Category Archives: Interview

Talking on Russia Today about Israel/Palestine and International Humanitarian Law

Have a watch of me being interviewed on RT (Russia Today) on Israel/Palestine and International Humanitarian Law.

This video is about a year old but I’ve only just stumbled across it. No laughing at me not being able to hear the presenter nor the hesitant roundabout answers.

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Filed under Human rights, Interview, Middle East, Russia

Interview: Rorie Scott, the Manager of Stroud’s ‘Bisley House’

“when it is good and if it’s right for us and our customers, we like to choose local.”

Bisley House 2Stroud’s ‘Bisley House’ has just reopened as a family friendly bar/restaurant. Steve Hynd recently caught up with the Manager of The Bisley House, Rorie Scott, to find out how the first few weeks of business have been going.

Can you tell us a little about Bisley House and what your vision for the future is?

Bisley House is Stroud’s oldest Ale House. We’ve changed it though from being a rundown brewery owned boozer to a family friendly bar-restaurant.  

Feedback from our customers told us that Stroud needed a great place to eat out, and this is our focus for the Bisley House in the coming months. Our food focuses on Mediterranean flavours and is already developing a bit of a reputation.

But Bisley House also has a long standing history as a great drinking place and we wanted to keep this. That’s why we stock a selection of local beers and European wines.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became the Manager of The Bisley House?

The Bisley House is a family run business, owned by my Mum, renovated with the direction of top Project Manager,,,my Dad, and is managed day to day by myself and my wife Ania.

We’ve been contemplating the move from my 10 year career as a snowsports coach to get settled back in Stroud. Quite simply, it was an offer and opportunity I couldn’t refuse.

When a customer walks though your door for the first time – what’s the impression you hope they will get?

The new look Bisley House is much brighter and cleaner than how people might remember it. Returning locals marvel at the work done, while new visitors compliment us on it clean and modern look. Also, the “meet and greet” from myself and the team is genuine and friendly. The service is relaxed and not over fussy.

We want people to feel relaxed and at home at Bisley House.

You put a lot of emphasis on local products – why is this so important to you?

There are several reasons for this. The easiest answer is the environmental aspect. It’s simply much better for our world if we use products that haven’t travelled too far. Secondly, the service tends to be better. Small and local businesses tend to look after each other. To give an example, if we miss our order day with Stroud Brewery, they deliver anyway or we can pick it up.

Last but not least, our customers like it. It’s not always possible, or affordable, to use local products though. Local isn’t always the best quality either. But when it is good and if it’s right for us and our customers, we like to choose local.

You put a lot of emphasis on your selection of drinks – do you see yourself as competition to the local pubs?

Competition is such a strong word. There’s no doubting though that we are a great place to come for a drink. We serve 2 local ales from Stroud Brewery, with a guest ale on the way. We use Cotswold Lager and Cotswold Cider and no less than 11 wines by the glass. The beer garden has served us well these first 2 weeks since opening. Long may the English summer continue!

Lastly, what’s your favourite dish/drink at Bisley House? 

My favourite of the moment is Leon, our chef’s, Chickpea and Pancetta stew. It’s been on our specials board a couple of times but we’d like to make it a permanent addition to our autumn lunch menu.

To drink, the Cotswold Brewing Company’s 5% Cider has been a lovely summer tipple.

Visit: http://www.bisleyhousecafe.co.uk/
Follow: www.twitter.com/BisleyHouseCafe
Like: www.facebook.com/BisleyHouseCafe

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Filed under Beer, Food and Drink, Gloucestershire, Interview

Molly Scott Cato: “The Greens are seeing a strong but steady increase, especially in the South West.”

Molly Cato Scott is a green economist as well as The Green Party’s lead candidate for the European Parliament elections in the South West of England. Molly passionately believes that at the heart of our environmental problems is a badly designed economic system. Steve Hynd recently caught up with Molly to find out why she thought standing for election will help solve either the economic or environmental crises we currently face.


Can you tell us a little about yourself and why you think you are qualified to represent the South West of England in the European Parliament?

I have been working as a green economist for the past 15 years. I have been involved in the Green Party for 23 years including standing in general elections and European elections and I am now leader of the Green Group on Stroud District Council, where we are part of the administration.

I hope that I can use this experience to best represent everyone living in the South West.

What way will a Green MEP for the South West look different to any of the others?

The Green Group in the European Parliament is doing great work challenging the interests of finance in Europe and resisting the increasing inequality between North and South. Oh and of course protecting workers’ rights and the environment!

I would like to be a part of that, helping to Green the Common Agricultural Policy for example. The EU spends a lot of money in the south-west of England but at present it does not have to achieve real environmental objectives, I would be seeking to change that.

Can you explain why the European Parliament elections affect ordinary people living and working in the South West?

There are so many ways. To give just one example, the rules that govern the single market that we operate within are made by the EU so it is vital that we are contributing positively to making sure that they achieve the best for the South West.

When people vote in the European Elections, they vote for a party, not for an individual. Do you agree with everything the Green Party stands for and if not, what will you do if you have to choose between personal beliefs and party policy?

I sometimes wonder if I might disagree, but when I read party policy I find that I agree. I used to be a bit tepid about the banking policy but I worked with a friend to change the policy so it’s fine now–no, it’s excellent!

I think we could do with emphasising the political economy implications of some of our policies a bit more. So for example on immigration we should, of course, be fighting the racist attacks on migrant workers but we should also be arguing for better global protection of workers’ rights in a globalised economy

How do you explain the recent rise in popularity in UKIP and the relative flat-lining of the Greens? Do you think this will be the same in the upcoming election? 

I don’t think you are right to say that the Greens are flat-lining. The Greens are seeing a strong but steady increase, especially in the South West. Our main problem is the media, who focus on the daft, shallow stories about UKIP and tend to ignore our more serious issues. It is incredibly hard to get journalists to deal seriously with either Europe or the environment. A shame on them and a pity for us all. I think Zoe Williams had it pretty much right with her analysis of why UKIP get such attention from the media.

What is the one thing you hope to achieve if elected to the European Parliament?

One thing? You aren’t very ambitious!

I will focus on the stuff where I think I can make the most difference: finance and the single market. It is hard to know how far I can go until I understand the politics better from the inside. I would like to take my understanding of finance into the parliament, because I am not sure how many of the Greens really understand what went wrong with the Eurozone crisis. I also think we should work for more local supply of food and against the endless increase in pointless and energy-intensive trade.

You have previously written on the importance of working shorter working hours and yet you are applying for a job with some of the longest, have you thought about how personally you are going to balance that?

I have thought about this. I think that it would be a sacrifice to be away from Stroud. I think that most politicians make a similar sacrifice and it is one reason that the attacks on politicians are pretty unfair. But there are times when the parliament is out of session when I will be delighted to jump onto Eurostar and come home.

If elected, will you continue as a Stroud District Councillor? 

Absolutely not, the time commitments would make it impossible.

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Filed under Economics, EU politics, Gloucestershire, Interview

Eugene Grant: “I prefer the term dwarf”

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Eugene Grant is a dwarf and the founder of the viral site EveryDayDwarfism that chronicles the day-to-day experiences of what it is like to be a dwarf in 21 century Britain. Despite his experiences, Grant is optimistic that he can contribute to changing people’s understanding of dwarfism. Steve Hynd caught up with him to find out more.  

For many readers the term ‘dwarf’ is one they are not familiar with. I know some people are nervous about using it, afraid that it is derogatory. Can you tell us what the word means to you?

I personally much prefer the term ‘dwarf’ as opposed to others like ‘midget’, which many dwarfs I know find offensive. But, for me – and this is where the whole idea of political correctness becomes redundant – what’s more important are the intentions behind the terms used.

People can be ‘politically correct’ but employ such words with malicious intent; others may use quite derogatory terms without any idea or intention of insulting or hurting a person. It all depends on the way such terms are framed.

Can you tell us a little about why you set up EveryDayDwarfism?  

The aim behind EveryDayDwarfism is to document and present just some of the things that I – and my partner who also has dwarfism – go through during our day or week. Its purpose is to try to make people just that little bit more aware as to the things we encounter as dwarfs.

A lot of what we experience, I would put down to stigma and discrimination still being relatively acceptable to lots of people. The whole tone of the site is not supposed to be angry or ‘martyr-ish’, but relatively neutral, matter-of-fact and informative.

It’s to say: ‘these things happen, quite regularly. I just wanted you to know’.

Within the EveryDaySexism movement, there is a strong feeling of finally ‘shouting back’. Within EveryDayDwarfism it also feels like there is quite a lot of rage, is this an important element of responding to discrimination?

It depends what you mean by rage. Rage is very important but it needs to be channelled in the right way and used very carefully.

Leaving out abuse in the form of physical violence, I think when responding to discrimination it’s vital to ask oneself: ‘what is it that I want to achieve here?’ and, more importantly, ‘how will I get this person to change the way they think and act towards me and others like me’.

Can you tell us a bit about how you coped with the attention and discrimination before you started chronicling it on EveryDayDwarfism?

It really depends on two things: the type of abuse, attention or discrimination, and the intentions behind it.

Some abuse – e.g. an individual shouting insults from a moving car – is best left ignored. What can you achieve when they’re 100 metres down the road by the time they’ve finished their sentence?

Others – the attention from a small child for example – is normally fine; although, as I wrote on the site, it’s often the reaction – or lack thereof – from the parents that is the most frustrating thing.

Some abuse though might manifest itself in the form of totally unprovoked physical violence or confrontation.

Have you been in contact with other dwarfs, how do they feel about EveryDayDwarfism? Do others relate to your experiences?

It’s very important that people don’t think that EveryDayDwarfism or my own experiences reflect those of other dwarfs; I can’t speak for them. Not even my partner.

However, I do know that lots of people like me experience such things – sometimes less so, sometimes more so.

If you had one message to the metaphorical guy in the street who tries to take a photo of you with his phone, what would it be?

Just stop, for a moment, and think: What are you doing? Why are you doing this? Why would you or your friends find that photo or film to be of any value or interest? What does that say about your character, as an adult, and how you think about and respond to people who are different? What if I was your brother, son or cousin? How would you see it then?

A bit of a long message!

You wrote for the Guardian about the portrayal of dwarfs in the media, do you see EveryDayDwarfism as an effort to counter some of that through the illustration of agency?

Not really, no. Sadly, but also deliberately, EveryDayDwarfism documents some of the negative things that happen. And in this way, there is a negative tone to the blog.

What I was trying to say in the article you mention was that there needs to be more boring, regular, neutral representation of dwarfism in the media – weather reporters, Masterchef contestants, Question Time panelists, kids on CBBC – whatever.

Basically, more portrayals of dwarfism that do not limit that person’s identity to ‘a dwarf’ but reflects what they really are: a citizen, a parent, a doctor or lawyer, a voter, someone with views, ideas, etc.

What has been the reaction of family and friends to EveryDayDwarfism, are they shocked to hear of such day-to-day encounters? 

It was actually as a result of encouragement from friends to set up EveryDayDwarfism that I did.

Often friends have no idea of the things that I – and lots of others like me – encounter on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. Some have even been in situations with me when there has been abuse or something happen. Quite often, they are absolutely shocked at the way some people behave. It’s not a question of going looking for abuse or discrimination – that’s not a productive or positive way to live – it’s that, a lot of the time, this stuff finds youseeks you out, interrupts your day, your evening, when you’re just trying to live your life. And that’s what I wanted people to realise.

www.everydaydwarfism.tumblr.com/
www.twitter.com/aneverydaydwarf

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“You cannot be happy to see your dad suffering…”

This is an article that I wrote for the Africa edition of ehospice.


Mutagubya Bruno is the son of Lawrence Ssenyonde. Lawrence has cancer of the prostate and needs oral morphine to relieve his pain. Bruno recently talked to ehospice about what life is like caring for a family member in severe pain.

On the outskirts of Kampala, Mutagubya Bruno lives with his mother and father. A small alleyway leads to a neatly kept garden that is lined with palm trees and freshly hung clothes on a washing line. Bruno breaks the conversation he is having with his mother as a small delegation from Hospice Africa Uganda arrive through a side gate to their house.

In the living room, the three health care professionals sit in a line craning their necks to try and listen to Bruno’s father as he describes his pain. As Bruno’s father speaks, one of the nurses sorts through her case notes. She glances at the previous dosages of oral morphine Bruno’s father has received.

Throughout the conversation Bruno sits on the edge of a worn-out arm chair opposite his father looking on.

Read the full article here >> 

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Filed under Health, Interview, Media, Uganda

Artist Richard Woods is “unashamed to be political”

This interview was originally printed in New Europe.


Richard Woods describes himself as “more social commentator than artist” and has been compared to the likes of Peter Howson. Woods is famed for his grotesque caricatures and macabre take on places, politics and people as he explores the “absurdity of human existence”. On the back of another critically acclaimed exhibition at the Garden Gallery in the UK, Steve Hynd met up with Woods to find out what drives the painter behind the canvas. 

Can you tell us a bit about your background – where did you grow up  and where did you study?

I was born in Harrogate, but moved with my family to Cheltenham when I was seven. My parents would often take me abroad, so from a young age I had already seen a lot of the world. As an only child I had a lot of time on my hands and spent most of my time drawing and watching cartoons, leading to an extremely active imagination.

Is there any one person that inspires you?

The artist Peter Howson has been the biggest inspiration on me. He’s the official war artist for Bosnia. I remember going to Art College aware of the fact I wanted to paint people but was unsure of how I wanted to do it. When a tutor showed me Howson’s work for the first time I was blown away. That’s when I knew the type of artwork I wanted to make -Distorted characters and stories which are rooted to real issues within society. All of a sudden I felt I had a real sense of purpose, that I was doing something greater than just painting a picture. Perhaps that sounds a bit egotistical, but I don’t really mind that to be honest.

Would you describe your art as political?

Yes certainly. When I first began creating social commentaries I was really focusing on the darkest aspects of the world. I was tackling the ugliest problems in society head on with huge dark boldly painted canvases.

But I was young and full of enthusiasm then, I somewhat reckless with my choices. I soon realised what I was painting could alienate some people more than inspire them – although all those early paintings are now in private collections. I wanted people to reflect on my art but also to enjoy my work visually. I wanted people to be inspired to also try and fix the problems I paint about

Are you an artist first, social commentator second, or vice-versa?

I think at one point I was more social commentator than artist, but over the past couple of years I would say I’m more of a visual artist.

Most of my imagery begins with the idea or the inspiration which can be a news headline or something as simple as a personal experience. That’s the foundations of a work before I indulge my imagination and build up a composition. As an artist my experiences and surroundings mould my perspectives on life. Artists create work in response to these whether consciously or not.

Is there a message or ethos behind your art? If so, is it important to you that people understand that message?

Yes I would like them to but at the same time I’m just like anyone else, I need to make a living and I want people to want to hang my pictures on their walls.

Visual art is essentially about creating something unique and aesthetic that visually people can enjoy. I am always trying new things out. At my recent solo show in Cheltenham I had quite a diverse exhibition to show people what I can do with a paintbrush. Quite often artists develop a comfort zone (including myself) which is actually quite anti-creative. To find true originality you need to experiment.

I have even been painting landscapes outdoors recently. I know, a bit of a cliché.

How have the UK’s coalition years affected your art?

The coalition creates a lot of interesting imagery. I did one painting of Cameron and Clegg titled “Cutting Corners,” which interestingly got a lot of attention in Scotland. It was sold along with some of Peter Howson’s paintings from The Braewell Galleries. I think people value a visual representation of the political issues that they cannot always articulate themselves.

Your art is often a grotesque reflection on life, does this reflect your personal take on life?

It’s definitely how I view the world. I always loved looking at the German expressionist paintings, like Otto Dix and Max Beckman. They were so grotesque and surreal yet held so much truth about the world in their content.

I really thrive on making work which has a cause or purpose. With my early work some people seemed a bit shocked by it but for me I didn’t see what was so shocking, it was just normality to me.

In complete contrast my more recent work which has seen huge ice cream cones filled with fluorescent ice cream has been really appealing to people, especially children. Yet they actually represent a number of dark topics including The Fukishima nuclear disaster and the idea of economic meltdown. This is a good dynamic, having people enjoy the visual imagery then afterwards can discuss the politics.

For more information on his art please visit http://www.art-spaces.com/richardwoods/

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Filed under EU politics, Gloucestershire, Interview, Politics