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Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Giving the public the real say on the future of Shire's green spaces

Last night I was at a meeting discussing the future of Shirehampton's Daisy Field and part of the Lamplighters land under the Council's Parks and Green Spaces Strategy. That's the strategy whereby areas of land are identified as 'low value', sold off for housing, in order to enhance remaining areas.

The hoards of people pictured here, however, are not the meeting. They are members of the public who were unable to get into the meeting - and to whom an unfortunate council officer gave an impromptu talk and took questions.

For a full version of what happened, read my Daily Mail blog HERE

But in short the whole thing has ignited great public anger -

1. Because asking the people of Shirehampton to sell off the green space they have left in order to 'enhance' the rest with things like sports facilities and a swimming pool, when there is the scar of the demolished old pool, and the mausoleum of the derelict Robin Cousins centre down the road seems to many absurd to the point of being insulting.

2. Trying to alleviate the public's concern about democratic procedure by asking the public to wait until the formal public consultation to put forward their views does not help: People in Shirehampton have objected in the strongest possible terms to so many decisions about their community to apparently no avail, that , as one lady put it, people wonder "What kind of public objection would it take to change decisions under consultation?"

3. In all the opinion gaining exercises the Council is conducting as to what people in Shirehampton want done with their green space, the overwhelming and simple answer is "Please, please just leave it alone! but reopen our closed facilities and maintain our land better". That's the answer. But it doesn't seem to be sinking in...

If you feel strongly about this issue, you can sign a petition online against the designation of The Daisy Field and Lamplighters land as 'low value' by clicking HERE.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Henleaze Fair success - and over £100 raised for new Youth Group

I don't often sit down to get my nails painted, but when all proceeds are going toward the new Henleaze Youth group, set up by Henleaze mum Liz Radford ( pictured in the white t-shirt) , and the nail painters were local young people, well, how could I refuse?

They were amongst the many groups, charities and local crafts-people who had a stall at St. Peter's Church community fair in Henleaze, which I opened at the weekend. The fair raised funds for the church and continuing activities in the community, as well as for a variety of local and third-world charities.

It was particluarly good to see young people taking the initiative and raising money for their own venture. There was a water-tattoo stall run by some very young helpers as well as the nail-painting. The stalls raised over £100 in a matter of hours, and provided many happy customers with some very exotic nails indeed.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Please sponsor me and support St.Peter's Hospice

I've been putting it off and putting it off, since training has been going so diabolically. But I've finally bitten the bullet and committed myself to running the Bristol Half Marathon for St. Peter's Hospice.

The work that St.Peter's does really cannot be over-estimated. They provide support and care not only for those at the end of their lives, but also their families. And in fact, the network of loyal support that St. Peter's has forged through its work is a bit like a family itself.

But St. Peter's needs donations like yours to keep going with its work. So please, even if it's just a tiny amount, please do sponsor me in running the Bristol Half Marathon 2009 for St. Peter's Hospice. Thank you.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

June Thunder and good language

I've just been inching through a particularly dull report. It's full of what I call 'council-speak' - the kind of stuff that is a language all of its own, and leaves you wondering what on earth it actually means - if it means much at all. And leaves you thinking that the same thing could have been said in about 3 pages, instead of 53. And then I thought of this poem, partly because of the month and the weather, but I thought I would post it up as an example of language used well: Saying an awful lot in really not that many words. The photo is one I took when I was out canvassing in Horfield.

June Thunder

Louis Macneice

The Junes were free and full, driving through tiny
Roads, the mudguards brushing the cowparsley,
Through fields of mustard and under boldly embattled
Mays and chestnuts

Or between beeches verdurous and voluptuous
Or where broom and gorse beflagged the chalkland--
All the flare and gusto of the unenduring
Joys of a season

Now returned but I note as more appropriate
To the maturer mood impending thunder
With an indigo sky and the garden hushed except for
The treetops moving.

Then the curtains in my room blow suddenly inward,
The shrubbery rustles, birds fly heavily homeward,
The white flowers fade to nothing on the trees and rain comes
Down like a dropscene.

Now there comes catharsis, the cleansing downpour
Breaking the blossoms of our overdated fancies
Our old sentimentality and whimsicality
Loves of the morning.

Blackness at half-past eight, the night's precursor,
Clouds like falling masonry and lightning's lavish
Annunciation, the sword of the mad archangel
Flashed from the scabbard.

If only you would come and dare the crystal
Rampart of the rain and the bottomless moat of thunder,
If only now you would come I should be happy
Now if now only.

Local Bristol Girl writes and performs play

I've just come back from watching a rehearsal of a play written by local girl Rae Piper ( That's Rae, in the hoop.)

The play is called "A Sense of Shakespeare" and in fact, it is so good that I assumed it was written by some very well known playwright or something. Until Rae let on it was her.

I'm not going to let on much more about the play except to say it is not Shakespeare as you've seen it before, it is superbly acted ( if the rehearsal I went to is anything to go by), involves some extraordinary acrobatics ( see above) and some very catchy songs and dynamic dance routines. I'm cussing myself for not having the presence of mind to take a video on my digi-camera. But... I guess that means you'll just have to go along and see for yourself!

It's on at : Circomedia, St. Pauls Church, Portland Square, Bristol BS2 8SJ

24th, 25th 26th June - that's THIS Wednesday, Thursday , Friday

Tickets cost a bargain £9, £6 Concessions,
you can get them by calling the box office: 0117 922 3686
Or online at

I've got one thing to say about this play - GO AND SEE IT!

Rae Piper and the cast, and me.

Friday, 19 June 2009

If policy is out of touch, should Ministers do work experience?

It's not only the expenses row that shows how distant Westminster politics has become from normal life ( although it's a pretty strong example) - it's also the amount of legislation made that bears so little relation to the real problems and how things actually work.

So should Ministers with portfolios of responsiblity have to do work experience?
Read my Daily Mail blog on it HERE.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Academy conference in Bristol

--I spent this morning at an academy conference, organised by the Merchant Venturers ( who sponsor two very different academies- the Merchants Academy at the old, seriously challenged Withywood School, and Colstons Girls school, an independent becoming an academy.)

Bristol's education situation ( i.e. not good) has meant that it has been a focus for the academy programme, and the city now has 8 academies up and running. Huge amounts of energy, effort, innovation and talent have gone into determining that these academies are a success. I've so far visited the City Academy , Bristol, Merchants Academy, and new Colstons Girls academy and have already blogged about the opening of Brightstowe academy. The thing all these schools have in common is a determination from the sponsors and the heads to make things work, regardless of what has gone before.

Shadow Schools Minister, Nick Gibb (in the middle of me and Trevor Smallwood, the master of the Merchant Venturers) came down to talk about Conservative policy towards academies, to give the sponsors some idea of what they might expect under a Conservative Government. Nick described some of the ways a Conservative Government would halt the erosion of the academy concept by the Brownites ( who always hated Tony Blair's reforms) and return academies to the original model -(which was an idea based on Conservatives' City Technology Colleges) as well as allow primary schools to become academies. Sponsors gave feedback and, most valuably , their perspective on what makes a good school, and what politicians can do to support their efforts.

It was a fascinating day. I have often felt that one of the problems with politics is that policy makers often don't get enough input from the real world, people who live and work in eg. education; and that too much policy is made on bureaucratic theory. Today was a feast of information, experience and expertise for anyone thinking about the future of education - of the city and of the nation.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Resurrection for Shire's Tithe Barn

It's become a familiar story: Despite local protest, historic sites of enormous local interest get sold off to become yet more blocks of flats. The property developers move in, and gone is a unique heart of a local community - forever.

So it really is a burst of fresh-air when an historic community facility gets bought - not by property developers, but by a community group who want to pump new life back into it, for the community.

That's exactly what's happened with Shire's Tithe Barn. It has been bought from Bristol Charities by the PCC of St.Mary's Church, Shirehampton.

The Barn was opened for the first time in ages, to hold an open day for local people to come in and have an input into how they would like to see The Tithe Barn renovated and put to use.

I escaped from some arduous pre-local election leaflet delivery to have a look round and to have a chat with the dynamic Rev. Canon Christine Froude, vicar of St. Mary's church. She is hoping that the barn will be used to host a variety of community outreach initiatives, including social events, clubs, advice services and counselling, as well as additional church services for the ever growing congregation of St.Mary's.

Good luck - It will be a refreshing to have new additional facilities coming into Shirehampton, instead of watching yet more get stripped away.