My week: Claire McMaster

Sheila McKechnie Foundation chief executive Claire McMaster wants to sit in the sun.

Claire McMaster
Claire McMaster

Monday: As a hybrid northerner/southerner - born in Camden in London, childhood up north, back to the smoke at 19 (not to mention a mixed-race background, but that's another story entirely) - it is good to feel the classic northern charm on a trip to Leeds to participate in a campaigning workshop with some pretty inspiring people from all sorts of backgrounds - Congo, Iraq, Zimbabwe and Wakefield. 

John Battle MP regales us with fantastic stories about his campaigning days with Sheila McKechnie and Church Action on Poverty in the 80s and, more recently, his impressive ongoing dedication to a range of global and local issues.

And Dave Fanaroff from Leeds Friends of the Earth shares lessons from its brilliant and original campaign (high impact and low cost) against a proposed local waste incinerator. I feel a case study coming on.

Tuesday: I speak to a former colleague who, in between work talk, laments the loss of Thierry Henry from Arsenal to Barcelona.

I agree but remind her we have a new black role model, and a British one at that, in our midst, in the form of Formula 1's remarkable rookie Lewis Hamilton. This chimes with potential forthcoming changes to reinvigorate citizenship education.

Hamilton has uncannily been proving that our call for developing young talent early pays off (ok, in our case campaigners rather than racing drivers).

Wednesday: The new PM today breaks with tradition by announcing a weighty summer statement on future legislation, previewing the Queen's speech. In his first weeks it's good to see Government taking a long-term approach, handing over constitutional powers and looking at ways of involving the public in policy decisions.

However as The Guardian's Seamus Milne points out, it's down to "popular campaigns and movements", among others (us, in other words), to offset influence from corporate and international pressures on political and social change.

Thursday: I bump into my old mate Elliott, who is programming the music for the main stage at the Rise Festival this Sunday in London (Europe's biggest free live music festival, attracting more than 100,000 people). Can't wait to sit in the sun (we can only live in hope) and enjoy a fab line-up of bands (such as Jamelia, Kelis, St Etienne and the Skatalites), while not forgetting the underlying message - make a stand against racism. From the Anti-Nazi League and Free Nelson Mandela to Live 8 and, more recently, Live Earth, music has a long heritage of raising political awareness.

In a world of newer, better, faster, it's good to see the old ways kicking up a storm.


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