious. There has been a rise in the number of students working in the sex industry, from stripping to prostitution, in order to pay tuition fees.

The University was quite right to be outraged at Langley shooting his grubby little epic on campus, and the danger he presented of drawing girls and women into the sordid and exploitative world of the sex industry.

I found this meme against him on the SlatUKIP site. I’ve got a feeling it comes from EDL News. The image is taken from one of the newspaper article’s on him, and does show something of the grim content of his videos.

UKIP Porn Star

DPAC on Cuts to Disabled Students’ Allowances

May 7, 2014

DPAC on their website have reported that David Willetts, The Conservatives’ minister for universities and science, has announced that they are modernising the Disabled Students Living Allowance. This was set up to give support to the thousands of disabled students who would otherwise be unable to attend university. It has, according to DPAC, given out £125 million of funds to 53,000 students.

Willetts has, however, declared that from now on students with dyslexia and dyspraxia will only receive support ‘where their support needs are considered to be more complex’. In other words, those, who aren’t judged to have such serious needs will be denied support from the fund. Responsibility for providing this instead will fall to the universities. As the report says, the richer universities will be able to afford it, but the poorer will not.

This is absolutely correct. A number of universities are actually contracting or cutting courses after the massive expansion in Higher Education in the 1990s. I was shocked to hear from a fellow volunteer at an event at Bristol City Museum that the University of West of England has cancelled many of the MA courses. And UWE is one of the leading members of the new universities.

DPAC have also noted that the Tories’ excuse for cutting support for the disabled is the usual, tired cliché of ‘concentrating them where they are most needed’. It’s the same excuse they use time and again for the same cuts attacking the poor, the working and lower middle classes, the sick and disabled.

DPAC’s report can be read here: http://dpac.uk.net/2014/05/yet-another-cut/.

One of the points ‘Red’ Ken made in his book, Livingstone’s Labour, is just how far ahead Germany was in providing education, especially in science and engineering in the 19th century. He contrasts this with the attitude of the Tory premier, Lord Salisbury, who sneered at the provision of free primary education as ‘cramming learning into louts’.

The Tories: keeping people poor and ignorant since the 19th century.

Labour History at M Shed, Bristol

November 26, 2013

The M Shed museum in Bristol is also the venue for a series of public seminars on various aspects of the city’s history. These are held jointly by the Museum and the Regional History Centre at the University of the West of England. UWE is Bristol’s second university. It was formerly Bristol Polytechnic. I took my MA there, and it does have some extremely good, lively teachers. Many of them had a background in women’s and social history. I can remember that one of the courses run by the history department is on the Slave Trade, taught by Madge Dresser. Dr Dresser has also organised conferences at the university on the subject, and was one of the organisers of the ‘Respectable Trade’ exhibition on Bristol and the slave trade way back in the mid 1990s. Other courses included Bristol Corporation of the Poor, which looked at the operation of the poor law and the workhouse in Bristol from its establishment in the mid-17th century to its abolition in the 20th.

The talks for this academic year, 2013-14, include the following:

Peter Fleming, (UWE), Bristol’s First Historian? Robert Ricart’s Maire of Bristowe is Kalendar and Notions of History Writing in 15th-c Bristol, Thursday, 24th October 2013;

Nigel Somerville (Bristol Record Office), The Dreadnought Journal: A Cruise Against the Enemies of Great Britain, Thursday, 21st November 2013;

Nick Rogers, (York University, Toronto), Naval Impressment in the South West in the Eighteenth Century, Tuesday, 10th December 2013;

M Shed Curators’ Roundtable, Moved by Conflict: Collecting and Curating the First World War, Thursday, 16th January 2014;

Richard Coates, (UWE), Place-Names and History in the Bristol Area, Thursday, 20th March 2014;

Kent Fedorowich (UWE) ‘Returning Home to Fight’: Bristolians in the Dominion Armies, 1914-1918, Thursday 17th April 2014;

Paul Tobia (UWE), Life Stories and the Photograpic Image: Patients in the Bristol Lunatic Asylum in the Nineteenth Century, Thursday 15th May 2015;

Andrew Flack (University of Bristol), Animal Commodities: Bristol Zoo, the Wild Animal Trade and Imperial Networks in the Nineteenth Century, Thursday 19th June 2014.

The seminar on the 20th February 2014 is on a piece of the city’s labour history. Given by Mike Richardson of UWE, this is on Bristol and the Labour Unrest of 1910-14. The description for this seminar in the Museum’s pamphlet on them states

‘1910 witnessed a renewed outbreak of industrial strife in Britain, as significant sections of the trade union rank-and-file began to express their frustration at the lack of progress made in their struggle for better working conditions and a new social order. Strikes reached levels not seen since the ‘new unionism’ upsurge of 1889-92. Workers unrest combined with clashes over Home Rule for Ireland, and the militant tactics of Suffrage campaigners, which added to the problems of the ruling class. Confronted by these parallel rebellions, the ruling class feared their convergence, and some warned of the dangers of revolution.

This talk will focus on Bristol’s experience of labour unrest between 1910 and the outbreak of the First World War. Rather than focus solely on Bristol’s famous union leaders, Ben Tillett and Earnest Bevin, this seminar will examine the events from the union rank-and-file perspective.’

The pamphlet notes that Mike Richardson, who gives the talk, is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre of Employment Studies Research at UWE.

The seminars run from 18.00 – 19.30, or from 6 O’clock to 7.30 in the evening. Admission is free.

M Shed is down on Bristol’s docks. It’s at Princes Wharf, Wapping Road, Bristol, BS1 4RN.