Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The good guys and their gadgets

 Guest blog from Sorted editor Steve Legg

We all know men love gadgets and technology. Whether it’s mobile phones, gaming devices, music systems, sports gear, cars or other electronic equipment, we share a special relationship with gadgets.

We often use gadgets to impress each other with the tiniest video camera, the most expensive, function-laden watch, or the fastest computer. Arm wrestling, bike racing and drinking competitions are no longer the main ways of proving our masculinity; it's these gadgets that do the trick these days. They’re the new way to show off wealth, taste and knowledge. We just can’t help it, it’s in our genes.

I inherited it straight from my dad, who had every conceivable gadget, although he didn’t always get it right. Classic gadget disasters back in the ’70s included a Sony Betamax video and later a Laserdisc player. Don’t tell anyone, but years later I bought an Amstrad E-m@iler. How embarrassing.

Anyway, I digress. Back in the here and now, a team of Dutch lads known as Terre des Hommes Netherlands are using their technological gifts and knowhow to make a real difference; not with faster, stronger or smaller gizmos, but to rescue vulnerable children across the world. It’s gadgetry at its best.

Terre des Hommes Netherlands chose to do something about a rapidly spreading form of high-tech child exploitation that has tens of thousands of victims in the Philippines alone involved: webcam child sex tourism.

Predators from around the world have, until now, felt safe and anonymous. Using fake names and paying with untraceable prepaid credit cards, men from rich countries go online to look for children in developing countries and then pay these children to perform sexual acts in front of webcams. It’s the darkest side of men and their gadgets.

However, the Netherlands-based child rights organisation is using technology to shine light into this darkness. It has gone undercover to expose this growing group of sexual predators.

With innovative, cutting-edge technology that would make any gadget geek weep, the virtual character Sweetie was created. This computer model was made piece by piece to look and sound like a real girl. They captured the movements of a real person, applied them to her and used an application to control her every move.

Within weeks of going online, more than 20,000 predators from around the world had approached the virtual ten-year-old requesting webcam sex performances. But this time their supposed anonymity couldn’t protect them.

With the help of this virtual ten-year-old Filipino girl, researchers identified more than 1,000 adults in 65 countries. The video footage of the child predators has been handed over to police authorities around the world.

I love it. I love a good news story about the internet and hearing that the good guys have gained an advantage. And I love to hear that men are taking a stand against sexual exploitation and using their ‘toys’ to protect children whose childhoods have been taken away. 

Read more from Steve in Sorted magazine - click here to buy your copy (or copies) today.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

The most wonderful time of the year?

I absolutely love the excitement that surrounds Christmas: decorating the tree, carols by candlelight, wrapping presents, the cheesy movies; the whole shebang. 

I love picking out Christmassy foods at the supermarket while bopping along to the classic tunes that can just about be heard over the general hubbub of people filling their trolleys with mince pies and mulled wine.

But sometimes we can get so caught up in the trimmings of Christmas, we forget about the important things. First, the reason that we celebrate Christmas in the first place: to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Second, that we are called to care for those that are less fortunate than us, a message that was close to Jesus’ heart.

So this week’s news that hunger in the UK – the seventh-richest country in the world – has reached public health emergency levels is a complete disgrace! An estimated 60,000 will be without food over Christmas this year! 

How are people going to bed hungry right under our noses? How are elderly people dying because they cannot afford to heat their homes? And how are families finding themselves without homes at all?

Now I realise that these problems exist all year round, not just at Christmas, but at this time of year we should be doing more, not less, to help those in need. Nobody should be without food, heat or shelter this Christmas!

So what can we do to help?
  • Find out where your nearest food bank is and take advantage of two-for-one offers when you’re next at the supermarket. You may not have tons of money to give away, but there are ways to give without bankrupting yourself.
  • Sign Jack Monroe’s petition calling for parliamentary debate on hunger in the UK. Did you know that 350,000 people received three-day emergency food rations from food banks between April and September this year alone?
  • Give sensitively. Maybe you have a neighbour, colleague or friend who is struggling to make ends meet. Find a way to help without being patronising. Perhaps you could take round a Christmas hamper, or better still, invite someone to share Christmas at your home. Maybe an elderly person you know will be spending a lonely Christmas at a residential care home or hospital this year. A half-hour visit could make all the difference.

The Bible speaks a great deal on this subject. Deuteronomy 15:7-11 tells us not to harden our hearts against our “poor brother”, while Leviticus 25:35 and Isaiah 58:6-7 go a step further, suggesting that the poor brother/homeless person is taken into our homes and supported.

Proverbs speaks extensively about meeting others’ needs and being generous to the poor (and the blessing that comes with it):
  • Proverbs 19:17: “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.”
  • Proverbs 22:9: “Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.”
  • Proverbs 14:21: “Whoever despises his neighbour is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.”

Jesus himself spoke extensively on the subject, for example in Luke 3:11: “And he answered them, ‘Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.’"

These verses are summed up nicely in 1 John 3:17-18: “But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

So let’s remember those in need this Christmas, and throughout 2014.

Finally, if you’re already doing all this and want to address the spiritual needs of those around you, why not use Christmas as an opportunity to invite a friend to church or to a carol service?

Or why not give them a gift that introduces them to the Christian faith? Yup, you’ve guessed it! Sorted and sister magazine Liberti make excellent Christmas presents for people of all faiths and of no faith. You can buy a gift subscription for one special person or a bumper box to distribute among friends and strangers alike.

Finally, check out this clip from The Piano Guys to get you in the Christmas mood. It’ll blow you away.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Sorted’s top ten tips for Christmas spending

According to new research, the average British adult will spend £488 on Christmas this year. While this is a slight decline from the £526 spent last year, it is still a significant amount of money to club together over the festive period.

On average, we will each spend £336 on presents and £152 on food, drink and entertainment, with women spending more on presents and men spending more on food and drink.

So how do we keep costs down this Christmas without turning into Ebenezer Scrooge?
  1. Set yourself a budget and stick to it. If you buy whatever you see without planning, you will end up spending far more. Work out exactly how much you are prepared to pay for each element: food, drink, presents, entertainment and transport. The Money Advice Service has set up a Christmas Money Planner that might help.
  2. Use discount vouchers, loyalty points and multi-buy deals to stock up the fridge and freezer this year. Even small savings add up, so make sure you check dates and make sure you’re getting the best possible value on the groceries you buy.
  3. Compare prices online. It is often possible to find a better deal by shopping around for the items you want. Remember to factor in delivery costs and to order well in advance so that all of your items arrive on time.
  4. Start making small cutbacks now. Forgo that daily coffee or weekly takeaway, perhaps. Every penny counts, as a certain supermarket would say.
  5. Get others involved. If you are in charge of hosting a big Christmas dinner, ask your guests to bring dessert, wine or even after dinner mints. It will make them feel more involved and help to cut costs for you.
  6. Avoid taking out store cards, high-interest credit cards and – most importantly – payday loans. These can seem enticing and may even help to spread the cost in the short term, but you will end up paying back far more than you borrowed and potentially end up in a cycle of debt. If you do have to borrow money to cover Christmas spending, try to use a credit card that offers 0% on purchases for a few months. Then write out a budget detailing how you will repay this debt in the New Year.
  7. Think about what you’re buying. One thoughtful and carefully planned gift is worth five run-of-the-mill presents. Listen out for hints from those around you and make a note of them. That way, the people you buy for get exactly what they want and you come off as the attentive husband/brother/father/colleague.
  8. Give to charity for free with Care2Save. Ok, this won’t necessarily save you money, but by using this site, you can donate to charity at no extra expense when you shop online. The company has signed up 130 UK brands, so that when you buy from these brands through the site the affiliate fee will be given to charity.
  9. Don’t forget to give to those in need. According to Shelter, 80,000 children in the UK will be homeless this Christmas. Many elderly people will be alone and without heating during the festive period. If you can afford to, a donation could be highly valued. If not, think of ways to help people in your community: volunteer at a soup kitchen, visit someone in hospital or drop off some groceries at a local food bank.
  10. Get yourself Sorted! We couldn’t possibly give you ten top spending tips without encouraging you to buy the gift that keeps on giving: a gift subscription to Sorted magazine. Perhaps you know someone who loves to read and has fantastic taste. If so, click here. Or maybe you want to give a one-off gift to all the men in your life: family members, friends, colleagues, fellow sportsmen, church members and so on. If so, click here to buy one of our bumper boxes of 40 copies for just £50! Money well spent!

Feel free to add your own money-saving tips in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Two free tickets to give away!

A special screening showing special footage from The Bible series – one of the most popular shows in the US this year – is to take place on Friday November 8 and Sorted has a pair of tickets to give away. Best of all, one of the stars of the show, Nonso Anozie, who plays Samson in the series, will attend the screening and share some of his own insights.

The screening will take place at Twentieth Century Fox’s London headquarters from 10am until 11.30am. We apologise for the short notice, but if you would like to attend, please email steve@sorted-magazine.com with your name and contact details before 3.30pm today. First come, first served!

If you’re not able to attend the screening event, fear not! Because we were able to secure an exclusive interview with Nonso and have included a snippet here. He described how he got into acting, his influences and some of the prestigious roles he has undertaken (our words not his – he’s far too humble to have said that!).

Becoming Samson
Like many little boys, Nonso Anozie grew up watching and re-enacting superhero films. Casting himself in the main role he would envisage himself saving the world, probably wearing pants over some brightly coloured tights as he did so.

Though now a little older and wiser, Nonso’s love for acting and superheroes has never abated. So when he was offered the role of Samson in hit television series The Bible, he didn’t need to think twice before taking on the challenge.

In the biblical account of the hairy hero’s life, Samson is given superhuman strength: he rips a lion apart with his bare hands, slays 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of an ass and – in the move that brought about his own death – ripped a pagan temple from its foundations. If the word “badass” had been in use back then, Samson might have been afforded a new nickname.

Nonso tells Sorted: “The story is very dynamic, very action-packed; something any guy would want to play. My youth was spent watching superhero movies and my dream was fulfilled playing this role; he’s kind of like a biblical superhero. It was a great opportunity.”

Fortunately for viewers, Nonso agreed to become the biblical strongman, and fortunately for him, the series was a huge hit in the US. Launched in March, the first episode was viewed by a whopping 13.1 million people; the largest cable television audience of the year up to that point. Including subsequent airings, the series was viewed by more than 100 million US viewers.

“That’s more than the Super Bowl!” says Nonso. “Samson was a great role to have and it also pushed my career on. It’s done amazingly great things for my career. To be able to spread the Word of God and actually act at the same time is something I’ve always believed in.”

Other major roles Nonso now has under his belt include Zamoran pirate Artus in Conan the Barbarian, Xaro Xhoan Daxos in HBO hit series Game of Thrones and Jackson Burke in The Grey, which starred Liam Neeson. “I’ve just finished Ender’s Game [with Harrison Ford and Viola Davis], which is released in November, The Bible is coming out in December, and I’m currently working on Cinderella with Disney,” Nonso divulges.

Directed by Kenneth Branagh, the live-action version of the popular fairy tale stars Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Richard Madden and Derek Jacobi, among others, with Nonso taking the part of Prince Charming’s loyal friend, the Captain. All we can say is, Madden had better pull off a pretty good performance as the lead man, because his best buddy is pretty charming himself, pants over tights or not.

Read the full interview with Nonso Anozie in Sorted January-February, out on December 18. You can click here to order our current issue, Sorted November-December today.

The Bible will air in the UK on Channel 5 this December. To find out more about the show, visit www.thebibleuk.org

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Search for the leader within

Guest blog from Luke Havard

How’s life? For many men, the token reply might be: “I can’t complain”, “Alright”, “OK” or “Not bad”. But how often are these standard answers simply an empty response designed to save from us from acknowledging and sharing the truth?

I don’t know about your experience, but I speak to a lot of different people from all walks of life and there’s a common theme I find with almost everyone when they’re being dangerously honest: life regularly feels like an uphill struggle.

But what if, in the midst of our darkest hour, we could reinterpret our biggest challenges and most painful struggles and use them as the catalyst for our greatest breakthroughs?

Eight years ago I hit rock bottom. In truth, I’d been struggling for years, but this was my lowest ebb. I was unemployed and addicted to drugs and alcohol, going from one relationship to the next and my life was a complete mess. After wasting years of my life in and out of trouble, I had exhausted all my options and I was fed up.

One day I decided I’d had enough. I felt powerless to control my life and was fed up of waiting for someone to rescue me. I stood on the edge of pavement feeling empty and heartbroken, riddled with anger and self-loathing. I decided my life was no longer worth living.
In that moment I decided to jump in front of one of the big tour buses that toured the red light district where I lived. But just as I had decided that I was ready to go through with it, something happened.

Now I don’t know what you believe, but in that moment I had an undeniable encounter with God. From one moment to the next, I felt such a deep need to live; as though a voice inside me was telling me to reconsider. The only way I can describe it is that there was a fight going on for my life; like I was being pulled from one side to another, from death to life.

I’m happy to say that the pull to live was so intense that I immediately stepped away from the curb through shock. An overwhelming sense of hope flooded my body and I knew without fully understanding how that there was more for me. That day I gave my life to Christ and was instantly free from my addictions.

Now, I’m a completely different person. I know that I am 100% forgiven of the mistakes that I made in the past. However, forgiveness was only the beginning of my journey. Over the last eight years I have dedicated my life to studying human psychology and to helping others make the changes that we as individuals have to make for ourselves.

I’ve realised that most people aren’t living the lives they’re designed to live. Regardless of their faith, the majority of people believe they have very little control over their destiny. Most have stopped growing and taking risks and have simply settled for the status quo. 

The reality is, no one ever aimed for mediocrity, but in order to avoid feeling out of control, most people have chosen to play safe and use humility as an excuse. Secretly, many live in regret.

The greatest myth perpetuated by society is that leadership begins and ends in the corporate boardroom. The truth is, real leadership starts in your own living room.
Regardless of what you believe, if you’re feeling unhappy, uninspired and unfulfilled, it’s because you are not the leader of your own destiny.

I’m excited to invite you to attend a two-day event called I’m hosting on January 31 and February 1 called ‘Become the Leader’. At this event you will learn exactly what you need to do in order to transform the way that see and live your life forever. 

This event will take you way out of your comfort zone, demanding more of you than you ever imagined possible. You’ll discover how to re-engineer your psychology so that you can feel more in control and happier than you have in a long time.

As a special incentive for Sorted readers, register before the end of December and I'll include £1,000 of bonuses when you email coaching@lukehavard.com with your ticket receipt and enter SORTED in the body of the email.

To register for the event, visit www.ExtraordinaryHumanPotential.com.

Read more from Luke in Sorted January-February, out in December. If you can’t wait for your Sorted fix until then, our November-December issue is just landing on subscribers’ doorsteps and hitting the shelves of WH Smith stores. Click here to buy your copy today.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Is Christianity being squeezed out of schools?

Having grown up in a Christian home and split my scholastic career between three ‘Christian’ schools, you might think I would have been overwhelmed by Bible teaching and endless faith-based discussions. 

However, while God was very real to me outside of school, the way religion was presented within the school walls was somewhat lacking. Assemblies were boring, RE lessons were lacklustre and the general feeling was that no-one really believed what they were teaching us anyway, so why should we?

Interestingly, Ofsted seems to have come to a similar conclusion when it comes to the portrayal of Christianity – and religion in general – in schools. According to the schools inspection body, the Christian faith is being “squeezed out” of schools and pupils deserve “much better”.

I actually remember what we were taught about other faiths much more distinctly than about Christianity at school. I was fascinated by the appearance of Vishnu and Shiva, and intrigued to learn what was eaten during the Passover Festival. But apart from some very dry discussion about sacraments and God’s judgement, I don’t remember very much of what we learnt about my own faith. I’m pretty sure Jesus was barely mentioned.

One of the criticisms Ofsted has levelled at schools is that they are focused on “superficial” observations and bringing discussions about Christianity to a “happy end” rather than engaging in genuine debate. I wanted to know how all the animals fitted into Noah’s ark, or at least whether my pets would go to heaven (I'm told not, but am still holding out hope). But back in my day controversy was strictly avoided, and Ofsted claims this is still the case today.

After inspecting 185 schools, Ofsted found that 60% of primary schools and just over 50% of secondary schools failed to realise the subject's full potential. Its 'Religious education: realising the potential' report identified low standards, weak teachings, a confused sense of purpose, training gaps and weaknesses in the way religious education is examined. 

RE is compulsory in all state schools at present, but weirdly it is not part of the national curriculum. Instead, individual schools and councils are responsible for drawing up their own syllabuses.

Ofsted’s director of schools, Michael Cladingbowl, said: "At its best, religious education encourages children and young people to extend their natural curiosity and prepares them for life in modern society.

"We saw some great examples of this during the survey, but too often we found religious education lessons being squeezed out by other subjects and children and young people leaving school with little knowledge or understanding of different religions.

"This just isn’t good enough when religion and belief are playing such a profound part in today’s world. Pupils deserve much better."

It’s hardly surprising that the number of pupils opting to study RE at GCSE level has dropped sharply. But on reflection, should schools be held responsible for teaching children about Christianity and other religions? Or do parents and local churches/religious centres also have a part to play?

I know for a fact I’d never have encountered God for myself through our boring RE lessons, but fortunately my parents walked out their faith and took me to church where I could ask the questions I had (and there were many) and pursue my own faith. So what about those who aren’t given this opportunity?
Well I guess that’s where we come in. Some Christians are accused of indoctrinating their children, but I believe it is our responsibility to present people with the basics and then allow them to make their own decisions. And that doesn’t just apply to children.

Sorted and Liberti magazines aren’t the answer to our schools’ lack of conviction when it comes to religion, but they certainly engage with Christianity in a real and unforceful way. I’m happy to have swapped the dusty lessons for the glossy magazines and I hope you will feel the same way should you choose to have a read.

Buy your copies here today.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Don’t you know there are children starving in Africa?

If your family was anything like mine, you will have heard the following phrase repeatedly while you were growing up. “You haven’t finished your carrots – don’t you know there are children starving in Africa?” My (usually silent for fear of force feeding) response was always: “Carrots are rank, even starving people wouldn’t eat them…”

This question was inevitably followed up with the threat of sending our leftovers to those living in poverty. A noble concept, I agreed, but having seen what happened to composted food within just a few days, I was sure my gravy-soaked carrots would be even less appetising by the time they arrived.

I’m not being flippant, though. The team at Sorted is passionate about seeing an end to global hunger, which is why the latest campaign from Christian Aid really appeals to us. The charity’s new film and spoof campaign, Leftovers for Africa, captures the genuine need in a fun and engaging way by capitalising on the crazy childhood myth many of us were fed as youngsters.

The film follows eager entrepreneur Dan Stirling as he tries to encourage people to save their leftover food in charity envelopes to send to Africa in a bid to solve world hunger. Aiming to inform young people of how they can be part of the fight against world poverty, the film ends with a positive – and more practical – message from the Christian Aid Collective that tells viewers how they can really help.

Christian Aid’s church youth manager, Laura Bardwell, said: “With Leftovers for Africa we’re aiming to engage young people in a way that Christian Aid has never tried before. We want to strip back the often dense political language of campaigning and provide simple, practical actions that they can take.

“This year has so far seen huge progress made on raising the awareness of food security and hunger issues with the IF campaign. Young people have played a big role in this and it’s important to provide them with a means of continuing this work and putting this learning into action.

“Leftovers for Africa suggests that by posting half-eaten food into envelopes and sending it to hungry people, we can help end world hunger. This of course is an absurd idea so we’re using this false message to inform young people of things they can do; actions they can take which will make a difference.”

The Christian Aid Collective gives people the opportunity to learn and engage with issues of poverty and social justice. Through the collective, young Christians who are passionate about campaigning can come together to learn, discuss and engage with the fight against global poverty.

Be among the first to watch the film by clicking here.

And by the way, reusing leftover food isn’t a totally crazy idea. Doing so can help to save money, reduce consumption and cut down on waste – what’s not to love? If you’re not a big lover of bubble and squeak like me, here are some great ideas from the BBC's Good Food showing you how best to use up those extra veggies or spuds you didn’t quite get through on Sunday. Even manky old carrots can be 'recycled' and the money you save can be used to support Christian Aid or other like-minded charities in the fight against hunger and poverty.

There’s also an app for those of us whose eyes are bigger than our stomachs and can’t quite finish the 16-inch pizza that seemed like such a good idea at the time. The app, called LeftoverSwap, allows users to upload pictures of their leftover food and allows people who are nearby to come and get it if it takes their fancy. We’re not convinced this is quite such a great idea (plus we all know cold pizza is delicious for breakfast), but we appreciate the sentiment behind it. 

Finally, find out if there is a foodbank in your area by clicking here. Some churches and community groups are doing a great job in providing food and other practical items for those who are struggling to make ends meet. It’s worth remembering that there are people starving where you live, too.

Find out more about other global campaigns and life issues in the upcoming edition of Sorted magazine. 

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Greenbelt 2013: the 40th birthday celebration

Guest post from Sorted's agony aunt, Jojo Meadows

I’ve been told that life begins at 40, but as I approach this grand age, the idea alarms me a little. Why? Well, I wonder whether previous years count if life begins at 40. But of course they do! In nearly 40 years of being on this earth, I have been shaped, moulded and altered by my former years and experiences. (PS, I’m not dead yet, although the phrase “former years” makes it sound like I’ve already popped my clogs!)

The same could be said for Greenbelt’s journey. The arts, faith and justice festival has embraced the idea of turning 40, growing gracefully and victoriously though its own conquests and challenges.

Greenbelt is held every August bank holiday weekend at Cheltenham Racecourse. Enriched by the beautiful surrounding area, this sprawling piece of land is turned into an animated community hub with a fresh vibe. The exclusive Racecourse accommodates 20,000 like-minded people, many of whom have travelled from far and wide to be part of this creative, abstract and non-denominational festival.
A variety of individuals, independent groups, non-denominational churches and established denominations come together each year. 

Festivalgoers relish the opportunity to explore and expand their faith and knowledge through creative art or inspiring talks that are primarily focused on spirituality and social justice.

Greenbelt’s got talent
This year, the weekend kicked off at five pm on the Friday with a dynamic array of acts. Popular comedian Milton Jones was on top form, as always. Renowned for his appearances on Mock the Week and Live at the Apollo, his ability to woo the audience with his waggish swagger is memorable to say the least.

Peter Rollins also impressed at the Jerusalem Venue, captivating his audience with deep theological circumlocution. Peter was enticing, dishing out a “taster” of what was to come; preparing the ears of his listeners and critics for the main talk on ‘Divine Decay: Living the ‘Death’ of God’ at the Big Top.

Folk On stormed the Mainstage and their combined wit and ability to entertain teens and the elderly alike made for excellent viewing. They even encouraged the crowd to have an old-fashioned sing-along. These comedy heroes have influenced Milton Jones as much as he has them.

Bottles and buddies
The Jesus Arms, or in the words of Ben Jones (a member of Ikon) ‘Back in the arms of Jesus’, proved to be a beer tent with a difference. On sale were spirits, cider and ale, with apt names such as ‘Jonah and the Ale’ chosen by various punters and workers. It was all in very good taste!

For me, Greenbelt was like going from home to home. I met old friends and made new ones, feeling really comfortable in my own skin. The friendliness of others caused me to feel like I belonged. As a single mother, I would say that whether you are married, dating or single, do not allow insecurity or intimidation to deter you from going. It is more or less impossible not to feel welcomed in this streamlined and seamless festival, which houses an aromatic throng of creative, opinionated, arty, dexterous and thoughtful souls.

Get together
As I walked around, breathing in the celebratory atmosphere, it was clear to me that this is how festival life should be. Actually, it is how everyday life should be lived. There was no strife, no angst, no collision of opinion without a respectful response, and people seemed happy to be around one another and accept people regardless of who they were. The atmosphere was enriched with different views, yet somehow the reverence bestowed was not about religion; it was about a unity of love and a meditative understanding that we can all celebrate and join together as a community.

One community that really caught my eye was Belfast-based Ikon, which facilitated a deeply creative act of worship entitled ‘The End’. While walking into a dark and deeply mysterious room, each of us was given a balloon, which symbolised our own lives. We then had to attach the balloon to a body part or item of clothing. Either the number ‘1’ or the word ‘one’ was written on the balloon.

We walked into a sultry atmosphere knowing that a thought-provoking experience that tantalised our sensory abilities awaited us. The delivery was as good as expected; combining a fresh blend of visual imagery, theatre and interaction with the audience. When interviewing a couple as they walked out, one described it as “a form of art within worship that has caused me to want to step out of what I know and look and reflect with a new ideology”.

Black and light
Another event that caused a stir was the Gothic Eucharist, which took place in the Aspire Venue. A choir called nChant, all dressed in black, led the worship and engaged with the 400 people who turned up. Despite being an ‘outsider’ on the surface, I wasn’t treated this way at all. In fact, I was very much included in the beautifully mysterious gothic worship and communion.

The worship consisted of a deep tribal drumbeat with a medieval chant that brought shivers to my soul. I started to come alive, stirring up dark things that I had suppressed, bringing them to the fore so that I could reflect upon and deal with them.

The main service was led by Skye Denno and three assistants, having been written by Skye’s husband Joel. Their intention was clear as they talked with passion and zeal about their convictions. The talk was based on the four elements: fire, water, earth and air and each priest took one of these elements.

Three readings took place and the communion table sat prominently in the middle of the room. Various ‘alternative’ representatives from around the country helped to distribute the sacraments to symbolise unity. Everyone was treated equally, whether they presented themselves as ‘traditional’ or ‘alternative’.

Pennie Ley, who participated in the prayers during the communion, explained how much support and love she and others had received. Friends and family of Sophie Lancaster (who was tragically murdered six years ago after defending her boyfriend from a group of people who were taunting the pair for dressing differently) regularly attend to remember who Sophie was and to celebrate her legacy.

Surprisingly, after optional baptismal vows were offered, followed by the ancient tradition of sprinkled water with rosemary, one girl stepped forward asking to be baptised properly. She wasn’t disappointed.

A house away from home
A new venue I stumbled across this year was the GTV Treehouse. GTV has been on site for five years, filming and capturing short talks, acoustic music events and punters’ opinions on the festival. However, over the last few years, Greenbelt’s organisers have revealed a bigger and better vision for GTV. As a result, the setup was a little different this year. Walking into the blackout studio space, it felt like a really intimate venue. The grass was soft underfoot and birds were tweeting in the background, and the set was kitted out like a traditional tree house, with fresh wood and naked bulbs aplenty.

Speakers gave short talks on themes such as, ‘I raise a glass...’ and ‘When I am 40, I hope…’. There was also an eclectic mix of discussions on subjects such as storytellers, godless churches, Gandhi, eating as a subversive activity and failure. Evenings at the Treehouse featured a host of lyrical music, poetry sessions and conversational panels on women in the church.

The venue is unique as everything is pre-filmed, which provided a relaxed atmosphere for the audience, but with acts such as Martyn Joseph, Miriam Jones, Alice Wroe and Sanderson Jones on hand, we were kept entertained with a host of witty anecdotes and stories. The talks and music events will be posted on the website as free podcasts throughout the year for people who couldn’t attend the festival and for use in churches, so don’t forget to take a look.

And… breathe…
One service I really have to applaud is St John Ambulance. Its staff patrolled the length and breadth of the festival day and night, catering for every incident. They were so attentive and professional in their duty, and I had first-hand experience of this. While walking some distance from the main arena, I had a sudden asthma attack. Two St John patrollers were walking by and could see my struggle. They practically carried me to the medical centre, where I was treated immediately. They monitored me after the attack and had someone watch me the whole time.

As I sat with a mask over my mouth, breathing in the oxygen and treatment, I started to reflect on Greenbelt and how it originated, as well as the trials and tribulations it has encountered. I felt so honoured to be part of this 40th birthday celebration. So thank you Greenbelt for persisting in the face of adversity and for bringing a fresh, dynamic approach.

Best for last
The weekend was packed with an array of delights; the ‘gold’ glistened like a pirate’s booty. Within the treasure stores were the likes of Lemar, Clare Balding, Pip Wilson, Gareth Higgins, Steve Chalke and Fat and Frantic.

Then, as a finale for Greenbelt’s spectacular 40th birthday celebrations (almost like the icing on the birthday cake) came Belfast’s very own Duke Special, a talented singer/songwriter whose lyrics draw you in as though you are a musical note or a word uttered from his own mouth. Duke’s stage presence, along with the full Greenbelt orchestra, made it feel like a warm portion of sunshine had collided with the stage.

A DVD showcasing Greenbelt’s history is now available here, and I would highly recommend that you buy it.

Read more from Jojo in Sorted magazine - click here to buy your September-October issue today.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Why I support the rights of women

By Steve Legg

If I’m honest, I don’t really understand why anyone wouldn’t support the rights of women. There’s more depth to the debate than that, of course; but on one level, what kind person doesn’t treat everyone with respect?

The thing is, I love women. Let me qualify that: I’m a dad raising five women, a husband partnered by a simply brilliant woman, and I was raised by the first women I ever loved – my mum. Each of these women is amazing in their unique way and I love to watch them reach their potential; to grow and develop and aim high. I don’t like to see them boxed in by other people’s opinions, ignored because they’re ‘just women’ or leered at, because alongside being outstanding they happen to be stunners.

As a Christian I’ve chosen to follow a God who, when he came to earth as a man, went out of his way to honour women, who respected them regardless of their background, marital status or profession, and who empowered women to go out and change the worlds they lived in, even though culturally that was incomprehensible. Jesus loved women too.

I run a men’s magazine, Sorted, and I started it because I wanted my son and his mates to be able to read a magazine that wasn’t full of semi-naked women. I wanted him to understand that reading about footballers is entertaining and that learning about great adventurers is exciting, but that getting kicks out of looking at naked women is offensive.

I wanted to reach more men and boys with that message, but I also wanted the women in my life to know that there are men who want that type of magazine; who aren’t just buying their ‘reading’ material for the pictures. Some great women write for the magazine, and they’re appreciated for their journalism skills and their wit, not for their vital statistics.

From the beginning, I’ve wanted to take on the magazines that objectify women: Loaded and Nuts being two of my particular bugbears. It has been amazing to watch Sorted’s circulation rise as theirs have dropped. We now distribute more magazines than Loaded

There have been many campaigns to boycott these magazines, but I think it sends an even louder message to the market when the ‘boobs, babes and bums free’ magazine overtakes the smut through a process of natural selection.

I want to encourage men to be men – to learn how to be good dads, husbands, brothers and friends – and at the heart of that is the lesson of how to live in what I believe is a God-ordained equal partnership with women.

Visit our website to find out more about Sorted magazine and click here to order your copy today.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Having a smashing time

After a lovely family dinner celebrating my mum’s 60th birthday last week, I turned a corner I had rounded a hundred times before and heard a horrible, gut-wrenching crunch as the metal of my car bonded with the metal of someone else’s (parked) car. To make matters work, I had to keep crunching before I was able to move my poor battered motor away from its new buddy.

I pulled up at the side of the road, and I’ll admit that a series of thoughts went through my head. Would anybody ever know if I just drove off without saying anything? (Yes, I’m ashamed about that one.) The thing is, my car has been hit two or three times in the four months I’ve lived in my street and no one owned up, so what goes around comes around, right? I couldn’t exactly justify that to myself.

Anyway, I left a note on the Audi (I don’t do things by half), apologising and providing my details. Then I went to my friend’s and wept a little. And panicked… And waited… And then, when I remembered what one should do in situations like this, I prayed.

Around this time, my mum texted me Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” It was hard to see how anything good could come out of a car accident, but I guess that’s why they call it faith.

Almost a week later I had heard nothing. Deep down I hoped that whoever owned it had chalked it up to bad experience and that I was off the hook. Not likely! I eventually received a call from a friend of the Audi owner, as the owner doesn’t speak English. The friend thanked me for owning up and said Mr Audi would accept a very small cash payment to fix his bashed-up motor. It then transpired that said friend is a car bodywork specialist and will be able to fix the damage to my car for next to nothing.

This might not sound like much to you, but I guess this was the best possible result from a situation that seemed pretty bleak at the time. I don’t need to claim on my insurance, and I’ve also made connections with two local people who I otherwise wouldn’t have crossed paths with. And now if anyone else bashes into my car and doesn’t own up, I at least know who to call!

While I was looking for news stories to populate the Sorted site in the aftermath, I couldn’t seem to avoid car-related press releases. The first, from Admiral Car Insurance, was about drink driving, and worryingly revealed that 19% of Brits (27% of men and 10% of women) admit to having driven while over the limit.

The second showed that men aged 50 and over are more likely to get distracted behind the wheel than their female counterparts. Research from Saga Car Insurance claims two-thirds of men over 50 have been distracted behind the wheel during the last 12 months compared with half of women.

Men are twice as likely to be distracted by programming Sat Navs (23% versus 13%), rubbernecking (15% versus 9%) and channel hopping on the stereo (24% versus 18%). A quarter of men also admit to ogling attractive passersby, while just 1% of women say their eyes have momentarily wandered towards a good-looking male.

Having hit two parked cars and two birds with my car in the last two years, I’m hardly in a position to offer road safety advice, so I’ll let Saga's director of communication, Paul Green, do it for me. "Driving is like second nature to most of us and we forget about the risks of getting behind the wheel,” he says, adding: “The best advice to drivers is to stay safe and don't be an in-car fiddler."

When it comes to drink driving, no one says it better than Sue Longthorn, Admiral’s managing director: "It's vital that people are aware of how much alcohol they are consuming when they are due to drive, and remember that drink driving is not acceptable in any shape or form and it's never worth the risk."

"The difference between men and women in our research is a worry, as it appears the anti drink driving message is getting through to women, but not so effectively with men. The amount of alcohol in someone's blood is the same, regardless of their gender."

(Shameless plug alert) If you’re in the London area and you’ve had a few jars, why not jump into the Sorted taxi rather than taking the car? You’ll get a free copy of the magazine instead of a potential fine/ban/prison sentence! You can’t say much fairer than that.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Should access to pornography be restricted?

In carrying out research for this blog, I was forced to type the words “David Cameron porn” into Google. That’s something I hoped I would never have to do! Fortunately, the results it drudged up related to the latest government ruling on pornography that will force internet users to opt in if they wish to view X-rated material.

The law, which will take effect in 18 months’ time has met with some controversy, with many criticising the ‘nanny state’ mentality at play. Others feel that the lawmakers are na├»ve and that the ruling won’t prevent those who want to access adult-only sites from doing so. I guess my feeling is that any step towards restricting access to porn is a good one, but that more can certainly be done.

Google search figures show that more people in the UK visit adult-only sites than Facebook and Twitter put together. The data shows that 8.5% of searches were for online pornography, while just 7.3% sought access to social networking websites. Perhaps most worryingly, the study did not include hits from mobile phones or searches for child pornography, which tend to occur on secret networks that are often referred to as the ‘dark internet’.

Meanwhile, another campaign is underway to criminalise porn that appears to simulate rape. While some argue that consumers of pornography are discerning enough to recognise the difference between entertainment and real-life crime, others (like me) feel that rape does not make for suitable entertainment content in any shape or form.

Fiona Elvines, operations co-ordinator at Rape Crisis South London, says: “We see the harm of rape pornography in the ways the material assists in normalising offending for perpetrators, helping them legitimise and strategise their crimes, as well as overcome internal resistance. 

“Evidence shows rapists use rape pornography as part of their deliberate pre-offence preparation. The amended law will make this in itself a crime; a significant step towards primary rape prevention through giving legal grounds for intervening before a sexual offence is committed.”

Now I’m not suggesting that everyone who watches this kind of material is about to go out and re-enact what they have seen, but why watch it at all? I think it’s sad that this legislation is necessary, but it certainly is necessary.

On a lighter note, some good news came in this week on the lads’ mag front with The Co-operative forcing publishers to cover up indecent images using modesty covers. Introduced in response to customer feedback, it hopes the screens will prevent children from being confronted by pictures of scantily clad women during the weekly shop. We hope other stores will follow suit.

Child Eyes, a project that aims to restrict children’s exposure to sexual and violent images, welcomes this decision. However, it recognises that “there is still a lot of work to be done”. A statement from the organisation says: “We need to keep the pressure up to rid the streets of sexual imagery. There is no automatic filter in shops and supermarkets! We are still working hard to make Britain more family-friendly and we need you.”

You can click here to sign a petition making it illegal to display pornography around children, and follow @ChildEyesUK on Twitter for regular updates.

Finally, you can support Sorted magazine. Designed to reach out to men without using sexual imagery, we are thrilled that anti-pornography measures are hitting the headlines and that the general public is eager for protective measures to be introduced.

We know that pornography isn’t going to go away, but we believe that children should be shielded from it. We also believe women should be respected and cherished rather than gawked at and objectified. Finally, we believe men should be offered a better alternative; a magazine that is entertaining but that deals with the real issues of life in an engaging and practical way, for example.

We printed a whopping 40,000 copies of our July-August issue and were able to give away a large proportion of these to many who might not have picked it up otherwise. It would be great if you could support us by buying a one-off copy for a friend, subscribing to the magazine yourself, advertising your business within its pages or by making a donation.

Our September-October edition is about to go to print and are excited about the impact it is going to have! Thanks for all your support.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Domestic violence against men

The issue of domestic violence has really been on my mind in the last week, particularly after seeing a horrendous cartoon featured on Genius Football’s Twitter feed. I’ll spell it out in words as we don’t want to republish the image:

(Man and woman in clinch) Woman: “Hey love. I have arranged our honeymoon on August 17th.
(Man hits woman in the face, causing a large flow of blood) Man: “Dafuq? I aint missing the start of Premier League. Go alone.”

Making a joke of a man beating a woman for any reason is enough to make anybody’s stomach turn. The picture has since been taken down from the social media site and I hope the person who posted it is well and truly ashamed.

But it’s actually domestic violence against men I want to talk about. This is partly because our Smart Talk (problem page) panel recently received a letter from a guy who was being hit by his wife, and partly because there is so little focus on this type of violence in the media. Domestic violence against women is certainly a taboo, but we could be forgiven for thinking that violence against men simply doesn’t happen.

Did you know that one-third of domestic violence victims are men? I have to say I was shocked at that statistic, and I actually looked it up to verify it (with the National Centre for Domestic Violence). Because when those two ugly words are spoken, I invariably think of a man standing threatening over a terrified and defenceless woman.

I admit this is ignorance on my part, but I also think that male victims are repeatedly, and wrongly, ignored. According to the same site, one in six men will experience domestic violence during their lifetime and a 999 call is made every three minutes by a male victim.

Perhaps this issue doesn’t get as much ‘air time’ because men find it more difficult to talk about abuse and to ask for help. After all, men are supposed to strong and protective aren’t they? Surely admitting to being hit – not least by a woman – is to admit weakness and defeat? Of course, this isn’t our opinion at Sorted; it’s just the way some men see themselves. Then when violence occurs they blame themselves for not upholding the media-fuelled ‘standard of manhood’. Regardless of gender, any human being can be abusive to another, whether verbally or physically, and this has no bearing on the victim’s physical or emotional strength.

It is important to talk about domestic violence, because silence perpetuates the problem and gives the abuser power. Some find it helpful to speak to a close friend, while others prefer to talk to a stranger, such as a counsellor or a church leader. Doing so helps to release pent-up emotions and can enable victims to see solutions where before there was only hopelessness. Admitting that abuse is taking place isn’t a sign of weakness; it takes immense courage to do this.

Others feel that speaking about domestic abuse is a betrayal of the partner carrying out the abuse. Many blame themselves and feel they deserve to be hit, while others love their partners deeply and want to fix things without stirring the waters. Each case is different and there is no right or wrong way to act, but it’s important to accept that the violence is wrong and that, one way or another, it has to stop.

There are several groups out there to help men experiencing domestic violence, including Men's Advice Line and ManKind Initiative. Men’s Advice Line offers the following advice for male victims:

·         Keep a record of the dates and times of any incidents. If you have been injured, seek medical attention and the doctor will make a note of your injuries
·         Keep your phone charged and on your person at all times in case you need to make an emergency call
·         Tell a trusted friend or family member what's been happening
·         Make sure your passport and important documents are kept in a safe place (preferably with a trusted friend)
·         Report violence or criminal damage to the police
·         Don’t retaliate, it's not safe

If you or someone you know has experienced domestic violence of any kind, get in touch with Men’s Advice Line on 0808 801 0327 or via the website.

Read more on this issue in the upcoming edition of Sorted magazine, out August 19.