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Issue 74 - May 2017
Page visits:
The Garden in May


I write this a few days after the Manchester bombing, and a couple of weeks before the Westminster election. Trump has met the Pope, Macron is settling in, and refugees are still dying in the Mediterranean. Arran is basking in hot sunshine and everywhere mayflowers are clothing the hillsides and the sea is shimmering. It is easy to imagine that we are an island apart, but of course we are not. We are part of this world, and like everywhere else we are dependent on good people to do good things. So we start this Voice with updates from Eco Savvy and COAST, and later on we hear about a magnificent hillwalk to raise money for mountain rescue. We also have news and reviews of the arts scene on Arran, hear something of the political and environmental debates taking place in Scotland, and look at some alarming human rights abuses happening on another island on the other side of the world. I hope you find this Voice informative and thought-provoking.

For some years now The Voice for Arran has provided an alternative perspective on the issues of the day as they relate to the folk of Arran. The Voice for Arran is available online, for free, every month. It is not-for-profit and produced by a small team of volunteers. We are looking for new folk to join us. If you have IT or writing experience, or if you would like to gain these, please contact us at

Alan Bellamy

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What a beautiful day to get out diving. We checked out an interesting dive site in Whiting Bay that we dive occasionally. The seabed is pure sand with just a tiny bit of mud, a few years ago we spotted the very occasional Sea Pen at this site which we thought unusual as Sea Pens tend to prefer a more muddy seabed. Over the past 12-18 months we have seen a marked recovery in biodiversity.

See for yourself:

All photographs courtesy of COAST

Arran Eco Savvy Reuse Micro-hubs

!Arran Eco Savvy is delighted to introduce Michael Gettins. Michael is Eco Savvy's Reuse Micro hubs project manager, he has had a very busy few weeks getting to know all the volunteers at Eco Savvy in our Whiting Bay reuse community shop and meeting many of our customers.

The reuse micro hub project begins with employing part time hub managers for our eight villages, Michael has been busy interviewing for these posts and we will soon be introducing our excellent hub managers for your village.

Eco-Savvy’s new project is ‘Arran Eco Savvy Reuse Micro-hubs’ which aim to create an island wide network of reuse and up-cycling sites which will encourage local communities to come together to tackle waste and build a more sustainable future.

These micro-hubs will be focal points for waste reduction - promoting up-cycling though skills sharing, reuse through swap shops and delivering educational events. Each hub will be located in an existing community space and by collaborating with established Arran groups the aim is that no one on Arran will ever be more than four miles from an Eco Savvy Hub.

This is a big project and a great challenge for everyone on Arran to make it a huge success.

This project is funded through the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund and the European Regional Development Fund.

To find out more about our reuse micro hubs project, join us at our A.G.M. at 6:30pm on Wednesday 7th June in Whiting Bay Hall.

Joan Eardley in Corrie

By Heather Gough

Corrie and Sannox Village hall became a very different place on May 10th at the performance of Anna Carlisle’s ground-breaking new play, brilliantly directed by Marilyn Imrie, celebrating the gifted life stopped in its prime which was Joan Eardley’s. As an audience we felt privileged to spend time in the company of a great painter as she made her way through a life of joys, frustrations, disappointments and triumphs. In this compelling moving promenade production, which was such a successful way to present the play lending intimacy and empathy to the production, we came to understand what it was that fired Joan Eardley, !glimpsed her cherished Samson children of Glasgow and heard the sounds of the Catterline storms. We almost felt that we were standing in the waves and cornfields with her.

Joan’s touching life, superbly and movingly acted by Alexandra Mathie who seemed really to be Joan Eardley, unfolded before our eyes entailing story, sound and visual imagery. Also depicted were her steadfast, lifelong friends, Angus Neil and Hugh Adam Crawford, ably played by John Kielty who also performed the haunting music which accompanied the play creating such subtle and atmospheric effects, and the painters, Margot Sandeman and Lil Neilson as well as Audrey Walker, Joan’s key mentor and a successful photographer in her own right. These other female roles were played with utter conviction and versatility by Ashley Smith, an extremely talented young actor.

When Joan Eardley died in 1963, tragically and some would say unnecessarily young, she left behind not only an extraordinary body of work but this steadfast body of people who loved her and never left her till the very last day of her life. I am sure that everyone present that Wednesday evening felt moved and inspired by a truly unique theatrical evening.

The Arran 700s

Somewhere in the clag on the Western Hills

By Lucy Wallace

On the 14th May Lucy Wallace and Kirstie Smith climbed all of Arran’s 700 metre and higher peaks in a fantastic feat of endurance, to raise money for both Arran’s mountain rescue team and the mountain rescue team at Mulanje in Malawi, where Lucy took a group of Arran youngsters two years ago. In 17 long hours Lucy and Kirsty walked 36km and climbed over 3000m of ascent. They have raised over £2000 for the two MRTs to date. This is an excerpt from Lucy’s blog ( ) about the day.

What a day, what an amazing, sore, exhausting and ultimately uplifting day. We were truly blessed with the weather, and with generous helpers who all played their part in getting us through our Arran 700s trek.

On A'Chir Summit

Kirstie's partner Mark was up all night on a lifeboat shout, but still managed to drive us to Pirnmill for our dawn start. Kirstie's wee search dog Caileag joined us and we headed for the Western Hills, still swathed in clag from the previous day's weather. The first few summits came thick and fast, ticking off the Beinn Bharrain ridge, serenaded by Golden Plover. These "peeper squeakers" as we called them accompanied us all the way around the top of Glen Iorsa and up on the the Leac an Tobair of Caisteal Abhail. The mist cleared and it was super exciting to get our first glimpse of the eastern part of the island.

Getting up on to Caisteal Abhail was a monster, and was the point at which I began to doubt myself, but Kirstie kept the banter going and after some food we both felt better. Cir Mhor was a doddle and we were given an extra bounce by four gentlemen who kindly emptied their wallets in support of the cause. Things got mentally tougher as we traversed under A'chir, for an out and back to Beinn Nuis via Beinn Tarsuin (so good we climbed it twice). It was a bit grim to pass A'Chir twice and not climb it. Even wee Caileag started to lose her enthusiasm and it began to rain.

Up, up, up, with help from Wally …

Morale was saved by dropping in to Glen Rosa to meet Mark and Wally. The rain stopped and Caileag had the chance for a nap with Mark while Wally made himself in to a human boulder problem, physically getting us on to the summit block of A'chir. This was the bit that had been daunting both of us thoughout our preparation and with that over, it was as if a weight was lifted from our shoulders. The four of us and Caileag skipped under Cir Mhor and up to the Saddle to meet Arran MRT Team Leader Alan McNichol, waiting with a huge flask of tea, biscuits, Jelly babies etc. We cooked a bit of scran, and were ready for the last three not insignificant summits. Caileag, bless her, was done in and returned down the Glen with Mark and Alan.

I'd always known that the climb out of the saddle would be hard, but Wally stayed with us and helped to pace us up the ridge. It was great to have his company as we ticked off North Goatfell and Mullach Buidhe (the second summit of this name of the day). Finally, before we knew it, we were on Goatfell. Absolutely punch drunk but over the moon.

On Top of the World!!!

So it’s a huge thanks to everyone involved, especially our Arran MRT colleagues who were out on a shout late on Saturday night but didn't call us, thereby not jeopardising our attempt. Of couse we'd have turned out if asked, and postponed the challenge, but they saved us from this fate as well as successfully finding a missing person on a dark, damp night in a remote part of the island. This is what MRTs do, made up of volunteers who unquestioningly put themselves forward to help those in need. I've met some of the finest people on the planet through MR and if you ever need them, they will do their best to help you.

We enjoyed the challenge despite the hard graft, and the biggest thrill is seeing the amount of money we have raised so far for our own Arran and Mulanje MRT in Malawi, a team with very few resources, who not only save lives in the mountains but support vulnerable people in their community, a place with little or no safety net.

We both love being part of an MR team, the teamwork and camaraderie are a big part of the reason why we do it, as well as wanting to help those in need in the hills that we love. MR work is expensive, and rightly free in the UK at the point of access. MR teams depend on public donations to do their work. Thank you for your support (and to Kirstie and Wally for these great pics)! Please keep the cash rolling in. .

!Arran Folk Festival 2017

This year's Folk Festival will run from 9th to 11th June. In addition to the now familiar sessions and concerts, this year there will be a fiddle workshop with Gráinne Brady on Saturday 10th June, and a songwriting workshop with Rab Noakes on Sunday 11th June.

Friday 9th June :

12 - 5pm - Welcoming Open Session, Douglas Hotel, Brodick, Free Admission

7:30pm - Concert, Brodick Hall. Tickets: £18.00
Featuring: "Top Floor Taivers", "Jenn Butterworth & Laura-Beth Salter", "Mike & Stef"

Saturday 10th June :

12 - 5pm - Open Session, Douglas Hotel, Brodick. Free Admission

7:30pm - Concert, Brodick Hall. Tickets: £20.00 Featuring: "The Tannahill Weavers", "Rab Noakes"

Sunday 11th June :

12 - 5pm - Survivors' Session, Douglas Hotel, Brodick. Free Admission Hosted by Uncle Keith. This session includes a mini-concert featuring Uncle Keith's pick of the weekends best session performers.

In addition to the above programme, we are offering a couple of workshops :

Sat.10th June:

Fiddle Workshop

Gráinne Brady is a fiddle player and composer from Co. Cavan, Ireland. Currently based in Glasgow, she is heavily involved in its folk scene, playing regularly with some of Scotland's finest musicians. She plays in a variety of different bands including her duo with Tina Jordan Rees, Top Floor Taivers, The Routes Quartet and another duo with Ryan Murphy. She also works with various music organisations including Live Music Now, Enterprise Music Scotland and Hands Up for Trad.

This workshop is for all abilities and ages.

Brodick Hall,
11am. Tickets: £5

Sun.11th June:

Songwriting Workshop - with Rab Noakes

Rab Noakes will conduct an illustrated workshop, lasting about an hour.In this Rab will highlight two aspects of his musical work - The first is songwriting and the other accompaniment/performance.

He will demonstrate some of the methods he uses as a songwriter referring to a range of songs written both by himself and by others. It will include how they were written, how they were improved and how they were considered completed.

The second aspect is the art of accompaniment. This relates to the songwriting as the narrative takes us from composition to performance. Rab will engage the audience in a Q&A session.

This is an hour full of information, music and stimulation.

Brodick Hall,
11am. Tickets: £5

Arran Coastal Rowing Club

Arran Coastal Rowing Club was founded in early 2015 and is based at Arran Yacht Club in Lamlash. “Iolair”, Arran's first skiff was named and launched on Saturday, 19th September 2015 at the yacht club in Lamlash. The second one “Seabhag” (built on behalf of and financed by Arran Junior Sailing Club) was launched on 17th September 2016.

During the summer of 2016, ACRC took part in several regattas organised by coastal rowing clubs on the mainland and, in September, brought home the trophy for the Prestwick regatta. An amazing achievement for their first season.

On Saturday June 24th, ACRC are organising their first regatta in Lamlash and all are welcome to come along and support the event. The first race will start at 11am and the prize giving will be around 4:30 pm.

For more details please see the club website:

11th December 2016!!!!

The Elderly Forum

Jean Strachan recently wrote about how the numbers attending the Elderly Forum are dwindling:

The Elderly Forum has been going for 10 years, maybe it has run its circle. It is non political non religious and was started by N.A.C. I send out 50+ emails monthly. The attendance is better when we have a speaker but they are not easy to arrange. It could be that the name or the day doesn't suit. It would be a shame for it to fold.

Jane Howe at the PHT is attempting to circumvent the demise of the Elderly Forum and writes:

I run a Bus Pass Club (free soup) on Wednesdays. This is not supported either. I do believe that we need places for the third generation to meet & it would be a shame to lose these things.

What is the Bus Pass Club?

It is an opportunity for residents to get out to a different venue to see old friends/acquaintances & meet new people. Loneliness should never happen in a small community and everyone is welcome here even if the only person you know is the staff, we will make you feel welcome.

Who is it for?

It is for anyone who is eligible for a bus pass or carers of the elderly or disabled. We have a disabled ramp to the front right step and wheelchair access also through the rear of the building.

What inspired the Bus Pass Club?

A lovely lady, who was a carer used to bring her clients in every week for a bowl of soup. Sadly, she passed away in tragic circumstances but it made me realise how important sharing is and never underestimate the needs that people have, the desire to be valued or cared about.

Why is it in association with the church?

I am a Christian and am proud to share my faith whether through deeds or words and I believe that whether in a public house or a Church, Christians have a role to share their faith and offer kindness.

What do you get?

You are welcome to share a bowl of chef’s soup of the day & homemade bread for free.

How can you help?

If you know of anyone who doesn’t get out much and might welcome some company, please invite them to come along.


Talitha visits Brodick

In mid-May the luxury charter yacht Talitha was spotted in Brodick Bay. Built in 1929 with many Art Deco features, she carries up to 12 passengers and 18 crew. At a charter price of €433,125 per week, we probably need to win the lottery quite soon!


Marine News

From John Kinsman

Scientists have found that wild seals given a dose of oxytocin, nicknamed the love hormone, become more sociable and less aggressive. A study of grey seal pups on the isle of May off St Monans found those given the hormone would also stay close to each other. The University of St Andrews team said the effects of the hormone lasted for days despite the small doses given. Oxytocin is known to forge emotional bonds between romantic partners, and mothers and new born babies.

Study leader Dr Kelly Robinson reported that “seals given oxytocin spent significantly more time in close proximity to each other, confirming that oxytocin causes conspecifics (same species members) to seek others out and remain close to one another. Aggressive and investigative behaviours also significantly fell after oxytocin manipulations.”

The scientists concluded “oxytocin manipulations have been subject to intense interest in the last decade due to the widespread occurrence of oxytocin in mammals, and its far reaching effects on behaviour including parental and social bonds.” The research was conducted in a way that ensured no harm came to the seals, said the team ……

Meanwhile Coastwatch St Monans which is part of Coastwatch Scotland has become the first full time Coastwatch station in Scotland. The station was set up in 2012 and covers an area from Anstruther to Largo Bay. The station is under the command of station manager John Kinsman, a former part time coastguard with 8 year’s experience, and a team of six volunteers including his wife Anne who is deputy station manager. The station is based in an historic windmill on the clifftop.

Book Review

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate - Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben

Peter Wohlleben worked as a forester in Germany for many years, and these days cares for a community woodland.

!In The Hidden Life of Trees, he shares his deep love of woods and forests and explains the amazing processes of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in the woodland and the amazing scientific processes behind the wonders of which we are blissfully unaware. Much like human families, tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, and support them as they grow, sharing nutrients with those who are sick or struggling and creating an ecosystem that mitigates the impact of extremes of heat and cold for the whole group. As a result of such interactions, trees in a family or community are protected and can live to be very old. In contrast, solitary trees, like street kids, have a tough time of it and in most cases die much earlier than those in a group. Drawing on groundbreaking new discoveries, Wohlleben presents the science behind the secret and previously unknown life of trees and their communication abilities; he describes how these discoveries have informed his own practices in the forest around him. As he says, a happy forest is a healthy forest, and he believes that eco-friendly practices not only are economically sustainable but also benefit the health of our planet and the mental and physical health of all who live on Earth.

After reading this book I guarantee that you will experience a walk through the woods very differently next time.

Alan Bellamy

Corrie Film Club

!The film on 11th June is The Long Good Friday (1980, UK, directed by John Mackenzie, 114 mins, Cert 18).

In the late 1970s, Cockney crime boss Harold Shand (Bob Hoskins) has big plans to get the American Mafia to bankroll his transformation of a derelict area of London into the possible venue for a future Olympic Games. However, a series of bombings targets his empire on the very weekend the Americans are in town. Shand is convinced there is a traitor in his organization, and sets out to eliminate the rat in typically ruthless fashion. The film provided Bob Hoskins with his breakthrough film role, and also stars Helen Mirren.

The Guardian’s review said “This country’s a worse risk than Cuba! It’s a banana republic!” That is how Britain is brusquely described in this classic Brit gangster melodrama from 1980. It features a criminal property developer in trouble with rich Americans and the IRA. (A modern-day remake would turn them into Russians and Islamic State.) The film has dated a bit, but it’s surprising how very cleverly it intuits the property boom of London in 2015, and its yearning to be at the centre of a globalised economy, while at the same time absorbing both 70s drear and 80s aspiration.”

Corrie and Sannox Village Hall, 8pm, 11th June, everyone welcome.

SNP & Tory MSPs block attempt to change Air Departure Tax Bill

Patrick Harvie MSP, Economy spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, has restated his intention to make changes to the Air Departure Tax Bill after SNP and Tory MSPs blocked his attempt to make the tax more sustainable.

Mr Harvie's amendments at the Finance Committee asked for an Aviation Emissions Policy to be developed before the new tax's rates and bands are set, and for that policy to include a drive to reduce emissions compared to 2005 levels, which both the airlines and the government’s climate change advisors say is achievable.

Research for the Scottish Greens has shown that the richest 10 per cent of households stand to gain four times as much as the poorest 10 per cent from the government's aim of halving air duty, and that such a cut would increase climate change emissions by 60,000 tonnes a year.

Patrick Harvie MSP said: “It's disappointing to see SNP and Tory members of the Finance Committee ignoring the results of their own inquiry which found a complete lack of evidence to support ministers' desire to cut this tax. It's equally disappointing that the Finance Secretary resisted the idea of setting an acceptable level of emissions from aviation. It’s not credible to claim that other sectors of our economy will compensate for the damage caused by aviation growth, if we don’t even know the scale of the task.

“The Finance Secretary says he will launch a public consultation this summer but if people are just asked whether or not they support the tax cut, that's not a proper consultation. Instead we need a serious evidence base about the social, economic and environmental impact of aviation, and that evidence must come before a policy is adopted.

!“So far the Government has refused to commit to an evidence-led approach. What we know already is that cutting this tax will benefit the wealthiest the most, will increase rather than decrease climate change emissions and will deprive the public purse of millions of pounds of revenue.

“The Scottish Government still have an opportunity to reshape this Bill to address those concerns in time for the final vote in the chamber. Or they can look to the Tories for support, and do the bidding of big business. The choice they make will say a lot about their commitment to a more equal Scotland and to tackling the climate crisis.”

Poem of the Month

Between Us

by Cicely Gill

You lend me a book,
you give me part of yourself.
It’s not just the print and the paper
but your ‘I liked this — I loved the way —
especially the beginning, the scene in the park —
those beech trees — and Stefan — his cruelty —
how could he have —?’
You became my companion
as I read, thickening the tension I felt —
your dread at the betrayal of Adrianna
becoming mine.
When you described it, I saw
how you’d been moved
and I felt it doubly, Adrianna’s pain,
knowing how these words harried you,
as if our feelings were turning over together.
I returned your book
with some reluctance.
Gave the weight of it into your hand
but then felt no loss: found myself
in possession of something permanent
though unseen, from the spaces between each page.

This poem is taken from Cicely Gill’s recently published collection ‘The Trees of Childhood’ . Well known on Arran as a playwright as well as for her two detective novels, this is Cicely’s first poetry collection. Describing herself as ‘Scottish by choice’ having spent the greater part of her life on Arran, she now spends, she says, ‘as much time as possible writing’. Copies of ‘The Trees of Childhood’ are available direct from the author, price £4.99.

Climate change legislation sees huge increase

More than 1,200 climate laws have been introduced since 1997, with a sharp rise in the number of countries legislating since the 2015 Paris Agreement, writes Alex Kirby of the Climate News Network.

A growing number of countries are passing laws aimed at ensuring they will keep their promises to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, new research shows. But some still need to do more to give their pledges practical effect under national laws.

An analysis by researchers and staff of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UNFCCC, shows a clear rise in the number of countries introducing legislation to support the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) they have undertaken to make under the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

The NDCs detail the emissions cuts each country intends to make to help to reach the goal of keeping global temperature rise below 2°C.

Analysis by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science shows that 14 new laws and 33 new executive policies related to climate change have been introduced since the Paris summit in December 2015. Of the new laws and policies, 18 mainly focus on climate change, while four specifically relate to NDCs.

The analysis relies on a new online database of global climate change legislation developed by Grantham and the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School, US. The new laws add to more than 1,200 climate-related laws enacted globally since 1997, now involving 164 countries and including 93 of the top 100 emitters - up from 99 countries in 2015.

Patricia Espinosa, the UNFCCC’s executive secretary, says: “We are witnessing serious and significant support for the Paris Agreement from across countries and continents, and from cities and businesses to civil society. Today we present further evidence from the world of policymaking that shows how countries are starting to add to and to tailor existing legislative frameworks to respond to the aims and ambitions of the new Agreement.”

A 2016 analysis showed that seven of the G20 members, including the EU as a whole, France, Germany, the UK, Japan, Mexico and South Africa, had emission reduction targets in domestic legislation or policy that were entirely consistent with their Paris pledges.

But that study also pointed out that in the 13 other G20 countries there was a gap between the signatories’ pledges to the Paris Agreement and the legal frameworks they had in place to make those cuts.

From Patricia Gibson MP

!North Ayrshire & Arran candidate, Patricia Gibson, has set out the clear commitments of the SNP in this General Election on tax avoidance, economic and industrial strategies, promoting prompt payment, inclusive growth, City Deals and the Scottish Growth Scheme. Patricia said:

“The amount of tax the UK Government fails to collect increased to a staggering £36,000 million and yet it plans tax office closures across Scotland. This threatens 2,000 Scottish jobs and will remove a vital source of information and advice for SMEs, in particular on their tax liabilities and entitlements. There are 5,009 businesses in North Ayrshire. The vast majority are Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs). My SNP colleagues and I continue to oppose these tax office closures to help support SMEs whilst bringing in revenue to fund our public services.

“Prompt payment of invoices is vital. The SNP Government led the way by paying almost 99% within 10 working days and I was delighted to co-sponsor my Ayrshire colleague Alan Brown MP’s Bill at Westminster to ensure others pay their bills promptly. We support the creation of a Small Business Commissioner and will press the UK Government to deal with retention payments in the construction industry, where the lack of action has been disastrous for some SMEs.

“Our economic strategy focuses on investment in skills and infrastructure; supporting business innovation; fostering inclusive growth; and internationalisation of Scotland’s economy through attracting investment and helping businesses export. This approach helps maintain and build upon our strong economic fundamentals. Scottish productivity has grown 9.4% under the SNP compared to just 0.1% across the UK, while the number of registered businesses in Scotland grew 15% to a record 223,000. Meanwhile, Scotland’s international exports increased 41% in value between 2007 and 2015.

“We are committed to an Industrial Strategy that takes account of Scotland’s economic challenges. There are a number of steps the UK government should take, while they hold such powers, to boost Scotland’s economy. This includes additional capital investment to support sustainable economic recovery, particularly boosting growth sectors ranging from life sciences and gaming to robotics and Artificial Intelligence to boost international competitiveness.

“Some Scottish communities are heavily reliant on one economic sector. We will both support communities looking to diversify and do everything possible to support existing sectors. There should be clear guidance and a mandate for the UK Small Business Commissioner to play a role in delivering the Industrial Strategy.


“Supporting inclusive growth remains at the heart of economic development, and central to this is addressing the UK’s gender pay gap, which must be eradicated. The SNP supports the inclusion of more women in industry, flexible working and ways to encourage women back into employment after having a family. We will also press for employment law to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament so that it can recognise and compliment the devolved skills and employability programmes in Scotland.

“The SNP Government has made significant contributions to successful City Deal bids across Scotland. My colleagues and I continue to seek a UK Government funding commitment to the Ayrshire Growth Deal.

“Meanwhile, the SNP Government’s £500m package of financial support for private sector business investment through the 3-year Scottish Growth Scheme will unlock private sector investment, which is facing increased uncertainty as a result of Brexit.

“Individual investment guarantees, and loans of up to £5 million are available to SMEs which would otherwise be unable to grow because of a lack of investment finance.” Patricia concluded:

“We have confidence in Scottish business, Scottish workers and the Scottish economy and we are determined to build an economy where everyone can contribute to growth, and where everyone can share in the benefits of an economy that should bring prosperity, not further austerity.”

West Papua

Our news media rarely gives adequate coverage to what goes on elsewhere in the world. New Internationalist magazine recently reported on the awful abuses happening in West Papua, and we thought Voice readers might like to know about what has been happening on another island, even if on the other side of the world.

“Imagine a referendum in which just 0.2 per cent of the population were allowed to vote. Imagine that every one of those voters was marched to the voting station at gunpoint, and told exactly what choice to make. Would you believe the result truly represented the wishes of the people?

This is exactly what happened in the Pacific nation of West Papua in 1969. The occupying Indonesian army marched 1,026 handpicked West Papuans (from a population of 800,000) in front of election officials. These ‘voters’ were ordered to raise their hands at the right moment or be shot. This ‘Act of Free Choice’ was then presented to the world as an unequivocal vote in favour of Indonesia’s claim over West Papua, and rubberstamped at the United Nations by the US, the UK, Australia and their allies. The lands, forests and mountains that had been home to the Indigenous West Papuan people for 50,000 years were handed over to Indonesian President Suharto’s military regime - along with the vast reserves of gold, copper and natural gas buried beneath them.

Forty-eight years later, in January 2017, I’m sitting in a packed-out conference room in the UK Parliament building in Westminster. We are here to see West Papuan independence leader Benny Wenda launch a global petition, calling on the UN to oversee a fresh independence vote in his country to replace the sham referendum from 1969. Benny stands, ceremonial feathered headdress on his head, and tells the gathered MPs, journalists and supporters about the decades of human rights abuses his people have suffered under Indonesian occupation. His speech is accompanied by something I’ve never seen before - a video of demonstrations that took place in West Papua in the previous 24 hours, in solidarity with this meeting. We see groups of West Papuans in jungle villages holding up the Morning Star independence flag - a criminal act that carries a 15-year sentence in Indonesia - and thanking us for coming to Westminster today. One group of protesters have filmed themselves inside an Indonesian jail. Every participant in these actions will have done so at great personal risk of reprisal from the Indonesian military.

The people of West Papua are rising again, determined to reclaim the voice that was denied to them almost 50 years ago. After decades of struggle and brutal repression, recent events have propelled their fight for freedom back onto the world stage. If we’re serious about defending human rights and tackling climate change, this is the moment to stand with West Papua - the survival of an entire culture and the preservation of the world’s third-largest rainforest are hanging in the balance. But time is running out.”

West Papua makes up the western half of New Guinea, the world's second-largest island.
The division between West Papua and the independent country of Papua New Guinea is an artificial line dating back to when
the British, Dutch and German empires colonized the island.

The full story can be read here.

Wild Garlic and Mushroom Soup

With Heather Gough

!I hope the wild garlic is not over by the time you read this recipe. Wild garlic has been so abundant and luscious this year. If it is over, maybe next May!

I was on a walk to King's Cross recently and there was so much wild garlic growing that I picked several handfuls of the leaves thinking that I could make something when I got home.

All I could find at home that I thought would go were mushrooms and potatoes. The resulting soup was good and it will become an early summer regular in our house when the garlic grows.

Here it is. Collect 3 good handfuls of wild garlic leaves, wash and chop like any herb. Heat oil or butter and add one medium chopped onion, 2 medium potatoes and allow to soften. Add a punnet of chestnut mushrooms and the wild garlic leaves. Mix all around, season with salt and pepper and add chicken or vegetable stock. Allow to simmer for about 20 mins then puree or blend.

Before serving stir in some cream or crème fraiche if desired. Yum!


Dear Editor

In May we marked Dementia Awareness Week. Did your readers know that an estimated 225,000 people will develop dementia this year alone - that’s one every three minutes - and, with people in the UK living longer than ever before, the threat of developing age related conditions such as dementia becomes increasingly real.

As I’m sure many of you will agree being diagnosed with a life-changing condition like dementia can often seem like the most overwhelming thing in the world. That’s why I want to reassure your readers that they don’t have to deal with things alone, we’re here to help.

I work for Revitalise - a wonderful national charity that provides respite holidays for disabled people and carers - including specialised weeks for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia at our three accessible UK centres.

Every aspect of our Alzheimer’s breaks are designed with our guests in mind, enabling them to spend precious time with one another away from the worries of everyday life and giving them the time to rediscover a loving connection as husband and wife, father and daughter, mother and son once more.

For more information about Revitalise, our specialist Alzheimer’s Weeks, or to request a brochure please visit:, or call us for a chat on 0303 303 0145.

Stephanie Stone, Revitalise.

Dear Editor

Is it The Plough or The Big Dipper?

Who knows? Well a star watcher might. So if you know the answer or would like to know the answer I’m extending an invitation to you to get in touch to help form a new AA group - Arran Astronomers! The idea is to set up a very informal group of people interested in star watching to meet to discuss and to share information on any aspect of astronomy that takes our fancy - from setting up a telescope to what's in the night sky and for a first meeting how to beat the midges! I am completely new to star watching myself so no previous experience or knowledge necessary. If you are interested please email me at

Stephen Brown

… and finally …

easyHotel, the super-budget international Hotel chain that offers a great night’s sleep from as little as £19.99 a night, is trialling fake window views of iconic London landmarks for guests at its Old Street Hotel. The views enable guests to experience the majesty of some of the city’s finest landmarks without having to pay a premium for a fancy view.

For £1, customers can ‘upgrade’ to a view of Tower Bridge or Buckingham Palace, a fraction of the cost paid for a decent view in some of the City’s most expensive hotels. There is no need to book in advance for a fake view. Simply request one on arrival at reception and easyHotel will take care of the rest.

Jorge Rodriguez, Night Manager of easyHotel, said: “Many London hotels charge rates as high as £10,000 for a premium view from a room. Why shell out a fortune when you could be spending your hard-earned cash on the experience of the city itself? Our customers’ cash stays in their wallets for an enjoyable visit rather than being literally thrown out the window.”

“The real experience of the capital is the experience on the streets, in the museums, restaurants and shops - not staring out of window. Guests might as well spend a fraction of that £10K on a TV and experience the view at home instead. If you really want a view, just spend an extra quid with us.”