Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Equal pay for women comes as a surprise to local authorities? How are we meant to swallow that one? Has the gap between rich and poor, men and women ever not been an issue? So how did it fall off the agenda?

Many years ago I saw the sociologist Stuart Hall speak. He was talking about how our lifestyles, those of the reasonably solvent, were shored up by society's acceptance of poverty. Poverty keeps wages down. It's not a hard concept to understand, is it? And women accept poor wages, not because they agree with them, but because they have no choice. Poor wages go with casual work, part-time work, work that doesn't demand round the clock availability and extra hours. None of this is rocket science. But instead of discussing how dreadfully people are paid, what appalling conditions many people work in, why trade unions are no longer a real force, what are the topics discussed over lunch and in the pub? Celebrity weddings and models' eating disorders.

I heard the other day how a woman in her fifties, working at a cafe attached to a very large shop, was paid below the minimum wage. She took home about £350 a month and worked six days a week. No overtime.

So, still on pay and what's left over after council tax, food, bills and endless annual insurance premiums that preclude most claims because of the ridiculous excess attached to them.....Brighton Festival brochure has been released. Ahh, that old chestnut. How reassuring to see the Festival is accessible to those of us who live here and who don't have cash to flash. Minimum ticket prices for the Read more books section (it was once called Literature) are £7.50. Tickets for Charleston, the haunt of the Sussex green wellie brigade, start at £9. Or you could fork out £45 for La Traviata at the Pavilion. Even the Hip Hop dance theatre event, presumably aimed at teens, is charging £10 for under 25s.

But good old festival. Clearly it's not aimed at us who cluster in the streets in Hanover, off Lewes Road or further out in Whitehawk and Moulescomb - there's now a special late night train service back to London.

Brighton and Hove is one of the funders of the festival. I wonder how the politicians think those of us bringing up families on less than £20,000 a year will afford tickets? Perhaps the fringe is for us, or maybe the artists, writers and musicians that Brighton so loves to flaunt when it suits should start exposing the awkward truths of life here.

Streets of Brighton? Smeared in dog shit, double parked and overcrowded. Read more books...but not at the Jubilee Library. In Classical company....(restricted view only).