An Irish Blessing as delivered by wonderful Maghull Wind Orchestra

Today saw the marvelous Maghull Wind Orchestra perform at the Palm House in Liverpool’s Sefton Park, a repeat of their performance there almost exactly a year ago.

Maghull Wind Orchestra in the wonderful setting of Sefton Park Palm House

Maghull Wind Orchestra in the wonderful setting of Sefton Park Palm House

This 74 piece band (of today) which has the ability to have over 100 members playing at any one time is a delight and I say that not just because Jen Robertson is a member. It is a unique community band which takes anyone who can play a wind instrument (although they do have a percussion section and a double bass) to whatever standard and they don’t have a membership fee.

Phil Shotton the MWO Conductor

Phil Shotton the MWO Conductor

My favorite tune that they play is called An Irish Blessing which was written for a brass or silver band to play. However so talented are MWO that one of their number has arranged it for for them and what a haunting tune it is that sends shivers down your spine.

The Top Brass, well those on the stage with many other below them and just as good too.

The Top Brass, well those on the stage with many others below them and just as good too.

I am not aware of a recording of An Irish Blessing on the internet from MWO so here is a silver band version. Bet it will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up:-

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bb5TKfS-bcA

28th April 2015 – STOP PRESS:-

A MWO version is now available on youtube – see link below

www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_NEG9x3gsM#t=21

The 3 photos are amongst my Flickr shots at:-
www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

Guest Posting from Jen Robertson – Why Now is the best time to be alive, Ever

2015 does not seem to have got off to an auspicious beginning. The news has been almost unrelentingly grim so when I came across an article headed ‘Why Now Is The Best Time To Be Alive, Ever’ I was only too eager to see what it had to say, especially as it is not a million miles from my own world view. The article cited most of the same examples that lead me to think the world is better than it has been throughout most points in history, though if you take a look at the headlines on any given day you might be forgiven for thinking quite the reverse.

I studied history at university and as a result I find I become quite annoyed with those who hark back to a ‘golden age’ when life was simpler and somehow better. History is sadly less glamorous and more grisly than that, not to mention very much more complicated, but plot the trends occurring over centuries and you start to realise that we are by no means in any kind of decline.

We’re getting healthier and living longer, not just in the richer parts of the world but as a general worldwide trend. There’s still a massive gap between the richer and poorer nations but all of them have an increased life expectancy compared to 200 years ago and for most of them the increase has been dramatic.

The world has become less violent, even if it doesn’t always seem that way. Our chances of dying due to the purposeful actions of other human beings have vastly decreased over the past few thousand years.

We have made the kinds of social progress that would have once been thought impossible. From the start of 20th century to the present day we can see a series of massive social changes bringing about greater (if by no means perfect) equality. In Britain we’ve extended voting rights, legalised homosexuality, abolished the death penalty, given women better control over their own bodies with the option of safe and legal abortion and contraception, and also taken steps towards a level of sexual equality that seems so very far from the situation of women at the start of the 20th century.

100 years ago I couldn’t have voted (and nor could a large proportion of men), I’d probably be married with children by this age and if I were not I would likely be subject a large amount of societal pressure on the matter. I’d be unlikely to have a university education. I’d be less likely to have even survived this long due to higher rates of child mortality. My difficulties with depression could have been described in any number of denigrating terms and treatments would have been likely to have been vastly unpleasant and dubiously beneficial if they were offered at all.

It makes me angry when people talk about being the first generation to be worse off than their parents because it just isn’t true if you value anything other than money, and possibly even then dependent upon who you are. Life was not better for those born fifty years ago if they happened to be female, or gay, or transgendered, or an ethnic minority, or indeed if they were in need of medical treatments not then invented.

So why are we so afraid of saying things have improved? Do we really think that by saying things are better that that means we condone everything about the world as it is? There is plenty of room for improvement (and there always will be) but acknowledging every once in a while that not everything we do is terrible, that the world around us is dark but not bereft of light, seems to me to be in no way in opposition to further improvement. This idea of forever blaming ourselves and assuming the human race can only end in disaster is not helpful to anyone. Thinking the world needs improvement may motivate you to do something about it, even if that something is as seemingly small a gesture as ticking a box on a ballot paper or throwing your empty can into the recycling. The attitude that things are getting worse and will not get better however seems unlikely to inspire anyone towards anything conducive to improving the world around them. It has become fashionable, it seems, to be cynical, to assert that the world and the human race are awful beyond redemption, that it always gets worse, that all groups, businesses, political parties, are corrupt and self-serving, and that those who think otherwise are either hopelessly naive or else peddling the latest opium for the masses.

Perhaps at the heart of this cynicism is the fear, not that we are going to fail, but that we might succeed. Failure is easy, success however requires hard work and effort and then is still not guaranteed. To hold success as a possibility is to admit we have a hard road ahead. Cynicism can be funny, thought-provoking and, as long it is kept in check, there’s nothing wrong with it, but cynicism seems to me an unlikely path to progress. Just as we should not be naïve about the mistakes we are making, we should not be overly cynical about the successes we enjoy.

You’ve never had it so good? Perhaps. It should go without saying though, still not good enough. Why not let past successes spur us on to greater efforts and better things, rather than being dragged down in the morass of mistakes we have made. The world’s been getting slowly better over centuries but it’s up to us to determine whether or not this trend will continue.

Some interesting links that might make you feel a little better about the world.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbkSRLYSojo

www.youtube.com/watch?v=ramBFRt1Uzk

Labour’s patronising pitch to women – A Guest posting from Jen Robertson

I was pretty patronised by Labour’s now infamous pink bus, until I read the actual article in the Guardian and realised there were far bigger worries on that front than simply the colour of the transport. Such as the fact Labour appear to think women are to be found “around the kitchen table” and has “decided” our priorities are “childcare, social care, domestic violence, equal pay and political representation”. The stereotypical ‘caring’ aspects of politics to match women’s stereotypically ‘caring’ roles within society.

HarrietHarman

I found this particular quote incredibly worrying. Lucy Powell, one of Labour’s general election co-ordinators said that Labour was taking its message to female voters because they wanted to “have a conversation about the kitchen table and around the kitchen table” rather than having an “economy that just reaches the boardroom table”. Because of course a woman’s natural habitat is in the kitchen. It sounds like something a politician from the 1970s would have come out with, let’s put economics into terms the little woman can understand!

This seems to be very much promoting a view of women as mothers and caregivers, and nothing else, who can be found in the kitchen and at the school gates (well neither are where you’ll find me or I imagine many other women, especially in the current economy when being a stay at home mum with time to drop off and pick up your kids from school is a luxury many cannot afford anyway!). The worst of this of course is that women are disadvantaged and under-represented within politics and this kind of approach to the issue simply makes things worse. We wind up laughing at or affronted by a poorly thought through campaign tactic instead of focusing on the aspects of politics that put women off becoming involved (such as a media more interested in what female politicians are wearing than what they’re saying) and the growing apathy and voter turnout that’s not simply evident amongst women but the population at large. We’re not Barbie dolls, our clothes are not more important than our politics, and we don’t need a pink van, we need to seen as equals instead of something ‘other’.

Maghull Wind Orchestra – Plays to sell out audience at Southport’s Little Theatre

IMG_3771

The huge orchestra fills the stage

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Conductor Phil Shotton

Maghull Wind Orchestra, now over 100 strong, played to a sell out crowd of 400 in Southport’s Little Theatre tonight and a great concert it was too. What’s more around £3,500 was raised from the event in aid of Queenscourt Hospice.

Some great pieces were played but my favourite was The Irish Blessing by Joyce Ellers Bacak, arranged by Adam Dutch. What a beautiful piece. Hope MWO put it on You Tube soon as it deserves a wider audience.

I think there were 3 Maghull councillors present i.e. Jen Robertson in the Orchestra playing the flute, me in the audience and I think I saw Town Mayor Joan Deegan as well.

Paris Masacre and Liberal values

If a large enough group of someones is willing to kill you for saying something, then it’s something that almost certainly needs to be said, because otherwise the violent have veto power over liberal civilization, and when that scenario obtains it isn’t really a liberal civilization any more.

Quoted from Ross Douthat – New York Times. Credit to Jen Robertson for picking up on this thought provoking libertarian view.

Maghull – Pizza Shop to take over former off-licence shop?

A planning application has gone in to Sefton Council to convert a former off-licence premises in Maghull’s Liverpool Road North into a pizza shop and it is proving to be controversial with residents living close to the site.

One of the problems of this mixed shopping/residential area is the lack of parking. There are houses on both Liverpool Road North and Gordon Avenue that don’t have off-street park facilities and the parking outside of the shops is very limited indeed. The only car park is that of the Coach and Horses Pub and it has previously installed gates in an attempt to keep shop customers from taking up its parking spaces.

So with this background another shop that could bring with it the need to park cars for a while whilst orders are filled out may well make the parking problems even worse. Here is a photo of the shop unit concerned:-

rsz_photo1137

The unit is the one closest to the camera. Those with longish Maghull memories will recall that the whole shopping mall from Gordon Avenue (the entrance to which is in the foreground) to Granville Avenue (the road at the end of the mall furthest away from the camera) was once a Co-Op and the unit I am on about was its off-license. The Co-Op sadly closed in the mid 1980’s.

The other problem in front of these shops is that the pavement is also a parking area meaning that at times there can be dangerous interaction between pedestrians and vehicles. You certainly need to careful when walking past these shops as cars can come at you from any angle. This poorly maintained area (damaged wall and pot holes) is in private ownership.

Being a member of Sefton’s Planning Committee I will have to keep away from voting on this application because Jen lives close enough to it to have an interest in it and in such circumstances it would be wrong of me to participate in the decision making process.

Another association that I have with this row of shops goes back to 1985, the year I was first elected as a councillor in Maghull, as I fought off a planning application for a hot food take away (and won the fight) on behalf of local residents. 30 years on and a hot food take away is being proposed again. What goes around comes around they say.