Friday, July 29, 2005

The Keswick convention is a multi-denominational Christian convention, which has been running annually for over 130 years in the town of Keswick, Cumbria

At one particular meeting during the convention, the speaker alluded to Janus, the two-faced Roman god who looked both backwards into the past and forwards into the future. We name the first month of the year after him.

As I write about my week at the convention, I too have been challenged to look back. Backwards to events which took place nearly 2000 years ago in a country 2000 miles away. I'm also challenged to look forwards, to consider my place in a world which seems to ache for peace. Not just peace between individuals or nations but peace between the created man and the creator God.

The message from the platform at Keswick has been clear. Christians may base their future hope on events past, but there's no place for 'two-faced' Christians. We need to be 'people of the book' and we need to radiate the light of Christ in a dark world.

I could write a long blog here about all that's gone on this week but as I come away from Keswick, I am simply challenged to obey the commission of Christ and also to "love my neighbor as myself". Enough said.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Targeted again

Exactly two weeks after terror hit the transport network of London, fresh attacks have been launched in near-identical fashion. It has been confirmed that there have been 4 incidents across the capital, three reported on the tube network and chillingly, one also reported onboard a number 26 London bus.

Despite these fresh scenes of chaos, it appears that all the bombs have either failed to explode or that they have been of a substantially smaller size than the ones used just two weeks ago.

At this early stage, its difficult to comment appropriately. There are patchy, unconfirmed reports of 'pops' and 'bangs' from rucksacks and even some reports of a bag being placed onboard a train seconds before some kind of disturbance. Other eyewitnesses claim that following a loud bang onboard a bus, nearby passengers were covered with a white powder, possibly explosive matter which failed to detonate.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Terror drill at the House of Commons is.... Terrible!

In the midst of the continued news-cycle concerning terrorism in the UK, disturbing details have emerged about how our elected MP's are keeping alert for any security threat. It turns out they aren't really!

Earlier today, the House of Commons staged three separate terrorism 'drills' in order to simulate a terrorist threat outside the building, a gunman inside the chamber and finally a deadly chemical attack, however there were only around thirty MP's who were present when the drills took place.

There are 646 Members or Parliament which means that less than 5% turned up for today's security rehearsals and even the Leader of the House, Peter Hain MP described the attendance figures as "disappointing". He then went on to apologise himself for forgetting to wear his Commons' security pass.

Although there's something almost comical about how business is carried out in the Chamber, there's nothing comical about any threat be it perceived or real against the heart of British democracy so come on guys! Shape up!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Antony Gormley's Another Place

I can still remember my first sight of Antony Gormley's Angel of the North. Love it or loathe it, it's is one of British modern arts most iconic sculptures. As a photographer, I loved it. Such a huge clearly defined symbol towering above its surroundings.

On the back of that, I'd been waiting with excitement to see Antony's new work, which thankfully is only 30 mins away from where I live, so it was off to Crosby to catch a glimpse of 100 life sized iron sculptures which are scattered across the beach. Some on nice solid sand... Some on not so solid sand.

It took far longer to find the beach as the brown signs seemed to point to nowhere, in fact, they are missing the last one so I kept driving past the narrow road to the car park but once I'd taken a guess, I did end up in the right place.

The statues do have a 'Gormleyesque' quality about them and they are based around 17 casts that he made of his own body. I must point out here that modesty is out of the window and everything is on display but each of the statues stand tall on the sands, facing the Irish ferries that make their way into the port at Liverpool.

Personally, I love artwork like this. I think that anything which leaves a striking impression, be it 100 sunbathing statues or one giant Angel has done its job. I know its not everyone's cup of tea and many people critisise this type of thing, but I think that Gormley's work really does make us feel like we are visiting 'another place'. A world where Ironclad aliens silenty watch the people on the beach. They move for no-one, not even the tide.

I took quite a few pictures while I was there so I will include a few here for the benefit of those who have no idea what I'm blogging on about.

As a final word, I include a candid picture taken, not from a point of art, but for this beach visitor, from a point of practicality.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Faith In community life

The place for faith in our communities

A few days on from the bomb attacks in London and people are now beginning to turn their attentions to some of the deeper issues facing us all in these times in which we live.

Why and how can some people choose to terrorise and murder innocent, everyday people in the name of any ideology?

The sad fact is, that EVEN IF the atrocities in London have NOTHING to do with anyone connected to the Muslim faith, some people will now be suspicious of any non-white Arab getting on a bus with a rucksack. What a travesty this is.

Its ridiculous to assume that all Arab Muslims pose a terrorist threat to anyone, but because of the actions of a few fanatics, 95% of the UK's population which is white, could easily be tempted to see anyone who's different as dangerous.

This is just one reason why all the faith groups have no choice anymore but to engage much more actively and positively in our communities. If evil can be done in the name of faith, isn't it time for all faith groups to make sure that their good works are seen and not just preached about? Even more so for our Muslim communities which continue to face an identity crisis on the back of international terrorism.

Just as the evil actions of one or two can devastate our communities, the positive actions of faith groups can also have a massive effect on our Towns and Cities.
Groups like the Message Trust have worked hard for many years in the most needy parts of Manchester and Salford, cleaning up the streets and meeting the practical needs of the needy, both young and old. This is all motivated by faith and is built upon a Command of Jesus Christ to look after the needy, He commanded us to 'love our neighbor as ourselves' and how much more so does this apply to our global neighborhood in the 21st Century.

Lets hope all people of faith can work much more actively for the good of our communities. Not just to counter the evil often perpetrated in the name of religion, but to actually obey their own central teachings.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Terrorism strikes the United Kingdom

Just over 24 hours after London's Olympic triumph, comes London's personal tradgedy.

A series of four bombs have exploded, so far claiming the lives of 33, and injuring 350 commuters.

These indiscriminate attacks highlight again the faceless, heartless evil of terrorism which wages war against everyday people like you and me.

It also seems that one of the attacks could also be the result of a suicide bombing, the first in the UK. It is suspected that a bomb on board a bus killed 10 passengers.

The UK war against terror took a devastating turn today and like before, a nation will change from henceforth.

My deepest Sympathies to all who have been involved or effected by today's attacks.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

And the winner is.....

London will host the 30th Olympiad in 2012. The announcement has just been made in Singapore by the Olympic President Jacques Rogge with thousands of spectators hanging on every word over in Trafalgar Square.

The city of London last hosted the Olympic flame back in 1948 with Wembley stadium being the centrepeice of the post-war olympic village. Wembley has of course changed considerably since but the 2012 games will be hosted at a custom built complex in Stratford, East London.

Paris looked sombre, London looks jubulant but isn't it time that the UK held one of the very best worldwide sporting events, especially after Manchester did such a sterling job of hosting the commonwealth games in 2002.

My congratulations to everyone involved with the London bid and I hope that today will mark the start of a new, Golden Age for British sport.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Everyone should blog...

I'm actually writing this at Hawkley Hall High School in Wigan, where I've been working with staff and pupils on radio broadcasting.

I'm also doing this as a small introduction to blogging itself, just to show how easy it is, so easy that even I can do it.

Blogging is a great way for people to write about anything of interest and its an excellent way for people to express opinion and write about anything that takes their fancy really!

Blogging isn't complicated but its great fun and who knows who may actually read what we're writing in this universal scrap book?

Monday, July 04, 2005

Live 8 - The dust settles.

A peak audience of 9.6m viewers watched the Live 8 coverage from the BBC over the weekend. With concerts held all over the world, the press reported it as an event which has changed the world, I agree totally however I wonder who's world will change the most?

Record sales for certain artists have already increased by about 1200% and although it's great that so many supported the cause, I personally don't think we should forget that the artists will undoubtedly profit from the event but maybe that's only fair?

I'm also slightly concerned that people may now think that after such a 'world changing' event that there's little more for us all to do. We could easily be excused, after listening to some, for thinking that the problem is now solved. After all, the world has pulled together and raised so much money. Surely it can't be long before the African problem is off the agenda completely? Well lets not be too hasty!

I think its great that so much money has been raised, by whatever means, but I also think that we need to follow that up with actual manpower to deliver aid, teaching and training and I worry that some of the charities which currently do this could now see a massive decrease in giving following such a 'successful' project like live 8. Yes Live 8 could actually cause some problems for small localised charity work in African countries.

And now I turn my attention, in this blog to G8. It's impressive to see my country taking such a lead in trying to create something of substance at this meeting of the richest 8 nations on the planet. I can't help thinking though that just like the 1200% pop-stars, some leaders may look for a public boost on the back of the great news that 'debts are to be cancelled' Now I may be a little cynical here but once again, I think that its far too simple to think that such a gesture will make much difference to the lives of ordinary people from the poorest African nations.

These countries could NEVER repay their debts anyway, so not much benefit there and I've yet to hear any announcement that these countries will not borrow again? So if they don't where do they get the money that they need? If they do borrow again, won't we end up in the same position again?

It seems to me, a casual observer, that such schemes as both Live 8 and G8 achieve more for the countries instigating the projects than the countries that may benefit.

I'd have to urge the Live 8 money to be spent wisely on project work which is sustainable and long term, and lets hope we don't fall into the same Tsunami problem where there was so much money but not enough workers and projects to spend it on.

And for G8, great to cancel the debt but how can we help these nations sustain and grow for themselves so that the problem doesn't re-appear?

that's my word on the matter...