Thoughts 4.21 to 4.30

Thought 4.30: 23 June 2008: What price for ethical clothing?

Some of you may have watched the BBC One Panorama documentary, "Primark: On The Rack" where there was an investigation carried out into where some of Primark's clothes are made, and indeed whether their own ethical code was being adhered to. Primark claim to be part of an organisation which promotes good ethical practice when making clothes, including inspections of factories where clothes are made, no employment of children or indeed employing anyone below the legal minimum wage of the country of the factory that they are in. As you'll know if you live in the UK, Primark sell clothes very cheap and often it has embroidered hand stitched parts on there, which can't necessarily be done by machine.

Once I watched the programme, I was absolutely appalled by some of the practices that were being undertaken, as you'll read on this BBC article. It's one thing to outsource clothes manufacturing to countries like India where companies can manufacture and produce en masse, but it's another when those same outsourced companies further outsource their work to the likes of refugee camps and slum towns where children as young as nine were working in terrible conditions hand stitching the likes of beads and sequins on clothes. Indeed, those same people who had bought some of the Primark items, when they saw the video, were appalled like me at what they saw.

The low margins that Primark undoubtedly operates on is a driving factor to the clothing factories of India in that it's a wafer thin profit point. Indeed, part of the ethical agreement is a maximum 48 hour week for the workers, but in one factory, it was 7am till 6pm Monday to Saturday, meaning a massive workload and at least 60 hours or so in the factory. Even in there, it seemed oppressive and in many ways Primark themselves are to blame: putting such pressure on a factory to rapidly turn around their goods only leads to them cutting corners. So in many ways although they may not have known the factories were outsourcing further their methods, why didn't their auditors or inspectors pick up on this when the factories were visited? Was it a case of putting profits before ethics?

Indeed, it was revealed on the programme that Primark had, instead of working with the factories and companies concerned to try and resolve the programme, had just cut them off from their suppliers list, meaning that those workers may be out of work and indeed having to try and earn a living elsewhere. Clearly this was a cut and run approach from the company, and in my view, that does just as much harm. What should have happened instead was a full investigation into why it happened, and what everyone could do to resolve it, including Primark themselves. Or were they just thinking that in terms of public image, they thought naively that no association would be better off in the long term?

I certainly have wondered how many people on a Saturday afternoon in the packed shelves of the Manchester Primark store have given consideration into just where the clothes were made and what ethics have gone into it. If Primark truly believe that they wish to operate an ethical policy, they simply cannot do so on the prices they currently charge. I'm quite sure too that it's not only Primark, but indeed other clothes retailers that sell clothes cheaply that need to have a look at themselves and try and get to the bottom of their clothes sourcing. It's about time toothat there was a Fair Trade for clothes as there is currently for food, at least it would mean that the consumer would be able to make their own informed choice about what they wear and not necessarily have to go for the cheaper option because they can.

Thought 4.29: 02 May 2008: One Year On And I'm Still Sick Of The Hype

As some of you may know, it's been one year now since Madeleine McCann went missing in Praia de Luz, Portugal. And to be honest, I've been long sick of hearing about the story in the media. Not because of the poor girl and I do hope that like many other missing children, she is found safe and well, but because of her parents, who have used every single opportunity to remind the media of their plight, despite the fact there's many others in worse situations that don't seem to get one little bit of that sort of recognition and hype.

When you consider, calmly and collectedly, the facts of the matter still ring true in that they as parents were not acting in a responsible manner by not just leaving Madeleine, but their three children all alone in the place that they were staying. Regardless of how safe they may have thought their accommodation was and regardless of their supposed "every 20 minutes" checking may or may not have been done, I am quite sure that most decent parents would have thought "why the hell did you leave them on their own?". Even Madeleine's grandmother, Kate's mum, has been asking the same questions, and when you have someone so close as a blood relation asking, then that shows the feeling of anger and resentment that many parents will feel.

It just sickens me to the stomach that they carry on a lof ot the time as if they have done no wrong, when in fact they will eventually realise that they will have to live with their carelessness for the rest of their lives, regardless or not if Madeleine is found alive. If she is found dead, I would feel sorry but only for her, not for their parents. That might seem quite callous of me but there are so many parents out there who have to raise children on their own, and they do a wonderful job and should not be tarred with the same brush of being a single parent - and yet do they get any credit for being able to do the responsible thing and bring their kids up well? No. Thought not.

It also makes me wonder whether they've been able to put themselves in the spotlight so much because of their well paid jobs and how indeed the fund to find Madeleine has been used so that it funds the parents speaking at all these meetings. I'm quite sure that it has helped them in some way and they should do well to remember that:: not everyone's been able to pool together the resources or indeed find such empathy and sympathy with the nation's public as they initially had done (although that has I should note worn off). Nonetheless, it's more hype for them and their plight and less for all the other kids who go missing, through no fault of the parents (unlike in this case) and that irks me somewhat.

I really wish the media along with Kate and Gerry McCann would now put this whole thing to bed for a while, give everyone some time for privacy, pause and reflection and only then should the media report if Madeleine is found, whether that be alive, or whether it be dead. It may or may not happen, but I just wish that for once something else gets the time and news that is a bit more deserving than one missing girl and her parents' regretful actions.

Thought 4.28: 27 April 2008: The Crucible Is The Home Of Snooker

Some of you may have read earlier in the week that snooker player John Higgins has expressed a desire that the World Championships for snooker be moved away from its home of some thirty two years, the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. I can appreciate that for the likes of him and other players, there may be a need for it to be rotated in order to be a truly global sport and indeed spread the audiences out there far and wide - but considering then when he lost his second round match that he criticised the cloths on the tables, he seemed to be having a rant at the way the tournament was organised and giving him more ammunition to feed his desire to move the World Championships elsewhere.

Sorry John, but you're way off the mark. For many snooker fans and players, the Crucible Theatre is the home of snooker. Even in its early days when the World Championships of the late 1970s and early 1980s were being held there, you could sense the atmosphere on the television and indeed the tension, the passion and the intimacy of a small arena that gives you a great view of the action, no matter where you may be sat. It's just an ampitheatre for those at the top of the game to go out and do their stuff, and I for one absolutely look forward to April and to the tournament.

Having been there both last year and this year (in fact three times this year) I can only say that when players talk about the unique Crucible atmosphere, their talk is more than justified. Being sat there, watching the players really have to perform under pressure, and with the crowd almost next to you as you play, is a real experience. I've seen some excellent matches there and you can taste that atmosphere on your tongue as you sense just what it's like. I'm sure any of you who have been there will share those experiences.

And as for the players, well take Stuart Bingham for example. He'd qualified and was up against Steve Davis in the first round. Bingham won 10-8 and explained afterwards that "I was still thinking 'this is to beat Steve Davis at the Crucible'. It was overwhelming and I had to hold back a few tears actually. "It was like my birthday and Christmas all rolled into one." Says it all really. That's how much a lot of the players hold the Crucible in high regard, and the people who work there do a wonderful job, from the cloakroom staff to the stewards, everyone really makes you feel welcome and they know how special it is for people.

Change is good, but not always. One thing that I remember vividly as a kid was watching the snooker at the Crucible and seeing how fantastic it was. It still is. The game has come on in leaps and bounds but you ask any aspiring player where they'd like to play and they'll pretty much always say the Crucible. Ray Reardon was interviewed recently and was asked if he was going to play one last frame of snooker anywhere, he said without doubt that it'd be the Crucible. See? That's how much it means. It's just a special place and there aren't many special sporting places left. After 2010, all must be done to keep the home of snooker where it rightly belongs.

Thought 4.27: 25 March 2008: The Madness of Mascherano and Respect For The Referee

Over the last few weeks in particular, a couple of unsavoury incidents in Premiership football games have led to increased calls for football to follow the lead of many other team sports, where the match officials are not only respected but their decisions are accepted without mass surrounding of the officials or complaints ad infinitum from both players and management. Many other team based games have that respect as part of the game, and as passionate a sport as say rugby union, rugby league or cricket may be, do you see the players haranging the officials at every opportunity? Of course you don't. It's about respect and learning and earning that by having pride and passion in your sport but knowing that the word is law out there on the field, as it should be.

With recent events, notably Ashley Cole's abuse of the match officials during Chelsea's draw at Tottenham where he should have been sent off and indeed censured more than he has been for his disgraceful actions, then clearly Sunday's games would have only been where the top players for the current top four in the country would be under even more scrutiny than before. And sure enough, in the Manchester United 3-0 win over Liverpool, the big talking point was the sending off of Liverpool's Javier Mascherano for dissent.

Now before you make your minds up on this one, something to consider. He had already been booked for a foul early on in the game and at every decision was constantly haranging the referee Steve Bennett to complain, and indeed had told the referee to "f-off", for wont of a better word. Now I don't know about you but if I was Bennett, I'd have actually given him a second yellow there and then, but considering the game that it was and indeed the intensity that Man U-Liverpool games are played at, he was at least allowing the game to go on.

But just before half time, Fernando Torres was fouled and Liverpool gained a free kick. Torres was visibly upset at being hacked down by the Man U defenders and wanted to ask Bennett for a bit more protection. Unfortunately Torres is clearly seen giving a sign language sign for back chatter, and in this case Bennett booked him for that. From around thirty yards away, Mascherano absolutely runs towards Bennett at pace, even with Xabi Alonso trying to stop him (but not hard enough) and straight away asked why. Now his asking may have been innocent for that incident, but clearly Bennett was of the opinion that it was a step too far, and off went Mascherano (eventually after being restrained by his players and manager).

Even now Mascherano is protesting his innocence. If I was him, I would keep my mouth firmly shut, accept the punishment, and get on with the game. Swearing at anyone, not least the match officials, isn't big, nor is it clever. And in such a pressure cooker of a game, having a calm head actually works better and rising above anything else. Certainly some of the Man U team had it in bucket loads, they got on with the game and won - end of story. But what annoys me more than anything is that Mascherano seems to feel that he's been hard done by and completely the innocent party, when clearly in a day and age when you can see just how much intimdation he's been giving out to the officials this is just not the thing to do.

I'm really upset at not just him, but a lot of the highest earning footballers in the country who seem to think that it's okay to be abusive to those whom without no game of football would be played - the referees. As football fans, we're constantly sick of players crying off to their agents about the exorbitant amount of money that they earn which gets passed on to us in rip off ticket prices, we're sick of being treated like second class citizens by that powers that be in the Premiership who want to host a 39th game abroad against all fans wishes, and we're also sick of the fact that the players who are supposedly so well skills give the sport such a bad name with their intolerance and abuse.

Think about it: if a child sees a player on television abusing the referee, it gives them the impression that when they play football for their school or local team, that they too can mimic the behaviour of their heroes and do the same thing. Well, quite frankly, it's not on to be honest. And change needs to happen - and soon, before it's too late. The greedy powers that be at the Premiership need to work together with the FA and operate a proper code of conduct for its member clubs and players, then at least that will filter down from the top. From a personal point of view, I'd like the FA to pressure FIFA into the following rule changes:

1 - Only the team captains can speak to the referee. This works well in rugby union and league especially, where the referee is in charge and immediately will send off players for dissent. The team captains can liaise with the referee and politely question decisions, but accept them nobly and get on with playing the game in the right sporting manner. This way, the game will also be quicker as there won't be so many pauses for constant running away by the referee from ten players coming his way.

2 - Dissent is a straight red card offence. In fact, if you think about it, it seems ludicrous that dissent towards the match officials only is classed as a booking the same way that taking your shirt off in celebration of a goal is. A bit of balance needs to be restored and carrying a heavier offence should do the job. After all most of the time the referees are miked up at the top level so it'd be easy enough for the fourth official to hear if in his view any foul language has occurred and indeed act upon it in conjunction with the referee.

3 - Harassing of the match officials during a game will also be frowned upon, and this will include the managers (yes, Sir Alex Ferguson, this includes you!) as well in this so that if they speak out of line, they are sent to the stands.

Ultimately though, the root of all evil in all this is that money is deciding so much in football these days, with a place in the Champions League or not meaning so much lucrative windfall for a club and so that every single decision is analysed to death by the TV pundits who clearly have seem to forgotten what it was like when all that technology wasn't available and everyone just trusted the ref to get on with it - these things have a habit of evening themselves over the season, you know. So let's encourage respect, and let's all as fans and football family learn to accept that we're all human, errors occur and instead of whinging about that, getting on with supporting the very game that in my eyes at least is destroying itself from within.

Thought 4.26: 15 March 2008: Poverty Is Everywhere

As I was watching Sport Relief last night, a thought hit me, and it was one that I didn't necessarily feel comfortable with. Whilst I applaud the fact that the money raised is going to help the poorest countries in the world to enable more to fend for themselves and indeed in the case of Dhaka in Bangladesh to get kids off the streets and actually attempting something more worthwhile in their lives, I also felt as if there wasn't necessarily enough coverage given to the fact that poverty is not just a problem for some countries, but for all countries.

There's endless stories of people running away to find a better life because the life that they currently have is one where the breadline of money is such a tight one to walk along: where the loan sharks with their super high interest rates and the fact that they prey on the vulnerable are able to rule the roost of local communities that don't have money in the first place. There's also the fact that there's so much deprivation in certain inner cities that isn't being tackled: that isn't giving the youngsters anything worthwhile to do, and so they roam the streets bored and look for something more criminally interesting instead. Add to that the vicious circle that the house prices bring in that most people now can't even afford to get on the property ladder, and it's a pretty sorry state of affairs.

Ultimately, poverty is everywhere, and it exists in every countries, even those like ours who are relatively speaking supposed to be well off. Yes, there are people out there drunk who will spend any money gained from begging on alcohol, which does in essence spoil the fact that there's also ones who are genuinely down on their luck and any bit of money that they gain may just buy them their next meal. I just felt uncomfortable slightly with the BBC's bias towards the other countries of the world, and although they did at least focus on people with illnesses and conditions that needed money for specialist care etc (and all very worthy which I'd personally support) it shouldn't be so rammed down your throat that certain places in the world are poor and there's a lot of bad things that go on. I think most of us know that by now.

Maybe one of these days one of these charity events will be staged which will help those who are in desparate need of help not just abroad but in the UK, and maybe focus more on the fact that there is a bigger divide by those that have, and those that have not. It's something that I'm not happy about and personally speaking, I'd wish I could do more to eradicate. And before you say "that's a bit uncaring" it's actually more because I care that I'd want to see people here get the help that they need too. No one can argue the fact that there are people who need support to get back on their feet, and many of the initiatives I saw last night were worthwhile, but it leaves a sour taste in the mouth in that we as a country don't even necessarily look after our own enough.

How we solve the problem I don't know. Charitable donations are all well but they're only part of a much longer term solution that will one day have to exist or at least have the consciences of many people more changed so that it's not necessarily about "me me me" anymore, but instead a realisation that the world is a bigger place and that everyone, no matter who they are, should attempt to get along and help each other out. There's bigger challenges to face throughout the next few years and it has to be approached head on, and if solving poverty is part of that then count me in.

Thought 4.25: 13 February 2008: No To Gam£ 39!

It's not very often that you'll find me agreeing with Sir Alex Ferguson, particularly as his often outspoken views as the Manchester United manager echo those of someone trying to get his own way and spitting the proverbial dummy out of the pram. However, there is one thing that he spoke about recently that I'm completely in agreement with him on, and that is the Premier League's proposal to extend the season to thirty nine games by having one extra match abroad to promote the supposed "Worldwide brand" that the Premier League is. He is quite right to query the motives of the excutives within the boardroom who should have been (in Sir Alex's own words): "having discussions with managers and players before they come out with all this stuff and make an issue of it."

What's pretty clear is that the English Premier League is one of the richest and most lucrative leagues to play football in financially in the World. Consider that the bottom club who gets relegated still earns an estimated £30 million, yet the winner of the Coca-Cola Championship, who get promoted to the Premier League, get around £2 million in comparison. And also that since its inception, it's only sought to make more global brands out of certain teams because of the mass media marketing and televisual rights across the world to show the beautiful game.

But money is also killing the game too. When you consider that Luton and Bournemouth, and the most highly known casualty Leeds United have all gone into administration within the last year and faced virtual financial bankruptcy and ruin, you do have to wonder that if the money floating around at the moment seems extremely top heavy and favouring clubs who just seem to get more rich and powerful as each year passes by. And surely in the aspect of competition being supposedly fair, that just seems to be a misnomer?

But what's clearly got many fans' backs up, including myself, is the blatant disregard of Richard Scudamore, and all of those within the Premier League, of the actual people who make the atmosphere at the games what they are, and those who pay their hard earned cash to watch the matches week in week out, at an ever increasing cost. If you're a loyal fan you probably want to see every single game, and if all of a sudden heading out to Australia just to see your team for a one-off league fixture became part of the calendar, even the reasonably well off ordinary fan just couldn't afford the round trip and indeed the time zone change and adjustment, and then to watch the game and head back home. It just doesn't work.

There's also the fact that at most grounds, the atmosphere which makes the games so special, is generated by us - the fans. Take last Sunday's Manchester derby: an impeccable minutes' silence for those who died in the Munich crash, an event which touched the whole of Manchester and remembered by red and blue alike as the England "fans" should have done last Wednesday, and showed that football fans have humility and respect, and then during the game both fans cranking up the support of their teams. Not least City, whose fans were really providing plenty of atmosphere and passion that a derby game should generate. Now imagine that same game in Singapore? While there'd be plenty of fans there, would they generate the same passion as those who would bleed the blood of their team if cut open? Absolutely not. It would just be a case of seeing how many souvenir shirts and how many sponsors can be gained in a purely marketing exercise.

It could also be seen as a step to football franchising, which we don't want to see follow in the footsteps of American football, where money is king and teams move to where the money is. Sadly, in Milton Keynes Dons, we've already had a bad example: the real fans of the real team Wimbledon are quite rightly sticking with AFC Wimbledon, as I will. What's to say Roman Abramhovic could say to a Russian city: "let's play 5 home games a season here?" and then it could truly be Chelski? Not to mention that the sole aspect is money - let's not kid ourselves that marketing is just the facet here.

The top players already complain enough about fatigue in having to play a 38 game league season with the FA Cup, Carling Cup and International matches. So would an extra game across the world alleviate that concern? No, far from it, it would seem not to consider the players' thoughts either. A lot of the players out there play for their teams because they have affinity with them and their supporters - well, a fair few of them who've come through the youth academies do at least. They want to play at home in a surrounding that they know and with support to get behind them - it's as simple as that. Why add more miles, which doesn't also exactly strike me as environmentally friendly and makes a mockery of the "Carbon Footy Print" campaign to help reduce the carbon footprint!

In short, it's just a short-sighted idea by those who think they know about football but actually know sod all, and the quicker that Richard Scudamore, the money grabbing idiot of a person that he is, is thrown out of the Premier League hierarchy, the better. Sign the FSF's petition (link on the front page) and please join in. We must not let football be sold - it's the English Premier League, and it should stay where it belongs. In England.

Thought 4.24: 03 December 2007: Well Done Kevin Rudd!

It's so nice in politics for a change to see someone actually carry out what their election manifesto said. For those of you who don't follow the world goings on, it was the Australian general election recently, and as part of the Labor Party (shame the Aussies use the US spelling of labour, but still..) campaign, they declared that they were going to turn the tables on the previous Government's administration and not only ratify but sign up to the Kyoto Protocol, a key way forward into combatting the effects that climate change are having on the world today. The then current minister, John Howard, was completely against signing it and was seen as an enemy of the enviornment by many campaigners.

So, the elections take place and Kevin Rudd, the leader of the Labor Party, leads his team to a landslide victory as the Australian people in their millions voted with their feet and voted for change. And, true to their word, once he was sworn in as Prime Minister, the very next thing that he did, proclaiming it "The first official act of the new Australian Government" is to sign the documentation to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, and it becomes official in 90 days time. This is significant in that actions did speak louder than words, and action was taken promptly. I'm sure many environmental campaigners around the world are praising him, and rightly so in my view.

This now leaves the USA as the only major developed nation in the world who have not ratified the Protocol, and the fact that the rest of the world carried on anyway without the Americans showed considerable courage and also the fact that they weren't going to be bullied by a nation's politicans who wrongly assume that America is the world. Most normal Americans don't think that and I'm sure are disgusted by the way that their politicans behave, and next year sees their major chance to make a change, and it could happen. Bill Clinton's wife Hillary wishes to stand as a candidate for the Presidency, and the two of them have been staunch supporters of Kyoto in the past. So if her party wins, you never know, the last piece of the jigsaw could well be complete and maybe then the world wouldn't feel so Anti-American as certain parts do now.

The Americans have to see now what Australia have done, and vote with their feet next year. It's the most important decision they'll make in their life, and if they get someone with the determination and the fulfilment of promise that Kevin Rudd has already delivered, the world will be a better place. No one knows what will happen in Australia in terms of its change as yet, but the fact that environmental policy has become a big issue and his party were focussed on it (in fact, the former lead singer of Midnight Oil, Peter Garrett, a known environmental campaigner, is now part of his cabinet) definitely shows how seriously Rudd was taking things. And if that's the attitude and the way forward, then it shows the right path and I for one am justifiably proud. Now, Prime Minster Gordon Brown, it's time to get tough...

Thought 4.23: 19 November 2007: The Great Booking Fee Rip Off, Part 2

I've mentioned this subject before, but please excuse me a second whilst I rant on again about the exorbitant cost of booking fees for concerts, what a nightmare rip off that is. I'm in the lucky enough position to be able to go to the Manchester Academy and Apollo box offices directly, which means I can pay cash over the counter and not have to pay any extra for the privelege. But what about those concerts where you know it's phone call or book over t'Internet or miss out? It's sheer madness. To give you an example, say I wanted to go and see My Bloody Valentine at the Apollo in June next year (which I may well try to, one night's sold out already). Face value is £22.50, but with booking fee that goes to £25.25 (a mere £2.75 booking fee, that's 12%!) Then add the £1.85 postage charge by standard mail (which in reality is not £1.85 at all, and even collecting at venue is £1.75!) and that's £27.10. So in total you've been fleeced £4.60 extra, which is - get this - over 20% of the original cost. Rip off, or what?

And that's just with Ticketline, run by Picadilly Box Office. Go to Ticketmaster for the same gig, and wow, what a bloody rip off there! Ticket face value is £22.50, then there's a mere £4.15 service charge (what the..?) which is 18% increase. Then add their £3.00 postage cost to that and the £22.50 becomes £29.65, that's a mere £7.15 extra on top, or in layman's terms, 32% over and above the original cost! Thirty two percent, that reads. I hope someone who works for Ticketmaster reads this and hangs their head in absolute shame. Fleecing customers like this is quite frankly not on, and the more publicity given to the rip off booking fee scandal the better in my opinion.

The average customer would very much like to attend concerts and feel like they're getting value for money from the performer. However, unless some of the artists make a stand, then clearly that's not going to happen. One such artist who has stood up and been counted is Fish. He refuses to play venues that either charge rip off booking fees or makes a massive mark up on any merchandise available at the gig (a lot of venues take 40% of the merch sales, fact). A few other artists will only where possible play University like venues where tickets can be, where possible, purchased at face value. With Madonna selling her music and soul to Live Nation, who are part of Ticketmaster, this means if you want to go and see her expect a similar markup on top of the ticket cost for rip off.

Now, don't get me wrong, the ticket agency has to make money somehow, but surely it would be better to incorporate a much smaller handling fee into their figures to be fair and transparent? It does not cost £3 to post a ticket by normal first class post, and nor does a 18% handling charge be necessary. In fact, realistically a booking fee including postage should not be more than 10% of the oriignal ticket cost - that would be a much fairer system and one that the Government needs to look into and overhaul. In the meantime, if it means I miss out on seeing certain concerts - so be it. I'll put my money where my mouth is, thank you very much. And as for Ticketline and Ticketmaster, hang both your heads in shame, you rip off merchants.

Thought 4.22: 01 September 2007: Rehab? Yes, Yes Yes

It's been well documented in the press over the last couple of months about the spectacular fall from grace that has happened to the singer Amy Winehouse. No matter how talented you may think that she is, or indeed how many album sales she may have had, there's clearly been something not quite right with her over these last few months, and the first warning sign of that was her concert at Eden Project in July, a concert that yours truly actually very nearly went to (I was actually in Cornwall that week). In the end I was glad that I didn't, with her performance including spitting at the audience and not playing that long a set either. It was clear from those who attended the gig that it was obvious that something destructive was happening to Amy.

Fast forward a few weeks to now, and it's pretty clear that her recent activities away from music have not found favour with music fans. Now most people would be understanding that sometimes if you're ill or if you feel mentally or physically spent, you're recommended to cancel a gig and not do it, and I'm sure if that alone was the case, most people would have some form of empathy. But, and this is the big but, it's pretty clear that sometimes when her gigs have been cancelled and she's quoted exhaustion, she's been spotted down the pub having a few too many drinks. That just breeds contempt for the fans that got her there in the first place.

It's also clear that both her and her husband seem to be in a relationship where they're both on the road to destruction, with Winehouse having her stomach pumped after a drug overdose, and the two of them constantly on a mission to binge. They're a couple in denial of the actual problems that they're in - and it's something that they both need to face up to. Everyone got sick of the Libertines once they realised Pete Doherty's problems with drink and drugs just were of his making and he wasn't prepared to sort himself out, and things have moved on since then. Similarly, if Amy can't get herself sorted out, and quick, the very fans who like her music for her honesty will lose patience and move on to someone else.

In the words of her own song, she needs to go to rehab and this time answer yes yes yes, before it's way too late for her. It's everyone's choice whether they want to take copious amounts of alcohol or drugs, and it's also everyone's choice to be able to say no. Until she realises this, and both her and her husband stop their ways, there's not going to be much of her career left to salvage by this time next year. Let that be a warning to any up and coming artist in the future, and also serve a lesson that people need to learn - that taking drugs is not clever or big, and it needs a lot of work to stop addiction once you're into the habit. What we don't need is so-called musical icons trying to show that it's okay because that just glamourises the whole thing - and for the wrong reasons.

Thought 4.21: 11 August 2007: RIP Anthony H Wilson, The Professional Mancunian Music Mogul

I heard the very sad news that Anthony Wilson had passed away last night. And for any music lover, particularly those like me who've come from Manchester, it's the news that we'd all been dreading to hear for some time, not least since his recent health degenerated with cancer and the NHS wouldn't give him the Sutent he needed, so he had to get it privately. Although a heart attack was the cause of death, you can't help but wonder just how the postcode lottery didn't help either with him having stress with his condition. But nonetheless a moment we'd all feared in that one of the most revered icons of the whole Manchester music scene has been sadly taken away from us way too early, with his legacy there for all to see.

Anthony had started in television, being a presenter for the local TV station Granada, and as well as his journalism and always being the one to do stunts like hand gliding without any training, his passion was music. By convincing Granada to give him his own show, So It Goes, he championed the new and was able to pull off a major coup by getting the first UK television live appearance of The Sex Pistols. There weren't many in the crowd or who cheered during Anarchy In The UK, but a seminal moment in rock history was assured, with John Lydon yelling "get off your arse!" to the masses at the same time. And that's what Anthony did - gave the whole music biz a rightful kick up the backside at every opportunity possible.

Bemused by the lack of the exposure given to new bands, he thought "well if other people are doing it themselves, then why don't I?" and the Factory label was born. Until its demise in 1992, Factory was respected world wide as one of the truly independent labels who did what it felt like and unliked the major labels, allowed their artists the freedom that was unheard of. But Anthony put his money where his mouth is too: in fact with the small profits he'd made from Factory plus most of his savings, he wholly finanaced Joy Division's superb debut album "Unknown Pleasures" and allowed the band to come up an intricately designed sleeve into the bargain.

The early years of Factory were about building the label, but no one could have predicted the chart success Joy Division were to have, ironically after Ian Curtis had committed suicide. "Love Will Tear Us Apart" to this day remains my favourite single and song of all time, and it's not hard to see why. It had everything nailed in just over three minutes, and it was a hard decision for Anthony and Factory to release it a month after Curtis' death, but at the same time he felt the public needed to hear the tune. I'm so glad he did.

It wasn't just the commercial success: Anthony believed in the artists he signed. He really liked Vini Reilly and his band The Durutti Column, and even though the critics didn't, Vini was allowed to make the music he wanted, and word of mouth made the fanbase, as well as Anthony's passion for the band. I've got pretty much most of the Factory releases of the band, because it's just.. different. And that's how an independent label should be - daring to be different. In its early years Factory had also signed James - indeed the EP with "Hymn From A Village", now regarded as a James classic, was released on there.

All this time Anthony was still doing television and keeping up Factory, he truly believed in himself and what he was doing. That was taken as arrogance, cockiness and basically as if he was acting like an idiot by the Southern-based music press. Nothing was further from the truth. He was a true professional Mancunian, proud of his roots and passionate about what he did and not afraid to show it. He didn't care that the sleeve design for Blue Monday meant neither he or New Order made any profit on the record, the fact it sold over one million copies on 12" only proved that you didn't need the standard single formats at the time to sell if the song was good enough - another argubaly pivotal moment for the UK music industry.

When you look at Factory's record, the likes of Joy Division (and then New Order) and Happy Mondays later on obviously stand out as moments. But there was also The Railway Children, James as mentioned, Section 25, A Certain Ratio, Biting Tongues (who'd later discover dance music and become 808 State no less, excursions into latin bop jazz such as Kalima, and even a classical range of music on the label - truly eclectic and a perfect example of how a label should be just that and not representative of its musical style or form whatsoever. And that in itself was achievement enough.

Despite Factory's demise, Anthony still believed in music immensely and it was his passion that set up In The City, a now annual autumnal event in Manchester which showcased new bands first and allowed them the exposure to hopefully gain an audience. In recent years, In The City was the place to break new bands. Let's see.. Oasis, Radiohead, Suede.. and then in 1998 Muse and Coldplay, Snow Patrol in 2000, and some band called Arctic Monkeys a few years later on. That in itself is a bloody good legacy to leave, isn't it?

And I've not even mentioned the likes of The Hacienda, the great club that it was with Madonna's first live UK appearance, and the fact he was actually going to pioneer legal digital downloads with tracks at a modest but fairly assessed 33p per song. The list truly goes on and on. I know one thing's for sure: he's left a lasting legacy not just for music but for Manchester, and that's a tribute to his drive and determination. May he rest in peace along with Ian Curtis of Joy Division, Martin Hannett who produced many Factory albums, and Rob Gretton, New Order's manager. And may he never be forgotten as someone who actually made a difference in the corporate whore that is the music industry.