Friday, September 30, 2005

A sizzling tale of sausages

Martin Wainwright has another great piece in today's Guardian, on the revival of the great British sausage - in particular, those produced by Yorkshire's Cranswick Country Foods (aka the former East Riding Quality Bacon Producers' Association). It's a sizzling tale of market demand, entrepreneurialism, academic/industrial research partnerships, pig improvement, Lupercalian orgies and, of course, top class bangers.

A survey this month by the City analysts Mintel showed that premium bangers full of real meat and fresh herbs are being made in Britain at a rate unprecedented for decades. Sales are up by almost a quarter since 2000, and organics have tripled. "Manufacturers are reinventing sausages as posh nosh," said Mintel's David Bird.
There are vast, impersonal forces at play here: more money in consumers' purses, greater health awareness, the regulatory effect of the European Union. But levers have also been pulled by astute individuals. The British sausage revolution really took off on a spring morning in 1995 when two Yorkshiremen spotted a shop called Simply Sausages on London's Farringdon Road.
Within hours, they had negotiated a joint venture with the shop's owner, Martin Heap. He was a former restaurateur with a genius for inventing speciality sausages; they were Bernard Hoggarth and Martin Davey, managing director and chairman of the Yorkshire company Cranswick Country Foods.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Comprehensively best

Roy Hattersley has an enthusive piece in the Education Guardian today about the benefits of genuine comprehensive education - in particular, as practiced at my own old school, Lady Manners, Bakewell.

Ofsted can be effusive. Report 268844 begins with the pronouncement that the school under review consistently "provides its students with an excellent education". It goes on to describe both students' achievements and the quality of education as "excellent in the sixth form and in the main school".
The summary of findings includes, as always, "improvements needed". It concludes that "no significant areas for improvement were identified".
Lady Manners school in Bakewell, Derbyshire, was adjudged to be as near to perfect as is possible outside the great local education authority in the sky.
Yet Lady Manners is not just one of the fashionably derided comprehensive schools. It is aggressively opposed to every form of secondary selection.
So what does Lady Manners's remarkable success prove? First, it confirms beyond doubt that comprehensive schools can meet the needs of every sort of pupil with almost unqualified success. The notion that the non-selective principle is intrinsically flawed is obviously absurd. Second, it demonstrates that schools are most likely to do the proper comprehensive job if they are proper comprehensives.
Not every LEA can create the circumstances that have contributed to Lady Manners's achievement. But the government and local authorities could create catchment areas that provide a genuine all-ability intake - the essential ingredient of all its achievements. Lady Manners thrives in the environment of success. The problem is an unwillingness to replicate it throughout the country.

Though I could make plenty of criticisms of Lady Manners from my own time there (some while ago now, of course, under a different headmaster), I do think Hattersley is right. True comprehensive schools can and do work best for the benefit of all students, and selection simply doesn't. As for 'faith-based' schools - gods save us.


Sunday, September 25, 2005

Back to reality

I'm now back from a quite fantastic honeymoon in Bali and Singapore, fit for new challenges (quite apart from those of married life, of course). First up, I begin an MA in Economics and Finance at Sheffield University on a part-time basis. I'm also taking responsibility as editor of Growing Business Yorkshire, a new expanded regional supplement of the best-selling magazine (actually, not quite yet - the Yorkshire launch has been put on indefinite hold). There'll also be the usual variety of new commissions for other titles.

Recently published work includes a feature on the private equity buyout market in the UK Midlands, 'Glum in Brum', for the very nicely re-designed Real Deals (8 September issue); a piece on the Regional Venture Capital Funds for the ICAEW's Corporate Financier; a review of that Freakonomics book for Fortean Times; and a selection of photographs - mostly of architecture, either futuristic and delapidated, in Yorkshire, London and Moscow - in JG Ballard: Conversations, a long-awaited collection of interviews with the great writer from Re/Search Publications.


Saturday, September 03, 2005

A hiatus

I'll be shutting down operations for the next few weeks, as I'm getting married and heading off to more exotic climes on honeymoon. Normal service will be resumed at the end of September.

Best wishes to all,