Tag Archives: 5

Benjamin Sniddlegrass and the Cauldron of Penguins

Mark Kermode is the film reviewer on BBC Radio 5. His show goes out every Friday afternoon on the radio and is also available as a podcast on iTunes – it has become one of the most popular British podcasts on iTunes. Each week, Kermode runs through the new movies of the week and exchanges a considerable amount of banter with co-host Simon Mayo.

Some time back the film ‘Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief’ was released and Kermode criticised it as nothing more than an American Harry Potter – a kind of colour-by-numbers movie about kids at a boarding school where they learn about magic.

His review suggested that any filmmaker could produce a film about kids learning magic and with the support of the Harry Potter fan base, it would almost certainly be a success. He suggested the name ‘Benjamin Sniddlegrass and the Cauldron of Penguins’ during the review as a typical name that could be used.

And so an Australian filmmaker went off and made a film using that name. It has just been released and contains a number of jokes referencing the Kermode show. So regular listeners to the show will find references to Jason Isaacs, David Morrissey, Werner Herzog, and all the favourite characters that seem to pop up week after week on the film show.

I’m going to download and watch it soon. Given that the budget was only something like A$5,000, I don’t expect to be dazzled, but to put a full-length feature movie together based only on a BBC film review is an impressive (or mad) achievement so it deserves some support.

And if I have not already said it, “Hello Jason Isaacs.”
Phoenix Cinema

Council Tax – what no refund?

Last year, Ealing council gave resident tax-payers a £50 refund. Many were surprised. We pay tax to the council, nobody expects money back, but they insisted and the supposed aim was to encourage people to go out and spend £50 locally that they might not otherwise have done.

But it was a flawed operation because this was a cash refund. Most people just got the money refunded back to their current account. So there was no compulsion to spend the money locally. Of course a voucher scheme could have been created – like the 20p-off coupons you used to see in magazines – but that would have cost a lot to administer anyway.

I’d like to suggest an alternative idea that really works, for both residents and the council. In São Paulo, Brazil, the local residents all pay their local council tax to the local authority, but the local authority also issues all tax-payers with a card similar to a credit card. When making any purchases, no matter how large or small, they can use this ‘council card’ as a loyalty card. The council totals up how much you spent in the local district over the past year and issues a refund to you based on a percentage of what you spent.

So the card ensures that local residents can prove they are spending money in the local area and even local corner shops ask for the number.

It’s not perfect. It does mean the better off and those with more disposable income can create a bigger council discount by spending more locally, but it does at least encourage residents at all levels of wealth to spend locally, knowing their tax bill will be reduced if they support local bars, restaurants, and shops.

A simple idea. When will a local authority in London introduce it?
Dawn over São Paulo