Leith Festival to Lose Funding

The Leith festival looks set to face a dramatic downsize due to public funding cuts.
One of Edinburgh’s largest and most renowned festivals, it is likely to lose many of its benefactors,
includingEdinburghCity Council.

Leith Gala Day

The event relies heavily on public and charitable funds, which are diminishing at an alarming rate. Edinburgh City Council is just one of the contributors which has decided not to renew their contract with the festival.

The festival has entertained thousands of people over the past 8 years and has earned a reputation as one of the cities most popular attractions. It produces a variety of events including comedy, theatre, music and dance. Festival organizers predict that in 2012, it will be stripped  back, returning to its historical roots as a Gala Day and Pageant.

Speaking about the potential cuts, Leith Councillor Gordon Munro said: “We have had to reduce the festival because we don’t have finances. There has never been much money available from the Council and other sources have dried up and for the foreseeable future, I don’t see that changing.”

The residents of Leith have relied heavily on the festival in recent years to bring trade to the area and boost community spirit. Rowan Campbell, on of the festival’s board members, said: “People need to know how vulnerable we are and that it cannot go on without them. We need their help. The festival does great things for the community but there doesn’t seem to be funding available for this sort of community event, if there is we certainly haven’t found it.”

A public meeting is scheduled to be held alongside the Leith festival.  The AGM is due to take place on Wednesday 7 December in the Leith Community Centre at 7.30pm. It is open to the public, and any offers to join the board of volunteers who run the festival, will be warmly welcomed.

Safety fears could force Edinburgh nursery to move

By Kati Rawlins

An Edinburgh nursery housed on the top floor of a seven-storey block faces being moved as councillors debate safety concerns over its fire evacuation routes.

Westfield Court Nursery, in the west end of Edinburgh, has already been scrutinised by Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service, along with health and safety staff. City councillors will decide on Tuesday whether to transfer its 25 pupils to two alternative nurseries by next month. If councillors agree to the move, officers will prepare a report on options for the nursery’s longer term future.

City education leader Councillor Marilyne MacLaren said: “Because of its situation, Westfield Court Nursery has been subject to special health and safety reviews for some time now.  After each review we make adaptations and improvements to the building and to its safety procedures.”

Concerns remain even after modifications to the building and the nursery’s evacuation procedures.

MacLaren added: “There is nothing more we can do at this stage to address the fire risk associated with getting a large number of small children down seven flights of stairs from the top floor of the block. The only option open to our health and safety officers has been to recommend a decant to other nursery facilities.”

Places are available at Tynecastle and Calderglen nurseries for the pupils of Westfield Court Nursery, whose carers would move with them.

Cllr MacLaren  described Tynecastle and Calderglen nurseries as “of the highest quality – children can expect a warm welcome and an excellent early years education”.

News Roundup – 6th October @2pm

Tommy Sheridan, the founder of the Scottish Socialist Party has been accused of lying under oath during a defamation trial, along with his wife Gail. The Glasgow couples are accused of lying during the successful action against the News of the World in 2006. Both deny the allegations.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox has scalded the Labour as “short-sighted, self-serving, incompetent, useless and ineffective” during the Conservative party conference. He went on to attack the previous defence secretary’s, citing the debt they have left to the country as a big problem.

France is the latest country to warn citizens that a terrorist attack in Britain is ‘very likely’. The United States, Sweden and Kuwait have also issued warnings.

Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton claims that current owners George Gillet and Tom Hicks have no legal ground to stop the £300 million takeover of the club by Boston Red Sox owners New England Sports Ventures. Despite accepting a bid earlier today, the deal is said to be far from a done deal. Gillet and Hicks claim that John Henry’s bid does not have the club’s best interest at heart, and that the amount offered undervalues the club. The Premier League, who will have to approve the takeover, has so far refused to comment.

Pregnant women are being given mixed advice on whether it is safe to drink small quantities of alcohol during pregnancy. Experts at University College London have revealed that 1-2 units of alcohol per week show no effect on the child. Jacquie Gerrard from the Royal College of Midwives has said she would still be strongly against anyone drinking alcohol whilst pregnant. Drink awareness charities have also warned that women could become complacent with the amount of alcohol drunk during pregnancy because of the new findings.

A sell-off of council land is underway in Edinburgh in order to generate funds for new public projects and reinvigorate the city’s development market. Fifteen separate deals are being looked at, with new student housing, hotels and shopping outlets being discussed.

A popular zoo chimpanzee, Charlie the chimp, known for his excessive smoking habits, has died at the age of 52. Despite his chain-smoking habits, zoo owners are saying that they do not believe his smoking led to the death, as he was ten years older than the average life expectancy of chimpanzees.

X Factor contestant Gamu Nhengu has been told to leave the UK and return to Zimbabwe after her visa ran out. Nhengu caused controversy on X Factor after claims were made that she was not picked for latter parts of the television show when producers discovered that her visa was due for renewal. However, Nhengu’s mother has explained that she has only heard these stories through the media, and nowhere else.

Student president candidate withdraws from race

Nathan Sparling

A candidate for the Edinburgh Napier Student Association presidential election has withdrawn from the contest.

Nathan Sparling issued a statement this morning indicating that he felt unable to continue due to the ‘inappropriate actions’ of the NSA.

Mr Sparling also outlined his concern that he had received a ‘First and Final Warning’ from the elections committee without right of reply, saying: “It was the first I had heard of the complaint submitted to the Elections Committee, and I had not been given the right to respond.

“As you will be aware, it is also within my Human Rights to be given the right to respond to a complaint where disciplinary action could be taken.”

The warning was received after Mr Sparling had previously contacted Programme Representatives to inform them of an Emergency Senate.

Mr Sparling went on to register his disgust at the removal of The Journal by the NSA form all university campuses without the authority of the university, calling it a severe breach of Article 19 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

In a new development it has been revealed that until last night all students were able to view up-to-date election results. Visable were details of who voted, for whom and in what preference.

Mr Sparling has requested that the returning officer, Finlay MacCorquodale, transfer all votes cast for him to RON (ReOpen Nominations).

Students protesting the censorship of The Journal have already been urging people to vote RON in protest at the newspaper’s removal.

The NSA  has not commented so far on Mr Sparling’s withdrawal, the allegations within his statement or on The Journal protests.

Students protest censorship

A protest poster

Students at Edinburgh Napier University are to hold a series of protests this week over the removal of a student newspaper from all campuses.

The protests will be held every day this week, both on campus and at the Scottish Parliament.

The row centres over issues of press censorship and began after independent student newspaper The Journal published an article detailing dissent, and a possible vote of no confidence against the current president Kasia Bylinska, at the Napier Student’s Association.

Current NSA president, Kasia Bylinska

Current NSA President, Kasia Bylinska

The article stated that allegations of six counts of  unconstitutional behaviour had been made against Ms Bylinska and that eight programme representatives had signed a motion for an emergency meeting to enact a vote of no confidence in the president.

The NSA responded by removing all copies of the publication from the university, which has prompted accusations of press censorship by members of the student body.

Rik Carranza, who ran against Ms Bylinska in last year’s election, said: “This action taken by the NSA is disgusting and shares more in common with censorship in China than creating an equal playing field for election candidates which the elections committee is trying to justify.

“I am a proud member of the student union movement and have been for many years now and let me tell you, I have never seen such a flagrant disregard for freedom of speech in my time in NUS. The NSA has infringed basic human rights and they should not be allowed to continue”, he continued.

Edinburgh Napier University said: ” The University does not condone the decision of the NSA to remove copies of The Journal from its campuses.”

Shirley-Anne Sommerville, MSP

The campaign has earned support from SNP MSP Shirley-Anne Somerville. She said: “Freedom of the press is integral to any democratic society. The Journal is a valued resource in the city, keeping students up to date with student issues and wider current affairs – it is a respected paper and provides valuable experience and employment to…… those interested in the field of journalism. I hope that this current dispute is concluded as soon as possible.”

The protesters are also hoping to gain enough signatures on a petition for an emergency meeting for a vote of no confidence in Kasia Bylinska. This would over-ride the need for programme representatives to lend their support. The petition currently has over 200 signatures after just a few hours of campaigning.

Christopher Pilkington with campaign material

Christopher Pilkington with campaign material

Christopher Pilkington, one of the most active members of the protest and a programme representative for the Business Management with Marketing course, said: The idea of a university – a place that is intended to shape young minds – being actively censored is intolerable.

“We cannot be brought up to accept a censored press, particularly when the organisation doing the censoring is refusing to be held accountable to the students it claims to represent.”

Following the publication last week, all copies of The Journal have been removed from Napier campuses. The NSA have yet to issue a statement regarding the reasons for the removal and have so far declined to comment on the Journalgate protests.

Kenneth Dale-Risk, Law lecturer at Edinburgh Napier University said he did not believe the original Journal article to be defamatory stating that it was “an article of fact.”

Protesting students outside the NSA building at 12 Merchiston Place, Edinburgh

_________________________________________________________________

Protests:

Wed: 11 – 5 at Craighouse

Thursday: 11 – 5 at the Scottish Parliament

Friday: 4 onwards sit-in at Craighouse Campus

Follow the row on Twitter – just search #journalgate

Some things never change….some things

By Myles Edwards

http://mylesedwards.wordpress.com

Cast your mind back to 1967.  Labour were in power in the United Kingdom.  War in the Middle East was causing conflict in the western world.  Casino Royale was a box office hit.  Mini skirts were the craze.  Ken Barlow was strutting his stuff in one of the nation’s favourite soap operas.  Some things never change……some things.
Mel Edwards is a former British marathon international runner with a personal best time of 2hours 18minutes 24seconds (set in 1967), and is widely regarded as one of the most inspiring, modest and popular coaches in the running fraternity.
Born in December 1942, he graduated in Civil Engineering from Cambridge University in 1966 and has since enjoyed a great deal of success in the world of distance running.  In a career which has spanned over 40 years, Mel has endured a roller coaster of ‘injuries’ and success at every level from club competitions to international level.  Detailed and accurate training diaries have been kept, which show he has racked up a total of over 100,000 miles of running!

Mel Edwards at Font Romeu high altitude training camp. Following receiving his second Cambridge ‘blue’ for his exploits on the track he went on to bigger and better things in 1967.  It was quite literally a record breaking year for Mel.  He impressively broke the Scottish 6 mile record – whist finishing 2nd to Lachie Stewart, but went one step higher on the podium in the English universities 3 mile race by cracking the previous record.  1967 saw him really flourish as an athlete, most notably in the marathon distance of 26.2 miles.  In his first attempt at the event, Mel ran away from his rivals early on to win the Harlow marathon and climb to 4th in the British rankings.  To cap it all off, he narrowly missed out on the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, by 2 places.
What contributed to this large amount of success in a sport, which, at the time was highly competitive in the UK?  In an answer that was oozing with Mel’s typical, determined attitude, he said: “It was down to single minded focus on getting the best out of myself, by doing the work and when injured leaving no stone unturned to find the solution.”

Renowned for his training regimes of around 100miles per week, what makes Mel stand out is his positive attitude and dogged determination to get the best possible outcome from everything he does.

In November 2006, aged almost 64, Mel underwent a MRI scan for lower back pain.  45 minutes later he was diagnosed with Myeloma, an incurable but very treatable form of bone marrow cancer.  After numerous treatments and minor disruptions to work, 8 months later he was back to full-time work as a chartered road safety engineer and running over 20 miles per week.  His reaction following the diagnosis typified his personality traits.

“Those are malignancies, cancer”, said Dr. Frank Smith.  Much to the doctor’s amazement, Mel’s immediate reaction was not to be shocked but “I’ve got a big cross country race coming up soon.”

When asked if he felt his attitude and fitness achieved from competitive sport had helped him face cancer head on, Mel’s response was definitive:

“There is no question these elements made fighting myeloma much easier. I would hate to have had to deal with it if I had never had to show determination in my life due to things coming too easily. Certainly fitness means that you have a built-in reserve which can be used to deal with additional stresses.”

It is this attitude which has served Mel so well throughout his life and during the treatment.  An inspiration to many, but what makes this inspirational character tick?

“I am inspired by the opportunities available to do constructive things, such as helping people with their athletics aims and trying to make roads safer in my working capacity. These aims, when carried through, give people a feel-good factor.”

British marathon running was booming in the late 1960s and continued to do so for the best part of the following two decades.  In 1968 there were only 2 countries to have more than 3 runners faster than Mel – Japan and UK, which, looking at today’s standards makes him look rather unlucky at missing out on competing at an Olympic Games.  But it is evident that excuses, simply, aren’t in his nature.

In 1968, 46 UK men broke the 2hours 30 minutes barrier.  In 2007, only 31 men managed to achieve this feat.  With all the advances in footwear, nutrition and training tools, as well as even faster role models, albeit from other countries – why is there such a decline in British marathon running standards?

Mel’s opinion on the decline is, again, filled with absolute clarity:

“It is down to distance runners not putting in the work they did 40 years ago.  You have to be totally dedicated to getting the mileage in and choosing the right races.  Between 1966 and 1984, in Aberdeen alone, there were ten guys faster than 2 hours 20 minutes for the marathon.”

For many people, it is intriguing to find out what gets an athlete through long runs without boredom setting in.  For Mel, it is simple:

“I really enjoy the challenge of distance and time.  The fact that others with an aim to be in the top echelons of marathon or cross country running in the UK, were doing similar training also gave me a desire to be the best.”A common site in elite marathons. (World record holder Haile Gebrselassie 3rd from right)

The lack of top marathon runners in the UK today is in stark contrast to the likes of Kenya, Ethiopia and America.  For Mel, in the late 60s and 70s you only had to turn up for a local race to compete with or witness elite athletes in action.  Therefore can the lack of male distance running role models in the UK be a factor in the decline of standards?  Perhaps so, but with Mel’s philosophy, it is very likely thatall smaller factors would subsequently fall into place.

“More role models would emerge as a result of increased hard work from individual athletes.  To be the best, you must learn from, and work harder than those faster than you.”

His fair, no nonsense attitude spans far wider than himself or anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting him.  For those who are not familiar with the name, Oscar Pistorious, he is a South African Paralympic runner, known as the “Blade Runner”.  He is the double amputee world record holder in the 100, 200 and 400 metres and runs with the aid of carbon-fibre limbs, attached from the knee down.  In 2007 Pistorious took part in his first international able-bodied competitions.  However, the International Association of Athletics Federations (with their typical Rubix Cube-like mindset) ruled that his lower leg, artificial limbs gave him an unfair advantage over able-bodied athletes and subsequently banned him from competing under their rules.  That decision has since been reversed and Pistorius is eligible to compete in able-bodied Olympic competition.

Mel’s opinion on Oscar Pistorious’ situation not only demonstrates his love of a challenge but also seems to apply common sense to some harsh obstacles which had previously been placed in the path of the young South African’s destiny.

“I believe he should be allowed to compete at the highest level possible.  He is not far off the top able bodied 400m runners and relishes the challenge of competing against them.  It would have been crazy to deny him the chance.  He deserves the opportunity to enjoy himself as he wishes and I see this taking precedence over views of others on his actions.”

The British male marathon running scene offers little sign of competing at the front of world class racing.  At 67, Mel Edwards shows less chance of slowing down than Formula 1 cars and even less likelihood of quitting than Ken Barlow:  “I have no reason to stop.  I feel good and it is exciting.”

Some things never change.

Edinburgh Napier to launch “ethical hacking” course

By Hollie Hanlan and Kirsty Topping

November 27, 2009

Universities across Scotland are to teach students how to circumvent the world’s most secure computer systems.

Abertay University in Dundee  has already launched its Ethical Hacking and Computer Security course and Edinburgh Napier is set to follow suit with a course called Advanced Security and Digital Forensics. Tutors on the course aim to teach students how to outsmart malicious hackers in a bid to protect businesses and the Government from cyber attacks.

The move comes as Gary McKinnon’s appeal against extradition to the US was blocked by the home secretary. The Glasgow-born 43-year-old, who suffers Asperger’s Syndrome, is accused of breaking into military computer systems but claims he was looking for evidence of UFOs. If convicted, he faces up to 60 years in an American prison.

Professor William Buchanan of Edinburgh Napier University will be leading the new course, which begins in January of next year.

He said: “Our course is slightly different. We never use the term hacker in any of our teaching because we think the term hacker already implies guilt – we tend to call someone like that an intruder”.

He is keen to stress the distinction between what the course entails and malicious hacking.

He added: “Half of the course involves security, which is all about defending against the loss of data and abuse. The other half of it is to do with digital forensics, which is the science of trying to analyse digital data”.

For example, often criminal cases involve digital evidence such as mobile phone tracking and recovering information from computer hard drives. Experts in digital forensics often work with the police to solve criminal cases.

It is hoped that the course, which looks at the seedy world of internet crime, will save the economy billions of pounds every year and help improve security within computer networks.

Professor Buchanan also expressed sympathy for Mr McKinnon when Edinburgh Napier News spoke to him earlier today.

Edinburgh Napier Principal wins prestigious IOD award

By Rory Reynolds

Scotland’s Higher Education credentials received a major boost on Friday as the Principal of the Edinburgh Napier University was awarded Public Sector Director of the Year for Scotland at the Institute of Directors Scotland Awards.

Professor Joan Stringer was given the prestigious award for her contribution to higher education in both the UK and internationally on March 9.

The award comes after Edinburgh Napier was named number one modern university in Scotland in the Guardian University Guide 2009.

Professor Stringer said she was delighted to receive the Public Sector Director award.

She said: “It is deserved recognition of the continuing importance of higher education, and is a reflection too of the importance that Edinburgh Napier University places in ensuring that education be made available to all those who can benefit from it.”

Crawford Beveridge, an Executive Vice President and Chairman of Sun Microsystems, who nominated Principal Joan Stringer for the IOD Award, added: “Professor Stringer has made a significant contribution to higher education and these awards are well deserved recognition of that. Professor Stringer’s inspiring leadership and strong sense of direction has delivered a vibrant, confident and successful educational institution.”

Professor Stringer was previously a Lecturer in Public Administration after studying history and politics at the University of Keele. She was awarded a PhD in industrial training policy in 1986.

She was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2001, and is Scotland’s only female university principal.

Hard up Scottish students set to lose cash lifeline

by Annabel Cooper

Scottish universities are close to running out of special funds that help bail out students in financial difficulty.

The ‘Hardship Loan’ or ‘Discretionary Fund’ is a life-line for hard up students but with borrowing on the downturn and part time work harder to come by, demand from students is up and funds are beginning to run dry.

Each university is allocated funds from a Government pot and then the emergency loans are allocated at the discretion of the institution. About £16 million was distributed in this way in 2008-9 – an 8 per cent increase on 2007-8. But already this year, universities in real difficulty have gone back to the Scottish Government with demands totalling £882,500 to cope with urgent student appeals for help.

Claire Baker, Labour’s higher education spokeswoman, said funds could be reallocated from universities’ underspending, but that, across Scotland, hardship funds were being “stretched beyond breaking point”.

She said:

“The government has responded to university concerns, but demand for hardship funds is still outstripping supply. It is a worrying trend, and none of the universities is expecting it to stop any time soon.

Napier University in Edinburgh is symptomatic of the Scottish trend. Applications from desperate students are up 28 per cent compared with last year, and it predicts it will run out of money before the next discretionary funds are handed out.

Napier staff are advising students to try renegotiating debts, as they cannot help all those going to them for aid. Professor Joan Stringer, the principal, said:

Students“It is becoming increasingly apparent that many of those fortunate enough to have a part-time job are having their hours or shifts significantly cut and many others are struggling to find any part-time work.

“We are also finding many students’ parents are no longer able to provide the level of help previously afforded, due to, for example, loss of their own employment, less work available to the self-employed and loss of income from savings.

“In order to most efficiently manae the remaining discretionary funds, applicants are being advised, where possible, to negotiate suitable repayment plans for any outstanding bills, particularly utility bills, and to rearrange any existing debt or loan repayments.”

“We do not expect we will have sufficient funds to support applicants to the level that many of them will need, and it is very unlikely we will have sufficient funds left to support students during the summer vacation period.”

Just two weeks ago newly elected Rector for neighbouring Edinburgh University, Iain McWhirter, made student finance the heart of his election campaign, insiting upon a £7k basic income for students. Gurjit Singh, the president of NUS Scotland, is also demanding an overhaul of the “unfair” student support system and guaranteed annual income for every student through loans and grants.

“Student financial hardship has reached a critical level,” he said. “Students are not being able to find part-time work as well, or access commercial debt. If our students had the right level of support in the first place, they would not have to apply to hardship funds.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “We recognise that the current student support system was inadequately funded by previous administrations. That is why we have provided £38 million to introduce grants for 20,000 part-time students and why we are consulting on proposals to improve the student system more generally.”

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