Letters: Pop festivals

Britain's pop festivals need cheaper tickets and better toilets
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Sir: You report on the travails of Glastonbury Festival, which is struggling to attract sufficient numbers ("Has Glastonbury lost its mojo", 9 April). All of the reasons you give are doubtless partly why the event has lost its lustre, but the article should also have examined the state of the major British festivals as a whole, and the changing consumer response to them.

Glastonbury, V, Reading and the rest are suffering because for years fans have been ripped off by high ticket and food prices, paying hundreds of pounds to watch bands on a stage a mile away from where they sit, often in the filthiest conditions imaginable. There aren't enough toilets and the food is overpriced and often disgusting. It doesn't help that heavy-handed security confiscates people's own food or drinks before they enter the site. It's not about the music but the money.

If UK festival organisers want to see how to run clean events that value their customers, then they should go abroad to festivals such as Benicassim in Spain, where the tickets don't cost the earth and the fans are treated like human beings rather than cattle.

Following the massive increase in online downloading, it's another sign of consumers turning on the music business, having finally woken up to its venal, contemptuous attitude to the customers whose cash sustains it.

With a bit of luck football (another example of an industry biting the hands that feed it) will go the same way. Power to the people!



Sir: Has Glastonbury lost its mojo? I would argue quite the contrary; in fact, it should have read "Has Glastonbury found its Mojo?", as this year Mojo (the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation) has been invited to host the Leftfield tent at Glastonbury on Friday night, at which Alabama 3 will be performing.

Mojo is a UK human rights charity set up by Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six and is dedicated to assisting innocent people both in prison and after their release. And since music is so often an instinctive expression of freedom and hope, there can be no better place to raise awareness about Mojo's work than at this year's festival.

John McManus

Project Coordinator, Miscarriages of Justice Organisation, Glasgow

Sir: What on earth is a mojo, and does it really matter if Glastonbury has lost one?

Jeremy Lawford


Bribery is a fact of life – accept it

Sir: Bribery is widespread and is almost institutionalised in some overseas countries. However undesirable and regrettable it may be, it is a fact of life in business dealings with some people. Within Europe it may be possible to use the law to control and limit the extent to which this type of corruption takes place, but it is very difficult when dealing outside Europe with countries where it is accepted practice ("Court condemns Blair for halting Saudi arms inquiry", 11 April).

It is very harsh to persecute those who pay bribes to these people if that is the only way open to them to land a contract. They know very well that their competitors are unlikely to be restrained from doing the same.

BAE Systems won a huge contract from the Saudis for military equipment. Whether or not the company was involved in paying bribes to certain individuals in Saudi Arabia, for the SFO to investigate was going to cause great offence to the Saudis. As we know, the possible consequences of causing that offence could be a breakdown in the intelligence exchanges with the Saudis and the loss of future contracts. Tony Blair was absolutely right to stop the investigation. Those who have challenged his decision in the courts and pressed for a reopening of the investigation are doing the nation a serious disservice. Some, I suspect, are putting their political advantage in front of the national interest.

R V Watts

King's Lynn Norfolk

Sir: I am continually amazed at the naivety of journalists and others on the matter of allegations "corruption" in dealings with Saudi Arabia.

Any one who has worked on the commercial side of any manufacturing business that exports to the Middle East and other territories knows that if a bidder does not allocate money to those who can influence the placing of contracts, that bidder will not get the business.

However distasteful some high-minded people might find this, it is a fact and the fault lies with the cultures with which we are dealing. They regard any western manufacturer as a cash cow, brimming with profits, and these influential individuals believe that they are entitled to a share.

Iain Smith

Rugby Warwickshire

Sir: If the previous Prime Minister and the Attorney General colluded in breaking the law (leading article, 11 April), could they not be prosecuted for the statutory offence of conspiracy? This would be far cheaper and less liable to political manipulation than an inquiry.

James Pitt


Risks of home birth need more study

Sir: Jeremy Laurance reports on a study on the safety of home birth by Mori et al (the Big Question, 2 April). The authors warn, "These data have substantial limitations and should be treated with caution." We say they may be seriously misleading.

The study quotes an increased estimated intra-partum perinatal mortality rate for women who plan a home birth but transfer to hospital. There are three problems. The calculation of six baby deaths per 1,000 women transferred is a rough and inaccurate estimate. The range of baby deaths for women booked at home and transferring to hospital before the birth as quoted in the paper, using two different calculations, was anything from 0.78 to 8.37 deaths per 1,000 births.

Second, more than half of the women from the three research studies used to calculate the estimated rate of baby deaths transferred before the start of labour, so they had all their labour care in hospital.

Third, a higher complication rate would be expected for women whose pregnancy is not straightforward, but there is no means of comparing the women planning a home birth (who, for example, might develop pre-eclampsia, or have twins, or have a breech baby) with similar women planning a hospital birth. Women booked for hospital care with these risk factors will also have a higher complication rate than other women.

Fortunately, the Department of Health has funded the birthplace study to specifically address these issues.

Mary Newburn

Head of Policy ResearchNCT, London W3

Ambiguities of the apostrophe

Sir: It's a pity that Professor Sewell (Letters, 8 April) did not take the next step and ask himself why the street in Pontypool is St James' Field rather than St James's Field. The so-called rule that names ending in "s" do not need to be followed by "apostrophe s" but only by an apostrophe can lead to confusion.

As a teacher I had many classes containing pairs of similar names, such as Cole and Coles, Wood and Woods. "Where is Coles' essay?" or "I met Woods' parents" are ambiguous and time-wasting. And you are not likely to hear a teacher speak of "Thomas' poems" or "Tess' tragedy". Let's be sensible and ignore silly rules invented by bored grammarians on a wet Sunday.

John Savage

Cranleigh, Surrey

Back in the USSR? No, it's Britain today

Sir: It's upsetting to read that the Russian pianist Grigory Sokolov is unwilling to visit Britain again because of the requirement to provide his fingerprints for a visa (report, 11 April). Having visited Britain regularly for the past 18 years, he now considers a trip to this country is not worth submitting to the new demands of the UK Border Agency. His spokeswoman said that having suffered at the hands of the Soviet regime for so many years, he finds the latest UK visa requirements obstructive and distressing.

He did not say it, but it is a widely held belief, that only criminals should be required to give fingerprints for criminal record purposes. Until now, the UK has been held in high esteem in the world because of the belief that you are innocent until proven guilty. It was totalitarian regimes such as the USSR that we were so critical of, because they did not trust their citizens and treated them all as potential subversives.

Now the UK Border Agency is saying it treats as potential suspects all people visiting the UK from outside the EU. Does this mean that the athletes, officials and visitors we are inviting to the 2012 Olympics will be treated in the same way as Grigory Sokolov?

David Owen

Mold, Flintshire

Island on the edge of the abyss

Sir: Your report on food riots in Haiti (10 April) fails to mention Haiti's nearest neighbour, Cuba, where food is plentiful and equally distributed. Unlike Cuba, Haiti has failed to wrest itself away from US domination and has suffered greatly as a result.

Fifty years ago, both countries had broadly similar economies, based on the export of sugar to the US. Today, the differences between the two could hardly be greater. Haiti is occupied by a UN peace enforcement "mission", its population is starving, its economy virtually non-existent and its children uneducated.

Can there be a better example of why the Cuban people so strongly support their revolution? They know that but for the revolution, they would be sharing the edge of the abyss with Haiti.

Simon McGuinness


Occupied Paris was not 'ordinary'

Sir: John Lichfield's claim that "ordinary Parisians led relatively ordinary lives under Nazi rule" implies that somehow the tens of thousands of Jews, communists, Resistance members, gays and others arrested in the capital and deported in the years 1940-1944 did not count as "ordinary Parisians" ("Paris, 1942, La Vie en Rose", 9 April).

Diaries, letters, lists of deportees, photographs and other documents bear witness to the mass repression and deportations that took place in Paris during the German occupation. One statistic speaks volumes: of a total of 11,400 Jewish children transported to concentration camps, 6,100 were young Parisians, enough to fill five large secondary schools.

The evidence is clear: the Nazi tyranny in Paris violently and ruthlessly suppressed mass demonstrations and protests by torture, arrest and execution. One young communist, Guy Môquet, after whom a Paris Metro station is named, was one of many young men arrested and later killed at the age of 17 – for selling a communist publication on a Paris street.

The horrors of this period in Paris were not a Gaullist myth, as the article suggests. These events were not "ordinary" and it is hard to imagine the impact they would have had on the people who had to live through them and who called those years les années noires (not pink, as the title of the article has it). If Parisians "got on with their lives", it was not without having first put up a good fight.


London E11

A better way to slice up the working week

Sir: I was pleased to read Daniel Evans's letter (10 April), in which he proposed halving tax on the first 20 hours worked each week in order to kick start what Mary Dejevsky terms the "revolution in the traditional division of responsibility for childcare" (Opinion, 8 April).

I have thought for many years that the only way forward is for the working week to be calculated on the basis of a 20-hour unit. People could work one or two units a week, depending on their responsibilities for childcare, caring for elderly relatives etc. Some may choose one unit in order to free up more time to generally enjoy life. This would enable men and women to share equally the responsibilities of earning an income and looking after the family.

Employers would need to reassess workloads to the 20 hours per unit system. Generally, the employer would benefit from having a happier workforce with a healthy work/life balance and society would benefit in every way.

Lynne Clark

Tunbridge Wells, Kent

The line of fire

Sir: Has anyone else been wondering what demonstrations might accompany the progress of the Olympic torch before the London Olympics?

Jennifer Phillips

London W11

Give Amis his due

Sir: In "Amis? He owes it all to Hitchens, says critic" (11 April), you quote Eric Alterman as wondering at what stage "Martin Amis [had] become such a jerk?" I don't know either, but I hazard a guess that it was maybe around the same time that the radical left decided to cohabit the same cave as the Islamist hand-choppers and beheaders.

Mehran Sharmini

London SW4

Moved by asylum story

Sir: I was very touched by Roman Ngouabeu's experiences in the asylum system (Opinion, 10 April). There must be plenty more like him. He's the kind of person we need in our society. He must be allowed to stay not only because he deserves to but because the system failed to eject him when he arrived. It plainly proves that we need a flexible system with proper criteria and we need to police our entry points properly.

Tim Lawson

Cheam, Surrey

Tasty tomatoes

Sir: My experience of tomatoes bought in our supermarkets vs American ones is the reverse of Robert Thornberry's (Letters, 9 April). I suggest he tries tomatoes from the Isle of Wight, which seem to be widely available. There are several varieties – none is large and they are definitely tasty. I particularly recommend the smallest, the piccolo, which is firm, sweet and flavourful.

Marilynn Turner

London E3

Stop that moaning

Sir: If Nick Fisk wishes to deport all those guilty of "constant moaning, tedious text 'jokes' and pathetic justification of their beliefs" (Letters, 11 April), then these islands will become virtually uninhabited.

David Burton

Wellington, Telford & Wrekin