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Saturday, 28 March 2009

Henbury Crime Public Meeting

I had become sickened and frustrated by the apparently huge discrepancy between what was officially the state of youth crime in Henbury, and what people actually living in Henbury were telling me.

I'd spoken to Charlie Barron, who's resigning from Henbury Football Club because he is simply tired out of coming to the club to find it vandalised again. I'd spoken to people who'd had kids taking drugs in their back garden who were too afraid to do anything. I've been trying to help vulnerable residents get rehoused because they are bullied to the point they are prisoners in their own homes...

Against that back-drop, I'm afraid I find it hard to believe that home-secretary Jacqui Smith had fully understood what people are going through when she came to Henbury, trailed by the local Labour party, last Autumn to say how great everything was.

I know people are working hard - I work with them where I can. I know lots of good stuff is being done - but that does not mean that the views and experiences of people living in Henbury can simply be white-washed over with statistics, initiatives, Ministerial visits, and official reassurances that Henbury is an 'inspirational example' ( as Jacqui Smith said.)

That's one reason why I called a public meeting - to get out in the open what is really going on. The other reason was to pool all the suggestions and comments together to come up with a plan of action.

When I asked the audience how many of them thought the underlying causes of the problem was that discipline seems to have become a dirty word; police don't have the powers they need, but all the paperwork they don't need; and that human-rights legislation has been absurdly abused to place the welfare of the criminal about that of the victim, nearly everyone raised their hand. But changing that culture and in places the law, is a job for government. In the meantime, there are things we can do:

1. Get the Youth Centre reopened, every night, offering diverse and exciting activities. Ensure that local young people are responsible for decorating and building the centre, so they feel they own it.
2. Press for more police, out on the streets more - not just around Crow Lane, but around other trouble spots as well.
3. Really clamp down hard on alcohol outlets that sell drink to underage kids.
4. Whatever happened to real zero-tolerance? We need it back.

And we haven't got time for all this to be done through a cloud of initiatives and a jungle of agencies and a confusion of a proliferation of partnerships. It needs to be done swiftly and decisively.

Something that's often forgotten in all this, is that it is a minority of young people who give a bad name to all the rest. Two young people from Henbury school - Amy Hillier and Joel Bowd, spoke to the meeting about how fed up they were with a minority wrecking everything for the majority, and how many young people are as afraid of the antisocial behaviour as the adults. It's worth remembering that although a minority of young people are the problem, the majority can be part of the solution.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Bristol's transport challenges taken to Shadow Minister

A few weeks ago, I contacted Stephen Hammond, the Shadow Minister for rail , and asked him to come down and have a look at the success of the more frequent Severn Beach line service - and told him all about our campaign to get Henbury Station and the Henbury Loop line open.

So here we all are, Stephen Hammond MP,with Avonmouth Council Candidate Siobhan Kennedy-Hall, Bernard Lane, Julie Boston, me, Rob Dixon ( members of FOSBR ) outside Angels Transport Cafe, at Avonmouth Station, having enjoyed a proper fry-up. (well, one of us.)

Stephen traveled up to Temple Meads on the line, and in discussion assured us that a Conservative Government would put a moratorium on the sale of railway land - so that the sale of the Henbury station site would be prohibited. Too late for Henbury. But it was good to hear Stephen so supportive of getting local rail services up and running again. The campaign goes on...

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Almost the final installment?

You're not going to be given the chance to get bored of seeing pictures of the ever-developing new Avonmouth National Smelting Boxing Club... because it's almost done.

Ash Bearman, from the superb community group SCAF, Garry Cave the coach and I are standing in the almost-completed new gym. It's got a training ring, punch bags and weights equiptment all installed. All that's needed now is a few finishing touches here and there, some mirrors so the space can be used for other activities like dance and aerobics - and it will be done.

Worth bearing in mind: In the time it's taken for Garry to fundraise and build an entire brand new gym from scratch ... despite all the campaigning, the Government quango The Highways Agency and Bristol City Council STILL haven't come to an agreement on opening the Robin Cousins Centre...

Friday, 20 March 2009

The Royal British Legion Club - about Remembrance and more

I was at the Westbury on Trym Royal British Legion Club's AGM last night ( This isn't it. This is me pulling the world's frothiest pint behind the bar. I blame the fact I was worrying about my camera, but my old employees at The Fox pub in Easter Compton will testify what a rubbish barmaid I was. I was mortified to find little had changed.)

I've been to a lot of AGMs in my time, but what was particularly poignant about this one was that after AOB, the last agenda item was 'Homage'. The chairman cited those words which always bring a lump to my throat

and finally

and we had a silence while we remembered the real significance of The Royal British Legion.

The Westbury Royal Legion Club is a remarkable place. It is run completely by volunteers, which is, as I discovered, why the beer is cheaper than usual. Previously, only servicemen and ex-servicemen could be members, but now it is open to anyone ready to join the club. I can't recommend it highly enough - not only because of the great facilities and good company, but because it is a very good and appropriate way to Remember.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Shire FC victory - but we want more!

What better way to spend the first really springlike afternoon of the year than watching Shirehampton Football Club romp home 3-1 against the Stockwood Cutters? After the match, we all went back to the clubhouse to celebrate. The clubhouse is another one of those testaments to what a group of volunteers with ambition can achieve - it was built mainly by members of the club and is a superb facility, with a big screen for watching Premiership action after the match.

But Shire FC have ambitions for more. They want to raise around £120,000 to upgrade the facilities at their pitch so that they are able to compete in the Western League. It's a tall order, but watch this space.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Lunch for a song

Disaster struck yesterday - it looks like I've properly lost my wallet. Not temporary loss, the real thing. Card canceling loss. I'm waiting to see what horrors of identity theft await me...

But luckily for everyone at the Upper Horfield Community Trust's weekly lunch, I didn't have to sing for my lunch. A determined rummage in coat pockets and former handbags revealed enough change to buy a superb lunch at UCHT. We had hearty helpings of roast beef and many had apple tart and custard followed by tea and coffee for little over a fiver. Brilliant value and as you can see from the photo, a lovely way to spend a lunchtime.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Modern Liberty Convention

Here I am with Rosaleen Brennan from Bristol NO2ID, having spoken at the Bristol branch of the Modern Liberty Convention - ( see photo below) - part of an event held up and down the country, designed to highlight the stealthy erosion of our liberties under this government.

Although Trinity Hall was a tad chilly, the meeting was well attended.

I can heartily recommend reading "The Abolition of Freedom Act 2009" document, prepared by the Convention for an overview of issues, and a disturbing account of freedom-theft by stealth...

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Monday, 2 March 2009

The Garden of Eden Grove

The garden of Eden probably enjoyed nicer weather than the garden of Eden Grove. But good old English weather is not putting off Ray Hulbert ( pictured) nor the residents of Eden Grove and Upper Horfield from turning this patch of land into their own garden.

The progress is actually more impressive than my amateur photography suggests, and by the time the annual Upper Horfield Festival takes place in the summer, the hope is that the garden will be complete.

I never cease to be amazed at how much goes on at Eden Grove Community Centre and church. Below are just some of the things I've seen this week...

This is the new market at Upper Horfield Community Trust - which sells an enormous range of groceries and fresh produce, as well as offering teas and very tempting home made cakes.
..............No, it's not Richard Dawkins fighting religion.

It's Lee Cummings from Southmead Boxing Club, taking some youngsters aged between around 9-12 from Upper Horfield for boxing lessons in Eden Grove church.
( you can just see one of their legs in the corner.)

It was amazing seeing the energy released from these young people and it made me realise afresh just how important exercise and activities are for youngsters.

Boxing is slowly but surely becoming more popular in schools and youth clubs across Bristol. I've said it once, I'll say it again: If you get the chance, go along and see what kind of work boxing coaches like Lee do. It's impressive.