PhD Researcher Rebecca Sandover discusses what food labelling tells us, and what it doesn’t.
Organic and local food products are valued for their ‘knowability’.
With the horsemeat scandal still unfolding, the central issue is do we know what we’re eating? The media narrative is one of distaste, disgust at eating hidden matter, complex food chains, uninformed moments of blame, as well as possible criminal actions. No matter what we think of eating horsemeat the central issue that is relevant in such an obscure, complicated market is that food labelling is central to our trust in the products we buy and consume. Without trust in the label, the food system as it is presently configured, fails.
Such complex food networks act as a veil shrouding the origins of our food. The distance between us as consumers and the spaces of food production are not only widening, but are becoming blurred and obscure. After the UK food scares of the 1980s- BSE, Salmonella in eggs and 2001 -Food and Mouth disease, the local food sector has arisen as an alternative to agro-food industries. The central device of organic and local food products is their ‘knowability’. Underlined through quality assurance schemes such as Red Tractor, Freedom Foods, Organic Certification etc., food bought can be understood as meeting a benchmark of quality. Not only is this good for us as consumers, it is a lifeline for farmers producing wildlife and welfare-friendly products.
However, there is a major flaw in seeing these schemes as the solution to the current crisis. The crisis exists in cheap, value range supermarket food where the costs have been shaved acutely. Such products are shipped between countries in order to find the cheapest mode of supply and construction, resulting in the use of degraded meat fillers and additives. The gulf between these products and those made by small-scale artisanal producers is huge. This encompasses a gulf in construction, freshness and proximity between consumers and producers but most importantly in convenience, cost and the transparency of production processes. They are so different from the value range burgers as can be, by intention. However by being so different they remain on only a margin of shoppers’ consumer radar. Many consumers have got used to buying cheap products, taking the descriptions on the front of packets on face value. Many commentators over the last few weeks have expressed how obvious it is that how such products are described cannot match their material reality.
It is true that many of these organic and local food products that ooze with vitality, are affordable. But only if you are in the know…In order to buy fresh, local vegetables that are no more expensive than supermarkets’, the consumer either has to source a weekly farmers’ market, or search out for a reliable veg box scheme. Or if you’re really in the know, you might grow your own veg and chickens – what could be a more transparent process? However, all of these processes require effort, added time or knowing that these options exist. Here the difference between affordable, traceable veg and meat is significant when it comes to price. Veg can be sourced affordably, if you know where, whereas meat comes at a cost. Meat eating is seen as a sustainability issue and there are campaigns to reduce its consumption, with the argument that by buying less a consumer may be able to afford better quality. It’s a great argument, but comes back to requiring the consumer to make a commitment to altering food habits, or having the means to alter them.
Such commitment to organic and local food products is still presently marginal. According to public health researchers those living in inner city areas with the least income have poor diets partly due to the local supply of convenience shops that sell no fresh produce. For such consumers a supermarket would increase their chances of eating healthily. Another obstacle for all sectors of society to eating fresh produce, is cooking skills. Without the basic ability to turn unprocessed food into tasty meals as urged by celebrity chefs etc., diets are limited to the processed, ready meal variety. So it’s to be welcomed that cooking is finally back on the school curriculum thanks to the work of many campaigners .
This post is about exploring the complexities of not only agro-food industrial supply chains, but at a more intimate level, our personal relationships to food. We cannot urge a blanket solution to the present food crises as the obvious one of eating only accredited food ignores the issues of accessing it for a wide section of society. Commitment to local food is a starting place for those with the means of not only money, time and knowledge, but also the confidence to transform such produce into enjoyable meals.
Presently Industry and government responses to this crisis are to investigate the DNA of food products, revealing further causes for concern. A recent report has found the fraudulent labelling of fish products in America. Trust will be further eroded, revealing how far we’ve come from knowing the food we eat. The alternatives require us as consumers committing to getting to know our food better. This process can take many forms from phone apps scanning QR codes, to getting our hands dirty with the wonky veg we’ve grown ourselves. However, this is a complex, deeply rooted problem that not only requires us getting to know our food better, but also requires government regulation and concern for the matter of our food, not just it’s profits.
Bowyer, Caraher et al. 2009- Shopping for Food Lessons from a London Borough, British Food Journal 111 (4-5)
Little et al. 2009- Gender, Consumption and the Relocalisation of Food:
A Research Agenda Sociologia Ruralis 49:3
School Food Plan (2013) Cooking on the Curriculum (online available at) http://www.education.gov.uk/schoolfoodplan/news/a00221479/school-food-plan-cook-curric
Huffington Post (2013) Seafood Fraud study by Oceana (online available at) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/21/seafood-fraud-study-mislabeling_n_2733377.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003&ir=Green
Follow Rebecca Sandover on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SandySom
Fossil palms and fish in the death assemblage from Green River Formation, Wyoming
Huge amethyst geode from Uruguay
A slower start to the day with the parking lot almost empty when I arrived at the Convention Center but during the day there was a gradual increase in overall numbers.
Again there were a number of persons who showed particular interest interest in our exhibit, including a mine geologist who was very interested in our programmes and where our geologists and miners eventually end up working. It is interesting to note that many of the US geology graduates end up working for companies within the USA even if they do then end up occasionally working abroad. The geologist in question was a regular visitor to the Katanga region of the DRC working on a copper & chrome operation.
We attended two public talks during the day, the first was a presentation given by Gail Spann, a female collector with information as to how women like to be treated when collecting, buying and searching for minerals. It would seem that chocolate figures quite highly in the equation, and I for one would wholeheartedly agree!
The second talk was given by Dr. Robert Downs and concerned the Mineralogy of Mars, it was a most interesting talk from an academic with a senior position in NASA’s Mars Curiousity programme. There were stunning photographs taken from the rover in adjusted colours and a wonderful video sequence shot by the lander from the point at which the heat shield was jettisoned until touchdown. There was a real sense of falling with the craft towards the surface an alien world!
The talk lasted for the better part of an hour and I for one would have been quite happy to have listened for a further hour.His specific instrument on the rover was an X-ray diffractometer with Rietveld capability, the technology has now been commercialised and his graduate student had brought along a couple of ruggedised cases, perhaps about the size of a large rigid briefcase. The cases contained a complete field XRD and XRF facility, there was much interest in the equipment and unfortunately I was unable to speak with the student about the instrument. But it was apparent that this is a technology that will be available in the near future, whatever the price may be!
Just one day left now, I seem to have either caught the ‘Tucson Flu’ or have brought some bug with me because my chest hurts and I am coughing quite a bit. Time for an early night and hopefully I shall feel better for the final day.
This was Schools Day and we were greeted by scenes of chaos as large numbers of school age children were shepherded around the show by teachers and helpers. Many of the dealer stands had been barricaded off with chairs in contrast to the first day when all of the stands were open access. Throughout the day there was a continuous stream of big yellow school buses dropping off and collecting school groups. Besides the schoolchildren there seemed to be about the same number of visitors to the show and I spent time talking to a number of people who were showing interest in our exhibit.
Natural History Museum case
Huge cut fluorite in Smithsonian Institution’s case
I also spent a bit of time going into part of the city in search of postcards, a very important part of any excursion whether it be Coverack or across the Atlantic, it has to be noted that postcards in the US are also extremely good value and generally of high quality. Having found the Tucson Visitor Center, I then set out to find a post office in order to purchase postage stamps. With a street map provided by the Visitor Center and two sets of contradictory information from other pedestrians I eventually found the Post Office, purchased my stamps and returned to the Show. It was just after midday and the sun was high in the sky and extremely hot. Upon my return Ed and I discussed the nature of our blog and I realised that I had neglected to pick up my hard drive when I had vacated the motel room that morning! So back to the motel, a distance of about 1 mile, with Ed’s datastick to collect a copy of my existing blog document. I will not make that mistake again, I was feeling quite warm by the time I arrived back at the Show.
Invited to join a group of Ed’s friends for a Thai meal. The food was excellent but the service was atrocious, strange that this should be so since this is the land where good service is king! Nine diners and the last meal was delivered at about the same time as the rest of us were finishing our food.
Peter Frost, Geology technician and Edward Loye, rare earth mineral researcher have written guest blog entries from the Tucson Gem and Mineral show in Arizona.
Peter writes on the arrival day 15/02/2013:
Ed and I arrived safely and more importantly so did the specimens. I didn’t arrive until about 23:30 local time, we are 8 hours behind the UK – I think! Tuesday was a ‘get over the flight(s)’ day, I found a river park to walk around with many birds, amazing cacti and some animals as well. Ed explored some of the dealers who are set up in motel rooms around the vicinity of the Convention Centre.
Yesterday was registration and set up day for exhibitors but not until 3.00 pm so Ed took me to see a few of the dealer venues, there must be hundreds of individual dealers here in fact there are so many that I am quite surprised that I even managed to find a room so close to the venue. Some of the material on show by dealers is quite unbelievable, well seen through my eyes, on the other hand there is also a ‘tackier’ end of the market as well. But the majority of the individual dealers we wandered into had the most fantastic wares on display. Highlights for me was from a Columbian dealer with the most beautiful emeralds, numerous tourmalines and some wonderful Spanish sulphides. There were even fibreglass, life size dinosaurs available, some of which were motorised because there was a small stegosaurus with a moving tail!
There were also dealers who deal in fossil specimens and some of those were quite spectacular and I would certainly give some of them houseroom!
So onto our set-up, we have prestigious neighbours: the Natural History Musuem (NHM) and the Museum of Scotland.
It took us over three hours to set up our case, rather too much time being spent trying to get our banners mounted with the sticky backed velcro that I had taken because the material lining the case wasn’t quite hairy enough! Eventually we managed it with the help of more double sided velcro pads from the NHM.. So by about 6:00 PM we were done, had received aesthetic advice about layout from NHM staff, had window polished the glass front of the cabinet, mounted the front and locked the display. We were done! Now all that remains is to go in this morning and see if everything is as we left it and to await the comments of visitors and dealers. We can then wander around and see what else is on display!
Weather is wonderful, about 70 F yesterday probably getting warmer towards the weekend, no clouds yesterday or today. I have seen more sun in three days than in the last – well I don’t know how long!
Day 1 – Open to the public
Arrived at about 10:15 AM to be greeted by congestion in the car park outside the Convention Centre and visitors queuing to buy tickets, I, as an exhibitor was of course able to breeze straight in and head for our display.
Long queue on opening day!
Success! The sticky backed Velcro from the NHM contingent, a heartfelt thank you to them, had worked and our banners had stayed where we had fixed them.
Amusing natural dog-shaped formation
There has been quite a lot of interest in our cabinet from visitors and dealers with an interest in Cornish material. Ed has managed to ensure that our display will be written up in no fewer than three places by talking to contacts and being there at the right time to catch official photographers as they made their way around the Show. The physical impression of the Show is of a massive indoor space, imagine the Stannary at least 5 times longer and 3 times wider, even then I may have underestimated the overall size. There is also a further exhibition area that appears to be set up as a basketball pitch.
Some of the exhibitor displays are quite remarkable with quite stunning specimens. I also spotted a few uranium specimens (torbernite) and a large chrysotile specimen that appeared to be shedding fragments and with a rather loose appearance. I seem to recall that it was from an academic institution and not a private individual. Some of the dealer material is wonderful and there is obviously quite a large volume of material coming out of NW Pakistan and Afghanistan, presumably not collected by westerners! Namibia also seems to figure quite highly as a source of specimens. The most expensive specimen that I have seen so far had a price tag of $275,000 that would buy quite an average sized UK home! Specimens in excess of $10,000 were quite common on the bigger dealer stands. At one stand I was told that overall sales of $1,000,000+ weren’t unexpected. So far everyone I have spoken to has been extremely friendly and interested in why we have come and more importantly whether we are intending to come again in the future.
Yet again the weather has been fantastic.
As the Government’s Autumn budget statement makes headlines, the Downing Street website featured this blog by History Professor Richard Toye. In it he examines the importance of the relationship between the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The connection between Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer is probably the most important, and potentially the most problematic, of all ministerial relationships. Foreign Secretaries and Home Secretaries can be powerful figures, and yet they rarely have the capacity that a Chancellor does to define, or indeed to destabilise, a premiership. In the modern era, domestic economic management has generally been seen as the most important factor in determining electoral success. The Chancellor, charged with keeping the economy on track, therefore becomes a unique point of strength or weakness for a government and hence for the Prime Minister. If the relationship goes well and the economy thrives, the Prime Minister can feel fairly secure in 10 Downing Street. If it goes wrong – and economic problems will likely be a major factor in this – the consequences can rock a government to its foundations.
It was William Gladstone – four times Chancellor before he was four time Prime Minister – who developed the Exchequer into recognisably modern form. He did not envisage anything like today’s welfare state, being obsessed with ‘retrenchment’, the nineteenth-century term for cutting public expenditure. Rather, he saw the Treasury as a department that could be harnessed to great national purposes. He was not content merely to balance the books on a year-by-year basis but had a political programme and a vision of how to create prosperity, which put the Exchequer at the heart of domestic politics. ‘Finance is, as it were, the stomach of the country, from which all the other organs take their tone’, he commented in 1858.
Behind Gladstone’s efforts at cheese-paring lay a great populist agenda: the reduction of taxation on items consumed by the masses. In a celebrated controversy in 1860 this brought him into conflict with Lord Palmerston, the Prime Minister. Gladstone wanted to abolish duties on paper, the last of the so-called ‘taxes on knowledge’ and a barrier to the production of cheap newspapers. But the very idea of a mass popular press struck many in the political establishment as potentially subversive, and Palmerston and many other ministers were opposed. Gladstone recorded in his diary that in one Cabinet meeting ‘Lord P spoke ¾ hour… [against] Paper Duties Bill!’ The legislation went ahead anyway and passed through the Commons, but Palmerston wrote to Queen Victoria that the House of Lords ‘would perform a good public service’ if it rejected the Bill. The Lords did in fact do so, and Lady Palmerston was ostentatiously pleased. It was Gladstone who had the last laugh, though. The following year he made abolition of the duties part of his Budget, thereby forcing his colleagues and the Lords to swallow it. It clearly helped that he was promoting a cause likely to have strong popular support.
But being the darling of the people is no guarantee of success when manoeuvring against a Prime Minister. Lord Randolph Churchill, father of Winston Churchill, learned this during his brief Chancellorship, to his permanent cost. A brilliantly witty speaker and the rabble-rousing delight of the Conservative grassroots, Lord Randolph turned himself into a force that the Tory leaders were unable to ignore. Appointed to the Treasury by Lord Salisbury while still in his thirties, he proved himself a mercurial colleague who was all-but impossible to work with. Salisbury noted drily that ‘the qualities for which he is most conspicuous have not usually kept men for any length of time at the head of affairs’.
This young meteor soon overplayed his hand, and at the end of 1886, after only a few months in office, he threatened resignation over what he saw as excessive spending on the armed forces. Salisbury called his bluff and accepted. Lord Randolph – who died early a few years later – never held office again.
Lord Randolph was ambitious, and though his own tactics backfired, plenty of his successors used the office of Chancellor to promote their own careers. Of Queen Victoria’s ten Prime Ministers, only Gladstone and Disraeli used the Chancellorship as a step upon the ladder. Of the twenty-one Prime Ministers since her death, ten served at the Treasury at some point before entering Number 10. By contrast, only five had served as Foreign Secretary, and two of these had also been Chancellor. So, when choosing Chancellors, twentieth-century Prime Ministers needed to watch their backs. On the other hand, it was no good simply appointing an unthreatening non-entity as Chancellor. In a more media conscious age, Chancellors needed to be heavyweights who could take the heat and demonstrate a bit of political showmanship.
David Lloyd George epitomised this new kind of Chancellor. He immediately ran afoul of Margot Asquith, the new Prime Minister’s wife, who suspected him of leaking a list of Cabinet appointments to the press. Asquith himself, though, was fairly relaxed about Lloyd George’s activities, even when his radical Liberal policies helped provoke a constitutional crisis. Lloyd George’s tax-raising ‘People’s Budget’ of 1909 marked a new kind of populism, based on public spending rather than retrenchment, and was a foundational moment in the birth of the welfare state. During the battle with the House of Lords that followed, Asquith sometimes distanced himself from his Chancellor’s wilder rhetorical excesses, but did little to actively rein him in. Although Lloyd George did eventually displace Asquith as Prime Minister during the First World War, the peacetime relationship between the two men was handled by both with considerable skill.
In the interwar years, Winston Churchill stands out as the most colourful Chancellor, serving a Prime Minister, Baldwin, who was even more laid-back than Asquith. Baldwin took little hand in what was arguably the biggest economic decision taken on his watch – the return to the gold standard in 1925 – leaving the question to Churchill and his advisers. Neville Chamberlain, Chancellor successively to MacDonald and Baldwin in the 1930s, came to feel that ‘I am more and more carrying this government on my back’.
Baldwin’s supposed laziness was to some extent a pose, but it also represented one of the final gasps of an older style of government in which the Prime Minister merely presided, and left detailed initiatives to his colleagues.
After 1945, the continued expansion of the state and the growing demands of the media required of Prime Ministers a more activist stance on economic policy. This was a time when the state was committed to a new goal, the maintenance of full employment, whilst Britain’s loss of great power status and relative economic decline generated a narrative of failure against which governments constantly struggled. In 1958, Harold Macmillan’s entire team of Treasury ministers resigned in protest at the Prime Minister’s unwillingness to implement spending cuts that the Chancellor, Peter Thorneycroft, thought necessary to battle inflation. The way in which Macmillan succeeded in shrugging this off as ‘little local difficulty’ became a legendary example of his ‘unflappability’. But when he sacked another Chancellor, Selwyn Lloyd, during the so-called the Night of the Long Knives, it was widely seen as a sign of panic in the face of political and economic bad news. Macmillan’s days in Downing Street were numbered.
In spite of the short-lived experiment of the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) under Harold Wilson in the 1960s, the Treasury retained its primacy and power in Whitehall. Callaghan showed remarkable skill in keeping all his ministers on board during the International Monetary Fund crisis of 1976, but his successors generally moved away from collective Cabinet government to work bilaterally with the key players. For Thatcher, this technique was for a long time a source of strength, but it was not an infallible one, as demonstrated by the breakdown of her relationship with her second Chancellor, Nigel Lawson in 1989. When her personal economic adviser, Alan Walters, published a newspaper article that clashed with Lawson’s views, the Chancellor demanded she sack Walters. Thatcher refused; Lawson resigned; Walters then resigned as well; and by the end of the following year the Prime Minister herself had been forced from office. It was a sign that even a government committed to ‘rolling back the frontiers of the state’ could not escape intense scrutiny both of its economic management and of the personal relationships of those responsible for it.
Above all, it proved once again that getting rid of a Chancellor is no panacea for a Prime Minister in trouble. The same was true for Major when he dislodged Norman Lamont in the aftermath of ‘Black Wednesday’. Paradoxically, Blair found himself powerless to move against Gordon Brown at a time when the economy seemed to be performing well, despite a problematic relationship between the two which Blair recalled as being like that of ‘some quarrelling, married couple’.
The broader lesson to be drawn from the history of Prime Ministers and their Chancellors over the past 150 years is that, although difficulties may arise in part because of failed personal chemistry, how these problems play out is affected by the economic environment, the nature of the state, and public expectations about the types of issues that governments are expected to solve. In addition, the rise of the mass media has increasingly meant that personal differences between Chancellors and Prime Ministers are played out in the full glare of publicity. If Gladstone had not insisted on abolishing the Paper Duties, it might all have been very different.
- Edmund Dell, The Chancellors: A History of the Chancellors of the Exchequer, 1945–90 (HarperCollins, London, 1997)
- Roy Jenkins, The Chancellors (Macmillan, London, 1998)
- Nigel Lawson, The View from No.11: Memoirs of a Tory Radical (Bantam Press, London, 1992)
- Alistair Darling, Back from the Brink: 1000 Days at Number 11 (Atlantic Books, London, 2011)
Richard Toye is Professor of Modern History at the University of Exeter. His books include The Labour Party and the Planned Economy, 1931–1951 (2003), Lloyd George and Churchill: Rivals for Greatness (2007), and Churchill’s Empire: The World That Made Him and the World He Made (2010). In 2007 he won the Times Higher Education Young Academic Author of the Year award. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a member of the History & Policy editorial advisory group.
This summer current University of Exeter student Robin Williams (PhD. Statistics) competed for Team GB in the blind five-a-side football event at the 2012 Paralympic games. Robin reports on his rollercoaster experience at the ‘Greatest show on Earth’.
Robin Williams (right) competed for Team GB in the 5-a-side (blind) football tournament at London 2012
I competed in the London Paralympics as a member of the GB 5-a-side (blind) football team. After two years of dedication to the sport, training both here in Exeter where three Team GB members are based, and travelling to GB squad training on a frequent basis, my selection for the Paralympics was confirmed in April. We had targeted a medal for the games, an ambitious target given that we were yet to win a major trophy and came third in the European Championships last year. However, we felt there was enough potential in the team to realise this ambition, and it would be a matter of whether that potential could be harnessed in time for London.
After drawing our first game with Spain in a fairly disappointing performance (not least from myself), we took a point from Argentina for the first time in the sixteen years that international blind football has existed. The Argentina game was my best performance in the group stage; I got some joy running at them without ever really threatening the goal. These results meant that we had to win our next game against Iran by two clear goals to make the semi-finals. Sadly we played as though this was the case, the first half was a very nervy affair, we conceded several fouls and Iran capitalised, scoring from a long penalty. We dominated the second half, hitting the woodwork twice and forcing an outstanding performance from the Iranian keeper, but sadly couldn’t find the net. In a cruel twist of fate, having been a game away from a shot at a medal, we found ourselves playing the 2008 silver medallists China in a match for the minor placings. China themselves were expected to make the semi-finals, and after an exciting 1-1 draw (probably our best team performance) we lost on penalties – as you can only expect from a GB team! In the 7-8 place play offs we beat Turkey convincingly 2-0, in a match where I enjoyed my best performance.
Brazil were worthy tournament winners, their number 10, Ricardo Steinmetz Alves is probably the best player in the world and lit up the final with a fantastic display. He is certainly something for me to aspire to.
I left the Paralympics with mixed feelings over my personal performance. I had played some of my best and worst football throughout the tournament, an inconsistency that I feel is a result of being fairly new to the game. Playing at international level was also a real challenge. There is a domestic league in this country, but the step up to international level is so large that it’s almost like playing a different sport. I have a lot to work on, not least my game awareness, speed of thought, and of course the constant drive to improve skill.
Our support throughout the games was superb; the 3,500 River Bank Stadium was full for all of our group games, and nearing capacity for the 7th place playoff. All our games were shown live on the Channel4 network, I believe three were shown on Channel4 itself with the others on a temporary Sky channel. London 2012 has raised the profile of the blind 5-a-side football no end, hopefully we will reap the rewards of this by encouraging young players for future.
Stepping outside of our football bubble, it was a fantastic privilege to be a part of the London 2012, which were certainly the best games ever and pushed Paralympic sport far beyond anything previously, both in terms of profile and sporting ability. I hope to compete in Rio2016.
Professor Edward Watkins, Co-founder and Director of Mood Disorders Centre and Sir Henry Wellcome Building for Mood Disorders Research
10 October 2012 is World Mental Health Day, an annual event sponsored by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and designed to raise public awareness about mental health issues. This year will focus on depression, which is quickly becoming one of the greatest threats to public health. 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression with 10% of the UK population suffering from depression or anxiety at any one point in time. WHO predicts that depression will become the second-highest disease in terms of disease burden amongst all general health problems by 2020.
Beyond the individual distress and suffering they cause, mood disorders have severe consequences including impaired social and occupational functioning, ill health, increased mortality and suicide. There are enormous associated economic costs through the expenses of public services and output lost from time off sick and non-employment. In the UK, depression and anxiety are estimated to cost the economy £17 billion in lost output and direct health care costs annually, with a £9 billion impact on the Exchequer through benefit payments and lost tax receipts. Therefore, research that increases our understanding of mood disorders and leads to more effective and accessible interventions is a priority for improving human health.
The Mood Disorders Centre (MDC) at the University of Exeter works to advance such understanding and treatment of mood disorders through experimental research and clinical trial research. The MDC provides integrated research across the translational spectrum from experiment through to treatment development and evaluation all the way through to dissemination and health services organisation. In parallel with the MDC, our Clinical Education Development and Research group (CEDAR) has led the way in developing and providing high-quality training programmes for clinical practitioners, with a focus on disseminating evidence-based psychological treatments.
A key component within the development of better approaches to mood disorders is a focus on the development and dissemination of effective psychological treatments. Whilst antidepressant medication is a moderately effective intervention for depression, and very commonly used, it has its limitations. Many patients want an alternative to taking medication and want to feel that they are contributing to their own wellbeing. Furthermore, rates of adherence to medication are low, with a substantial proportion of patients stopping their medication within 6 weeks, often because of unwanted side effects. Moreover, antidepressant medications are only effective as long as they continue to be taken – once they are discontinued, their benefits rapidly fade. For all these reasons, good alternative interventions to medications are required to provide patients with a choice between effective treatment options.
In addition, psychological approaches to depression play a critical role in addressing depression because of their potential to increase resilience and prevent subsequent depression. Critically, depression is a chronic and recurrent condition: 50% of people who have had one episode of depression will go on to have further episodes of depression. The only way medication can prevent future episodes is for it to be continued indefinitely, which is both expensive and at odds with what most patients want. In contrast, there is evidence that some psychological treatments, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), can continue to reduce risk for future episodes after a relatively brief treatment period (16-20 sessions) has finished. For example, clinical trials in the MDC have found that training people with a history of depression in mindfulness meditation coupled with CBT can significantly reduce their risk for future episodes of depression. It appears that psychological treatments such as CBT may help to protect individuals from future depression by teaching them coping skills to manage stressful situations better and by helping them to find ways to resolve difficulties in their lives. This ability of psychological interventions to improve coping skills and resilience makes them an integral part of any comprehensive and long-term treatment approach to depression.
The ability of psychological treatments to increase resilience is particularly pertinent when we consider the extremely high prevalence rates of depression. Its high frequency means that focusing on treating the acute symptoms of depression alone is never going to significantly reduce the overall rates of depression. Just as one person is successfully treated, there will be new onsets of depression and recurrences in those with a history of depression. Therefore, in order to significantly reduce the global burden of depression, treatment for people with depression needs to be combined with preventive interventions that stop vulnerable individuals from developing depression. An ounce of prevention will definitely be better than a pound of treatment because of the chronic and relapsing nature of depression. Prevention requires the identification of individuals at risk for later depression and then providing them with better coping skills and enhanced resilience. A psychological approach is extremely well-placed to do this in a way that pharmacotherapy is not. Research in the MDC has already identified patterns of thinking and behaviour, such as the habit of repeatedly dwelling on and worrying about difficulties or a tendency towards avoidance, that predict increased risk for depression and anxiety. Our research has begun to look at ways to then effectively target these risk factors through psychological treatments. Moreover, there is a growing evidence-base that psychological interventions can be effective at preventing the onset of depression in high-risk groups, such as the children of parents with depression or adolescents with elevated symptoms of depression. The development and evaluation of psychological interventions to prevent the onset and relapse into depression is a major priority of work within the MDC, including the use of internet-based interventions that can be widely accessible to large numbers of people.
Another important issue is whether individuals with depression are able to easily access effective psychological treatments. Because of the scale of the problem, there is insufficient evidence-based psychological therapy available, leaving many people unsupported and lacking access to recommended treatments. In response to this treatment gap, in 2008, the NHS began the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme, dedicated to spending over £700 million on psychological therapies between 2008 and 2014. At the heart of this programme was the implementation of a new evidence-based approach to treatment alongside training a new workforce to deliver these treatments. By 2013/14, IAPT will deliver 6000 newly trained therapists nationally and increase access to treatment for 2 million more people.
The research conducted by the Mood Disorders Centre has influenced the provision, nature and content of therapy training and provision. CEDAR has had lead roles in the design, delivery and quality assurance of the training for the IAPT national programme. In 2008 we were awarded a contract from the South West Strategic Health Authority to begin training the new IAPT workforce. Since then we have trained over 300 practitioners. In recognition of our psychological treatment expertise, CEDAR is now the sole commissioned provider of IAPT training in the South West. CEDAR has just been awarded a contract to provide Child IAPT, which aims at early treatment and prevention of mood disorders and will be working alongside Young Devon to promote mental health at an early age.
By conducting research addressing how to improve psychological treatments, how to develop better interventions to prevent the initial onset and recurrence of depression, and how to make treatment more available to more people, and by training the next generation of therapists and clinical leaders, the MDC’s vision is to make significant inroads into reducing the global burden of depression.
Professor Philip Schwyzer, Professor of Renaissance Literature in the Department of English.
Philip Schwyzer is Professor of Renaissance Literature in the Department of English. His book, Shakespeare and the Remains of Richard III, will be published by Oxford University Press next year. Here he asks how the mystery regarding the fate of Richard’s body may have sparked Shakespeare’s imagination.
Though we still await the results of DNA testing, it’s hard to imagine that the remains found under a carpark in Leicester this summer could belong to anyone other than Richard III. The skeleton is not only in the right place – the choir of the church of the Leicester Greyfriars, where Richard is known to have been buried in 1485 – but, with an arrow embedded in its spine and a massive wound to the cranium, it fits what we know about the king’s death on Bosworth Field. As the near-contemporary Song of the Lady Bessiye reports, “they struck his bascinet [helmet] to his head/ until his brains came out with blood.” Most striking and persuasive of all is the severe spinal curvature which would have given the living body precisely the appearance described by the chronicler John Rous: “small of stature, with a short face and unequal shoulders, the right higher and the left lower.”
The story of the Leicester dig, initiated by members of the Richard III Society, could be mistaken for something from the career of Heinrich Schliemann, if not Indiana Jones. As Richard Buckley, who led the excavation, acknowledges, “in archaeology you aren’t supposed to look for famous people.” Much less do you expect to find them. Yet if the fantastically successful result of the Greyfriars Project seems like something out of a film, it is appropriate to its object. The small man with a short face has always seemed larger than life – even before William Shakespeare got hold of him.
The chronicles Shakespeare would have consulted in writing his play are still among our main sources today for the events following Richard’s death at Bosworth. They describe how Richard’s body was mocked and abused on the battlefield, slung naked on the back of a horse and carried into Leicester. According to Thomas More, the king was “harried on horseback dead, his hair in despite torn and tugged like a cur dog.” As the body was carried over Bow Bridge, its head was reportedly allowed to slam against a protruding stone, fulfilling a prophecy made by an old woman that where his heel struck in the morning, his head should strike that same night.
Richard’s naked and battered body was put on display for two days before receiving burial at the fairly obscure Greyfriars priory. Some ten years later Henry VII’s government made a small payment for the construction of an alabaster tomb (complete with an epitaph in which Richard is made to confess his crimes and express gratitude to Henry for treating his remains so mercifully). When the infamous Cardinal Wolsey died and was buried at another Leicester monastery in 1530, a joke circulated that the city had become “The Tyrant’s Sepulchre.” Not long after this, the Greyfriars was dissolved, and Richard’s body disappeared from the historical record. Different stories soon circulated about its fate, the most famous claiming that his remains had been dug up, dragged through the streets, and thrown in the river Soar. Until the eighteenth century, a medieval sarcophagus said to have contained Richard’s body was on display at a Leicester tavern, where it doubled as a trough.
Shakespeare’s response to the traditions surrounding the fate of Richard’s corpse is enigmatic. Following his death in battle, Richard’s body is left lying on the stage, with no stage direction calling for its removal before the end of the play. Although the victorious Richmond gives directions for the burial of others who have fallen on both sides, nothing is said about Richard. Richmond may ignore his fallen foe, but the audience, typically, cannot. In the recent production starring Kevin Spacey, Richard’s body was winched up by the heels to hang upside down above Richmond’s head as he delivered his final speech. (Even as a lifeless corpse, Richard tends to steal the show.)
Did Shakespeare know the story of Richard’s rude deposition in the river Soar? This might help explain why the play is so stuffed with images of watery burial. In his first soliloquy, Richard declares that “all the clouds that lowered upon our house [are]/ In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.” Later on, his brother Clarence reports a vivid nightmare involving corpses on the ocean bed: “Methought I saw a thousand fearful wrecks;/ Ten thousand men that fishes gnaw’d upon…/ All scatter’d in the bottom of the sea.” The fascination with watery burial which runs throughout Shakespeare’s plays, down to Ariel’s famous “sea-change” song in The Tempest, has its origins in Richard III. Though we can now be fairly certain that Richard’s body was never subjected to this fate, the popularity of the story tells us something about the early modern imagination, its preoccupations and its fears. Perhaps it tells us even more about Shakespeare’s personal nightmares.
While we await the results of DNA tests, discussion is shifting to the future of the Greyfriars remains. Leicester Cathedral, which already contains a memorial to the fallen king, has staked a strong claim. Some commentators, however, have called for Richard to be interred with full royal honours alongside his relations (and reputed victims) in Westminster Abbey. As a northerner at heart, Richard himself might have preferred burial in York Minster, a cathedral to which he showed much favour in his reign.
Though the discovery of the body is in many ways a cause for wonder and celebration, it has its melancholy aspect. The bones from Greyfriars cannot help but speak to us of mortality, of great suffering, and of wasted dreams. They humanise Richard III, and can make us pity him, even if we still believe him to have been guilty of at least some of the crimes laid at his door. Richard – who in Shakespeare’s play is called a devil, a cacodemon, a dog, hedgehog, and a bloody boar – was a human being after all. And someone made a great hole in his head.
In becoming more human, does Richard become less potent as a symbol? I would argue that the fact that Richard for so long had no known resting place contributed to the potency of his myth; it helped Shakespeare create a character who strikes us as unnervingly present, unfailingly contemporary and terrifyingly alive. Paradoxically, knowing just where Richard is may make him seem less rather than more present, leaving him less free to roam the cultural imagination. Yet Shakespeare’s play, the most frequently performed of all his works, will undoubtedly remain as popular as ever. And there will now be another image of Richard to hold in memory alongside the stage villain – one so much smaller and frailer than Shakespeare’s hunchbacked cacodemon, and so much more real.
Dr Sabina Leonelli is a Senior Lecturer at the Egenis research centre and one of only a handful of UK members of the Global Young Academy. The Global Young Academy (GYA), founded in 2010 as the voice of young scientists around the world, today issues its ‘Sandton Declaration on Sustainability’. Sabina, who is a member of the GYA global policy group, argues that Scientists must do more to work with decision-makers to address the environmental crisis.
GYA members feel a special urgency on sustainability, since many of us came of age in the period between the first ‘Earth Summit’ on sustainability at Rio in 1992, and the United Nations Conference on Sustainability, the so-called Rio+20 meeting, which started yesterday (Tuesday 19 June). We are the inheritors of the decisions being made over the next three days, so we have a vested interest in charting the way forward. The UN Conference is a crucial opportunity for world leaders in policy, science and industry to promote progress towards sustainability.
The GYA debated the role that scientists can and should play to help these proceedings during its General Assembly held in Sandton, Johannesburg, in May. We concluded that scientists must take a much more active role in promoting adequate understanding and use of scientific evidence in decision-making. However, reward structures in science often discourage or even punish public engagement and outreach, which are not regarded as proper scientific activities. This needs to change urgently, as we stress in today’s ‘Sandton Declaration’.
The Declaration reads as follows:
“Twenty years ago, the 1992 Rio Conference on Environment and Development inspired a generation of young people to take up the global challenge of forging pathways to sustainability. Many of those who did are now emerging scientific leaders whose research programs are dedicated to understanding and discovering solutions to this challenge. These leaders are represented in the Global Young Academy. On the cusp of Rio+20, we stand in a unique position as inheritors of the world that was promised in 1992. Having come of age in the lead-up to Rio+20, we, the Global Young Academy, now add our voice to that of the established stakeholders from the scientific community. We are moved to do so by the deep-seated belief of the necessity to chart a vastly different course of action for our global society over the next twenty years.
“The Global Young Academy recognizes the vital role that scientific and technological innovation will continue to play as we advance toward sustainability. It is now, and must continue to be, a central component of a sustainable future. Yet, lack of scientific knowledge is not the immediate impediment to progress. Though we have much to learn, we have learnt enough in the last twenty years to take action.
The aspirations that emerged from Rio have not been matched by commensurate actions, with the dangerous consequence that sustainability is now more distant than ever. We acknowledge the complexity of the situation in a multi-stakeholder world with different, sometimes opposing, interests. Nonetheless, current trajectories must be reversed immediately. Here, we offer three means for scientists to accelerate progress towards a sustainable future.
“First, all scientists, whether academic, government, or industry-based, must actively engage with civil society and decision-makers to convey the urgency of the global challenges that lay before us. The GYA will support efforts to bring scientific evidence to bear directly on the policy and decision-making processes. By mobilizing scientific knowledge we will also help communities understand how their choices may hinder or accelerate progress toward sustainable development goals.
“Second, obstacles to initiating this dialogue must be overcome within the scientific community itself. The Global Young Academy recognizes scientific excellence as a prerequisite to having a credible voice in such discussion. Yet, we are concerned that metrics of success for scientists typically discourage public engagement and outreach. This must change. Public engagement must be valued, and not seen as something best left to others.
“Third, we must foster scientific literacy in the broadest sense. The goal here is to ensure that citizens have the tools to engage in societal debate and make informed choices regarding the future of their communities. The Global Young Academy will work to transform scientific education from rote-learning to inquiry-based problem solving, at all levels from kindergarten through post-secondary education. An inquiry-based approach will illustrate how scientific discoveries are made and how past evidence catalyzes them. More transparency will build both public trust in scientific information and capacity to weigh evidence supporting competing positions in the transition to sustainable development.
“The world cannot spend another twenty years in further discussions about the path toward sustainability. Progress toward a sustainable future must accelerate, and it must be both inclusive and enduring. The time for action, commensurate with the immediacy and diversity of sustainability challenges, is right now. The Global Young Academy believes that scientists, and science, are fundamental to realizing the goals of sustainability. Rio+40 must be a celebration of progress.”
In challenging economic times, Jo Cursley an academic from the Marchmont Observatory, argues the case for investment in prisoner rehabilitation.
A group of prisoners work together to put on a concert in Italy: for the first time two of them have begun to come out of their cells for activities. In the Netherlands, a narrator begins the play, a man who has found it difficult to relate to others but who is now part of the group. In Portugal, a group of prisoners perform a routine with chairs which they pick up and which suddenly seem to become heavy. We watch in silence as the symbolism of their guilt and anxiety becomes apparent. There are cathartic tears on the stage.
Female prisoners in Portugal
So what is rehabilitation? On a board outside every prison’s gate is a notice which reads: “Her Majesty’s Prison Service serves the public by keeping in custody those committed by the courts. Our duty is to look after them with humanity and help them lead law-abiding and useful lives in custody and after release.”
The idea of rehabilitation here is linked to the phrase “help them lead law abiding and useful lives in custody and after release.” The implication is that prior to prison they lacked the skills to do this.. Rehabilitation in all its forms is thus seen as providing an intervention which seeks to repair this lack of skills; that somehow, rehabilitation will provide the route which will make them behave in a more socially acceptable way in the future.
However, I argue that having a rehabilitative model which only focuses on improving social skills misses the point. To make a rehabilitative step change there needs to be self-belief, a feeling that something significant has changed which will lead to a better future for them. As those in prisons often have deep rooted issues with their self- esteem, the rehabilitative intervention has to ensure it provides space for the possibilities for this to happen. My research and that of others strongly indicates that any programme should be focused on the personal growth of the prisoner which enables them to re-vision their future; a future that doesn’t include prison. While this sounds like it might be expensive, surely it is cheaper than sending prisoners out unchanged and wringing one’s hands when they appear again through that revolving door a short time later.
If a focus on raising self esteem, and also providing offenders with the space for a re-consideration of their future selves is needed in order for offenders to have any chance of a crime free future, then how should this be provided? An international prison project I have been involved with seems to have the answers. The project, based around arts performances using the SEPE (Supporting Employability and Personal Effectiveness) award, has been developed by the University of Exeter and accredited through Edexcel. Working with Superact, a not for profit organisation, Exeter University laid the foundations for a training pack which has been used by Superact who have trained artists and performers in each country to deliver the project. The all important feedback the prisoners receive as a result of participating in the programme is based on their employability skills; ability to communicate, work in a team, focus on a task, solve problems. The resulting increased self-awareness has led to their re-considering the possibilities of using their newly awakened social capital in their future lives, post prison.
As a result of this project I have seen remarkable rehabilitative transformations in those taking part. I have seen groups of men and women in prisons in Portugal, the Netherlands and Italy learning to trust each other and understanding their own importance in the group situation, becoming reliable, persevering, discussing instead of shouting and using their fists, finding commonality with other members of the group they formerly despised. As Bruna Scarcello, a Head of Education in an Italian prison, said at the beginning of the concert which marks the end of each programme: “Other courses teach them how to do; this course teaches them how to be.”
While the assessment results showed that the prisoner participants improved their employability skills, and as such therefore meant that they are more work ready than before the project, surely rehabilitation is about other profound factors as well. Those in authority are good at saying what should be done to prisoners to improve their rehabilitation, but giving the prisoners themselves a voice is important because who better to judge what help is best to give? I have interviewed focus groups of prisoners in each of the countries where the performances have taken place. They were very eager to tell me all about their projects. A selection of the comments from prisoners in Portugal, the Netherlands and Italy who took part in the SEPE projects is below:
- “I had never been able to work with others before but this has taught me to listen and work together, not to just to follow my own ideas.” [Prisoner Focus Group, Portugal, 16th Feb 2012]
- “I’m ready to face up my life outside the prison with more self confidence and belief according to the legality value of our society.” [Italian Prisoner Questionnaire, 28th July 2011]
- “Now I express my feelings and I talk much more with the others; before I write about my emotions … now I share everything.” [Italian Prisoner Questionnaire, 28th July 2011]
- “I have learnt to trust.” [Dutch Prisoner Focus Group, 5th July 2011]
These results show rehabilitation in action. The possibility of this project to awaken, settle, and prepare offenders for their future lives has been recognised by Portugal and the Netherlands in particular. In both cases the projects have been brought to people in government to see the performances and to discuss the benefits. Indeed in Portugal , the Government representative was so impressed it is now going to be taken to perform to the whole of the Portuguese Parliament. Yet the link with rehabilitation and the Arts are uneasy bedfellows in Britain, where the British press derides them as wasting money on “fun”. Indeed the Arts were not mentioned by the Ministry of Justice’s Report “Breaking the Cycle” (2010), yet the profundity of development in these offender participants indicates that this is just what this project is likely to do.