Edition number 57; dateline 6 November 2012

Why we’re here: pandas, Pennines and health promotion

I have long suspected that the impending extinction of the panda is not so much a result of the march of evolution against a mammal ill-equipped and apparently unmotivated to respond to the demands of a changing environment as the clear-minded conclusion of adult pandas that this is no sort of world into which they would wish to bring a new generation. In my darkest hours I have had to try very hard to banish from my sleep-deprived mind the realisation that these doleful creatures with their finely honed counter-instinctive existentialism may just be right.

Even when the sun comes up, it can sometimes be difficult to avoid the evidence that points to the human race being resigned to some kind of N-stage decline. Open the papers and the ash tree is only the latest species trying to draw our attention to the fact that the environment is in retreat against the human onslaught. Meanwhile, the US presidential and congressional elections have clearly demonstrated that stupidity is now not only a viable but in many political situations an essential political strategy. Spreading from the US is a strange conviction, largely held by people whose preferred tendency one suspects would be towards burning books rather than reading them, that Ayn Rand is some kind of social and economic visionary rather than a cosseted North American Nazi without the intelligence to recognise the necessary role of a uniform and a strong brand identity for the dissemination of her ideology. In the UK we have a government that sees vandalism, for which its senior members are well-qualified and at which, thanks to the UK’s educational predilections, they are well-practised, as the only sensible alternative to problem-solving, for which they see no need and of which, in the manner of anyone with inherited wealth and a British public school education, they have no experience.

While most the ConDem cabinet have sufficient education to expound upon, if not recognise or appreciate, the literary merits of Joseph Heller, it seems that few have the intelligence to conceive of Catch 22 as a satire rather than a lifestyle manual. The prime minister and his acolytes are probably drawing up a list as we speak that includes the death of local government, the entrenchment of vested interest and the accumulation of personal honours from repressive and murderous regimes under the heading ‘Feathers in My Cap’. By the time I reach the sports pages, realising in the process that I am witnessing the final days of the newspaper as a printed mass medium, I have to hope that my day’s work programme will not take me past any open windows.

But only rarely. For the days on which I am forced to rail against a system that would actually invest valuable resources in a press statement explaining how the government is celebrating an apparent under-spent of £377 million on a massively inflated figure of £9.3 billion that was the Olympic budget, or that would take pains to invest further scarce resources in inquiries and then declare, usually by casual observation or leak rather than a clear statement, that the government had already made up its mind before the inquiry was complete, are vastly outnumbered by the days on which I am able to celebrate my good fortune to hold a position as a tangential and insignificant observer of our cultural life. Within such culture one may find the antidote to cynicism and the counterbalance to stupidity. Here one may have one’s life, one’s hopes and one’s flights of fancy reaffirmed, celebrated and reinvigorated. Here one may find the opportunity to recognise that, however short the time may be, it is good to be alive.

A number of people, the TLR Communications Ltd accounts department and HMRC among them, wonder why The Leisure Review exists. Some quite rightly observe that being a journalist in the early 21st century is akin to being a weaver in the late 18th and the modern sport, leisure and culture sector seems to stand in an equally untenable position in the face of the government’s battle against local authorities and its apparent willingness to sacrifice every community and every notion of cultural achievement to an egregiously self-serving economic policy. Why do we bother? The answer can be found on the pages of this and any other issue of The Leisure Review. Covering the UK’s sport, leisure and culture sector allows us to pursue an incredible diversity of interests with the justification that it is all part of a wider, interconnected whole; whether it be bicycling or victualling, football or footfall, it is all part of the cultural experience and expression of some individuals or communities. It allows us to present some writing of the very highest quality; witness if you will the articles here on Marcel Duchamp and Pennine viniculture by Messrs Reeves and Owen respectively. And it allows us to highlight, celebrate and bask in the warmth of the boundless energy, enthusiasm and expertise of the many people who make the sector their career and their home; witness the article on health promotion by Mr Bennett, the account of the work of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group or the report of the event that drew voluntary sports coaches from their beds on a Sunday morning to better themselves and the experiences of those that they mentor.

All this helps us to get up in the morning, walk past the open windows and set about putting together another issue of The Leisure Review. If to any small degree it helps any of our readers do their jobs or helps someone make the case for continued investment in and recognition of the sport, leisure and culture sector, so much the better.


Jonathan Ives



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“Here one may have one’s life, one’s hopes and flights of fancy reaffirmed, celebrated and reinvigorated. Here one may find the opportunity to recognise that, however short the time may be, it is good to be alive.”

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