Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Mish Mash brings a touch of Alice to Chilwell – and maybe Mary Poppins too!

Yesterday I visited the new look Mish Mash Gallery at the junction of Cator Lane and Chilwell High Road.

Through the entrance and I was immediately taken Alice-like into a long corridor full of ceramics, paintings, prints, photographs, hand-made crafts and jewellery artfully displayed to draw you into the gallery.

To the right are a number of small workshops, all bar one already occupied by Cyrilyn Silver, Prisma Clothing, Gary Thomas photography and crafts, and Pretty Splitty, who specialise in 'camper van commissions'. The workshops are rented out by Mish Mash and there is a good chance visitors will be lucky enough to see the occupants hard at work.  

Mish Mash is best described as a contemporary gallery and this has to be its great strength. 

Some may look at the work of local artist Dan Cullen and catch a whiff of nostalgia, Edward Hopper's 'Nighthawks' from 1942 for example, whereas I would describe his work as ethereal, rooted in a reality easy to see once you know where it is. There are number of Beeston related limited edition prints by Dan for sale in Mish Mash.

Below is a cropped image from Dan Cullen's print 'Acacia Walk', offering viewers a different take on Beeston High Road. The edition is limited to 40 copies, costing £70 unframed, £120 framed.

I could have lingered far longer in Mish Mash, but the smell of coffee was pulling me towards the far end of the display corridor and then I saw it, the Froth coffee shop and eatery. Tuesday afternoon and a few tables occupied by mums with buggies and young children, otherwise quieter than usual.

Froth (which I have called 'Frothy' on some of my Beeston maps by mistake) opened in January 2016 and followed in the footsteps of Fusion. It is the creation of James Thomas (left) and James Kellett (right), who began doing drinks, cake and toasties, but now do a wide range of snacks for the hungry visitor, including ice-cream. I have been visiting (not nearly enough) since they opened and like the quiet ambience of Froth, even more attractive as a Beeston coffee destination now that Mish Mash is up and running again.

On the wall in Froth is the guitar pictured below. It reminded me of Fusion and the guitar classes it ran for a while. James (the Kellett one) told me he got it from AJ, who used to run Fusion, and is trying to play the guitar. I suspect he is being modest, for I found out during our chat that he is a singer-songwriter and that the other James plays guitar.

Some reading this post may have visited Froth recently when it was a Beeston Oxjam venue. Perhaps next year James and James will do their own thing in Froth as part of Beeston Oxjam 2017? I hope so. 

Another item on a Froth wall is this rather ancient bicycle. Shades of Mary Poppins. I see a story here for all the kids who come to Froth. I would tell them it is her actual bike. She came on a flying visit and left pushing a buggy, and those in the know say Mary Poppins still calls in from time to time, looks up at her old bicycle and, for a moment, wonders about flying away, but she always leaves with a buggy instead because she likes Beeston and Chilwell that much!

And, and if children look very carefully as they walk along Chilwell High Road, Chilwell Road and Beeston High Road, they may just see Mary Poppins pushing her buggy. I know this story is true, because I have seen her and, if you look hard enough, you will see her too!

Finally, keep an eye open for more changes in the pipeline, which you should be able to see from Chilwell High Road as you pass by. Even better, call in and have a look around. Mish Mash and Froth welcome visitors. There is limited car parking (entrance off Cator Lane).

The Tram stops three minutes walk away (I've timed it) at 'High Road-Central College' (off the tram you walk away from Beeston). Even better Nottingham City Transport bus route 36 stops stops outside (towards Chilwell) on Cator Lane, together with Trent-Barton bus route 18. Trent-Barton's Indigo bus route on stops outside on Chilwell High Road, as does Your Bus route Y5. 

Friday, 14 October 2016

Broxtowe Borough Council cuts 'consultation'

Today I completed Broxtowe Borough Council's online questionnaire about saving money. I am opposed to cuts which will hit those least able to bear them, be it financially or socially. For 'savings' read 'cuts'. I should add that I am in favour of all public services being managed efficiently and to the best advantage of users, but 'savings' is a different beast. My approach is to provide better services and facilities by managing what money there is better, even increasing council tax and council charges if this can be shown to be beneficial to users and the local community in general.

Before completing the questionnaire, I did, on 7 October, via email, ask Broxtowe Borough Council to tell me the product of a penny rate. I have yet to receive a reply, but I did copy in Borough Councillor Janet Patrick, who emailed me a reply on 10 October:

If Broxtowe raised its council tax by 1p in the £ it would raise £53000. Presently the Government anticipate an annual increase of 2p in the £ and are paying this to councils who are charging 2p in the £ increase a year. The Tories promised not to raise the council tax, consequently we are forgoing £106,000 a year from the government.  Information supplied by Paul Adcock, most senior finance officer after the Deputy Chief Executive.

Given this information, I have answered the question about council tax by saying I favour at least a 2p increase in the Borough Council's penny rate and included Janet's email to show why.

I also added this general comment where the questionnaire asks for comments:

Broxtowe Council needs to introduce tighter controls on Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)* and Council Tax exempt properties, as these are increasing fast in an around Beeston, with some streets now over 25%. Above this level the balance of the social mix begins to tip and some groups begin to move out (eg. families, older people), resulting in more properties becoming HMOs* and Council Tax exempt. The evidence for how such change negatively impacts on housing occupation can be found in the Dunkirk & Lenton and Wollaton East & Lenton Abbey wards in Nottingham, which adjoin Beeston. Belated planning controls in Nottingham have pushed private landlords into Beeston. Housing and Planning officers, together with borough councillors, knowingly ignore the problem at a social and economic cost. One direct consequence will be Beeston town centre becoming no more than a collection of eateries, cafes, take aways, estate agents and charity shops surrounded by supermarkets. 

Note:* Any property with 3 or more unrelated residents should be classified as a HMO.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Beeston gets a new 'tea house' and an 'outdoor' shop

We paid our first visit to the new Rudyards 'tea house' on Beeston High Road at the end of last week and enjoyed lovely cups of tea, together with a scone and Irish tea bread, all for just over £6, which we thought good value for quality teas and cake.

The two ladies looking after things were bright and cheery, which always makes a difference and Rudyards light airy inside added to the sense of restfulness one had. There felt no need to rush, to move on, and with its large front windows overlooking the High Road it was the perfect place to sit and watch the world go by.

I am sure we will visit again below too long, but one of the problems of living a few minutes walk from Beeston High Road is that we do not stop for tea or coffee enough. The urge is always there to get home where we are guaranteed a good cup of tea or coffee.

Loose tea in Rudyards is pricey —  £4.50 for 100g, whereas we buy Taylors of Harrogate Earl Grey and Assam in bulk from Park Stores on Derby Road, near the north entrance to The Park Estate for £2.50. It's excellent tea, which we blend together and have done so for the last forty years.

So, in the order of things, where do I rate Rudyards? Well, I have to say they are up there with Time for Tea on Wollaton Road for quality and service, with an ambiance to match, but when it comes to the view, then Rudyards is the winner.

For now though, Time for Tea does better cake and serves other food as well. I have written about their poached eggs before and this seems like a perfect moment to remind of what you are missing if you have not experienced Time for Teas poached eggs:

I understand Rudyards are planning to serve other food as well, so it is still early days. I will go back in the next couple of weeks to update myself. In the meantime, why not go Rudyards and make up your mind about their tea(s) and cake. Go on, treat yourself. You know you deserve it!

Then there is the Magic Mountain, due to 'open shortly' according to a sign in the window. This little shop is tucked away, behind the High Road, on Vernon Avenue, which runs between Villa Street and Wollaton Road, so you will have to go in search of the Magic Mountain if you want to find it.

Right now, all you can do is peer through the windows, but I walk down Villa Street several times a week, so I will keep checking and let you know when it opens. Their website says 'Your newest outdoor retailer is opening on 24th June 2016'. It's fully stocked with goodies and has been for some weeks. 

Friday, 30 September 2016

Changing the way we do politics has to come

'A lot of the (Momentum) audience had a rather different take. Some said their affinity with Labour was complemented by occasions when they had voted for other parties. They liked Caroline Lucas, a lot. They also liked the idea of, as one speaker put it, “negotiating the future” via a revolutionised voting system, rather than imposing it with the support of a small minority of the electorate.
These were not the hardliners and ideological desperadoes that some people might imagine: their politics felt open, self-critical and realistic about the huge tasks it faces. They may not yet have a clear idea of how a new left politics might decisively cohere – but no one (not even gobby newspaper columnists) does, as yet. The point is to at least begin with a sense of how it might start to mesh, and the breadth of people who will have to be involved.'
John Harris, The Guardian, 29 Sepember 2016, 'A Labour Party of the future is begining to emerge'. An account of a day spent attending the Momentum event which ran alongside the Party's annual conference.
This is the political 'me' he is writing about, with which I have identified for many years. I can trace my willingness to work with others across political parties and within the wider community back to my days as a Birmingham city councillor, and I have the evidence. Becoming a Labour councillor aged 25 was a shock to the system insomuch as I sat on my first council committees and in the council chamber finding myself agreeing with individual Tory and Liberal councillors, whilst disagreeing with Labour councillors.

I broke the Labour Group whip quite soon after my election in 1971, when the Labour controlled Birmingham City Council decided to allow the city's chief librarian to go to South Africa for six months. Back then it took nine councillors to call a special meeting of the city council to oppose the decision, and a small group of Liberal and Labour councillors, led by a left-wing Liberal councilor, Graham Gopsill, got the required signatures, of which a I was one, together with Theresa Stewart (who represented the same ward as me and later became Leader of Birmingham City Council). We lost the vote, but no action was taken against us because we had the backing of what was then the City Labour Party. 

Over the years, other disagreements followed. The truth then, as now, is that the Party is capable of being extremely conservative in its attitudes and cannot see that working with other politicians from other political parties is seen by many voters as a good thing.

Take Theresa May and her plan to create grammar schools. Labour needs to remember that members, activists, councillors and MPs in the Conservative, Liberal and Green parties are also opposed to their re-introduction and Labour should work with them to defeat Theresa May on this issue - which means the Labour Party has to avoid turning this into a campaign which the Party tries to claim as its own.

Labour in Broxtowe should be asking Anna Soubry how it can best support her opposition to grammar schools in Parliament, as she has already spoken publicly against the proposal. Tomorrow morning I will be going to Beeston town square to support the Labour Party on this issue, but I will tell any one I speak to that this is a cross-party issue and I have already told Anna Soubry in an email that I support her opposition to grammar schools - as I support her when it comes to the tram and the cross-party 'Open Britain' campaign.

The way we do politics is changing and Labour has to be part of that change or be left behind. John Harris's article in The Guardian yesterday is a great piece of writing which deserves to be read widely. If you have not read it, then please follow this link.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Expelled for this... and how do we scale the heights of power?

According to a report in The Guardian yesterday (14 September 2016), John McDonald, a great-nephew of Clement Attlee, has had his membership of the Labour Party suspended for posting the above onto the social media in August 2015.

Just another example of the madness of the Labour Party right now. Mein Kampf, according to Wikipedia, was published in the mid-1920 — long before Hitler became the man we associate with the name  Hitler today. When he wrote those words, Hitler had yet to oversee the mass murder of those groups in society he hated.

The quote could well be a description of what has happened in this country over the last thirty years. You only have to witness what Labour MPs are doing to Jeremy Corbyn, to realise what will happen to him should Labour be in a position to lead a left leaning coalition (I do not believe Labour can gain power at Westminster without some kind of anti-Tory grand alliance, preferably before the next general election takes place).

I find nothing offensive in the above portrayal of Cameron as a young Hitler.

The Labour Party nationally has lost its way. Suspending and expelling members without due process is unacceptable. Those responsible need to be rooted out so they can no longer exercise such draconian powers.

Even more worrying is the enthusiasm with which the Labour Party's own version of the Stasi go about their business. 

Today, I have voted online for Jeremy Corbyn in the leadership election. I admit to having reservations about the man, but the other candidate appears to have even more warts.  I have written about the need for Corbyn and Smith to power share in previous posts and in a contribution to Labour List.

Over the years I have written and had published a good few articles, plus countless blogs, criticising the Labour politicians both nationally and in Nottingham across a range of issues. I have been tempted by the Green Party, but to date I have found those activists I have met, with a couple of notable exceptions, to be patronising and self-righteous. I like the enthusiasm of NHS Action Party members, but they remain a single issue party with little interest in other issues vital to our wellbeing (which is a pity).

When I was fifteen I could have joined the Young Communist League in Wembley. I thought about it, then decided you have to have power to change things and the Labour Party was a better choice for that reason. Fifty-six years on the same reasoning drives my politics. 

I have not voted Corbyn to bask in political self-righteousness. I remain a libertarian socialist committed to community empowerment and opposed to centralism in all its forms. Since 1997 Labour MPs have betrayed the British public and the Labour Party time and again: the abolition of community health councils; Afghanistan; Iraq; privatisation of NHS facilities and services; abolition of community health councils; PFIs, raiding pension funds, failure to introduce PR and abolish the House of Lords; introducing post-crash cuts and promoting austerity and so my list could continue. Yet, yet, despite all this there remains no viable alternative if socialists want to scale the heights of power. We have to reclaim the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn remains the best chance we have — it is as simple as that.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Beeston's Pete Radcliff: A Labour Party injustice to a family member

I have known Pete Radcliff since c.1980 through the Labour Party in Nottingham and since the of 2014, here in Beeston. We have not been friends, but we have rubbed along and I have never doubted his loyalty and intent for one moment. For some us the Labour Party is family and Pete is a member of that family, so to receive an email from Broxtowe Constituency Labour Party telling me he had been expelled from the Party because of his links with Workers' Liberty (once better known as Socialist Organiser) came as a surprise.

Over the years he has worked his socks off for the Labour Party and I find it amazing that he can be expelled without a hearing. This is the nasty right-wing of the Party at work. History shows that it is the Party's right-wing that betrays it (remember 'The Gang of Four').

Back in 1970, I was on the receiving end of an attempt to expel me from the Labour Party whilst living in Mansfield. A long time ago, but I remember the experience well. After an appeal and support from others in the Party, I was banned from holding office in the Labour Party for five years, but that did not stop me becoming a Nottinghamshire Labour Party county councillor in 1981 and being an election agent in 1983.

In his blog Pete says that he intends to fight his expulsion and I will be one of many Labour Party members standing behind him, as will my wife, Susan Griffiths, who shares my disgust at what the Labour Party's right-wing machine has done. I am sure many other Party members in Broxtowe and elsewhere will be speaking on his behalf given the opportunity. 

The manner in which the Labour Party machine appears to be expelling members is undemocratic and centralist.

There will be a backlash from this and I hope it does not focus on Lilian Greenwood, who has to be in prime position to be selected as the Labour Party's prospective candidate for the new Nottingham South & Beeston constituency, assuming it is created in 2018. She is a critic of Jeremy Corbyn, but I know her, trust her and will support her of she does seek the nomination, even though at the time of her original selection in Nottingham South I actively worked for Christine Shawcroft, recently re-elected to the Labour Party National Executive Committee. I like Christine, but Lilian has earned my loyalty and you do not have to agree with people on everything to support them — which neatly brings me back to Pete Radcliff and where I began this post...

FOOTNOTE: See Pete's blog for his own thoughts and comments.

The title of Pete's blog is Observations from a Third Camp perspective and this link takes you to his home page.

New parliamentary boundaries get closer and I am feeling chuffed about them

Almost five years ago to the week, I received an invitation to attend a public meeting in Derby organised by the Boundary Commission for England to give evidence in person on proposed changes to parliamentary boundaries in the East Midlands. Back then I lived in the Nottingham South constituency and our Labour MP, Lilian Greenwood, asked me to draft some alternative proposals to those being submitted by the Labour Party (without any local consultation at the time).

This came about because, along with my wife, Susan Griffiths, back in 2000 I had proposed new ward boundaries for Nottingham City Council wards (which came into use in 2003) in opposition to the boundaries proposed by the City Council and its Labour Group. A few Labour Party city councillors and the the then City Labour Party did not object to the ward proposals we submitted in the name of the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum, which I was chairing at the time. We saw proposals from the Conservative and Liberal parties and, in the end, the City Council did not contest the final boundary recommendations from the Commission. It was quite an achievement at the time and we were actively encouraged to submit our proposals by Commission staff and so it was ten years later with the changes to parliamentary boundaries in the East Midlands.

Below are maps I created back in 2011 and submitted to the Boundary Commission at the time. I also posted an entry to my then Parkviews blog (see this one about giving evidence to the Boundary Commission in person dated 31 October 2011).

The original Boundary Commission proposals show a revised Broxtowe constituency including Gotham on the south side of the Trent and West Bridgford becoming part of Nottingham South.

My proposed Nottingham constituencies put Nottingham South with Beeston and moved Wollaton into Broxtowe. I left Nottingham North much as it was and joined the urban Gedling wards with Nottingham East.

The Boundary Commission's revised boundary proposals were publicised yesterday and have been published on the web. As of yet I can find no proper map, so I have captured this online map from the website dedicated to the 2018 parliamentary boundary proposals.

Including Clifton with the proposed West Bridgford constituency makes sense given that it is south of the Trent, but by any measure the latest constituency boundary proposals for Greater Nottingham is a great improvement on the 2011 proposals.

I think I can fairly claim that my proposed Nottingham constituencies back in 2011 have contributed to the formation of the latest proposals from the Boundary Commission. I admit to being chuffed.

You can comment on the proposed boundary changes by visiting the website or attending the Commission's public hearing in Derby on 27–28 October 2016. The chances are I won't be able to attend as I am due to have open heart surgery quite soon (I am just waiting for a date).