Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Locked On, Radio Podcasts

As I sit here writing this I am reminded of "What Is Wilderness?" one of the questions that make up the topic of Why Are We Here? This is the central theme of a series of radio podcasts I'm involved with from Camden Calling Locked On Radio.

The mission is to improve the access homeless and vulnerable people have to mainstream music, arts and popular culture. All the Camden Calling artists are unsigned and have had their own experiences of homelessness and other issues which are told through their songs which are planned, promoted and produced by themselves.

Through a series of 3-5 minute comedy episodes, different aspects of our daily lives are portrayed by three people from a know-it-all to a middle ground mediator, in a variety of different scenarios, such as the swinging sixties and a gunfight in the wild west. The characters find themselves in numerous situations and overcome challenges both emotionally and mentally. The scripts are conceived and collectively written by Camden Calling members and produced by Endell St studios, who are holding casting sessions to find the voices for the characters.

There will be music from Camden Calling (it was a difficult but enjoyable task researching bands and listening to a lot of music to find a song that mirrors the sentiments of why are we here) and some banter between musicians, interviews, music news and what is generally going on.

In order to better understand 'Why Are We Here?' - each letter represents a topic, for example the W from Why represents Wilderness, the H represents Happiness and the Y is Yearning - I decided to find out what people thought of the idea and if there was anything they would like to see in the shows. So, with a recording device I journeyed to London and asked the public what they thought of when they heard the word wilderness. Some responded, "in the middle of nowhere" and some said, "like a desert or a place where there is nothing".

To create a buzz about the shows a blog is being maintained with photos and videos from all involved as well as links to the Facebook and Twitter groups for people to follow. I am anxious to see the created shows, as I have written some of the material and would like to see the stories unfold and come to life. Based on the public responses so far, we are hopeful that it will be well received.

I am happy to be a part of this project because of the music and the people behind the music. When on stage they are passionate, singing or rapping about their own life experiences, issues around homelessness and other subject matter. What sets them apart from other musicians is that they are unsigned, all their material is self-produced, no involvement from a record label, and all artwork and album covers are designed, promoted and distributed by the artists themselves.

I finally feel a sense of belonging, I have a group friends who share a passion for creating and performing shows for people to enjoy.

Camden Calling is a social enterprise run collectively with homeless and ex-homeless people who put their problems aside to host live music events for a mainstream audience. Locked On is being produced with Endell St Studios.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The "fairness" poll

I'm certain I've mentioned before that sometimes I find the public's attitude to the unemployed a little disconcerting. In truth, I find some of the things I hear downright scary. Either way I was interested to see two articles in the Sunday Telegraph about the subject. The Telegraph, to my mind, is certainly on the scary side of right-wing politics but you can't be too fussy about stuff you find on the bus, so I read it nonetheless.

The first article concerned a YouGov survey about the public's attitude to the long term unemployed. This was only part of the whole survey, the survey was entitled Just Deserts? Attitudes to Fairness, Poverty and Welfare Reform. The survey was commissioned by the Policy Exchange think-tank. I've never fully understood quite what a think-tank is or does but Policy Exchange is rumoured to be David Cameron's "favourite ideas outlet" according to Janet Daley, a political commentator, columnist, and talking head for Radio 4's Moral Maze.

2407 adults were polled on-line in early March. "The figures have been weighted and are representative of all British adults." I think this is shorthand for them saying they have some extremely convoluted scientific way of making the opinions of two and a half thousand people representative of those of the British populace. Perhaps it involves logarithms?

These were some of the attitudes expressed:

  • Benefits are too generous or easy to claim 33%

  • There are not enough jobs available 20%

  • They do not have the skills necessary 16%

  • Rewards from working are too small 14%

  • They are lazy or lacking in willpower 12%

  • Don't know 5%

There was all manner of dreadful opinions in this survey, there was that old chestnut which is the statement that "some people who are poor are much more deserving than other people who are poor." 71% of the people polled agreed with this sentiment.

Then there's the subject of workfare, the notion that the unemployed should work for their Government handout. Now in this poll, 80% of those polled felt that: "people who have been out of work for twelve months or more, who are physically and mentally capable of undertaking a job, should be required to do community work in return for their state benefits."

Now IN THEORY I have no problem with this idea, I have no objection at all to me doing something useful for the community, in order to work for the money that the state gives me to put a roof over my head and money to live on. I think it's often referred to "as putting something back" and God knows, if there's one group of people who could do with putting something back, it has to be the unemployed. I think we all know that irrespective of what the Sun says about feckless scroungers, the unemployed may well be perpetually skint, but in the main they have, broadly speaking a fairly easy time of things.

Then there's the rub, this would have to be organised, and this job would fall to the same people who we sign on with every fortnight. The task of getting two and a half million people to contact the DWP once a fortnight to declare themselves without a job and subsequently pay them some money is something the civil service finds onerously problematic to organise without making countless mistakes.

So how on earth are they going to cope with organising things for, let's say, a million unemployed to do community work and keep track of what is going on? What about all those people who are currently doing this work as their (paid) job? All the people who currently pick up litter, run coffee mornings for the elderly, act as lollipop people, whatever is considered useful for the long-term unemployed to spend their time doing. This strikes me as one of those things that hasn't quite been thought through properly.

To me, I don't see anything wrong with people doing some kind of community work in order to get their benefits. As long as other people aren't losing their jobs as a result and as long as the government isn't getting their Big Society on the cheap.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Sick of this

I'm sick of this, sick and fed up to the back teeth, as my father used to say. I'm just having one of those times when the repetition and futility of it all pisses you right off. What I mean is, the being without a job and seemingly getting nowhere with finding one.

Nothing's happening, it's all the same as it always is. The main thing that's the same as it always is, is that I'm always skint, always flat broke.

So, what to do...

Perhaps I should try harder to get some work, look harder, look more places, put in more applications.

By implication this must mean I'm not doing enough, surely? Believe me I'm doing loads, the previous paragraph is borne out of frustration.

The vast majority of people I apply to haven't even got the basic courtesy to acknowledge that I've sent the CV that they requested. I remember a few weeks back being so chuffed that a woman rang me up to give me a knock back that the next time I had to sign on I told the person signing me on.

So I guess that makes me what is commonly referred to as a lifestyle benefit claimant. This further implies that one can be a benefit claimant and have a lifestyle - I assure you, this isn't possible!

There is this popular myth that people choose to claim benefit as opposed to looking for work because the state subsidises some kind of lavish standard of living that people have no interest in seeking work. This is clearly because we're all living the life of Riley. This is another myth.

I'm not living in the lap of luxury courtesy of the state, I don't sleep all morning and then get up to watch Neighbours, I haven't got a plasma TV.

Claiming Job Seekers Allowance isn't a lifestyle choice, it isn't a choice at all.

I live a dull life on very little money. I walk almost everywhere. I'm not whingeing but it hacks me right off that the public (and Radio 5 Live) have so many misconceptions about the unemployed. To hear them talk, the hard working British public pay their taxes to keep the job-shy in clover.