Category Archives: Coventry

Perceptions

Venture back into the 1980’s and the image of a man with a shaven head is one deeply associated with that of racially fuelled hate crimes and general disorder. This stems from when ‘skin heads’ were, often rightly, feared by the majority of the population. The negative stereotype connected to the image of young men having shaven heads is now one that has regrettably stuck: almost instantaneously labelled with connotations of football hooliganism and crime.

 

 Recently 6 close friends and myself had our heads shaved in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust; in total we incredibly raised over two thousand pounds for the charity. Our transformation in appearance is understandably quite a shock. Having all had medium/long hair before our campaign, the difference now is not one that cannot go unnoticed. We all have the same group of friends, our peers see us in school every day and our teachers are all aware of the charity efforts. However, we all spend time in varying environments outside of school. Whether it is at our personal sports teams, behind the bar in a pub, working as a lifeguard or at a major shopping outlet in our city – we all have had to be seen alone by the general public, unaware of the reasons behind our head shave. For me, this raised the question of whether people’s perceptions and attitudes towards us as individuals changed with our change in appearance.

 I went to the gym with two of my mates who had also given up their hair in the name of charity just 3 hours after the actual event, and one of the first things my friend said to me was, “Some people gave me a right dodgy look earlier.” In a matter of a couple of hours why were we now being negatively judged without good reason other than the length of our hair? The change in perceptions came almost instantly once we had been split up and taken out of our school surroundings.

 The next I noticed came when I went to buy myself beers for a party. Having always used this shop, the same man that usually greeted me with a smile on purchase asked to see my identification. He seemed wary from the moment I stepped into the shop and asked me to prove my age for the first time in about a year. (Admittedly he should have been asking!)

 So within days, however trivial the incidents may seem, we could notice differences in people’s attitudes towards us – all for raising a serious amount of money for a worthy cause. Is a severe hair cut all it takes to be treated entirely differently? 

 

I don’t deny I may have had the same attitude towards people of my age with shaven heads previously to our charity efforts. However I now realise how it may often be unjustified. We as a country need to change our perceptions and stereotyping of people simply on the foundations of a glance. You never know the reasons behind why a person looks like they do, so let’s not be quick in judging anyone.

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the bedroom hour

It’s all too easy to type in the same old names time after time on Spotify or iTunes, and forget to look closer to home for talented, hard working bands playing local to you… you never know what you might discover.

5- piece West London based band ‘the bedroom hour‘ truly are an example of a hidden gem in the music world. Despite their influences coming from bands such as The Doves, Boxer Rebellion and Simple Minds, they manage to produce a unique guitar/synthesized sound that makes for an addictive listen. They currently have an EP out called Themes and this compact taster gives you a real sense of a band that has worked hard to get to where they are, and it also highlights their endless potential. The soft vocals on their single ‘X Marks The Spot’ prove to be a real winner for anyone into music, whatever the genre. They are working extra hard in order to get noticed and acknowledged this year, with their U.K. Tour in 2014 taking them across the country. They travel to Coventry’s Kasbah on the 23rd of May, a night that will most definitely be worth taking the time to go to. I know the band hope to draw in a good crowd and I for one am looking forward to a top night.

the bedroom hour

the bedroom hour

Bands that define a generation.

Every now and then you hear something that literally makes everything around you seem irrelevant and insignificant. You stand still, listening in equal measure of amazement every time you hear it, an uncontrollable sense of satisfaction swelling over you. You listen in awe. You listen with pride. The hairs on your arms stand on end. You remember the best of nights. You reflect on what it all means. It’s a feeling that nothing else can replicate…

I’m listening to ‘Oasis – Cigarettes and Alcohol’, what are you listening to?

Generations come and go; the teenagers fashion of one day get dismissed the next as a new wave of kids burst into their glory years demanding change. They charge headlong into their new lives not knowing what they want, apart from the fact they want to do things their way. Change is required, change that everyone can call their own and connect with. This continuous process is the rule.

The formation and development of bands mirrors this process. Bands can act as the voice to whole generations, they dictate the style and control the attitudes of millions of people. It is impossible to put into words how much power music has in terms of defining everything about a decade. But the key to the very best bands, is that they manage to live forever and carry their particular generation through life, providing them with an instant way of time travelling back to their teenage years… all with the press of a play button.

Despite their ultimate world dominance and fame, The Beatles started as four ordinary lads from Liverpool. They would go on to tour all over the world and their discography would sell over 600 million copies. The Liverpool Four attracted such a huge fan base that even John Lennon described them as being ‘bigger than Jesus’. With classic songs such as Hey Jude, Twist and Shout and Come Together they are a band that really have stood the test of time and have outlived even their own generation. It’s unlikely one single band will ever affect the world as much as The Beatles did. The unique, catchy sound coupled with their loveable appearance and personalities meant these 4 men, under the genius of Lennon, had more power than most politicians of the time.

As The Beatles’ dominated the commercial scene, The Rolling Stones provided a more rebellious side to music at the time, whilst The Who quickly gained the mod following and provided Parka wearers and Vespa riders a different direction. Their fans directly opposed the ‘rockers’ – living on a diet of Elvis Presley. This conflict raised the life long argument of, ‘My band is better than yours’. The teenagers of the time had to pick their side and stick to it. Choose their music, their fashion, and choose their friends according to this decision. Once the Beatles split, the 1970’s saw The Rolling Stones and The Who continue, and they were joined by bands like Led Zeppelin. These emerged as the new world super power. Their rock music would bring in thousands of people night after night as they embarked on major world tours, conquering both the UK and the USA. Venues such as Knebworth would be over-run with people as a whole generation eagerly waited for the chance to see their heroes in Richards and Jagger, and Plant and Page respectively.

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As The Who and it’s peers faded away to a chorus of ‘My Generation’, the ‘mod father’ in the form of Paul Weller and The Jam was born from the world of Punk in the late 1970’s. Punk music such as The Sex Pistols and The Clash soon took over from the heavyweights of the Rock and Roll world. Although brief, the punk scene blew every music rule out of the water and created a whole new world for many people in Britain at the time.

The 1980’s took a different turn, and the concept of bands struggled until Manchester decided to do something about it. Ian Brown and The Stone Roses became the band to see with hits such as ‘Fool’s Gold’ and ‘I Wanna Be Adored’. Whilst the Roses enjoyed their spell at the top, across Manchester a group of young lads under the name The Rain sparked a drastic music change when they invited Noel Gallagher to join them. Oasis were here. They served their time playing under the Boardwalk in Manchester, and when the chance came they grabbed music by the scruff of the neck. Their opening song of ‘Definitely, Maybe’, ‘Rock n’ Roll Star’, made a statement that this was how it was going to be from now on. Their debut album came with little challenge, until Damon Albarn and Blur created one of the biggest chart battles in music history – the Battle of Britpop. Whilst both Oasis and Blur continued to produce music after the turn of the Century, it became clear they had had their time in the 1990’s.

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A new era of commercialized chart music is upon us, fame and stardom now seem a moment away with the help of shows such as the X Factor. There are still very talented songwriters and musicians about, however such a craze over one band or one front man is now diminishing. The most notable ray of light amongst this new genre of chart pop and electro house music has come from Sheffield, and the truthful lyrics of Alex Turner and the Arctic Monkeys. Their debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s Exactly What I’m Not became the fastest selling album in UK history. The Monkeys have grown into a truly polished and accomplished outfit over the last ten years and their most recent album has broadened their fan base even further as they take a more mature, sophisticated turn. With lyrics about drugs, nightclub bouncers, alcohol and taxi ranks, it shows us there are still bands writing their own songs and forming a connection with the masses. This is the first band in what seems like a long time that can really be considered as one that defines a whole generation of people.

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For me, music is about finding the things that you enjoy and never looking back. The moment you find your band really is the best feeling. In your head they just make sense and you would never hear a bad word said about them. You’d stand up for them, you almost feel like you’re part of them when you hear that first chord.
Sometimes it may simply be that a band come from your city, this is enough to make you stand by them even when you know deep down their new single isn’t actually that good. For me, The Enemy will always have a place in my heart due to their Coventry background.

My Dad has Led Zeppelin and The Who; I have Oasis and The Arctic Monkeys. Who knows what my child will find in years to come. When they do I’m sure they’ll tell me it’s better than what I have, and one things for sure… I’ll tell them they’re wrong.

Coventry – UNITED.

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Not many clubs in the English Football League can say they started the season on minus ten points, under a strict transfer embargo and playing their ‘home’ games 35 miles away from the city they belong. For Coventry City, this has been the reality.

Despite the footballing gods overlooking the Sky Blues, the band of young, fearless players have shown how competent they are against the more settled outfits in the league such as Preston and Wolves.

The confidence that has followed a succession of impressive, consistent results, coupled with the positive style of play Steven Pressley has instilled means Coventry now lie 11th in League One with a genuine chance of making a play off position.

Regrettably, due to the divisive nature of Coventry’s current situation, passion among supporters has been seen to overflow into hostility towards each other.

The club has a proud history, and nobody is content with the off  field dealings as they stand. However we do have a lot to celebrate on the field and this is what must take the limelight.

Petty playground arguments about who is a bigger fan due to the amount of away games they’ve been to needs to stop; all forms of hostility needs to be put to one side. There is a squad of young lads performing week in week out under great adversity showing pride to wear the shirt. They need our support. We are all united by one fact, the fact we are Sky Blue and we love our football club.

Now is our time to show it.

 

Read article via Cov News and Sport – http://www.coventrynewsandsport.co.uk/index.php/sport/sky-blues/673-we-are-coventry-united

14% of Britain’s shops are empty.

14% of Britain’s shops are empty.

A quick Internet search will reveal this fact and a short walk along many high streets will confirm this alarming statistic. The shop vacancy rates are at an all-time high in Britain, with some of the more deprived areas of the country seeing more than 20% of shops boarded up and empty. London is the least affected city but still has a vacancy rate of 9.4%. It seems that the economic downturn coupled with a drastic change in our shopping habits has taken its toll.

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Who or what is to blame? Fingers could be pointed at the low cost websites such as ‘Amazon’ and ‘eBay’ with prices to help ensure people stay at home and order their Christmas presents, rather than visit their local town centre. Central and local Government could be accused of not doing enough to help town centre retailers survive in the world we live in today. Or simply, the diminishing existence of high-street shops could also be accepted as a fact of life in a 21st Century Britain.

 However, there are some success stories. In a once popular but now unfashionable arcade in Coventry you will find an old Fish and Chip shop turned innovative theatre space – Theatre Absolute and Britain’s first ‘Shop Front Theatre’.  Established as a professional theatre company in 1992, Theatre Absolute have toured extensively and won Time Out Live and two coveted Edinburgh Fringe First Awards.

 Following a trip to Chicago where the ‘storefront’ theatre scene thrives, Director and writer, Chris O’Connell, along with his partner and Producer, Julia Negus, approached Coventry City Council with this model and outlined their ambitions and ideas regarding the large empty space. Favourable terms were agreed and the closed down Fish and Chip shop was soon transformed into a location for the production, rehearsal and performance of award winning theatre. Not only does it allow for affordable access to theatre, its educational projects have helped people from all walks of life across the city, specifically young underachievers. Chris O’Connell explains, “The shop offers diverse and affordable opportunities for potential participants to engage; it is centrally located, and we believe it can tackle problems of social isolation, offer opportunity to those who are not socially engaged, or to those who lack skills and confidence. Ultimately it can be a community arts space that helps to build community cohesion.

 There is no denying that the transformation from run-down empty shop into an active, dynamic work space has been an influential factor in creating a positive multiplier effect to its immediate surroundings and to Coventry as a whole; at a previous event ran by Theatre Absolute and their team of helpful volunteers over 700 people visited the shop in one day.

 This model proves that despite arts funding cuts and such a large number of shop premises falling away from the market, success can be found in a recession through innovation.

 

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Coventry’s Shop Front Theatre.

A letter regarding the current state of English Football.

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Original points are that of Paul Lawrence. Edited by Ed Delaney – @thedition.

I am writing to express my concern for the current situation of English Football as well as the future development of the game in this country. At the present time I think English Football is taking a severe downward spiral and is losing its reputation of being one of World football’s biggest nations. I believe the National side has lost the fear factor they once had, and clubs in England are also becoming less feared when they play teams from different nations. There is no denying that the elite club sides in the world are not from England but from countries such as Spain and Germany. When a ‘top’ English side draws a top Spanish side in the Champions league the English team is automatically labeled as underdogs; to some this may be a good thing however do we always want to be known as the underdogs? We should be aspiring to be one of the feared nations in the world.

Out of 500 players named over 20 squads in the English Premier League, only 222 are home-grown talents. That’s an astonishing figure compared to other nations. A model example would be that of Athletic Bilbao in Spain, they have installed the philosophy of only using players that are from the Basque regions. When Bilbao met the English giants Manchester United in the Europa League in 2012 they were given a lesson in fast paced passing football – United ended up losing 5-3 on aggregate. This was an eye opener to many and showed how good the standard of football in Spain is compared to England.

The principle of football ownership and general running of clubs is also something that is a major cause for concern. Owners who are in it because of their passion for football are becoming a thing of the past – Dave Whelan of Wigan still a shining example – and are rapidly being taken over by people who think they can make quick profit. Take QPR for example, which were taken over by the director of Air Asia, Tony Fernandes. They pumped millions of pounds into QPR to try to become one of football’s big names however this backfired when they were relegated last season. When experienced head of football management, Harry Redknapp, took over as manager there last season in a last-ditch attempt to save them from relegation he said in an interview, ‘There’s an awful lot of players at this club earning far too much money for what they are; far, far, far too much money for their ability and what they give to the club.’ This shows that spending ridiculous amounts of money on wages and transfer fees doesn’t always pay off. On the other hand there is Norwich City who are owned by British Businessman Alan Bowkett, supported by lifelong Norwich fans Delia Smith and Stephen Fry. They have recently announced that they have erased £23 million of debt. This means that they are free of external debt. This is a great example of how a club should be run financially. Carrow Road regularly sells out and because of these foundations there is a real passion for football at the club. The benefits of this sensible, patient style is that now they will be able to invest more money into their squad so that they will be able to ensure Premier League stability and compete in the top half of the table. In my opinion this is where football should be changed to ensure financial stability, therefore concentrating on improving their squad and youth setup.

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Promising England talent coming out of Southampton.

A “long ball” label currently underpins English football and this stereotype has been relevant for as long as I can remember. This is something that needs to be changed in order to compete with the best in the world. The successful clubs of recent years have implemented a fast passing style whilst in possession, and a fast pressing style off the ball. This is something that very few English clubs have tried. Take Southampton for example, they play a high intensity passing game combined with fast pressing. It is no fluke that they are in the top half of the Premier League and took on, and beat the supposed big clubs with their usual self-confidence at the start of the season. They have a squad of players who are far from world-beaters, in their squad of 25 they have 13 home-grown players – including promising England talents such as captain Adam Lallana and 19-year-old James Ward-Prowse. The mix of technical ability and passion between the players alongside the style that Mauricio Pochettino has brought to Southampton has made them into a great team to watch. Other clubs such as Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich are also playing this way and they lead the line in international football at this time. The club I support is Coventry City, it is no secret that we are a terribly ran club off the pitch hence the reason we play our ‘home’ games in Northampton and began the season under a transfer embargo on minus 10 points. On the pitch however we are playing brilliant football and are the in-form team in League One. We are now mid table and pushing for the play offs. Steven Pressley and his players have been a credit to the club recently, Pressley has installed a fast paced, passing style of football and other League One sides are struggling to handle the Sky Blues. Recently Leyton Orient, nicknamed the ‘Orient Express’ came to play Coventry having won 10 out of 10 fixtures sitting comfortably at the top of the league. The ‘Orient Express’ came to an abrupt stop with a 3-1 defeat at the hands off Pressley’s young team. This shows that this style of play isn’t all about the players you have but how you adapt them to play the way you want them to. The 40-year-old manager has moulded his young side magnificently. They do say it’s easier to teach young dog new tricks.

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Pressley of the mighty Sky Blues.

Another massive problem in modern-day football is the inconceivable salary of the professional players. How can someone possibly earn £200k a week in the current economic state? It’s ridiculous. With an increasing amount of footballers declaring themselves bankrupt, it’s not like you can say they all use their fortune wisely. There are some exceptions to this, take Didier Drogba for example, he sends money back to his home country to develop infrastructure and improve the quality of life of the people in the Ivory Coast but unfortunately this is not a common occurrence in modern-day football. If I had the authority to make big decisions in football I would bring in a wage cap to English football, each stage of the English football pyramid would have a different individual wage barrier. For example no player in the Premier League could earn over £80k a week, £15k in the Championship and £5k in League one etc. This would encourage players to work harder to earn the highest salary they can get and play in the top leagues. No 10-year-old boy who aspires to be a footballer when they grow up want to do it for the wages. They do it because they love the game like so many millions. It is disgraceful how greedy some professionals and their agents have become in recent years. Would Bobby Moore have refused to play for his club unless they offered him a new contract with a wage rise? No he would not.

This again brings me back to the point about Grass Roots football; all the money that clubs would save from the players’ salaries could be used to ensure financial stability and then to invest into the surrounding area at Grass Roots level. This would produce more English talent and would ultimately make English football a stronger force in the coming future. I am looking to gain my coaching badges in the near future, as football management has always been something I have been interested in from a young age. I looked to see where and when I could gain my Level One qualification and was astounded to see that it would cost me £110 as well as travelling at least 10 miles to get there. To me this isn’t enticing young people to want to coach football, if anything it’s putting them off, as a teenager there are a lot of other things £110 could be spent on. So what are the FA’s plans in order to attract young, eager coaches? What’s going to happen when the current coaches decide they’ve had enough and want to stop? Then will there be a sudden light bulb moment that they could reduce the prices of gaining the essential qualifications by subsidising the costs with the ridiculous incomes from television rights? This is something that needs to be acted upon immediately, as England’s footballing future will be over before it’s even started.

Is enough being done with regard to young coaches in England?

Is enough being done to encourage young football coaches in England?

Being a young football fan I have played football since the age of 9, I have played at Sunday league level my entire career. Sunday league football is very popular for both adults and children throughout England. I have played with very talented footballers who have never been given a look in at Professional clubs academies; I believe that if a player can stand out on a park pitch playing with friends, then they will stand out on the green carpets that the professional clubs play on with other talented players around them. More scouts should be sent to watch footballers at a young age so that good English talent does not get wasted. The quality of pitches, coaching and officials is crying out for improvement all over the country. Professional players are earning hundreds of thousands of pounds yet amateur football clubs are folding because they can’t afford to pay for essential equipment. To prevent things like this happening there should be mandatory rules for each professional club that means they need to invest a certain percentage of the clubs income into grass-roots football in that area. This would lead to a higher quality of pitches, better coaching and top-level equipment. This would be a long-term investment that would bring great rewards in the next generations of English football.

If I were a Football manager I would try to model my team on someone like Borussia Dortmund. With the ball, play a fast passing game that will pull defenders on the opposing team out of positions therefore creating space for the dynamic midfielders to exploit. A key thing in football that I think isn’t said enough is that the opposing side cannot score without the ball. Ball retention is key. The transition from attack to defence is also essential as when a team are piling players forward and applying a lot of pressure this is where they are most vulnerable, so to have fast players that can counter attack quickly and take the pressure of the defence are vital. Borrusia Dortmund is also a great example in terms of the relationship between fans and players and club and fans. This relationship is one that should be installed in every club, because after all it’s the fans that pay the players’ wages and makes sacrifices to watch their team play around the country.

As you can see, in my opinion English football needs big changes and big changes fast. Other nations have made big changes to their footballing structure and they have all benefited massively from it. Its England’s time now to start a new chapter in International football.

Thank you for taking your time to read this and hopefully I have got some points across that I think English football can benefit from.

By Paul Lawrence. (Edited by Ed Delaney)