Live Below The Line: Day 5

The final day of Live Below The Line is here. I must admit I’ve gone a bit crazy today, eating more than I have the rest of the week as I know what’s left so please don’t judge me when you read what I’ve eaten! I even managed the three course dinner this evening, half a tin of vegetable soup with pitta and then surprisingly good pasta with sauce and onion then chocolate biscuits.


One thing I am sick of the sight of is Basics ready salted crisps. I don’t really eat crisps normally and at first it was quite a treat but although they have been a useful snack, I should have bought something healthier and nicer – maybe some tinned fruit or something. I still had four packs left, so far have managed to give away two. Another thing I won’t miss is the lack of fruit, veg and pulses. It has made me think about how much I overeat though and also that I really need to cycle more.

Of course these are all things I can choose and again it reminds me about one of the aims of the challenge – to raise awareness about extreme poverty. I have had a glimpse that energy levels will suffer as a result of a diet without much fruit, veg and protein but I can choose to eat more healthily from tomorrow. If I actually lived in extreme poverty I wouldn’t be able to.

Also I only had a £1 a day budget for certain areas of my life whereas many people have that for everything. They also wouldn’t have the option of blowing any money left from that £1 a day at the end of the week as they would need to save it for the next.

Another thing that has been bothering me is how cheap the food can be in the supermarket. Is it really possible to make, package and sell for that? I know there is less packaging in value ranges and less of a mark up but I feel that people here and abroad, like farmers, small shopkeepers and people helping to manufacture what we buy must be loosing out.

Course 2

There is no ‘value’ option in many places. One of the only reasons we have the option of such cheap food is because massive corporations exploit the labour of vulnerable people across the globe as well as here in the UK. In a system where profit is king and economics is increasingly international and interdependent, multinationals, which can produce cheap and luxury goods for the wealthy have the biggest power.

I am glad my fundraising target has been hit and thank you so much to everyone who has sponsored me so far, it’s really generous and your money will be going to help some amazing projects all over the world run by local people and benefiting their communities. If you want to find out more about the kind of projects Christian Aid funds there’s a great Poverty Over section on the Guardian website here, including some inspiring short films.

I’m off to Brighton tomorrow with a couple of friends and would like nothing more than to spend the whole day eating vegetables, which would please my mother. I also fancy a massive drink, which might not.


Total Spent: 0p

Total money left at the end of the week: 7p

Food Eaten:

Breakfast – two remaining crumpets

Mid morning snack – chocolate biscuit

Lunch – one pitta with coleslaw, instant noodles, chocolate biscuit

Mid afternoon snack – chocolate biscuit

Waiting for dinner snack – toasted pitta

Dinner –  half tin of soup and pitta, pasta with sauce and onion, chocolate biscuit

If you have any spare cash you can sponsor me here 

Or if anyone fancies taking on the Live Below The Line challenge you can do it anytime, just check out the website here.

Live Below The Line: Day 4

With one day left to go I decided to blow the rest of my budget when I got back to London. As a vegetarian, I eat a lot of pulses but I realised last night that I haven’t been eating them this week and am really missing them. Pulses are such a good source of energy so I invested in a good ol’ tin of baked beans.


I’d worked out how much food I had left for the next two days and as well as being able to splash out on beans I discovered that cheapo pasta sauce actually costs less than tinned tomatoes in my local supermarket, and it serves four, and it has herbs in it. Apparently it tastes horrible but it has herbs, how can it be worse than plain tinned tomatoes? This, along with two onions, and the rest of the uncooked pasta, means I can cook up a three course meal for my friend who is staying tomorrow night. I had told her she would have to bring her own dinner but now we have a right feast to look forward to.

In other good news, maybe too much information, but the saddle sore I experienced yesterday morning has nearly disappeared after a day and a half off the bike. It was safe and sound when I arrived back at work this evening but I did loose my bike lock keys twice today and had visions of either trying to break the lock and being accused of stealing my own bike, having to break the rules again and getting the bus home, or walking four miles back, not the option I would have chosen but it would have been my own choice if I actually lived in extreme poverty. If I actually lived in extreme poverty I would be lucky to have a bike in the first place, even if it is nearly as old as I am.


Pasta sauce – 18p

Baked Beans – 28p

Two Onions – 21p

Total Spent: 67p

Food Eaten

Breakfast – crumpet and apple

Lunch – The rest of the leftover pasta and more coleslaw

Mid afternoon snack – crisps

Dinner – Beans on toasted pitta bread and two chocolate biscuits

I’ve found out that the musical experience that is Marc Nicholas have a song dedicated to the Sainsbury’s Basics range – it is my theme for the week and you can find it here.

If you have some spare cash and want to sponsor me, you can visit my fundraising page here.

Live Below The Line: Day 3

OK, so its time to come clean: I’d actually broken my own rules before I’d even started. Last week, when I’d already set up my fundraising page, I found out I had an interview tomorrow…in Cardiff. I could have said no to it I guess but I didn’t so I decided to relax my rules and buy a return bus ticket to Cardiff costing £12.50 which I am sat on as I start to write this. It’s just another reminder that, lucky for me, this isn’t my life.

I cycled to work as normal leaving my bike there to walk to the bus. I will then do the same in reverse on the way home tomorrow – hope there’s not many bike thieves reading this!

Going away for 24 hours means I have had to plan ahead with food, bringing my meals with me, despite my boyfriend, who I’m staying with, wanting to feed me. I am sat on the bus trying hard not to eat tomorrow’s rations as I write this.

I am over half way through the challenge now and its going well (apart from the bus blip) but I am really starting to miss fruit and vegetables and regretting not investing in more pulses. Things to keep in mind if I do it again next year.

The end is in sight though and I’m only £10 away from my fundraising target of £150.

If you have some spare cash and want to sponsor me, you can visit my fundraising page here


Food and socialising £0

Travel £12.50

Food Eaten

Breakfast – crumpet and apple

Mid afternoon – chocolate biscuit

Lunch – instant noodles, crisps

Mid after noon – chocolate biscuit

Bus ride snack – crips, chocolate biscuit

Dinner – tomato soup and pitta bread

Live Below The Line: Day 2

Just a quick one tonight as my bed is calling me. Mainly sharing some things I have learnt today:

I am not fit. I used to be a lot less tired after cycling the amount I have today, but I think a combination of poor diet and lack of fitness means today has tired me out a bit.

Places look different in the day than in the night. I went to review a film for work (technically work and free for a review ticket so no rules broken – review to follow) which started at 8.30pm. Part of me wanted to stay around in town and avoid cycling home and back but I also thought most waiting around options would involve spending, or being tempted to spend so I took advantage of cycling back to drop of some stuff and have an hour to myself. I then proceeded to get lost at lest twice on the way to the cinema, met my friends in a sweaty mess. I thought I had the journey back nailed but then got really lost. I seemed to have missed a crucial turning so followed cycle route signs to Camberwell, the next biggish place I needed to be. Turns out, what I knew but seem to have forgotten tonight, that cycle routes are not always the most direct route but I got there in the end.

My sweet tooth is very demanding. Although I have been full most of the time over the last two days, I saw the person opposite me at work (also on Live Below the Line) tuck into a custard cream and realised that was what I was craving, some kind of sweet snack. So on my trip to the shop on the way home I got a pack of chocolate digestives and have already eaten four.

There are so many ways to do this challenge. After comparing motes at work people seem to have different, equally as good approaches. Some have gone for blandness over quantity whereas others are eating less but having more extravagant meals. Our web editor though seems to have an impressive stash partly thanks to scouring the shelves for things going cheap about to go out of date, including cheese which would normally blow a fair chunk of the budget. The competitiveness has set in though and he found himself having to prove over email that, yes he could get all that food for £3.50, photos and all.


Chocolate Digestives – 37p

Pitta Bread – 25p

One apple – 16p

Total spent: 78p

Non Live Below The Line Spending: £4.50 on a pack of tights

Food Eaten

Breakfast – apple and crumpet

Lunch – coleslaw in pitta bread and a packet of crisps

Mid Afternoon – packet of crisps

Dinner – left over pasta and coleslaw, two biscuits

Midnight snack – two biscuits

If you have some spare cash and want to sponsor me, you can visit my fundraising page here

Live Below The Line: Day 1

When I woke up this morning I had a clear mission: to go to the supermarket and buy supplies for the next few days. I have £5 until the end of Friday but according to the Live Below The Line rules I can buy stuff at the beginning of the week to last. But I also didn’t want to get ahead of myself so didn’t want to max out my budget on the first day.

Today's Shop

I quickly realised that this week was basically going to be sponsored by Sainsbury’s Basics range, and was not going to be that healthy. I did however manage quite a stash of food, and although it doesn’t look hugely appetising it will hopefully keep me full.

The first bug event of the day was meeting a couple of friends for a Bank Holiday Monday picnic. Straight away they offered to provide me with some food which I declined (a little grudgingly) saying I would bring my own. Lucky for me they came to South East London from the West and North where they live; I was glad to escape lots of cycle miles for the day and also thankful that I lived in an area with a nice park to tempt them with. The picnic was very enjoyable and I chowed down on my coleslaw sandwiches and actually felt quite full by the end of it.

Dinner was surprisingly OK too – pasta, onions fried in margarine and tinned tomatoes. I ate with my flatmate whose dinner smelled amazing, a lovely looking lentil curry with chapati, but apparently it actually tasted horrible due to copious amounts of a disgusting smelling spice called asafoetida that she was accidentally too liberal with. She was actually a bit jealous of me…that is until she stewed up some rhubarb for pudding.

An early night is called for I think as tomorrow comes the big test: First day back at work after a break for Easter, I am going to have to avoid my usual coffee and chocolate cravings and resist and biscuits or cakes that pass under my nose. Luckily, as I work at Christian Aid’s head office, a lot of my colleagues will be joining me on the challenge

Also, I am starting to panic a bit as my quest for free transport means I will be cycling to work everyday as well as anywhere else I need to go and I am far from fit. Got a few things on tomorrow too so will be covering a fair few London miles. This should be interesting.


Crisps – 69p pack of 12 ready salted

Crumpets – 35p

Two packs of instant noodles – 10p each

Two tins of soup – 17p each

Coleslaw – 46p

Pasta – 9p (bargain of the day!)

Pitta Bread – 25p

Chopped tomatoes – 33p

Apples – 47p for 3

Onion – 9p

1/5 of a tub of margarine (I’ve weighed it out and everything) – 20p

Total spent: £3.47

Food Eaten

Breakfast – apple and crumpet with margarine

Snack – crisps

Lunch – coleslaw in pitta bread and more crisps

Dinner – pasta, onion and tinned tomatoes

If you have some spare cash and want to sponsor me, you can visit my fundraising page here

Live Below The Line: Day 0

Tomorrow (Monday) I will be starting the Live Below The Line challenge, raising money for Christian Aid, and spending £1 a day or less on food and drink (apart from water), travel and socialising for five days.

One of the reasons Live Below The Line say they set the challenge is because they think it will allow “people in the Global North to better understand the daily challenges faced by those trapped in the cycle of extreme poverty.” The Extreme Poverty Line is defined as £1 a day.

Now, I am under no illusions that by spending £1 a day for just five days, while my rent and utility bills are still being paid, and I can go back to my normal life at any time, is anything like living on the Extreme Poverty Line. 1.4 billion people around the world have to live on this for all their needs, many of them have families to feed and live a lot more strenuous lifestyle than I do. I am never going to know what it is like and I am doing this by choice, not necessity. However, I do think that in a society where we consume so much, much more than our share, it is good to take a step back and take stock.

I also love challenges and, having done a similar challenge before, have been feeling pretty cocky. But last time I did this I was living a student life in Cardiff, a city a lot cheaper than London. I also had my fingers in a lot of pies and hung out with a lot of people who were also into alternative ways of living meaning meaning that through a sharing culture, volunteering, and group outings to skip food from bins, I managed to get a lot of free food anyway. At the moment, although I live on less than the London living wage, I am definitely not living so much of the free lifestyle, although it is something I would like to get back to.

Today I scouted out some prices and was pleasantly surprised at how cheap some food was when you looked for it. I could definitely feed myself for under £1 a day, it would be quite unhealthy but doable. But the pleasantness wore off as I started to question how shops managed to sell their bargain ranges so cheap. I’m sure someone is loosing out along the way, probably a lot of people. I’m going to have a lot to think about this week.

Keep checking the blog for updates throughout the week and a spending diary for each day.

If you have some spare cash and want to sponsor me, you can visit my fundraising page here.

CAS @ Oil In A Teapot, Tate Britain

First appeared on Ctrl.Alt.Shift on Thursday 21 April 2011.

There’s nothing we like more at Ctrl.Alt.Shift than a quick bit of protest on our lunch break. That’s why Amy Hall jumped at the chance to head down to the Tate Britain this week and join climate change campaigners Climate Rush as they mourned BP’s sponsorship of the arts…

The sun blazed down on a crowded lawn outside the Tate Britain as members of Climate Rush gathered for an afternoon picnic, aptly named ‘Oil In A Teapot’, to mourn the lives lost in the BP oil disaster exactly one year ago.

But they were also mourning what they see as a cultural loss, showing their sadness that cultural spaces, such as the Tate, have to accept funding from companies with dodgy ethical reputations such as BP.

Dressed all in black, with their suffragette inspired red sashes, the group posed for photographs on the steps of the Tate along with artwork produced by artists from Louisiana which was greatly affected by the Gulf of Mexico disaster.

The paintings were then displayed alongside the picnic with and a version of a Turner painting, altered to show an oil spill. This was later delivered inside the Tate with ‘Love Oil Painting, Hate Oil Funding’ written on the back and a message asking them to stop accepting BP’s money.

Passers by couldn’t help but take a look at tea party (grabbing a cucumber sandwich in the process). Many people had never heard of the link between BP and the Tate and were intrigued to know more about why the group were there. The stunt was part of a wider week of action against the relationship between the arts and BP coordinated by Art Not Oil.

“A year ago today BP caused an environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Jennifer Sherriff of Climate Rush. “80% of the oil is still in the ocean and toxic dispersants were used. BP has not only destroyed the environment of the area but 11 people died and livelihoods were ruined. They are still not paying the compensation they should be and are breaking the law.

“BP needs to stop trying to fix their image through corporate sponsorship. They need to be held to account.”

BP has described the last 12 months as Year of Change for the better. But many from Louisiana say their communities and livelihoods have been destroyed.

Since the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, the company has also started extracting oil in the Canadian Tar Sands a project not just controversial for its massive effects on climate change but also to the lives of First Nation communities who suffer high levels of cancer and devastation to their natural environment.

The First Nation communities from Canada have joined with those in Louisiana in solidarity in their campaigning.

Questions are again being asked about arts funding, especially in the wake of cuts to public funding for the arts. Should it matter where cultural spaces get their money from? Are companies like BP legitimising themselves in Britain while people across the globe suffer at their expense? And perhaps most importantly, does art have an obligation to be moral?

Find out more about the campaign at the Art Not Oil website.

Photos: Climate Rush

CAS @ Bristol’s Start The Bus – International Women’s Day Highlight

First appeared at Ctrl.Alt.Shift on March 23 2011

March 8 2011 was the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. Amy Hall reports from Ctrl.Alt.Shift’s celebrations at Bristol’s Start The Bus…

The first International Women’s Day was established in 1911 when more than one million women and men attended rallies calling for women to have the right to vote, work and take an active part in public life.

Fast forward 100 years to 2011 and the day is still relevant; women are more likely to suffer lack of access to education, healthcare and employment. This is not just a problem in so called ‘developed’ countries; women in the UK are still under represented in parliament and more likely to be living in poverty.

Ctrl.Alt.Shift celebrated International Women’s Day in Bristol, collaborating with Bristol University Feminist Society to present a bill of inspiring female performers. The struggles of other women across the world is what inspires Sophie Bennett, the society’s president. “We really need to show solidarity with women all over the world”, she explained. “Its now more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in some areas of conflict so we really need to show support for those women as well as celebrating our collective achievements.”

Jonathan Godwin, 20, told us it was time to full recognise the achievements of women: “The heads of most companies, and even the head of the UN, are traditionally men. An obscenely high proportion of work and progress made in the world is made by women and not enough recognition is given to that.”

Start The Bus is slap bang in the middle of Bristol’s city centre, a dark and atmospheric venue with kitsch decorations and on March 8, it was packed with people ready to be inspired. There was a laid back, acoustic vibe to the night as 11 varied artists took to the stage; a healthy mix of originals and covers – songs by strong female artists like Tracy Chapman and Florence ad The Machine were big features, as well as insightful original tracks.

The intense and beautifully soulful voices of Rima Doal and Celestine, whose cover of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit caught the attention of the audience, were juxtaposed with Charlene, a woman who despite being a lone dancer communicated a whole lot of expression. Folky, sweet stories with ukuleles and guitars also got a look in with Esther Taylor and Jenna Fentiman. DST changed the pace, with two MCs and a DJ rapping over some mixes of hip hop tracks with conscious, original lyrics.

Stand up comic Elf did a short set of funny anecdotes from her life as a former model and writer of (bad) erotic fiction as well as her relationships with family and friends. We caught up with her after her performance and she told us how important she thinks gender equality is. “As a female comedian I want to be known not as a female comedian but as a good comic, especially in a world that is very constrained by whether you happen to be a male or a female.”

Mirelle El Malgrissy and Angela Morgan stripped it back with acoustic guitars and powerful voices, as did Becca Sanders who could sing a dictionary and make it sound full of emotion and insight. Lionheart headed up the evening armed with a banjo and wistful stories including one about a man who she should have realised was bad news by the way he treated his books.

The night was buzzing and full of talent. Natasha Kendrick, 23, is a student at Bristol UWE: “International Women’s Day celebrates all the talents that women have and that’s really been highlighted tonight by all the fantastic performers we’ve heard. It would be fascinating to be here again in 100 years and see how many more achievements we have to celebrate.”

CAS @ Battlefront Debate – Getting You To Hear Us

First appeared on Ctrl.Alt.Shift on February 18 2011

Are young people apathetic or bored with politicians? Would they rather get their voices heard through voting, protests or Facebook? These were some of the questions flying around at Tuesday (February 15) night’s Battlefront Debate – Getting You To Hear Us. Ctrl.Alt.Shift headed over to Channel 4 HQ in Westminster, London, to see what people had to say…..

Battlefront is a Channel 4 project that gives young campaigners a TV and digital platform to make some noise about an issue they’re passionate about. At the debate, an audience of young activists, journalists and students tackled a panel on issues around youth empowerment and successful campaigning.

Those in line for questioning were Tory Tim Loughton MP (Minister for Children and Families), Aaron Porter (NUS President), brand wielder John Stopp (Head of Production at The Viral Factory), Miquita Oliver (T4 and Battlefront host) and road safety campaigner Manpreet Darroch (displaying the fruits of Battlefront 2008).

Questioning went straight onto the topic of Anastasia Kyriacou’s campaign calling for the voting age to be lowered to 16. Manpreet Darroch pointed out how 16 year olds can start families, join the army and work full time; so why shouldn’t they vote? And most of the panel agreed – Aaron Porter, despite assuring everyone he had “no plans!” to become a politician himself, thought young people needed more ways to get into politics in general.

Thoughts swung left, right and centre regarding how that can be done, with some claiming it was also the responsibility of those in Parliament to get off their backsides and do more to engage the next generation… a spot of tension ensued as Tim Loughton was challenged by an audience participant for not responding to her emails (though he did demand to have a chat with her following the debate to exchange details… once again).

Questioning moved on to how to turn engagement with politics and society into real change and youth influence. Manpreet Darroch said a good campaign was all about authenticity and passion. John Stopp agreed and Aaron Porter said a variety of methods was important, including direct action “within the law”. The compare then pointed out historical figures such as Nelson Mandela (who is now seen as a hero to many), have broken the law through direct action to gain a shift in the status quo.

So what new innovative techniques can young people use in campaigning? While John Stopp thought media attention was key, others thought it was more to do with authenticity, grassroots campaigning, and going straight to the source of power.

And what about Battlefront itself? Is it an example of grassroots campaigning; with campaigners supported by Channel 4 and mentored by experts? Miquita Oliver stood firm stating how Battlefront is merely an opportunity, only a platform for people who had already been campaigning for years, with passion for the good cause engrained with and without the project. This was on show during the debate as many of the Battlefront campaigners (past and present) sat in the audience, hands held high throughout to grill the panel and relay their opinions.

One of the final questions of the night regarding voting and political engagement was “how young is too young?” My stand up highlight of the event was the response by Youth Engagement Worker Nikki Brocher, who said we should be talking about an age cap on voting (not a minimum age); as some people over 25 had already closed their minds, and that more young people should have a say as it will be the next generation who will have to pay for the past generation’s mistakes…

But note – whether or not you agree with Nikki or any of the members on the panel, whether or not you’re supported by the media and politicians, whether you take action through Battlefront or Ctrl.Alt.Shift – keep on campaigning, and follow in the footsteps of those all over the world who have kept going until they got what they wanted for their futures.

Soma Ansamble, The Yarns and Queen Street // Live // 01.02.11 // Underbelly

First appeared on Never Enough Notes on February 5 2011.

First to the stage on this incredibly-varied night from Dead or Alive are boys next door, Queen Street. When I say boys next door I mean the kind of boys that have formed a band and practice in their parents garage, with boisterous drums and singing proper indie rock. The neighbours exclaim: “My those two make a lot of noise for just two of them”, and they’d be right.

Although they operate at some pace, Queen Street still find time to slow it down with songs like U Don’t Talk So Nice… which slides through a tale of woe then BAM straight back into it again.

Frontman Jon Dodd certainly fancies himself as a bit of a showman and knows all the poses such as Up On Speaker and Out In Crowd.

The Yarns come next with brass inspired folk. Echoing The Kooks at times, and sometimes with a reggae or funk edge they bring the sunshine into the room.

Soma Ansamble finish the night with the most ferocious conga playing I have ever seen and a demonstration of just how versatile the saxophone can be. Although the instruments sound great, after a few tracks it still sounds like background music. And there is plenty in this venue for the wandering eye including patterned black and white ceilings and a massive gold framed mirror on the stage.

From incredibly sleepy jazz to upbeat funk and rock, the mainly instrumental Soma Ansamble, originally from ‘the Siberian tundra’, are at times surreal and when there is some voice, in No Tomorrow it consists of sax player Philip Filipiuk saying “love me like there’s no tomorrow, fuck me like there’s no tomorrow”, all I can think about is edging away slowly.