Thursday, 31 March 2011

African gangs target Shepherd's Bush as Council cut Police

Crime is rising in Shepherd's Bush and now Arabic and French speaking Met Officers have been drafted in to cope with a spate of robberies being led by criminal gangs with links to a number of countries in North Africa, according to comments made by the Police at the last Shepherd's Bush Green Safer Neighbourhood Team meeting at Shepherd's Bush police station.

A large operation was recently organised involving the Safer Neighbourhood Team, Arabic and French-speaking covert officers, the UK Border Agency and the Met Police Territorial Support Group.  This resulted in five arrests for a variety of offences including possession of a false French ID card, theft of mobile phones, shoplifting and immigration offences.

It's unclear what lies behind the attention being given to our part of London by these gangs but you would think the combination of Westfield, with its ready stream of potential victims, coupled with the fact that a short stroll along Uxbridge Road reveals that a large part of our community themselves are from North Africa means that although this all sounds rather dramatic it's probably local kids using family connections to try and get away with nicking wallets.

However, what is clear is that our Council's cuts are starting to impact on the Police's ability to deal with this problem. I reported here on how the Safer Neighbourhood Teams themselves are at risk and at the same meeting it was revealed that the number of Police Constables patrolling Westfield has been cut from 8 to 5, despite the team making on average 5 arrests per week.

And for our streets themselves the picture is even worse. According to the Police it is likely that PCSO numbers will drop from 15 to 3, Sergeants from 5 to 3 and therefore teams themselves from 5 to 3.  PC’s might increase but Shepherd's Bush ward may no longer have 24/7 cover. 

I say all of this because it's factually true, and I think you need to know - but I would also say that I have quite a lot of respect for the lead Councillor at H&F responsible for crime, Greg Smith, who led the introdcution of Safer Neighbourhood Teams in 2009. He's a bit of a bruiser among his colleagues which is why he was picked to lead the general election campaign of Tory candidate Shaun Bailey in May last year, a campaign which was both nasty and, er, robust at times. What that means for policing is that he is probably the best person you would want in that job, because he's stuck up for his budget as best he can and if crime starts to pick up as a result of these cuts I'd want him to be the one arguing the case for doing something about it with Council Leader Greenhalgh.

But the impact of this cuts meeting at the Town Hall is going to be more far reaching than  maybe even the Councillors themselves fully realised. Look out for your wallet.

5th April UPDATE - The Fulham Chronicle has now caught up with this story here - you know where you read it first, folks

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Cuts: Zain Textiles of Shepherd's Bush on BBC

Zain Textiles of Uxbridge Road, a business that has been running for 17 years, was featured on last nights BBC London News which you can watch here. It tells the story not only of how the economic crisis has affected the business, which is expected to downsize by 50% but also the youngsters of the family who in one csse is losing a youth centre courtesy of cuts from the Council as well. Tough times ahead in recession Bush.

Thursday UPDATE: It's been pointed out to me that the youth centre that has been closed and that was featured in the BBC piece was actually not in our Borough and therefore has nothing to do with our Council. The centre is in Barnet apparently. Happy to clarify...

Bush Theatre announces 32 Degrees West Season

The Bush Theatre has announced it’s 32 Degrees West Season – the angle from the front door of the company’s current home of 39 years, to the new home at the old Library in Shepherd’s Bush where they will relocate this autumn.
Ahead of the building’s inaugural season later this year, the company will throw open the doors of the new venue and invite the public to play a part in the transformation of the space, from library to theatre, in a production entitled Where’s My Seat?

As a final farewell to the theatre’s long term home, the Bush will present non zero one and their interactive site-specific production this is where we got to when you came in to celebrate the history of this unique and special space.

To mark the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, the Bush presents In the Beginning written by Nick Payne with extracts from the KJV selected by the Revd Dr James Hawkey. This one off theatrical event on 24 March will see audience members taken on an after opening hours, intimate journey around the Abbey.

The new season also includes a return to Latitude for the fourth year with The Flooded Grave. Originally produced by the theatre as part of their Broken Space Season, this new production of Anthony Weigh’s play will be performed as darkness falls in a hidden location at the festival.

On the 29 March the Bush will hold a fundraising gala reading of Simon Stephens’ Sea Wall, read by the playwright.

Rourke will leave the Bush Theatre at the end of 2011 once the company is established in its new home at the old library on the Uxbridge Road, leaving the legacy of a new theatre for the incoming Artistic Director – this position will be advertised in due course. She departs the company after four years to become the new Artistic Director of the Donmar Warehouse.

Josie Rourke said, “My final nine months at the Bush will see the company open its new home ready for the theatre's fortieth anniversary in 2012. This will also mark five years in which I have led a resilient and inspiring team, who faced down adversity to present the work of some exceptional playwrights and build and serve our audiences. The legacy of 40 years of brilliant plays and great nights out at the Bush will be realised in this beautiful building. I look forward with great excitement to taking the Bush into its next incarnation ."

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

H&F Council issue apology for slur on voluntary group

An extraordinary letter has just been sent by a senior Cabinet Member of our Council to all councillors, MPs and voluntary sector organisations apologising for what looks like a very nasty slur, which was made against two innocent people who run a carers centre. A mole has passed me the letter and I reproduce it here.

Apology letter 25-03-11

Frankly I think this is despicable. Politicians can rip shreds off each other all day long if they like, but to have inferred what it appears our Council did infer about these innocent people is really beneath contempt. Credit to them for apologising, but to have got this wrong in the first place gives some indication of just how no-holds-barred some of our local politics has become.

TFL withdraw tube from Kensington Olympia

TFL has announced the withdrawal of all week day District Line Services to Kensington Olympia. The shock announcement means that for residents of Olympia there will be no weekday underground service.

The closure will also be of particular concern to local businesses that will be severely affected by a fall in the numbers of potential customers.

Commenting on the abolition of the service in his constituency ourMP Andy Slaughter said:

“This closure will come as an enormous blow to residents and businesses in and around Olympia.

It is outrageous for TFL to close down this valuable link, which is now a major rail interchange, with no public consultation. It is short sighted especially to those with limited mobility who will now have to walk nearly 20 minutes to the nearest underground station – I will be protesting in the strongest terms about these changes.”

You would think this is going to severely affect Boris Johnson's chances of being re-elected in this part of town, which for him is quite serious because previously he's done a lot to build his credibility here by emphasising his role in getting rid of the western extension of the c-charge and helping to kill off the Heathrow third runway. But when people realise one monday morning he's just taken their tube away all of that is likely to count for not much.

Expect Ken to leap on the bandwagon and promise a re-instatement of the service any time soon ...

West London Free School: Freedom of Info demand made

A curious Freedom of Information request has been made about our forthcoming newest school in H&F, the West London Free School. Controversial it has been since broadcaster Toby Young first tried to establish it over the border in Ealing, there are now apparently questions being asked about the role of Boris Johnson and whether or not there was hospitality involved.

This request hasn't been answered yet by the Mayor but it will have to be, and suppporters of the school will doubtless regard this as little more than a muck raking excercise. In any event our own Council is already in the motions of selling Paddenswick House to the School now that it has received the formal go-ahead from the Government.

But the fact that questions still linger about how Free Schools have been supported in our part of West London mean the arguments have gone away, just yet.

Here is what the questionner has asked of the Mayor:
25 March 2011

Dear Greater London Authority,

I would like to request the following information under the Freedom of Information Act.

Can you please list, for the period from May 2006 :

- any meetings held between the Mayor and/or Assembly members and/or officers of GLA family organisations and Toby Young and/or any other representatives of the proposed 'West London Free School' or any other promoters of prospective 'Free Schools' ;
- those present at such meetings ; and copies of relevant declarations of interest or hospitality by elected members or officers
- any costs incurred in the holding of these meetings (an estimate will suffice)
- any other actual,notional or planned costs incurred by the GLA family organisations in feasibility or any other costs associated with proposed 'Free Schools' (an estimate will suffice)

Thank you in advance for your assistance.
Yours faithfully,
Kieron Smith

Monday, 28 March 2011

Buggy Protest to hit Town Hall over Sure Start cuts

Not quite the fuel blockades of 2000 but Hammersmith Town Hall might be a dangerous place to be a Conservative councillor on Wednesday evening as legions of angry mothers plan to turn up, complete with buggies, to picket the Town Hall over the closure of Sure Start centres for young children across the Borough.

These cuts were decided at this boisterous meeting last month at which many of the mothers were present to make themselves heard, and having met them I wouldn't want to be on their wrong side.

Our Council insist that no centres are set to be closed, and that by moving to what they call a "hub and spoke" operation they can keep a skeleton service alive.

But back in the real world I myself have been told by staff at the centre I use that they all expect to close by the end of the year. It doesn't affect me because we won't need them anymore given the offspring's age but there are plenty of others who will be, not to mention the staff that will be sacked.

Having said all of that, the Council did have to cut somewhere. It just doesn't taste very nice when you then hear about how they are planning to spend money on Olympic tickets instead.

Here's what the protestors have to say:


Let’s be heard!

Save Our Children’s Centres!

Weds 30TH March


Hammersmith Town Hall, King Street, W6

Hammersmith & Fulham Parents Unite invite you to join us in a peaceful rally, and to present our petition to LBH&F Council.

Over 1,500 signatures so far!

Be there at 4pm with your buggies and your children! Or just yourself!

10 Children’s Centres have had their budgets slashed by up to 95%! £19,000 a year does not keep a Centre “open” as claimed!

Hammersmith & Fulham Parents Unite

We represent thousands of families from across the Borough that will be dramatically affected by the proposed cuts to Children’s Centres

Our views and objectives:
  • We are strongly against 'Spoke & Hub' model and the restructuring of Early Intervention Services in Hammersmith & Fulham
  • £19K funding does not keep a centre "open" as claimed
  • Experienced, qualified staff, educated in Early Years, are vital to each Centre, and must be kept
  • Parents are happy to volunteer only in properly staffed centres
  • We would propose an alternate 15-20% cut to be applied equally to each Centre, to be managed by each individual Centre
  • Enable centres to apply for additional, non-statutory funding
  • Maintain the Childminder Network Co-ordinators within Children’s Centres – local community contact is vital
  • Whilst we understand the need for some cuts, the present Children's Centre model has been wholeheartedly endorsed by the parental responses to our consultations

Shepherd's Bush residents set to mourn H&F News?

Here's an interesting thought from a reader called Kirsty about the impending demise of Council propaganda paper "H&F News". I think it's quite an interesting commentary, not least because of what she says about how not all residents were fooled into thinking it was a legitamate paper, but also what she has to say about the Fulham Chronicle's alternative coverage.

What will be interesting is whether or not the Chronicle's attempt to turn Council propaganda carrier itself, may lead to the paper morphing into a pseudo H&F News, of the kind that Kirsty says she will miss.

Here's what she has to say:

I think it's a shame we're losing H&F News. I enjoyed reading its good news stories and celebrations of our local community and now I've moved out if its distribution area I really miss it. When I started receiving the Fulham Chronicle I found it unneccesarily critical, negative and one of the worst culprits of media scare-mongering I had ever read. It wasn't worth my time and started going straight in the bin.

H&F News was a well written and enjoyable read and a great way of keeping our local council to account. Yes it was one-sided, but it was a refreshingly jolly print and a great way of tackling apathy by communicating with voters about positive differences the council can make. Fulham Chronicle and even this blog are also one-sided. There are always going to be people who are in favour or against every political issue. I always read a variety of news sources to ensure a balanced view of the 'facts' before making up my mind on an issue. I don't agree with the proposed re-developments but I'm glad to have had the opportunity to read the Council and Tessa Maison's views in H&F News and come to this conclusion myself. Now with only the Fulham Chronicle to read I won't get both sides of the story and moreover, I'll only get to hear the horror stories from the Borough.

The H&F News may only show one rose-tinted-spectacled side but I read it as a council newsletter and treated the 'news' I was reading as such. The Fulham Chronicle more than balanced it out with criticism (sometimes just for criticism sake). Without H&F News we will be misled to believe that nothing and nobody good does anything in our Borough.

What do you think?

Sunday, 27 March 2011

H&F Councillor wants more cuts

Councillor Harry Phibbs, who I have a lot of time for and who can actually point to tangible things he's done to improve Shepherd's Bush, perhaps went a little too far on Twitter yesterday when he declared that he wanted to see more cuts, that they just hadn't gone far enough for his liking.

When I asked him about what else he would have liked to have taken the axe to in H&F, however, the reverse gear was slammed into action double quick time. Read for yourself!

Just like a certain local journalist who decided to use the Fulham Chronicle's own public Twitter feed to look for a job you'vegot to wonder at the judgement of some of our local politicos and hacks sometimes...

Bush Theatre windows smashed

Some of W12's finest stove a window in last night - there was a meeting convened in the room about what to do as I walked past.

Look out for a story later this week on the spiralling crime we appear to face in Shepherd's Bush while resources are being steadily reduced.

I've asked the press office of the Bush Theatre for comment and will share that later.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Lembit Opik: Citizen Lem, the Movie

You have to watch this! Happy Friday!

Citizen Lem from Mancha Productions on Vimeo.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Help with census forms available

Harry Phibbs, one of my favourite local councillors who has himself changed Shepherd's Bush for the better, has sent me some advice for those of you struggling to answer your census forms. It turns out help is at hand.

What you need to know is below, but allow me if I may to add another thought. I can tell you that my great great great grandfather James lived and died in a house on a street in Brixton that still stands to this day. I only know this through the census that he filled out in the 1880s. By filling out your form your own descendants will be able to have that link with you one day - so spare them the 5 minutes, eh?

Supporting residents to complete the census

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is working closely with the Borough to promote the census to residents and organisations in the Borough and arrange support for people to complete their census forms. A comprehensive communication plan is in place to convey to our residents, the importance of taking part. This includes targeted work with population groups, who are known to have not responded last time.

20 “Census Helpdesks” in H&F (including the Town Hall, Libraries, NHS Health Centres and Area Housing Offices) are now providing direct support to help people with their forms and are asking customers if they have completed, or will need help with completing, their census. From 4th April, around 200 Collectors will join the ONS Census team in the Borough and will be visiting addresses where people have not responded.

Councillors can use ward surgeries to promote the Census and offer support to residents filling out their census questionnaires. Information leaflets and posters are available from Councillor Services.

The purple double decker census bus (as seen on TV adverts) will be stopping at Shepherd’s Bush Library on Sunday 27 March between 12:00 and 18:00 with an onboard team helping people with the census forms.

There will be two census completion drop-in events for residents:

24 March, 12:00 to 17:00, Bishop Creighton House, 374-380 Lillie Road

25 March, 12:00 to 17:00, Cocoon House, Market Approach off Lime Grove

Census help is available on the LBHF and ONS websites below.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Askew Road: Flats on way with Waitrose

The colonisation of Askew Road by the high street supermarket chains continues apace with news that the old Sun Pub, den of large men with even larger gold sovereign rings, is to become a genteel branch of the Waitrose chain.

This follows the anticipated arrival of the Tesco Express which will take over the former Rat & Carrot pub, answering the challenge set down of course by Sainsburys who seem to be doing quite well down at the former garage site opposite Askew Road surgery.

But what's this?! A mole tells me that the Sun Pub is also to become home to a whole new floor of flats built by a property developer which has become the hallmark of our Council as they seek to pack ever more people into one of the most densley populated areas of London. Coming on top of the seven floors of flats set to bring thousands more into Shepherd's Bush above the Market it seems Askew Road is also to play its part in hosting whole new communities.

I understand there is some rumblings of disquiet among the good people of the Askew Road and that opposition Labour councillors are thinking of forcing the planning application for the Waitrose flats to come before a committee before the decision is made, so residents and councillors can have their say.

So interesting times ahead for Askew dwellers.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Katie Piper: my beautiful friends on channel 4

One of the most inspiring people I have certainly ever corresponded with will be on channel 4 tonight in a programme bringing issues of disfigurement to the fore.

Regular readers will remember that Katie Piper was the woman attacked by two of Shepherd's Bush's worst criminals. Daniel Lynch, from Becklow Gardens, was Katie's boyfriend until he raped her. And then conspired with Stefan Sylvestre to have a cup of acid thrown in her face as she walked home one day.

I first started reporting this story back in May 2009 and since that time she has been an inspiration - going from effectively having to live inside a plastic bag to presenting the channel 4 alternative christmas message one year and then establishing her own charity. In that time people posting on this blog have been from around the UK and the world, thanking her for the example she has set and describing how the use of acid against women is a problem throughout the world. I certainly had no idea it was so widespread - but it is.

In recent months I have been corresponding with her on and off and I suspect she will read this post as well.

So as she climbs yet another peak by launching this series on national television, taking what hapenned to her, what she has done about that and turning it into a beacon of strength for others with various forms of disfigurement I think I can speak for everyone by saying, simply, thank-you. And good luck, Katie.

English Heritage attack H&F Council Hammersmith development

The launch of the Save our Skyline campaign against H&F Council's plans
English Heritage have slammed our Council's attempt to build two large blocks of luxury flats on King Street, obliterating Furnival Gardens by the river in the process. The scheme, which is opposed by local residents who come out in their hundreds at campaign events, is being pushed through by the Council.

The scheme will result, much like the plan to build seven floors of flats on top of Shepherd's Bush Market, in a completely unrecognisable local landscape with high rise high cost housing the order of the day. Even those historic buildings that don't get demolished, such as the old cinema on King Street, will be dwarfed by the twin towers.

Here's what English Heritage have to say:

“English Heritage considers that the proposals will cause considerable harm to the historic environment including the setting of both these listed buildings, to the visual character and appearance of the conservation areas, and to the longer views across and along the river Thames. This is because the proposals are not in keeping with the established riparian historic environment in this locality.....

“.....We believe that the disproportionate impact these proposals will have upon heritage assets, their settings and the wider historic environment is not acceptable......

“.....We recommend that the proposals are fundamentally reconsidered in light of the above comments, particularly concerning the height and mass of the new buildings associated with the proposal for the footbridge and the considerable harm they will cause to the setting of all heritage assets in the locality.”
Stern stuff - but they are talking to a Council who seems quite comfortable with the idea of ignoring local people on this subject. Speaking at this meeting Council Leader Cllr Greenhalgh pledged to "listen" to what the residents were saying, but then submited his plans unchanged to developers 24 hours later.

The relevant Council wards are currently held by the Conservatives, but at the same campaign meeting the residents were organising pledge groups, of people who pledge never to vote Tory again. I would say the price of not listening might be higher than some of the Councillors who dismiss these residents realise.

Fulham Chronicle: Andy Slaughter raises propaganda in parliament

The Fulham Chronicle's bid to work with H&F Council to carry their propaganda, which will replace the soon-to-be-defunct H&F News, has been debated in Parliament recently. Our MP, Andy Slaughter, raised the issue with Grant Shapps, the Local Government Minister who appeared to confirm that the proposed deal would be in contravention of the soon-to-be-introduced Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity.

Sounds anoraky? Well in simple terms this is what it means to you and I: The Government has rightly killed off "H&F News" which is a council propaganda paper produced with hundreds of thousands of pounds of your money, and which only puts the council's version of events across.

But our council has tried every trick in the book to get round this new restriction, and is now dangling a ten year contract worth over a million of your pounds to the Fulham Chronicle, who appear desperate to take it. Not only would this mean lots of your money still being spent telling you a very one sided version of the truth, but it would also, in my humble opinion, fatally undermine the newspaper's ability to report impartially on the Council.

The owners of the Chronicle, Trinity Mirror, would presumably not wish to see any inconvenient reporting on the Council between now and the contract being announced, for example. And lo, there hasn't been much to trouble the Council recently.

You don't have to look far to see how newspapers wield power over journos - just look at Murdoch. Which might be why some journalists at the Chronicle appear to be making for the door.

Here's what Andy Slaughter has to say:

"I recently raised this issue with the Local Government Minister, Grant Shapps MP, who confirmed that H&F would be breaching the code by continuing with their plans. As a result I have now raised the issue with both the district auditor and the monitoring officer for Hammersmith to make them aware of what the council is up to.

I hope that they will look at the issue and ensure that H&F council now comply with the Government’s rules on local publicity".

So it matters in terms of your money and your democracy. The fact that the Government now seems to be saying that what is proposed is likely to violate what they are putting forward is interesting, and may yet stop the arrangement. Watch that space, as I am sure both Hammersmith Town Hall and the Fulham Chronicle will be.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Earl's Court plans mean battle for West Kensington

The BBC reports that the long awaited plans to demolish Earl's Court exhibition centre and replace it with, among other things, large scale new housing is to go ahead. This, of course, is the battle ground of the West Kensington Estate whose owners have such little trust in our Council's promises to protect their interests that they have tried to use new powers to forcibly evict them as a "rogue landlord".

West Kensington Estate residents don't want to move, basically. They say they are happy with their homes as they are and fear being priced out of any redevelopment, forcing them to leave the area. This is fanned by our MP Andy Slaughter who says that is precisely the Council's intention, with the picture above being taken at a rally he hosted with the residents in the House of Commons.

The Council dispute this, arguing that far from driving people out their plans are aimed at increasing the number of affordable homes in the area. But the fact that H&F Council was served a "notice to quit" by it's own residents illustrates the complete lack of trust between them.

What has muddied the waters in the past was the aggressive public relations operation mounted by developers CapCo, with their own chief PR man even having a stand up argument with little me in this article's comments section here.

So, guess what, this one looks like adding to the very long line of controversial planning disputes pitting H&F Council against residents which end up in the courts! What will be interesting is whether or not the residents formal application to evict H&F Council and take over the estate themselves will actually work - the truth is, nobody knows.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Police name Piotr Maculewicz as Hammersmith murder victim

Police have named the victim of a murder in Hammersmith last week.
At around 19:15hrs on Friday 11 March, police were called to a man unconscious in the forecourt area of Sulgrave Gardens, Sulgrave Road W6. Officers and the ambulance service attended but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

He has now been named as 29-year-old Piotr Maculewicz (14/5/81), a Polish national.

A post-mortem at Fulham Mortuary on 13 March did not establish a formal cause of death and we await results from further tests.

An incident room has opened at Barnes under DCI Howard Groves of the Homicide and Serious Crime Command

DCI Groves said: "We have established that prior to being found Mr Maculewicz was in a lock up off the forecourt area of Sulgrave Gardens, and there may have been a fight.

"There would have been people coming and going at the time of the incident. The area is overlooked by a number flats and I am sure there are people who may have witnessed what happened and I am encouraging those people to contact the incident room."

Officers will be attending the scene this evening (Friday 18 March) to speak to anyone in the area, handing out leaflets and appealing for information. Anyone with information that may assist the investigation should call the incident room on 020 8247 7821; if you wish to remain anonymous call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

+ Two men [A - 31 ys; B - 27 ys] were arrested in connection with the inquiry and were taken to separate west London police stations. Both were later bailed to return in May pending further inquiries.

Stabbing on St Stephen's Avenue last night?

I've had two reports from readers about a stabbing that apparently took place on St Stephen's Avenue at around 7pm last night. I have put a call into the local police but anyone who knows something please share, as you normally do, with your fellow Bushers below.

If it's true it will mark one of the lowest few days in W12 for a long time, coming after a double stabbing on Wood Lane and a murder on Shepherd's Bush Road just last week.

Perfect friday video: Unfinished London featuring the Westway!

This video, perfect for a friday, is excellent. Unfinished London explains the nightmare we now have with our roads and pins the blame squarely on town planners heads. But it ends on a positive and features Shepherd's Bush and our wonderful Westway! Enjoy...

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Fitness First Shepherd's Bush: A members review

This review was sent in to me by Steve Bailey, a Fitness First Member who lives in Shepherd's Bush, and who thinks it is the 'worst gym in London' - harsh indeed. Here's his view:

The toilets some time overflow onto the men's room floor. We dry off after a shower with the hairdryers when there are no towels as happens too often. The general manager calls the men's dressing room ``a disgrace.''

Welcome to Fitness First at Shepherds Bush, London's worst gym.

Going to the gym should be an enjoyable experience. Too often it is not at Shepherds Bush Fitness First.

Here's what I have found in my six months as a member: The showers smell and many of the soap dispensers and shelves are missing from the walls. The sinks are broken and never fixed. The area around the toilets and the urinal are some times covered in towels or newspapers to catch the overflow. The walls are mildewed. Most of the lockers do not have hangers for your coat. Towels are often not available. And more.

``I completely agree with you that the state of the men's changing room & maintenance is a disgrace,'' the General Manager wrote me in an e-mail on Feb. 2.

I can't speak for the women's room, but we in the men's dressing have become the brotherhood of the miserable. ``London's worst gym,'' I grumbled one recent morning as I used the hairdryer to dry off yet again because there were no towels. ``London's cheapest gym,'' another member offered. ``If you think it is bad in the morning, you should see it in the afternoon,'' said a third. Longtime members tell me the gym has gone downhill steadily over the last five years. If a service business depends on word of mouth, the word of mouth is about as bad as it gets at Shepherds Bush.

It doesn't have to be this way. I use the Fitness First at Covent Garden every Sunday while my daughter goes to dance. The facility is very nice. The men's room has cut flowers and a deodorizer on the sink. The only things that smell are the weightlifters. Everything works. Amazing.

I've gone to gyms for years and never experienced any as bad as the men's room at Shepherds Bush. I continue to go and hope for changes only because of the proximity to my home; unless the gym is close by, I won't use it. And as I said, the gym should be an enjoyable experience, good for mind and body.

The problems come down to two words: management and investment. Both are inadequate at Shepherds Bush.

Fitness First should either fix or close its facility at Shepherds Bush. It is providing a poor service to its paying customers and damaging its corporate brand. Fix Fitness First.

It does seem to be Fitness First, Service Last at the moment. One has to hope they fix things soon. Reading between the lines I think the old manager was given the boot which is why it's under new management and to be fair to new manager Marius I don't think he is under any illusions about the scale of the challenges the gym faces - but I'm not sure he understands how soon people are going to just start cancelling their memberships rather than wait for things to get fixed. It really has gone downhill in a big way.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Bush Theatre gets religion with Westminster Abbey

The Bush Theatre has teamed up with Westminster Abbey and the Kings James Bible Trust to create a unique, intimate and highly theatrical event to celebrate the 400th year anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible (KJV), a book that changed the world. In the Beginning is a creative tribute to both the book and the building and it is the first time Westminster Abbey has collaborated in this way.

Exactly four hundred years ago, in 1611, a group of scholars gathered together in the Jerusalem Chamber at Westminster Abbey to finalise their translation of the King James Version of the Bible (KJV). Subsequent centuries have seen this book become one of the most significant works of literature in the English language.

In The Beginning, a short work by Bush playwright, Nick Payne, interweaves selected extracts from the KJV with an extraordinary journey round the Abbey. It will access areas that are rarely open to the public and cast a fresh and surprising light on the Abbey itself. The script highlights some of the more idiosyncratic parts of the Abbey’s history; the fact that playwright Ben Johnson was buried standing up for he could only afford to buy one square foot of land.

As the audience travels round the building an ensemble of the country’s most talented actors will lead these intimate tours providing a uniquely theatrical experience for the audience.

The Bush Theatre’s soon to be leaving artistic director Josie Rourke said: ‘The Bush is thrilled to be part of the celebrations to commemorate this important anniversary, and celebrate this historic and beautiful text through this unique performance event in Westminster Abbey.’

This one off event will be an exciting way to experience an historic place and an historic text and will be co-directed by the Bush's Artistic Director Josie Rourke and Associate Director Christopher Haydon.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

"People's Question Time" farce

I attended my first ever "People's Question Time" with Boris Johnson and around 20 members of the London Assembly this evening at Battersea Arts Centre. It will also be my last because the whole event was a complete farce.

Billed as a "peoples" opportunity to raise questions, a fact solemnly repeated at the outset by Assembly Chair Dee Doocey AM, it was nevertheless embarassing to see around 20 politicians sat like mute lemons in two lines behind the Mayor for two hours who himself told plenty of jokes but precious little else. So we paid them, and they didn't see their families, so they could sit quietly and do nothing.

I wanted to ask a simple question about the Shepherd's Bush Market plans, while numerous other people had other questions and weren't called but this was of far less importance to the Chair of the evening, fellow Tory Richard Tracey AM who instead gave questions to no fewer than four elected councillors who gave us all the benefit of some partisan political speeches designed to enhance their own election chances. Far more important, you see.

Outside there were around 30 police officers and what I would imagine was a significant bill for staging the whole charade. And charade it was. What a joke.

Wednesday UPDATE: The excellent MayorWatch blog has also picked up on the fact that many of the questions last night came from politicos or wannabes - author Martin Hoscik says this:

"People’s Question Time should be just that – a time for the people of London to ask questions of politicians they rarely encounter.

Those of us who who can fire off an email to City Hall or, in the case of Borough Mayors and Councillors, can write direct to the Mayor and key members of his team really should let the wider public ‘own’ such events.

They were never intended to be a platform for party stablemates or political opponents to grandstand and score petty points.

If you’re an elected or ‘wannabe’ elected figure and are thinking of going along to a future PQT please remember – the night’s not about you, your ego or your electoral hopes.

Keep your question to yourself and let the real public voice their concerns"

Nisa Askew Rd appeals booze ruling: Police ask for your help

Nisa, the most irresponsible local retailer on the Askew Road, is appealing the Council's decision to stop them selling booze 24 hours a day to the various alcoholics who populate the road, usually congregating around the betting shop or the now derelict Sun pub to drink their cans of super strength, vomit and then shout at people. (not necessarily in that order.)

The Council decision followed a popular campaign by Askew Road residents and business owners alike. Nisa's attempt to overturn the decision comes just days after a man suffered cuts to his face after a bottling - opposite a shop selling cheap booze on the Goldhawk Road.

The Police are appealing to local residents to help them see the ban enforced at a court hearing on the 25th May 2011 by supplying their own reasons for not wanintg Nisa to be granted the ability to supply the booze. And it's not just limited to those living on the Askew Road so please don't be put off by that - those people who fill up at Nisa's super strength filling station will of course be free to stumble around W12 in general.

According to Labour attack blog H&F ConWatch, the Police are asking for the following:

The police now want evidence from people with similar experiences. This should be a statement and perhaps also photos or video footage. A diarised statement which outlines problems on a day-to-day basis would be very helpful.

Any objections should relate to one or more of the following four licensing aims:
  • The prevention of crime and disorder
  • Public safety
  • The prevention of public nuisance
  • The protection of children from harm
If you want to ask any questions or submit an objection, please contact Adrian Overton at the Town Hall as soon as possible. His details are:

Adrian Overton, Licensing Officer - Safety & Licensing,
LB Hammersmith & Fulham
Environmental Protection - Public Protection and Safety Division
5th floor, Town Hall Extension
King Street
London W6 9JU.
Tel: (020) 8753 3081
Fax: (020) 8753 3922


Frankly I think people on the Askew Road should start an immediate boycott of Nisa and I'll be coming back to that theme in the coming days. But for now, just consider the irony of Nisa - who want to make money off the back of problem drinkers at 4am - being just doors down from very reputable trader Askew Wines.

The difference between the two couldn't be more stark - Askew Wines was effectively put there by the business nous of its owner who bought the place when the old Bottoms Up went bust, and with the full support of local residents who now have a classy shop adding to the ambience of the road.

Nisa, on the other hand, is a cheap and nasty chain that seems intent on offering cut price booze to a) put the likes of Askew Wines next door out of business and b) to monetise the alcoholics who are, in my humble opinion, one of the biggest challenges of the area, both to themselves and others.

Nisa clearly couldn't give a stuff about what you and I think anyway so let's go for the bottom line - profit.


Monday, 14 March 2011

Hard times at Fulham Chronicle

OK so I may have posted something I shouldn't have earlier on, which was the screengrab of a local journo, Adam Courtney, looking for another job using the newspapers own public Twitter feed.

Relevant to Shepherd's Bush? Yes, in my view, because it is an insight into how well the local press is or is not doing at a time when there are real and current questions about the likely impact of them turning propaganda carriers for the very Council they are supposed to be reporting on. And it aint just me raising those questions, but a number of local politicians from more than one party.

But on a personal level I got a phone call earlier today from said journo who, it's fair to say, was quite upset - so the image is gone because I don't want to upset anyone. I would just point out that to use your own employers public Twitter feed like that probably wasn't the cleverest of ideas in the first place. And you'd think a journalist might have realised that. 

H&F Conservatives to keep VIP freebie Olympic tickets

£50,000 worth of free Olympic tickets are being made available for councillors bottoms to grace seats in the Olympic stadium, and this has not gone down well with some of those on the receiving end of cuts in H&F which our own ruling Conservative councillors have just voted through claiming that there was just no more money in the kitty.

Unlike Lib Dem councillors in the London Borough of Redbridge who are returning their allocation, pointing out that as tax payers we have already contributed huge amounts of money to stage the games and yet we are all at the back of the queue for tickets and have to take part in a lottery instead. No such hard luck for H&F councillors who have their pick, gratis.

The whiter than white LibDems of Redbridge, however, are challenging other councillors in London to show similar virtue and refuse to take them up. Speaking to the Evening Standard Ian Bond, the Liberal Democrat deputy council leader in Redbridge, said the council would not be using cash from London council taxpayers, who have already contributed £625 million towards the cost of the Games. He said: "I would be disappointed if any council thought it was appropriate to take the tickets. For us it was a no-brainer."

And the LibDems here in H&F are up in arms too. Merlene Emerson, who stood for them at the last General Election and is now standing for City Hall told me:

"Like you am curious to know who would be privileged to receive valuable tickets as freebies. 14,000 reserved by the Government does sound excessive. But pleased that my colleagues in City Hall have highlighted this issue and are calling for transparency and full accountability. We cannot allow Olympic tickets to be used as a means of winning friends or rewarding cronies.

Thank you for pursuing this with the local Council with respect to their allocation".

H&F Opposition Labour Group Leader Councillor Stephen Cowan agrees and told me that:

"This Council has been cheering on the Cameron led government's austerity measures and has instigated some of the largest increases in stealth taxes and biggest cuts to front line services in the country. So, it would be the height of hypocrisy and bad taste if the Conservative Administration spent any tax payers' money lavishing these tickets on politicians or officials. The tickets should be sent back or be used for the benefit of some local worthy cause."

You may agree. But not our Council, whose spokesperson told me on friday that:

"The council does intend to take up a number of these tickets but no decision has been made yet on how many or how they shall be dispensed".

Because they're worth it.

1700 UPDATE - Councillor Greg Smith, Cabinet Member for Residents' Services, has been in touch to clarify the Council's intention, he's issued me with this statement:

"In Hammersmith & Fulham, there is absolutely no question of taxpayers paying for councillors and council officers to enjoy the London 2012 Olympics. While the Council does intend to take up this ticket offer, it will be the individuals in question that pay for the tickets. This Council is focused on spending every penny of taxpayers money on delivering the services that matter most and not on perks for officials."

Which is all dandy - were it not for the fact that taxpayers have already paid for these tickets which are being offered to the Council through general taxation for the last few years. So unless the Council is planning on charging people for the ones they have been allocated this doesn't really seem to clarify matters. What would be welcome, and I humbly make this suggestion to the Council, is to announce that they are going to use them to raise money for local charities, by auctioning them off for example.

But will they?

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Two kids stabbed in Shepherd's Bush

The BBC reports that late last night just before midnight there was yet another stabbing, this time of two teenagers on Wood Lane near Westfield. Their ages were 15 and 16 and no arrests have yet been made.

Since posting this about the stabbings that take place in Shepherd's Bush on Saturday there have been two stabbings, resulting in one death and now two hospitalisations.

And in some house somewhere there is a grieving family that will never be the same again. So here is that video again just to remind the gang members, who call themselves MDP and that I know read this blog, what they are actually doing.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Man killed in Hammersmith, two men arrested

A man was killed in what is reported to have been a fight last night in Hammersmith. The Police have sent me this statement:

Detectives are investigating the death of man who was assaulted in Hammersmith. At around 1940hrs on Friday, 11 March, police were called to reports of a fight in the street in Sulgrave Road, Hammersmith W6.

Officers and London Ambulance Service attended the scene.

A man - believed to be aged in his late 20s - was pronounced dead at the scene. We await formal identification and confirmation that next of kin have been informed.

A post-mortem examination will be arranged in due course.

Officers arrested two men in connection with the death. The two men - [A] 31 and [B] 27 - were taken to a west London police station where they remain in custody.

An investigation has been launched by detectives from the Homicide and Serious Crime Command.

Anyone with information that may assist police should call the incident room at Barnes on 020 8247 7821. To remain anonymous call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

I didn't realise how relevant this post about violence last night would be.

14th March UPDATE - The two men arrested have been released on bail by Police after the post mortem investigation on the dead man was "inconclusive". Full police update follows:

Two men arrested in connection with the death of a man in Hammersmith on Friday have been bailed pending further enquiries after a post mortem examination was inconclusive.

On Friday, 11 March at around 19:40hrs police were called to reports of a fight in the street in Sulgrave Road, Hammersmith W6.

Officers and the ambulance service attended and a 29-year-old man was found suffering injuries. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

An investigation is underway by detectives from the Homicide and Serious Crime Command. 

A post mortem examination at Fulham Mortuary on Sunday, 13 March was inconclusive and results from further tests are awaited.

Detectives believe they know who the deceased is but await confirmation that next of kin have been informed and for a formal identification. 

Anyone with information that may assist police should call the incident room at Barnes on 020 8247 7821 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Video: Teen killings in London

Sofyen Belamouadden, 15, was murdered in Victoria station by a gang of youths nearly a year ago to the day. He was from Acton/Shepherd's Bush and a pupil at Henry Compton School. The trial of the people accused of his murder, which followed a grimly familiar pattern of pathetic gangs arranging to meet and fight each other on facebook and some child dying as a result, was halted in January after the jury had to be discharged.

Our own gang call themselves Murder Dem Pussies, you can see "MDP" scrawled on some of the walls and fences in W12. They usually scrap with another one from further up the Uxbridge Road and every now and again someone also gets stabbed and killed. Like Kodjo Yenga. Or shot. Like Craig Brown.

I know some of both lots read this blog because they usually leave threatening comments which I then delete. So I ask them - and the rest of you - to watch this video which has been produced detailing all of the killings than have taken place of young people in London in the last two years.

And then ask yourself, if you are in a gang, do you want to be next? Or do you want a future?

QPR promotion threatened by points deduction

The madness years, during which the strange twins of Hitler-loving Bernie Ecclestone and all round strange guy Flavio Briatore took over from what were essentially a bunch of mafia style goons who ended up in court after part owner Gianni Paladini was threatened in the boardroom by someone with a gun, appear to have resurfaced to threaten the clubs chances of making it to the Premier League this year.

The FA have slapped no fewer than seven charges of misconduct on the club and a points deduction now seems a certainty, despite the protestations of the QPR board who have requested a personal hearing. That is a dangerous move since it's quite clear following the Evening Standard's reporting last night that they not only knew they were in the wrong over the dodgy agent deal to sign Alejandro Faurlin but that they were offered the chance to put it right by the FA but chose not to. Fighting the charge is likely to increase the penalty.

So it seems that Shepherd's Bush may not be hosting premier league action after all - and nobody should be more outraged by that than Neil Warnock who has single handedly masterminded their commanding lead of the Championship from start to finish. His work appears to have been undone by the loons who for so long ran the club into the ground and almost into bankruptcy, and whose ghosts now have come back to haunt us.

And to think we dared to dream.

Bush Theatre Director Rourke to leave

Josie Rourke is to leave the Bush Theatre in 2012 to join the Donmar Warehouse theatre in Covent Garden.

Ms Rourke is a widely acclaimed artistic director but her impact on Shepherd's Bush has been to mastermind the siting of the theatre at the old Shepherd's Bush Library building on Uxbridge Road, in close collaboration with Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Police helicopter for man on roof, later arrested

Many of you reported hearing a police helicopter hovering overhead last night and some of you experienced a very bright searchlight being trained on what seemed like several properties. As ever I put in a call to the Police and they have sent me this statement which I think is fairly self explanatory.

Police were called to an address in Uxbridge Road, W12 at approx 23:48hrs on Wednesday 9th March following report of a domestic incident.

Police Helicopter was called to assist police as a male was believed to be on the roof of the building.

A 30-year-old male was later arrested and taken to a West London police station.

One of the perils of living in a densley populated area is that when things go pear shaped in one place we all get the benefit of the fall out - which is presumably why our Council's plans to cram thousands more people in to this same area on seven floors of flats over the Market is proving so unpopular. Except with estate agents. And property developers.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

War erupts over “Super Sewer” entrance in Fulham


Well, it seems the war of words between our Council and Thames Water is set to ratchet up several notches with the news that Thames Water has decided to think again about siting the main entrance to the Thames Tideway Tunnel (aka Super Sewer) in our part of the river on the Wandsworth side of the water.

I remember being at this meeting in City Hall (pictured above) when the London Assembly member Tony Arbour professed his anger that no alternatives appeared to have been considered by the Utility in their plans to place a large entrance to the sewer in Barn Elms, which is an area currently used by schools for sports among other things.

Now it seems that sustained lobbying on the southern side of the Thames has led Thames Water to consider alternatives on the northern side of the river after all, notably in Whiffin Wharf, Hurlingham Wharf and Carnwath Business Park – all of whom are in Fulham. These new options arise out of the first stage of consultation that the utility has run about the site and design of the new sewer’s building works.

Having spoken to both Thames Water and sources at Hammersmith Town Hall it seems that this time around H&F Council at long last does have a valid point to make about this. The problem is that it has engaged in so much rubbish until this point that it has very little credibility left on the issue with which to protect the areas and the residents who live there.

Not only that but our Council has already earmarked those areas for housing developments so it stands to lose a good chunk of money which it wouldn’t get if developers are not allowed to build their flats on the land.

Thames Water will be running an exhibition next month for residents in Fulham to see what the proposed new developments, if they went ahead in Fulham, would mean for them. These will be held at Hurlingham and Chelsea Secondary School, Peterborough Road, SW6 3ED on Wednesday 6 April and Thursday 7 April from 4pm until 8pm.

Here’s what the two sides have to say, starting with Thames Water’s Phil Stride:

As we refine the options for the tunnel, the size and potential locations for construction sites are subject to change. We are also listening and responding to feedback received to date.

“Both options have their advantages and disadvantages.

“Unlike Barn Elms Playing Fields, Carnwath Road Riverside is brownfield, not greenfield, and is already designated for regeneration or industrial use. It is not important for recreation, would not require any tree felling and is not Metropolitan Open Land. The site’s existing jetty, combined with the greater width of the river at this point, would also allow us to use fewer, larger barges to remove soil excavated during construction of the main tunnel and bring in materials.

“On the other hand, more residents and businesses would be directly affected at Carnwath Road Riverside than at Barn Elms Playing Fields. Using Carnwath Road Riverside for the construction period would potentially also be in conflict with Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s own plans to regenerate the area.

“I must stress that we have not discounted Barn Elms Playing Fields as a possible major construction site for the Thames Tunnel. Before we make any final decisions, we will need to carefully evaluate the suitability of the site in more detail and potential impacts on nearby residential properties and businesses.”

And here’s what H&F Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh has to say in response:

“Residents in South Fulham will be shocked that Thames Water are even considering using these prime riverside locations that are set to create thousands of new homes and jobs for local people

“Millions of pounds worth of inward investment would be lost if Thames Water pushes ahead with this plan and the disruption and noise nuisance will be a major blight to the area for at-least eight years. We will fight Thames Water all the way on this as the massive entry compound can only be justified in an area of open land well away from built up areas.”

And what’s more:

“Considering this sudden change to put the tunnel starting point in South Fulham will do nothing to reassure residents that their costly plan is well thought-out. Working with residents, Hammersmith & Fulham Council has fought a long-running battle against plans to locate the works for the main entry shaft in the borough and we will not stop now.”

The problem for Cllr Greenhalgh is that he is the boy that has cried wolf – “working with residents” as he states above included, for example, claiming that existing residents living around Furnival Gardens could be made homeless – which he was later forced to retract. And he is now planning himself to destroy Furnival Gardens with …. Yes, property developers against the wishes of local residents.

So we now appear to be in a situation, where there are indeed legitimate questions to ask of Thames Water as to why they are now changing their plans with profound implications for H&F, and yet we have a Council who long ago used up what credibility they ever had on the issue, so are hamstrung in their ability to stick up for residents.

Interesting times.

1240 UPDATE - The BBC are reporting on this here in a very balanced way - unlike the Fulham Chronicle who report Councillor Stephen Greenhalgh as being "stunned" by the "shock U-Turn". - Either journalist Adam Courtney is auditioning for a tabloid newsdesk or that propaganda cash battle is swaying editorial lines.

10TH MARCH UPDATE - The BBC London News reported on this last night, you can see the video of the piece that was shown here.

Violent incident on Goldhawk Road

A young male was apparently the victim of a violent incident on Goldhawk Road last night according to some of you. I have put in a call to the local police press officer and will report more when I have it but in the meantime, just like you did during this incident, please let your fellow Bushers know via the comments if you are aware of anything.

0945 UPDATE: The Police have just given me this statement - it was a glassing with a broken bottle.

Police were called at approx. 18:20hrs on Tuesday 8th March to reports of a serious assault outside an Off Licence along Goldhawk Road, W12.

Officers and LAS (London Ambulance Service)

A 38year old male was attacked with a broken glass bottle. The male was taken to a local West London hospital with several gashes to his head.

A 45yr old male was arrested on scene by police and taken to a separate hospital with injuries to his hand and remains in police custody.

Now then, I wonder if this is the same Off Licence with an outstanding application - Londis of 20 Goldhawk Road - to sell booze until 2am. Even if it's not I defy any Councillor in Hammersmith Town Hall to look favourably on any future applications of that sort in Shepherd's Bush.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Sunset over Shepherd's Bush

You know spring is back when you see sights like this down the bottom of your road:


Bottom trumpet player provokes QPR crowd trouble

A Moroccan with a penchant for playing a trumpet with his bottom is being sought after crowd trouble at Saturday's game at Loftus Road in which QPR beat Leicester City 1-0. The game itself was a thrilling, high blood pressure inducing encounter in which the Rs sneaked a win against tough opposition - so imagine the scenes described by this London-based but Leicester supporting reader who writes in to describe an incident that nearly provoked the intervention of the Metropolitan Police:


Sitting in the corner of the away supporters’ end at any football ground is not for the faint-hearted.

One general rule of being an away supporter is that you’re a trifle late with buying your match tickets when there are few seats left on sale you tend to get plonked in the far corner and high up in the stand. Depending on your personal outlook this is either an inconvenience or a bonus: for you end up sitting under the crossfire of banter between opposing blocks of supporters. And so it was last Saturday, as a Leicester City fan, when I took up my seat in Block Y2 of QPR’s School End stand.

To begin with, there was little more than the usual rhyming couplets and barely witty insults going to and fro, traded with half-hearted gusto. You know the form: the “Who are ya!?” and “You're s**t and you know you are". Although, one Leicester chant informed the other lot: "You're being sold in the morning" (in response to media reports that QPR's Chairman Bernie Ecclestone had put the club up for sale). However, what made this fixture a little spicier was the presence of a lone eccentric Moroccan supporter on the QPR side. I assume his nationality since he was i) a tanned chap, ii) waving a Moroccan flag and iii) blowing a trumpet every time QPR’s Adel Taraabt got the ball and began teasing the Leicester defence with his mazy dribbles.

So, a little cosmopolitan colour at Britain’s football grounds. How nice. But there something else about this little chap that seemed to get on the away end’s nerves. He was short, stocky, wearing an outlandish blue sombrero hat, childishly waving his traditional football rattle with one hand and holding the said trumpet in the other. Each time QPR pressed he delighted in flashing a big toothy grin towards the away end and on receiving some token abuse in return he began making inadvisable gestures.

One little Moroccan versus a couple of hundred of Leicester’s finest working class. As the match wound on the trumpet blower was undeterred and kept up his repertoire of fanfares and gestures, getting ever bolder. Steadily, the temperature and noise climbed higher as both teams played end to end football and the QPR goalie Paddy Kenny somehow held out the blue Leicester tide that was threatening to swamp the Championship leaders.

Until finally, two minutes from the end, the QPR sub Ishmael Miller comes on and promptly thumps the winner. Three quarters of Loftus Road goes amok with relief. Cue our little Morrocan who stands up, turn his back to the away end, places his trumpet on his arse and wiggles it in their direction. The away end is not pleased. The response doesn’t feature witty rhyming puns about QPR and north African culture. If only. We’re dealing here with the anglo-Saxon vernacular at its most basic: “YOU F***ING C**T” repeated over and again by ranks of angry, purple-faced male 40-somethings. Honestly, you’d think it was just a game; turn a blind eye old chap, let the others have their fun, if they must. But the burly orange-bibbed stewards lurking at the back all afternoon know the score, and make their way down the stairwells to display some belated authority, somewhat comically undermined by their pale and quivering faces. (Just what is it that the police actually do on match days??)

So, there we have it. Just another away game. Until the next one. A small part of me admits to a sneaking admiration for the little Moroccan imp who upped the ante at this one. Take care, mate. And watch out for yourself.

So who was the sombrero wearing bottom trumpeteer? And should we applaud or condemn his actions? The good people of Shepherd's Bush have always been an interesting mix!

Bush Theatre announces new collaboration

Yesterday the Bush Theatre announced a new collaboration to transfer the successful “call for plays” campaign, which in 2008 brought un-produced writers from London’s East End to the stage, to West London with an exciting new project; ANGLE at the Bush led by patron Roy Williams.

Launched in 2007, the original project reached over 50 community organisations. They received a total of 100 submissions, 50 were from first time writers and 40 scripts were written by people from a BAME background. Three plays were selected to be produced in ANGLE’s inaugural season of plays: TriANGLE09 at Hackney Empire Studio which successfully reached a culturally diverse audience. Two of the writers, sociologist Shamser Sinha and Mina Maisuria, were offered commissions and attachments respectively at The Royal Court and the Bush Theatre. In November 2008 ANGLE Theatre won a Peter Brook Award in support of its first season.

Initiated by Charlotte Gwinner, founder of ANGLE Theatre and an associate director at the Bush Theatre, and produced by Gabby Vautier, ANGLE at the Bush will take place from March to November 2011. It will be targeting local writers who exist outside of the regular new theatre writing channels across the surrounding boroughs: Brent, Hammersmith and Fulham, Ealing, Hounslow, Harrow and Hillingdon. Leaflets and posters will be distributed and workshops will be delivered to community groups who are without access to the theatre; with the aim to combine professional theatre with raw writing talent from the locality, and to provide a springboard for fledgling writers.

Charlotte Gwinner said: ‘This year we are thrilled to be working with the prestigious Bush Theatre under the helm of Josie Rourke. ANGLE seeks to unearth raw and charismatic new writing and takes its inspiration from local people. Our aim is to bring “outsider” writing talent under the banner of high quality theatre and to entertain new audiences with highly polished productions. Under these aims we are delighted to launch our search for the next generation of playwrights from the Bush with its extraordinary track record in discovering new talent; and particularly at this exciting time in its illustrious history as it moves into its new premises securing its links with a rich and diverse community.’

The Bush Theatre’s artistic director Josie Rourke said: ‘Everyone at the Bush Theatre is thrilled to be working with ANGLE on this important and deep-reaching project. ANGLE is second to none at reaching out to the quieter and underrepresented voices in London. The Bush is delighted to bring them West this year.’

Roy Williams said: ‘Schemes like these are more important than ever to find new writers; young and old. Growing up in the local area, I’m delighted to be the patron of ANGLE at the Bush.’

All submissions will be read by a team of professional script readers employed by ANGLE and The Bush. The panel will shortlist selected writers who will be develop their plays with professional directors and cast. The plays will be presented as part of the new season at the Bush’s new home at the old library in Autumn/Winter.

You can find more details at

Monday, 7 March 2011

Super Sewer: Thames Water accused of closing park

Imperial Wharf Park is now the venue our Council is portraying itself as valiantly fighting to protect against evil Thames Water and their dastardly plans to site an entrance to their "super sewer" or Thames Tideway Tunnel as the huge pipe is more formally known. The Evening Standard has the story here.

This, as regular readers will recall, is a renewal of ancient hostilities. Our Council back in 2009 launched a campaign to save first Ravenscourt Park and then Furnival Gardens from being destroyed by the water utility who, they said, had already decided to plant what they poetically called "super sewer stink craters" in them. I called on you to support their campaign, assuming the Council must be telling the truth.

To cut a long story short the Council were first of all found to be telling porkies and secondly were roundly criticised by the Mayor, the Government and surrounding Councils all of whom are in favour of the project which will deal with the huge amounts of raw sewage that is discharged into the Thames every year as a result of our Victorian era sewer system which, put basically, can't cope with all of our poo. I even went down a sewer to investigate, which you can read about here.

This is the same Council, by the way, who are now forcing through a developers plan against the express wishes of local residents in Hammersmith which will itself destroy Furnival Gardens with a bridge linking the riverside with two plush luxury flat complexes on King Street. So they obviously didn't care about Furnival Gardens that much after all.

Speaking to me this weekend a spokesperson from Thames Water said:

'We are analysing feedback from our public consultation and also looking at different construction options to minimise disruption and the use of greenfield sites. But we are not considering any sites with existing planning permissions or any additional greenfield sites.

"Where a site appears promising we will talk with local residents and businesses in the same way as we have done elsewhere, being open, transparent and listening."
I would have thought a newly opened park, like Imperial Wharf, would constitute a 'greenfield site' by anyone's estimation - so it seems once again that our esteemed Council are needlessly scaremongering and that there is no real threat to the park. What I find doubly astonishing about this behaviour is that the Council themselves will shortly be having meetings with Thames Water - as will every riverside Council - about this and other issues to do with the tunnel. Why is our Council the only one to pump out provocative press releases instead of simply talking to the company instead? It does nothing to advance the interests of residents, in fact it just serves to scare them, and brings absolutely no advantage whatsoever.

Unless you're a Council obsessed with getting headlines.

Frankly coming from a local authority who even stooped so low as to get a local cheerleader to warn that local residents could even be made homeless by the project that they knew was never actually coming to Furnival Gardens, and then themselves push through a project to destroy the park themselves on behalf of property developers and against the wishes of the same local residents, you'll excuse me if I take anything they say on this subject with a bucket load of salt. I suggest you do the same.

In the meantime Thames Water's consultation on where they do actually site the entrance points to the sewer can be found here.