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Can you guess what Bill Nighy, One Direction and Bill Gates have in common? Actually, that’s a pretty eclectic grouping so if you don’t know already you probably won’t succeed in guessing. They are in fact all high-profile supporters of the new IF campaign, involving over 100 UK non-government organisations and civil society groups, and spearheaded by Concern Worldwide UK. Launched last Wednesday evening to a huge and dedicated crowd in the seemingly sub-zero temperatures at Somerset House Courtyard, the opening night used spectacular projections to get its message across. This puts me in the happy position of being able to talk about a fantastic charity initiative as well as show you some interesting photos from the night. Bonus.

The IF campaign seeks to get back to basics, and basic is truly what it is. Food. Nourishment. The right of each person on this planet to be able to know that they will not starve to death. A shockingly large number of people do not have this ‘ luxury’. Allow me to throw some disgraceful statistics your way: 2 million children die on this planet every year from malnutrition. One child would be criminal, but 2 million is unthinkable. And yet we must think. We must think a lot. Force yourself to confront this reality rather than to glaze over, thinking there’s nothing you can do. There is most certainly something you can do. The premise of the IF campaign is that if there is enough food on the planet to feed everyone then everyone must be fed, and we can do it. It’s do-able.

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This isn’t just wishful thinking, although that’s what many governments might have you believe, but no. The plans and ideas put forward by this campaign have been intensely researched; they’ve been lived and breathed and their results seen first hand by campaigners. 1 – Give enough aid to help the farmers help themselves and to increase agricultural infrastructure. 2 – Stop big companies dodging tax in poor countries. This in particular riles me, as we see it happen over and over again and it is the core of greed by which this planet is now in such dire straits. Big business = profit at the expense of everything else. Developing countries lose in tax avoidance 3 times what they receive in overseas aid. 3 – Stop poor farmers being forced illegally from their land and use crops to feed people, not to fuel cars for the richest. Finally, essentially; 4. Ensure that governments and large corporations are transparent and honesty about the situation and what they are (or aren’t) doing to change it. Frustratingly, at the moment the UK has a prime minister whose priorities lie in protecting business and profit. All the more reason we have to push even harder and campaign even louder, to make it clear the public won’t be fooled into believing false or minimal action. This Prime Minister, David Cameron, will be chairing the G8 Summit in Ireland in June. This is our big chance; to push Cameron to speak the obvious, to give him the courage to stand up to other world leaders who refuse to act. To do this we need to show him the whole country is in support of this and won’t be ignored about these issues.

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The irony of our western obsession with dieting leaves a bad taste in the mouth when seen in the context of 870 million people a year who go hungry. Whilst we are spending millions on books, DVDs, weight-loss programmes and gastric bands, nearly 13% of the whole human race are struggling to eat enough to stay alive. Most of this is luck. We happened to be born into a country which has little or no natural disasters, a country where the weather is mild and varied, a wealthy and influential country which (although often morally reprehensible), pledges to provide for its citizens. As with most issues of this scale, there is no quick fix; no magic wand to return us to the natural equilibrium. Saying that, although these issues are deeply complicated and bound with red tape at every turn, the heart of the issue is simple. Someone will have to lose. This is a fact which huge capitalist countries do not accept. Big businesses (who hold power over the governments) currently make money on the fact that these poor countries are losing; even Western traders profit from this in a disgraceful system of exploitation.

For them to begin to gain in prosperity, these businesses will have to pay tax; they will have to accept that bio-fuel development will slow down; they, in effect, will have to give something back. Naturally they will refuse. But if all other members, even if all Western members of the G8, would stand firm, resist the refusal of these governments, they would not be able to withstand the pressure. Rather than splintering off and playing Risk-style games of one-upmanship the G8 need to stand together, to form a true 21st Century agreement, to show that human beings have evolved; that we are better than our chequered history suggests. This is what we have to lobby to David Cameron. We have to make him see that this is not a choice, but an absolute necessity.

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The situation needs to be worked back. Rather than starting at the beginning and becoming bogged down with why it cant work, we need to make a statement, or a number of statements. Not goals but promises. Not false promises but factual, binding, legal promises. From these promises we need to see how to implement the statements. This can be done, if only the G8 leaders would truly commit to making these changes.

The launch night of this campaign was, although cold, visually stunning. A mix of speakers in the courtyard, including actor Bill Nighy and Olympic swimmer Mark Foster, combined with the beautiful impact of dazzling light-show projections to give a very clear and important message. GET INVOLVED.

You can get involved in the campaign HERE

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The old chapel, Conwy – Blinc Digital Arts Festival

I am a lover of food. My scales will confirm this. My love is for GOOD food though, not junk. I would say Olive oil is my major cholesterol weakness and I blame much of that on Jamie Oliver. And so I approached the Conwy Feast food festival on Friday night, tingling in anticipation of not only the endless miles stalls of delicious stalls from which to grab taster after taster, but also the acclaimed  Blinc digital arts show taking place in the evening.

My first foray into the festival was up at the True Taste tent by the city wall, where my sister Denise (Moel Faban Secret Supper Club) was demonstrating her exemplary skills at both fruit and vegetable jam making. Flanked by Rhun ap Iorwerth as commentator, she squeezed, stirred, pulped and boiled her way to culinary god-like-genius status, as people drifted rapidly in to the space,  rendered powerless by the sweet aromas wafting through the tents.

Moel Faban Secret Supper Club jam-making demo

Following her successful exhibit and the ensuing mass crush to experience the intriguing tomato jam, we ventured down to the harbour towards the oyster cocktail bar. Having had a not-so-pleasant experience with oysters once before (including significant expulsion of said oyster) I was understandably dubious about setting myself up for a similar situation. But watching my 10 year old nephew happily glug one down I felt the family not-so-peer pressure was imminent and so ensued my second sea-bogey foray. Aside from the look and texture, oysters are not repulsive in taste (if you like salty sea taste, that is, which fortunately I kind of do) They are constantly overrated though, in my humble opinion. As with many ‘delicacies’, just because you can eat something which is primarily a challenge, does not necessarily make it actually worth eating. Snails are my chief example. No matter how orgasmically sumptuous the sauce in which they are cooked, they are essentially just slugs with a shell. Which taste like slugs from a shell. Whoever originally managed to convince people they somehow had any worthy qualities in either flavour or texture was clearly a very impressive practical joker.

The Oyster Bar

Anyhow, I digress. The oyster stayed happily southward bound and we continued to wander around the harbour, in and out of tents and amongst piles of hypnotising goodies intent on sending me home with an extra chin. From cheeses to wines to pickles to cakes to ale to oil and even retro shots tasting like skittles (which really did!) we eventually emerged to the biting winds of the North Walean coast. Heads and bellies spinning, we felt in need of refuge in a pub but of course, this being Conwy Feast weekend, the only table free was in the restaurant thus forcing us to eat yet more food! Well, if fate insists, who am I to disagree? After a brief respite – cue both elderly and youthful power naps – we wound our way to the beer tent to watch the light parade. The culmination of frantic lantern-making workshops taking place the week before the festival, the parade starts at dusk. Headed by groups of wide-grinning children and parents, proudly holding aloft their handiwork, it builds to a drum-assisted crescendo with huge glowing creatures built from timber and translucent paper.

The Light Parade

Standing in the throng which unsurprisingly surrounded the beer tent, I suddenly caught a glimpse of flashes of light in the distance. Turning to look towards the estuary, my attention was caught by a laser display, sweeping in bursts across the bay like morse code and illuminating darkened areas of the water. But this was merely an understated prologue. We were soon standing mesmerised as huge projections swarmed the facade of the castle; poetry (written and spoken), illustration, kaleidoscopic shapes, dance, still life. Each projected back at the audience a link, a connection with the building. Using the walls as canvas, the works brought the castle to life. Somewhat unexpectedly, the spectacle allowed me to see the building more than I had before.  As with an object such as a mirror, for example, combining the artwork with a canvas which can itself change, distort and amend the image, you will undoubtedly end up with a fused piece. The canvas becomes part of the work in a pro-active way. Had the same projection been shown on a screen shortly afterwards, it would have invoked an entirely separate and probably very different, response. The town was alive. As the castle had been the fusion object at first, now the whole town performed the same function, scaled up. Crowds of families, teenagers, couples, friends, marched around the centre of Conwy, stopping at every new installation discovered. Sometimes bordering on trippy, sometimes unsettling and usually just downright beautiful, the projections at the old chapel and Plas Mawr, amongst others, had most of us ooohing and ahhhing as if it were already Guy Fawkes Night.

View from Conwy Castle walls towards the estuary

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Blinc projection on the old chapel

Pumpkin, tomato and strawberry jams made by Moel Faban Supper Club

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Stone sculpture by Richard Hackett

Blinc projection on Plas Mawr

Blinc projection on Conwy Castle

Conwy harbour

Light Parade finale

Castle wall detail

Oyster bin