Tuesday, 20 January 2015

What Have The Super Rich Done For Us?

Whilst most documentaries seek to have us envying the super rich, Jacques Peretti's insightful 2-part BBC2 documentary The Super Rich and Us took a different tack by posing the underlying question; What have the super rich done for us?

The whole idea of encouraging super rich non-domiciles to live in UK with the tax exile carrot of zero income tax or capital gains tax on income earned abroad was the 'trickle down' effect - ie their vast wealth was meant to trickle down to the rest of the economy - a promise made repeatedly by successive British governments.

Over 40 years later this unproven economic theory is shattered by Mr Peretti who demonstrates that the reverse - trickle up - has happened. Wealth has increased among the wealthy and stayed very much in the enclave of the super rich, the prime beneficiaries being the luxury product and holiday providers and the servants and assistants needed to service the super-rich (mostly on lowly incomes themselves). The super rich are not to be found supporting the local pub or cafe or shopping in the local village shop. Meanwhile the middle and working classes have seen their incomes and savings plummet and their bills and outgoings skyrocket. Job security too is a thing of the past with part-time jobs, zero hours contracts and microjobbing now commonplace.

Financial inequality has never been worse with some company CEO's earning several hundred times what their average employee does (whereas once it might have been 10 x times max) and at the other end of the scale people resorting to food banks to eat.

Moreover, among the new super-rich, bankers have found devious ways to manipulate and gamble with our savings and pensions and encourage us to live in perpetual debt to the extent that jobs can be devalued without the threat of us striking as we dare not afford to lose our jobs (if we still have them). A whole industry has been spawned to take advantage of the struggling and desperate through rip-off financial products and gambling outlets.

The  current recession (which never existed for the super rich) is far from over for the rest of us. Our very economy is now in mortal danger by the lifeblood being cut off in so many limbs by the top 1% hogging the vast bulk of the wealth and not circulating it as promised.

Ah well, at least super rich wealth boosts UK economic figures as long as no one enquires too closely as to what their wealth is contributing to the economy, aside from a large black hole in our tax system which public services are now paying dearly for in draconian cuts. Furthermore, though this wasn't mentioned in the programmes;  was there any quality control exercised concerning which super rich were lured to our shores to ensure there were no gun runners, drugs barons or Russian gangsters among them? I am not so sure. They let Robert Maxwell in after all.

A startling fact to emerge in the programme is that up to 80% of the flats in every luxury London block being erected are being snapped up by oversea buyers, some of whom will never even set foot in their new pad - it is purely an investment -  the modern equivalent of gold bars in the bank.

Even Henry Ford recognised that you needed to pay your workers enough to afford the cars they produced or the economy would be adversely affected, hence his brainwave, the Model T Ford. Many companies today have forgotten this basic principle and to ask themselves the pertinent question; Who is going to buy these goods or who will afford these 'affordable' houses?

The top 1% however are not without their worries. Protests are gathering apace and the pitchforks are a-coming if things don't change soon as enlightened early Amazon billionaire Nick Hanauer warns. The world has grown up to be aspirational, not to accept serfdom without protest as we might once have done in darker ages.

A particularly refreshing element of this documentary is that it assumed no obvious political stance, proving that you don't need to be a communist or a socialist to believe that there should be decent economic prospects and civilised living conditions available to all. I was indeed myself a proud marcher in last year's March Against Austerity/Britain Deserves a Pay Rise protest featured in the documentary.

Perhaps Peretti's next documentary can explore how in a so-called western democracy, corporations, not to mention the top 1% super rich, now have more say in how the country/world is run than anybody else and more political muscle than our elected governments.

MatchFit Media

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Save the Hippo!

Charlie Chaplain
Laurel and Hardy
George Formby
Gracie Fields
Sandra Bernhardt
Harry Houdini
Buster Keaton
Lillie Langtry
Laurence Olivier
Vivien Leigh
Max Miller
Sammy Davis Jr
The Beatles
The Rolling Stones

are just some of the stars and acts who've graced the 3,000-capacity Brighton Hippodrome in its 118 year history since first being erected in 1897 as an ice rink with the occasional indoor circus before its transformation in 1901 by Frank Matcham into one of the foremost vaudeville and variety theatres in Britain.

Several decades later came the age of television and London-centric shows and nationwide theatre tours which meant variety fell into decline, despite the heroic efforts of local comic legend Max Miller to keep the artform popular. In addition local tastes were no longer catered for.

The Brighton Hippodrome closed its doors in 1965. After a short spell as a film and TV studio in the mid-1960s, followed by a 40-year stint as a Mecca bingo hall, it closed its doors again in 2007 and is now an empty Grade II listed building 'at risk'

Two ambitious plans to turn Brighton Hippodrome first into a live music venue and secondly (and more ruinously to the original Matcham interior) into an 8-screen cinema 'entertainment hub' with internal shops, a public square and a restaurant on a removable floor, have recently come to naught. However there is every chance of this being 'a good thing' as local opinion and feeling for this forgotten gem has been well and truly awakened and is gathering apace. Brightonions have already lost the finest Victorian pier in England (West Pier). It seems denizens are damned if they are going to lose another Victorian gem and potentally golden USP for the city.

Furthermore Brighton boasts the largest arts festival in England the Brighton Fringe, so it seems ironic, not to mention tragic, that a historic premier arts venue finds itself 'at risk' in our city.

As a performance poet myself, I can only imagine the magic of performing on a stage of so much history and in the footsteps of so many stars. I really do hope that one day it can become a reality for myself and many others too young to have had the chance first time round.

My own proposition is that the Brighton Hippodrome should be a crowd-funded and co-operatively owned venture where stage and theatre management schools can use it during the day and variety bills can fill it at night. The circle has revolved once more since the 1960s. We are now bored with TV and hundreds of channels showing the same dross. We want some VARIETY again! Other cities who have had the foresight to retain their Hippodromes are bearing this out by apparently enjoying excellent takings, so there should be no reason why Brighton Hippodrome couldn't.

Not only that but we currently have a demographic of far too many stag and hen parties pounding the streets out of tourist season which needs to be redressed by encouraging a classier clientele of more theatre goers into town (though of course cheaper night time parking would also help).

For more info visit Our Brighton Hippodrome and show your support on Save the Brighton Hippodrome Facebook page

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Dude, where's my tights?

When TV's The Apprentice star Bianca Miller was accused of stealing her skin tone match tights idea from a fellow female entrepreneur, who begged that she be disqualified from the final as a result, Ms Miller gave an extraordinary answer; 'I don't claim to be the first to come up with this idea, but I am the right person to take it to market' - as if that made her conduct legitimate!  Conversely if her rival had not patented or trademarked her idea, it was iffy as to whether she would be able to obtain any kind of legal redress, even if she could have afforded to pursue the matter through the courts. Not that Ms Miller was about to sell a whole stack of tights anyway at £20 a pair (and with no more guarantee of being ladder-free than a cheap pair). To be honest I was surprised she managed to convince Lord Sugar that skin tone tights would be such a big thing as one who has alternated between, black, grey, navy and brown for years. I thought mono-bloc colour and patterned tights were all the rage, though I well remember being laughed at for wearing 'American Tan' tights to school in vivid orange hue, which I somehow convinced my 13-year old mind looked like a bona fide tan! In the event Ms Miller did not win The Apprentice, the final of which had, in any case, already been filmed by the time the allegation hit the press.

Needless to say my partner and I lost no time in trademarking our new company name MatchFit Media, even though we are not claiming to be the first to come with our idea - PR. Luckily for us it's much harder for anyone to patent a whole field rather than one item and what we hope to distinguish ourselves by is the quality and reliability of our PR, rather than the originality of the concept.

Anyway it's been a busy few months getting the branding and the website sorted out and winning the first pitches and this is still just the beginning.

We are excited and terrified in equal measure and have already weathered a number of setbacks. Comfortingly everything we've read and everyone we've spoken to on the subject suggests that the rollercoaster experience is entirely natural to the beginnings of any business venture. Besides which, if one enjoyed instant success from day one, where would the story be in that, ten years hence, when invited to give an industry award thank you speech? Good stories are built on struggle and overcoming adversity.

While my partner has been known to have the odd sleepless night, I try not to waste my energies on worry but rather focus on what we do want - and getting enough sleep to tackle life's growing demands.

Simultaneously however my partner's father has grown very ill and frail and is now in hospital. Things have been hectic to say the least.

I fully intend to carry on blogging though, if somewhat more sporadically than I would like.