Tag Archives: Bristol

Why is Metrobus bad for Bristol?

VIDEO: The Blue Finger from Joe Evans.

The Blue Finger, an area in the north of Bristol (a UK major city), is rich with the country’s best agricultural soil.

Traditionally the heartland of Bristol’s market gardens, the Blue Finger Alliance is working on feeding Bristol again with fresh, local produce, grown by local people.

Last week, bad news for the Blue Finger Alliance.

The council gave the go-ahead for a controversial new transport scheme requiring the building of new roads and a bridge.

The scheme will swallow up about half of the Stapleton allotments, according to Travel West, and threatens Feed Bristol, an Avon Wildlife Trust project which teaches growing skills.

In the council chambers where the scheme was voted for (six to four), campaigners sang Joni Mitchell’s song:

“…you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot…”

The ‘rapid transit’ bus route is intended to provide faster links between Bristol’s train stations.

Sounds good – in theory. The city desperately needs a functioning public transport.

But building new roads does not improve public transport.

By all means, increase buses, revive disused train lines, engineer tram systems.

But build new roads? That’s a hidebound to nowhere.

Road-building generates even more traffic,” says the Campaign for Better Transport, “damages the countryside, adds to climate change and makes cities, towns and villages less pleasant places to live for everyone.”

Bristol is the 2015 European Green Capital, a prestigious award supported by Bristol 2015 Ltd, created with Bristol council. Yet this scheme is the opposite of what Bristol Green Capital stands for.

The Metrobus scheme is a waste of precious resources, and a heartbreakingly backward step for a sustainable future-proof Bristol.

 

 

 

The Night is Long Without a Home

Blanket in doorway by EW

The Night is Long Without a Home is an exhibition of photographs by Ian Usher, documentary photographer and artist of homeless hostel residents and workers – in their own words.

In fact, the title is from a description by John of the loss and sorrow of homelessness.

The exhibition is organised by a few of us on behalf of Bristol Foundation Homeless Residents’ Association.

Due to drastic council cuts, the hostel residents may lose their hostel homes, and be made homeless again.

How many people would you say are homeless in your city?

According to Bristol city, only nine (this sometimes rises to 11).

This does not make sense. Alan Goddard, who runs a soup kitchen feeding about 600 every day in Bristol, says the number must be over 100.

I see evidence of people sleeping rough every day. Image

I remember before the 1980s, the only people you saw sleeping rough, were tramps – gentlemen of the road. But since then it has all changed – we see young people on the streets.

How can this happen in one of the richest countries in the world?

The UN makes visits to two countries every year to report on problems. This year, it was the UK’s turn because of its housing crisis. Here is the UN rapporteur’s report.

Empty offices lie empty, testaments of investment – while our youth sleep in doorways without prospect of employment or home.

If ONLY our society believed in kindness.

If ONLY our society understood that prevention is more effective (and less costly) than cure.

Give vulnerable people a stable home and a bit of support, and you cut down on other, more expensive, services, such as hospitals and prisons.

How we treat our homeless tells us all we need to know about the world we live in.

What has this to do with food? I mean, this is a food blog, right?

Plum compote and yogurt with expresso at Canteen by EW

Well, here is a breakfast (stewed plums and granola and yogurt with an expresso) I had last week at The Canteen in Hamilton House in Stokes Croft, Bristol.

OK, quick diversion as I explain link between Hamilton House and homelessness.

Hamilton House was a defunct office block the council planners wanted to demolish – now turned into a groovesome hub of creative activities run by Coexist. (I am proud to say my office is here, along with 200 other tenants, including Afrika Eye Film Festival, and Tribe of Doris).

Hamilton House’s visionary social landlord, Connolly & Callaghan, is also the key benefactor of Bristol Foundation Housing homeless hostels.

Bristol Foundation Housing houses and supports single people who would otherwise fall through the net, people who need support to break the homeless cycle but are not considered sufficiently ‘high priority need’ for emergency accommodation by Bristol City Council.

Working with the Probation Services and others around Bristol, BFH has reduced re-offending rates by more than 50%, probably saving the taxpayer some £20 million each year.

These are the hostels that had their funding lifeline cut in August. This (free) photographic exhibition features BFH hostel residents and workers, in their own words.

Hope you can get along to the exhibition in Hamilton House, Stokes Croft, BS1 3QY which opens tonight and runs until 9 pm, 5 November.

And please do sign the Bristol Foundation Homeless Residents’ Association petition at Change.org.

THANK YOU!

Millions March against Monsanto

Durban GMO protest

Wow. On Saturday 25 May 2013, two million people worldwide marched against Monsanto, reported the Guardian. (Image above by Phillip Martin of the Durban protest from No GMO South Africa).

One of the top ten US chemical companies – think Agent Orange and DDT -Monsanto started buying up seed companies in the 1980s. Now it is the biggest producer of GM (genetically modified) seed.

Portman Square Bristol BS2 Sat 25 May 2013

Portman Square Bristol BS2 Sat 25 May 2013

Here in Bristol, we chanted: “We don’t want no GMO.”

GM (genetically modified) technology is based on the outdated scientific premise that a gene is responsible for a characteristic. So all you have to do is add a desired characteristic from one species  into another species and ta da, you have a nice new genetically modified organism (GMO).

It’s nothing like traditional breeding because it crosses species barriers, creating organisms that would never exist in nature.

Once a seed is genetically modified it can be patented – which means the company that patents it, owns it.

Which means you can now prosecute farmers who have your patented seeds on their fields. Even even if the seeds arrived (as seeds do) by wind or bees.

Check out GMO Myths and Truths for more info. This fully-referenced report shows that Monsanto et al‘s claims – that GM crops yield better, reduce pesticide use, and are safe to eat – are dubious.

Also check out: GM Education, GM Freeze and GM Watch. Also: Thierry Vrain, former pro-GM research scientist for Agriculture Canada now promoting awareness of the many dangers of GM food.

NO GMO Monsanto couple

Back to the march.

Well, despite some “trolling” beforehand including fake reports that marches were not going to happen, or would be violent, they happened and they were 100% peaceful.

See these pics of the London march and below.

Bianca Jagger - image from http://www.demotix.com/news/2088303/environmental-gmo-activists-march-against-monsanto-london#media-2088296

Bianca Jagger – image from
http://www.demotix.com/

I was a steward (I have an NVQ in Green Stewarding, I’ll have you know) for the approx 500-strong Bristol march and I can report it was filled with good humour and co-operation.

Portman Square Bristol BS2 Sat 25 May 2013

Portland Square Bristol BS2 Sat 25 May 2013

As we waited at Portland Square before setting off from the march, a man with a beautifully-ironed shirt volunteered he had escaped his “corporate pay masters” to support us.

“O, that’s great,”I said. “Are you coming on the march?”

Well, no, he wasn’t because he had already been there 45 minutes already.

He said Monsanto probably had some observers at the march but they were likely dressed in a “bohemian” way.

He was keen to meet local organisers but was uninterested when I suggested Bristol Friends of the Earth.

Monsanto has used a PR firm in the past to discredit opposition and according to some, employed a security firm to monitor activists online.

I think a security firm will have its work cut-out. The thing is there is not one over-arching or hierarchical body behind people like us.

These marches are organic and spontaneous – the human spirit rising up to protect our food.

Veg fest

After the march, Julia and I went to the VegFest (above), and reaped the benefits of a happy healthy food movement.

Who would have thought that wholesome food could be subversive?

Beetroot and Carrot Salad

Beetroot and carrot salad

I used to think beetroots had to be cooked. Now I am wiser, I know they can be  raw. And may be more nutritious as a result.

Grating beetroots makes crunching effortless while an oil and vinegar dressing adds luxury. Carrots, also grated, are a perfect companion.

You know what they say: eat for colour: orange, reds (and more), each colour containing different immune-boosting nutrients.

I first came across the beetroot/carrot combo at the Better Food Cafe about seven years ago, and copied the idea, working out a version at home. 

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Then turned it into a recipe for Grown in Britain CookbookI wish I had name-checked my inspiration so glad to be doing so now. My beetroots came from  the Better Food Company, too.

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I peeled the carrots and beetroots, above. Grown organically, slowly, biologically, they are chemical-free and needed only scrubbing, plus the skin has nutrients. (But I am not perfect and peeling is faster).

I was taken with the yellow, white and purple carrots, as they used to be before 17th century Dutch growers went monoculture orange to praise William of Orange. Poetically, these 21st century rainbow carrots were grown in Holland.

Bear Fruit Bear Pit
I had bought my Dutch rainbow organic carrots at the Bear Fruit stall (above) in the Bear Pit, Bristol.

The Bear Pit is, by the way, an example of urban regeneration from the grass-roots-up. A dingy subway on a busy city roundabout now transformed by locals into a lively market and meeting place.

Beetroot and Carrot Salad – ingredients for four

  • 600g raw beetroot
  • 600g raw carrots
  • 50g sunflower seeds
  • Dressing: 4 tablespoon olive oil + 50ml balsamic vinegar
  • oil for frying/toasting + soy sauce for seeds
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Fresh herbs (parsley, coriander) or snipped salad cress.
  • 1.1. Scrub/peel carrots and beetroot, and trim tops and tails. Keep carrots whole for grating. Peel the beetroot and cut in half. Grate the raw vegetables, using hand grater or food processor. Combine in large bowl and add olive oil and vinegar dressing.2. If not serving immediately, don’t add dressing yet. Instead, store covered in fridge. Remove 1 hour before serving to bring to room temperature. Then add dressing (below).

    3. For the vinaigrette, put the oil and vinegar in a screw-top jar, put the lid on tightly and shake vigorously.

    4. Gently heat olive oil in a small frying pan and toast the seeds for 3–4 minutes over a moderate heat, stirring to prevent sticking. Add the soy sauce at the end of the cooking, if using. Most of the sauce will evaporate, leaving a salty taste and extra browning for the seeds. Store the toasted seeds in a jar with a lid if preparing the day before.

    5. When ready to serve, add the chopped herbs to the grated beetroot and carrot. Shake the screw-top jar with vinaigrette, then pour over the vegetables, and season to taste. Toss the salad gently until everything glistens. Scatter the toasted seeds.

Hello Kitty cake

Hello Kitty cake
It’s not often I go mainstream but basically my eldest daughter asked me to make a Hello Kitty cake for my granddaugher Tayda’s fourth birthday party in December (this blog is well-overdue) held at St Werburgh’s city farm.

A few days before I got baking, my eldest daughter had a nightmare about the cake-making.

I said: “Good. Prepare to be disappointed.”

I felt I had to manage expectations.

However, it turned out well. The cake tasted good and actually looked like Hello Kitty.

For the latter, I must thank the opportune arrival of my middle daughter who took over cake-decorating just as I was getting bored. She talked me down from “getting creative”, insisting we adhere to its original design.

So here’s the Hello Kitty birthday cake-making story plus recipes.

I started by looking online for a clear image I could print and trace.

I ended up on GirlyBubble, a website for “girlyness and cute stuff”. Yes, I was in alien territory but fearless in my quest for a clear image of Hello Kitty.

I printed the image and traced it by hand. I admired the clever simplicity of the design, neither round nor oval, and its trademark bow and whiskers.

I owe decoration-detail to Coolest Birthday Cakes where readers have submitted their Hello Kitty cake designs. How grateful am I to the web and its culture of sharing?

Then it was time for real-life cake-decoration shopping at my local sweet shop on the independent-tastic Gloucester Road  (one of the last independent high streets in the UK).

Scrumptiously Sweet is a traditional sweet shop offering attentive service and saintly patience as I agonised over icing tubes, jelly beans and marshmallow pipes.

Side-view of Hello Kitty

We used bootlace liquorice to outline Hello Kitty’s head and ears, her bow, whiskers and nose.

We squeezed out Dr Oetker Designer Icing to fill in the red of the bow.

And encircled the lower base of the cake with pink marshmallow Flumps (you can see the join in the pic below).

Hello Kitty cake

Hello Kitty Cake and Icing recipes

I owe everything to All Recipes.com and its Foolproof Sponge Cake. It is truly foolproof for I am the fool, and here is the proof.

I made two sponges, one square, one round.

IMG_8402

The deeper square one (above) was sliced through its middle and filled and covered with pink buttercream icing.

Hello Kitty "face"

The smaller sponge (above) was baked in a round flan tin, requiring only some trimming with a sharp knife to become Kitty-shaped. This sponge had white icing to contrast with its bigger pink base.

Recipe for Foolproof Sponge Cake

No need to cream butter and sugar. Instead, sieve the flour and mix in the other ingredients. I used organic ingredients for health of people and planet, and butter not marge. It seemed strange to cook a sponge for a whole hour – but it worked. Brilliantly.

Serves: 12

340g (12 oz) self-raising flour | 280g (10 oz) caster sugar | 280g (10 oz) butter (or margarine) | 5 eggs |3 tablespoons milk (or soya milk) |

1. Grease and line two 20cm (8 inch) square or round tins and set aside. I used an 8 inch square tin and an 8 inch round flan tin, and did not skimp on the greaseproof lining paper.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 150 C / Gas 2, or 140 C for fan ovens.

3. Sieve self-raising flour into a mixing bowl, add the sugar and butter, then the eggs. I used my electric hand-blender, adding one egg at a time, blending after each one, until all ingredients were amalgamated. Once blended, some extra fast whizzes. The result: a thickish smooth batter.

4. Pour into the tins, place in centre of oven and cook for about 1 hour 15 mins, to 1 hour 30 mins. All Recipes says test with skewer: if it comes out clean, the cake is done.

Thank you All Recipes.com. Now a huge big shout-out to HonieMummyBlog for Perfect Butter Icing – perfect indeed! – and a genius selection of different quantities. Again, gratitude.

Honnie Mummie Perfect Butter icing

250 g / 8 oz butter | 500 g / 1 lb icing sugar | 4 teaspoons milk

For base (not Hello Kitty face), we carefully added drop-by-drop red colouring for a pinky effect, and mixed before adding the next drop.

I made the cakes on the Thursday, the butter icing on Friday, and assembled it all on Saturday – party day. 

And did not disgrace my family.

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Here is the cake nibbled down to its essential Hello Kitty-ness.

And here’s a under-1-minute video of the cake at Tayda’s party.

In Bristol’s green heart, we trust

Gus-Hoyt

Green party councillor, Gus Hoyt, says Bristol’s mayoral Cabinet has a “green heart at its core”. (Image credit Bristol 24-7)

Previously city councillors had voted for their leader. But the Coalition government gave ten of England’s biggest cities the option to vote for its own. Last May, Bristol people voted in a referendum to elect their own mayor, the only city to do so. In November, independent candidate, George Ferguson, became the city’s first “directly-elected” mayor.

Does a directly-elected mayor give more power to the people because they (rather than councillors) are voting? Or does the new role give too much power to one person, the mayor? But that’s another story.

Last November, Gus Hoyt, Bristol North’s first Green party councillor, got a late-night call from newly-elected mayor, George Ferguson, inviting him to join the new mayoral “rainbow” cabinet.  Gus Hoyt explains in his blog why he accepted.

It’s a question because the Green Party is opposed to the cuts – yet the Bristol mayoral cabinet is pledged to cut £35 million. The intention of the cabinet is to minimise hardship, says George Ferguson. “I’m trying to minimise the effect on services,” he says.

Personally, I don’t get this cuts business. For a start, the UK is one of the most powerful countries in the world. To my mind, Austerity Britain is a marketing slogan to cover up the reality which is: “Stop giving money to the poor, so the rich can get richer.” But I digress.

Last night at a Bristol Friends of the Earth meeting, guest speaker, Gus Hoyt – focusing on food and energy – described the positive things the cabinet hopes to achieve.

Green Bristol food vision

  • Make it easier for local food producers to sell their produce, building connections with local supply chains
  • Establish a “nuts-and-bolts” food market at Bristol Temple Meads railway station new enterprise zone – if successful it could be replicated in areas of deprivation
  • Aim to declare Bristol a zero waste city hopefully working with green-friendly Labour MP for Bristol East, Kerry McCarthy, who introduced a food waste bill in parliament
  • One fruit tree to be planted for each Bristol child born so apples and nuts can be harvested at will, and children can learn where food comes from (it really does grow on trees.)
  • Edible beds in public spaces and food production in parks so food can be picked for free
  • Turn Bristol into a food capital. The city already hosts several food festivals – let’s host more
  • Enable more schoolchildren to learn how to grow food to eat and how to cook it.

At this point Gus Hoyt referred to the horsemeat scandal, and how we must bust the myth that affordable food has to be rubbish. When people cook from scratch, food can be healthy, fresh – and affordable.

At this point, let me invoke my mother invoking her mother:

“The secret of good cooking is quality ingredients. The first step to learning how to cook is knowing how to choose quality raw materials.”

My grandparents lived in poverty in the East End – but they knew how to cook. The UK media delights in making healthy food a class issue, as it sneers at middle class obsessions about organic food. Hello?! The true class issue is companies producing rubbish food and spending millions on marketing it to poor people.

Back to last night’s meeting. There was a discussion about the Blue Finger, a stretch of local land perfect for growing food. At the start of the 20th century, Bristol was ringed with market gardens which fed Bristol. Now we buy tasteless produce in supermarkets trucked in from far away.

And should the negative effects of climate change and fuel shortages take hold, making Bristol more self-sufficient in food makes a lot of sense. And more pleasant and healthy, too.

At the Friends of the Earth meeting, Phil Haughton of Better Food Company said that plenty of local farmers would be happy to lease/sell a field the land: what is missing, he said, are entrepreneurs. Meanwhile Joy Carey, author of Who Feeds Bristol, said to make Bristol food-secure, eight main things need to happen including composting, growing, learning to cook and supporting small shops and producers.

Involves all of us

Bristol Food Policy Council (the first in the UK) is developing a food plan with those eight components. Bristol, be proud.

Green Bristol energy vision

  • Bristol to become the go-to-city for renewable energy 
  • Make Bristol a truly solar city
  • Bristol can be “a living university ” for green institutions
  • Aim for Bristol to become the European Green Capital
  • Invite aeronautical businesses to use their expertise to create tidal technology (rather than bomber ‘planes) –  a kind of “swords into ploughshares” idea
  • Secure £10 million to make council houses more energy-saving
  • Work with institutions such as the NHS and universities to make energy more affordable with ‘Energy Partnerships’
  • Wind turbines at Avonmouth are due to open in December
  • Bristol to be 100 % “fracking” and nuclear-free.

So, dear reader, does this gladden your heart? It did mine.

La Pirogue – stolen fish and refugees


“Y’a plus de personnes ici, y’a plus de poissons.”

“No more people here, no more fish,” says one of the characters in La Pirogue, the Senegalese film directed by Moussa Touré, selected for Un Certain Regard, Cannes 2012.

Here’s a clip from La Pirogue.

Illegal fishing on a fierce industrial scale is robbing West African coastal countries of its fish, often the only protein source for millions of people.

Instead of being used for local, sustainable fishing, the painted pirogue is used to transport desperate people on a perilous sea journey. The film is dedicated to the thousands of Africans who have died crossing the Atlantic to Europe.

If they had their fish, they would not risk crossing the ocean in a wooden boat.

Much of this stolen fish ends up in Europe, says the Environmental Justice Foundation in its recent report, Exposing Pirate Fishing: The Fight Against Illegal Fishing in West Africa and the EU.

Everything is connected. The would-be migrants who try to enter Fortress Europe are suffering from the illegal trade in seafood sold to Europe.

La Pirogue opened the Afrika Eye Film Festival on the 9 November 2012. I was helping the sixth Afrika Eye Film Festival with its social media, and saw a connection for another client, Charles Redfern’s sustainable canned fish brand, Fish4Ever.

He in turn saw a link with the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) and sponsored their stall at La Pirogue’s screening.

Here is Charles Redfern and Kate, a marine scientist, who ran the EJF information stall at the Afrika Eye Film Festival, at the Watershed, Bristol.

Charles has family links to Sierra Leone, also ravaged by illegal fishing.  In 2011, he raised £9k to help the EJF buy Sierra Leone a new monitoring boat. This boat featured in an Al Jazeeera video investigation as it chased two South Korean trawlers fishing illegally.

David Dravie-John from Sierra Leone, and Charles, connected at the opening night. David Dravie-John wanted to interview Charles on his Bristol-based radio on Ujima 98 FM, but as Charles is Reading-based, I agreed to be interviewed instead.

Positive change starts with awareness. I have to communicate the problem because it’s part of finding the solution.

The Zimbabwean film maker, Afrika Eye Film Festival co-founder, and director of Robert Mugabe – What Happened, Simon Bright, says in my interview for Bristol247, “Film has the power to transform political events”.

…”so that the beautiful African pirogues will never again serve to transport human misery,” as a blogger wrote.

Fish4Ever’s ethical sourcing policy refuses to buy from long distance foreign fleets fishing in the coastal waters of developing countries.


And here’s a picture of Charles eating lentil soup I made with Fish4Ever anchovies, + cut-up sweated small cubes of fennel, leek and swede (a veg trio inspired by healthy-food-on-a-budget Square Food Foundation’s chef Barny Haughton).

Delicious sustainable fish, and food security for poor countries.

Have I helped join up the dots?