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Date with history: The Great Smog chokes London

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A cold snap at the start of December 1952 had Londoners stoking their coal fires to fend off the chill. By December 5, the smoke from their chimneys had helped to engulf the capital in a yellow-black sulphurous smog that would hang around for five days and prove quite deadly.

The Great Smog claimed the lives of more than 4,000 people almost immediately and would lead to 8,000 more deaths in the subsequent months, most the result of respiratory tract infections. While the incident prompted important reforms, 70 years later air pollution remains the number one environmental risk to public health in Britain and kills millions of people each year around the world.

The Great Smog of 1952 crept into homes, stopped public transport and sports events, and closed cinemas and theatres. Londoners with money bought protective masks, the rest breathed in dirty air. In her book Death in the Air, Kate Winkler Dawson describes who first noticed the gruesome consequences: ‘Across London, funeral directors reported a surge in bodies, so many that the demand for caskets was insatiable.’ 

The causes were the burning of fossil fuels and a spell of unfortunate weather. Five coal-fired power stations – Battersea, Bankside, Fulham, Greenwich and Kingston upon Thames – poured smoke, hydrochloric acid, sulphur dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere, compounded by pollution from domestic coal fires and road vehicles. 

In early December 1952, an anti-cyclone over London caused a temperature inversion that trapped the city’s pollution below a layer of warm air. Only a change in the weather five days later allowed the wind to blow the pollution away. This brought cleaner air and, with it, political change.

From tragedy to reform

The landmark Clean Air Act 1956 gave local authorities the power to control emissions of smoke, grit, dust and fumes from industrial premises and furnaces, and to set up smoke control zones, allowing authorities to extinguish open fires and domestic wood burning stoves. As a result, between 1970 and 2020, the two most dangerous pollutants from car exhausts and fossil fuel burning – nitrogen oxides and fine particulate matter – reduced by 76 per cent and 85 per cent respectively in Britain.

Poorer people are more likely to live in areas of London with higher levels of air pollution

Despite this, in 2019 toxic air contributed to the deaths of more than 4,000 Londoners. The capital remains Britain’s most polluted city and lower socio-economic status groups are more likely to live in areas of London with higher levels of air pollution. 

The main causes of this pollution are road transport and domestic solid fuel burning. It is estimated that domestic wood burning increased by more than a third between 2010 and 2020; the result is that the 8 per cent of British homes that burn wood are responsible for the greatest proportion of small particle pollution (17 per cent), worse than vehicle traffic (13 per cent).  

The legacy of Ella Kissi-Debrah 

Nevertheless, it wasn’t until 2020 in Britain that air pollution was first listed as a cause of death on a death certificate. That person was Ella Kissi-Debrah who tragically only nine years old when she died after a severe asthma attack in 2013. She lived near one of the busiest roads in south London and was breathing in toxic fumes every day. 

The coroner’s ruling came after seven years of campaigning by Ella’s mother Rosamund to get the inquest reopened. As with the Great Smog, the ruling was a watershed moment for tackling toxic air, and the Mayor of London has implemented several policies, including expanding the Ultra Low Emission Zone, which charges the most polluting vehicles that enter central London, and recently announced a plan to extend it. 

Nationally, the Environment Act, passed in 2021 after repeated delays, required the government to submit new air quality targets to Parliament before the end of October 2022. That deadline passed and, at the time of writing, no new timetable has been provided. 

The government aims to further reduce fine particulate matter pollution by 2040 – a full decade later than the European Union’s comparable target. Meanwhile, 36,000 people in Britain are dying prematurely as a result of air pollution each year.  

Globally, air pollution is an increasing problem. The World Health Organization attributes 7 million deaths to air pollution each year. Chinese and Indian cities have recently seen similar episodes to the Great Smog. And almost everyone across the world is breathing levels of pollution that breach the WHO guideline limits.

The Great Smog took an unacceptable toll on the lives in 1952. Its legacy is a demonstration of the power of political will to drive change and clean up our air. We know the health effects of air pollution and we have the tools to reduce it. All we need is for governments to act. 

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ICE London 2023 to feature exhibitors from record 68 nations – IAG

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Industry trade show ICE London will feature exhibitors from a record 68 nations, topping the previous best of 65 set three years ago, according to organizer Clarion Gaming.
ICE London returns as a full-sized show for the first time since 2020 from 7 to 9 February, with the total 623 exhibitors representing everything from Argentina to Australia and Macau to Mexico.
“No other exhibition in the gaming space can come anywhere near the internationalism of ICE,” said Clarion Gaming Managing Director, Stuart Hunter.
“To have 68 nations represented by our community of exhibitors means that visitors are immediately part of what is a global experience with unique access to the smartest gaming innovators drawn from every corner of the world. There are very few exhibitions of scale in any industry sector which are able to compare with such international representation and legitimately lay claim to being a ‘global’ or a ‘world’ event.
“Once an event is recognized as being genuinely international, stakeholder groups including brands, regulators, trade associations, media groups and strategic industry-wide bodies focus their activities accordingly.
“Research that we’ve undertaken has shown that for many people ICE and iGB Affiliate London actually start on the Sunday preceding and finish on the following Saturday. In that week we estimate that over 100 gambling industry events will take place outside of the show hours providing a new and compelling perspective on why ICE and iGB Affiliate London are so influential and important to the world industry.”
IAG will have a team of four at ICE London next week. Visit us at Stand ND7-C.

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David Ford and Annie Dressner Live in London

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There’s something special about London on a Saturday night – there’s a certain buzz in the air as you head into the Capital city. For me that buzz was extra special, as I was going to see David Ford and Annie Dressner at The Lexington in Islington. I literally listened to their ’10 Days (Live)’ album for the first time a week ago, but since then it’s been on repeat and heading in I knew that the night was going to be special.
The Lexington is a great place for music, with a bar on the ground floor before heading up the winding stairs to the spacious venue itself. And as the crowd started coming in, the atmosphere in the room was growing by the minute.
Opening the night was Scottish singer songwriter Gary Stewart. He set the night off really well, with an engaging set that got the crowd onside from the start. He opened with his 2021 single ‘Hot To Trot‘ and you already knew the set was going to be a good one – a rousing folk song with great lyrical dexterity. The highlight of the set was ‘Frontlines’, a simply gorgeous song (check out a YouTube video of the song here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDCLwYwsesk). Gary ended with a fine cover of Paul Simon’s ‘Song for the Asking’.
It was time for a quick visit to the bar before settling down for the main event. 
The duo appeared on the stage to great applause, David in an orange shirt and Annie in a sparkling black dress. They opened with ‘Easy Falling’, the first song that I’ve ever heard of theirs, and a song that convinced me I needed to listen to the rest of the album. This slow and moving number is a touching love song and shows off the brilliant harmonies of David and Annie – there’s something special about the English (David) and US accents (Annie) mingling in the way that they do. 
Throughout the set, there were so many highlights. ‘Something I’ll Have to Learn‘ is a song with an almost timeless feel that feels like a conversation in song, Annie’s original ‘Strangers Who Knew Each Other’s Names‘ was simply brilliant and ‘Some Folks Are Lucky I Guess‘ is a song with a great sentiment. ‘Can’t Help What I Want‘ (below) is a great example of those brilliant harmonies that the two share.

‘Trash‘, a cover of the Suede hit, was a particular highlight – a song that was a nice surprise on the live album. As they break into ‘Oh maybe, maybe it’s the clothes you wear‘ it almost feels like this was a song that Suede wrote for David and Annie, their version is that good. Outstanding.
The set had a second cover, a song that Annie introduced as ‘an American classic‘. This classic was ‘Ain’t No Pleasing You‘ from Chas and Dave, a song that typified the cockney sound of London back in the 1980’s. I love the way they re-worked it and there was something special about the way Annie sings the word ‘Darling’ in her US twang that just resonated and put a smile on my face.
There were great moments of humour throughout the night, the chat between the two great. At one point mid-song, Annie passed her guitar to David, exclaiming ‘I knew there were chords in this song, I just didn’t know which ones‘ which had the crowd laughing.
The best of the night was saved till last. ‘Warning Sign’ had quickly become my favourite song from the pair and hearing it live in person lived up to all expectations. There’s such a beauty in live music, and hearing songs like this with other people in a venue can really bring a song home – and almost even change your own personal relationship with a song.
The final song of the night (there was no encore as David explained that they literally had no more songs!) was ‘Put Me In A Corner’. Annie’s vocals take the lead in this track and it was just magical, the emotion of the song emanating from the stage and filling the room. You can listen and see for yourself below.

You never know what to expect when you see an artist or artists perform for the first time. Some exceed expectations and some just don’t hit the heights you expect. In David Ford and Annie Dressner, it was definitely the former. The gig was stripped back – just two people on a stage creating a moment. And what a moment it was.
Annie and David and reviewer Nick Cantwell
Check out their websites and hit and follow the social links!
http://www.dressnerford.com/

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http://anniedressner.com/
***Note – I need to say a word about the audience for the gig. The audience was impeccable, with barely any talking at all at any point (apart from whispered orders at the bar). Credit goes to Gary, Annie and David, who managed to grab the audience from the start, but also to everyone there. If you were there yourself, give yourself a high five!***
Review written by Nick Cantwell (instagram.com/nickcantwellmanagement)
 
 
 


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Graduate Organist vacancy in London and Home Counties – Church Times

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Graduate Organist vacancy in London and Home Counties  Church Times

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