The Produce Hall – Stockport’s Controversial New Food & Drink Destination

Produce HallMuch has been said about the recent opening of The Produce Hall, Stockport’s answer to the ridiculously popular Altrincham Market and Manchester’s Mackie Mayor, and let’s face it, not all of it has been good. But has all the criticism been warranted or are people failing to appreciate a good thing when they see one?

Local businessman Steve Pilling’s deal with Stockport Council to take on both The Produce Hall and the neighbouring Blackshaws Café has certainly come under scrutiny, especially after he beat the bid of the hugely successful Foodie Friday operators who host the monthly street food extravaganza right outside both venues. Pilling’s plan to turn the old Grade II-listed Market Place hall into a casual dining hub seemed like a no-brainer following the popularity of the similar operations in the city centre and Altrincham, but should it have been a shoe-in for the Foodie Friday guys since they’ve put the area back on the map?

Manchego & Serrano ham croquettes at The Produce Hall

According to the council, all bids were fairly assessed and Pilling was deemed the most sustainable and transformational, but some locals have been up in arms at a perceived “outsider chain” cashing in. Pilling however, seems far from that; perhaps more in the mould of a traditional businessman, which is always going to jar, he is, nevertheless, local and barely a chain operator, promising to give slots to independent catering businesses within The Produce Hall and also looking to give employment opportunities to those who have recently concluded a career in the Armed Forces or are starting out in the hospitality trade through apprenticeships.

Similar operations elsewhere trade off of getting independent street food vendors in to fill their halls; Altrincham Market boats Honest Crust on pizza duty and Great North Pie Co. (well you can guess what they do) among their six kitchens with Blackjack Brewery running the bar, while at the Mackie Mayor other vendors such as Baohouse and Fin Fish Bar join the party. Although The Produce Hall has a similar set-up, with separate kitchens offering food from pizza to pies, burgers to tapas, each kitchen apart from Black Market Espresso Co. are operated and owned by Pilling. But wait – is all as it seems at Mackie Mayor? Well, Tender Cow and Fin Fish Bar both share two of the same Directors, while Rotisserie also falls under Matthew Walsh’s remit, making it three of the kitchens within the Mackie that he is responsible for, once again questioning what the word ‘independent’ really means…

img_3757
Stockport Market Place on Foodie Friday

Meanwhile, a week in, and The Produce Hall is buzzing. It’s seen a mix of regular drinkers from 18 to 80 enter its doors, with families and friends alike choosing their food from the wide variety available and sampling the locally-sourced beer is no chore either. It’s already proving a draw to the area, but let’s not forget that others had already begun to get the crowds in; Mobberley Brewhouse’s Project 53 next door to The Produce Hall opened in late 2018 and offers great pizzas and fantastic beer while another new kid on the block The Angel has had an extensive renovation after a 67-year closure to restore original features and a traditional pub experience. Let’s not forget either about longer-standing servants to the Old Town area such as Remedy Bar and Bakers Vaults. Even The Cocked Hat around the corner has re-opened, and it’s not just pubs and bars that are driving an Old Town resurgence; The Warren has opened up and given over 40 local artists a hugely popular outlet for their wares, while the delicious food from Hillgate Cakery on Underbank sells out frequently and Rare Mags run their famous shop nearby too. There are many, many more independents in the area as well, all proving that businesses of all sizes can thrive and co-exist successfully.

The Produce Hall (image credit CJS Drones)

You can’t deny either that competition is healthy. When Stockport Market Place gets busy on Foodie Friday, the choice of pubs encourages you to venture to somewhere you may not have sampled before; and as it’s not a city centre location, prices are reflective and excellent value for money. Pilling has certainly reflected that with The Produce Hall where you can get a pie for £3 and a pint for just over £4, fitting in perfectly with price-points in other pubs nearby. Other criticism of The Produce Hall has arrived through the naming of the food traders within. Deciding to give them ‘punny’ names without checking to see if they were used by other independents was certainly naïve and as the real Dough Boys over in Leeds admitted recently “”I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt and believe it’s an innocent mistake. And it is just on a blackboard so it’d be easy enough to change it.” In fact they already have, with The Produce Hall pizza kitchen now monickered ‘Dome and Base’. It may well be that some of the stalls end up being so popular they become independents in their own right, and the door is still open for other established indy names to take spots in the hall to give the place the variety it will need in the long term. So has Pilling really done such a terrible thing?

Firecracker Chicken Pizza
Firecracker Chicken Pizza at The Produce Hall.

Having had the ‘privilege’ of working out at MediaCityUK during the BBC’s migration up North, it was a welcome relief to see Pilling’s The Dockyard take up a sizable unit as there wasn’t a normal “pub” anywhere in the vicinity. I’m guessing there were a couple of reasons for that, Peel Holdings and their pricing of units for one, but also the fact that the area wasn’t tried and tested. It didn’t have much infrastructure or any other facilities to encourage people out of town other than the half-closed Lowry Outlet and old-stager Lime Bar. But now, no doubt in part to The Dockyard leading the way, The Botanist and The Alchemist are proving successful alongside Wagamama and Prezzo, despite the latter’s failings elsewhere. This is exactly what happened in Altrincham; apart from its Belgian beer outlets and the odd half-decent boozer, the town had little to encourage people to shop local, but with the success of the indoor and now outdoor market, things have changed to the extent that you’ll struggle to get a seat, especially at weekends. The Mackie Mayor is also ragingly busy at weekends despite its independent food outlets coming under hefty criticism on price (£7.50 for a solitary bao seems excessive when the Arndale Market offers double in quantity for less than that price). Nevertheless, it continues to help the surrounding area, with the neighbouring Smithfield Tavern, getting its over-spill at busier times.

What I’m saying is, in a time when the country’s European future is so undecided and long-established business on the high street are dropping like flies, let’s give props to ALL the businesses who are taking it upon themselves to do something positive with a long-neglected area in order to turn it into a thriving hub for people of all shapes and sizes. After all, everything was ‘independent’ at some point.

Advertisements

Film Review: Bumblebee (2018)

Bumblebee

In an effort to watch more movies this year (no, this isn’t some resolution that will die off in six weeks, this is just a general quest to catch up on what’s hot at the local picturehouse), it’s time to reinvigorate the Barry Norman section of this blog with the first film write-up of 2019, Bumblebee.

First, let’s travel back to 1987. Aretha Franklin has just become the first woman to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The Simpsons airs for the first time and Luis Suarez chews his way out of his mother’s womb. Meanwhile, an eight year-old me is playing with his figures of Optimus Prime, Beachcomber and Cosmos, fighting the ongoing battle against the evil Decepticons right here on Earth. As it turns out, also in 1987, a young mechanically-minded girl called Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), mourning the death of her father, encounters a rusty yellow Volkswagen Beetle at a junkyard and is swept into a similar robotic war.

After five live action films of increasing ridiculousness, the Transformers movie franchise is rebooting, and with Bumblebee, it’s taking us back to the very start in more ways than one. War is raging on the robots’ home planet of Cybertron and in a desperate attempt to regroup, a scout named B-127 is sent by Autobot leader Optimus Prime (voiced once more by the legendary Peter Cullen) to the planet Earth. Crash landing straight into a training exercise by specialist military unit Sector 7, B-127 is left dazed, confused and in hiding. After being taken in by Charlie, the newly-monikered Bumblebee finds himself battling to avoid detection by Decepticons Shatter and Dropkick who are intent on destroying the Autobot resurgence before it even begins, all the while being hampered by the additional threat of Sector 7 led by former US Army Ranger Jack Burns (John Cena).

Making his live action directorial debut, former musician and animator Travis Knight has been given the green light to deliver a Transformers spin-off that works through a lightness of touch and a focus on what made the toy and cartoon franchise so popular in the first place; heart. In the main, the robots here are all distinguishable in look rather than just being different shades of steel (see anything that Michael Bay directed previously) and personalities also shine through. There’s a warming sense of humour here as well, with Charlie’s family offering some good comic relief and Jorge Lendeborg Jr’s Memo character full of charm rather than being another generic sidekick to act as a plot device. Even the use of incidental characters such as policemen, neighbours and college acquaintances seem to be plucked straight from other 80s classics like The Breakfast Club or Smokey & The Bandit, expertly helping to paint a rich period picture.

Special mention also has to go to Bumblebee’s soundtrack. With the film being set in the late 80s, Knight is given a vastly diverse array of music to work with from The Smiths to Bon Jovi to Duran Duran, and each time a song is used it enhances the story perfectly. It almost feels like repeat viewing of the movie is needed to pick out all the little flourishes and nods buried throughout, whether it’s the music, the minute detail in the Cybertron scenes (where even the weapons perfectly match those we placed in the hands of our favourite robots 30 years ago) or the links to the rest of the movies in the series; Bumblebee really is reboot, origin story and the missing link between toys, cartoons and films all in one.

Yes there are a few moments you can telegraph a mile off and some of the sentiment may veer towards the mawkish, but Bumblebee is still an exciting, action-packed love letter to a more innocent time. By bringing together what the fans have always wanted from a Transformers film, Knight has nailed what the original cartoon taught us; good can and will triumph over evil and it’ll have a crazy, yet fun time in doing so.

The Affs Awards 2018 – Album Of The Year

2018 has certainly been an odd year for music. We’ve seen the usual bunch of album anniversary tours, a raft of comebacks and a lot of big bands going even more stratospheric playing bigger and more bombastic shows, but there have also been a few let-downs with groups struggling to produce original work that really captures the imagination. Fortunately, your erstwhile blogger is here to lead you away from the chaff into the glorious wheat, as I countdown to my coveted Album Of The Year Award for 2018.

5 – TurbowolfThe Free Life

One of the finest moments of 2018 was discovering that Turbowolf are still as hard to pin down as ever with third record The Free Life being their most psychedelic and heaviest outing yet. Hitting festival season hard, the Bristol rockers had plenty of new material to batter audiences with, such as the riffy Domino (featuring Mike Kerr from Royal Blood), or the low-slung groove of Capital X (guest starring Joe Talbot from fellow West Country outfit IDLES).

Throughout the record, Chris Georgiadis nails his most impressive Turbowolf performance to date, veering between his recognisable rapid-fire delivery up to an insane squeal on the epic title track, while drummer Blake Davies thumps away at his kit with what sounds like a pair of granite slegehammers.

Live, songs from The Free Life have already come across like old friends, and even the sudden temporary departure of bassist Lianna Lee Davies to give birth in late 2018 hasn’t slowed the ‘Wolf down, running riot with support slots to Killing Joke across the UK. The Free Life is certainly an evolution of the band’s sound and you can see how it will garner more crossover appeal, but at the same time this is very much a record that only this four-piece could make. You can see the passion of Turbowolf fans at every show as they hurtle themselves into the pit and the band have delivered another set of oddly-danceable rock and roll tunes in return.

 

Eureka Machines - Victories4 – Eureka MachinesVictories

I keep banging on about being a recent convert to Eureka Machines but I should probably stop, having now been schlepping around the country to watch them for the best part of six years. The four piece produce some of the most joyous live shows out there but it’s with 2018’s Victories that they’ve knocked out their most rounded recorded work to date. Helped by frontman Chris Catalyst opening himself up a lot more with his 2017 solo album Life Is Often Brilliant, Victories has some of the most tender lyrics on any of the band’s albums yet. But fear not, the ingenious wordplay is still present and correct, in fact this record arguably features Catalyst’s finest wordsmithery, and coupled with some absolutely belting musicianship from the four piece, Victories is a record that’s impossible to tire of.

From the traditional EM bounce-a-thon of Misery to the Manics-inspired My Rock And Roll Is Dead to the epic, delicately 60s-tinged House Of Butterflies, there’s something for all era of fan here. It sounds wrong to call it a more mature performance all round; EM may always have had an impish nature but it would be ignorant to claim the band only made simple, juvenile music. The band have long made intelligent, intricate songs but with Victories there’s definitely a little extra crunch and intensity, making each track sound that little bit more fresh, and eager to jump out of the speakers at the listener. A truly genre-defying British rock record.

 

Pete Spiby - Failed Magician3 – Pete Spiby Failed Magician

The first time I saw Black Spiders, in a sweaty club in Bristol, I was instantly blown away. Part good time rock ‘n’ roll machine, part absolute riff lords, the Spiders were always infectiously inventive in pedaling hard rock anthems across their two albums and various EPs. When they called it a day a couple of years ago I was genuinely sad and felt like the live music scene was a poorer place because of it. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before the guys started popping up in other outfits and lead singer/guitarist Pete Spiby revealed his next escapade; Failed Magician.

Re-invigorating the Pledge Music platform by offering not only an original album but also a reworked acoustic version and a covers record to boot, Spiby’s debut solo outing was pretty high up my wanted list and it hasn’t disappointed one bit. Offering a more bluesy take on modern rock than Black Spiders, Failed Magician is introspective, emotive, yet still all kinds of memorable. Take Friday Night Just Died (In Saturday Morning’s Arms) for example, a love song of sorts, it offers a taste of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s southern drawl but with the hooks of a Guns N’ Roses ballad, just with fewer hissy fits. And for a seven minute song, it doesn’t overstay its welcome one bit.

Elsewhere on the record, Bible Studies is a beautifully layered outing, whilst Guiding Light and Why Not Let Them Come are perhaps more akin to Spiby’s past, offering more up-tempo, classically riffy tracks which nestle nicely alongside the album’s starker songs. The acoustic version of the record is no less fascinating, frequently dropping Spiby’s vocals down to a husky bluegrass drawl over the top of some wailing guitar work especially on the stomping Lightning Bolt Blues that owes a debt or two to Black SpidersSt Peter.

As for the covers album, there are many very apparent influences here, with Soundgarden’s Hunted Down and a haunting take on L7’s Pretend We’re Dead, but it’s the surprise inclusions that really win, namely Alexander O’Neal’s Criticize and The CardigansMy Favourite Game both turned into creepy, downbeat little monsters. It’s a superb package by Spiby and one that really shows his passion for the business and refusal to walk away from it all following the Spiders’ split. We should all be grateful that the guy’s got more music in him.

 

Therapy? - Cleave2 – Therapy?Cleave

It’s not always easy to stick with a band through all they’ve ever released, as musicians have that tendency to wander into an impenetrable ego-driven diversity that doesn’t always translate well to even the most diehard of fan. With Therapy? though, they’ve always struggled to put a foot wrong; admittedly they’re not a band to everyone’s taste, and they’ve certainly changed their style on numerous occasions, but their brief dabble with the mainstream in the mid-90s has ensured they’ll always drag a few old school fans back into the fold with each record, and on album number 15 they’ve done just that.

Cleave may be a relatively short record but the 10 songs on offer are some of the most biting the band have ever released. From mental health to the environment and homelessness, no issue is too big for Andy Cairns to lyricise about, spitting venom at the UK government as much as he does at the rest of the world’s supposed ‘leaders’ who are dragging us further and further into oblivion.

The album’s first single, Callow, harks back to the band’s most successful period but does so with older, wiser eyes. It’s here where the returning Chris Sheldon’s production really shines through, encouraging the band to strip things back so they sound like a proper three-piece; no rhythm guitars taking the listener off on a tangent, just a supremely focused lead, bass and drum-driven assault on our senses that helps to get the message across perfectly.

Cairns’ familiar snarl lends itself more effectively than ever to tracks like Expelled and Success? Success Is Survival as his guitar screeches around Neil Cooper’s furious drumming and Michael McKeegan’s rumbling bass with the whole record becoming a strangely uplifting experience despite its content. No Sunshine brings things to an anti-euphoric close in a way that has to be heard to be fully understood and the first thing you’ll want to do is start all over again from track one. An oddly addictive experience, Cleave ekes its way into your psyche like no Therapy? record has done before and gives pretenders to their throne a severe kick up the backside too.

 

Ghost - Prequelle1- GhostPrequelle

It’s getting tricky to find superlatives for the phenomenon that Ghost have become. Not content with reinventing a dead 1970s genre, they’ve consistently upped their game with each release and capped off 2018 with a stunning show at the Royal Albert Hall. Next year’s support slots with Metallica aside, it’s tricky to figure out quite where Cardinal Copia and his Ghouls can go next but it was this year’s fourth full-lengther, Prequelle, that truly helped them cross into the mainstream.

Becoming more and more polished since their retro and stripped-bare debut, Prequelle is the culmination of Tobias Forge’s vision for the band. Equal parts grandiose, intricate, melodic, comedic, and dripping with Hammer Horror kitsch, Prequlle is divisively overblown and all the better for it. Lead single Rats split existing fans right down the middle, some erring on the side of “genius” versus the predictable cries of those who felt Forge had sold out with something so melodramatic (especially with the high-camp video). In reality, Rats set the stall out well; it’s supremely tongue-in-cheek, owes as much to Meatloaf as it does Blue Oyster Cult, and offers a hugely accessible route into a band whose image alone could still put people off taking a listen.

Elsewhere on Prequelle, the crunchy Faith gives Ghost another live headbanger, See The Light offers an Infestissumam-style storytelling vibe and if you’re yet to witness the majesty of Miasma’s closing sax solo, then you’re missing out on one of the most surprisingly offbeat, yet brilliantly executed musical moments of the year.

Disco-stomper Dance Macabre wins 2018’s award for ‘Song Most Likely To Get Stuck In Your Head For Months” whilst Pro Memoria ups the creepiness levels before the medieval boogie of Witch Image and the epic emotion of Life Eternal. There really isn’t any filler on Prequelle and it veers successfully from rock opera to 80s cop movie soundtrack to Satanic ode to desolation brilliantly. A regular on the death deck in 2018, and containing some of the greatest ear worms of this or indeed any year, Prequelle will see Ghost hit stratospheric heights over the next couple of years, and quite rightly so.

 

Manchester’s ‘Get Me There’ Continues To Get Nowhere Fast

I’m starting to hate my monthly Get Me There card renewal. Every 28 days I dutifully go online and log into my account the day before my expiry date (remember you can’t buy it for the day you want to travel) and every time I’m met with either a painful website or issues seeing or collecting my ticket.

This month though, was a whole new one. When trying to buy my new pass I received the on-screen error “You cannot buy any new tickets until you have collected outstanding purchases.” Firstly, this makes no sense anyway, why can’t you have a current and future pass on an electronic system/card? Secondly, I didn’t have any ruddy outstanding purchases anyway.

Fortunately, even on a Monday morning, the Get Me There Twitter squad are relatively quick to respond. A DM later and they advised my card was ‘full’ and that I needed to go to a tram stop card reader and hold it there for 10-20 seconds to delete some old tickets. Yes, dear reader, you read correctly, an electronic season ticket card is somehow full. As this was Get Me There, I actually wasn’t surprised so dutifully popped to Exchange Square and held it there for as long as possible despite the glare of an old lady waiting her turn and the reader’s own insistence that I should remove my card.

I checked my online account. I tried to buy a ticket. Unsurprisingly the same error appeared. DM’ing my new best friends once more, they came back shortly after to advise the issue should now be resolved following some cauldron-based spells at their end no doubt.

Success! I could buy my ticket!

Failure! Once purchased, both my current and new season tickets disappeared from my online account.

Usually this wouldn’t be a problem, but not with Get Me There. That’s because once you buy a ticket you have to wait a few hours and keep checking online to find out when it’s ready for collection. Another DM later and all I’ve got now is the suggestion to message again tomorrow so a human being can check to see if it’s ready for collection.

There we have it gang, the latest from Manchester’s “smart” ticketing system. The one which leaves you wanting to go back and visit Jeanie in the Travelshop who would stamp a paper ticket like a disinterested librarian back in the ‘olden days’. I’m now left wondering whether my current or new ticket will work, whether a driver or inspector will accept the above in lieu of a ‘dog ate my homework’ and also wondering how less-tech savvy people are coping with such a crumbling set-up.

At least Manchester’s buses have contactless machines on board now…oh hang on, they don’t work with Debit Cards yet.

THE SAGA CONTINUES.

Hats Off To The Insane – Therapy? Are Back In The Charts

Last week, Therapy?‘s new record Cleave entered the UK Album Chart at number 43. This might not seem impressive at first, especially when the charts in 2018 are such a confusing amalgam of on and offline sales, streams and other black magic. Nevertheless, this is a band with their 15th album, on the cusp of 30 years into their career remaining relevant enough to compete against the vast swathes of nonsense you hear across various aural media.

Throughout my life I’ve banged Therapy?’s proverbial drum, telling everyone about their passion, honesty and downright integrity, and for three decades now, they’ve delivered. Not everything has been a 10/10 to these ears but that’s the beauty of the band and of music in general. They’re caustic and aggressive. They’re confrontational and catchy as hell. They pull no punches, yet they’re also some of the nicest guys you could meet, grateful and proud. If, after 30 years of doing what I do, I’m that content with my body of work, I’ll be very surprised yet overjoyed.

The success of Cleave is certainly a reminder of what makes Therapy?‘s music great; the band have gone from media darlings to relative obscurity and back again and have retained a loyal fanbase throughout it all. They’ve toured the anniversaries of classic records, supported too many bands to mention and headlined their own fair share of shows pulling together intriguing setlists of old and new material, each of which have been blisteringly honest from start to finish.

To me, Therapy?’s commitment and perseverance is a testament to the human spirit; speak your mind, spread your message, but always keep that glint in your eye and that smile on your face.

Here’s to another 30 years!

Read my review of Cleave over at Pure Rawk!

A Commuter’s Dictionary – ‘On The Tram’

Metrolink Tram

In the latest of this very occasional series (seeing as how the last entry was nearly five years ago) we’re proud to bring to you our guide to that most modern of mechanical worms, The Tram. This should aid first time voyagers as well as experienced campaigners as they encounter all manner of mythical beasts on their journey.

Basil Brush
A person who attempts to cover their visage with all manner of powders and potions as the tram sways and swings through tunnels and around corners. These individuals are likely to go on to become talented darts players or midwives.

Penelope Pigpen
Those who fail to realise more space exists either side of the tram doors, preferring to stay as close to others as possible. Beware! These creatures are likely to tut upon a polite ask to get out of your way.

The Donald
The mysterious Trumper who insists on emptying their gas bowel on, ironically, the least breezy section of the line. Also likely to deny all knowledge of said parping despite remnants of the offending vindaloo from the previous night still being wedged betwixt their gap-teeth.

Ghettogospel
The act of preaching one’s R ‘n’ B favourites to all and sundry via the tinny speaker on your Nokia 3210. Likely to resist all attempts at either stopping or taking requests, even if it is for Total Eclipse Of The Heart.

BMXican Standoff
The short time between tram driver and youth disagreeing with each other over the concept of ‘no bicycles allowed’. Usually resolved by the tram refusing to move and the child realising it’s quicker to cycle anyway.

Turtle Power
The blissful ignorance of a backpack user oblivious to their shell having triggered the emergency alarm and calling the driver. Usually seen sprawled on the floor once the emergency brake has been activated.

Fumble In The Jungle
Said alarmist desperately pressing all the other buttons to sheepishly apologise to the tram driver and insist he’s not in any danger other than with his Mum who he didn’t inform he’d be out this late.

Station Vacation
The groups of feral younglings who spend their holidays sitting atop benches on platforms and staring into passing trams. Big fans of Gogglebox, these people are likely to end up on reality TV where they in turn will be watched. For 10 minutes.

Cantersaurus Rex
The light commuter jog (flailing dinosaur arms entirely optional) embarked upon when your tram is on the platform but you know the doors will shut in your face.

Button Gloom
The casual tap of the door button after running for said tram, on the off-chance the driver’s feeling generous. He’s not.

The Ting Tings
The noise of a ticket machine giving you change from your £20 note in as much shiny coinage as possible.

The Beep Test
The gamble of waiting for the final change coin or ticket to drop as the tram doors begin to close.

Feeling Doorly
Getting an item or body part trapped in the closing doors, thus failing The Beep Test.

Meals On Rails
The casual ingestion of random meals on board the tram. Included are scrambled eggs on toast, chicken chow mien and sushi with full array of chopsticks, soy sauce and ginger.

Rollerboaster
The winning feeling upon obtaining the seat directly behind the driver and pretending to be on a rollercoaster through some of the hillier sections of the network.

Risky Business
The unscrupulous hovering over the ‘buy’ button on the Get Me There ticketing app on the off-chance of seeing an inspector.

Ticketybooboo
Said hoverer suddenly realising the wi-fi has timed out and being removed from the tram to be given a fine.

Doubledown
The glee experienced when finding out your tram is a conjoined four-carriage metal centipede, giving you room to dance a celebratory jig.

Singledom
Finding the next post-delay tram is only likely to have room on it for your little finger and maybe half a toe.

Cornhole
The place where points go to die. Also the windiest place in the entire world. A rite of tram passage, every commuter must be stranded at Cornbrook station at least once in their lifetime.

The Woodpecker
The individual who believes tram doors operate by pressing the open button as many times as is humanly possible in quick succession.

We hope you’ve found this latest guide useful, and that you now feel well-equipped to embark upon all manner of tram-based adventures.

The Gender Pay Gap – What Does It Actually Prove?

I’m not sure what the reporting of gender pay gaps really proves. With no comparison over time, we don’t know if it’s better or worse than it used to be. Many of the current gaps appear to be historic causes eg more men at boardroom level but we don’t know that for sure. Women on the radio are now talking about avoiding companies with larger pay gaps, which will only make the situation worse.

No company I’ve worked for has had a separate pay scale for men and women. I know women younger than me who get paid more than I do. Similarly, I know older women who have taken career, travelling or family breaks and have therefore not accelerated in their careers as quickly. It’s a choice they’ve made, and in some ways a necessary sacrifice as there’s little that can be done over the nature of human birth. By the same token I’ve had both female and male bosses and gender doesn’t come into it in terms of respect.

So we now know which companies have gaps, largely driven by taking an average across the whole organisation where there are fewer roles at the top that pay higher vs a higher quantity of roles at the bottom paying less. Great. We knew all of this, and fining companies for not reporting it seems childish and petty. What do we do with this information moving forward? Is everyone going to apply for a job at Starbucks just because they have no gap? Of course not.

In a world where a perceived gender is becoming less and less relevant, why is this necessary now and how will we report on ‘non-binary’ salaries in the future?

All I’d say is do what I do, employ on attitude, experience, team fit and skills for the job. I don’t give a shit what sex, ethnic origin or whatever planet you think you’re from as long as you give 100%.

Ta.