Monthly Archives: August 2012

A quick intro to… Me! At my new political comment home Let’s Be Brief

Meet Kirsty Styles a digital journalist and youth activist. A proud Warringtonian, along with Kerry Katona, she is also an enthusiastic dodge ball player and (very) amateur comedian.

Kirsty has worked as a media campaigner for Oxfam and as a freelance journalist for local, national and specialist organisations, including The Observer, RockFM and the Sunday Mirror. In a brush with the dark side, or something of an undercover project, she has also worked in advertising.

Bringing a bit of street smarts and good old common sense to the world of political thought, Kirsty is an elected youth member of the left-wing think tank Compass. Passionate about social issues last year, Kirsty put herself in the thick of it and appeared on a BBC documentary about youth unemployment, which was screened on BBC3, and also featured on Radio1.

And oh, she hates being told that change isn’t possible.

See the original post here: http://www.letsbebrief.co.uk/a-quick-intro-to-new-lbber-kirsty-styles/

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#Notpartof2012? How about Rio 2016?

Written for and first published at: http://www.letsbebrief.co.uk/notpartof2012-how-about-rio-2016/

Admit it. The cries of “Yes Jess!”, the shouts of “Go Mo” and the summer anthem ‘Gold on the Ceiling’ left you wanting more. I spent Super Saturday watching the big screen in Haggerston Park and I was carried away. We started talking about us as ‘we’, despite some of our deepest troubles being laid bare here just a year ago.

For an event that could have spiralled into the LOL-ympics, London 2012 has left an Olympic-shaped hole in the Universe. It took me some time to appreciate that this was not an event about fizzy drinks and fast food, weary with all of the pre-event advertising.

So this was actually about sport – about dedication and commitment – a call to arms. After ‘My Generation’ by The Who closed the celebration, Jaque Roggue, Head of the IOC said: “I call on the youth of the world to gather in Rio in four years’ time from now and celebrate the 31st Olympiad.”
Participation in sport among 16-24-year-olds in the UK is low and falling. It appears that in the upheaval between full-time study, job hunting and work, we stop taking part. For all our preoccupations with looking good, we abdicate the one activity that will help us stay trim and impress potential mates. The charity softball league I play for has produced six marriages.

But it was our Conservative government, who mock the alleged ‘prizes for all’ ethos of state schools and expanding waistlines, which scrapped our measly two hours of compulsory sport. Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, wrote an Olympic verse asking for school playing fields back, sold off to property developers, for every medal won. All of this government policy means that 60% of school children no longer play any competitive sport.

It was actually a hurdler that went to Eton who nearly didn’t make it to London 2012 because he was pushed towards academia as he was leaping over desks. Perhaps there is a leotarded gymnast in George Osbourne? And it was Yorkshire, in the relatively deprived northeast, which added 12 medals, proving that sport changes the lives of ordinary people. However, a third of the medallists went to private school, despite making up just 7% of the population.

A Guardian/ICM poll has found that support for the Olympic legacy is strongest amongst under 35s, who see hope for the future and the chance of a better world. Though the BBC declared Usain Bolt’s potential retirement as the ‘end of athletics’, this is the beginning for a generation inspired by the achievements of those 17 days.

There are 1400 days to Rio, and many winners in 2012 who ‘just picked up’ a sport. Samantha Murray, winner of the modern Pentathalon, said: “I’m just a normal girl”. The money that camera-friendly Olympians make from advertising cosmetics, fashion and cereals is an uncomfortable reality; or another perk of the job?

David Cameron was on the BBC sofa on Sunday pledging the same support for elite athletes going to Rio 2016 as there was for London. But how do you get up to that level in the first place? And what happens after that?

Jade Jones, gold medallist in Taekwondo, thanked her family and friends who fundraised so she could compete, which could become the norm as government money is shared thinly around. It might be this investment by communities that boosts us to further success, or perhaps Team GB volunteers will lead us into a community renaissance? Should schools coordinate this effort, if so, how do we get children, teachers, parents, politicians and sports enthusiasts involved? We should take the idea of the Big Society and stick it to them. Why do we let the rich be in charge – they are already powerful – how can they be expected to really have our interests at heart?

This is a 20-year job. And that means a little investment from you, us. You might not be the next Mo Farrah, but you might be the person who inspires the person who is. The reality of the volunteering effort is that more than 1 million young people still need jobs. We can’t be expected to endlessly work unpaid.

There were more cringe-worthy moments of course (George Michael in the closing ceremony), questionable commentary (“So how do you feel [about letting us down by not winning gold]?” said to sweaty and elated participants) and the heavy back patting at crisis well-averted. Bolt promised he would be back in the UK ‘when the tax laws change’, a powerful kick in the face for us, whose taxes made a huge contribution to the Games.

A charity has been set-up ‘Join in Sport UK’ with events starting this weekend. Sport is fun, try your best. Time will tell whether success was borne from a cynical need to look good, the Labour project that the Conservatives could have done without, and not a long-term commitment.
That’s all from me on this. Don’t forget we have the Paralympics still to come.

As Lord Coe said in his final speech to the crowd: “When the time came, Britain, we did it right.”

Yes Sir, just about…

#Notpartof2012: Part 2

Written for and first published at: http://www.letsbebrief.co.uk/week-2-notpartof2012/

So it’s the end of week 1 of the London 2012 Olympic Games (a banned syntactic arrangement from the list issued by organisers), and it’s now clear to me that Olympics is quite an annoying word to write again and again. That aside, unless you are on holiday avoiding it, there is an unmistakable air of the Olympics in London town. Like it or not, CBeebies and BBC Parliament have made way for wall-to-wall coverage of the greatest show on earth. Despite having no tickets, my bike, TV and my residence in East London have ensured that the events are very much inescapable.

Given that you can see the stadium from my house, last Friday raised a dilemma – to party, or not to party? Hearing that there were big screens in Victoria Park down the road, and with helicopters flying worryingly low overhead, the journalist in me decided to pick up a few beers and head down to take my place among the great unwashed for the opening ceremony.

Strike 1. Gated area, ticket-holders only, and leave your booze at the door.

Thousands of others had heard news of a massive communal telly-watching opportunity, but what we didn’t know was that while the event was free (unlike Hyde Park, where audience members paid £60), they were only letting 5,000 people in on the door. Ticket-holders only. Hmpfh. As a miscellaneous urban voice addressed the crowd behind the metal fence, the rest of the park, and the huge queue, were cast out into darkness. At least we still had our booze…

The following morning, I dragged my bigger half to an anti-Olympics protest which promised to bring together more than 40 groups, including Occupy London and War on Want. It was a bit late to argue with the whole thing, as they’d already done the launch party, but I was interested nonetheless.

The beardy weirdies were out in force, flanked by Socialist Workers and quite a lot of the world’s media, including Channel 4. A stroke of genius by someone, somewhere, had led to the creation of a printable t-shirt stencil that read ‘official Olympic protester’, which looked strikingly similar to the actual Games logo. Which does say 2012, if you hadn’t deciphered it.

While a non-corporatised and non-militarised Olympics sounded like just what I was after, I wasn’t sure the kids of the ALARM anarchist group, who assured me that I ‘didn’t get it’, when I suggested that there were different types of freedom, were the people to deliver it.

Strike 2. Get Ahead of the Games… Wait…

We’ve been warned to stay off the tube for what feels like forever, fearing even bigger crowds than we’ve grown begrudgingly accustomed to. Apparently, that PR message was received a lot more clearly than the one that said ‘don’t get North and South Korea mixed up, they really hate that’. Hotel rooms next to Hyde Park that were £500 a night are now going for less than £100, shops and museums say visitors are down 30% on last year, traffic has reduced by a fifth.

Small businesses, like my local pub, where the landlady told me she’d had the worst day in living memory this week, have been left out in the Olympic advertising wilderness as the big brands, who only put in 2% of the £9.3 billion budget, were given 100% share of voice. I cycled past a pub that had avoided any mention of the Games by chalking a crude, but understandable, podium on the board outside. That’s one for the underdog. I also saw two boys brandishing Visa signs, with no discernible point, other than for people to see them. We own 85% of RBS and we don’t command the same power over what it says and does. If we did, those ‘ISA, ISA baby’ ads would never have seen the light of day…

Strike 3. LOCOG makes even more money on tickets.

I’ve been waiting patiently for a knock at my door by a purple-shirted volunteer asking me to fill up an empty seat; asking anyone, as one does when hosting a party, to give the illusion of popularity. You can’t argue with soldiers (unless you are married to one, I’m sure!) getting tickets. But I do know that I barely remember being a child…

In true Olympic spirit (or just for a laugh), I’ve been wapping out the Games buzzwords to see how far it gets me. So far, it’s 1-1. ‘Get Ahead of the Games’ appeared to help when I asked a wandering PCSO if I could ride in the Olympic Lane rather the angry queue of normal traffic. He advised me to ride on the pavement. ‘Get Behind the Games’ did not work on G4S workers at Haggerston Park, who clearly weren’t strict process followers in their civilian lives, but were keen on the ‘process’ of me walking to an entrance at the other end of the park (visible from where we were standing), as bikes were not allowed in the one they were covering. Ughhhh.

Loving
– The weird sports no one knew anyone was practising
– Men owning gymnastics and women playing excellent football

Hating
– Medal envy – ignorance of silver, bronze, or even qualifying, as demonstrating significant investment of time and effort
– Not letting the Chinese have their moment – are we just worried that this the first Post-US Games?