Published in the Guardian – how can social landlords help with childcare and allow many parents to work


Exciting news! In my previous post I did hint that something was maybe coming.

I had my first commission from the Guardian, in their Guardian Housing Network about a piece which makes the case for social landlords to take a role in facilitating childcare as key to removing a significant barrier to work for parents, especially mothers.

Receiving the commission itself was exciting and at first I felt the pressure that I had to find the material and do a good job at writing. I sourced the material thanks to great contributions from housing providers across the country and to the amazing work they are doing.

I spoke to New Charter operating in the Manchester area; to Peabody in London, and Family Mosaic in London and the South East. I also spoke to childcare providers operating in Birmingham, pressure groups and mothers for whom access to affordable childcare is key to be able to work.

As to the writing, that was the more stressful part, juggling between facts about unemployment, single mothers in social housing, the lack of affordable childcare in this country, Nick Clegg’s recent announcements and commentary, quotes and examples from landlords.

The training from my London School of Journalism course was pretty useful to structure my thoughts and also my tutor’s comments.

And above all, my husband’s great editing and his analytical skills which came in handy to structure the headings better and allow me to find a thread for the story.

The end result was published today!

Children at childcare

Childcare costs the average family 30% of their income, a similar proportion to mortgage repayments. Photograph: Graeme Robertson

http://www.theguardian.com/housing-network/2014/apr/07/affordable-childcare-encourage-parents-work-housing-providers

So all in all, a great team effort with contributions from many people, some mentioned in the piece some behind the scenes.

And as a result, a published story that invites landlords to do more to help their communities improve their lives and those of their children. Something I am pleased I have played a role, in being discussed and accepted more.

 

The art of pitching – how to suggest ideas to potential markets


Lauraslittlethings:

If you don’t ask you don’t get – How to pitch ideas for potential markets and make sure you get editors attention? By using grabbing subject lines when sending your pitch. There are more things I learnt when preparing this assignment for the London School of Journalism.

Originally posted on Laura's Little Things:

My last assignment (nr 7) for the London School of Journalism’s “Freelance journalism” course was all about pitching and identifying potential markets for your writing. The potential markets are either related to your specialism or your passion or your local area.

When it comes to pitches:

- keep them short and sweet, only a couple of lines is enough
- be as focused as possible so that editors can see that you have a specific idea and outline in mind
- think abut your sources, the more original they are the better; busy editors or newspaper staff don’t have the time to interview people from every sector or specialism, so if you know of someone with an interesting story or are aware of some new research published but not widely known yet, pitch your idea
- quotes and interviews are what make the difference and keep the interest alive
-…

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The art of pitching – how to suggest ideas to potential markets


My last assignment (nr 7) for the London School of Journalism’s “Freelance journalism” course was all about pitching and identifying potential markets for your writing. The potential markets are either related to your specialism or your passion or your local area.

When it comes to pitches:

- keep them short and sweet, only a couple of lines is enough
- be as focused as possible so that editors can see that you have a specific idea and outline in mind
- think abut your sources, the more original they are the better; busy editors or newspaper staff don’t have the time to interview people from every sector or specialism, so if you know of someone with an interesting story or are aware of some new research published but not widely known yet, pitch your idea
- quotes and interviews are what make the difference and keep the interest alive
- after sending the pitch follow up with the editor to get something back, even if they say they are not interested in this idea but they can suggest another angle or idea
- keep pitching, it is good practice and there is learning to be gained from the process
- an inspiring example has been the story of the Butterflyist who tells her story from a mental break down to being a writer for the Guardian. She has examples of her pitches and what she has learnt.

And here is my story for this assignment

As with other modules from this course, it was great practice to put myself in the position of thinking about potential articles I could write for possible outlets.

The main outlets I identified for the assignment are related to my housing work – the Guardian Housing Network, an online network part of the Guardian newspaper and website that covers issues and news from the housing sector and Inside Housing, the housing sector’s trade magazine and online website.

My local area, where I live – the Brixton Blog, a collective blog about Brixton. Or where I work at the moment – the Fulham Chronicle, a newspaper that covers the Hammersmith and Fulham area.

My passion for photography was another area with Photography Monthly, a monthly magazine for amateur and professional photographers, being another possible outlet.

Part of the assignment is to suggest ideas about articles as well as identifying the markets. So I had to include some ideas about what I could write. Here are a few of these ideas:

Fo the Brixton blog

- local news reports in relation to schools or nurseries – being a mum this is right up my street

- a special report about a major regeneration project in Lambeth, in Myatts field, that is being delivered by the company (Pinnacle psg) I am doing a secondment with at the moment

The Guardian Housing Network

- Housing management seen from an outsider’s perspective’

Inside Housing

- What does it mean to be a housing officer today, a front-line perspective’

Photography Monthly

- Interview with professional photographers on tips for setting up your business as a photographer’

The other part of the assignment was about suggesting an article for a chosen outlet. I chose to suggest an article for the Guardian Housing Network about a number of half-term events that were organised by Pinnacle, in Hammersmith and Fulham. I did complete this part of the assignment for the course and I did also suggest it to the Guardian Housing Network. This is the title and a proposed approach:

When housing providers have a direct impact in their community – Pinnacle Psg half-term activities in the Fulham area

A range of half term activities was delivered by Pinnacle psg who are in charge of managing social housing stock on behalf of Hammersmith & Fulham council, for the south of the borough.

These activities attended by about 100 residents, included a detective event at Lancaster Court, a magician show at West Kensington tenants hall, a ‘Bling your bike’ workshop at Gibbs Green tenants’ hall and Cinema Clubs in other resident halls.

My pitch went on about the benefits of these free events to families on low-income, how resident engagement is something Pinnacle are very committed to and how customer engagement is key to business success, in particular for private companies who are very dependent on their measured and visible performance.

I did send the assignment to my tutor and the pitch to the Guardian and was happy for a couple of days. Satisfied that I had completed another module.

The tutor came back with his comments, which were very good and constructive. And the Guardian came back saying they didn’t feel the suggestion was wide enough to cover various providers across the country. But they did suggest some other ideas, which I did follow up and maybe they may lead to something. Who knows, watch this space.

The key lesson that came from the tutor was about the length of the pitch – it only needs to be a couple of lines. Mine was almost a full page!!! Important learning there, don’t send long pitches, keep them sweet and short.

I have to admit I did write the article or what I thought was going to be the article, in order to be able to write the pitch. I couldn’t just list the ideas I wanted to cover without having them clearly set out in my head and the potential article structured between facts, quotes, observations, etc. So all in all, good practice and great learning!

 

Our memorable family holiday in the Ardeche region, south of France


This is the reworked and final draft of my ‘travel feature’ assignment – I shared an earlier version of it here on the blog and after I received some comments (by email, a great benefit of sharing your work) I have reviewed it below.

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For the adventurous family who likes to design their holiday and enjoys driving, France is an excellent destination offering countless possibilities.

After having completed the rite of passage of most British car travellers and spent a week in Brittany, the previous summer, we decided to travel further afield this time, to the south of France.

Our final destination, Vallon Pont d’Arc, a small town in the centre of the Ardeche region, offers spectacular views of the river Ardeche meandering through towering limestone cliffs.

River Ardeche meandering through gorges in the Ardeche

River Ardeche meandering through gorges in the Ardeche. The night before we had a storm raging through but barely bringing temperatures below 30 degrees next morning.

An impressive 60 m high, naturally formed arch gives its name to the town and forms the entrance to this tourist honeypot.

In the summer, streams of colourful canoes go under the Arch in their descent of the river Ardeche, the most popular activity in the area.

With two very young children, our two year old son and our French friends’ one year old daughter, we opted for the comfort of a holiday house. To our benefit the house had been recently renovated, with a particularly exotic touch – a spiral iron stairwell brought from Thailand!

A house within walking distance to the town centre was ideal and soon our early morning strolls for fresh croissants, became a ritual that the children enjoyed.

Vallon Pont d’Arc is centrally located making it easy to go on half-day trips to nearby places. And for us long distance travellers, it was fantastic not to spend a lot of time on the road.

The town itself is home to a host of markets where local producteurs sell their delicious products. Ham, saucisson, wine, cheese and lavender flavoured nougat were some of the delicacies we tried.

Lavender is a local speciality and many by-products are sold in the local Lavender Museum, where visitors can also take photos in idyllic lavender fields.

Lavender fields at the Lavender Museum in Vallon Point d'Arc, in Ardeche

Lavender fields at the Lavender Museum in Vallon Point d’Arc, in Ardeche

Although tempted to only relax by the river or sit in a cafe while watching locals play petanque, we also had more physical activities and went canoeing, through the famous arch and into unspoilt pebbled beaches alongside the river. For those interested in pre-historic art, the area is a real treasure with its many pre-historic caves.

And if after swimming and canoeing in the river, enjoying panoramic views or immersing yourself in history, you feel eager for more, there is still plenty to do.

A number of villages of particular beauty are close by and have old houses clinging on to steep slopes, impressive beaches surrounded by high cliffs and pedestrian only centres where you can cool off with an artisan ice-cream.

Beach by the river Ardeche, in Balazuc

Beach by the river Ardeche, in Balazuc

Having a chocolate and vanilla ice cream might not be the climax for everyone but it certainly was for our son as was the coffee flavour for our friend Jérémie.

The impressive range of activities, natural beauty and culinary delights made Vallon Pont d’Arc a perfect holiday destination, worth getting to after long hours of driving from London. In a car without air-conditioning, I can now reveal, something that we will remedy before our next drive through France.

Photographing people in the street, is it easy?


Lauraslittlethings:

Do you find street photography easy or like me you feel a bit awkward when meeting the look of a stranger questioning your intentions as you are about to press the camera ‘click’? But good news, we can all get better at it by practising and asking for permission or with a look, ‘can I’? Usually people say yes and can also engage in conversations. Here is an earlier experience of mine.

Originally posted on Laura's Little Things:

I set myself a task to get better at photographing people in the street. 

That is an area I like and I want to get better at as I like observing what people do, how they dress, how they behave and interact. But of course as fascinating it can be it is also quite difficult. What I worry the most about is people’s first reaction, whether they want their picture taken and whether they will interact with me to say ‘please delete’ or whether they will turn away. What happens most times is people turn away to avoid being photographed. So the type of images I kept shooting were ‘stolen’ images which were not very well framed, or were taken in a hurry or didn’t have any expressions in them. 

So I decided to change that and started asking people if I could take their picture. Here are some of…

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Falling down a rabbit hole – looking back at slavery after watching ’12 Years a Slave’


This is a revised draft of part of my assignment – the column on a news story – which I decided to write on the issue of black people’s slavery perpetrated by white men. This was after the release of ’12 Years a Slave’ movie.

I wrote a first draft, now revised after watching the movie and being completely taken by it. The movie is very harsh but that reality was harsh. What black people went through, the sufferance, the humiliation and the psychological damage, were brought to life very convincingly. What has happened is shameful and the effects are still around us; as a society I believe we should look at this and try to remedy it. Here is the new draft. I am happier with it and will send it to my tutor. If you have any views/comments please share them with me. Thanks.  

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It is impossible for those who have watched the movie Years a Slave’, not to feel a deep sense of empathy but also shame about a dark part of our history. And that is common history for the western world not only for America, as is often misunderstood.

Many are hoping that director Steve McQueen will give us another exceptional movie about the slave trade and Britain. In the meantime, Chiwetel Ejiofor the movie’s main actor has invited us to look at Britain’s role in the slave trade.

“There is this reflex fear that once you expose something, once you talk about it, you are really talking about your society. That is why we do not really investigate what Bristol or London or Bath would be without the slave trade”.

Although not immediately welcome as a topic for public debate, looking back at slavery can only help better understand a number of issues.

First, the movements of population between Africa, and America and the Caribbean as part of the transatlantic slave trade. And later in more modern history, between the Caribbean and Britain when many Afro-Caribbeans came to live in the UK.

Second, the immense contribution of black African people in the making of modern Britain and other European countries. Acknowledging this would be restoring some long-due justice to their historic role.  

Third, I cannot think of many worse forms of abuse than psychological damage, which has long-lasting effects on entire generations of people. We need as a society to remedy our past mistakes and find solutions to improve life chances for those left on the margins.

Chiwetel said, he fell down a rabbit hole with the book of Solomon Northup, the story of ’12 Years a Slave’. He has certainly gone through a journey into the heart of darkness, something we should all do to find the truth at the other end.

Our family holiday in the South of France, in the Ardeche region


This is the second part of my assignment for the ‘Freelance journalism and feature writing course’ with the London School of Journalism. I have to write a 500 words travel feature about a place I have visited recently. I chose to talk about last summer’s family holidays we had in the Ardeche region, in the South of France (covered in the blog in 4 previous posts Holidays in Ardeche, South of France 1, 2, 3 and 4). This is a summary of the trip with useful information about the practicalities, how to get there, finding your accommodation and our impressions. At the moment it feels a bit like too much brochure talk, not very personal, what do you think, do you find that? I would appreciate some thoughts on how to change it and make it more personal. Thank you. 

Vallon Pont D'Arc in Ardeche_________________________________________________________________________

For the adventurous family who likes to design their own holiday and enjoys the thrill of driving through a country, France is an option close to home.

When travelling, in the summer, a car with fully functioning air-conditioning is a must for not spoiling the fun.

Out of all the exciting options France has on offer, we decided to travel to the South, in the area of the National Reserves of the Gorges of Ardeche, from London. Recommended by our French friends we embraced the idea of discovering a new part of France but also having a different holiday by a river,  rather than the sea.

Travelling with a 2-year-old means some compromises need to be made, such as breaking the journey in two parts and if possible travel at night. Crossing the English Channel through the Eurotunnel, is quicker and more economical that taking the ferry. Also children love it.

Driving down and back through the ‘Autoroute des Anglais’, the A26 from Calais to Troyes is straightforward, although the tolls need to be considered in your budgeting. On the way down we stopped at Dijon and on the way back in Reims, taking the opportunity to visit its famous Cathedral. The second leg involves driving through the A6 and A7, the “Autoroutes du soleil’, quite busy going south but less so, on the return.

After Montelimar you leave the motorway for smaller, meandering routes, up high in the mountains of Ardeche.

Vallon Pont d’Arc, our final stop, is a beautiful town with many markets and artisan shops.

Finding the right holiday house can be easily done through English or French websites. A place that is at walking distance from the town centre is a bonus, as it is pleasant to take the children for a stroll in the morning to buy the croissants.

Most of the activities are child friendly but depending on the age of the child, you may choose to go for a swim rather than take a toddler in a cave, especially not the ones with many steps going down a dark cavern.

The river Ardeche, does not get very deep and its cool waters are sublimely refreshing. Canoeing is very popular and you can choose from trips of different grades of difficulty. The scenery is stunning particularly as go under the iconic Arc, a natural formation, the town gets its name from.

A number of villages of particular beauty are at close driving proximity and have river banks for a quick swim or pedestrian centres where you can stop for an ice-cream while you watch locals play petanque.

Vallon Pont d’Arc has all the charm of a French holiday destination, with an impressive range of activities for the whole family, alongside natural beauty spots and culinary delights. The perfect mix recommended by our family, for a perfect holiday.

Falling down a rabbit hole – the slavery debate sparked by ’12 Years a Slave’


Lauraslittlethings:

How has the film ’12 years a slave’ affected you? Is it helpful to make us here in Britain think about the past and the trade slave? This is not only an issue that concerns Americans, it is relevant in the UK as well as in other European countries involved in this trade. Check out why having a debate on the issue of the slavery trade would be beneficial for us here in Britain.

Originally posted on Laura's Little Things:

In a previous post I was looking for some ideas and suggestions on how to write a column. It is one of my assignments for module 6 of the ‘Freelance journalism and feature writing’ course I am doing with the London School of Journalism.

For this part of the assignment I had to write a 250 words column based on a recent news story. My choice went for the debate generated by the movie ’12 Years a Slave’ and its main actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, who called for the book and the movie to be taught at every school in Britain. Here is my (very concise) draft (I would have written much more on this but I had to keep it to the word count). Again any views or comments would be much appreciated. Thank you. 

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’12 Years a Slave’ a movie poised for numerous awards, has opened the…

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Falling down a rabbit hole – the slavery debate sparked by ’12 Years a Slave’


In a previous post I was looking for some ideas and suggestions on how to write a column. It is one of my assignments for module 6 of the ‘Freelance journalism and feature writing’ course I am doing with the London School of Journalism.

For this part of the assignment I had to write a 250 words column based on a recent news story. My choice went for the debate generated by the movie ’12 Years a Slave’ and its main actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, who called for the book and the movie to be taught at every school in Britain. Here is my (very concise) draft (I would have written much more on this but I had to keep it to the word count). Again any views or comments would be much appreciated. Thank you. 

_________________________________________________________________________

’12 Years a Slave’ a movie poised for numerous awards, has opened the debate on the role of Britain in the black African slave trade. The movie’s main actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor, has invited us to look at our cities to see how they are linked to this trade.

“There is this reflex fear that once you expose something, once you talk about it, you are really talking about your society. That is why we do not really investigate what Bristol or London or Bath would be without the slave trade”.

Although that is not easily done, the merits of a debate cannot be questioned.

There is general understanding to be gained about black people’s history in Britain. Because most of the African slaves, were shipped to America and the Caribbeans, people in Britain may not feel concerned. But the transatlantic slave trade was operated and benefitted Europeans and some notable British names. In terms of populations, some of the descendants of these populations, live today in Britain.  

Recognising the extent of the historical damage can soothe tensions and pave the way for a lasting remedy. To reverse years of discrimination and related consequences on life chances.

Acknowledging African people’s immense contribution in the making of modern Britain is restoring justice and giving some long-due value to their role. 

Chiwetel said, he fell down a rabbit hole with the book of Solomon Northup, a free man sold into slavery, the story of ’12 Years a Slave’. He has certainly gone through a journey into the heart of darkness, something we should all follow for a truthful end.

Assisting a photography session – Carlotta Cardana’s Mod couples project


Lauraslittlethings:

For lack of time to write new posts but also as an opportunity to share some of my older posts, I am re-bloging this post about my experience as photography assistant, which i did once with an italian photographer working on a series of photos with Mod couples. I found that I learnt a lot during that session not only about photography but a particular sub-culture, the Mods.

Originally posted on Laura's Little Things:

I have been looking to assist photographers so that I can get some experience of the real thing, of what photographers do when they are shooting for a project or for a client.

So I have been reading the brixtonblog (http://www.brixtonblog.com/) and I follow them on twitter and in one of their features they were talking about an exhibition at the Photofusion gallery, a centre for photography in Brixton. The exhibition featured four photographers all with their particular types of photography.

Photofusion SELECT/13

The one that caught my eye was the series on Mod couples from italian portrait and documentary photographer Carlotta Cardana. I have to admit that I didn’t know anything about Mod couples or the Mod sub-culture before this exhibition and actually before meeting Carlotta. There is a website about Mod culture for those interested to learn more (http://www.modculture.co.uk/).

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I love Franco Fontana’s abstract colour landscapes


Lauraslittlethings:

I have now added one of Franco Fontana’s photographs to illustrate his beautiful conceptual landscape photography

Originally posted on Laura's Little Things:

Photographist – Photography Blog is a blog I follow and like a lot, it has the most stunning photos you can find around by professional photographers.

A few days ago the abstract colour landscapes of Franco Fontana caught my eye and they are amazing, a pure joy to the eye.

This is one of them but there is more in the link at the end of the post

Franco Fontana abstract landscape photography

Franco Fontana abstract landscape photography

I am sure I have seen a few of them around, in magazines or photography books (or other places) but I didn’t associate them with a name. Now I will remember Franco Fontana as one of my favourite photographers. He is italian, born in 1933.

Interestingly he started as an amateur but had his first exhibition 2 years after he started. He is apparently the inventor of the photographic line referred to as concept of line. I…

View original 166 more words

I love Franco Fontana’s abstract colour landscapes


Photographist – Photography Blog is a blog I follow and like a lot, it has the most stunning photos you can find around by professional photographers.

A few days ago the abstract colour landscapes of Franco Fontana caught my eye and they are amazing, a pure joy to the eye.

This is one of them but there is more in the link at the end of the post

Franco Fontana abstract landscape photography

Franco Fontana abstract landscape photography

I am sure I have seen a few of them around, in magazines or photography books (or other places) but I didn’t associate them with a name. Now I will remember Franco Fontana as one of my favourite photographers. He is italian, born in 1933.

Interestingly he started as an amateur but had his first exhibition 2 years after he started. He is apparently the inventor of the photographic line referred to as concept of line. I will need to look this up a bit more but for now I like thinking about the concept of line as something that cuts across distances, creates shapes and structures and defines contours. 

Below is the link to the Photographist – Photography Blog’s article and to the amazing abstract photos of Franco Fontana. 

Abstract Colour Landscapes by Franco Fontana | Photographist – Photography Blog

I wonder if there has been any editing done on them, I would say yes about one especially, the one with a thin line of red ground, amongst three other thicker lines of grass, yellow fields and clouds in a blue sky. What do you think?

I wish Franco Fontana was the reader of my blog and could see my photographs and give me some advice on how to improve. He could be the only reader of my blog for today. This is in response to the Daily Post: Singular Sensation of one reader of the blog we would like to have.