Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Layer 333 . . . Radio 4, Reasons to be Cheerful, and a Big Lunch

I heard on the radio recently someone saying, with absolute authority, "We can never get rid of aggression and jealousy in human beings . . . "

Really? The good news is that we have techniques for controlling these destructive emotions - techniques which centre on learning to be emotionally, socially and spiritually intelligent. We're just waiting, some of us, for our school system to enable our children to develop these intelligences in any thorough and significant way - and to do it day after day, throughout each day. Thank goodness it's already happening in more enlightened countries.


Possibly the best antidotes to destructive emotions are laughter and music. People like the Dalai Lama and the Zen masters laugh a lot.

I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue is back to its very best - Mondays at 6.30 on R4. Jack Dee is turning out to be a very good choice for the successor to Humph. Maybe the humour in this programme isn't for everyone, but if you think it might be hilarious to hear two people playing "Sisters" as a duet for swanee whistle and kazoo - tune in now.


Desert Island Discs was superb this week - Tim Robbins is a very interesting guy, and has brilliant taste in music. Springsteen, Joni, Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye and more.

During the programme he recalled his dad's band, The Highwaymen, and their version of Donovan's 'Universal Soldier':

Repeated on Friday, but also on the website.

The BBC website for DID gets better and better:

Unfortunately Tim's track of Ry Cooder with V.M. Bhatt isn't available on Spotify, but I noticed other Ry Cooder classics are there - especially Theme from Southern Comfort, Get Rhythm and The Very Thing That Makes You Rich. So are The Bourgeois Blues, Across The Borderline, and The Way We Make A Broken Heart.


Big Society, Big Lunch

This year's Big Lunch Day was Sunday 18th July. This is only its second year, but it could grow into a national phenomenon. So what is it? I hear you ask.

The Big what?

It’s a one-day get together with your neighbours on Sunday 18th July 2010. It can be anything from a simple lunch to a full-blown street party with DJs and a home cooked feast.

Why be involved?

You’ll enjoy it. Food, music and laughter tastes, sounds and feels better with others.

The Big Lunch began life as a wild seed at The Eden Project. We believe the world can get better by working together, with nature, optimism and common sense.

We know that when people get together, we become more positive and start to sort out some serious stuff. By simply having some fun on one day in July, we can build new friendships that we can enjoy for the rest of the year.

The Big Lunch is a chance for different generations and backgrounds to hear each other out and share stories, skills and interests. It's the start of a journey into rebuilding our communities. We call this phenomenon ‘human warming’.

Make isolation history

For most of us, doing The Big Lunch is simply about having fun and sending a message to the establishment that we're not all going to hell in a handcart. But there are many of us who lead lonely lives or at least more isolated or anonymous lives than we’d like. The stats don’t make easy reading but if we want to turn them around, we need to hear them:

    * Two million more single person households by 2019.
    * More rich, poor and ethnic ghettos than ever before.
    * 7% annual drop in trust between neighbours from 2003-05.
    * Social trust in the UK halved and now among the lowest in Europe.

So, you might think a street party is the last thing you’d do to tackle crime, domestic violence, homelessness or children in poverty. But as a catalyst facing up to tough issues, it works, as anyone who took part last year knows. When doors open up, people open up and neighbourhoods open up, from sleepy hamlets to hyper estates.

Why the Eden Project kick-started The Big Lunch

We believe the world can get better by working together, with nature, optimism and common sense. We took a former china clay pit and turned it into a landscape capable of sustaining plants from all over the world to prove the point.

Ten years on, we’re developing more wild ideas to help us face up to the challenges of the toughest century on record. Global warming needs human warming. The odd light bulb here and there won’t work. Ideas like The Big Lunch just might if we join up our efforts. Change the way we live, do the things we know we should, and we’ll leave the planet in a ripe state for our children, their children, and so on.

Eden is all about projects, we believe in experiments that live, eat, breathe and with luck, thrive. Eden is a celebration of life. People say it puts champagne in your veins, which sounds a lot more fun than chlorophyll. Although Eden kick-started The Big Lunch (and are working hard to help it grow year on year), we’re resisting the temptation to own or control the day. We want to keep it organic, create a mood, a rumour.

As we said, it’s your party.


As far as I can see, pretty much anything that Tim Smit gets involved in turns out to be pretty special - The Lost Gardens of Heligan, The Eden Project, and now The Big Lunch.

So does the event live up to its billing? The 'lunch' I was invited to certainly did.

Seeing a typical London street completely empty of vehicles is an experience in itself. As someone said - they're surprisingly W I D E.

In the centre of the street, within a simple frame of wooden planks, a ton of sand created a brilliant beach for the kids to play on, right next to two large blow-up paddling pools. They had even covered them with a huge colourful sunshade, strung between four houses. What could be more brilliant for kids than to come out of their houses in bare feet and swimming cossies, carrying buckets and spades, and get busy on their very own beach?

Someone had set up a DJ station in front of his house, using the street's own community wi-fi to play a Spotify feed through laptops and big speakers - an amazing variety of brilliant music - all day long, and into the evening, at which point there was literally dancing in the street - some of it very tipsy.

Everyone contributed food - either in dishes and casseroles, or to be cooked on the barbeques. Feed the world!

Someone had organised a bunch of people - adults and children - to play a variety of instruments and lead everyone in singing some favourite songs. Who knew so many neighbours had such musical talent? There were guitars, cellos, recorders, drums and various percussion.

The sun shone, and people actually mingled and talked to one another. All the generations together, from four months to well over eighty. I met a young guy who has a recording studio set up at home, and an older guy who's really into the local live music scene, who readily offered to pick out some places to introduce me to. Someone else reminded me that it's really worth keeping in touch with the Vortex.

As darkness descended, sitting on the front steps of the houses, even my cynical son agreed that it was a brilliant day, and people ought to live like this every week - not just on a single day of the year. By then his own son was soundly asleep upstairs, having spent the whole day toddling from beach to pool and from person to person. His dog was also sleeping contentedly, having had endless fussing and food from practically everyone there. A very happy Staffie.

People got to know one another, and got to know one another's children, and dogs. It was a day full of sunshine, music, laughter, amusement, entertainment, conversation, good food, good beer and good wine.

Exactly as it says on the Big Lunch label.


Big Society

David Cameron reveals 'big society' vision – and denies it is just cost cutting

Cameron also outlined three strands of the big society agenda. These included social action for which the government had to foster a culture of voluntarism and philanthropy. There was also public service reform – getting rid of centralised bureaucracy "that wastes money and undermines morale" – and community empowerment, "creating communities with oomph", the neighbourhoods being "in charge of their own destiny".

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