Wednesday, 24 May 2017

MP launches long overdue legislation aiding new parents

Steve Reed in his constituency office in Thornton Heath discussing his new plans to help families with premature babies. PHOTO/Jean Pierre Ivanov

Steve Reed, the Labour MP for Croydon North is leading the charge to tackle gaps in maternity and paternity leave legislation. He is currently proposing a prematurity bill which aims to extend statutory leave for parents of premature babies. Reed became aware of flaws in the current law in November 2015, when he took part in a debate with fellow MPs to discuss premature births and provisions currently in place for families with babies who were born earlier, in some cases months before the due date.

The House of Commons has recently accepted Mr Reed's Ten Minute Rule Motion which gives MPs ten minutes to introduce a new bill. There will be a second reading of the bill on 16th December where MPs will fully debate his proposals. In a small, unassuming room at his constituency office in Thornton Heath, Reed explained with real enthusiasm what inspired him to tackle this issue, which is often extremely painful for parents: “It was Catriona Ogilvy who is a constituent of mine and she had two babies that were born prematurely and she came to talk to me about how difficult it was for her.” He reiterated,

Ms Ogilvy had started a campaign called “The Smallest Things” as well as creating a petition attracting over 123,000 signatures which aims to extend maternity and paternity leave for parents of premature children. Ms Ogilvy’s son Samuel was born at 30 weeks and her maternity leave started the day after he was born so she had to spend two months visiting her child in neonatal intensive care. She had saved money during her pregnancy but this was spent on travel, food, parking and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) visits. Ms Ogilvy stated, “five years later I can still suffer flashbacks to our time in intensive care.” Having returned to work, her son Samuel was officially eight months old but according to his ‘corrected age’ he was less than six months old “and he was still extremely small and vulnerable,” she said.

In regards to the current legislation, Mr Reed said: “The UK has got good maternity and paternity leave available compared to other countries. But there is a gap in it, the gap is that if your child is born prematurely no additional provision is made for your needs under the law,” he confirmed. The MP said that one of the most important things we should do as a society is support families and particularly parents with vulnerable children and argues that the law does not support these families, therefore he is proposing a change in the law. The same facts are published by Bliss who state “The length of maternity and paternity leave does not recognise the difficulty for parents whose leave begins long before they can take their baby home from hospital.”

Mr Reed described the huge psychological impact on women: “1 in 5 mothers with a premature baby suffers from mental ill health as a result of that through post-natal depression.” He pointed out that often mothers require support from the father at this difficult time and fathers only get two weeks paternity leave. “That is inadequate and it's not fair on the baby. What more important to any person is that their child is fighting for its life that has to come first,” he stated.

The Labour MP expressed with sadness in his voice: “I've met parents whose child was born three months before the due date.” He reiterated that it's a very stressful and worrying time for parents, as they spend a lot of money getting accommodation and eating expensive meals out because they can't get home and cook. Mr Reed added: “The average family runs up a bill of £2,500 to have a premature baby and then eventually hopefully the child survives after three months and comes out of the incubator and is allowed to go home.” The website Bliss does confirm these costs in a recent report stating that the average family of a premature baby faces unexpected costs totalling £2,256 throughout their baby’s stay in hospital.

Mr Reed believes that many families who have premature babies are financially and emotionally worse off. Some mothers, he said, only have three months maternity leave left to take care of their child after they leave the hospital, putting the baby at a disadvantage as they have less time to bond with their newborn before they get back to work. Also, he went on to add: “many mothers have to take a lot of time sick off work that can damage their earnings. So the maternity provisions don't recognise those needs and we're trying to correct that.”

When asked how many people would benefit if his bill does become legislation, he responded enthusiastically: “I think it's 1 in 10.” This statistic is 1 in 13 according to the NHS website. Reed explained that a more flexible system is sensible for parents and will give them the freedom to judge what is right for their child “If your baby is born one week premature then it's not a problem but three months is life threatening so it can depend on the length of time,” he added. The Verywell website states micro preemie babies which are those born below 26 weeks gestation, suffer from long-term cognitive problems, vision and hearing loss and this was certified by a physician.

Reed exclaimed proudly that his bill is supported by fellow colleagues across the political spectrum. “We got cross-party support from 12 other MPs from Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative parties backing it,” he said.

The MP, elected in November 2012, believes the best chance of the bill becoming a piece of legislation is by arranging a meeting with Margot James, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility, who according to Mr Reed is the Minister responsible; persuading her to change an existing piece of legislation through parliament will allow the process to be completed quicker.

Key words: Prematurity Bill, Bliss, Verywell, Steve Reed, Catriona Ogilvy

Friday, 5 August 2016

Croydon's Homeless Community

Helping the Homeless

On Tuesday 2th August 2016 I had the pleasure of being invited by a friend to the Croydon Seventh-Day Adventist Church. I was very eager to make my way to the venue in good time and familiarise myself with the activities this Church provides for the local community. Croydon SDA Church helps out the homeless by providing a weekly dinner for the ones who are struggling to afford regular meals every day. The gathering takes place on Tuesdays from 18:00 to 21:00 pm.

I arrived at the Church a few minutes before the meal was due to commence, and I was greeted by several volunteers who explained the planning behind the whole event, chairs and tables were being set up, the kitchen staff were enthusiastically awaiting their guests and the volunteers were pacing up and down making sure everything is in order.

Before the food was served, everybody recited a prayer of 'Our Father' while holding hands, the unison between these members of our community was evident despite the difficulties they were enduring. I could sense the camaraderie in the room among the people who were seated in the middle of the huge church hall, socialising and feeling at ease for a few hours in their day, in a welcoming and warm environment. The meal tonight included soup with bread, spaghetti bolognese and ice cream. It was a delight to be savoured.

I was in charge of the technical facilities and I would take requests from the guests for certain songs and videos to be played at the church. One such video showcased the work of some of the participants who were involved in art exhibitions across Croydon.

There was a total of 38 people who arrived to enjoy this meal. They all represented different backgrounds, races and socio-economic status. I realised that homelessness is rooted in our society and affects all walks of life. It is a huge problem and it's difficult to pinpoint the solutions to help everyone in their struggles.

I felt a sense of great satisfaction to have helped the homeless and enjoyed my time at Croydon SDA Church which does fantastic work for the local community in Croydon and the surrounding areas.

Friday, 29 July 2016

End of the Road

End of the Road

Uncertainty has hit the United Kingdom in the wake of the EU referendum. The most acute issue in my view is homelessness. The hostels and B&Bs don't have enough vacancies to accommodate people who have nowhere to live. Housing is a subject which has been avoided in this country for many decades, as a result there is a lack of affordable housing in our big cities, especially in London.

There has been inaction from the Government and there hasn't been a policy in place to effectively provide decisive solutions to ease this problem. Furthermore, the Government did not anticipate such a large population arriving from within the EU in the last decade. The net migration from non-EU countries also remains high. According to Government figures, the amount of homes built has hit a seven-year high as 37,080 new homes were built between October and December 2015, up 23% on a year earlier. Despite this rise, the number of homes needed to rectify the housing deficit is nowhere near the actual target.

The Government led by Theresa May must address the issue of housing especially after the 'Brexit' result. With a lack of supply and an unprecedented amount of demand, the new PM should promote revolutionary house-building projects, working with local housing authorities and Mayors, to solve this crisis. The key to solving this conundrum lies in our local authorities, who have the power to promote new housing projects but issues to do with bureaucracy certainly do not help to alleviate homelessness, which is worse than in other 'less advanced' EU countries, the Czech Republic for example. The new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has a big role to play in terms of acting as a gatekeeper for councils in Greater London to use existing brownfield land as well as TFL assets to create new council housing estates and develop community schemes to develop affordable housing.

There are indications that prices are falling because of the uncertainty created in the country in the wake of the EU referendum. Thus there is danger that an increasing amount of foreign buyers are acquiring a vast amount of UK properties and subsequently making it difficult once again for citizens living in the UK to own their own home.

Moreover action should be taken on unscrupulous private landlords who do not maintain their tenants' property to a satisfactory level and still charge premium rents in excess of £800 a month often for large families living in a single room in a shared house. Again there should be greater powers for the Government and local authorities to crack down on these landlords who do not provide shelter to acceptable or even basic standard to their tenants.

The housing market is a contentious issue due to conflicting ideas about how exactly the crisis should be addressed. Political parties are not part of the solution but rather part of the problem because they are squabbling between themselves and getting involved in personal attacks totally forgetting the bigger issue such as bettering the life of rough sleepers and failing to reduce long housing waiting lists. The only thing that is certain is that no one knows how long the uncertainty will last for.

Monday, 25 July 2016

How is the football superstar persona constructed in Convergent Media?

Throwback to my A Level days:

How is the football superstar persona constructed in Convergent Media?

“Stars are made for money purposes alone. Increasing the brand identity benefits the institution as they become a household name increasing sales in all of the media platforms they are in” 1(Dyer). The chief narrative focus of the FourFourTwo cover is the central image of the footballers Costa, Messi and Cavani who are positioned in a low angle medium long shot, subliminally creating a sense of aspiration for the target audience. Lionel Messi ranks highest in the visual hierarchy, as he is in the foreground. He has more global recognition than the other footballers through being instantly recognisable; therefore brand ‘Messi’ is reinforcing brand awareness by maintaining a strong brand identity. Whereas Diego Costa is living up to his Proppian archetype of ‘Villain’ by his facial code of gritted teeth, Messi, the Proppian ‘Hero’, has an indirect gaze with laser like focus on his quest.

There is low key lighting in FourFourTwo connoting enigma. There is an almost cinematic sense of drama, creating a hybrid of action and noir. The iconic Adidas boots and shirts are given the highest ranking, the footballer Cavani who is representing the brand Puma on Cavani’s shirt is being obscured by his own and Messi’s limbs reinforcing a subliminal bias towards this brand. There is a web address dedicated to the magazine which is thereby enhancing the reach to the target audience by inserting converging media connoting a ‘sense of interaction’ 2 (Blumler and Katz).

In reference to “Football in the new Media age” 3 there is an obsession with regards to celebrities (especially in the football industry) being used as commodities by various brands. A picture of Beckham scoring a goal is in the journalistic domain but “if he’s pictured with new boots or new clothes, then those are sponsored and he’s getting paid for the images used.” 4 (BOSE 2002). There is an increasing presence of footballers ‘being the brand’; a few examples would be the Argentine Lionel Messi or the Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo, they have exploited their own image rights to reap financial gains and worldwide acclaim. Their appearances in comparatively sophisticated magazines such as FourFourTwo attract a mass market of the social classifications A, B and C1, as well as being middle-aged, multiracial and male.

The mastheads typography further enhances Messi’s ranking by donning his name in bright urgent orange colour and enlarging the word ‘MESSI’ thereby signifying the importance of his persona.

In the publication of “Football in the New Media Age” Beckham’s popularity is being described as universally recognised, now that Beckham has retired from the game professionally, the footballer Messi is assuming the mantel from Beckham and perhaps has overtaken him as a player brand “He is one of a few players to transcend football and achieve popularity among non-fans as well as die-hard followers of the sport...In short, he is a marketing person’s dream.” 5 (Matthew Garrahan, 2002) Messi is using the same formula as David Beckham to grow and monetize his brand, by emulating the success of David Beckham; On the cover of FourFourTwo magazine Messi is given the highest ranking as he is at the top of the visually hierarchy thus citing his important to the game.

Messi wears Adidas boots as he is under contract to Adidas endorsing - connoting there is synergy between the player and the boots, this allows merchandising of mass media products to a mass market target audience, thus creating a ‘sense of identification’ 6 (Blumler and Katz) denoted by the question ‘Have you got the new boots worn by Messi?’ thereby connoting a sense of exclusivity.

The masthead ‘FourFourTwo’ connotes sophistication thereby appealing to an audience with high social classifications. The images of the players are superimposed over the masthead as such an iconic masthead is easily recognisable of the magazine therefore the brand identity is being strengthened by brand recognition. The word ‘starring’ following the players names suggests film star reverence. The stylish and slick typography is in Sans-Serif.
The demographic of the target audience of ‘Match’ would be in the social classifications of C2, D and E albeit drastically different from the audience of FourFourTwo it is still a Mass Market, multiethnic and predominantly male thereby conforming to the natural target audience of the football genre. Whereas, the price tag of £1.99 and a house style containing the colours yellow and red as the predominant colours which mimic the codes and conventions of a ‘’red-top’’ tabloid newspaper, for example the Sun newspaper connoting they share largely the same ethnicity, gender and social classifications. Moreover, according to the ACORN cluster which is formed of 15 different sub-groups, the group most likely to buy Match would be Council Estate Better-Off.

Match magazine has high key lighting connoting there is a sense of aspiration 7 (Blumler and Katz). The plug ‘Free England and Brazil Boomsticks’ gives an incentive to purchase the magazine connoting the audience are special, denoting no other magazine possesses this attractive offer thereby connoting exclusivity. Therefore the USP of Match magazine is the glamorous looking exclusives which aspire the target audience into a feeling of optimism. Furthermore their audience tends to become passive recipients to whatever products they advertise, giving more credibility to the hypodermic needle model 8 (Lowery & De Fleur).

Messi is not the archetypal centre forward – he is short and pacy- he has revolutionised the role in which strikers operate, his rise has been due to the performances of his football team ‘Barcelona’ domestically and in Europe, picking up a huge amount of trophies along the way – a formula for success in the marketing aspect of the club and its players, most notably Messi, he is thus the ‘Poster Boy’ of football as he demonstrates the true capabilities of a winner, furthermore demonstrated in the magazine cover which features his name in bold bright orange typography and he is on top of the visual hierarchy compared to others.

The brand identity of Puma is very strong, in spite of the subliminal and enigmatic nature of the brand logo. Moreover the use of backlit in the background creates a sense of elevation and of God like status. There is use of convergent media, specifically the social media hash tag of #STARTBELIEVING which is an imperative thus creating a sense of aspiration and interaction among the target audience (Blumler and Katz). There is an equal visual hierarchy among the footballers in this advert, although they have different nationalities – they belong to one globalised brand, Puma. The iconography of the footballers implies they are as big as film stars, they all are positioned like characters in the action genre of movies, the names of the footballers are displayed like movie stars therefore the audience can “feature they the share or admire with the star” 9 (Dyer).

In a Nike advertisement there is a subliminal message, surrounding the boots denoted by eight spiders legs connoting the football boots are as venomous as a spider further implying footballers especially strikers are as dangerous as spiders. Another subliminal message is the football being covered by the web created by the spider connoting the ball is in the net (web).

According to Richard Boyle the author of “Doing the Business?” ‘Football clubs are actively seeking to control their relationships with the media. Moreover, media coverage of football ‘stars’ has never been more extensive, as players such as David Beckham and Michael Owen seek to control, market and promote a particular image of themselves in a highly commercial market place’ 10. There is room for development in terms of the advertising and marketing of the image rights of very popular football stars, thus enhancing the prospect of a mass market audience.

The Sun newspaper with the headline: “Suarez bites back- he accuses English of a ‘witch-hunt’” 11. The masthead of this story appears to demonstrate his defiance and therefore portrayed as a loose cannon and does not care what other people think of him. Nevertheless, Suarez is the archetypal ‘antagonist’ 12 (Propp).

The tagline “He accuses English of a witch-hunt” demonstrates there is a huge sense of animosity for everything that Luis Suarez stands for. The target audience would be C1, C2, D and E in social classifications and would predominantly be male and white in ethnicity and middle aged, C1, C2 is understood to be the bulk of society therefore the target audience is a mass market.

Another headline by The Sun is “I’ve let down the fangs” 13 a pun on the word fans. Red top tabloid newspapers such as The Sun are infamous of gross exaggeration and bias. The Sun’s USP is wordplay and pictures- most notably snappy and short headlines accompanied by pictures that reinforce the narrative.

Undoubtedly the fall from grace that Luis Suarez had suffered in a four month match ban which includes all football related activity and a subsequent loss of endorsements from 888Poker have not dented his finances. His transfer from Liverpool to Barcelona in the summer of 2014 increased his wages substantially, demonstrating that he does his talking on the pitch and not in the field of marketing.

The magazine Match mimics the codes and conventions of the house style of the Sun newspaper. The typography tends to be in Sans-Serif for ease of reading. The reading age of the Sun newspaper is nine years old 15( and Match magazine clearly attracts the same demography as the Sun newspaper.
“Large brands are generally large in all demographics, small brands are generally small in all demographics” 16 (John Dawes, Brand loyalty in the U.K. Sportswear Market). The rise of Nike and Adidas as sporting brands has been meteoric: their combined share of the sportswear market is 56% so they are in danger of monopolising the market as Reebok, Umbro, Puma, Fila and Diadora have combined a market share of 44% 17 (Dawes).

Marc Gobe, a prominent marketing author says Nike “...[is] a good example of an emotional brand. It made sportswear accessible to non sportspeople with a brand story that inspired not just success but energy and determination” 18 (Dawes). The brand of Adidas has quite a large share of the total sportswear market in the UK and it hasn’t happened by coincidence: Adidas has been endorsed by the magazine FourFourTwo, the most famous advertisement in this magazine is no doubt ‘’All in or Nothing’’ 19.

According to Brand Loyalty in the U.K. Sportswear market A Classification Of Residential Neighbourhoods (ACORN) this is a ‘’sophisticated geo-demographic clustering scheme’’ 20 (CACI 2007) instead of being classed into different social classifications, the ACORN model 21 has 15 different sub-groups with ‘Council Estate Better-Off’ at the top with 15% of total sales in the sportswear market and ‘Prosperous Pensioners/Retired’ at the bottom with 2% of total sales. However, despite the differences in socioeconomic status the ACORN group ‘Council Estate High Unemployment’ contribute to 28% of their own brand market share in this group the same percentage as the group ‘White Collar/Better Off Multi-Ethnic’ therefore they aspire to appear rich.

There is a sense of ‘polygamous loyalty’ 22 in the general public – the idea of ‘’loyalty’’ towards a number of brands for instance a Belgian fan supporting Chelsea would be inclined to purchase a product from the brand adidas, as they are the brand partners of Chelsea, however Eden Hazard a Chelsea player who hails from Belgium personally endorses Nike so this is an example of how easy it is to purchase more than one brand in any particular football season creating a ‘sense of emulation' 23 among football supporters (Blumler and Katz). For instance in the cover of Match magazine there are many different brands being advertised and therefore it entices the audience into buying more than one product from more than one brand. There is no brand – not even Nike- that receives ‘’loyalty beyond reason’’ 24 from its user base (Dawes).



1. Dyer’s Star Theory
2. Uses and Gratifications Theory by Blumler and Katz
3. Football in The New Media Age by Raymond Boyle and Richard Haynes
4. BOSE 2002
5. Matthew Garrahan 2002
6. Uses and Gratifications Theory by Blumler and Katz
7. Uses and Gratifications Theory by Blumler and Katz
8. Hypodermic Needle Model by Lowery & De Fleur
9. Dyer’s Star Theory
10. Football in The New Media Age by Raymond Boyle and Richard Haynes
11. The Sun- Thursday 26th June 2014
12. Propp’s Narrative Structure
13. The Sun- Thursday 26th June 2014
14. The Sun- Tuesday 23rd April 2013
15. See A Voice, 2010
16. John Dawes, Brand Loyalty in the U.K. Sportswear Market
17. Dawes
18. Marc Gobe in John Dawes, Brand Loyalty in the U.K. Sportswear Market
19. FourFourTwo Magazine June 2014
20. CACI 2007
21. The ACORN Model
22. Polygamous Loyalty according to John Dawes
23. Uses and Gratifications Theory by Blumler and Katz
24. Dawes