It’s with a heavy heart, I bring you my final TMIK round-up of the week’s news before I skip off to give parenthood a shot. This week we were all talking about the handbrake lockdown restrictions from govt, misplaced policies on obesity and an uncertain future for the arts. By Sarah Bradbury.
It was another bleak week in terms of our government’s communication and policy-making performance on the coronavirus front. First off, just as we thought we could jet off on our holibobs before the summer’s out, “handbrake restrictions” were imposed on those returning from Spain. Now, you have to quarantine for 14-days when you come back and could face a fine of up to £1000 if you don’t.
Many felt there should have been more warning or a more nuanced policy that took into account the specific Spanish regions badly affected by the spike in cases. Not only did the news royally bugger up plans for many already on holiday or planning to go (or, as in my case, family coming to visit!), but it was a massive dampener on the aviation and tourism industry already brought to its knees by the pandemic.
Later in the week, a last minute local lockdown was introduced for Greater Manchester and surrounding areas at 9pm over twitter, coming into effect at midnight that night, in reaction to an increase in cases.
Again, many felt the restrictions, which now prevent multiple households meeting inside or in private gardens, should have been communicated more clearly and with more warning (and, er, maybe not over twitter? Are we taking cues from the Donald Trump playbook of policy-making now?).
It also seemed to unduly target the Muslim community, who were set to celebrate Eid on Friday evening. As one twitter user put it, “imagine doing the same thing a couple of hours before Christmas.”
Amidst the continuing lockdown rules mayhem came a new drive on obesity, which sparked a torrent of debate online. Although obesity has become a pertinent topic in light of the impact coronavirus has been shown to have, arguably the govt’s approach has it all wrong.
For me, what the current policy misses is that obesity is a complex and multifactorial issue. Some of the key pillars of any strategy need to focus on education and lifting people out of poverty.
It’s all very well talking about the price of potatoes versus chips (as certain patronising sectors of the twitterati seemed to be focused on), but being time poor as well as financially can mean quick meals are frankly always going to win out.
Just as understanding the nutritional value of food and what your body needs is more important than a simplistic fixation on calories and the price of chocolate. Even in our virtual office, we couldn’t agree on whether Innocent Smoothies are the good or bad guys – can something be considered healthy if it has a large amount of sugar, even if it’s natural?
The other aspect many were raising is how policies such as detailing calories on menus can impact those suffering or recovering from eating disorders. I’ve had my own problematic relationship with food in the past and I can empathise with those for whom eating out is already challenging enough without this triggering information being put front and centre.
When I look to other countries, such as those in the Mediterranean, I can’t help but think that really what’s often missing from conversations about diet is ‘everything in moderation.’ Obsessing over calories, excluding certain food groups, or instilling shame and guilt in relation to eating or weight can be detrimental to promoting healthy relationships with food.
A grim autumn for culture
Finally further details on the much-needed £1.57bn emergency arts fund were released. Organisations and venues can apply for grants from the first round from 10th August, though they’ll have the tough job of demonstrating they can be sustainable viable for the rest of year and how they have international, national or local significance before they can get their hands on the cash. Thankfully, there’s also money set aside for emergency support for grassroots music venues.
While it may certainly provide a lifeline to many arts orgs, there are fears it’s all too little too late, as many have already laid off workers, such as London’s Southbank Centre, or even closed their doors. As Nicola Slawson wrote in the Guardian, community arts centre and regional theatres serving vulnerable people could be at the greatest threat if the cash available fails to “trickle down.”
Plus one of the first tests of a gig in the new normal – a gig with Frank Turner at Clapham Grand – was overall considered a failure. Not because of the performance (no burn here for Turner!) but the numbers just didn’t add up. With capacity limited by social distancing rules, the venue couldn’t even cover their costs, nevermind Turner’s fee…
It now devastatingly looks inevitable the industry won’t recover fully to pre-pandemic levels in the near future. We can only hope venues, artists and institutions can find innovative ways to stay afloat. And that consumers do their bit to show support, whether through donations, or paying them a visit (if they feel comfortable of course) when they reopen.
If there was ever a time we realised how much we need our cultural fix, it was during deepest, darkest lockdown. Let’s make sure there’s something left to enjoy after this is all over. Life would certainly be poorer without it.
What else happened?
AROUND THE UK
- According to a study by Cambridge University’s Bennett Institute for Public Policy, lockdown helped to restore people’s happiness after national levels fell when the pandemic began. Read our reflections on the finding here.
- As lockdown eases, we’ve been looking back at what lessons we’ve learned in lockdown. Check out the latest installment here.
- Boris Johnson was accused of making false claims of poverty declining under his government.
- As part of the new drive on obesity, a government-commissioned review suggested 1.5m more kids be added to the Free School Meals scheme.
- A cycling revolution could be underway, as residents in England get new decision-making powers.
- Argos axed their iconic shopping catalogue after almost 50 years. People were sharing their childhood memories and relationships with the British household staple over social media.
- In cheerful news, a new study by the Pediatric Research group found that dogs are not just great excuses for daily exercise but may also contribute positively toward early childhood development. Read this, if only for the joyous dog vids.
- Michael took a deep dive into the troublesome job market young people will find themselves in post-pandemic.
- Muslim communities across the country were celebrating Eid on Friday. Our reporter Sadia looked at how celebrations would differ this year.
- As it was my last week in the virtual office before going on mat leave, I reflected on a wild and wonderful year working at TMIK.
AROUND THE GLOBE
- Trump was on top “Trump” form this week, from the demon sperm controversy to his beloved border wall falling to trying to delay the forthcoming election…(try reading this to the tune of Craig David’s ‘7 Days’ if you like 😉)
- Women in Turkey took the streets to protest against a rise in femicide in the country, demanding the government take action and implement the Istanbul convention.
- As Jacinda Ardern’s popularity soared in the polls, we listed 10 things we love about her.
- We also covered the 1MDB scandal which unfolded further this week after former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was sent to jail for embezzling over $4.5 million. Some of the deets are shocking, not least that some of the cash was used to produce The Wolf of Wall Street, a film about corruption and greed. You can’t make this stuff up….
- More than 20 African countries have joined together to plant a giant wall of trees that will run across the continent! The Great Green Wall of Africa is set to stretch for 7,000km from coast to coast and is designed to stop the spread of the Sahara Desert!
- The Emmy nominations are in! Watchmen came out tops followed by The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel with 20, while Succession and Ozark had 18. It was great to see a record number of black actors nominated this year at 34.3%. Netflix had a whopping 160 noms, the most of any platform. Winners to be announced on 20th Sep.
- The Booker Prize longlist was also released. The 13 books featured eight debut novels. Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light was among the list – the first two books in the trilogy already won the award!
- Rina Awayama, an artist who was born in Japan but moved to the UK as a child, spoke out about being ineligible for British awards like the BRITS or the Mercury Prize because of a nationality clause many feel is unnecessary.
- Bansky is auctioning off three paintings that reference the European refugees crisis, with proceeds being donated to a hospital in Bethlehem.
- Fed up of the lack of diversity in British mags, six-year-old Faith Boyd and her mother, Serlina, from London launched the UK’s first magazine for young black girls: Cocoa girl.
- A Glasgow theatre has been created entirely of recycled pianos 🎹..
AROUND THE WEB
This powerful video highlighted how the Portland riots have been met with force:
The soothing sounds of Arundhati Roy reading her infamous portal passage aloud is just what I needed to hear this week:
Talking of fad diets, this juice bar owner’s daily meal diary is one of the most of the bizarre things I’ve ever read:
If you’re in need of a pick-me-up, let me introduce you to the Sydney Annual Duck Fashion show…
What was your top story this week?
First published on #ThisMuchIKnow on 1st August 2020.