Wednesday, 14 April 2010

TUC Welfare protest and 1st picnic of 2010

©Pennie Quinton

©Pennie Quinton

©Pennie Quinton

Monday, 12 April 2010

Danger of Tory Sus-style searches

By promising to reduce 'unnecessary' paperwork, the Tories would remove the last safeguards for stop-and-search victims

Today is the deadline for the government's submission to the European court of human rights requesting that 17 judges reconsider the original decision reached unanimously by seven judges last year – that being stopped and searched without suspicion under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 was a serious violation of the right to privacy. The section 44 test case test case that Kevin Gillan and I took with Liberty set out to demonstrate the scope for misuse and lack of accountability of the power.

Section 44 has often been viewed as Labour's reintroduction of the notorious Sus laws that provoked the 1981 Brixton riots following the police operation "Swamp" – an attempt to cut street crime which used the Sus law to stop more than 1,000 people without suspicion over six days. Recent statistics show that young black people and British Asian people are still six times more likely to be stopped by the police under a variety of search powers than white people.

A powerful new British film, called Sus, will open at the East End film festival on 24 April. Based on a true story, Sus is a harrowing illustration of what can go wrong when police powers are insufficiently regulated. Set on the eve of the 1979 general election, Delroy's pregnant wife has been found dead in a pool of blood. He is brought in under the Sus laws as the main suspect and suffers a night of degrading humiliation from two racist police officers. Rather than seeking to establish the truth, they resort to a brutal interrogation which will shatter Delroy's world forever.

In recent years, a populist campaigning tool of the Conservative party has been to use a "pot calling kettle" rhetoric on Labour's attacks on civil liberties. In the Conservative draft manifesto, while maintaining they will abolish section 44's stop-and-search powers, they still seek to reintroduce old Sus-style searches, eliminating the receipt we are entitled to receive as evidence. Without the form, there is even less accountability and fewer safeguards for the person searched. From the manifesto:

A Conservative government will reduce the amount of paperwork that the police have to deal with, starting by cutting the stop form entirely and reducing the burden of stop-and-search procedures. Any search will still be recorded but by an officer radioing in, rather than filling in time-consuming paperwork.

"Radioing a search in", as the Conservative draft manifesto suggests, does not provide this safeguard. If a police officer needs to search, what appeal do we have against their decision? Submission to the process is the only option to avoid a potentially tense situation accelerating as the receipt demonstrates that we have co-operated fully with the procedure. In the power relations that necessarily exist between the police forces and the public, accountability is a necessary reassurance.

• Sus will open at the Rich Mix Saturday 24 April 8pm, followed by a panel discussion with the filmmaker, actors Clint Dyer, Rafe Spall and Ralph Brown, and guests Doreen Lawrence, Stephen Kamlish QC, David Akinsanya, Pennie Quinton and Corinne Ferguson

East End Blossom

Monday, 5 April 2010

Video from the NUJ international Women's day event now on line.

Missing: 5000 women

THE MARCH London Freelance Branch meeting fell on International Women's Day, so we marked the occasion with a stellar list of speakers on the barriers women face in journalism - particularly broadcasting.

Dinah Caine  speaks
Dinah Caine speaks: watch video (QuickTime player required)

Dinah Caine is the Chief Executive of training organisation Skillset - which, as Pennie Quinton said introducing her, is "doing amazing work documenting the conditions women face working in TV and film".

The research findings she reported were not reassuring. The proportion of the "audiovisual" workforce who are women has fallen from 38 per cent in 2006 to 27 per cent in 2009. In television it fell from 45per cent to 41 per cent - which means 5000 women had left the industry, compared to 750 men.

This is despite the fact that more women in the industry are more qualified - 79 per cent are graduates, compared to 63 per cent of men. A clue to why and how this happened may lie in the proportion of women who were working as freelances; and in half the women in TV being under 35 years old.

Women are over-represented in fields like costume, wardrobe, makeup and hairdressing. The figure that illustrates the challenge to improving representation of women in media output is that only a quarter of those in "creative grades" are women.

More women than men have worked unpaid to get a foot in the door (47 per cent to 42 per cent) - as Dinah reported, this practice "is skewing the class profile, if not necessarily the gender profile" of the industry.

A year ago Skillset ( started working with newspapers and publishing generally, so we look forward to more data.

Katharine  Whitehorn speaks
Katharine Whitehorn speaks: watch video (QuickTime player required)

Columnist Katharine Whitehorn reflected on her 52 years in the NUJ: "there are ways in which things have got incomparably better for women," though she was "horrified" by Dinah's statistics. When she joined "the papers had a women's page, the rest of the paper was business and sport and news and foreign news - and sport."

In the 1950s that changed, almost entirely due to Mary Stott who, as a deputy sub on the Guardian, wrote a well-respected book on sub-editing - but was sent to the women's page because they had to train up a chief sub and that had to be a man.

In those days even male homosexuality had to go on the women's page, because it was the only place you could talk about human relationships, outside divorce proceedings. Observer editor David Astor found it difficult to hire women - so for that women's page he "hired George Seddon, who was a brilliant homosexual, as a sort of compromise."

Felicity Green, who started as a typist and ended up as deputy editor of the Daily Mirror, described the resulting broadening of coverage as "the feminisation of Fleet Street". "Never underestimate readers' intelligence," she said, "and never overestimate their knowledge". She was the first woman on the board of a Fleet Street paper - and left after another board member appointed on exactly twice her money.

Now, we have a woman foreign correspondent on the Times, a chief reporter at the Observer - and Julie Hillman "thought she'd made a great breakthrough" when she was allowed to report football as well as tennis.

Now, women are in many ways fighting the same battles as the men. Now women have the same trouble with sub-editors who won't see a joke without an appointment. And now people have no sense that it's in the least wrong to tell lies to women.

Everything is not, however, all right. "I think we're on to a different sort of fight," Katharine said, "which is how women are portrayed". We "had Blair's Babes... Can anyone imagine MPs like Eleanor Rathbone, who got family allowance paid direct to mothers, or Barbara Castle feeling they have to wear high heels or no-one would respect them?"

Kate Kinninmont   speaks
Kate Kinninmont speaks: watch video (QuickTime player required)

Kate Kinninmont arrived late, announcing "I've been waiting for this excuse all my career." The excuse was that she'd just been interviewed by Jon Snow, as Chief Executive of Women in Film and TV, (http{ about Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker getting six Oscars. As Dinah had already said, she's the first woman to win "best director" in 82 years of the awards.

With this news, "people are saying it must be better for women now. "No, it's got worse," Kate reported. Professor Martha Lauzen of San Diego State University does a study of the 250 top-grossing films, looking all the way through the credits. Just seven per cent are women. (See her research at

"When we discovered the 5,000 disappearing women" in UK TV, Kate was "shocked" She doesn't think people are consciously saying "let's just cut another woman out" - rather, "in this freelance world people appoint young men and young women, then think "she's around 30, she'll be having a baby'..." As a woman, "You have to work harder to count."

When Kate joined the BBC in Scotland in the early 1980s, having already had a professional career, people were asking "I can't place you - whose secretary are you?" After she'd left a woman approached her to say "I've always wanted to meet you: I was thinking about having a child and I was told there was a woman here once who had one..."

Yet women were in the forefront of the foundation of film. Among the first people to make a narrative film was Alice Guy in 1906. Then the movies moved to Hollywood and bankers and financiers came in: Film is high risk; they "see women are seen as higher-risk still".

Women, who are 51 per cent of the population, "cannot be satisfied with seven per cent telling the stories of human life and 13 per cent scriptwriting them".

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Sunday, 4 April 2010

Sea at Wapping.

The river was at high tide, a cold march day, walking and photographing and shivering.