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culture

On the kindness of people, and the violence of the state

If I had known how hard a 10 week trial on terror-related charges for a peaceful protest would be, I don’t know how I could have faced it. It was the support people offered from the most surprising places that got us through it.

I’m one of the Stansted 15 convicted, controversially, for a terror-related offence following a peaceful blockade of a Home Office deportation charter flight, for which we narrowly escaped prison sentences last Wednesday. We thought it might be an endurance test in the courtroom which would last as long as four weeks – but it turned out to be a gruelling 10-week ordeal that showed me just how scary it is to face the threat of state intervention into your life. But throughout that whole time, it was the kindness of the court staff and the community of Chelmsford that transformed a traumatic experience into one which strengthened the movement for migrant rights.

On the day I testified before the jury, we had sat silently through five weeks of prosecution evidence which felt to us like it completely misrepresented what had taken place on the night. I was in tears when I finally stepped down from the stand after being cross-examined for three intense hours of non-stop interrogation. For the 18 months since our charge had changed from one which carries a three-month jail term to one which carries life in prison, we had all had to carry the weight of considering what we stood to lose – homes, jobs, relationships – and begun to fear how our co-defendant’s baby, due just weeks after verdict, might start his young life, possibly without his mother.

This high pressure, high stakes scenario would have been enough to topple the most resilient among us. But we had something on our side that the Crown Prosecution Service didn’t expect. We were surrounded by the kindness of people who were once strangers, and are now our friends.

The community of Chelmsford churches from Anglican to Quakers, and a few socialists mixed in, stepped forward with open arms – sometimes with nervous caution that soon melted as we got to know how alike we all were. The Bishop of Chelmsford petitioned the Crown Court on our behalf, and the Cathedral hosted us and our legal counsel frequently as a retreat from the loud, airless, verbose environment of the courtroom.

The night before I gave my closing speech I had messages of prayers from Muslim friends in London, the Anglican and Quaker network in Chelmsford and even from one of the people who, because of our peaceful blockade, was able to be with his partner for the birth of their daughter and conclude his successful application for leave to remain. A multitude of people said they were with us in spirit, and we knew they meant it.

But possibly the most heartening kindness was our daily reception in the courthouse by the court staff. Between them, the head of security, who here I’ll call Terry, and the chief court clerk, who here I’ll call Stella, were able to enact the simple idea of humanity that says everyone deserves to be treated like a whole person in a way I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. Terry always met us at the security check with a smile and a joke. Stella watched over us in the dock with the utmost care and attention. We knew this was their way: they would have offered this to anyone, we weren’t special. People do their jobs in different ways, but the compassion and humour Stella and Terry showed us were enough to prick a decent hole in the veneer of state power embodied by the courtroom and the threat of incarceration it houses.

Ultimately that’s what we’d been trying to do with our peaceful protest back in March 2017, when we stopped a deportation charter flight taking 60 people to a place where they feared their lives would be in danger. To offer a small kindness to people who may have felt they had reached their darkest hour, having been ripped from their families and communities – many people who are taken into detention or deported have lived in the UK for well over a few years – and taken to an airport in the middle of the night to be forced onto a plane for which they were given a deportation order as little as five days previous. From the flight we stopped, 11 people are still here because it’s clear they were to be wrongfully deported that night, two have the right to remain now, and two women have now been recognised by the Home Office victims of trafficking. This is the obvious risk of the Home Office’s mass deportation charter flights; that the government bundles people off without looking properly at their cases. At the most recent deportation charter flight, the first to Jamaica since the Windrush scandal, also last Wednesday, 15 of the 50 people due to be deported were given a last minute reprieve, suggesting just how many more might have been able to secure an injunction given only a few more days.

Our action was one small kindness among many that people across the UK, nationals and non-nationals alike, are organising to welcome and support people seeking refuge and people currently being denied basic rights by the government. Hundreds of migrant support groups across the country are assisting migrants and asylum-seekers to find their way in a strange country, having escaped a worse fate elsewhere. Hundreds of people visit the 3000 people currently held indefinitely in immigration detention centres in a loophole of habeas corpus that those suffering inside describe as ‘worse than prison’, while thousands more campaign to close them, to let people continue to live with their families and in their communities while their applications are heard by the asylum and immigration courts. A national network of groups campaign for the rights of migrants and asylum seekers to basic survival needs like medical attention, a bank account and the chance to work.

All of these efforts are a testament to the power of human kindness against the shocking daily violence of the state. If the government continue to insist on scapegoating immigrants as an excuse for the failures of austerity and Brexit, it is this very real connection between the rest of us that can stand to sustain a country that is not built on fear and hatred, but instead on kindness and the knowledge that someone who was once a stranger may soon become a dear friend.

Follow Mel Evans on Twitter, and learn more about what she’s fighting for on the End Deportations website.

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Design

This is the tallest 3D printed sculpture of a human

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James Bruton built the sculpture over a two month period. After all the work, the 3.62-meter sculpture turned him into a Guinness World Records title holder, which was the main purpose of his endeavor.

The record was announced in celebration of the  Guinness World Records: Science and Stuff book. Read more…

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biology science

A deadly predator could save the UK’s threatened red squirrels

Britain’s native red squirrels have been retreating for decades in the face of invasive grey squirrels, but predators called pine martens could help save them

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Design

This company creates custom 3D printed jewelry in 18 carat gold

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Precious Project‘ is a collaboration between UK designers, software developers and precious metals suppliers. They aimed to experiment with digital manufacturing and create unique and affordable 3D printed jewelry. Read more…

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culture

It’s time to talk about how Britain treats its homeless

It’s early in 2018, yet it seems one trend is already taking hold in Windsor: the bold return of feudalism. Any wedding involves mind-melding amounts of preparation, but only a royal wedding could demand the clearing of homeless people from the streets to avoid the glances of the massed crowds landing on a huddled rough sleeper. Nothing, according to the council responsible for the move, should detract from the pomp and pageantry of Harry and Meghan Markle’s big day, and presumably the realisation that all subjects are not equal risks damaging the patriotism around the event.

The move has provoked outspoken fury, with homelessness charities and even the prime minister condemning the decision from the council. But elsewhere, other homeless people were the subject of much less compassion and concern. After the Manchester bombing last year, two homeless men were lauded for their bravery in rushing to offer help to injured victims. Thousands were raised online for the pair afterwards, and offers of work and accommodation were forthcoming. Half a year on, one is in prison, admitting to stealing credit cards from victims in the mayhem, and the other has not been seen for some time: much of the money raised for both men has been returned to the donors.

A fair amount of anger was directed at both men, for their behaviour or failing to live up to the hopes of donors, but several people contacted me in a righteous fury, claiming this showed treating homeless people with compassion or undertaking any charity was pointless at best and harmful at worst. The men were responsible for their circumstances, and even when offered a route out of homelessness and addiction, dashed such chances and remained entrenched in drug use and rough sleeping.

This misunderstands both charity and empathy. The people furious at the Manchester rough sleepers were annoyed that their empathy had not been appreciated or reciprocated – but neither charity nor empathy should be treated as transactional. The tendency to feel anger or hurt when your efforts for others are neither appreciated nor returned is natural, but should be overcome. Kindness shouldn’t be reduced to a use value, with the expectation it is extended only to be returned. It should be an aim of everyone in society, for the sake of transforming the world we live in.

There are myriad of reasons why someone might not show appreciation for efforts you make for them – both men in Manchester had substance abuse issues which are notoriously difficult to overcome – but withholding help or affection rarely helps ease any social relations. Even the smallest polite acts for strangers can have a transformative effect on someone’s day: if a neighbour smiles and says hello as I leave my flat for the tube, I’ll be buoyed, but if someone refuses to move their bag from an unoccupied seat, it can tip me from a disgruntled mood into a quiet rage.  You don’t move your bag because you anticipate a nodded thanks, but because you are part of society, and it’s a thoughtful thing to do for other members.

But even if, like the Manchester rough sleepers, the kindness extended to them is waved away, they shouldn’t be considered beyond help and undeserving of any future charity. Getting out of undesirable situations and finding the help you need is a long process: many rough sleepers will die young, despite attempts to engage them in schemes charities run. But many will eventually accept help and charity and manage to rebuild their lives. Offering help comes with the expectation that it will often be rejected: but unless people continue to proffer help, when someone finally needs and is willing to accept charity or assistance, it won’t be there. That’s a mark of a crueller, colder society: not one that many of us would relish living in.

Follow Dawn Foster on Twitter

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Design

This designer creates giant portraits made out of fabric

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Benjamin Shine is a pioneering designer and artist, who developed a technique to “paint with fabric.” His work focuses on creating delicate, yet accurate, portraits made out of tulle. Read more…

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science

UK has first coal-free power day since the Industrial Revolution

Enlarge / London’s coal-powered Battersea Power Station in 1937. Yes, originally it only had two chimneys but was extended after World War II. (credit: Fox Photos/Getty Images)

In 1882, the world’s first coal-fired public-use power station opened in London at 57 Holborn Viaduct—today a fairly nondescript location in the centre of London close to Blackfriars. On Friday, some 135 years, a few monarchs, and an entire Industrial Revolution later, the UK power grid had its first ever day without coal energy.

The National Grid control room announced on April 21 that from 11pm on Thursday to 11pm on Friday the UK’s electricity demand was supplied without firing up some coal power plants. The UK’s power mix for the day was: 50.3% natural gas, 21.2% nuclear, 12.2% wind, 8.3% imported from France, the Netherlands, and Ireland, 6.7% biomass, and 3.6% solar. (That appears to come to 102.3%… better to supply too much power than not enough, perhaps?)

As you can see from the graph above, coal-free Friday was more of an eventual inevitability than a surprise. The UK has been rapidly scaling back its coal use—it accounted for 23 percent of our power use in 2015, then 9 percent in 2016—and the government says it wants to close down all remaining coal power plants by 2025.

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Art

Rainbow Artist Liz West Wants You to Design Your Own Color Wheel

It’s no secret that everyone perceives color differently—in fact, we’re still triggered by the phrase, “black and blue or white and gold?“—but color field artist Liz West seeks to more concretely define different perceptions of the spectrum in a new project called Our Colour Wheel.

Named in the style of her light installations Your Colour Perception, Our Colour Reflection, and Our Colour, each of which feels like stepping into a rainbow, Our Colour Wheel reveals what those colors look like in the minds of 11 friends and colleagues. Here’s the Manchester-based artist’s own version:

Liz West, Our Colour Wheel, 2016-17. Image Credit – Liz West

West’s process is intensely research-based, and her work is often displayed at science museums rather than art galleries. She researches the way we see color and makes art that makes tangible her findings. The subjects for Our Colour Wheel are sourced from Leeds College, where she taught color theory from 2003-4. “I hand-selected the people who I wanted to contribute to Our Colour Wheel as I felt they offered a diverse range of skills and personalities,” she tells Creators. “Some of the students I was in the same year in have gone on to become artists, like myself, whilst others have taken non-creative jobs.”

The professions include landscape architects, rowers, photographers, and teachers. West requested the specifics of which wheel belongs to which profession remain a mystery so viewers can make their own guesses. “There is a definite collation between the participants and their painted wheels,” she explains. In her own judgement, the participants’ interpretations of the wheel reflect their personalities, styles, agendas, and aesthetics. 

“Physically demonstrating individuals perception of color is the exact reason that I wanted to make this body of works, as it taps into people’s color awareness as much, but in a different way, to my immersive color-based installation works,” West says. She came up with the idea when she woke up at three in the morning during the process of preparing for an installation at Leeds College in 2016. She spent nearly a year perfecting the brief, and today she releases the first set in what will become a sprawling project. “It’s an ongoing series of work which l will keep making throughout my life and career as an artist,” she says. “I’d like to gather hundreds or even thousands of paintings over time.”

The full list of professions represented includes artists, professor, tutors, lecturers, care assistants, landscape architects, rowers,  curators, photographers, authors, graphic designers, and high school teachers (note that there are some duplicates). See if you can match them to the color wheels below.

Liz West, Our Colour Wheel, 2016-17. Image Credit – Liz West, Fiona Grady

Liz West, Our Colour Wheel, 2016-17. Image Credit – Liz West, Melissa Burn

Liz West, Our Colour Wheel, 2016-17. Image Credit – Liz West, Ric Warren

Liz West, Our Colour Wheel, 2016-17. Image Credit – Liz West, Freye Stansfield

Liz West, Our Colour Wheel, 2016-17. Image Credit – Liz West, Jimmy Edmondson

Liz West, Our Colour Wheel, 2016-17. Image Credit – Liz West, Olivia Truelove

Liz West, Our Colour Wheel, 2016-17. Image Credit – Liz West, Helen Shaddock

Liz West, Our Colour Wheel, 2016-17. Image Credit – Liz West, Freya Stansfield

Liz West, Our Colour Wheel, 2016-17. Image Credit – Liz West, Tristan Chadderton

Liz West, Our Colour Wheel, 2016-17. Image Credit – Liz West, Ruth Freeman

Liz West, Our Colour Wheel, 2016-17. Image Credit – Liz West, Garry Barker

We’d love to see your takes on the iconic color wheel. Make your own version and tweet it to us at @CreatorsProject or Instagram it and tag @Creators_Project. See more of Liz West’s work on her website.

Related:

Step Inside A 5,000 Square Foot Rainbow

A Black And White Video Slowly Turns To Color, But How?

This Mirrored Rainbow Room Is a Playground for Light

No, This Chef Isn’t Serving An Entire Meal on Diners’ Hands

Over the past few years, an increasing number of restaurants have ditched the idea of plates in favor of serving their appetizers and entrees in annoying new configurations, whether that means your burger is balancing in a small cast iron skillet, your candied bacon starter is sticking out of a Mason jar, or your full English breakfast arrives on a shovel. At this point, if it’s a noun, someone is probably trying to arrange your next meal in, on, or around it.

But no, a new restaurant in Plymouth, England is not serving all of its food on the backs of diners’ hands, despite what you might have read on the internet. Yes, the Brown & Bean, which was just opened by Michelin-starred chef (and Masterchef: The Professionals winner) Anton Piotrowski does have one starter that involves licking a burnt apple puree from your own fingers, but everything else on the nine-course tasting menu is served on—gasp!—a traditional plate or bowl.

“How everyone’s described it is that basically all we’re doing is serving on naked bodies and stuff,” Piotrowski told MUNCHIES. “But that’s not the case at all.”

All of those hysterical “MASTERCHEF WINNER SERVES FOOD ONTO CUSTOMER’S HANDS” headlines appear to have been spawned (and condensed) from Louise Daniel’s review of the restaurant for the Plymouth Herald. “I don’t think [the tabloids] got the right end of the story on that,” Piotrowski said. “But that’s The Sun. That’s what you get when really bad journalism goes out.”

Daniel’s reportage on her own experience does talk about this now-buzzy starter: The cover photo shows a savory-looking puree spread on the back of someone’s hand, with the caption “At Brown & Bean, you eat off your hand.” But that’s far from being the whole story—or the whole meal.

Piotrowski said that the dehydrated pork, apple puree, and pork gravy starter is meant to give guests a literal taste of what it’s like to work in a busy kitchen. “The whole dish is an experience of how a chef would taste off his hand,” he said. “When you’re busy in service, and you have purees coming up, a chef will come up to you and say ‘Is this ok?’ and then put it on your hand. The dish is called How the Chef Tastes.”

The apple puree is spread on the back of the diner’s hand, so you can lick that—and the gravy—from your own fingers. (“Like you would at home, when you finish an amazing meal,” he said.) He included it on the menu for that very reason: to make his customers feel comfortable and at home before they settled in for the other eight courses. “And underneath their hand is a plate,” Piotrowski added with a laugh.

The rest of Daniel’s review was glowing, and she gave the one-week old restaurant a rating of 8 out of 10. “Barring the odd minor misstep, this is seriously good eating,” she wrote. “Prepare to be taken on a culinary journey which evokes memories by turning classics combinations into smaller plates of hearty, well thought out food.”

See that? Plates. He’s serving plates of food. Your move, breakfast-on-a-shovel chef.

This Restaurant Banned Avocado from Its Menu for Being Too Basic

At this point, avocados are inescapable. You can’t throw one of their oversized seeds without hitting something related to the world’s most overexposed healthy fat. The internet is littered with slideshows for SEVEN LIT AF AVOCADO TOAST RECIPES, Starbucks has added a $1 packet of avocado spread to its refrigerated section and just yesterday, I had to stop myself from physically assaulting a woman wearing a “Let’s Avo-Cuddle” t-shirt. That’s why London eatery Firedog should be commended—if not just all-out knighted—for its anti-avocado efforts.

Firedog, a new Aegean restaurant in the capital city, has instituted a complete avocado ban, excluding the fruit from any appearances on its menu. “Our mission is to reinvigorate the morning dining scene in London, which has done avocado to death, and we’re frankly bored of seeing it on every breakfast and brunch menu,” George Notley, Firedog’s executive head chef, said.

READ MORE: Our Obsession with Guacamole Has Created an Avocado Black Market

Notley means it, regardless of how popular avocados might be. “People are very shocked when they first hear [about the ban] as avocado is such a popular fruit to have for breakfast, brunch and lunch, but they do quickly forget when they sample the unique menu,” Notley told MUNCHIES. “Avocado should complement dishes, and the team behind the restaurant believes it is time to share the limelight with some other culinary stars.”

Instead of endless variations on underripe fruit, Firedog’s all-day breakfast menu features less-ubiquitous Middle Eastern favorites like grilled halloumi, crispy sujuk sausage, and a truly impressive breakfast meze that might buckle your table legs before you finish. (It was inspired by the Su’dan restaurant in Alaçati, a Turkish beach town; now doesn’t that sound more exciting than trying to drag a chunk of avocado across a piece of toast?)

That’s not to say that Firedog is entirely anti-hipster: its website has links to its own in-house Spotify playlist and, as Conde Nast Traveler points out, it continues to serve other “trendy” foods like matcha. But, good lord, at least Firedog isn’t contributing to the manic avocado obsession that has overtaken Western society.

According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, America’s annual avocado consumption has increased from 1.1 pound per person per year in 1989 to seven pounds per capita in 2014. Avocados are just as overdone in Firedog’s own United Kingdom: Last year, The Telegraph reported that Britains were buying more avocados than oranges, for the first time ever.

Notley said that the ban has no set end-date. “[It will continue] as long as Firedog’s other favorite flavors and ingredients are around,” she said. “Long live the pomegranate and beetroot.”

Long live literally everything else, indeed.