A British Cuppa and International Development – They’re not as ‘loose tea’ connected as you’d think

A love of tea isn’t one that comes naturally to me, but surely no one can resist the sweet smell of ginger, honey and crispy tea leaves brewing beneath you. Borough Market, located a short walk from London Bridge, is well known for its eclectic stands and high-quality food stuffs. Though, less is known of its international connectivity and the conscientious spirit embodying the wholesome foods, so highly sought for by the British public. Sipping my chai, indulged by the placid surroundings of one of the tiny tea houses in the market, I chat with Ratan Mondal, a tea connoisseur from Darjeeling state in India. “I’m dictating the whole of England with my tea.” He says. “It’s proper, handpicked, ethically sourced and sustainably grown.” My mind opens. A world of tea entwined with international development.

On average, we drink 36 billion cups of tea a year in Britain, according to UK Tea and Infusions Association. It’s not hard to comprehend the UK’s obsession with the beverage. Importing an estimated 127 thousand tons of tea leaves alone, valuing at a colossal £142 million, it leaves no doubt that Britain really takes the international biscuit as it slurps down its global impact.

Tea is great for business as many of the leading brands will tell you. But less is known of its impact on the producers. Two thirds of people in less economically developed countries work in primary industries including agriculture and pastoral farming, yet not much is heard from them and the impact of our demand on their lives.

Fiona Gooch, Senior Policy Advisor at Traidcraft Exchange, a UK charity fighting against injustice in global trade, speaks of the need for British people to become awake consumers and to realise our responsibility within a global chain of events.

Explaining further, she speaks of the systemic problems associated with poverty that are entrenched within globalisation, saying that, “there are systems that keep people poor. We’ve passed policies and rules and regulations that systematically keep people poor and we need to change some of that.”

Trans-national companies whose strongholds dominate the international markets, “are producing shareholder returns.” Fiona also comments. “Shareholders are not really even interested in the product. They just want to see that there’s money coming in. Companies have to think, how they can buy at the cheapest possible price, sell at the highest possible price, make the maximum amount of money and deliver profits.”.

The negligence of many large multi-national companies towards their foreign workers have gone unnoticed for a long time. But now more efforts are being made to ensure that the producers at the bottom the supply chain have their rights upheld and that they are paid justly. Tea workers no longer feel compelled to hold an oath of silence in the hope of a measly pittance for their survival. According to the international media organisation, Peoples Dispatch, “hundreds of tea workers from Assam protested in Delhi” in March earlier this year. The workers demanded the “implementation of minimum wages and for the betterment of working conditions.” In April, “the Supreme Court of India granted some relief to the tea garden workers in Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, directing the governments of these states to pay half the dues owed to the workers.” However, the workers are yet to see any lasting change regarding their working conditions.

Back in Borough Market, Ratan and his tea house are making small differences. “Ethically sourced and sustainably grown” he utters with pride, as he explains that the key to running his business is through cooperation and shared interests. He reiterates that, “the growers help me, and I help the growers.”.

But it isn’t just the tea brands themselves that can make a difference. Charities like Traidcraft Exchange are encouraging the public to demand equality in trade. In May 2018, Traidcraft Exchange launched the ‘Who picked my tea?’ campaign in which they are urging tea companies to clearly state where they source their tea; in the hope that it will restore accountability among the brands and incentive them to protect their workers. Traidcraft succeeded in getting the six largest tea brands in the UK, including the likes of PG Tips, Yorkshire Tea and Tetley to publish their sources.

The tea business may seem the unlikely source of progress for international development, but there is a broader outlook for what it represents. As consumers, it is essential to understand that the so-called ‘insignificant’ decisions we make, impact on millions of people, despite the hundreds of miles between us. Consumers can no longer afford to remain unconscious to it. There is a shared responsibility to ensure a secure and dignified life for the people living in this world, of whom work so hard to gift many others the pleasure of a comfortable existence.

Check out the short video report explaining more about Tea’s role in international development.

https://youtu.be/_9efxi-6znM

“If the environment were a bank, it would have been saved by now.” – A look into why after 30 years, climate change remains on the international agenda

Strolling past London’s Marble Arch on an unusually warm April afternoon and I am promptly greeted with a flood of tents in the street. A wave of slow indie music floats among the fluttering of multicolored flags above. A man to the left hands me a pamphlet, subtlety breathing, “Extinction Rebellion. Rebel for life.” 

Despite the serenity experienced on one of the protest days; the Extinction Rebellion demonstrations were smacking national headlines. Thousands went out lobbying the Government, demanding change for a more sustainable future. 

But this isn’t a new conversation. Over the years the rise in environmental activism groups has been growing rapidly. In 2017, over 200,000 people took part in the People’s Climate March in Washington DC. Climate change and global warming is a hot topic (no pun intended) yet, we still find ourselves with unachieved goals and sunken with the lost dreams of a greener future. We’ve learned a lot over the last 30 years when talk on climate change really started to emerge but why is tackling it taking so long? Have we seriously still not got it right? 

Barricade at the Extinction Rebellion protests

According to Beryl Pankhurst, an activist for Extinction Rebellion, the “invested interests in the world for fossil fuels” and lack of “political will” are accelerating the climatic crisis. Large multinational companies, she argues, are making millions of dollars at the expense of the environmental protection of the earth and the Government allows the business elite to escape without penalty.

An article from the Guardian went as far to expose the fact that, American multinational oil and gas corporation, Exxon, knew about climate change as early as 1981 but continued to spend up to 30 million dollars on researchers and thinktanks who promoted climate change denial over the following 27 years in order to increase the firm’s profits. The actions from the firm have been compared to the those taken by tobacco companies in the denial of the connection between smoking and lung cancer to protect profits. 

As a post-millennial it’s hard to imagine why an issue with such global prominence has been allowed to slip through the cracks for so long. In such an age of technological advancement and international cooperation it almost feels comical. At the same time though, it is somewhat understandable when looking through the eyes of the elder generation. As Danish physicist, Niels Bohr once said, “technology has advanced more in the last thirty years than in the previous two thousand. The exponential increase in advancement will only continue.” We are now living in times so unique and distant than that experienced in the vast majority of human existence. It was unthinkable that we would ever achieve what we have so soon. Perhaps we simply have not had enough time to truly understand our impact in the little time that we have made it.

Despite this, there are those who no longer see this as an excuse. Almost inverting the argument, they state that, if we can create such drastic change in a period as little as 30 years then we can surely reverse the effects in the same way.  We have the evidence; we have the technology but most importantly we have the money.

WHAT OF THE FUTURE?

Scientists have declared that a 2°C rise in global temperature threatens to leave us at a point of no return and engender irreversible damage to our world and existence. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has already set out a 1.5°C threshold in order to sustain our future.

Countries such as China are already starting to lead the way with environmental change, whist incorporating economic and business needs. The launch of fully electric taxis and the adoption dockless bike-sharing systems containing 20 million bikes in Shenzhen are a few paving the way. With goals to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in energy consumption to 20% by 2030, China is demonstrating an international leadership and impetus to finally engender some needed changes. But this can’t be a one country solution to a worldwide affair. As we are reminded, climate change is an international problem and it will take more than electric taxis and bicycles to solve it.

However, with other world leaders continually denying the existence of climate change its hard to see where the future lies. With Trump’s exit from The Paris Agreement and global warming deniers like Vladimir Putin’s stating that, “so-called anthropogenic emissions are most likely not the main cause of this warming”, it does make you question the likelihood of international cooperation and the existence of a shared global endeavor in tackling the issue for the next generation. But what’s clear is that whatever it comes to, we each need to take some responsibility. 

As Pankhurst pleads, “some people in the world are actually suffering enormously from the effects of climate change right now. Their houses have disappeared completely.”

Could we be willing to let our only home disappear too?

At the Extinction Rebellion Protests in Marble Arch

Extinction Rebellion Wrap

Climate change continues to find itself at the heart of international agenda. Though, not everyone sees it such a pressing issue. Many even deny its existence.

Extinction Rebellion have been campaigning since October 2018 to get the British Government to declare a climatic emergency and change the minds of those turning a blind eye to climate change. They have come out in full force over the Easter period and caused massive disruption to central London in the hope that the Government will now take some serious action.

Nothing to Fear – A review on Ben Ecclestone’s newest production at the Blue Elephant Theatre

With data ownership and Internet surveillance at the heart of debate in today’s society, is there really nothing to fear in this post-truth Internet-age? Ben Ecclestone’s new production creatively explores the complexities of it all and will leave you questioning more!

A beatboxing Ben Ecclestone as he unfolds a new narrative on a data obsessed world

The political, though at times light-hearted production, ‘Nothing to Fear’, is a reverberating exposition by sound artist, Ben Ecclestone. It fuses the realities of a physical and electronic world and unwraps a mysterious voyage into internet-age living. It is the first major work by the emerging sound artist and is a remarkable addition to the featured works at the Blue Elephant Theatre in Camberwell.

Ecclestone’s “part gig, part lecture” takes you on a journey as if being transported through the internet itself. The conventional narrative is flipped on its head in this production. While at times feeling like a classroom lecture and at others being blasted into a celestial existence, the short production plays with the mind. It leads you on a conflated adventure of emotion and logic, while providing a succinct education on contemporary issues surrounding data usage and ownership.

A live musical arrangement of ideas performed right before you

The uniqueness of the production is exclusively derived from its compelling use of sound and lighting. As a sound artist, Ecclestone makes full use of his astonishing beat boxing and djing ability. Using an array of sung melodic lines mixed with unconventional sounds and techniques, Ecclestone creates a platform enabling his music equipment to elicit emotion and tell a story right in front of you. One highlighted moment included the performer beatboxing and rapping over the voice of iPhone’s “Siri” voice recognition system. The live arrangement and execution of this was spectacular and also evoked a gentle chuckle among the audience.

The immersive touch, which aids your entrance into this electric world, is also enhanced by the lighting (designed by Edward Scragg). The blurriness and merging of colours under smoke builds the ambience and tantalises the eyes, helping to convey to the audience, a slightly abstruse reality. The space helps to maximise the effect of the lighting given the compact nature of the studio theatre. The theatre’s cosiness can at times feel almost vacuum-like and creates a sense of intimacy that fosters your immersion into the story being told.

“Around 40% of the world population has an internet connection today. In 1995, it was less than 1%.”

The facts and statistics that are continually narrated by Ecclestone provide a comprehensible context to the surrounding environment. The striking statistics not only help capsulise the Internet world to develop your understanding throughout the play, but also produce the classic ‘fly on the wall’ effect as you become awakened to the various facets of the Internet and the key players involved. This is felt most notably when exposed to lesser known facts that reveal the more sinister underbelly of the web, like the Government and corporate activities around data usage as well as the obscurities of the Dark Web.

Overall these elements make for an intriguing production with quite a strong political undertone that is almost campaign-like in its delivery. The narrated information and statistics are very well researched though, at times may pass over your head due to the complexity of certain concepts and techy jargon. With this said, as a first production it is truly worthy of recognition for its explorative and creatively unorthodox nature. It will definitely get you thinking and leave you questioning whom to trust!

Rated ★★★★

Photos taken by On These Isles

Blue Elephant Theatre

Video Preview

Decisions on Development: Time to move on for the Elderly Elephant?

Local stakeholders are still divided by the Elephant and Castle shopping centre (The Elephant) regeneration plan set by developers, Delancey and Allies & Morrison.

The two-phase development plan, first considered in January this year is said to promise 979 new homes, around 175,000 square feet of new leisure facilities and shops as well as a brand-new campus for UAL’s (University of the Arts London) London College of Communication. Despite this, local stakeholders have expressed concerns regarding the redevelopment project and its effect on the community.

Janet, local campaigner explains, “We value the service we get and a lot of the traders. We have good people that we’ve known for years serving us.”

Locals say that the development plan is not inclusive of their needs and fear that the redevelopment will dilute the community and leave traders out of business.

Twitter campaigners, @SouthwarkNotes call the development, “Delancey’s Elephant Shopping Centre social cleansing plans.” alluding to the development as a strategy to cleanse the area of its working-class.

Among the dialogue, the development has been welcomed by others. Some vendors look forward to the plans, stating that the development will help to push their businesses further. They see the plans as necessary in keeping up with London’s ever modernising face as well as to enable that the development of economic growth within Southwark to continue. Local trader, Ms Oyelade says that, “I have no worries about the regeneration project. The area will benefit. More profit will be generated as the area gets busier.”

Delancey have continued to reassure stakeholders about the development and comment that, “We are committed to delivering this project, in line with the Council’s vision for the area, and since the initial Planning Committee in January, we have worked closely with the local community, Ward Councillors and Southwark Council to listen to concerns. Our proposals offer a once in a lifetime opportunity to deliver a new town centre for the area.”

The plan is currently waiting official confirmation, however planning permission has already been granted by Southwark Council’s Planning Committee. Though, the final decision is yet to be signed off by the Mayor of London and confirmation from the Government on listed status for the building is still under review.

Though, seen by few as beneficial, many still see it essential that the development of a newer Elephant not come at the expense of the community. As Janet reiterates, “they can draw up the building and architecture plans but they can’t draw the community.”

Baa Humbug! A Review on the Blue Elephant Theatre’s Newest Production

Alice Sillett outraged c Lidid Crisafulli
Alice Sillett as Humbug

The short Christmas production, Baa Humbug written and directed by Jo Sadler- Lovett and produced by Niamh de Valera at Southwark’s Blue Elephant Theatre is a true delight. Filled with exuberance and interaction, the production most definitely serves as a remarkable piece of children’s entertainment. Containing an underlining message based around mental health awareness and the importance of being transparent with others about feelings and emotions, the play demonstrates a real commitment in helping to educate the next generation through a lighthearted and engaging approach. 

Jonathan James and Oliver Yellop c Lidia Crisafulli

The writing explores the complexity of managing relationships at the most minute level and highlights the importance of communication. The intelligent delivery of the show makes it easy for anyone to take away elements of the writer’s message.

Consisting of a group of animal farm friends and a farmer, the story depicts a journey of exploration as the three friends approach the Christmas season – Chicken (played by Jonathan James), Cow (Oliver Yellop), Humbug the sheep (Alice Sillett) and Farmer (Mark Nicolson).

Oliver Yellop & Alice Sillett c Lidia Crisafulli

The selection of characters (including the narrative role played by Nicolson) and the context of the story make the play incredibly straightforward and child-friendly given the underlying message, but at the same time does not take away from the engagement that is witnessed throughout the performance.  

Mark Nicholson closer c Lidia Crisafulli
Mark Nicolson as Farmer

The acting is a fundament in the success of the play and contributes to its overall excitement. The energy brought by each performer was perhaps the highlight of the show and allowed this reviewer to feel a strong and somewhat believable connection to the characters, making it easy to develop an understanding of them and their situations.

The frequent and friendly audience participation adds to the interactivity of the performance but also aids a sense of relatability that can be picked up in response of the children. Given the nature of the message within the play, this reviewer thinks that the element of relatability is a particularly important aspect to consider and would say that it is achieved well in this play.  

Oliver Yellop c Lidia Crisafulli
Oliver Yellop as Cow

The colourful costume design by Jacqui Livingston and set and light design by Operator, Stuart Glover is truly successful in bringing out the playfulness of the show and seems to be particularly appealing among children. Containing an array of loud colours, lively lighting and atmospheric music and sounds, the audio-visual aesthetics certainly contribute to the general magic of the performance and help to bring the story to life.  

Jonathan James c Lidia Crisafulli
Jonathan James as Chicken

An overall exciting and educational show, this Christmas play for ages 4+ is unique in its approach.  Able to deliver important educational messages though in fun and engaging ways that are easy to interpret. This reviewer would most certainly recommend it to the targeted age group and would encourage families and schools to invest in seeing the production. 

 Rated ★★★★

Photos taken by Lidia Crisafulli

Blue Elephant Theatre

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The Beginning of a New Chapter

arizona asphalt beautiful blue sky

The past weeks have been really tough. Battling with internal emotions, moments of isolation and perhaps most strikingly the feeling of an unhappy heart have led me to drop out of university. Saying this though, I look back in hindsight with a sense of grace and overwhelming gratitude.

In what seems to have felt like a relentless road of anxiety and bewilderment, the past weeks have taught me a lot about myself; my mindset attitude and perhaps even what I deem to be my purpose within this world have converted themselves completely. But it wasn’t straightforward allowing myself to be led into a blanket of uncertainty like this. It took strength and courage to allow myself to decide what was best for me in those moments.

For most of my life, I feel that I have been easily swayed by the opinions of others and I suppose I never really thought deeply enough about what I actually wanted out of my life. Constantly jumping through hoops trying to conform and settle to lead a ‘normal’ life all the while, convincing myself that I was still achieving what I wanted and blindly going ahead without questioning myself.

Have you ever been forced to think why you are doing something? Knowing how routine our lives can be sometimes it can so easy to forget our purpose and why we actually choose to pursue certain things. Take drinking tea for example. I think that it would be fair to say that many people drink tea at the same time every day. (I know  what you’re thinking but just go with me on this one). Why? You ask. Who knows, maybe it is just how they have decided to fit in a perceived ’necessary’ task around the schedule of their day.

There is often no real reason why we do things exactly to a routine other than it is something that we are accustomed to and that makes us feel safe and comfortable. That was how I felt my life was going. Totally planned and organised the way I wanted it to be, and from that, I simply expected my goals to in a similar ‘fall in my lap’ if you will, because I told myself I was doing the right things by following this adopted longterm routine (life plan).

 

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Photo by Owen Barker on Pexels.com

But as I’m sure many already know, in as few words as possible: life is not easy, nor planned, nor forgiving. You truly have to fight for what you desire, even whether that involve taking unconventional (and often uncomfortable) steps to get there.

So that is what I have come to realise. Nothing is really straightforward and well, even those who seem to have everything sorted well and truly don’t. Everyone’s path is unique and individual and so one person’s story may not represent a reflection of how yours should be.

I suppose the most important thing is to always listen to your heart (as cliche as it sounds) and know that as long as you are focused in the present moment and are more concerned with making the most of living right now, in this moment, then you honestly have nothing to worry about. Just have faith in yourself and trust that you will be led onto the right path. You WILL get there, just don’t put an exact timestamp on when. Life is a bundle of surprises; you’ve got to be ready to adapt.

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What is this all about then?

Hello wonderful people and welcome to THE website!

My name is Darnell, a young west London creative who is endeavoring to intrepidly explore far beyond the borders of the M25!

… lol

But seriously, I do like an adventure and reporting on international affairs, strange unheard of and looked over things is what I do best.

As a journalist and an aspiring documentary filmmaker, I have created this website to share and showcase some of the most recent journalistic work that I have been engaging in.

But wait there’s more…

As well as being a place to share some of my projects and works I see this page as a creative outlet and place for reflection for me, where I can share relatable experiences with others and hopefully build a community.

I love all things creative and adventurous so expect the odd music related post, poetry,  photography, film and of course… Travel! (Especially this one might I add) 

A creative soul is what I am…

and, well… engaging with creative content and being able to share and relate with like-minded people makes me so fulfilled and if I can spread that feeling then I’d be glad to know I’m doing something right for once!

So keep an eye out on here and expect a couple posts every month.

If you want to see more you can also give me a shout on Instagram @darnell_christie or on Twitter @darnellchristie.

Hope to see you soon.

Have a fabulously phenomenal day and keep smiling!