Monday, 8 February 2010


Mandy has finally admitted it. We have benefited from not joining the European single currency, says Peter Mandelson, contrary to what he once believed. Gordon Brown was right to block the move and “no sensible person” can now see the point of adopting the Euro, according to yesterday’s leader in The Sunday Telegraph. The major issue is that countries like Spain and Italy cannot let their currency devalue to make their exports more competitive and diminish their debt. Conversely, we can.

I’ve always opposed Britain joining the Euro as I cannot see the use of rich and poor countries across Europe with such different economies and interest rate requirements being joined at the hip. It’s not a pride in my home country’s currency - more, a realistic view of how we can be more competitive. I remember being asked to debate in sixth-form that we should join the Euro and found it tricky to do so, as I actually thought it would be bad for our economy to become much more interdependent with other European countries. As I still believe now, this would then take us even longer to exit the recession and make us more prone to going back in soon. So, no thanks. For now.

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As a clarinet and saxophone player myself, I’ve taken much inspiration from a variety of musicians over the years. So it’s always sad to hear when a jazz legend dies - and after Johnny Dankworth passed away on Saturday, I decided it would be a good time to look back at his music. BBC Radio 3 said he was a performer of “invention and fire, but with a particularly light and attractive tone” - something that seems a good aspiration for any jazz player. The saxophonist and clarinettist was inspired by Charlie Parker - who better? - and made his name through an avant-garde, yet accesible, style.

Listening to other musicians is a great way of improving your own playing. I find I pick up so much from hearing some of my favourite modern jazz artists like Soweto Kinch and YolanDa Brown, but also playing some more traditional CDs by the likes of Benny Goodman and John Coltrane. Coltrane and Kinch were/are certainly far from the norms of their respective eras, trying out new styles and fusions that not everybody appreciates. But, like Dankworth, they dared to be different and are respected for their originality and forward-thinking musical natures.

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If you regularly read my blog, you’ll know I’m proud to be a southerner living in the north and that the significance of the divide had never occurred to me before I arrived in Sheffield. But whilst the north of England often comes in for some stick from the southern-based media, there’s something that Mancs, Scousers and Geordies certainly have over their counterparts down the M1. They really are passionate about their football. It’s such of way of life in areas like the north-east and Yorkshire and I’ve enjoyed seeing this first-hand over the last few years.

I had the privilege of going to see Liverpool v Everton on Saturday and it was a great experience. Watching 40,000 fans sing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and screaming for every ball and tackle showed me how much the beautiful game means up north. It’s not as if this was something new for me - I’ve followed Newcastle for years and they have arguably got the best fans in the country - but you just don’t get the same feeling from London club supporters; even top-four Arsenal and Chelsea. It doesn’t seem to matter as much. I can’t really compare Southend with Premier League sides, but although I do love the Shrimpers, there is something uniquely embedded in the northern football culture that makes it special. It’s a community, a really strong community. Maybe that’s why 70 per cent of this season’s 20 Premier League sides are based above Watford and BBC Sport are heading to Salford soon?

PICTURES: Daily Telegraph (x2) and BBC Liverpool