Girls guitar sales soaring

FEMALE musicians are being credited with a huge boost in guitar sales, as more and more women are being inspired by celebrities like KT Tunstall, Avril Lavigne and the late Amy Winehouse.

Guitar purchases have doubled over the last ten years, and industry bosses say that female stars have played a large part in attracting young women to the hobby.

Traditionally, when people think of great guitarists it’s not long before names like ‘Jimi Hendrix’, ‘Eric Clapton’ and ‘Slash’ are mentioned.

But the male-dominated market appears to be changing, with some guitar manufacturers even producing smaller guitars specifically for women.

And, with acoustic guitars now outselling their electric counterpart, it’s thought that the rise of six string-wielding female artists may be responsible for inspiring women and girls to take up the hobby.

In recent years the charts have been filled with more and more successful female solo artists and popular bands featuring guitar-playing frontwomen.

Until now, just a handful of legendary female musicians were recognised for their guitar playing skills, such as Joan Jett and Joni Mitchell.

But a younger generation of artists including Laura Marling, Taylor Swift and Hayley Williams, of chart-topping rock band Paramore, have been responsible for making the girl-with-a-guitar image increasingly common.

And with indie musician Anna Calvi receiving a Mercury Award nomination for best album just last week, female musicians are no longer being pigeonholed as singers.

Data from the Music Industries Association showed 835,000 instruments were sold in 2010, compared with 450,000 in 1998.

Chief Executive of the MIA, Paul McManus, said that an increase in the affordability of instruments and more access to music in today’s society has contributed to the rise of women in music.

He said: “It’s a combination of factors, there are some great female role models, and the number of female singer songwriters in the last few years has gone off the clock.

“You just have to look at someone like Adele for an example of that.

“It’s not that men have suddenly stopped playing, anything but, in fact, but it’s become much easier and more attractive for women to pick up an instrument.”

He added that the availability and increasing prominence of music also had a part to play.

He said: “Music is much more around us than it was, people listen to their iPods on the train, and TV shows centered around music.

“There is more and more inspiration for more and more young girls, whether it’s on TV shows like the X-Factor or from women in the charts.

“It all has a ripple effect, of course.”

Carl Whiteside, general manager of one of the UK’s largest on-line retailers,, said he had also noticed the difference.

He said: “We’ve had an upsurge in women buying guitars.  We are dealing with daily enquiries for advice on good quality starter guitars that look good and are a suitable fit for the female frame and smaller hands.”

Mr Whiteside added that traditional guitars can sometimes be awkward for the more slender female body.

He said: “Part of the pleasure of guitar playing is in the comfort fit.

“You’ll see many well known guitarists have battered and worn guitars that they’ve had for years.

“It’s important to get advice on what’s best depending on a person’s build.”

Schoolgirl Marianne Devereux, 14, has also recently taken up the instrument. She said: “I was heavily influenced by Avril Lavine to start with but more recently I really like Taylor Swift. I actually ditched the piano in favour of the guitar because it’s more portable and it looks cooler.”

Two of the world’s biggest guitar manufacturers, Gibson and Fender, have debuted female-focussed lines over the last few years.

Gibson created two models – the ‘Vixen’ and the ‘Goddess’ – thin-necked, lightweight versions of its iconic Les Paul range in order to respond to growing demand from budding female guitarists.

The Fender brand, meanwhile, went one step further by designing a guitar based on popular cartoon character ‘Hello Kitty’.

Teen girl diet could cost NHS millions

Teenage eating habits are poor, with teenage girls worse, risking long-term effects on their health according to new Department of Health data published today.

The National Diet and Nutrition Survey, which was led by the National Centre for Social Research and MRC Human Nutrition Research, found that teenage girls are only eating half their recommended portions of fruit and veg.  And just 56 per cent of teenage girls are getting enough iron in their diet. This could lead to them becoming ill far more often, and much more likely to be hit by diseases such as cancer and hear disease – which could mean the NHS being put under further strain.

While both teenage boys and girls are failing to get their recommended 5-a-day of fruit and veg, girls eat on average half a portion less each day than boys. The findings build on previous surveys and highlight that poor eating habits risk storing up a number of potential problems for later life, such as heart disease and some cancers.

However, the survey did find younger children’s eating habits are improving with parents taking positive steps to give their kids a healthier diet with fewer sweets, fizzy drinks, chocolate, and also switching them to high-fibre cereals.

Other key findings from the survey include:

• only a third of adults are getting their 5-a-day;
• intake of saturated fat and sugar are still too high;
• more adults are switching from whole milk towards lower fat versions; and
• trans-fats intake is now significantly below recommended levels.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said:

“It is really important that teenagers eat a balanced diet – including eating five portions of fruit and veg a day. Eating well and being active can help prevent serious illnesses such as cancer and heart disease later in life.

“For tips on what makes up your 5-a-day and how to be more active, visit the Change4Life website.”

Health Minister, Paul Burstow said:

“Over the summer, our Change4Life campaign will encourage families to take simple steps, such as eating more fruit and vegetables, cutting down on fatty foods and being more active.

“We want people to know that they can change what they do and make a difference to their health. Over the last ten years, we have not seen the improvements we should have. That is why the Government is using new ways to achieve better results including bringing together key partners in charity and businesses to help people to make healthier choices. This will help us to move further and faster on issues like obesity.”

Dr Alison Lennox, one of the nutrition experts involved with NDNS said:

”We are seeing small but encouraging signs of healthy eating in the UK – more fruit and vegetables and less soft drinks and confectionery, especially by children – but we have a long way to go.  Our saturated fat intakes are still too high.”

Why Goal Setting Can Ruin Your Life and Your Health

We live in a world where acquisition and achievement have become all important.

A whole movement, which studied the psychology of success over the past 40 years, has taught us that the only way to “success,” is to set clearly defined goals.

But the truth is – not only is the outcome not guaranteed, but the very process could be ruining our lives.

That’s according to Sarah Alexander, an expert in intuition and the author of “Spiritual Intelligence; The Eight Pillars of 21st Century Business Success”.

“There is no doubt that the human mind is hugely powerful and if you consistently focus your mind on a chosen result, there is a possibility that you will achieve a certain outcome. For a few, this approach has brought material success and financial gain, but for most it has led to disappointment, frustration and misery as intended goal after goal has not materialised.” says Sarah.

So why is this? Why is goal setting able to ruin your life?

1) Goals are most often set in the hope that life will be better with the attainment of a certain goal. They are set in the hope that with this achievement or acquisition, there will be greater happiness and fulfilment.

Yet the realisation soon comes that even with their chosen acquisition or achievement, they are no happier or fulfilled.

From here the solution seems to be to set another, bigger goal. In time, goal setting creates an almost never ending cycle of desire all in the search for a seemingly elusive thing.

2) Another problem with using goals to try to make us feel better inside is that we often create for ourselves things that are not really right for us as an individual and that are not really in alignment with who we inherently are as a person.

The “success” can actually become a burden on us rather than a pleasure, and impose some considerable strain on us on many levels.

3) In addition to this, many people set goals that are a result of what they think they should want or should have. They set goals based on what their peers have or what their peers are doing, or based on what they are being “encouraged” to do by others. It takes quite a lot of singularity of mind not to get caught up in this subtle peer pressure, or indeed the family pressure, that says you should have a certain thing by a certain age or be a certain way.

4) What often happens when we are intent on creating a specific outcome is we miss that very thing that really is for us to have, that really would make us happy. With the strength of our focus we fail to see the opportunity that is right in front of us because it is not what we have chosen to look for.

5) Furthermore, our logical, rational approach to our goals leaves no room for intuition, inspiration and creativity. This approach, based purely on what appears to be the logical steps to take to achieve something, can lead us to be very driven, very manipulative and often very unaware of the effect we are having on those around us.

With this self focused approach, at no time do we stop and ask what are the consequences for our families, our marriages or relationships, our friendships and also the consequences for our health of all this pushing to “make life happen”?

“For many people that I have worked with as a coach, they have lost much that they hold dear as a result of this desire to be successful – as defined by their goal setting and the material world. They have lost marriages, relationships with their children and friendships all in the name of goal achievement and success.” explains Sarah.

6) However, the biggest problem with goal setting is what happens to the many people who, despite doing all the right things, do not achieve their goals. The disappointment and disillusionment this causes is hugely detrimental. It leads us to be very self denigrating, self critical and self undermining.

It makes us see ourselves and our life through a very negative lens that effectively states “life is not fair.”

This endless comparison erodes our levels of self appreciation so that we often feel a failure. Stress and depression are moving towards epidemic proportions these days and, for many, goal setting and the failure to achieve is at the root of this.

So what is the solution to all of this? Should we just to give up on our goals and give up all hope?

Within all of us is a sense of inner wisdom that can be used to guide us in every aspect of our life. It can guide us to achieve all that is for us to achieve; it can inspire us with new ideas and options that we had perhaps not considered and it can be used to guide us in the creation of our dreams.

What gets in our way of following this natural course of events is our desire to control our life and what happens within it.

“My advice is to stop setting goals and stop striving to achieve those goals and let your instincts guide you in the right direction. You will feel happier, less stressed, and certainly more fulfilled.” concludes Sarah.

Government to suspend general budget support to Malawi

Malawi will no longer receive general budget support from the UK Government, Andrew Mitchell announced today.

The International Development Secretary took the decision after the Government of Malawi repeatedly failed to address UK concerns over economic management and governance.

General budget support, which is used to allow governments to deliver their own national strategies for poverty reduction against an agreed set of targets, has been suspended indefinitely.

On governance, demonstrations have been suppressed, civil society organisations intimidated, and an Injunctions Bill passed that would make it easier for the Government to place restrictions on opponents without legal challenge.

On the economy, the UK is concerned that Malawi’s overvalued exchange rate has created chronic foreign exchange shortages which are having a serious impact on the Malawian private sector’s ability to drive future growth. There are now daily fuel queues, tobacco exports have deteriorated and Malawi is off-track with its IMF programme.

The Development Secretary’s decision is in line with international concern over Malawi’s current position. The World Bank, the European Union, the African Development Bank, Germany and Norway have all suspended or ended general budget support to Malawi.

Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development, said:

“The UK provides development assistance in order to help communities lift themselves out of grinding poverty, whether that’s through getting children into school, ensuring women survive childbirth or helping farmers grow enough food to feed their families and communities.

“But poor people in Malawi and British taxpayers alike have been let down. In these circumstances I cannot justify the provision of general budget support for Malawi.

“In the meantime we will use other means to ensure that programmes to protect poor Malawians, amongst the poorest people in the world, and deliver basic services like health and education are able to continue.

“The UK has a long and deep commitment to the people of Malawi and we are keen to see the country resume the good progress it has made in recent years. I remain willing to reconsider our approach as and when our concerns are addressed.”

The UK has helped improve food security in Malawi for over seven million people a year by providing them with high yielding maize and legume seeds via the Farm Input Subsidy Programme.

UK support to strengthen the health service has helped save the lives of 3,200 pregnant women and 40,000 children since 2004. UK funding has built over 3,200 primary school classrooms and 4,800 toilets since 2001, helping keep more girls in school.
This comes as the Government reduces general budget support across the world by 43% and tightens up the principles on which budget support agreements are made.

All budget support is tightly monitored against a strict set of expected results and can be reviewed by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact at any time.

Sports Direct moves into fashion, buying USC and Cruise

The sports retail giant has brought an 80% stake in two high street clothing shops, owned by retail tycoon Sir Tom Hunter.

Paying £7million to take control, Sir Tom will retain a mere 20% shareholding, whilst Sports Direct will take control of the stores that specialise in fashion clothing.

With 38 stores in the UK USC had sales of £70m last year, whilst Cruise is a smaller brand with 10 UK stores and an annual turnover of about £20m.

The founder of Sports Direct, Mike Ashley (founder of Newcastle United) will be providing upto £20million to develop both the businesses.

Speaking of the deal, Sir Tom said: “This deal will transform the prospects for both USC and Cruise and our employees at a time of extraordinary turbulence in the High Street,”.

“I’ve known the Sports Direct team for many years and have huge respect for their talent and look forward to co-investing with them.”

Sports Direct chief executive Dave Forsey said: “While USC and Cruise will remain independent of Sports Direct, we will support the businesses with our operational expertise.”

Information has suggested that rival JD Sports was also interested in this deal but lost out.