Magnolia Flowering in Cold Spring in Albany Road

Superior the knowing human glance

that dreams, in lightly jostling verticals,

ideas that make the candelabras dance,

the whitened tips of candle flames that call

 

to mind a burning icy chalice raised

beneath the sky’s acceptance. Over time

these flowers were led in evolution’s ways

to make their fine survival death-defying.

 

A blind insensate painter set the pink

so readying the petals for the bees.

In eons’ trials without the need to think,

devised the swaying, stirring fact of trees.

 

But only we see white-tinged flames that bend,

our seeing, knowing, still, perfection’s end.

 

Guy Walker

From Peru to Pompey: Climate Change is Closer Than You Think

Lily Anderson-Neyra, a former Portsmouth resident and co-founder of Portsmouth Climate Action Network, reports on the impact of climate change in her birth country of Peru, and asks Pompey to help those affected. Additional reporting by Sarah Cheverton.

This story begins in 1980 when, as a 20 year old, I moved from Peru, my birth country, to Portsmouth to be with my British (now ex-) husband. I took with me my wonderful baby son and my most precious books. Subsequently in England I gave birth to my lovely daughter.

As a student at the former Portsmouth Polytechnic, I became aware of something called ‘Climate Change’ around 1985. The subject was discussed among some of the students as a process that came from the industrial revolution. I remember having a dream about our planet talking to me about the sadistic, sick treatment we were giving it and how much it was suffering as a result.

In 2006, I co-founded Portsmouth Climate Action Network (PCAN). We started by organising activities to raise awareness about climate change. Vested interests had started playing with the truth in the late 70’s, discrediting the notion that a climate change process was taking place. So many were dismissive of the possibility that humans could have a hand in their own eventual destruction. Not many knew much about it and some joked that ‘if England gets warmer they would not have to go away on holidays to other countries’.

Indeed. Now, the Brits and other northern europeans are staying away from many of their usual destinations because of the ’terror threat’. Many commentators are beginning to make links between war, climate change and terrorism.

I returned to live in Peru a couple of years ago, but as I write, we are witnessing the effects of climate change.

On Wednesday 15th March, Trujillo, the city where I live, saw the beginning of torrential rain and mud slides lasting for a week. This city – located in the desert strip of the northern coast by the Pacific Ocean – used to be nicknamed ‘The City of the Eternal Spring’. Now it is inundated with water, as you can see in this video I took only a couple of weeks ago.

Peru, a country five times larger than the United Kingdom, is in a declared state of emergency due to flash flooding, mud slides and rain. Other parts of the country have been suffering these conditions for weeks, and several Amazon rivers are on red alert status. Peru is very rich in natural resources but – though it might seem strange alongside the current flooding – parts of the country are struggling with the risk of running out of water. A recent study by the University of East Anglia anticipates Peru will soon be the third-worst affected country by climate change.

There is a another factor that needs to be taken into account when considering the impact of climate change in Peru: namely the lack of funding for a cogent preventative plan to deal with extreme weather. Instead, most of the funding goes to emergency response. Peru urgently needs a disaster prevention policy. There are several initiatives by pressure groups to contribute towards setting up an efficient and real policy to help the country face climate change. However, Peru urgently needs to develop ways to better conserve and utilise our water supply and to this end the state needs to commit to invest in scientific research, and to ensure stronger accountability for how such funding is spent.

If there was ever money to do this, there isn’t now.

Corruption is rife in Peru and money disappears easily. As a result, the public is vigilant of local authorities when aid is being delivered, in the hope of preventing it ending up in the wrong hands. Organisations such as the Red Cross Peru seem to be the most reliable.

Recent reports state the floods have left 106 people dead and 364 wounded, while the number of people forced to abandon their homes has reached 156,400.

As you read this from Portsmouth, it may seem that climate change is someone else’s problem, something happening on the other side of the world to you.

But climate change is everybody’s problem, everywhere on the planet.

Before the floods started in Peru, we saw sea temperatures on the northern coast rise in some places up to 9 degrees F. The fish that would normally swim in these waters have gone to deeper, colder waters to survive. Sadly, this means the sea birds, sea lions and other wildlife that would normally feed on these fish are dying, quite literally, in front of our eyes. There is little we can do to help.

Before the flood, many people in Peru didn’t want to talk about climate change. I noticed the same phenomenon in Portsmouth when I lived there, and more broadly across the UK. In both our countries, this silence makes it easy for our governments to do nothing, and as a result ordinary people have no opportunity to prepare until the very worst happens.

News of climate change seems to send people into denial, burying their heads in the sand and hoping it won’t happen to them. Tragically, it doesn’t work that way.

In the UK, the government has identified an increased risk from heavy rain and flooding, and regards this as a key climate threat. In my old hometown, where you’re probably sat reading this right now, Portsmouth City Council has been undertaking research on extreme weather events since 2000, concluding on its website that:

…future climate change is likely to result in…extreme weather, such as buildings damaged in floods, storms and high winds leading to costly repairs and buildings temporarily closed, or roads melting from hot weather.

The local authority states it owns commitment to tackling climate change as part of its Climate Change strategy.

I may be writing from the other side of the world, but our hometowns may have more in common than you think.

Why do you think your leaders – in the city and the wider region – are so worried about flood defences they’re prepared to pay £105 million for them in a period of Conservative ideological austerity?

If you’ve ever experienced flooding yourself, lost your home or someone you love in circumstances that were beyond your control, or if you just want to help – you can show your solidarity with the people of Peru by donating to one of the campaigns below.

Main image: Photo courtesy of Socios En Salud, via Global Giving Foundation.

Take Action

Donate to projects in Peru helping people deal with the devastating impact of the floods, via Global Giving

Donate directly to Ayuda en Acción, who are working on the ground in Peru (Donations in Peruvian Soles only)

Support the International Red Cross, working to help people deal with the floods via the Peruvian Red Cross

Get involved with Portsmouth Climate Action Network

Find out more about Portsmouth City Council’s work to address climate change in the Climate Change Strategy

STAR POems: Guildhall, Portsmouth

i.m. Edward King (1862-1951)

 

The painting looks a bit off, wonky walls

splay from the vertical, the roof is gone.

Light streams from between colonnades like flames.

It might be sunbeams through the guildhall’s ribs.

 

Six incendiaries torched the building,

so hot the copper cupola melted.

Records, art work, furniture: all gutted,

The fragile bones of the building remain.

 

Domes survived, balanced precariously

at the edges of the building, about

to fall, crash in the ash of the innards.

They’re painted as beacons of survival,

poised to tumble yet maintaining their place

party balloons hoisting the city’s grace.

 

 

Sue Spiers

STAR POems: Destruction of Oyster Street, Portsmouth

i.m. Edward King (1862-1951)

 

You’d hope, so close to St Thomas’s church

it would be safer, but they bombed it flat,

straight up.  Edward King had time to paint it,

like those Western film stages, all frontage

but nothing behind, except the rubble.

He painted quick, before they tore it down.

 

It’s a nice row of three storey flats now

with grass where terraces used to stand.

Some boys from the grammar school were playing

footie, blazers for goal posts, not a care.

Across the road the houses have stone bricks

with sixteenth century dates carved in them.

 

When they were excavating the bodies

there was older stuff under Oyster Street.

 

Sue Spiers

Are GCSEs Bad for Portsmouth Students’ Mental Health?

This summer students will sit tougher GCSEs in English and maths. As the exam season looms on the horizon, Portsmouth GCSE student, Tanzeela Rahman, reports on the pressure on teenage students’ mental health as they prepare for exams.

Balancing ten subjects all at the same time isn’t the easiest thing in the world. When every teacher is saying their subject is just as important as the others, how is a naïve sixteen year old meant to know what to do? Questions about college, university and your future are constantly being thrown at you while you’re expected to keep calm.

In less than two months every year eleven in the UK will be in that intimidating exam hall, sitting a GCSE with no idea what the future has in store for them. We are often told that people have been doing GCSEs for generations now, however every year it feels as though the scale of difficulty gets harder, while local students’ grip on their mental health loosens even further.

In 2015, the NSPCC reported that the number of young people in Britain seeking counselling over exam stress had increased by 200% in recent years. This summer, Michael Gove has promised that the maths and English GCSEs will be tougher still.

As well as teaching the subject, a teacher’s role is to spark students’ imaginations and prepare them for advanced education and jobs as adults. But for 16 year old student Lillie Faust, it feels like the pressure is mounting.

Lillie Faust told me:

“It gets harder the more you go up in the year, the teachers expectations gets higher which makes you feel bad about yourself if you can’t reach it.”

At this point of their lives teens are slipping into adulthood and deserve all the support they can get. Students usually isolate themselves from family and home during exam periods; they confide in their friends because they feel they’re the only people that can understand them.

Mixed anxiety and depression has been estimated to cause one fifth of days lost from work in Britain. To prevent this, children should be encouraged to solve their problems now, so it doesn’t affect their future.

In an attempt to express the pressure we are going through, I am writing to project the timid voices of students who are struggling to believe in themselves and are afraid of failing to reach their high expectations. Schools in Portsmouth and across the country need to prioritise students’ mental wellbeing as well as their education. Increasing their confidence will allow them to realize they’re not alone and see school as their comfort zone, rather than a place to just complete their school work.

Mental health includes your emotional, psychological and social wellbeing; it can affect your everyday life and determine how well you handle stress, relate to others and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, starting from youth. Children spend the majority of their time at school, therefore it is an ideal place to be taught at a young age how to control it so you do not fall into the dangerous hole of mental health problems.

Early signs of mental health problems could be:

  • pulling away from people or usual activities
  • feeling numb or like nothing matters
  • feeling a range of random emotions such as, being on edge, anger or sadness

Mental health problems must be diagnosed with help from doctors and health teams, however students shouldn’t be experiencing these symptoms as a consequence of educating themselves and preparing for their future careers.

Eleanor Roosevelt famously said that education is essential to good citizenship and that it is important to life because it enables people to contribute to their community and country. Portsmouth schools are successful at teaching their students, as proven by the GCSE results getting higher year by year. But I believe they can easily improve even further by making sure students are positive and enthusiastic in school, so they can reach the best of their capability.

STAR POems: All of Me

By Helen Larham

 

I have always loved him

despite his neglect

so when I stepped out onto the sea

he bore my full weight, everything:

All those times I had ventured in

and they had laughed

at my frantic back stroking

and butterflying like a frog.

My woollen costume

expanding in the water

corrugating, like elephant skin

uncovering yards of goose flesh.

He took all of me.

 

The sea laid himself flat, calm.

Cradled me, gently nudging

until I obliged  and turned on my back.

Floating weightless, untethered

drifting away from myself.

He let me have all of him;

Sometimes with waves as high

as my neck could crane

swirling me up in a whirlpool

then down to the ghost wrecks below.

Other times rocking me asleep

in the grey mist.

 

When he at last grew tired of our games

he beached me at my home port

gave me back to the land-

to my family.

I sat silent till the lights blossomed

in the black, just beyond the threshold

of the town.

I sat with the whole expanse of him

still echoing in my head

and with the tidal moon

still lapping at my blood.

Board (Games) With Portsmouth Politics

Portsmouth visual satirist and S&C regular Mike Gumbrell creates a new take on an old classic with a board game based on Portsmouth Politics, Portsmouthonopoly.

 

NHS Plans: A Portsmouth Doctor Questions the Cuts

‘Your Big Health Conversation’ seeks to engage Portsmouth residents about the 5 year plan for Hampshire and Isle of Wight NHS Services, as set out in the controversial Sustainable Transformation Plan, or STP. Here a Portsmouth NHS doctor questions the assertions being made in the STP and survey to justify cuts of £577 million to NHS services across Hampshire and Isle of Wight. Editor in Chief Sarah Cheverton provides additional reporting.

Back in December, we reported that controversial plans for Hampshire and Isle of Wight NHS services were set to pass without consultation:

For those who don’t know – and there are a lot of us – STPs are 5 year plans for all aspects of NHS spending in England. 44 plans have been drawn up by health services, local authorities and health providers across the country, each one covering geographical areas known as ‘footprints’, and representing an average population of 1.2 million people. As well as covering NHS spending, each plan also has to show how NHS services can better integrate with local authority services such as adult social care – ‘known as place-based planning’ – and is expected to cover the period from October 2016 – March 2021.

Nationally, STPs have proved highly controversial with activists often referring to them as ‘Slash, Trash and Privatise’ plans.

Last month saw the launch of an online survey as part of ‘Your Big Health Conversation’, an engagement process run by the three clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) serving Portsmouth, Fareham and Gosport, and South Eastern Hampshire. The closing date for responses is 24th March 2017.

A local NHS doctor who has been working with S&C since the plans were passed last year responds to some of the assertions being used by local NHS organisations and leaders within the survey process, particularly the central assertion that it will be possible to ‘make services better’ and ‘drive up services’ while cutting NHS funding in the region by over £570 million.

Your Big Health Conversation says:

The local NHS faces a twin challenge – living within its means in the short-term, and also making services better and affordable in the longer term. The NHS always makes year-on-year savings and has had considerable success in keeping spending under control. That process continues, but it is no longer enough – more fundamental changes must be considered.

The Portsmouth NHS Doctor says:

The NHS doesn’t ‘always’ make year-on-year savings, it has been forced to since 2010.

S&C says:

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy estimate that the NHS and social care face a funding gap of between £8.5 and £15bn by 2020.

The graph from the Kings Fund  below illustrates that since 2010, the UK has seen “the largest ever sustained reduction in UK NHS spending as a percentage of GDP”. The Kings Fund – an independent health charity – has also highlighted that funding to the NHS has fallen in comparison to health spending in other countries: “the United Kingdom has slipped further into the bottom half of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) health spending league – overtaken by Finland and Slovenia.”

Source: The Kings Fund, NHS spending squeezed as never before, [2015]

Your Big Health Conversation says:

The challenges are well-known – an ageing population living with more long-term illnesses, rising costs, the need to drive up standards, and all at a time when resources are limited.

The Portsmouth NHS Doctor says:

This is an oft repeated mantra but that doesn’t make it true. These issues are NOT the main problem, ideological Tory opposition to a fully public NHS is the problem.

S&C says:

Economist and columnist, Paul Krugman wrote a lengthy examination of austerity for The Guardian that concluded austerity was not only an ideology, but one with no evidence of success.

The Guardian, The Austerity Delusion by Paul Krugman [2015]

Your Big Health Conversation says:

These challenges have been set out in the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Sustainability and Transformation Plan. This document also describes how the NHS in different parts of the county has already begun to develop its own solutions – locally, through Health and Care Portsmouth, and Better Local Care in south east Hampshire.

The Portsmouth NHS doctor says:

STPs are imposed from above, using local CCGs and other NHS organisations and leaders as fig leaves and fall guys for imposed cuts from central government. The Hampshire and IOW STP aims to address cuts of £577m from the NHS and £192 million from social care budgets in the region, including by removing up to 300 hospital beds.

S&C says:

According to the IPPR, in an article examining potential benefits of reforms within the STPs as well as criticisms, the government has not yet given ‘NHS leaders real powers to intervene in their local area, as well as devolving functions currently undertaken by central government’.

Your Big Health Conversation says:

Those initiatives set out a broad vision of the future – more community-based support, removing boundaries between staffing groups to stop people being passed around the system – but there are big questions to be considered: What staff are needed? At what cost? Where? What quality of care can be provided? How quickly can care be delivered?

The Portsmouth NHS doctor says:

My belief is that the language used in the STPs hides the reality of the likely impact of the cuts it aims to address. For example, ‘more community based support’ points to hospital cuts.

‘Removing boundaries between staffing groups’ may actually refer to using cheaper, less qualified staff to undertake roles e.g. using nurses to do doctors’ jobs, using nurse associates (a role that doesn’t require a degree) to do work currently undertaken by qualified nurses, or using volunteers and helplines where a service was previously provided by trained staff.

S&C says:

Similar complaints have been made by Bristol campaigners about their STP:

The STP includes references to developing an ‘accountable care organisation’, to ‘demand management’, to reduction in ‘hospital admissions’, and to enabling the use of ‘personal care budgets’. This is all code for the restriction of treatments and the reduction of patient numbers. Moving to this kind of model (with its US-health insurance connotations) undermines the basic principle of the NHS to provide free treatment to all based on ‘clinical need’, a phrase, incidentally, that doesn’t appear once in the STP.

Your Big Health Conversation says:

The reality for the local NHS is that:

Without change… there will not be enough GPs and other key staff groups, as the current shortages get worse.

The Portsmouth NHS doctor says:

STPs and further ‘re-dis-organisation’ is actually driving out staff, it doesn’t help retain them. In reality the government want to run the NHS on a cheap, privatised basis, with more support workers and ‘physician assistants’ instead of doctors and nurses who have been pushed out of the NHS.

S&C says:

Health writer Margaret McCartney raised similar concerns in a recent article for The New Statesman, highlighting research from the British Medical Journal that found:

…professionals wasting time over poorly designed IT systems, conflicts between different teams (even within single organisations), heavy workloads and staff shortages, with multiple external agencies creating mess about where time and effort should be spent.

Your Big Health Conversation says:

Without change… there won’t be enough staff or resources to run a “seven-day NHS”.

The Portsmouth NHS doctor says:

There has always been a 7 day NHS where needed. The 7 day NHS spin is – I think- in part designed to push the NHS towards weekend consultant appointments where workers lose their weekend to go to the doctor.

S&C says:

The Nuffield Trust has said that “Implementing a seven-day NHS will mean significant changes to the way services are run, it will require a critical mass of specialist staff to be recruited, and it may mean closures or mergers of local services”.

A similar point has been made by Britain’s top GP, Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard, who told The Guardian that surgeries will have to stop seeing patients during the week unless ministers abandon their drive to guarantee access to family doctors at weekends.

Your Big Health Conversation says:

Without change… the demands on A&E staff, ambulance crews and other urgent care services will keep on growing.

The Portsmouth NHS doctor says:

The government is closing and downgrading A&Es, so of course this drives up the need at the remaining A&Es. The govt needs to extend existing A&Es in line with the growing population, not shut them.

S&C says:

A report published in February in The Guardian (citing related reports from The Telegraph and BBC) found that:

One in six A&E departments face being closed or downgraded in the next four years, according to an analysis of NHS proposals.

About 33 casualty departments in hospitals in 23 areas of the UK are facing either complete closure or being replaced with minor injuries units.

Your Big Health Conversation says:

We know that changes are needed in the way we run GP services, community NHS teams, and hospitals. The ambition is to make these services better, but the reality is that change is necessary.

The Portsmouth NHS doctor says:

The change that is necessary is to increase funding to around 10% of GDP and stop privatisation/outsourcing. The administration of the ‘market’ in the NHS costs between £3.5 to £10 billion, I think per year.

According to FullFact – an independent UK fact-checking charity – estimated costs of the NHS marketplace are difficult to pin down, but vary between £4.5 to £10 billion per year.

Your Big Health Conversation says:

The details of how the local NHS will work in the future are not decided – that is why we need to hear the views of local people, so that they can be considered before any decisions come to be made. Please take a few minutes to let us know your views on the future of the local NHS.

The Portsmouth NHS doctor says:

Nonsense. STPs for the first two years from April 2017 were signed off on 23rd Dec 2016, so it has been decided, albeit with precious little detail e.g. where hospital beds will be cut, or where the £577 million cuts will be made. If I made a treatment plan for a patient like this, and asked the patient to sign it off without knowing much detail of what’s in it, I would get a massive complaint, and rightly so!

According to national health campaigners, 31 local authorities have already lodged objections to, or pledged to oppose, the STPs in their area, including the Isle of Wight Council, whose Chief Executive John Metcalfe wrote to NHS England stating:

The Committees were disappointed, the timescales to produce the plan, dictated by NHS England, did not give sufficient weight to the democratic process allowing it the opportunity to consider the final plan, or debate the issues it raises in a public forum, and did not appear to conform to the best practice guidance (for example Engaging Local People -NHS September 2016).

Star & Crescent would not have been able to publish this report without the assistance of a local GP, who has worked closely with us to help us understand the implications of the STP and the local campaign attempting to prevent it. This is part of S&C’s renewed focus on investigative, critical journalism and our exploration of how it can be funded without compromising editorial independence through advertising or ‘advertorial’ (articles that have been paid for by businesses for promotional purposes).

 

Find out more

Hampshire and Isle of Wight STP – read it for yourself and share it with your friends, colleagues and families

Health Campaigns Together – crowd-sourced information on all STPs across the 44 ‘footprints’

Take Action by 24th March 2017

Complete the Your Big Health Conversation online survey by 24th March 2017 and let local NHS leaders know what you think

Support campaigns calling for public information and involvement in NHS cuts

In Portsmouth

  • Contact your councillors and/or your MP to ask what they think – and what they’re doing – about the STP

Nationally

Support non-commercial and truly independent journalism:

What Donna Can Learn From Donald

In the spirit of boosting the ‘special relationship’, Sir Eugene Nicks KBE of the All-Portsmouth Conservative, Regressive and Imperial Association (established 1799), celebrates the similarities between the leader of Portsmouth City Council and the new leader of the Free World.

Isn’t this a whizzo time to be alive, readers? Me old mucker and business partner Donald Trump’s doing sterling work as the Lord High Maniac-in-Chief of Ol’ Washington Town. How delightful that, right now, his pus-coloured mane is drooping all over the nuclear red button. He’ll probably be dribbling over it too, but that’s one of many problems of his that I vowed to keep confidential.

I may be the only man on Earth – while it’s still here, anyway – who is personal chums with both Donald and Donna, his near-namesake and counterpart over here as leader of Portsmouth City Council. In other words, I’m on excellent terms with the most powerful, egotistical and offensive person in the world… and Donald Trump. And I view this connection as what the Donald might call a ‘golden shower opportunity’ – I think that’s business jargon for something or other – to bring two great minds and two great cultures closer together as we enter an exhilarating new epoch of hope, freedom and tolerance. Or something to that effect.

The other night, Donna and I went for a goblet of benefit claimant’s blood at our local public house, the Hypothermic Vagrant. (Incidentally, there was an actual vagrant dying of hypothermia just by the bins outside. He asked me for the price of a cup of tea and I replied, ‘I only have fifty pound notes, old boy.’ But I didn’t give him one, obviously.)

Anyway, Donna asked me what advice on statecraft she might pass on to Donald via yours truly.

Donald at Victorious 2016, crowd-surfing outside the Young Conservatives’ tent. Image courtesy of S&C’s visual satirist, Jack Caramac.

‘But my dear lady,’ I begged to differentiate. ‘Ask not what he can learn from you but what you can learn from he. For Donald has disgraced himself in ways you cannot imagine and stooped to lows that even you have not nightmared of.’

Now humility isn’t normally Donna’s strong suit… which is why she screamed ‘That’s nonsense!’ in my face. But then she calmed down, the blood working its way to her head, and elected to hear me out. I’ve been in the political game a long time, recall, and I know it as well as the back of my hand, or even as well as the backhander that plops into my mailbox each morning because I shamelessly blackmail every single elected representative from here to the post-apocalyptic badlands of Wymering.

I reminded Donna that we Portsmouth Tories have done it all – well done them all, more or less: the unemployed, the disabled, the homeless, refugees, old people, young people, tall people, small people. But we haven’t been tough enough on the old enemy: the dastardly denizens of Southampton. So I suggested Donna re-purpose one of Donald’s classic raps but along these lines:

‘When Southampton sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us [sic] They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people.’

And if that wasn’t tough enough, I said to Donna, how about this:

‘I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me – and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our western border, and I will make Southampton pay for that wall. Mark my words.’

Or we may go even further with something like the following:

‘Donna J Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Southamptonians entering Portsmouth, until our city’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.’

‘But remember,’ said Donna, ‘that it’s not just the social undesirables and the people of Southampton who cause us headaches. We have dangerous political subversives who dare to question our fanatical devotion to austerity.’

‘Indeed,’ I concurred. ‘What about politely borrowing another Trumpian pearl of odium?’

Sisters Uncut are crude, rude, obnoxious and dumb – other than that I like them very much.’

Donna seemed to enjoy that one. I put it to her that, as all Portsmouth Tories know, foreigners – ones even more foreign than people from Southampton – are irredeemably awful. Amongst many many other things, they bring disease. With that in mind, Donna ought to adapt something else Donald’s said in the recent past:

‘Stop the Ebola patients from entering Portsmouth. Treat them, at the highest level, over there. Portsmouth has enough problems.’

We looked out the window at the inclement weather. ‘I wish it would improve,’ Donna sighed.

I told her that Donald has a spiffing one-liner that she might re-write and make her own:

‘It’s freezing and snowing in Portsmouth – we need global warming!’

‘I’m not going out there,’ Donna said. ‘I might mess up my hair.’

I pointed out to her that Donald also cares deeply about his hair and that this too might be a point of agreement betwixt the pair of them:

‘As everybody knows, but the haters and losers refuse to acknowledge, I do not wear a “wig.” My hair may not be perfect but it’s mine.’

It was getting late and time to meet my driver Melania – no relation to Donald or I – in the car park. As we parted company, I asked Donna how she manages to cope with the pressures of her high office.

When I think I’m right,’ she said, ‘nothing bothers me.’

Eerie, I thought, Donald said exactly the same thing in 1985. How similar they are. I’ve yet to see them in the same place at the same time. Have you?

 

Main image: Screenshot from Saint Hoax‘s #ElectionsDragYouOut series, Donald Trump

Self Publishing: Behind the Scenes with Authors Reach

Richard Hardie is one of the founder members of Authors Reach, a co-operative of local authors turned self-publishers. Here’s how it works.   

The job of being an author doesn’t stop with the words “The End”. In many ways that’s just the beginning.

Publishers tend to spend their marketing budget on promoting books from authors who they know will turn out best-sellers time and time again, and they tend not to take risks with new or unknown writers. In many ways, who can blame them? However, that means there is a massive glass ceiling that makes it very difficult for a new author to get noticed by the reading marketplace, let alone bookshops, where shelf space is at a premium and margins are tight.

Towards the end of 2015, five UK authors decided to change that and started buying back the rights to their books from their various publishers in order to form their own company to market and promote their titles… which from experience, they were aware is something authors have to do anyway, with few exceptions.

In addition to writing books, each of the five authors brought a specific skill-set to the group, among them being proofreading, web design, artwork, media know-how, social media expertise and marketing. The five felt the combination made them a capable operation and they therefore launched Authors Reach Ltd last November to initially concentrate on promoting each other’s books. That developed, through a sharp learning curve, into knowing how to negotiate print runs, organise distribution and bookshop stocking, to the extent that all five are now representing Authors Reach at book fairs and literary festivals, book signings, and even speaking to groups on creative writing. Radio and television interviews are taking place, with all five founders now having given radio interviews, and podcasts are scheduled, leaving little time for the real job in hand… writing books!

What’s different? The five founders of Authors Reach – Richard Hardie, Catriona King, Shani Struthers, Gina Dickerson and Sarah England – are all previously traditionally published authors with a diverse collection of genres ranging from crime to the paranormal, romance to horror, and young adult (YA) to fantasy. They started their new venture fully aware of the problems that lay ahead of them. They had an agreed strategy, as well as a clear plan as to how to maximise sales through online book sellers, both paperback and e-book. Unlike many smaller publishers, Authors Reach believes that independent book shops have a future in the UK, alongside the bigger chains, and that creating relationships throughout the UK is most important. Authors Reach intends being part of that future by bringing their books to readers and bookshops alike.

At the beginning of 2016 the first two books were relaunched under the Authors Reach banner and logo, with new covers and ISBNs (Leap of Faith and Trouble With Swords). Both are now in print, stocked by distributors and on shop shelves. Further Authors Reach books will be following very soon, with a potential back catalogue of over twenty books.

Authors Reach may not be a major player, or even bijou yet, but the potential is massive and may even indicate the future of publishing.

This article was originally published on Star & Crescent in March 2016, but was lost following the site being hacked last year. Thanks to two of our amazing volunteers, Rhiannon and Jordan, we will now be re-publishing two of these articles a month.