Tim Smedley

I'm a freelance writer. I specialise in sustainability, work, and urban innovation.
Frequent journalist, sometime ghostwriter, book author in progress.
The Guardian

Children's TV pretends disability doesn't exist

Fireman Sam and How to Train Your Dragon feature the only disabled characters currently on long-running children’s television franchises. Other characters crop up here and there – the Disney Channel introduced double-amputee Aussie explorer, Wildlife Will to its Doc McStuffins show, and it featured wheelchair user Johnny McBride (voiced by Shia LaBeouf) in The Proud Family – but both appeared for one episode only. The BBC has a history of disabled characters, from Grange Hill’s Rachel Burns wi

Film Review: The Imposter

If your youngest son disappeared at the age of 13, you'd do anything to get him back. And if he re-appeared four years later on the other side of the world, mentally scarred after a horrific tale of sexual abuse, you'd pick him up no questions asked. But if his eye colour had changed, his skin was darker, he appeared older than 16 and spoke with an indelible foreign accent... could you pick out the truth from your desire to believe? This is the story that unfolds in director Bart Layton's incredible (and rarely has that word been more aptly used) documentary about the disappearance of 13-year-old Texan Patrick Barclay in 1994. A large family bereft by the loss of their blond-haired, blue-eyed boy, were only too willing to believe the news that someone claiming to be Patrick had appeared in Spain. His older sister – who had never left the US before, let alone able to find Spain on a map – promptly got on a plane to pick him up. Finding him much changed and very scared, she recognised some of his facial features and even the home-made tattoos he had on his hands and arms. He, she felt sure, was Patrick. And so she brought him home to a family who welcomed him back with open arms, a school that re-enrolled him and a local media who treated him as their darling.
The Guardian

Project Wild Thing: a film-maker's campaign to reconnect kids with nature

Film-maker David Bond believes we have a problem. We are raising a generation of children who don't play outside any more. Time spent playing outdoors is down 50% in just one generation. Inactivity and obesity mean children born today have a lower life expectancy than their parents, for the first time ever. Meanwhile, evidence overwhelmingly suggests that natural environments have restorative physical and mental health effects, as well as specifically promoting child development. So children no
The Guardian

Swings, slides and iPads: the gaming companies targeting kids' outdoor play

Three-quarters of UK children now spend less time outside than prison inmates, according to a new survey, with the lure of digital technology partly to blame. But, in a world where gaming and screen time are an everyday reality, could the right technology actually get more kids to play outdoors? Hybrid Play is a Spanish start-up which uses augmented reality (AR) – patching computer imagery on to real life – to transform playgrounds into video games. A wireless sensor resembling an over-sized cl
Kamera

DVD review: Il Boom (1963)

Coming from one of the master directors of Italian Neo-Realism, Il Boom (1963) is something of a surprise. Having pioneered a new type of realist film-making casting non-actors in tragic tales of post-war poverty, Vittorio De Sica along with screenwriter Cesare Zavattini, produced arguably Neo-Realism's best known works: Bicycle Thieves (1948) and Umberto D (1952). Both feature central male characters traipsing the streets of Rome struggling Sisyphus-like against their lot, only for their efforts to roll them further down in the mire. So for De Sica and Zavattini to collaborate again on Il Boom – a swinging '60s comedy starring one of Italy's most famous comic sons, Alberto Sordi – is quite a contrast.
The Guardian

Banksy, Gormley or Hirst: is public art good for the nation's wellbeing?

It pops up in local parks and town squares; looms over motorway lanes and lurks in hospital car parks. Public art. It's everywhere. But what impact does it have, if any? And could it even have an effect on our health and wellbeing? Perhaps the most famous modern example in the UK is Anthony Gormley's Angel of the North. Before it was erected in 1998, vociferous objection from local opposition councillors and residents almost succeeded in stopping it. Indeed objections to a previous Gormley des
Third Sector

Kevin Cahill of Comic Relief: 'There is still public trust in us as an organisation'

Kevin Cahill admits that when he joined Comic Relief in 1990 they were still making it up as they went along. He arrived from the National Theatre, where as head of education he persuaded stars such as Anthony Hopkins to speak to groups of school children about the theatre world. Glad-handing stars and entertaining the public proved a useful training ground. He joined a team of 20, licking envelopes alongside the founder Richard Curtis, and riding the wave of goodwill for celebrities trying to c

DVD Box-set review: Paul Morrissey

Andy Warhol evokes a few iconic images - The Factory, silver-foiled walls, orgies, drugs – but the only Morrissey I was aware of was the lead singer of The Smiths, and Dallesandro meant even less. Flesh marked the beginning of my stroll of discovery into this arena of cinema that, although far from forgotten or untapped, has been given that most modern of rebirths: the DVD boxset. Andy Warhol had no direct involvement in this film, but indirectly, of course, he allowed and inspired young directors such as Paul Morrissey to make these types of films. The film opened at Warhol's Garrick Theater in New York, recouping its $1,500 costs in the first week, and ran for seven months before finding worldwide distribution. Its biggest success was in Germany, where it became one of the highest grossing films of 1970. For Dallessandro it meant instant cult and mainstream fame, depending on which country's perspective you look from. Nineteen when Flesh was filmed, he seemed to embody many of the intangible ideas of the late sixties – a new sex, a masculine androgyny, a drugged-up Renaissance figure.
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