Five questions answered on the "retail revival"

Surprisingly, online sales have actually slowed.

New data released from the British Retail Consortium and Springboard has shown a rise in footfall at the country’s shopping locations. We answer five questions on this good news for the economy.

How much has footfall at shopping locations increased?

According to the data released last week, footfall at the country’s shopping hotspots is up 0.8 per cent in July, compared to year earlier. This is acceleration on the 0.1pc increase in June.

The increase in retail footfall was driven by sharp growth in London, the west Midlands, Northern Ireland, and Wales, with other parts of the country in decline.

Did the figures reveal any further other good news for the economy?

Yes. The amount of empty shops in country has also fallen from a record 11.9 per cent in April to 11.1 per cent in July.

What about online sales?

Surprisingly, online sales have actually slowed. They fell by 2 per cent in July compared to June, according to the IMRG Capgemini sales index.

However, year-on-year sales rose 9pc, but this is still the slowest growth since January 2010.

What have the experts said?

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has increased its forecast growth for 2014, from 2 per cent to 2.3 per cent.

John Cridland, director-general of the CBI, speaking to The Telegraph said: "The economy has started to gain momentum and confidence is picking up, but it’s still early days.

"We need to see a full-blown rebalancing of our economy, with stronger business investment and trade before we can call a sustainable recovery. We hope that will begin to emerge next year, as the eurozone starts growing again."

Is there any indication what the Office for National Statistics second quarter growth statistics, due later in the week, might reveal?

Investors are positive this week and think the UK economy could be boosted further after they are released.

Some economists even expect the Office for National Statistics to upgrade its estimate of Q2 growth from 0.6 per cent to 0.7 per cent.

New data released from the British Retail Consortium. Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for Nridigital.com

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Female genital mutilation is not just a women’s issue, it’s a human issue

A new play explores how two women react when their daughters' friend is subjected to FGM.

Alice Denny was born into a body that didn’t feel like hers. There is no one ‘right’ way to live and no one should have to hide who they really are.  For years, she accepted the guise before eventually making the transition she deserved.

“A life and body to finally match my mind,” she says softly, quoting one of her own poems to me. “I know, it’s silly,” she adds in a fluster, but Alice needn’t be so modest. In fact, she should be very proud.

We’re at The Joker, an offbeat bar in Brighton, and Alice explains how the realisation of her womanhood inspired her to take up a leading role in CUT, a community play highlighting the horrors of female genital mutilation (FGM), which premieres in Brighton next week.

“For anything to stop women from being women, I find so upsetting,” Alice tells me with a communicable heartbreak in her voice.

FGM involves the removal of a woman’s clitoris, inner-and-outer lips of the vagina, and the sewing or stapling together of the two sides of the vulva leaving only a small hole to pass urine and menstruate – depending on the variation. Typically, FGM is carried out with a razor blade on girls between the ages of four and 15, often without any anaesthetic.

This misguided practice, fed by some faux-rationale about raising girls properly, is most common among cultural and religious groups in Africa and the Middle East with the World Health Organisation estimating around 125 million cases across the globe. Many of these communities believe FGM will serve to limit a woman’s libido, discourage sexual promiscuity and strengthen the institute of marriage.

“It’s brutal and makes me almost ashamed to be a human being,” Alice states emphatically.

Of course, to take solace in the fact FGM is not as common in Britain, where it is illegal, is to cataclysmically miss the point. It shouldn’t happen anywhere or to anyone. As it is, an approximate 137,000 women in Britain are affected by FGM, but even that number could be more given the ‘hidden’ nature of the crime.

Daughters of some first-generation immigrants and asylum seekers can be at a particular risk, with these girls taken to their countries of origin against their will during the school holidays for the procedure, allowing them time to ‘heal’ before their return. In reality, the lasting effects both physical and psychological never cease completely.

It is a terrifying thought and one that the incisive CUT, written by Suchitra Chatterjee and Susi Mawell-Stewart, explores. The play chronicles the lives of two women, Brona and Kiva, neighbours forced to face up to the problem of FGM on their doorstep when a shared African friend of their daughters is about to be sent away to be mutilated. Parent of two Alice stars as Brona, while Norma Dixit portrays Kiva. 

So what does CUT hope to achieve?  “It’s about trying to break the conspiracy of silence surrounding this issue,” an impassioned Alice reveals.

The former psychiatric nurse continues: “FGM isn’t something that’s isolated to one place or one group of people. It’s a wider feminist issue, a human issue, which needs to be addressed collectively. The play is about raising awareness, a vehicle to say to women to make the world a better place for each other.

“Women matter, never mind culture, never mind traditions of people being subjugated. We matter and we can make our lives what we want them to be. I’ve made my life what I want it to be and I feel so happy about that.

“People who say ‘it’s nothing to do with us,’ of course it is. It’s brutalizing women. I would love people to say, ‘actually I do know something that’s going on and I will go to the police and they will listen to me.’ I want people to be energized and make it their business.”

Admittedly, CUT, directed by Rikki Tarascas, is not for the faint hearted and will no doubt leave the audience shocked in their seats. Then again, that’s the idea.

CUT will premiere at the BrightHelm Community Centre in Brighton on May 10 and features a pre-show event with speeches from, among others, Khadijah Kamara, an FGM survivor and Heather Knott, a former Soroptomist International UK committee member.