All posts by markr

Harvester restaurants: food for the thoughtless

If you want to know what kind of society we live in today, read this link and weep. So here is the situation; a cretin among the diners complains about the noise coming from the table and a manager who should know better but does not (mainly because he has not been trained properly by the company he works for) asks the profoundly disabled person to leave the premises.

Not so sweet: Harvester’s treatment of customer
This is not just about HR or PR (although the £100 gift voucher offered by owners Mitchells & Butlers as compensation is as humiliating as the order to vacate the restaurant). No, this kind of incident is all too common in a society where glamour replaces substance. Drivel like The only way is Essex and I’m a celebrity bombard us with sounds and images that confirm a warped message which tells us ‘we are how we look’. The restaurant manager like many ignorant folk before him, presumably felt he was ‘only doing his job’ in protecting the said cretin who complained from the zombies who were not only ion the space, but also the face of proper humans.

And here is the moral of this story. We cleared the long stay subnormality hospitals 40 years ago in order to give people with profound disabilities a chance in life. Those dismal workhouses for imbeciles, spastics and crazy people gave way to small units where people were supposed to live as independently as their abilities would enable. The rows of lavatories without doors gave way to ensuite bathrooms. And yet, 40 years on, how many cinemas, theatres, football stadia, pubs and clubs are really wheelchair friendly? How many cab drivers can be bothered to stop for a disabled person? And how many capable people with challenging behaviour and learning disabilities do we encounter in work situations? How many more disabled people are turfed out of restaurants?

So in the interests of equality for all Mitchells & Butlers’ customers we challenge the company’s external relations manager Sally Ellison to go onto the company blog and write a full and frank apology to Megan and her family. No, not one of those media course apologies with a humiliating £100 voucher, but one that recognises that the company have failed one of its customers and what they propose to do about this failure. And more importantly, explain why the restaurant manager was programmed to take sides with the cretin who complained and humiliate a disabled woman.

Get your message across without breaking the bank

When we set up Care images all those years ago (when a camera was under a curtain with a puff of smoke coming up behind the photographer) our aim was to provide affordable and realistic images of care to the sector and its suppliers. And we like to think we have succeeded with a raft of local authorities, charities and design agencies subscribing.

Gin and tonic
Gin and tonic: A realistic view of communicating in the sector
Care Images grew out of our other company, Create Services, which produces publicity and marketing materials for the care and charity sectors. Due to a dearth of UK-based images of care and community in the generic image bank market, we thought the only way to resolve that problem was to set up our own bank of images. Basically we were getting tired of representing UK adults with physical disabilities through the ubiquitous American man in a wheelchair throwing a basketball through a hoop. The way I put it then was something like this: “Istock and co have an seventy year-old woman in the Florida sunshine looking like she is fifty, we have a lonely seventy-year-old woman in a cold room in London reaching for a bottle of gin”.

It’s interesting to reflect the reality of how local authorities, charities and the care sector get their message across. Create Services continues to work in these sectors (as well as with clients outside them) and in our work we come across vast differentials in how communications are approached. There are hundreds of thousands of charities in the UK ranging from huge multi-million pounds turnover to one person in a back room putting hours of work into a cause he or she believes in. And of course there are thousands of visual communications agencies serving the sectors. But I do wonder if going to one of the ‘cool’ Soho-based branding agencies is the right way for the bigger charities to spend their money. Add to that the amounts that are regularly spent on high print and web projects and it is easy to see how the minus columns can grow out of proportion. Is a charity really getting added value by

What the blue-chip companies do with their money is between them and their shareholders but what charities and local authorities do is another matter entirely. And with so much free communications available on social media it is more important than ever not to waste resources. It seems to me that the sector is disproportionately representing at the top and bottom ends of the communications spectrum, from a poorly constructed and designed website for a small care home at the bottom to lavish TV, film and print ads for the big charities at the top. We serve the middle of the market and we have a very loyal client base to prove our worth to their brands.

I worked 15 years in social work and understand the funding constraints of the sector. But it is entirely possible to get really good communications materials without breaking the bank. So if you think you might not be getting the kind of value you deserve, come to the experts in promoting care for design, print and web..just as you have been doing for images. For really good free advice please contact us through or

All along the watchtower

Better be careful what I say here, someone is snooping on my every move if we are to believe Edward Snowden’s revelations.

Security camera
Candid camera: Watching your every move
I gave up on ‘but we live in a democracy’ a long time ago. In your car you are hounded by cameras which mug you for having half a wheel in a yellow box; the House of Lords is packed with unelected friends of elected politicians; the media agenda and content is determined by PR agencies run by friends of elected and unelected politicians; mega-size conglomerates fix prices and mug us under the eyes of elected and unelected politicians; newspapers, websites, online stores collect a wealth of intelligence about us; local authorities check the faeces you throw away in your bins. And if you haven’t been accosted online or in the middle of a hefty bite into your evening meal by a person sitting at a desk on Mars informing you that there is a claim to be made against your parents who didn’t ask your permission ahead of conceiving you, then you should definitely buy a lottery ticket asap.

The only thing that surprised me about Mr Snowden’s alleged revelations was the scale of it; I assumed it would be much greater. We are completely controlled, always have been and always will be, whether it be by right, left or centre. The Internet has simply made it a lot easier for Big Brother to snoop. In the days of the Stasi, it was the man standing behind you at the bus stop, now it’s an 11-year-old’s latest app that the government have bought into that has blurred evidence of you picking your nose at traffic lights.

Freedom is relative and we have a lot more of it in the UK than other places. But I certainly do not buy into the nonsense spouted by Foreign Secretary William Hague: “You have nothing to worry about if you do nothing wrong.” Clearly, as Mr Snowden has pointed out, you have a lot to worry about. The question in point is, how do we live with that fact.

My message is to chill out folks, we have the Ashes coming up and the football season is back in August but don’t watch them ‘illegally’ online or you may find someone knocking on your door. And it won’t be a Jehova’s Witness.

Divide and rule; the disgraceful Cameron-Osborne cutting machine

When I was younger (yes I can remember when I was) I had a healthy interest in politics. Without going overboard towards the excesses of the ‘far left’ I was firmly entrenched in the Labour camp. And while my views have mellowed over the years I’m still a Labour voter and expect I will always be so inclined. I’m not one of those people who ‘hate Conservatives’ and I doubt I would ever find my collar felt by Mr Plod while demonstrating against any one of a number of issues. But this week’s savage cuts by a government managed and run by mega-wealthy public schoolboys is enough to make me grow my hair, roll a few joints and get real angry.

Disabled woman at home
Kindly leave the spare room; coming to social housing near you
The actor Ricky Tomlinson (aka Jim Royle of the Royle Family series) sums up the idiocy of the government’s scything of benefits here. His article summarises the issue far better than I could but there is an important further point that I feel needs making. And that is the ethics of this round of cuts which Messrs Cameron, Osborne and Co are desperately trying to shy away from. By rooting out disabled people and families in social housing where there is a spare room to stand before the Conservatives’ axing squad, they are neatly dividing and ruling over the most vulnerable people in our society. It has not escaped our notice that the elderly are exempt from the axe (as indeed they should be anyway in a country as wealthy as ours), presumably because they would have the audacity to go out and vote against cuts targeted at them.

But the most despicable thing about this legalised thieving of our government is the quasi generalisation put out by Conservative spin doctors that some people on benefits are lazy slobs watching daytime TV while robbing the country of all its money. This view is propagated by nasty apparatchiks with frothing mouths who clog the airwaves on phone-ins telling us how they have seen their so-called disabled neighbour walking to the off licence to buy cigarettes and cheap lager ‘with our money’.

So, to redress the balance, here is my take on the real scroungers; those who should be facing the biggest cuts. How about the hundreds of thousands of people living off unearned income, whose only ‘work’ is to log on and find out how much interest they have ‘made’ in the last week; or how about the scum who run ourbanks and who lost billions of our money and who still pay themselves obscene bonuses with our money.

As if it’s not bad enough for disabled people and some families on social housing to live off a few scraps the government throw at them. Now the humiliation of having to live off even less as another apparatchik comes round to assess if the empty spare room justifies their evacuation. Of course, Messrs Osborne and Cameron will sleep very soundly in the knowledge that if the said family are out on the street, they will be able to choose from the wide range of loan sharks like the one exposed here and one of whose lobbysits is a an adviser to a certain David Cameron MP.

Pass the sick bag.

In the name of freedom, all the news that’s unfit to print

The issue of freedom of the press is one where the ink will just not dry. I generally agree with Nick Cohen but on this one I fear he has lost the plot.

All the news that's fit?
If left to its own devices and self policing, the media moguls will continue to govern the country (and I include the Guardian, BBC et al with the Murdochs in this). Think about it, ‘freedom of the press’ is a no negotiation mantra trotted out by an interesting alliance of left, right and centre. What this unholy alliance conveniently forgets is that the press has very little freedom. Whether it be pathetically going on bended knees to advertisers, PR agencies or think tanks (listen to Today on the radio each morning and count the number of reports from think tanks on the news slots), the press does not have as much ‘freedom’ as we like to think.

I rather like the idea of Big Brother poking its nose into the disgusting pig’s trough that is the UK media and spewing out the sh*t that poses for ‘responsible journalism’. But ‘hang on’ cry the hacks from the red tops, ‘if we’ve done something illegal, then Mr Plod and his mates will be feeling our collars’. Quite so, but for me it’s not enough to cower behind the safety of ‘free speech’ knowing that only the rich and famous will take legal action; the good folk who have no money and who have been named and shamed in the red tops and beyond, have no recourse to expensive lawyers.

I’m not well qualified to know if headlines like ‘Freddie Starr ate my hamster’ is in the public interest or if it falls within the boundaries of free speech. And I realise that regulation could be the start of a slippery slope that ends with a single newspaper called Pravda. But there has to be a middle ground, which curbs the enthusiasm of a press mob seemingly out of control. I hope that the cross-party agreement works, but I fear that the double edge sword called ‘freedom’ can draw a lot of blood.

Mind the age gap; let’s start giving older people the respect they deserve

There is no need for an introduction to this story from The Guardian.

Work experience: Older people have a lot to offer
The ubiquitous Mr Aso, as the article points out, has a track record for insensitivity. This latest tirade against the elderly is actually an extreme example of how societies are increasingly ‘valuing’ older people. Yes, it’s true that as we get richer and more savvy about health, so people in developed countries live longer, and this is a cause for celebration, not an excuse for propagating a form of ageist cleansing.

It’s not just about the economic and social impacts of populations that lives longer. As I go about my business in London, I see older people marginalised by a society that is designed and fine tuned to give younger people economic and social power. What used to be taken as given, that a younger person would vacate a seat for an elderly passenger struggling with shopping is now met with a grunt or shrug as the said younger person continues to carry on his or her obsession with the nonsense to catch up with on FaceTwitter.

The job market is also becoming a no-go area for people who who have the audacity to reach 50, never mind 70-plus. Despite evidence pointing to the ’employability’ of people with knowledge and experience, companies and organisations prefer ‘high-flyers’, some of whom, as we know are responsible for bringing western economies to the brink of collapse as Matthew Syed points out in his excellent book ‘Bounce’.

All of this is unfortunately a sideshow to the main act of how care for the elderly – both health and social – is being compromised by government cuts. This Daily Telegraph article is one of many that adorn the pages of our broadsheets.

And in the scramble to save money, it seems that the budget axe falls first with the ageing population.

The government had better watch its step. Countries as diverse as The Netherlands, Israel and India, to name just three, all have designated political parties representing older people and before the likes of Mr Aso have their way and see funeral companies’ profits soar, they may like to consider that in democratic countries, ageing people still have the vote.

Seasonal greetings to all

Being a web-based company, Care Images never rests and we are open for business 24/7/365. That said, at this time of year we do wind down and enjoy the festivities (let’s hope The Great Escape is screened again!)

Snow scene
A Happy Christmas from Care Images
Many of our clients are people who spend their working week helping vulnerable people, some of our models are living with the consequences of cuts to services and benefits. The current coalition government appears to have a policy of blaming the poor for the incompetence of the rich (bankers smugly carrying on their bad work). Everyone involved in care – practitioners and service users – will be affected as the axe continues to fall. And yet, despite the government’s policy, there is an enormous amount of great work out there enabling people to lead fulfilling lives. We regularly field calls from social service departments and charities telling us they need images to highlight the excellent work they are doing and we hope, in our very small way, we are helping promote the image of care.

We wish our clients, models and supporters seasonal greetings, and we look forward to being of service in 2013.

Best wishes
Mark Rivlin and Tim Brown

Frankie Howerd was right: ‘Twitter ye not’.

The late and great comedian Frankie Howerd had a memorable line tagged to many of his routines. He would regularly complain to the audience that we were rowdy saying, ‘Titter ye not’. If the laughtermaker were around today and still treading the boards, he would surely change the tagline to ‘Twitter ye not’.

scales of justice
Out of scales: What are we really allowed to say?
The networking giant has lost, dare I suggest, hash-tag brownie points for allowing people to mention the wholly innocent Lord McAlpine in connection with child abuse claims. While Lord McAlpine is absolutely right in instructing his legal team to pursue damages, the proceeds of which he will donate to Children In Need, there is an element which is worrying. Certainly the BBC is responsible for a shabby, lazy and disastrous probe into child abuse in a children’s home in North Wales broadcast on Newsnight and according to The Lawyer magazine, a settlement has been reached. But is pursuing the few thousand people who tweeted and retweeted on the subject really necessary? The fact is that Twitter and Facebook are the 21st century equivalent of a chat in the pub over a quiet drink. But of course there aren’t enough greedy lawyers to hang around every snug waiting for someone to say that a certain footballer is a ‘lazy xxxx’ and then collect the money. Today, all a lawyer with a cash slot machine in his eyeballs needs to do is type a few words into a search engine and hey, thousands of mugs who have said something about a ‘celebrity’ are there for the taking.

So what is the answer? How does an ordinary Joe using Twitter know what is potentially libelous? Are we entitled to express our opinions when we believe issues need to be raised? Yes, it’s true, those people who jumped on the completely false McAlpine bandwagon were wrong. But again, is repeating what someone says a criminal offence? We surely don’t want to go down the route where millions of blogs (like this one) are subject to possible litigation, but on the other hand we don’t want people sending malicious lies and rumours viral. The best chat rooms and forums have moderators who make sure the boxers punch above the belt. But that idea is impossible to police throughout the Internet.

The bottom line of this is that the Internet has revolutionised our lives, mainly for good. We will never completely stop the spammers and scammers, nor will we ever stop online pub talk reaching audiences of millions. While completely understanding Lord McAlpine’s anger, there is really no need to go for the thousands of people potentially implicating in spreading the malicious rumour. The BBC should pay up for a disgraceful piece of journalism. The bloke from the snug deserves a slightly wider berth.

Sir Jimmy Savile, no rest for the wicked

One thing the late Sir Jimmy Savile will not be doing is resting in peace as horrific evidence emergence of his predatory sexual advances towards teenage girls and vulnerable people. From the BBC to government departments, it appears that no-one was able to nail the former miner and, pardon the expression, clunk click him into a cell for a lengthy sentence. Far from being punished for what looks increasingly like a scheming and manipulative pursuit of girls for sexual gratification, Savile was courted by the establishment presumably because it was good to be associated with an iconic figure who raised millions of pounds for charity.

Savile: facade of respectability
Savile’s decades of alleged abuse over the 60s to the 80s mirrored our society at that time. The sexual exploitation was often carried out by people who were paid by the state to look after or act as role models for its most vulnerable members. From care home staff to clergy, from teachers to care workers in special needs long stay hospitals, once the doors were shut (we now hear that Savile had a set of keys to plunder inmates at Broadmoor Hospital), it was open house for the abuse to take place. It will be interesting to see how much the establishment knew about Savile’s alleged crimes and how far and high the network of abuse spread. This article in the Independent by Paul Gambaccini forecasts that much more evidence will be uncovered.

Of course, abuse of children continues to blight our society today as the case of the paedophile ring in Rochdale harrowingly showed. But in the case of Savile, it is clear that it was a lethal combo of power and iconic status that enabled him to carry out the alleged attacks with impunity. This obsession with celebrity and fame was particularly misplaced with Savile, a B-list player who somehow manipulated TV chiefs into believing he was a superstar. Once this iconic status was confirmed, Savile had the freedom his alleged perverted actions craved. In short, he knew he was untouchable, the poor girls he allegedly abused had the right to remain so themselves.

Their heartbreaking tales of fear and humiliation are terribly sad and they leave a public already reeling from tales of incompetence among some social work professionals. Our clients at Care Images are hardworking, diligent and caring people who have chosen a career in care to help people. Savile’s legacy also affects their work because some of the country’s less scrupulous news organs will use his case as a stick to beat social and charity workers.

When Savile died a year ago, his coffin was visited by well-wishers before he was buried. This macabre ritual – reminiscent of former Soviet leaders who would lie in state for days as thousands of people paid their respects – is sadly poignant. The odious Savile, it seems, was not only lying in state, but while alive and kicking, was lying in bed abusing young girls with the keys to the room provided by the state.

Hillsborough, a tragedy waiting to happen

The real truth surrounding the terrible events at Hillsborough in April 1989 when 96 football fans were crushed to death has finally come to light. The Independent Review Panel has found what decent people have known for 23 years, that lies, deception, slander and deceit conspired to rob grieving families of the truth of what happened to their loved ones. The ubiquitous Sun newspaper and its editor at the time Kelvin MacKenzie both offered grovelling apologies as soon as the report hit the Internet and there will be a number of serving police officers, former politicians and legal advisers who had led us to believe that the Liverpool fans were to blame for their own deaths, who will be anxiously expecting a knock at the door from Mr Plod. And justifiably so too, for the report makes very uncomfortable reading. We now know that documents and witness statements were manipulated, that the security resembled an episode of Dad’s Army and that the stadium itself was not fully safe for one of the biggest sporting events of the year. MacKenzie’s orgy of abusive editorial comment directed at people who had gone to watch a football match was nothing short of disgusting – hopefully he will never get a decent night’s sleep again as long as he lives. And it would be interesting to hear what the prime minister at the time, one Margaret Thatcher, has to say about the report given its findings surrounding incompetence and negligence of the police and ambulance services.

The Hillsborough Memorial outside the stadium
The Hillsborough Memorial at the stadium
Image: Superbfc/Wikipedia
But there is one point about this horrific event that has never properly been addressed. The FA Cup semi-final was between football’s big-two of the time, Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, and Sheffield was geographically the right neutral venue (although as we now know clearly wrong in terms of ground safety). But why on earth were the Liverpool fans given the Leppings Lane end of the ground and not the much bigger ‘home’ end where the Sheffield Wednesday fans stood? With respect to Forest, Liverpool, even 23 years ago when English football was not the global brand it is today, had a much bigger following than the east Midlands club. It was surely obvious that more fans from Liverpool would turn up with or without tickets and so the massive crush outside and inside the stadium would have been much more manageable if the Liverpool fans had a bigger area to go into. That the Football Association did not think of the consequences of this is staggering, especially as the same teams met at the same venue the previous year with the same arrangements, and the Leppings Lane end then looked dangerously full.

Hillsborough had precedents; Bolton, Ibrox, Bradford to name three of the bigger football tragedies over the years. But Hillsborough will stand out because of the vitriol aimed at the victims – indeed it would not be going too far to suggest that the cover-up orchestrated by the powers of the time was made easier because the scapegoat of Liverpudlians being drunken louts was so much part of establishment thinking that they assumed the country, with the help of Mr MacKenzie, would buy it.

The families of the victims knew better and their tireless campaigning has finally seen the truth emerge. As for Mr MacKenzie’s tirade against so-called drunken louts; it is he who should be serving behind bars.