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City traders: We want to work 9 to 4

City trader

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City traders have urged UK and European exchanges to cut trading hours to improve work-life balance.

They say the long hours are bad for mental health and are not exactly female-friendly.

“It’s hard to find childcare at five o’clock in the morning,” said April Day, head of equities at the Association for Financial Markets in Europe (AFME).

The idea is for exchanges to open 09:00 to 16:00, instead of 08:00 to 16:30.

The AFME is pushing for the change alongside fellow trader body the Investment Association.

Shorter trading hours would cut pressure on traders and attract a more diverse range of workers, it said.

Stock market trading has traditionally been seen as male-dominated, lagging behind other areas of financial services in terms of attracting women into roles,

The AFME’s Ms Day said her organisation had been lobbying stock exchanges in London, Paris, Germany and the Nordic region.

“A shorter working day would improve flexibility for employees and attract a more diverse range of individuals on to trading floors,” she added.

The London Stock Exchange said it would launch a consultation on the request.

Less efficient

Traders in the UK and elsewhere in Europe normally work for a few hours either side of the current 8.5 trading hours, Ms Day said.

By contrast, US exchanges are open for 6.5 hours and Asian exchanges for 6.

Chris Cumming, chief executive of the Investment Association, says that under the current hours, City traders are beginning work when there is not much action on the market anyway.

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“We have been doing a review about how we can make sure that trading on the market is as efficient as possible,” he told the BBC’s Today programme.

“What it means is that investors, pension funds, you and I as savers, we are able to eventually trade at the most efficient time when liquidity is at its best.

“It is cheaper to do and that actually means we get high levels of savings and better pensions, so this has got a real world impact.”

Childcare challenge

A knock-on effect of having a smaller intake of women in junior positions means that there are relatively few women in senior management positions in investment and banking trading, Ms Day said.

Juggling work and childcare responsibilities can be a challenge for both men and women, she added.

Long hours in a high-pressure job can also exacerbate any mental health difficulties traders may be suffering, Ms Day added.

Galina Dimitrova, director of capital markets at the Investment Association, concurred: “We have heard many deeply moving stories of traders’ mental health and personal life being impacted by their working hours.

“Whilst it is no silver bullet, we hope this European-wide review could start to lead to a step change in more efficient markets to the benefit of savers and those who operate them.”

The London Stock Exchange said it strongly supported improving diversity and workplace culture in the City.

It said the call from the trader associations was “an important suggestion for a European-wide adjustment to trading hours”.

“We intend to consider the request in a formal consultation with London Stock Exchange’s global members and customers,” it added.


Are you a City trader? What do you think about a cut in working ours? Tell us by emailing .

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How pianos became part of the furniture at UK railway stations

Denis Robinson plays at St Pancras station

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Phil Coomes

The sound of someone tinkling the ivories has become commonplace at UK railway stations. But who plays them, what is their appeal and how did the trend take hold?

Every Monday and Friday, Denis Robinson, 92, makes the 30-minute trip from his home in Sutton, south London, to St Pancras International station, in the heart of the capital.

His final destination: an upright piano tucked beneath a staircase on the station concourse, opposite the arrivals door where holidaymakers from across the world depart the high-speed Eurostar train.

Denis is one of Britain’s amateur train station pianists. A minor celebrity, following a viral performance of Somewhere Over the Rainbow with West End singer Ceili O’Connor in April, he has been delighting commuters with his own arrangements of nostalgic hits for seven years.

Denis Robinson plays at St Pancras station

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Phil Coomes

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Denis Robinson has met people from across the globe by playing the piano at St Pancras station

He aims to arrive at the piano stool either side of lunch. Breaking with tradition to meet BBC News mid-week, he takes his pew by 11:30am on a Wednesday.

Within moments of his opening chord, passing travellers pause to listen, smile and offer him praise.

“It’s an absolute joy,” says the retired auditor, who has been playing since he was a child. “I nearly always come home with a memory to tell my wife.

“I’m lucky because I’ve got an ever-changing appreciative audience.”

Denis suffered a stroke at the station in August, which affected his left hand, but it wasn’t long until he returned to the instrument in autumn for a rendition of As Long as He Needs Me, sung softly to himself.

“When I walked round to the piano again, there was just this feeling of ‘I’m back’,” he says.

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Media captionDenis Robinson said he was “amazed” as Ceili started singing

There are two pianos at St Pancras, located at either end of the station’s main arcade of shops. Denis credits his wife of 34 years, Diane, for introducing him to the one he plays.

She was studying Greek at the nearby British Library when it was donated to St Pancras in 2012, following a three-week art project that placed so-called street pianos at public locations around London.

While Sheffield is often cited as the home of the first street piano, the idea for the St Pancras pianos was the brainchild of British artist Luke Jerram, whose Play Me, I’m Yours project has been touring cities around the world since 2008.

The scheme sees second-hand pianos installed in public locations, with an open invitation to play. Each piano is unique, often decorated by local artists or community groups.

A girl plays a piano installed in Bristol's Broadmead in 2009

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PA Media

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Bristol was one of the first cities to take part in Luke Jerram’s Play Me, I’m Yours project in 2009

A woman plays a piano in New York in 2010 for the Play Me, I'm Yours project

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The scheme has placed more than 1,900 pianos in cities globally

“I realised within a city, there must be hundreds of invisible communities, regularly spending time with one another in silence,” Luke explains.

“Placing a piano into the space was my solution to this problem, acting as a catalyst for conversation.”

Several other pianos that were placed in London train stations in 2012 also ended up staying put after Luke’s project ended, including two at Canary Wharf and one at Herne Hill railway station.

And it’s not just talented amateurs that have taken to the keys. Global stars such as Sara Bareilles and Sir Elton John, who donated a Yamaha piano to St Pancras in 2016, have also given public performances.

Elton’s signed piano, still at the station, reads: “Enjoy this piano. It’s a gift. Love, Elton John.”

Presentational white space

Inspired by the success of the St Pancras pianos, other groups have gone on to install their own at railway stations around the country.

There are now at least 34 pianos available to play on station concourses.

Labour MP for Hove Peter Kyle lobbied for a piano at Brighton station in 2014 in the hope that it would “reduce the misery” of time spent at the terminal.

Ten months later, with the go ahead from Southern Rail, the station’s first piano arrived from local dealer Brighton Piano Warehouse, painted in circus-style red and yellow with “Please Play Me” emblazoned above the lid.

While the instrument has been replaced twice due to wear and tear, a piano has been at the station ever since.

Mikah at Brighton station

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Julia Horbaschk

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Mikah Laiberg plays Brighton station’s piano in time off from his job as a street cleaner

Brighton and Hove Council street cleaner Mikah Laiberg, 28, has made a regular appearance at the instrument from the outset – at one point rehearsing on it every day after work.

“It’s a compulsion,” he says. “I can’t understand how people who can play an instrument can walk past without playing it.”

Clips shared online show Mikah, in his employee high-vis jacket and boots, stunning passers-by with his classical improvisations influenced by composers such as Alexei Stanchinsky.

Presentational white space

Such videos, of everyday people showcasing their talent, have arguably played a key role in the success of public pianos.

Street pianos emerged around the same time as the smartphone – the first iPhone was released in 2007 – making performances increasingly easy to document and share.

Now, videos of pianos being played prove particularly popular on YouTube.

In August, Alicia Palmer, 16, wowed the internet with her rendition of Edelweiss at Tottenham Court Road’s piano alongside public piano player Brendan Kavanagh – gaining more than 750,000 views on the site.

Selhurst station piano

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Phil Coomes

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Public pianos are often brightly painted by local artists or community groups

‘Life and colour’

Selhurst is one of several small stations in London with a public piano.

Hannah Sayers, 34, and her local community group arranged for a piano to be placed there in 2018.

Donated by Hannah’s neighbour and painted by a local resident, they hoped it would “help people feel positive about where they live”.

“We wanted to bring life and colour to our little ward in Croydon,” Hannah says.

Selhurst’s piano is conveniently located near to the BRIT school, for performing arts students to play, and has a large passing traffic of commuters and Crystal Palace football fans.

“The one thing we were really worried about was that it would get damaged or vandalised,” adds Hannah, “But it hasn’t been so far.”

Hannah and Becky with Selhurst piano

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Phil Coomes

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Hannah Sayers, left, and her friend Becky, right, have also arranged a book swap at Selhurst station

Neighbouring Thornton Heath station recently installed its second piano after a water leak damaged its original instrument.

Local resident Linda Watson calls it a “community asset”. She adds: “Thornton Heath has many brilliant musicians. To have live music when you are travelling is a delightful surprise.”

‘Feel-good factor’

Meanwhile for Malcolm Ingram, of Ingram’s Removals, placing a piano in Darlington Bank Top station was a way to save an unwanted instrument.

Pianos, once the entertainment hub of the family home, have long been in decline.

Some 5,000 are sold annually, the Financial Times reports, compared with 30,000 in the 1980s. Malcolm says customers are frequently looking to get rid of their old pianos.

Malcolm Ingram, Jill Robinson and her daughter Katie Robinson at the Darlington piano

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Dave Charnley

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Malcolm Ingram, left, installed a piano at Durham station shortly after Darlington

Malcolm Ingram, Sam Gilmoura and Brigid McElroy at the Darlington piano

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Dave Charnley

In 2018, he had a brainwave and arranged for a client’s Hemingway piano to be relocated to the station concourse, where it is now loved by staff and passengers.

“A piano brightens up peoples’ day – if someone has the gift to play it, it provides that feel-good factor,” he says.

“The piano was just going to have to go to landfill otherwise, which seems criminal.”

Speaking at the end of his performance in St Pancras, Denis says his repertoire of old-time classics are a constant hit with audiences.

“The songs bring back memories for some people, so they come over and say thank you,” he says.

“The music I play, it’s simple really. It’s a blessing to see that I can provide happiness.”

Photography by Phil Coomes, Dave Charnley and Julia Horbaschk

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Worcester Park fire: Flats ‘still at risk from missing or useless fire stops’

Fire at Worcester Park

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London Fire Brigade

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A four-storey block of flats was destroyed in September’s fire on the Hamptons estate

Residents on two housing estates where blocks of flats burned down have been left at risk because of fire stopping measures in buildings being “missing or useless”, the BBC has been told.

A block built in Worcester Park in south-west London by the Berkley Group burned down in September.

The BBC has found apparent flaws in two more Berkley Group buildings it is said would allow fire to spread quickly.

The developer said all properties had been “independently signed off”.

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Media captionWorcester Park resident Darren Nicholson “woke up to the sound of crackling”

Since September’s blaze, the housing association for The Hamptons estate has temporarily changed its “stay put” evacuation policy following advice from London Fire Brigade.

Former resident Stephen Nobrega told the BBC the way the fire spread “was more or less instant. It was like paper”.

Wood is combustible and so fire stopping in timber frame homes is important to prevent the spread of fire.

“You would expect that the materials would contain a fire for a considerable amount of time, but it just didn’t happen,” Mr Nobrega said.

Although there were no injuries, some residents believed they just about escaped in time.

‘Shoddily thrown together’

A number of families lost their homes in the fire while others on the estate said they were concerned their own homes were not safe.

The development has since been on high alert, with security guards patrolling 24 hours-a-day on the lookout for fire.

Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing (MTVH), the housing association that now manages properties in the Hamptons, said it had “fitted smoke alarms in the electrical cupboards of all our blocks”.

“We are worried about how our homes are built and if they could go up, we want to be evacuated,” a resident, who wanted to remain anonymous, said.

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Fire crews were called to Richmond House in The Hamptons at about 01:30 BST on the day of the blaze, 9 September

A large fire would be able to spread quickly at another building on The Hamptons site, two independent surveyors have claimed.

Independent chartered surveyor and fire safety inspector, Arnold Tarling, found a large gap between the fire stopping and the cladding on the outside of a building in the estate, which he said would act as a “chimney through which a fire will spread”.

“What we have here is a form of fire stopping which just won’t do its job,” he said.

Greig Adams, a fire safety expert, told the BBC these breaches had “consequences, including a considerable increased risk to life in the event of a fire”.

“The provision of effective fire barriers is a mandatory requirement, not an element that can be shoddily thrown together or to cut corners on,” Mr Adams said.

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Fire surveyors found a large gap between the fire stopping and the cladding of the building

A former home owner at the Worcester Park estate has told the BBC she contacted the Berkeley Group nine years ago over safety concerns.

Sheila Majid said she had an independent inspection of her property in 2010 that revealed similar problems with fire stopping and meant “our home did not meet basic fire safety requirements”.

She managed to sell her property back to the Berkeley Group, but remained concerned other Berkeley properties had similar problems.

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Arnold Tarling found flammable cladding in a loft space at the Holborough Lakes estates

Two years ago a fire at another Berkeley Group-built property on the Holborough Lakes Estate in Kent destroyed a block of flats.

Mr Tarling inspected a loft space at a property in the estate and found similar fire safety problems to those at the Worcester Park estate.

“There needs to be a full investigation of these properties, not only by the contractor but by the authorities,” he said.

A spokesman for the Berkley Group said “all properties were independently signed off as building control compliant”.

Speaking about the Hamptons fire he said “the police and the fire brigade are still investigating the cause of the fire, which remains unknown” and the group was “making all necessary checks to reassure residents”.

A National House Building Council spokesperson said it was the approved inspector for the Worcester Park development and the organisation had “carried out periodic inspections at key stages of a development’s construction”.

However, they added that “the primary responsibility for achieving compliance with the regulations rests with the builder”.

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Several homes were damaged in the blaze at the Holborough Lakes estate

Housing association MTVH said it had since commissioned surveys of all the buildings it owned and managed.

Geeta Nanda, chief executive of MTVH, said: “It’s our absolute priority to ensure we provide residents with the support and help they need at this difficult time, and making sure that the homes throughout The Hamptons are safe.”

London-based developer Berkley Group has built 19,500 homes in the past five years across the south of England and the Midlands.

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Historic England adds lighthouses, cliff lift and viaduct to At Risk Register

Dovercourt Lighthouses

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Historic England/James O.Davies

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There are two lighthouses at Dovercourt at risk of being lost, according to Historic England

A cliff lift, a railway viaduct and a pair of lighthouses have been added to a list of sites at risk of being lost.

Historic England has added 247 sites to its At Risk Register but 310 have been removed as they were regarded as saved.

The 134-year-old Leas Lift in Folkestone, England’s oldest surviving timber trestle railway bridge in Maldon and both Dovercourt Lighthouses in Harwich are on the list.

A well in London, a lead mine and a Georgian warship have been removed.

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Historic England

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St Andrew’s Church in Sunderland has been removed from the At Risk Register

Historic England praised those who had “lovingly cared for” and “brought back to life” empty buildings and “valued historic places”.

Chief executive Duncan Wilson said: “The message is clear – our heritage needs to be saved and investing in heritage pays.

“There are buildings still on the register that can be rescued and can be brought back to beneficial use and generate an income, contributing to the local community and economy.”

Sites considered saved in the past year included:

  • Congregational Chapel in Roxton, Bedfordshire
  • Physic Well in Barnet, north London
  • Church of St Bride in Fleet Street, central London
  • Moseley School of Art in Birmingham
  • Potternewton Mansion in Leeds
  • HMS Invincible, the wreck of an 18th Century navy ship, off Horse and Dean Sand in The Solent
  • Former Providence Chapel in Charlwood, Surrey
  • Carrshield lead mines and ore works, North Pennines
  • St Andrew’s Church in Sunderland
  • Hooton Hangars, RAF hangars in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire
Beckford Tower

Tom Burrows

The heritage risk list

  • 2,375Grade I and II* listed buildings and places of worship

  • 2,089Archaeological sites

  • 501Conservation areas

  • 102 Parks and gardens

  • 6Battlefields and wreck sites

Source: Historic England

New sites at risk included:

The Dovercourt lighthouses and causeway, Harwich

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Historic England/James O.Davies

Believed to be unique examples of 19th century prefabricated lighthouses, the two towers off the Essex coast are a “well-regarded” feature of the deep water harbour but they are deteriorating.

A survey was carried out in 2018 with a view to repair work commencing over the next two years.

Wickham Bishops railway viaduct, Maldon

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Historic England

The oldest surviving timber trestle railway bridge in England, the structure at Wickham Bishops, also in Essex, comprises two adjoining viaducts and was part of the Braintree to Maldon branch line between 1848 and 1966.

Despite extensive repairs in the 1990s, many timbers are suffering from rot and decay caused by damp, lack of maintenance and heavy tree growth.

Leas Lift, Folkestone

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Historic England/Chris Redgrave

The Grade II* listed funicular railway in Kent was built in 1885 and is one of only three remaining water-balanced lifts in the UK.

It closed in January 2017 because of safety issues with the braking system, since when the building, tracks and machinery have degraded further.

A trust has been formed to manage the building with the hope of reopening the lift in 2023.

Former Weedon Barracks, Weedon Bec

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Historic England

The military complex was constructed as a major depot for arms and ammunition during the Napoleonic Wars and included barracks and a military prison.

It would have served as a refuge for the king and government if Napoleon had invaded and remained a main supplier of arms and clothing to the British Army until the 1960s.

Part of the site in Northamptonshire has been refurbished and Historic England has funded a survey to see what can be done with the rest.

Beckford’s Tower, Bath

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Tom Burrows

This “much-loved landmark” was built in 1827 for writer William Beckford to house his collection of art, books and furniture.

He was buried at the tower and the surrounding Lansdown Cemetery has also been put on the register because of the poor condition of some of its main features.

The Bath Preservation Trust acquired the tower in 1993 and carried out extensive repairs, opening the building to the public in 2001. It is now preparing for another phase of major repairs, which is dependent on fundraising.

Grand Quarter, Leeds

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Historic England/Alun Bull

This area was the first to be developed beyond Leeds’ medieval boundaries in the 1600s and was transformed by cloth merchant John Harrison, who also funded the construction of St John’s Church, the oldest church in the city centre, in 1630.

Buildings from each following century remain today, including the Victorian Grand Theatre, but heavy traffic, empty shops and loss of architectural details have left it looking “down at heel”, Historic England said.

The Grand Quarter has recently been chosen as a High Street Heritage Action Zone with Historic England funding due to help revive and improve the area’s “special character”.

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Thirteen charged over UK’s ‘biggest drugs conspiracy’

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Media captionA flat in Hammersmith in London was one of the properties raided on Tuesday

Police investigating what they say is the UK’s biggest ever drugs conspiracy have charged 13 men.

The charges of conspiracy to import drugs follow a National Crime Agency investigation into the alleged smuggling of billions of pounds of cocaine, heroin and cannabis.

The NCA said the men were suspected of being members of an international organised crime group.

The men, aged 34 to 59, will appear at Manchester Magistrates’ Court later.

It comes after they were arrested in dawn raids on Tuesday in London, Manchester, Stockport, St Helens, Warrington, Bolton, Dewsbury, and Leeds.

The NCA said seven men have now been charged with four counts of conspiracy to import class A drugs and four counts of conspiracy to import class B drugs.

They are Paul Green, 54, of Eccleston, St Helens; Sohail Quereshi, 59, of Wood Crescent, White City, London; Mohammed Ovais, 41, of Bournlee Avenue, Burnage, Manchester; Ghazanfar Mahmood, 48, of Green Lane, Bolton; Ifthikar Hussain, 46, of Upland Grove, Leeds, West Yorkshire; Vojtech Dano, 38, of Vulcan Gardens, Dewsbury, West Yorkshire and Ivan Turtak, 34, of Vulcan Gardens, Dewsbury, West Yorkshire.

A further six men have all been charged with two counts of conspiracy to import class A drugs and two counts of conspiracy to import class B drugs.

They are Khaleed Vazeer, 56, of Westwood Avenue, Timperley, Manchester; Steven Martin, 48, of Chorley Old Road, Bolton; Andrew Reilly, 37, of Grange Park Road, St Helens; Mark Peers, 55, of Norbeck Close, Warrington; Paul Ruane, 58, of Bewsey Rd, Warrington and Oliver Penter, 37, of Gladstone Street, Stockport.

Four men and two women from the Netherlands – who were arrested in April by the Dutch National Police on European Arrest Warrants – are currently awaiting extradition to the UK.

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Mauricio Pochettino: Tottenham need time to rebuild squad harmony

It is 11 years since Tottenham last won a major trophy – the League Cup in 2008

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino said he needs time to overcome the “different agendas in the squad” after his side’s difficult start to the season continued with a Carabao Cup exit at League Two Colchester United.

Spurs lost 4-3 on penalties after a goalless draw in the third-round tie.

Pochettino has spoken of his squad being “unsettled”