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N: I do a bit of busking myself, every now and again. I am a guitarist, and saxophone player, and singer

JO: wow … that’s an unusual combo

N: yes … I don’t do the two at the same time …

JO: not yet

N: I try and do as much as possible

JO: one of the music … I’m going to produce a podcast series for this …

N: fantastic

JO: and …. the idea being one episode per region

N: ok

JO: with a unifying programme that makes sense of the twelve ….

N: fantastic

JO: and I was going to pick three bits of music for each region

N: ok

JO: one of the ones for Yorkshire, probably, unless people lobby me out of it … is going to be Allan Holdsworth’s … one of Allan Holdsworth’s – do you know his name? – one of his pieces maybe called ‘Oneiric Moor’, which is a piece … a very short piece he did using the guitar more like a … for its sustain

N: fantastic

JO: you know he wanted a saxophone and his Dad couldn’t afford a saxophone so he bought him a guitar and he revolutionised guitar subsequently…

N: amazing … I’m familiar with him but I don’t know his stuff all that well …

JO: I bet you not many people around this part of the world are not that familiar …

N: yes

JO: I have been fiddling with the levels … I think it’s alright … so I’m stood with Nick

N: yes

JO: who is today working with UNICEF

N: I am. Yes.

JO: and you stopped me

N: I have

JO: and then I took advantage mercilessly … putting your personal hat on now, so I’m not asking you to speak for UNICEF, do you want to tell us a bit about yourself? You said you’ve just finished university, I think?

N: no. I finished university sort of three years ago

JO: ok, so …

N: and I … after that … went off … I worked as a support worker …

JO: what was your degree in?

N: Environment and Development Geography

JO: Environment and …

N: at King’s College, London

JO: right, so down in London

N: so, yes, after that I worked as a support worker for a bit in Kensington and Chelsea, working with people with mental health and drug and alcohol issues … then went off to Thailand and taught geography at university there

JO: wow

N: then came back, sold raincoats for a bit … and, the thing that I think is going to be most interesting is that I’ve just been in Mexico working for an NGO … doing exploratory journeys into remote places and working with remote communities

JO: is that eye opening?

N: very eye-opening … I mean I’m still working for them … loosely .. but I kind of .. I’ve had to come back for various reasons …

JO: what sort of thing did you see and what were you doing there?

N: So, we would primarily do river journeys … so we’d do river journeys down the [ ] river in Southern Mexico … and that would be staying and camping in the jungle and staying with people in remote communities … all about … very much a bottom up view of development rather than going in and throwing money at people and throwing aid as this kind of big thing …

JO: is this more … if I’m right … this is more to do with going and talking to them and seeing what they want …

N: exactly … talking … yes … and … that’s exactly it … so

JO: what are their frustrations

N: very much so … very much from the bottom up … because progress is about making human connections … progress isn’t about giving … just constantly giving things because … you know… that’s not development … progress is about empowering people … making people think and making people connect … not making but encouraging … encouraging people to connect

JO: yes

N: and I think that with the world as it is today, with people – especially in Western Europe and especially in the States becoming quite inward looking – I think it’s really … it’s ever more important to actually start connecting with people …

JO: yes, ’cause you mentioned .. we spoke only very briefly before I started this, but we mentioned that .. is it with Brexit and so on …

N: yes

JO: have you seen this has been called ‘Global Trumpism’ by a guy called Mark Blyth

N: I have .. yes

JO: are you impressed by that argument? It’s a similar sort of phenomenon everywhere?

N: I think I mean certainly you get a lot of people in this job who would like you to be working for a charity that only focuses on the UK …

JO: so you’re talking about the people you are interacting with in a place like Scarborough

N: yes … not necessarily Scarborough but in various like smaller towns …

JO: yes … I’ve heard the same all over my trip [ ] … “charity begins at home” is often quoted, yes?

N: yes … and I kind of talk about, you know, the fact that, you know, we work here as well … but often people .. you know .. do just want .. you know .. UK first and .. you know .. I think that that is quite limiting and I think that .. you know .. to actually develop as a global society … you know … we want people to actually think globally … we .. you know .. I really reject the small island mentality because I don’t think it’s very productive … I don’t think it’s helpful …

JO: yes … do you think it’s … people are aware of the extent to which we’re involved with the rest of the world and have been historically ?

N: No. I don’t … I mean .. I think

JO: do you think that’s part of the reason they …

N: I think that’s definitely part of the reason … I think people are very comfortable living in their bubble .. whether it’s a good bubble … whether they perceive it to be a good bubble or a bad bubble … people like to be in their bubble because whether they feel happy about it or not, they feel comfortable

JO: ok … cause it’s familiar

N: it’s familiar, you know … you know … people might be … you might talk to someone who that’s poor .. might have lost their job .. you know … but they’re in that familiar bubble where it’s easier to blame things outside the bubble … and … you know .. I don’t think that’s a very productive attitude to have …

JO: yes, sure .. I would agree …. I sympathise with some … like in Bath where I’ve lived and worked most of my adult life …. you find … for example, I spoke to a woman on the streets, who has been on the streets for maybe 10 years … and she’s only 30 or something …

N: yes

JO: and she said “how do you think I feel when I’m sat here ignored … on the street …

N: yes, exactly …

JO: … and over the road are 100 people protesting about …” … you know, I can’t remember what example she used but something somewhere else

N: exactly ..

JO: so you kind of identify with that …

N : I can totally identify with that … I mean …

JO: … but the solution is to fix both of those things … and there’s often a connection, yes? The people responsible for the nasty policies at home tend to be the same …

N: exactly .. I think that … like … thinking globally actually improves things in your own country … like multiculturalism has only been a good thing for this country … and it’s a shame that a lot of people don’t seem to realise that … you know … I mean .. I kind of think that neoliberal capitalism isn’t a good thing … completely open global markets have not been very good for global economics … but I think .. you know … global love and global conversation is incredibly important.

JO: The idea of humanity as one family ….

N: Exactly ..

JO: which is how I’ve come to see it.

N: I kind of … I don’t always like to identify .. I am British … I can’t get away from that … but … you know

JO: do you want to get away from that?

N: sometimes …

JO: what’s the negative side? I’m finding increasingly as I grow up that I feel there is sort of good and bad in these things …

N: yes .. exactly … in .. you know … I support the football team … and .. you know .. I speak the language. I .. you know … enjoy a lot of things about living and being from the UK but when I lived in Mexico, I would class myself as European … I’d say I’m from the UK or I’m European … because I don’t … especially with the way … you know … in Mexico .. they know all about Brexit…. They know it’s been …

JO: really?

N: yes … they know that it has been a very difficult time there … you know .. with the politics … and .. I’d .. you know .. straight up say … you know … I’m from Europe … I don’t want to be from a small island .. I want to be from an island that’s part of a bigger thing …

JO: well, yes … I know what you are saying … I mean I feel the best of our own people’s traditions see things this way …

N: exactly …

JO: it’s just the other side which is not so good … Just to finish up, I’ll prod you towards … we were talking about … I think you were saying .. when I introduced myself, I think I said my project is about the big questions we are all facing .. I not only want to try and accurately characterise the situation we are in but what sort of a world we need to move to, how to get there, how quickly, and who is going to do it, because the people seemingly at the control booths .. in the global political economy … have not done it, have they?

N: No. Not at all.

JO: Are you .. would you feel comfortable characterising our situation as being in ‘extreme danger’ as the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has done, for example?

N : yes

JO: Do you feel like we are in ‘extreme danger’? What does that mean?

N: Yes. I think that .. you know .. the next 10 or 20 years … I mean even the next 5 years .. are incredibly crucial to the future of global civilisation as a whole. I think that … you know .. something I’m very interested in .. which is plastic .. you know, I’m definitely a bit of a plastic activist … I’m only just moved to Leeds, and I’m planning on setting up a campaign group to lobby local businesses and that sort of thing and even … not just the local ones .. the bigger ones .. and just get them to stop using plastic … Amazing thing … what are they called? Wetherspoons have stopped using straws … isn’t that amazing? They … that’s 18 million straws a year that are not going to be used in the UK.

JO: what happens to straws eventually?

N: straws … well they don’t go anywhere, do they? They go into the ocean. 60% of all plastic goes into the ocean. In .. by 2020, there’ll be more plastic than fish in the sea. I’ve been running a turtle conservation project in Mexico for the last 5 months and it’s just terrible … if we don’t .. you know … if we don’t sort that out .. if we don’t sort out the way we treat each other … people are all going to get a bit more unhappy … you know we’ve got water crises .. all over the world .. you know …

JO: … but we’re talking about … I mean my view is we’re talking about .. we’re already dealing with a system which I presume you don’t like … I don’t know how you’d characterise it … would you say we live in a ‘neoliberal, capitalist’ set up?

N: Yes. Definitely. Fundamentally.

JO: Is that your choice of descriptor?

N: 100%

JO: I mean I’m trying to say … I’m trying to argue that .. whatever you call it … it’s a ‘Live and Let Die System’ in that about half of us are dying prematurely, living pretty difficult

lives probably

N: 100%

JO: a lot of them …

N: 100%

JO: so, we want to move to a world actually where there aren’t really any premature deaths except accidents …

N: exactly

JO: and there aren’t many accidents that can take your life away

N: yes

JO: and .. what’s going to bring that about … you said 5 years … I agree with that … I think that we are in an emergency situation …

N: yes

JO: the top is not doing its job, is it … so to speak?

N: no

JO: do you think? What’s going to move it? What do people here need to do?

N: I think … I think we really … need a network of people working locally … you know .. to

actually … I guess you’d call it community engagement … but I mean … it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time now … and I see it as a potentially difficult thing to do in the UK … I don’t want to be negative … I don’t want to … I want to be positive about these things … but I am not 100% sure where it will come from … maybe from me, I don’t know.

JO: Do you think there are cultural barriers in the UK?

N: I think there are.

JO: Are people too atomised?

N: Yes.

JO: Is that what it amounts to?

N: yes. I think we go back to that bubble thing. People don’t like people affecting their norm. People become very comfortable in their norms, whatever their norm happens to be …

JO: but you think this is different elsewhere …

N: I think .. I don’t know if it’s necessarily different elsewhere … I mean .. I think like where I was living in Mexico … it’s the easiest example I’ve got … it’s much easier to just get out and do something … there are kind of less barriers in your way and people … people have a little bit more time for each other … as you know, my work is to stand on the street and try and get people to stop for me … it’s very difficult … in somewhere like Mexico, which is … kind of .. a little bit more laid back in culture … and where … there is a culture of chatting in the street …. that’s where people go to converse …. and I think that’s been lost a bit in the UK … and I think people are very … I think people are sometimes wary … even of .. you know … I’ve got an ‘Emergency Response’ sign on my back … I’m clearly working for a …

JO: you look pretty official to me …

N: exactly, exactly …. but people are wary … people are wary … I think and people … wary … I think wariness is something which people have for a lot of things … I think people have wariness for their neighbours … their ..you know … other people … people coming into the country … I think people … I think that’s a bit of a shame … I think … you know if people actually took a step back and looked at someone and gone … they’ve got a nice looking face … surely, they’d be nice to chat to … you know …

JO: do you think the young are a bit different in that respect ?

N: yes. I think so. I mean definitely …

JO: do you think .. given that it’s their futures which are being … stolen, I would say

N: yes

JO: potentially … can they make the difference? Can they be part of a critical mass, do you think?

N: I’d like to think so. Certainly .. the people … like my friends and acquaintances … you know .. have a similar background to me … university educated … interested in what’s going on in the world … we also leave a lot of young people, you know, by the wayside in this country, as well … a lot of kids leaving school without any interest or education, you know … going into jobs … that’s absolutely fine … I think in quite a lot of places we struggle to engage young people … and, I think … you know …

JO: I think they get a really raw deal …

N: yes, exactly.

JO: they don’t seem to be incorporated into the mainstream of cultural life in the way they might be elsewhere …

N: I mean like … and you kind of see that with the Brexit vote … you know …Brexit .. if it was just people under … you know … I’ve not got no problem with pensioners … you know … my Nan’s a pensioner and she’s lovely …

JO: sure

N: but if it was just people under 65, we’d still be in Europe …

JO: yes, there is a different … different outlook …

N: people are very … people preserve themselves at the end of the day … and I don’t know if people actually are looking … I don’t know if a lot of people are looking into the future …

JO: yes … I reckon we need to have a … you know we were talking about communication and connections … I think there needs to be a lot of conversation very quickly …

N: yes

JO: including some very tough ones …

N: 100%

JO: between the generations .. and all sorts … I’ll leave it there because I’ve already stolen a lot of your time …

N: No worries at all. No worries at all.

JO: It’s a real pleasure to meet you.

N: You too.