Blog: 2017

London's cultural offer to the world at risk from development
By Coco Piras

The reason cited by millions of visitors to London as to what brings them to the capital is its culture - theatres and galleries large and small, music venues, clubs, arts communities and studios and let's not forget the graffiti and other street art. 

But as planning permission is granted for ever more large scale development - usually for 'luxury' apartment blocks and offices - so the arts are squeezed because high rents means there's nowhere to relocate to. (Teacup chandelier maker Madeleine Boulesteix is a case in point: the arts venue in south London where she and many other artists had lived and worked for decades was closed and the site sold to a developer. She's now based in Devon.)

So the London Assembly's Regeneration Committee has produced a report highlighting the threat posed to the capital's still vibrant art scene by developers which urges the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, to take action now. Recommendations include:

·         Developing a bold programme to create and promote sustainable culture in the capital.
·         Ensuring that the new London Plan includes an affordable cultural workspace policy that means there's affordable cultural workspace in every large new planning development.
·         Carrying out research to better understand ‘affordability’ for the cultural and creative sectors. Better quality data on culture in London is essential.
·         Urgently piloting a Creative Enterprise Zone in London, which includes both affordable housing and workspace co-located together.
·         Protecting not just the famous iconic venues in London, but also smaller grassroots venues.
London is home to a staggering 857 galleries, 215 museums, 320 live music venues and 241 theatres and 80 per cent of visitors to London cite ‘culture and heritage’ as the reason for their visit. And don't forget the creative industries account for one in six jobs in London (16.2 per cent), with almost a third of the UK's creative jobs being based in the capital. 
However regeneration programmes, which now cover large areas of London, are putting the capital’s cultural offer at risk. Between 2007 and 2015, the city lost 35 per cent of its grassroots music venues, a decline from 136 venues to just 88. And some 3,500 artists are likely to lose their places of work by 2019.
The Mayor of London has made the promotion of London’s as the best city in the world for culture one of his priorities, and the Regeneration Committee says that means taking action to curb rising property prices which are forcing artists out of their areas.


Culture, Development, Environment and ecology, art
Calling all couch potatoes..get a standing desk!
By Hari Alexander
Here's something that should get you up on your pins - Britons will spend more than 18 years of their adult lifetime sitting down. And sitting down all the time is not good for us, as we all know.
Despite all the gyms and fitness boot camps and home exercise equipment on sale, most of us continue to lead very sedentary lifestyles – spending 51 hours and 44 minutes seated during a typical week, according to recent research. That amounts to more than seven hours a day in their chairs – 4.5  of those hours being at work. The study also found lots of us spend 13.5 hours a week sitting down watching television.
Paul Chamberlain at Solgar UK, which commissioned the research, says inactivity is a real problem with the modern lifestyle: 'Our study of 2000 adults found people exercise only for a fraction of the amount of time they spend sitting down, which can lead to joint and muscle problems. We forget that we weren't built to sit still all the time but designed to move.'
Forty-five per cent of those questioned say they have no idea how much exercise they should do each week, and three quarters say their workplace does nothing to encourage more movement. (The World Health Organisation recommends adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, or 30 minutes on at least five days.) And over half of respondents say they sometimes sit still for so long they get a sore back.
Fifty per cent of respondents say they’re glued to their desk chairs because they’re too busy to move, and while one in ten of respondents say they worry that colleagues will think they’re not working hard enough if they take a standing break.
So good to hear that more than a quarter of respondents say they would welcome a 'standing desk' and this should act as a spur to companies to invest in these pieces of furniture, while we can also use them at home.
Standing desk makers include Ai Box, which offers very inexpensive cardboard standing desks, and Ikea, which has a good range.
Ironically inactivity is one of the major causes of joint pain because sitting for long period places pressure on the spine and joints.
For some people years of inactivity can lead to weight gain, which increases stress on the joints, along with increasing inflammation which again can impact on joint health.
Furniture, Health, Lifestyle, recycling, eco friendly
California: slower shipping speeds help protect the whale
By Bea Grbic
Shipping company Evergreen Line has been recognised for its outstanding work in voluntary environmental and ecological protection.
From July to November it took part in a protection programme focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from vessels and avoiding whale collisions by encouraging slow sailing speeds in California’s Santa Barbara Channel region.
Vessels in the programme were required to reduce speeds to 12 knots or less within 95 nautical miles of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. This helps minimize greenhouse gas emissions and so improve air quality in port communities; and during the five-month period the result was a reduction of more than 1,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases and 27 tons of nitrogen oxides (NOx), the smog-forming air pollutant.
The July to November period sees an increase in whale population in the Santa Barbara Channel region - these include blue, humpback and fin whales. With thousands of vessels sailing through the Channel each year, ship strikes are a major threat to the endangered whale population. Slowing ship speeds has been proven to reduce the risk of such fatal strikes.
Kristi Birney, marine conservation analyst for the Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense Center, says shipping companies need to be aware that speed can result in fatal strikes: 'Slower moving ships down provide whale conservation -  as well as cleaner air for us to breathe here on the shore.'
Environment and ecology, Wildlife protection