Art galleries in northern France: La Piscine Roubaix beats Louvre Lens

The north of France is a lot like the north of England. It’s a bit colder, metropolitan types think it has funny accents and food and it has suffered from a decline in industry, particularly mining. Lille should get itself twinned with Manchester – both cities have great histories and great ambitions for the future (and both are now major student and cultural centres). Continue reading “Art galleries in northern France: La Piscine Roubaix beats Louvre Lens”

Four Scottish communities purchase their neighbourhoods

Helped by grant money, three community groups have succeeded in purchasing their land collectively

All abilites path on the Little Assynt Estate near LochinverToday on the Guardian’s Social Enterprise Network I write about two decades of community land ownership in the north-west Highlands of Scotland. Assynt Crofters’ Trust bought the land on which 13 townships stand on 1 February 1993, and the majority of the huge, but very lightly populated, area around Lochinver is now owned by its community. Today sees a further step, with a government-funded community purchase (the Scottish Land Fund, via the Big Lottery Fund) of the smokehouse in Achiltibuie, a little to the south – along with three announcements elsewhere in Scotland. Continue reading “Four Scottish communities purchase their neighbourhoods”

ID cards Shred Day, two years later

Minister Damian Green shows an ID card hard drive ready to be destroyedOn 11 February 2011, I got on a train to Witham in Essex to witness Home Office minister Damian Green destroying hard drives used for the ID cards’ National Identity Scheme – and took photos including this one. (That’s Mr Green, in the hi-vis vest, tie and black gloves.) The resulting news story is here, along with a gallery. ID cards Shred Day was, at the very least, surreal. Continue reading “ID cards Shred Day, two years later”

Cornwall council’s privatisation compromise

The west country council came perilously close to outsourcing a wide range of services to BT. Why did it change its mind?

Based on a set of interviews with councillors, and a trip to Bodmin to take a look at the Beacon technology park courtesy of Ann Kerridge – some images in the gallery above – this is my first piece in my second run as a freelance journalist, for the Guardian’s Society pages. Cornwall council is taking a pragmatic approach to outsourcing, trying to create and protect local jobs, increase efficiency and involve its local NHS trusts.

Continue reading “Cornwall council’s privatisation compromise”

The good cathedral food guide to Hereford, Brecon, Chester and London

There are plenty of reasons to visit Britain’s cathedrals, including faith, history and spectacular architecture. Formerly, food may not have been one of them. However, along with other improvements in British cuisine, my research suggests that it is now possible to find good cathedral food – if not in the same building, then in a suitably Christian location not far away. Continue reading “The good cathedral food guide to Hereford, Brecon, Chester and London”