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Never judge a book by its cover


“Behaviour is the mirror in which everyone shows their image” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – Playwright, Poet and Novelist.

A couple of weeks ago, a ‘have you seen it’ television moment took place when Susan Boyle was propelled into the spotlight becoming an international singing sensation.

The TV programme Britain’s Got Talent is hugely entertaining but the edit of Susan’s participation in the show is slightly uncomfortable showing a ‘baying’ crowd and dubious reactions from judges that demonstrated how prejudice relating to body image is never far from the surface. To be fair, the judges reflected their position and that of the audience in their comments.

Of course, the sensation comes when Susan opens her mouth and gives a performance that had a nation talking but the lessons of how image perception is so damaging did no favors to us all and the shameful behaviour of some of the audience, the initial reactions of the judges and the following tabloid fever was not good.

Today, the strains are beginning to tell as family members report that Susan is finding it difficult to cope but the coverage of her ‘image’ seems to run on unabated.

The Bodyproject Foundation believes that Syco TV and Talkback Thames, the makers of this programme have a ‘duty of care’ in the contract they have with Susan and should be acting diligently to protect her from any exploitative activity.

She is a real sensation but there are issues that need to be addressed and hopefully Simon Cowell and his team will work hard to put Susan first over whatever commercial opportunities lie in wait.

Image is something we should all be aware of and we should guard carefully against making rash judgments. The unique point about this and other similar shows is the surprise factor but we could all do well to remember that whilst ‘first impressions count’ you should ‘never judge a book by its cover.’

The Bodyproject Foundation undertakes research into the anxiety disorder – Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). This is a hidden mental health disorder related to image that is impacting large numbers of people and is often going undiagnosed with no treatment. The Foundation is funding a research project to look at the relationship between body image and eating disorders. The research is being undertaken by our psychologist Jennifer Ross working on secondment to the University of Liverpool and the Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. Contact for more details.

What price progress


“…Here at Woolworths we never lose our sense of adventure. We love a challenge. And we’re determined and tenacious enough to make new ideas work. It’s that unique team spirit that has led to us becoming one of the UK’s market leaders…” – web site front page introduction December 2008

About thirty years ago on a Saturday morning I would park my car in the High Street and unload the local hospital radio’s record decks and speakers to set up what must have been one of the first in-store broadcasts.

My stint in the Woolworths record department was a real entrepreneurial effort in moving product and move product we did. My exhortations and multiple plays of the latest hits would see the records flying off the shelves. But of course, like the black plastic 7-inch and 12-inch discs, those days are gone.

A few weeks ago I visited Woolworths and rummaged through the CD racks, bought advent calendars from the chocolate counter that nestled close to the ever present pick ‘n’ mix sweets and noticed that the person serving me seemed vaguely familiar as the shop assistant who thirty years ago sold records whilst I played them just now she, like me, was three decades the wiser.

And in that lies the price of progress, which is inevitably human, and her job, like 30,000 others, is likely to be the main casualty of this high street retailer going out of business.

The impending closure of Woolworths is a real high street tragedy as it has its roots in tradition and nostalgia and the retailer has been unable to keep pace with the Amazon, I-tunes and Tesco Extra era. It seems prophetic that a log on to Woolworths web site returns a ‘site down for administration’ message as it certainly is in every sense.

The TV pictures have concentrated on the bargain hunting ‘vultures’ crowding in for their 50% discount; interestingly most of them interviewed bemoaning the lack of a genuine bargain rather than pausing to think about the 30,000 jobs that may be lost.

The price of progress is not a 50% sale and is actually far more expensive and my thoughts are with the people who will pay the biggest price