Image for 10 things we learned making the new issue of Positive News magazine

10 things we learned making the new issue of Positive News magazine

Recruiting spies is more difficult than Hollywood makes out, sometimes it’s OK to leave your kids in a pub, and eight more things we learned while putting together the new issue of Positive News magazine – out now

Recruiting spies is more difficult than Hollywood makes out, sometimes it’s OK to leave your kids in a pub, and eight more things we learned while putting together the new issue of Positive News magazine – out now

1. England’s hedge fund is seriously valuable

In a literal case of joined-up thinking, a bright spark at the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology decided to create a map of England’s hedges. Lined up end to end, they would stretch almost 10 times around the Earth – a discovery that we report on this issue. Ecologists hope the data will lead to better protection for these deceptively complex eco-systems, which provide shelter for wildlife and lock up large amounts of carbon. Using aerial laser scanning to identify more than 242,000 miles of hedges, they found that Cornwall has the most while Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire have the least.  

Image: Mike Bird 

2. Secondhand shopping can be faster than fast fashion

“I was running through Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, and these trousers were on a dummy in the window. They fitted me a treat, so I put them in a bag and carried on running with them under my arm,” says Wayne Hemingway (pictured), one of the five inspiring case studies in this issue’s cover story on secondhand fashion.

Running is a prominent theme for the designer, who also chose the brogues he wore in our shoot because they’re comfortable enough to run in. You might not be surprised, then, to find out that when not dreaming up conversation-shifting designs or working on plans to take charity shopping to the next level, he’s a keen marathon runner. 

Image: Will Sanders

How can I help stop climate change
3. Preloved fashion is fast losing its ‘cringe’ factor, too

Brits are no longer embarrassed to buy from charity shops as they try to save money, according to research from SQLI Digital Experience, a digital agency. Maybe you’ve long held up your preloved purchases as a point of pride, but 73% of UK adults say they are now comfortable being seen heading into a charity shop due to the cost of living crisis. It’s a crisis we obviously wish didn’t exist – but the rehabilitation of preloved fashion’s reputation could prove one silver lining. 

Image: Clem Onojeghuo

4. Taking your kids to the pub isn’t always frowned upon

Parents who regularly leave their children in pubs for hours on end may receive a disapproving glance or two. But not at The Star of Greenwich in London (pictured), where a spare room is ‘rented’ out for free for children’s stay and play sessions. It’s just one way in which the pub is a community hub: it also hosts English lessons for refugees, charity meetings, and pop-ups with a community organisation that trains and employs refugee chefs. The Star may appear a classic East End boozer, but it has a growing reputation for doing things differently and is one of three community-owned establishments we were cheered to profile this issue.  

Image: Josh Bright

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5. It’s a kind of magic (hanging out at a festival)

Frank Cottrell-Boyce – children’s book author, screenwriter of films such as 24 Hour Party People, and writer of the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony – was struggling after his mother died. “In my grieving I lost my mojo,” he recalls. “I remembered thinking: ‘I’ve lost my magic, where should I look?’”  

To try to reboot his zeal for life, he literally learned magic, and is bringing that sense of wonder, hope and joy to this year’s Brighton Festival, as we discover in our interview with him this issue. “Adults get so little opportunity to be vulnerable and open. To see people’s defences go down and just go: ‘Wow’, is so wonderful,” he says, of curating this year’s wonder-packed, multi-arts programme. 

Image: James Hole

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6. Recruiting spies isn’t as easy as the movies make out

Charles Duhigg’s new book, Supercommunicators, opens with an example of a CIA agent who tried and repeatedly failed to recruit spies in Europe. Jim Lawler was, as our writer puts it: “luckless and desperate”. It wasn’t until he went to dinner with a foreign ministry official from the Middle East and despondently spilled out how terrible he was at the task, that things changed. Despite already giving him a firm “no”, once he put his vulnerabilities on the table and started communicating in an authentic and genuine way, she was persuaded and eventually became one of the CIA’s best assets in the region.  

We can work at having deeper conversations, argues Duhigg in our interview with him this issue, to help us to connect with others in disconnected times.

Illustration: Rosie Barker

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7. The flowers at your feet hold clues to where you stand

Ancient woodlands like Fingle Woods in Devon, England, have provided sanctuary to rare species for some 400 years. And, with help, there’s plenty of life in these old woods yet. That’s the message from those at the Woodland Trust, a conservation charity, who tell the story of their work in such locations this issue via the stories of seven fascinating species. 

Did you know that bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) are sometimes called witches’ thimbles? Or that wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa) – which bloom in early spring – are ‘ancient woodland indicators’, meaning their presence could be a sign that you’re standing in a special habitat? Easily identified by their pretty white petals, you can spot them between March and May.  

Image: Michael Maggs

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8. The road to Paris is paved via a call centre

One of our interviewees this issue went from working in a call centre to being snapped up by one of the biggest sports brands on the planet. Karam Singh, AKA Kid Karam, hopes to turn things upside down in the French capital when breaking – or breakdancing to the less clued-up of us – makes its Olympic debut this summer. The sport is about to soar in profile, with Nike-bankrolled Singh a major figurehead. But it wasn’t always this way. In his mid-teens, Singh (pictured) was beginning to break through – getting paid to dance professionally for the likes of Sky TV. Ironically, he also answered phones in a Sky call centre and would cringe with embarrassment when his face popped up in sports interviews on the TV screens at work. The Nike sponsorship deal gave him his ticket out in 2021, and made Singh the first b-boy in the world to join the brand’s athlete programme.  

Image: Fabio De Paola

isabella tree
9. Biodiverse gardens can spring from unlikely foundations …

A blend of crushed brick and concrete doesn’t sound the most promising recipe for a beautiful, wildlife-rich garden, but that’s exactly what lies beneath one we find out about briefly this issue. It comes in our interview with Isabella Tree (pictured), co-rewilder-in-chief at Knepp estate in Sussex. Some 400 tonnes of the stuff, to be precise, has been dumped from the building site of the project’s new restaurant – the Wilding Kitchen – on to the estate’s former croquet lawn, to create a dry-conditions garden that now flourishes with more than 1,000 plant species.To see nature rebounding, defying all the odds and all the predictions, is a huge message of hope,” Tree tells us. 

Image: Anthony Cullen

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10. … and if you lack a croquet lawn to rewild, there’s empowerment in guerrilla gardening too

That’s according to a suggestion from one of our readers, Richard in Reading, England, when we asked our community: what have you done to empower yourself in these strange times? He has taken it upon himself to help eradicate invasive Himalayan balsam from local riverbanks, recommending the satisfaction that comes in seeing what native plants spring up in its absence. Another reader sings the praises of swapping out a smartphone for a dumbphone, while giving up booze, leaving a toxic job and ditching the pursuit of perfection are among the other things mooted as tonics for our times. Get hold of the issue to read the full list. 

Image: Lisa Fotios

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Main image: Will Sanders

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