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Sunday, 30 November 2008

Count-Down to Christmas kicked off in style

Christmas began yesterday. It began with a flurry of Christmas fayres and for me, culminated in the glorious SCAF Christmas Dinner at Kingsweston House.

The evening began with mulled wine and carols in the main hall, before we sat down to a meal of pate and toast, and a very full Christmas dinner buffet. You couldn't find better surroundings, and the whole thing cost just £15, thanks to the generosity of Kingsweston House, and their support for the community. Kingsweston House is one of the jewels of Bristol's heritage. It is easy to forget what an amazing piece of history sits on our doorsteps, and looking at the extraordinary restoration job that John Hardy, the owner, has done, easy to forget how close the house came dereliction in 1995.

The wonderful evening, and the venue, also marked a fitting end to another year of tireless work from Ash Bearman, David Thomas and all those who make SCAF such a proactive community organisation.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Is Bristol City Council allergic to excellence?

Amazing. In its mission to improve and provide facilities for young people in the city, Bristol City Council wants to cut funding from what should be the jewel in its crown, the nationally acclaimed Bristol Broad Plain Boys Club and Riverside Youth Project. Why? Because they don't like the name, and say it doesn't do enough to bring in girls. Despite the club's inclusion of girls in its activities. It's almost as if the City Council is allergic to excellence... Read my Guardian blog about it HERE

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Waking the sleeping giant: Getting Bristol Back On Track!

On Friday 21st, members of FOSBR gathered at Wilder House, home of the West of England Partnership, to issue a rallying cry for funding for a Portishead-North Bristol Rail Loop line to be included in the bid for Government funding.

As one railway worker put it, Bristol railway network is a sleeping giant. There is a railway infrastructure running in and around the city, with disused stations like Henbury just waiting to be used. With 2,500 houses planned for the area just North of Henbury, as part of a 33,000 house building plan in the area; with Bristol Zoo development to take place at the top of Blackhorse Hill - having a railway service across North Bristol is a no-brainer.

I will be writing to the Chair of the South West Regional Assembly to make the case for the line, and hopefully members of other political parties will be doing the same. It's time for the sleeping giant to wake up. It's time to get Bristol back on track.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Lockleaze Primary Cinema hit!

Yep, that's a pop corn machine in the corner. It's all in preparation for Lockleaze Primary School's screening of "Kung Fu Panda" , on Tuesday evening. The school organised the cinema event to bring parents and their children together, and to make the school more of a heart of the community.

The evening was a storming success. I helped out on the door. Tickets had sold out, and over 90 people came to enjoy jacket potatoes, soft drinks, the film - and of course, pop corn. The evening was enjoyed by parents, children and siblings alike. Hopefully this will be the start of many more similar evenings at Lockleaze Primary and across schools in Bristol.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Lamplighters Roast - one of Bristol's best kept secrets

...If you carry on down Hung road, on the south side of the Portway, you find the superb Lamplighters Pub.

There's something a bit other-worldly about the Lamplighters as you walk down to it - it's so unexpected and has an aura of real history about it. And as you walk outside, you find yourself over looking the mudflats of the estuary, fishing boats, and the club house of Shirehampton Sailing Club.

But they also do a really superb roast - pictured, steaming away merrily, here. Its so good, you'll note my eyes have turned red with anticipation. No mean slices of meat, they serve a half chicken, dripping in gravy, with all sorts of veg, and two kinds of potatoes. And as I was ordering, the bar staff brought bowels of Yorkshire pud bits out as bar snacks for customers.

As we all become ever more health conscious, I commend to you the health values of the great British Roast - full of protein, and I should think this plate contains a hefty proportion of my 5-a-day. Healthy eating doesn't have to be depressing looking salads, as this meal shows. Our great British roast is as healthy a meal as any! Long may it reign in our pubs!

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Remembrance Sunday - a poppy is only the beginning

In the cold drizzle at the war memorial in Westbury on Trym, I laid a wreath this morning.

I think Remembrance Sunday is one of the most sobering and significant days of the year. My granddad fought in the second world war and was awarded the Military Cross for bravery. Unthinkable numbers like him died in performing extraordinary acts of bravery and sacrifice.

Sometimes I worry that the easy wearing of a poppy (costs around a pound or so, depending on how generous you feel) can become a substitute for thinking hard about what it, and the day, actually signifies.

It signifies remembrance for those who gave their lives so we can enjoy the life we live today. It signifies recognition of a generation who lived and fought in their own various ways through two bloody world wars not so very long ago. And it signifies remembrance and respect for our armed forces fighting today, and those lost in recent conflicts.

But as we nationally stand round our war memorials, wearing poppies and listening to Elgar's Nimrod or the the last post , our armed forces are struggling in Iraq and Afghanistan with out-of-date equipment, inadequate investment and insufficiently protected vehicles.

At home, pensioners, some of whom lived and fought through the second world war, are living on the breadline or below, with their pension funds robbed by Gordon Brown, and now struggling with interest rate cuts and fuel heating bills. Old people who survived the blitz will be struggling to live through the credit crunch.

Equipping our armed forces for the conflict to which the Government has committed them and supporting our elderly and giving them the recognition they deserve for seeing this country through its darkest hours are the true emblems of remembrance for our war dead.

If we are not prepared to protect our armed forces by providing them with proper equipment, and if we are not prepared to protect and look after our elderly and veterans today - by providing residential wardens where they are needed, and ensuring that 'independence' does not simply mean 'on your own', - wearing a poppy is little more than simply sticking a red bit of card on the lapel.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Don't slam the coffin-lid on the future of Bristol rail!

.........It all makes sense. The city is gridlocked in traffic, we face a potential congestion charge that will hit the poorest hardest, just when fuel prices are rising and families are struggling to pay the bills. Everyone is looking for a long-term solution to the ever increasing traffic, and Bristol's reliance on the car.

So Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways are mounting a campaign, which I have been supporting, to reopen the existing and derelict Henbury station, as part of a projected Portishead and Henbury loop passenger/ freight line.

So it was with amazement and dismay that we discovered that far from resurrecting disused stations as part of a plan to get Bristol and Britain greener and moving again, the Government has sold-off Henbury station, as part of sell-offs of stations across the country. This is in effect slamming the coffin-lid on the future of local rail infrastructure. It is tragically short sighted, and little short of madness.

However, the battle is not over yet. I, and members of FOSBR and local campaigners will contest the grounds of the sale of Henbury station in a bid to keep hope alive for a rail system for the area. Particularly since in the same breath, the Government is planning two and a half thousand houses in the area just north of Henbury. You would think that re-opening Henbury station would actually be a priority, given the huge extra burden on the roads that this development would entail. That's why we'll fight so hard against the grounds of the sale, and for the resurrection of a local rail infrastructure Bristol can be proud of.

There are two things you can do to help!
1. Get in touch with FOSBR ( or call 0117 9428637) to see how you can sign one of their postcard campaign cards

2. Come to the rally on 21st November, at Wilder House, Wilder Street, Bristol BS2 8P where FOSBR and local campaigners will be making their voice heard and lobbying James White, the Group Leader of Transport Policy at the West of England Partnership.

Come and speak out for a long-term vision for Bristol Transport.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Guardian blog update - Bullying isn't funny

The tough stance taken on the Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross BBC Radio 2 Broadcast is an important stand against bullying and for the forgotten value of empathy.

Read my Guardian blog