Wednesday, 31 August 2011

MP column: Andy Slaughter

Andy Slaughter's e-news is sent to people who sign up for it at his website but I have agreed to also publish it here for people who might be interested. As ever the offer is also open for columns from any of the Conservative Council, including Leader Stephen Greenhalgh who has written columns for this blog before.

Here's what Andy has to say:

Cuts begin to bite

Details are beginning to emerge of the effect on local public services of the cuts being pushed through by all levels of government, and they make dramatic reading.

Over 1,000 children will have to leave borough schools as their families are uprooted by Housing Benefit cuts
Local voluntary groups will lose £1,000,000 over the next three years

Cuts to Education Maintenance Allowance will cost one school alone £350,000 a year from next year
Despite the riots of two weeks ago, the Mayor is pressing ahead with 20% cuts in police numbers

The Council is selling one third of a local park – described as a ‘drain on resources’ – to ‘generate a substantial income’ But life remains good for developers in Hammersmith & Fulham, who are pressing ahead with plans to demolish local housing and build blocks up to 30 storeys across the borough. Opponents of such schemes are guilty of ‘nihilistic selfishness’ according to one Government minister this week.

And for senior council officers, who have awarded themselves massive pay rises while cutting jobs and freezing pay for the lower paid. Hammersmith & Fulham have given their Chief Executive an £11,000 a year pay rise, according to the Chronicle, making him the second highest paid person in local government on £280,000 a year. Not bad for running one of the smallest London boroughs

Summer appears to be over in Hammersmith & Fulham

Children forced out of school

For some months I have been requesting information on the effect of the Government’s cuts to Housing Benefit on Hammersmith & Fulham families. I understand why the council wants to conceal this information as it will mean hundreds of families uprooted and forced to leave their homes, moving to parts of the country where rents are lower. Many will be in low paid work where HB makes up the difference between what they can afford and the high rents charged by private landlords in west London. So they will lose jobs as well as homes and be forced to move far away from friends and families.

But I have obtained figures for the number of children who will be forced to change school. 884 primary and 322 secondary age children will be forced out of borough schools, 10% and 5% of the total school population respectively. Leaving aside the human consequences, this will have serious implications for schools, both their budgets and future planning. But the council sounds pleased with the outcome, describing it as reducing ‘the exceptionally high demand we currently have’.

By definition these children will be from poorer families and this may explain the council’s glee. Without the need for the estate demolition and service closures they are proposing elsewhere and which have provoked local opposition and national censure, they can press on with the social changes to the area they wish to engineer.

Voluntary sector loses £1,000,000

The Big Society is supposed to be about voluntary organisations taking on the responsibilities of the state. Not here, where community organisations are under siege. Masbro’s summer party last week attracted over 1,000 people, an eloquent response to the £45,000 cut to its funding the week before.

But this is only one of many long-standing and essential services losing out. Staying Put, the homelessness prevention service, will lose £60,000 from October, and the overall loss will be £1,000,000 from a budget of £4 million by 2014.

William Morris pupils lose £350,000

Education Maintenance Allowance supports poorer pupils post-16. It pays for travel, books and living expenses and at up to £30 a week can make a real difference to family income. Without it many students are likely to drop out of education, which not only increases social inequality but leaves many more teenagers on the streets with no money or useful employment, with potentially explosive results.

So there was an outcry when the Government abolished EMA, and they promised an alternative. What that alternative means to just one local school, William Morris Sixth Form, emerged this week. No more than 25% of pupils will be eligible compared with 70% now and they will on average get half the current rate. When the new scheme is fully implemented next year this will mean £350,000 less going to WMSF pupils.

WMSF is an outstanding school, as its last two Ofsted reports have confirmed. The fact that 70% of pupils receive EMA is evidence of the level of deprivation of its student intake. Those same students have just achieved excellent A Level and GCSE results.

Boris Johnson to cut Met by 2,000 officers

Hardly a popular idea before the London riots, the Mayor of London’s decision, backed by the Home Secretary, to press on with 20% cuts in police numbers, now looks unwise if not dangerous. 1,900 warranted officers and larger numbers of PCSO and support staff will go over the next three years if Boris Johnson is re-elected in May 2012.

Locally, we are facing the disruption of our Safer Neighbourhood Teams as all the team sergeants in the borough compete for fewer jobs. Campaigns to save the popular sergeants in North End and Sands End wards have already started ahead of a formal announcement next month.

With other London MPs I have written to the Mayor to ask him to think again about reducing police numbers.

Also this month came news that crime is rising in the borough after years of reduction, with burglary up a staggering 16% in the last year.

Hammersmith Park for sale

For the third time in as many months the Council is trying to build on or sell off parts of our parks. After defeats at the hands of residents’ groups in South Park and Shepherds Bush Common, 30% of Hammersmith Park is now up for sale.

Earlier this year the Tory councillor responsible for parks promised my colleague Iain Coleman that the well-used but unsafe football pitches in South Africa Road, in Iain’s ward, would be upgraded. Now we see what that promise was worth.

A private company will be leased not just the pitches but adjoining areas of the Park, almost a third of the total area according to the Council. This is described as an ‘issue’ site ‘which is currently a drain on resources’. Curious language to describe a public park, you might think (PDF).

The private company, PlayFootball, whose involvement was rumoured months ago before the ‘tender’ exercise to select them, will build a pavilion on the site and 11 pitches. All but two of these will be rented out commercially. They will make a lot of money from this. So will the Council which expects to generate ‘a substantial income’. The losers will be my constituents in White City and Shepherds Bush who will not be able to afford to play football on their local pitches.

Two important principles are being dispensed with here. Firstly, the sale of public open space for private profit has always been resisted strongly in this borough. Secondly, the Council is refusing to give details of the lease, the service delivery plan or the charging structure. The first two are commercially confidential it says, so we cannot know how long the Park will be in private hands or how much the rental is. The last is because the charging rates are not agreed. In other words the Park has been sold without knowing what local residents will pay to use the pitches.

Minister attacks opponents of unrestrained development

I’ve never thought of the National Trust as an anarchist organisation, but apparently it is, according to planning minister Greg Clark who this week accused it of ‘nihilistic selfishness’ for criticising the Government’s recent decree that there would, for the first time in the UK, be a ‘presumption’ in favour of development.

If the rest of the country wants to know what that means (along with the presumption in favour of asset sales that Communities Secretary Eric Pickles embraced this month) they need only come to H&F.

This autumn we can expect planning applications for the Shepherds Bush Market site, including the demolition of the Goldhawk Road shops, Westfield’s plans for 1,700 flats up to 22 storeys in Wood Lane, and St George’s 750 shoeboxes on the riverside.

Helical Bar’s revised plans for the Town Hall site have been universally condemned. They propose to shave 30 flats off the top of the 15-storey towers, but that still means the loss of the cinema, Pocklington Trust flats and part of Furnivall Gardens. The Planning Inspector’s report on the Council’s overall planning strategy this month specifically called for the retention of Pocklington properties for the visually impaired and 40% affordable housing in such schemes: currently there is 0%. For more go to

The West Ken/Earl’s Court application, with buildings up to 30 floors high, is currently out to consultation. This is by far the biggest and least digestible scheme currently out for approval.

The developer intends to take 20 years to complete the scheme. What this means in terms of disruption for the whole of north Fulham is barely imaginable, but for the residents who will lose their homes it is far worse.

This week I received confirmation that the Council will not allow Groundwork to undertake planned improvements on the West Ken estate. Residents have faced three years of blight and uncertainty already. Last month the council sold the option on demolishing their homes for £15 million. If the plans are approved they face years, perhaps decades, living on a building site with a freeze on maintenance and improvement works.

Arab Spring

I share the delight at the downfall of the Gaddafi regime, but I believe we will come to regret the way NATO has abuse the terms of the UN Resolution supporting intervention. I voted, with some reservation, for the imposition of a no-fly zone and the use of air power to protect civilians, when the Commons debated this at the start of the insurrection.

I was not voting – nor was the UN – for British and French forces to become the aerial and, increasingly, special forces arm of one side in a civil war. I hope that a stable and democratic government can be quickly established in Libya and that the EU can play a role in building institutions in the country, but who is going to believe or support any future resolution about humanitarian intervention, however well merited.

The comparison with Syria becomes starker every day. So far the British Government has not thought of derecognising the Assad government, expelling Syrian diplomats or imposing effective sanctions against the regime.

Last week I met a leading Syrian dissident Haitham Al-Maleh. This week he was in Istanbul as part of the Syrian National Council, the first concerted attempt to unite all opposition forces.

With the death toll climbing towards 3,000 it is time the Government focused on Syria and offered all possible support, short of military action which they do not want, to the anti-Assad forces.

Meanwhile, Shepherds Bush did its own bit for Egyptian unity this week. The Egyptian Association in the UK brought together Muslim and Christian Egyptians from across the UK for a traditional Iftar meal. It also marked my second fast in a week, following attendance at Al-Muntada’s Ramadan Community dinner.

Finally, next month will see a push for Palestine to be recognised as a sovereign state and admitted to the UN. 123 countries already recognise Palestine’s right to exist, a handful short of the two thirds needed. The pre-1967 territories of West Bank and Gaza which there is now consensus amongst Palestinians should form the basis of the state represent only half the area the UN demarcated in 1948. And yet Foreign Secretary William Hague has said Britain is ‘not minded’ to support recognition.

This is a spineless and incoherent response in the face of pressure from Israel and the US. A petition has just been started on the Downing Street website calling for UK support for recognition which I urge everyone to sign.


The revelation that ex-Cameron press secretary Andy Coulson received hundreds of thousands of pounds from News International while working for the Tory Party is profoundly significant for three separate reasons.

Firstly, it means he appears to have consistently lied about his income both to Select Committees and on official documents. This further questions Cameron’s judgment in employing (twice) someone to work at the top of Government, whom he continued to see as a friend after Coulson resigned earlier this year.

Secondly, it raises the question what did Murdoch get for all this money that he did not contractually have to pay to someone who had resigned in disgrace from the organisation. What he appears to have got is his own man at the heart of the government in waiting at a time that both his war with the BBC and bid to takeover BSkyB were at their height.

Thirdly, what did Cameron get by taking on soiled goods and not asking questions about who was funding Coulson’s lifestyle? Increasingly it looks as though Coulson was employed and retained for so long because of, not in spite of, his conduct at News International.


With only one exception that I have come across, there has been warm praise for the achievements of local schools and pupils at this year’s excellent A Level and GCSE results. Can I add my congratulations to the hundreds of students and teachers who worked so hard to achieve their best. And to the Chronicle for its comprehensive school by school coverage.


Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Slaughter attacked over tax payer funded Spanish lessons

The Mirror reports that our MP has spent £6,930 on Spanish lessons in the House of Commons, in a perk that other MPs of all parties have also availed themselves of.

Fellow Labour MP John Mann, who led a personal campaign against abuses of expenses by parliamentarians before the Telegraph picked up on it, has described the use of our money in this way as "totally unacceptable".

It hasn't taken our local Tories long to jump on this latest opportunity to put the boot in, after they spent what seemed like days furiously tweeting about Mr Slaughter's decision not to attend the emergency debate in the House of Commons which followed the London riots.

Cabinet Member and Daily Mail columnist Harry Phibbs led the charge, frothing thus:

"If he wants to learn Spanish why does he insist on an expensive private tutor? Por que? Hammersmith and Fulham Council provide a 10 week course on Monday evenings for £140. Would he have chosen such an extravagant option if he was spending his own money?"

John Mann simply said:

"Working people feeling the pinch will be astonished that these MPs still don’t get it"

Defending himself Andy Slaughter told me yesterday that:

"For some years public servants, including MPs, civil servants and diplomatic staff have been given the facility to study a foreign language by the Foreign Office. The intention was to help us in dealing with foreign public servants, especially those from key political and trade partners, and improve the low level of language skills among MPs. I took lessons in part because I think MPs should be able to speak more than one language".

"In the period I was learning Spanish I served as Parliamentary Private Secretary at the Foreign Office, sponsored and attended the Britain-Spain All Party Parliamentary Group, visited the Spanish Embassy for trade, business, cultural and constituency events and met with visiting Spanish Parliamentarians, diplomats and business leaders."

It does seem hard to justify - and much as I frequently disagree with Cllr Phibbs, who revealed just how far on the right he is in the wake of the Riots when he opined that families of rioting children should be broken up by the State with the kids being put up for adoption, he is correct to point out that H&F does have very good language courses. I studied French at the Macbeth Centre in Hammersmith for two years not so long ago and the teaching was excellent.

0930 UPDATE - The Daily Mail has more to say on the story, revealing that in addition to language lessons, the Foreign Office also paid for African Drumming lessons for Ministers and civil servants to improve their "rhythm". Good grief. 

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Carnival is here

If you're off to Carnival today, enjoy it. One of the best things about West London to me is marking the end of summer by going along and if you are try taking the H&C line to Westbourne Park - you can follow the route round from there.

After the madness of the riots there will be a heavier police presence and I suspect the numbers will be down too. But if you haven't been before it's well worth it. Today is kids day and tomorrow the main event. But both are excellent.

MONDAY UPDATE - Yesterday was a strange old affair - for me the numbers were way way down compared to previous years, to the point where there were no crowds where in prvious years you could barely move. And the character of the event seemed to be changing too with one sound system, in Meanwhile Gardens, simply pumping out standard dance music - nothing to do with calypso or any kind of West Indian influence at all.

The clouds and intermittent rain showers probably had a lot to do with the low turnout but you have to wonder whether the riots have cast a longer shadow over the Carnival than was expected.

The floats were, as ever, excellent though as the snatched video above, the best my lowly camera could do, shows.

Friday, 26 August 2011

H&F pioneers scheme to tackle poverty with private cash

Hammersmith is a pilot site for the UK trying to tackle the issues of poverty and crime, which cost the country and individuals hugely, using private instead of taxpayers cash. This unlikely and very ambitious idea, which is described by the BBC here, aims to draw in £40 million in the form of Social Impact Bonds, whereby private firms working with families afflicted by poverty are paid - but on the basis of the results they achieve, not the work they've done.

It mirrors the increasing emphasis on results in the sector I work in, international development, and is to me a very understandable concern with what actually works, rather than the ways we've always done things. Critics however smell a rat and there are suggestions that this is simply a way of cutting back on necessary public spending.

Time will tell - but as ever in these things, Hammersmith & Fulham is the testing ground for the Government's more radical policy prescriptions these days. For a read of what these problems actually look like in Shepherd's Bush, check out this excellent review of a visit recently paid to a low income housing project here.

1200 UPDATE - The Council has been in touch to give me their take on things, here is Stephen Greenhalgh, Leader of H&F Council:
"The social impact bond is a really exciting idea that is in tune with Hammersmith & Fulham Council's belief in the hand up rather than the hand out. We need real innovation if we are to address the entrenched culture of entitlement and dependency amongst our most chaotic and troubled families."
Hard to disagree.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Shepherd's Bush man cleared of robbery with Learco Chindamo

Gregory Jananto, of Shepherd's Bush, has been cleared along with notorious teacher killer Learco Chindamo of robbery in Camden, according to the BBC. The trial, which attracted widespread publicity due to the involvement of Chindamo, ended this week.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Masbro Centre smashes records at family fun day

The Masbro Centre's family summer party smashed all records as over a 1000 people (double the number predicted) attended an afternoon of memorable children’s entertainment on Friday 19th August. I was there with kids in tow and I can tell you they have rarely had that much fun under one roof.

Sadly no other journalists turned up, sending only a photographer with an incredibly large camera that scared the kids - so bear that in mind when you read other accounts...because they weren't actually there!

But the Centre was heaving at the seams to cater for a bumper crowd which was estimated at 1100 people. The demand for face painting and balloons had volunteers and the children’s entertainer working non stop throughout the afternoon. The party food, cake stall and Caribbean food sold out and cold drinks and smoothies sales went through the roof.

Highlights of an unforgettable afternoon included the Masbro has got talent competition won by a family team of 5 children who had practiced for days beforehand to win the first prize of £40 of Vue cinema tickets and £30 WH Smith vouchers. It was a hard fought contest compered by dance tutor Sharon Patten from SP Performing Arts.

The hula hoop competition went down to the wire with four winners in a very high class field. The competition was organised by Philippa Berridge fresh from her success at the Bush Festival. Five lucky winners won the under fives competition. Judging the event was Hope Hanlan and Avonmore and Brook Green Councillor Robert Iggulden Board Members of the Urban Partnership Group who run the Masbro Centre. Every child was a winner in an afternoon of music and fun. Special thanks to DJ’s Max Wallace Masbro Facilities Manager and Ryan Wilson 12 years old who spun an eclectic mix of young and old tunes throughout the afternoon. Official photographers Franco Chen and Clint Heine were joined by the local press, parents and carers looking to capture the events of a memorable day.

Over 40 volunteers and staff helped run the event which exceeded all expectations. By 3pm it was standing room only as the crowds continued to flock to the Masbro Centre. With a glorious sunny day, extensive publicity including door to door flyers and helped by our friends on social networking sites this was always going to be the summer party in the Borough not to be missed.

Andy Sharpe Chief Executive of Masbro Centre had this to say:
"We are absolutely delighted with the turnout of over a 1000 people which has smashed all records for this event. The support of local families for the Masbro Centre is amazing. We are already planning next year’s summer party which will be held on Friday 17th August. 2012.”
 Good luck to them - they help to make Shepherd's Bush a much much better place. 

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

A visit to see Shepherd's Bush housing: lack of ambition

The White City Estate
...not of the Council. The young people themselves, in a very thoughtful assessment written by Cllr Richard Kemp, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats in local Government who visited some housing projects focusing on young people in Shepherd's Bush recently.

In one passage, posted on his own blog imaginatively titled "but what does Richard Kemp think?", he describes:

"The programme the, InComE project, was designed to deal with the 1 in 8 social homes in London that are overcrowded because ‘kids’ are staying at home until they too get a social housing tenancy from the council. For whatever reason that is the limit of the aspiration of some young people and it was this lack of aspiration that the project set out to deal with".

I found that passage depressing - and maybe that's what the local Tories had in mind when they talked about how social housing "warehouses poverty" creating "ghettoes" in a pamphlet on social housing in the Borough, though the language was not surprisingly regarded as offensive by many.

But then the project here does set out to tackle that using carrot and stick. Here's Cllr Kemp again:

"Most of the 18 year olds not only didn’t have a job but had few or no qualifications either. Even if they had finding decent accommodation in London which someone on the minimum wage could afford to pay is very difficult. The programme started in Shepherd Bush Homes but now works with other RSL properties in a number of West London boroughs. It looks at the education, training and employment needs of each tenant. It provides a one bed flat for them at an ‘affordable’ rent provided that person commits to and continues a relevant programme designed to lead to work. The tenancy is deliberately not a permanent one but is available for up to 3 years because that is the time it can take to make a difference in the educational attainment levels of people starting from scratch.

The programme has not been going long enough to have been fully evaluated but we spoke to 3 youngsters who were already being helped by that programme. They were studying, looking for jobs or volunteering to get good practice on their CVs. It had helped give them independence and had helped free up room in the family home. The sad thing that we all agreed was that there was nothing ‘wrong’ with these kids. Like so many others they hadn’t had the right start in life".

And it was having results, apparently. Here are two people who Cllr Kemp met on his visit:

"A middle aged lady who had been made redundant who now had a reason for getting out of bed as she recovered from the grieving of loss of job and loss of self-esteem. A young boy who had a criminal record who was being helped to stay straight".

This looks like a very promising project, and to the extent that our Council are supporting it, they should be congratulated. 

Monday, 22 August 2011

Council accused of housing prisoners in Hammersmith Premier Inn

HMP Premier Inn?
This from the hospitality industry trade mag The Caterer, Richmond Council was accused by the Newsnight programme recently of housing a young offender who was on remand in the Premier Inn hotel in Hammersmith! You know, the one with the bar almost opposite the Town Hall. 

Richmond Council were furious with the report, understandably enough since they say it was completely false. And Premier Inn say they have no evidence of it happening. 

Cllr Geoffrey Samuel, according to the Caterer, deputy leader for Richmond Council, admitted that from time to time the council might "utilise a variety of types of accommodation with support from outreach workers," he slammed the allegations that Richmond Council had placed a young person on remand in the Premier Inn in Hammersmith as "misleading and incorrect."

He added that further to Newsnight's initial inquiry, the council did not state or confirm anyone on remand had been placed in the hotel. Samuel said: "Newsnighthave chosen to come to that conclusion themselves and in so doing they have come to the wrong conclusion."

So the report was wrong - but intrigued by the "variety of types of accomodation with support from outreach workers" - what does that mean? It might be that post-riots the local hotel trade might be seeing an upsurge in bookings now the prisons seem to be full.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Death on the Green: A sad sight

On my way across the Green to the gym this morning, at about 0620, I came across this very sad makeshift memorial to someone called "Jimmy" who has evidently died.I have since had it confirmed that this was the name of a street drinker from the Green who was hit by a car outside the Walkabout pub last week.

Initially his condition was not thought to be serious but he subsequently died in hospital. I suspect there may have been some other conditions given his lifestyle that might have contributed to that.

I reported in June, from my night with the Shepherds Bush police, how street drinkers like Jimmy were dealt with firmly, in terms of enforcing the rules around drinking in public, but with dignity and respect. And I had some other examples in that report of why those people were drinking themselves to oblivion every day and night. One man had terminal cancer while another was an addicted mother who would never see her children again.

It's very easy sometimes, and I'm as guilty as anyone, to be judgemental about people. But I wonder how many of us put in the same position as him would have been that much different.What a waste.

Home help for H&F older people: take a survey!

I've been asked by H&F Circle, an excellent group for people in H&F who are over 50, to help publicise a survey they are running about a possible new home help service. The home help service would be provided by older people themselves, and would not just be restricted to the over 50s. There are, of course, lots of reasons why people of any age might need some help around the home, so have a look at this and if you can do take the survey to help the Circle assess what sort of demand there might be out there in the community.

Jake Garber, from H&F Circle, told me:

"Hammersmith & Fulham Circle is a local community organisation for older people and we’re looking for opportunities to ask residents of all ages their thoughts on a new service we’re developing.

The Circle provides practical help around the home with things like DIY, gardening and cleaning for its members, who are all over 50. Since we've started providing our service we've heard from people younger than 50 who would be interested in getting some practical help themselves. We've also heard from older people who would be interested in earning a bit of money helping others out. 

So we're investigating the potential of a new service we are calling Helper+, a service in which anyone in the borough can get access to the skills and experience of one of our older helpers for any practical help they may need around the home. 

To make sure that we design a service that would be really useful we want to hear from people who buy services to make their lives easier and better. We’d really appreciate it if you could help us find out the opinions of as many people as possible. There are four main ways to be involved...
  • Give us just 20 minutes of your time for a telephone interview
  • Pass this message on to other people who might be interested in helping us
  • Take our simple online survey here
If you know anybody over 50 who might like to earn a little money helping out, then put them in touch!"

Hammersmith & Fulham Circle is a membership organisation that connects people over the age of 50 who want to share interests and make the most of what’s on locally.

Members can also get help with small jobs like DIY, gardening or technology through their reliable Neighbourhood Helpers - local people who want to share their talents and skills.

Hammersmith and Fulham Council is seed funding the Circle over its first three years, so full credit to them for taking a punt on this.

As a social enterprise, Hammersmith & Fulham Circle will re-invest any profits into the community it serves, and from everything I've heard about this project it sounds like an excellent initiative so expect to hear more from me about it. I last reported on them in Janaury this year, so hopefully there wont be such a gap next time. 

In the meantime anyone wanting to know more about their work can contact Jake Garber using the following details:

0207 089 6952

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Ken Livingstone attacked for "Hitler" jibe - made in Shepherd's Bush

Boris Johnson is "Hitler" and Ken Livingstone is being attacked today for comments he made to me at the Pie n Mash shop on Goldhawk Road, as he visited Shepherd's Bush Market recently. When I saw the quote from Tory Blog Conservative Home I thought two things - what an idiot, but also 'hang on that sounds familiar'.

Indeed it was - he said it to me in response to a question I asked him - not Amber Elliot of Total Politics, who was at the table, also recording the interview. I didn't report it at the time because it was so blatantly obvious he was joking - I laughed, so did Amber and so did Jo his press man who was busily fretting about getting Ken to the next campaign stop on the West Kensington Estate. Oh, and I can prove it was my question because I recorded it. I instead wrote up the interview on the substance that we talked about - Shepherd's Bush Market and the fate of the Goldhawk Shops that our Council want to allow developers Orion to knock down.

So I write this to put the quote into context because it looks like Total Politics are making this one of the headlines of their piece on Ken. And if they are, I for one think it's very sad. 

I say that as someone who doesn't particularly warm to Ken, a man who ignored the overwhelming wishes of West Londoners and imposed the western extension of the congestion charge on us. But for goodness sakes, the Mayor is actually quite an important job in politics, and for a magazine that calls itself "Total Politics" it is rather letting itself and the rest of us down by cheapening the debate in this way. Surely he said other things that are worth reporting as the headline, from the time Total Politics spent shadowing him?

It was a joke Amber, so why put that at the top of your article? Get over it!

1330 UPDATE - Ross Lydall, Chief News Correspondent for the Evening Standard, has been in touch. They are splashing today on these comments, but their articles were written before they saw the context in which they were made. Mr Lydall is at least tweeting the link to this blog post, giving the 2,000 or so followers of his a chance to see what was really behind them - and poking Total Politics in the eye for describing them as "exclusive"!

H&F Parking smartcards turn dumb: residents fined

Have you been fined as a result of trying to use H&F parking smartcards? One reader certainly has and they wrote to me recently with an account of using this system, which has resulted in her visitor being issued with a parking fine - twice - despite the H&F resident concerned having enough money on the card and having been told by the telephone operators running the scheme that the fine had been issued in error, meaning they had to appeal.

The SMART Visitor Permit, we're told by H&F's website, provides a convenient cash less method of paying for parking for residents' visitors which is cheaper than the regular pay and display tariff. It also allows residents' visitors to park throughout the length of the controlled parking hours, regardless of any maximum stay for pay and display parking.

The permit acts like an oyster card whereby you top up your account balance (with a minimum top up of 5 hours at a time) and then use it as and when you need it. When you use the SMART Visitor Permit, parking time is charged by the minute and deducted from your available credit, so you only pay for the time you need. The SMART Visitor Permit will automatically stop charging when parking restrictions finish at the end of the day. You can manage your account online, where you can top up your account, check your account balance, look up past parking transactions and change your registered details.

That's the theory anyway - here's how it works in practice, according to this blogreader:
I have only used my visitor Smart (Stupid) Card three times as far as I remember and twice although correctly displayed the visitor has got a ticket. The first time I spoke to a parking attendant who said 'it wasn't me' - and suggested the attendant's scanner wasn't working. I rang the helpline... 020 7371 5678... and spoke to a very helpful person (an Aussie who actually said No Worries!) who looked at the computer and verified that the card had been activated at the right time and had sufficient money on it. 

She then said I must put my appeal in writing to, which I did. This was on July 27th. She assured me they would look at the computer too and all would be well. I haven't had the courtesy of an acknowledgement or reply of any kind and have no idea if they are pursuing my visitor for payment of the charge (A carpet fitter to whom it represents a week's wages, more or less.)

This afternoon when my son came to pick up the grandchildren at 4.20 I once more rang the activation line 0203 003 2525 and was assured by the robot that I had hours to spare and that the card would deactivate at 5pm when the charge period ends. My call register logs this call at 4.22, so when they left at 5.30 or so we were alarmed to see a ticket on the windscreen.

This time I cut out the middle man and went straight to with the following email:
Dear Sir/Madam 
I am furious that for the second time within a month a visitor of mine has been issued with a penalty charge notice - HZ3639118A - while displaying my activated visitor permit No [number removed but given in email]. 
I made the activating call at 16.22pm as confirmed by my call register and was informed that I had 2hrs and 49 minutes on the permit and that it would deactivated at 5pm 
Please consult your own computer to verify this.  
What is the point of having this technology if it doesn't work and causes aggravation in this way? You must do something to rectify the situation. Presumably I can't be the only person this is happening to, and you may be inundated with complaints, which perhaps is the reason I haven't had the courtesy of a reply to my email of 27th July when the former incident occurred. I have only used this card three times and twice it has failed to work satisfactorily... unlike the original process of taking my money which worked just fine. Naturally.  
I now have raised blood pressure, a worried son and two upset grandchildren. Please sort this out.
I now don't know whether to trust the system again. Has it never worked, but the first time my family were lucky and no parking person came by? Is it my card? It seems to work absolutely fine when it comes to eating up my prepaid funds. I've calmed down now (Marks and Spencer's Dine in for a tenner helped) but after a long day childminding instead of earning, seeing my son hassled after his own long work day (he's out at 06.30 am) and my grandchildren bewildered and upset by us being upset I was in no mood to be understanding. 

The SMART Visitor Permit was introduced on a trial basis into Controlled Parking Zones A, X and Y in December 2007. The scheme was extended to Zones B, C, CC, D and E in November 2008, to Zone G in December 2009, to Zone J in January 2010, Zone I in June 2010, Zone M in July 2010, and Zone L in August 2010. The SMART Visitor Permit will be introduced to further parking zones in the coming months. 

Let's hope they sort themselves out soon - have you had similar experiences?

1600 UPDATE FRIDAY - Well, wouldn't you know! As soon as this appeared on the blog, the unfortunate reader concerned received the below letter. So that's them sorted ... but is the system working now?

Shepherd's Bush murderer gets 20 years

A man has been sentenced to life imprisonment at the Old Bailey today (Wednesday 17 August) for the murder of Ibrahim Kledat in Shepherds Bush in October 2010.

Charles Lansiquot, 42, of Bathurst House, White City Estate, W12 will have to serve a minimum of 20 years before he can be considered for release.

He was found guilty of the offence at the Old Bailey on Tuesday 16 August following trial.

Detective Inspector Craig Jones of the Homicide and Serious Crime Command said:

"Lansiquot not only dreamt up an elaborate sequence of events to explain the victim's death, he also put the lives of other residents in the block of flats at risk when setting fire to the premises to cover his tracks. Good detective work provided evidence that his account was nothing but lies and resulted in him being convicted."

The court heard that police were called at approximately 08:10hrs on 20 October 2010 to Lugard House to reports of a fire. Officers, London Ambulance Service and London Fire Brigade attended.

At 08:25hrs the fire was extinguished and a short time later the body of a man with stab injuries was found inside the premises. A murder investigation was launched.

The victim was identified as Ibrahim Kledat, aged 54, of that address. A post-mortem examination gave cause of death as shock through haemorrhage and stab wounds to chest.

At approximately 12:00hrs the same day Charles Lansiquot walked into Shepherds Bush police station and told police he had witnessed the murder of his friend.

He told police that he was in the flat, where he had been drinking with the victim, when two men came in through the front door which was always left open. He claimed they pointed a gun at him and told him not to move before stabbing Ibrahim Kledat numerous times.

He then stated that they had made him clean any evidence from the flat before making him take his clothes off and telling him they would kill his family if he told anyone what he had witnessed.

Detectives, suspicious of his account, arrested Charles Lansiquot in connection with the case.

Enquiries were carried out into the hours leading up to, and after, the victim's death and evidence was gathered which contradicted Lansiquot's story. He was charged with murder on 23 October and committed for trial.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Super Sewer rebellion: Mayor movement

Have a look at this report from last week's BBC London News - it seems that Boris Johnson, getting ever closer to the election, is starting to backslide on his support for the Thames Tideway Tunnel, or "super sewer" as it is known by opponents.

I havent reported on this for a while now but will do so soon..and thanks to H&F Council's press team for putting this vid up on their site.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

MP Column: Andy Slaughter

Andy Slaughter's e-news is sent to people who sign up for it at his website but I have agreed to also publish it here for people who might be interested. As ever the offer is also open for columns from any of the Conservative Council, including Leader Stephen Greenhalgh who has written columns for this blog before.

In particular in this column Andy responds to the criticisms made of him for not attending the emergency parliamentary debate on the London riots last week, but also the successful Shepherd's Bush Festival and other issues besides.

Here's what Andy has to say:

The riots - one week on

Last week there was political consensus that law and order must be restored before politicians started analysing why the riots happened and what should be done to prevent a recurrence.

Today, that analysis started with speeches from both Cameron and Miliband, and consensus there is none.

There is a danger that all commentators faced by dramatic events like these simply use them to state their own agendas and long-held views, making the facts fit a pet theory. This is as true of Iain Duncan Smith blaming moral collapse as of Polly Toynbee saying after condemnation and punishment, what then if not rehabilitation?

I will try and be aware of my own prejudices in writing this, though obviously I am closer to Miliband’s plea to avoid knee-jerk reactions than to calls for National Service (Daily Express) or boot camps (Boris Johnson).

I have written in my article for this week’s Chronicle why I think Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush escaped serious violence, based on what police officers at PC and Commander level told me and my own 50 years of living and working in this community.

I do not mean this to sound complacent. Riots by definition are volatile. It could have happened here. It might in the future. But a strong community and a dynamic police force – prepared to pre-empt trouble whether by talking it down or arresting those fomenting it – are the best preventative tools.

Let me start by thanking our new Borough Commander, Lucy D’Orsi, and every one of her officers who showed both courage and intelligence in keeping our streets, homes and businesses safe.

Let me also thank the thousands of community workers and volunteers, people like Andy Sharpe at Masbro and Keith Da Silva at Fulham Cross, who I have worked with over decades, and who give their time and energy selflessly to build and support the lives of young people and adults locally.


The riots were criminal acts. They had no political motivation. There was a catalyst in the shooting of Mark Duggan, but no causal link to what then mushroomed from area to area around first London, then many major English cities. There was no racial theme, no particular local issues. Gangs played a part – and need to be taken seriously by the Mayor and the Met irrespective of the riots – as did electronic communication in coordinating the mob, but are not explanations in themselves.

I have said what I thought averted riots here but beyond opportunity and a growing sense of social dislocation, there is no easy explanation for what happened when and where it did. Which is why we need a full inquiry, not instant ‘solutions’ based on prejudice.

The most worrying consistent factor in the riots is the age of some of those involved. Children in their early teens took part in violence and looting perhaps for the first time in the UK. This above all makes the need to deal with causes as well as symptoms the number one priority for this Government.

The right approach

The streets are quiet today, in part because of the number of officers patrolling. But trouble could flare up again any night. We must keep policing visible and at enhanced levels. Hammersmith has a tradition of engaged policing that goes back to previous Commanders like Kevin Hurley and Anthony Wills. Other areas could learn a lot from that.

It should be beyond argument that cuts in frontline policing are restored, but at national, London and local level they are going ahead. George Osborne and Theresa May confirmed that 16,000 officers nationally will still be axed. Boris Johnson claims he is converted to reversing the cuts but he has already lost 455 officers, announced the loss of 300 safer neighbourhood sergeants and plans to lose 1,900 in total by 2015 if re-elected.

In Hammersmith we are losing at least four sergeants with further cuts across council services from Parks Police, town centre teams and wardens. To this we can add the cuts to youth clubs – most of which have been closed and are now being sold off – and the voluntary sector, like the £45,000 cut from Masbro last week. This was always wrong, now it looks short-sighted as well.

As someone who practised criminal law for many years, I trust the courts to deal fairly but firmly with those convicted of offences arising from the riots. But again I worry that the cuts in Youth Offending Teams (20% this year), probation and the prison service will mean both punishment and rehabilitation, let alone prevention, will be under-resourced for years to come.

Rising youth unemployment, cuts to Education Maintenance Allowance and £9,000 a year tuition fees will all mean more young people on the streets with time on their hands and no stake in society. None of this excuses criminal behaviour, but right-wing politicians are simpleminded if they think it will not lead to increased crime and disorder.

It is time for Osborne’s Plan B (aka Labour’s Plan A) – cuts to the most sensitive public services must be reversed and the economy stimulated not shut down.

The wrong approach

David Cameron is blaming the police and setting them up to fail. Talk of bringing in US policing or police chiefs undermines the police service here. Publicly offering the police water cannon, which they have declined, means that if further disturbance breaks out he can blame them for not taking up his offer. Saying that he ordered the police to be more robust in tackling rioters is simply not true.

This is Government by PR and gimmickry. Poor at any time, positively dangerous at present.

Iain Duncan Smith is on the lookout for evil people who, bereft of moral values, are hiding in dark corners of society. I doubt he will find any but it is an excuse to evict families from secure homes and to deduct benefits from poor families. How punishing a household for the actions of an individual is either equitable or rational, I don’t know, but it has been repeated by politicians seeking soundbites and at a loss for real answers from Nick Clegg to Tory councillors in H&F.

Promising to evict families from council homes if a member of the family is convicted of an offence implies council tenants are more prone to criminal behaviour and that they should have a greater punishment than others committing similar crimes. Of course, the Council has no power to evict in most cases, that is a matter for the courts and this is gesture politics, but if families are evicted and on the streets how is that going to aid social cohesion?

But nothing can beat for crass opportunism, Chelsea and South Fulham MP Greg Hands. In over 30 messages to his constituents over the past week only three have mentioned the effect of the disorder on his constituency, where there were serious incidents, and those were from newspaper reports. The majority have been personal attacks on me and other Labour politicians. Many of these are simply untrue – all are irrelevant to his residents and the job he is paid to do. Less time spent on political spite and more serving his constituents would be good for them and in the long run for him as well.

Shepherds Bush Festival

I spent Saturday afternoon at the Shepherds Bush Festival, held on the Green for the second year running. The Festival is organised from scratch by local resident Joanna Berridge who missed the Masbro Carnival that was a feature of the area for many years. It is a fantastic achievement – all the more so this year with no lottery funding. From the live music to tutoring on playwriting by the Bush Theatre to superb jerk chicken and curried goat it was a great day out – even enjoyed by passing QPR and Bolton fans.

Save our Riverfront

Visit to read about the latest fightback against greedy developers and their councillor mates intent on ruining Hammersmith’s historic riverside. On 14 September plans for 750 high-rise flats next to Hammersmith Bridge go to H&F planning committee. Local residents opposing the scheme are holding a public meeting at St Augustine’s Church, 55 Fulham Palace Road W6 8AU at 7pm on 6 September.

Curiously at the last committee on 3 August, a much smaller scheme on a neighbouring site, Queen’s Wharf, was turned down for all the reasons that apply to the Hammersmith Embankment site – density, lack of affordable housing, height, effect on the conservation area. The difference is Queen’s Wharf is owned by a housing association the council doesn’t want to do business with.

Another victory

Congratulations to the friends of South Park who have won a planning inquiry against the Council to stop the development of more public open space. Coming so soon after Shepherds Bush Green was saved from tarmac this is a further sign that we are not friendless in the battle with the Luddites at the town hall. It was an ancient covenant which saved Clancarty Lodge in South Park, as was the case with Shepherds Bush Library – saved from sale and now home to the Bush Theatre. Elsewhere Grove Neighbourhood Centre and Masbro have been kept as community resources because the previous Labour council gave the users long leases – I wish we’d done that more often. Of course, this doesn’t stop the Tories cutting grants, as with the Masbro’s sudden loss of £45,000 last week, but it means that unlike the youth clubs and other buildings already sold at auction, they will be there for future generations.


Murdered Police remembered in East Acton ceremony

Last Friday was the anniversary of the murders of Detective  Sergeant Chris Head, PC Geoff Fox and PC David Wombwell who were  murdered in Braybrook Street W12 in 1966, and it was remembered in a small and often little known ceremony that takes place every year in this part of the Bush.

At 11am flowers were laid at the memorial by the youngest serving  police officer on duty, PC Ross McNamee. He was joined by Inspector  Ruald Coleman the duty inspector, Chief Superintendent Lucy D'Orsi, Borough Commander for Hammersmith & Fulham Police, Superintendent Peter  Clilverd and members of Chris Head's family, his brother in law and two  nephews.

A one minute's silence took place in remembrance.

One of the most traumatic murder cases in London occurred one summer  afternoon on 12th August 1966 when the crew of F 11 Q Car was cold-bloodedly murdered near Wormwood Scrubs prison.

The three officers were Detective Sergeant Christopher Head, Detective  Constable David Wombwell and PC Geoffrey Fox, all of whom were attached  to Shepherd's Bush police station. They approached a battered blue  Standard Vanguard Estate car with three suspects inside in Braybrook  Street, and Christopher Head and David Wombwell questioned the  occupants. The suspects were John Witney, owner of the car, John  Duddy, and the infamous Harry Roberts. It was Roberts who pulled out  a gun, and turned a routine police stop into a gruesome murder by  shooting David Wombwell. Roberts then pursued Christopher Head towards the police car and shot him also, whilst Duddy fired at and  killed Geoffrey Fox.

The three criminals raced away from the scene, and the biggest manhunt  for many years began. It had been the first time that three officers  had been murdered in one incident since three City of London officers had died in Houndsditch in the prelude to the Sidney Street siege of  1911, and the whole of the police service was shocked at the outrage.

Public reaction was no less intense, and there were many calls for the  re-introduction of the recently abolished death penalty for some types  of murder.

Fortunately the number of their car had been taken.

John Witney was the first to be arrested, having been traced through  his ownership of the car, and he admitted the involvement of Duddy and  Roberts. Duddy was traced to Scotland, but Roberts was on the run for  about 3 months before he was caught camping out in Hertfordshire.

Witney and Duddy have since died but Harry Roberts remains in prison  to this day for the crime. In the years that followed the murders followers of Millwall Football Club used to taunt Police with chants about how Harry Roberts was "their friend" for being a "cop killer".

Borough Commander for Hammersmith & Fulham Police, Chief  Superintendent Lucy D'Orsi said: 
"I think it is really important to  remember and make the time to remember officers who worked hard to  ensure the safety of Londoners 45years ago. Officers from Hammersmith  and Fulham are very proud of Detective Sergeant Chris Head, PC Geoff  Fox and PC David Wombwell and their families are enormously proud of  them. We are working very hard at this current time under difficult  circumstances to keep our local community safe and that is exactly what  these officers were doing 45years ago and my thoughts are with their families."
PC Ross McNamee from Hammersmith & Fulham, the youngest serving police  officer on duty today aged 26years said: 
"On my first day on duty at  Hammersmith & Fulham I was taken to see the memorial and was very  saddened to hear what had happened so it was a pleasure to have been  asked to attend today".
Cllr Greg Smith, H&F Council Cabinet Member for Residents' Services,  said: 
“The murders of three unarmed police officers in cold blood all  those years ago was one of the darkest days in this borough's history and it is fitting and proper that we remember them at the Braybrook  Street Memorial every year. The Police are the last line of defence  against the criminal underworld and the risk our local bobbies take  every day in putting themselves on the front-line to keep us safe  should not be underestimated."
We have seen last week, and in the times when terrorism has come to threaten our part of London and elsewhere, the extraordinary risks the emergency services take on our behalf. When I accompanied the Shepherd's Bush Safer Neighbourhood Team one Saturday night, sadly the first thing I had to do was don a stab vest. That was as I listened to a PCSO tell me about how a man he had been chasing the previous night had tossed a hand gun into a hedge as he ran away.

The murder of Bray Street is only marked small stone plaque which half the time is only half visible because the grass grows around it.  I first noticed it when I was training for the Brighton Marathon on the scrubs and went home to look up what it was about.

It stands there, as does the plaque to the officers who have fallen elsewhere, such as that dedicated to WPC Yvonne Fletcher what was killed outside the Libyan Embassy in the 1980s for example, as a reminder of what people who quietly get on and do extraordinary things on our behalves every day really are putting on the line. 

Monday, 15 August 2011

H&F Borough Commander: Update from the week-end

Hello - an update from over the week-end from the Borough Commander of H&F Police. Sadly she displays a bias towards Fulham Football Club, which is unforgiveable.

Apart from that she, and her team, have done a superb job this past week.

I have spoken to officers who have been working 17/18 hour shifts and sleeping on station floors, in some cases in parts of London where they were facing the worst levels of violence, much of it directed against them.

Here's what she has to say:


We had a busy weekend but I am glad to say that that all went well. I visited Fulham FC and there was been a good police and steward presence. This was also the case at QPR FC and at the cycle race. I am delighted that we did not have to cancel any of these events as to have done so would have had a significant impact on local business.

We are continuing to have a visible presence on the streets utilising Special, Safer Neighbourhood Officers, Detectives and Community Support Officers. However, we clearly will not have the same volume of officers on duty as we did earlier in the week but will have sufficient to keep the Borough safe. As I am sure you appreciate officers require time off and the threat at this stage is greatly reduced. We will continue to arrest outstanding offenders and we are maximising the additional officers to complete some warrants.

Notting Hill Carnival planning is ongoing and we have developed a local policing plan to support policing in those areas peripheral to the carnival. Any information or intelligence is always much appreciated.

Your support over the last week has been incredible, thank you. We will keep you advised of any developments throughout the month but not on a daily basis unless circumstances dictate. No news is always good news".

London Wide
  • 16,00 Officers were on duty across London over the weekend.
  • 1580 arrests to date.
  • 923 people have been charged.
"A number of you have contacted me regarding becoming volunteers over the last week. I thought the attached web link may be of interest".

What can you do?

"You can also help us by assisting in the identification of people that have been looting, rioting and committing crime.

Anyone with information should call our incident room on 020 8345 4142. Alternatively you can call the Crimestoppers charity anonymously on 0800 555 111.

We are also publishing images of people wanted in connection with looting. Follow the link below to see if you recognise any of the people we wish to speak to:

It remains my intention to ensure that we work with you and the Local Authority to keep local communities safe"


Lucy Chief Superintendent Lucy D'Orsi Hammersmith & Fulham Borough Commander

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Riots & Shepherd's Bush: What did it mean and what can you do?

A scene from my journey to work - Clapham Junction
So what was all that about?

The most bizarre week I can remember since moving to London in 1997, and in some ways even more disconcerting than the bombings of 2005. More than 50 people died in 2005 and nothing in the last week can come even close to that level of human suffering but for most people at the time it was clear that whoever was behind the bombings it was going to be a small group, and the chances of being caught up in it were statistically very small. 

Not so last week. We saw waves of people, of all ages but predominantly youths, on the streets and wreaking destruction where they went. We saw looting but also acts of sickening violence characterised by the Asian student beaten in the street and then robbed while he bled, as his assailants pretended to help. I work in Stockwell up the road from Brixton and walked through the devastation on my way to work in the mornings. 

Shepherd's Bush - sheltering behind the shutters
People got back to the Bush early but found the shops and other places also closing early – and this in the middle of the week in August. Normal it was not. 

But then, it didn't actually happen here, and the question I have been wondering about is why. 

Despite the efforts of some on social media, and our ever irresponsible local media with their hype and predictions about Westfield, the streets of W12 remained quiet while further up the Uxbridge Road in Ealing they burned and a man was murdered. 

My theory, for what it's worth, is that three things happened. First, and most obviously, by Tuesday Shepherd's Bush was fully prepared, even with barriers surrounding Westfield itself. Secondly I think the work that our local police have been doing, which I witnessed for myself one Saturday night, has been paying off. You don't really want to be hurling a rock at someone you've actually got to know as a person, and not just a uniform. But thirdly I think we were saved simply by the fact that we are so fragmented here. If you live on the Edward Woods Estate, for example, you are physically quite a long distance from the next big estate, and the gangs that do exist here – most notably the imaginatively named W12 gang – are not very big. Bad people don't just come from estates - some of the best people live on them - but the fact that they are broken up I think stopped large enough groups forming last week.

Behind the barricades - Westfield
And of course there are a whole lot of good people in the Bush, many of whom were on the Green this Saturday at the hugely successful Bush Festival

But before we heave a sigh of relief consider what all of this does mean. Many of the people we have seen being processed by the all-night courts are clearly people who will now pay a very high price for basically getting caught up and going along with something because they didn't think there would be consequences. Stupid, but not evil. The young girl who was an Olympics Ambassador, the wannabe model and even the teaching assistant from a school. Not hardcore gangsters. 

But they did what they did and should be punished. They'll probably get more than they would have done otherwise. 

Pic courtesy of Open Ealing Blog
The people really paying the price though are the 99% of young people who had nothing to do with it, but are nonetheless getting tarred with the same brush. Many of them have started the 99% Campaign to make exactly that point and are using the website to co-ordinate clear up and other voluntary work for the community. 

Some of them, like those in West Ealing pictured above, have been trying not just to clear up the mess but to use the aftermath to build something better. People have met for the first time and new projects - business and social - are growing out of the experiences people have had. Read more on the Open Ealing blog, I've been talking to them in recent days and wonder what we might learn from them in our part of West London.

Open Ealing
So spare a thought for them and maybe consider what you can do too. A bunch of us locally have been talking to the Masbro Centre in Shepherd's Bush about going for a tour of that service, which provides help and assistance to young people looking for jobs and to gain experience, as well as a youth club. Sadly the Council has recently slashed their funding, and the local Police are experiencing reductions in numbers too.

Those are political decisions and it's right there should be a debate about that but the reason we are talking to Masbro is to see what we can do as ordinary people who live here. There is always a need for mentors, advisers and others who can share their experiences with young people who might either have gone off the rails already or who are at risk of doing so. I know I almost did when I was growing up and I suspect I'm not the only one among you reading this. 

So as the arguments rage around on the news and here locally between politicians, each competing to use more hard-line language, ask yourself what you can do – what could you share? What sort of time commitment would there be? What would it involve?

If you're interested in knowing more email me at and let's see if we can make a difference.

Bush Theatre put on last play at old home

As a final fond farewell to the theatre’s long term home, the pub on the Green, the Bush will present non zero one and their interactive production called this is where we got to when you came in to celebrate the history of what they call "this unique and special space".

Artistic Director of the Bush Theatre Josie Rourke said today:
“As we move into the Bush ' s glorious new home, we wanted to take a moment to mark our departure from the old space. this is where we got to when you came in will give audiences a chance to explore the tiny and quirky backstage spaces of the old building, and relive some moments of Bush history. We ' re thrilled to be working with non zero one. It feels right that the Bush, which is dedicated to seeking out the best new voices, should ask one of our most innovative and exciting new companies to create this piece. ”
The Theatre crew tell me they want you to allow your curiosity to lead you through the building that has been home to the Bush for the last 40 years. Stolen kisses in the corner, furrowed brows on the fire escape, those final deep breaths before lines are spoken for the first time - encounter the past and dance with the future - what will you take from this place, and what will you leave behind? 

this is where we got to when you came in is an interactive journey through the Bush Theatre , giving participants the chance to take their last, or perhaps even first, steps around the building before its doors close after 4 decades of performances.

non zero one make interactive performances using popular technologies. Their work explores the relationship between performer and participant. It discovers ways in which ties can be made and broken; power won and lost, and experiences shared or made deeply personal, both during and after the performance itself. this is where we got to when you came in is the first time they have collaborated with a playwright.

non zero one are Sarah Butcher , Iván González, Cat Harrison, John Hunter, Fran Miller and Alex Turner. They made their London debut with would like to meet at the Southwark Playhouse in 2009, which was presented as part of BITE ' 10 at the Barbican Centre last year. They have also presented work at The Basement in Brighton, Forest Fringe in Edinburgh, Bring The Happy Festival in Leeds and most recently at Latitude with the time out. non zero one are supported artists of The Basement, Brighton .

Elinor Cook is currently under commission to the Bush Theatre, and is also one of the writers involved in Sixty-Six Books, the inaugural production in the new theatre. Her short play The Circle Game was the winner of Old Vic New Voice’s Time Warner Ignite 3 and was performed at Latitude. Her play Head Music is currently touring, as part of Box of Tricks Head/Heart project. Microwave, her most recent play, received a workshop at the National Theatre Studio, directed by Charlotte Gwinner. She has also had work performed at Trafalgar Studios, the Arcola and Theatre 503, as well as a reading of her first play at the Royal Court as part of their Young Writers’ Festival.

James Bulley is a sound artist, composer and PhD researcher at Goldsmiths, University of London. His work focuses upon the exploration of new methods of composition through sound installations and large scale durational sound pieces. Most recent works includes Variable 4, created in collaboration with Daniel Jones, a 24 hour outdoor site-specific 8 channel sound installation that composes and plays music in real time based on the second by second incoming weather conditions. Its most recent installation was the result of a commission and artist residency from Aldeburgh Music at Snape Maltings, with the piece previously having been installed in Dungeness , Kent as the result of a PRSF Live Connections award last year. He has also shown work at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (Equal Temperance, A schizophonic composition for 29 pianos), the Southbank Centre (Kindertransport), the London Festival of Architecture (X Street), and the UK Young Artists Festival (Connection Failed).

Saturday, 13 August 2011

4 arrests on Green in drunken row

Four people were arrested by the Police on Shepherd's Bush Green in a depressing reminder of some of our local problems this evening after what had been a superbly successful Bush Festival during the day.

Here's what a spokesman has just told me:

"There was a drunken altercation on the green. Police Officers on foot tried to deal with it but became surrounded by a threatening crowd. They called for assistance. As many Officers who could rushed to assist them. This included Public Order Police Officers in Riot Buses. 4 persons were arrested".

This would account for what many of you described as a very large number of Police - if you bear in mind that they would have heard that their colleagues were surrounded by a crowd it's really not surprising that they would respond in force. I'm told that as soon as they realised the situation was under control they left just as quickly. Seems sensible enough to me.

Bush Festival draws masses to the Green

The Bush Festival has filled Shepherd's Bush Green with what I estimated to be a couple of thousand people over the course of the afternoon to listen to a series of music acts on stage, take part in a drumming workshop run by some seriously impressive drummers from Ghana and many more stands.

My own offspring were particularly impressed with the gargantuan bouncy castle (which was free) but a little less so by the teacup ride which lasted about 1 minute. At £1.50 a throw this was a nice little earner! Face painters, clowns and a football training class combined with African and West Indian food, to keep them more than happy.

For the grown ups there was all that plus the chance to talk to the volunteers putting on Oxjam Shepherd's Bush in October, the Bush Theatre (who had a theatrically arranged front room set on the Green, dahling) and several local voluntary groups including a Buddhist peace group handing out friendship bracelets.

And a last word for the Police, who were there in numbers but in no way obtrusively. After the events of what has been a genuinely bizarre week, which has seen many of our local officers sent off on riot duty in some of the worst hit parts of the capital, I hope they enjoyed it as much as they could while on duty.