Monday, June 30, 2008

Kensington Community Learning Centre wins two national awards

Many congratulation to Alan Tapp and his team and the students at Kensington Community Learning Centre for all their hard work in achieving not one but two national awards. Liam, Wendy and I are all very proud of you

- taken from the centre's press release

Kensington Community Learning Centre swept the board at the national UK online centres Awards Ceremony, with not just one but two top Awards.

The centre itself won an Outstanding Centre Award, which recognises it as one of the best centres in the country. Meanwhile one of their students, 38 year-old Roy Pearman, was singled out from hundreds of nationwide nominees for the top Award in the Outstanding Achievement category, recognising his progress in using his new IT skills to change his life for the better.

Roy took the decision to give up his string of manual jobs to study full-time, because he wanted to do something with his mind instead of his body. As well as studying accountancy part-time at the local college, Roy spent the rest of his time in the Kensington Community Learning Centre (CLC), learning the other office and ICT skills he’d need to get the sort of job he wanted.

Kensington CLC specialises in helping people get the skills, qualifications and even work experience to reach whatever goals they set themselves. With their support, Roy quickly got to grips with computers, and started volunteering at the centre to help out. At the same time he was using the internet to apply for every job he saw, with very little luck. After another near miss at interview stage, Roy asked the interviewer to take him on for free to see what he could do. They were so impressed with his determination, skills and attitude, it only took one week for the job to become permanent.

Roy explains: “When I was at school I just didn’t apply myself, but going to the UK online centre made me realise that there was so much more that I could do. Without the certificates and experience I gained there I don’t think I’d ever have got this job. I think it’s safe to say it’s helped me change my life for the better, because now I’m finally the person I want to be, doing the things I want to do.”

As the Overall winner in his category, Roy won a £1,000 grant for Kensington Community Learning Centre, and a laptop computer for himself courtesy of Awards sponsors Intel.

Alan Tapp is Centre Manager at Kensington Community Learning Centre. He says: “I’m delighted Roy has won this Award, because he thoroughly deserves it. He’s never given up, he’s always kept his eye on the prize, and he’s worked incredibly hard. He’s living proof that learning and technology can change lives. Obviously I’m also delighted our centre’s been recognised for the quality of the support we provide! There are more than 6,000 UK online centres across England, so being picked out as one of the top centres in the country is fantastic.”

Alan and Roy collected their Awards at a ceremony in Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. There handing out the Awards were new Digital Inclusion Minister Paul Murphy and GMTV’s Andrea McLean.

Paul Murphy said: “Computers and the internet can open up whole new worlds, and getting the skills and support to use them at places like UK online centres really can change lives for the better. The Kensington Community Learning Centre has done wonderful things in the local community to help people like Roy use technology to overcome their barriers and achieve their goals. These are outstanding examples of digital inclusion in action, and certainly worthy of the Awards they’ve won today.”

Andrea added: “We don’t seem to say ‘well done’ enough to people who overcome circumstances to accomplish extraordinary things in their lives, or to the people and places that help them along the way. Roy’s journey really is an inspiration to others, and I was delighted to be there to share his day, and privileged to hand over these Awards.”

If you want to follow in Roy’s footsteps and find out how technology could help you, pop into the Kensington Community Learning Centre on Kensington, or call Alan on 0151 260 1006. Alternatively you can find your nearest UK online centre by calling 0800 77 1234.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Pat's visit

My mate Pat from Honley, Huddersfield was visiting over the weekend and we really packed it all in.

I think she is probably nearly the only one of my friends who never reads my blog, if indeed she even knows I have one, or how many people read it every day, so I can probably safely say what I like about her visit!

She arrived on Friday evening, just in time for a wash and brush-up before the Liverpool Riverside Labour Party Dinner.

We were on a really top quality table.

Councillor Tim Moore who I think is the CLP Secretary of Liverpool Riverside (and my own personal mentee in this his first year of office), Nicholas Mutize (Labour Party candidate for St Michael's ward in 2008, an earnest and lovely young man, a nice couple from Lodge Lane Credit Union who do so much to help combat loan-arrangers, and the Nigerian Secretary of the Liverpool branch of the MDC, Zimbabwe.

We had a great time and the speaker, Andy Burnham, Cabinet minister for Sport, Media and Culture was particularly good.

On Saturday we went to the Newsham Park Arts Festival which we enjoyed, seeing lots of friends. Karen Lewis was there with her husband and new baby, it was lovely to see them.

Then we went into the city centre, visiting the Town Hall and St George's Hall for mini unofficial tours. She took me to the Blue Coat Arts Centre, which I have not visited for about ten years. Pat studied in Liverpool years ago and used to go there all the time. As I dont go to the shops in town much, if at all, I had not been down there for years, not since Lisa first moved to Liverpool and took me there. I shall go again, there are some great little shops, I bought some bracelets made of buttons.

I enjoyed having her to stay, we had a good time

Corporate Services Select Committee

I went to my first Corporate Services Select Committee this week

Only to discover (as I already suspected) that the bulk of my shadowing role of the Exec Member for Ethical Governance would be better served at Overview and Scrutiny Select Committee. I asked the Chair for clarification about where I would be best sitting, given that this is a new role not just for me but for the council as a whole. Paula Keaveney, the new Exec Member confirmed that 90% of her work would figure at O&S rather than Corporate Services.

So once again the LibDem administration has made a right old mess of their plans.

First they say one thing, then they say another.

Interestingly they were originally saying that O&S should be the home only of Chairs and Deputy Chairs of other Select Committees and we in the Labour Group had faithfully followed this. But now we learn that the LibDems have distinctly not followed this, and they have other councillors representing them.

But for my part, I now have to find a way to swap or move to the committee I should be on.

Rearrange these words into a more recognisable order, - chocolate, brewery, knees-up, fire-guard, brothel, tea-pot, piss-up.....

Don't hold your breath, I may well be on the entirely wrong select committee for months to come.

Meanwhile, we were presented with some really dreadful reports. Health and Safety is in a right old mess, they have put back some important reports and report-backs into some serious hazards by up to a year, and the HR report was a shining example of abject failure to deliver.

And I say that from a position of some expertise

The sooner this lot are out of power the better!

Venture Housing Association - appointment to the Board

I am honoured to inform you that I have been appointed to the board of Venture Housing Association (Ltd).

Housing has always been extremely important to me, and social housing more than any other. I remember talking about this before, but whether I have blogged about it I don't know. And I don't much fancy trawling through 606 entries to check it out. I do recall discussing it at my interview for the candidature of Kensington and Fairfield back in 2005 though.

I think it was Maslow's Hierarchy (Pyramid) of Needs that identified that after oxygen, water, food, sex and sleep, our next need was a safe, warm, secure place to live - a home.

I am sure that is true. It was all very well TB claiming that his aim and his passion was for Education, Education, Education, but I have always been of the view that you cannot get into education until you have somewhere to leave your sleeping bag and your ruck-sack between begging sessions. In short, you need a home. You need somewhere to leave your growing amount of "stuff" before you can start to attend places of education and study.

And so I think Social Housing is more important than Education. Gordon Brown appeared to agree with me when he became PM although he has not really mentioned it much since. I hope he has not changed his mind, because it is critical in my view.

And that is why I was so keen to join the board of a local Housing Association - a small but beautiful one, operating in Liverpool and on the Wirral whose purpose- built and rather lovely Head Office is on Boaler Street, Kensington. Not for them the expensive city centre post-codes. They put their money and their roots into a very deprived part of L6.

And now I am on their board - not via Liverpool City Council but because I asked them if they would accept an application from a private individual who thinks housing is vital and who happens to represent a large chunk of their tenants.

Last Tuesday, after having examined my application form, received my £1 share application and heard from the Chair and Deputy-Chair about my initial interview, the board agreed my application.

I am looking forward to working with them in L6 - the twilight zone

A night out with Declan Patrick (sometime Aloysius to honour Tony Hancock) MacManus (at the Phil)

Colin and I had a wonderful evening at the Liverpool Phil earliest this week in the company of Elvis Costello who I understand is soon to be given the award of Doctor of Music by Liverpool University.

He performed a fantastic concert.

I kept thinking about his father, Ross MacManus, a singer with the Joe Loss band. This was very much a big band sound. The RLPO accompanied him throughout, and extremely well.

I was particularly taken with the "Secret Songs" section which were essentially about the relationship that Hans Christian Andersen had with Jenny Lind, the Swedish Nightingale.

Now just how far from my favourite Elvis album, This Year's Model, could we really get?

But I still loved it.

Perhaps I have grown older with him, as well as growing up with him? I am now old enough to appreciate songs like "She handed me a mirror" as much as I have always loved songs like "Lip Service" and "This Year's Girl".

My Uncle David, Professor "Joe" Millward, bought me that album in 1978 when I was a wee girl of 13. He is better known as the "Prof" in cartoon form on the sides of Innocent Smoothies, but for me he will always be the man who introduced me to Elvis Costello, whereas his first wife Annette, will always be the woman who introduced me to Monty Python.

I have always been fortunate, if not indeed downright lucky with my relatives!

The concert was magnificent and everyone around me enjoyed it immensely, but it was notable that many were middle-aged or elderly, more natural supporters of the RLPO rather than a young punk, but this week we all coalesced to experience opera, jazz and the blues along with our dose of rock n roll.

Thanks Declan!

We will regenerate, regenerate, regenerate

Hands up all those people who thought this was going to be about Kensington Regeneration?

You at the back, I know you were thinking this was going to be a blog about the folks in the Job Bank, so don't pretend otherwise. You can put your hand down again.

But as it happens you were all wrong, so there!

This blog is about the dreadful situation we find ourselves in, having to wait 7 days to find out just who is going to be the new Doctor Who after regeneration began this evening.

For my money - and I dont read tabloids so if the answer has already been revealed then I have missed it - but I reckon that David Tennant will also be the regenerated Doctor.

Davros has done his worst, Harriet Jones, former PM appears to have been exterminated (frankly I dont believe that for a minute, she will return one day). Sarah Jane has had her car stopped and blow up, I find that rather hard to believe too. The gorgeous Captain Jack, Rose and Donna are with the Doctor at the moment of regeneration and Dr Martha Jones is somewhere in the vicinity. I might have lost track of some of the detail in all of the excitement, but that seems about right.

The Doctor has survived the attack although the world has not, it has not been won or lost yet, there is still all to play for, but who, or indeed Who, will be standing in the TARDIS when the smoke clears?

Roll on next Saturday night. I am supposed to be at Katie's wedding in Sefton Park, so I shall have to ask Colin to set his DVD recorder for me and for one of you to text me with regular updates!

A magnificent and totally unexpected episode

Friday, June 27, 2008

The People's Rail

Today the Co-operative Party launched its new campaign, the People's Rail. The campaign aims to give the British public real power over its rail network, through co-operative structures. Long-suffering rail users deserve better than a network run for the convenience of managers, with no one taking responsibility when things go wrong. We call on Network Rail to change the way it's run, to give real control to passengers and the public.

Launching the campaign, Sarah McCarthy-Fry MP, Chair of the Co-operative Party group of MPs said:

"Recent events have led many to doubt whether the governance of Network Rail is as strong as it should be. At a time when we may have expected the management to be under serious pressure after their failure over the New Year, the Board’s response has been to reward them with massive bonuses.

"As a Labour and Co-operative MP, I know only too well the benefits that consumer ownership can bring. Through making organisations accountable to their users and other stakeholders, it has been demonstrated that we can not only strengthen citizenship, but also build services based on the needs of the people that they serve."

You can play your part. Visit our campaign website to send your message of support. You can download the document, find images for your website and tell your friends. Look out for events in your area for the campaign and let us know if you have any ideas to keep the pressure on Network Rail.

Join the campaign on Facebook.

Annual Conference 2008
We will hold our annual conference on 11, 12 and 13 September at Westminster Central Hall, London.

The main theme of the conference is ‘Consumer with attitude’, and we will try to address the issues of consumer rights, power and responsibilities. We will also look at the concept of ethical consumerism, its costs and rewards. Like last year, the first day of Conference will be open to the public and we really want to see as many members as possible take part to the panel discussions that will take place from 12 noon on Thursday 11 September. Speakers on that day include Ed Miliband MP, Ed Balls MP, Hilary Benn MP and many others!

We will publish more details on our website starting 30 June, and will keep you updated on events and speakers as they get confirmed. To register for the event (access is free but registration is requested), or to receive more details as they become available, email

Holding up half the sky

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Have you seen the Muriel?

- shades of Hilda Ogden, for those of you who are old enough to remember the Alpen "Muriel" she was so proud of in her living room

I finally got to Croxteth Avenue, Litherland with Mum, Roger and Colin to see the Liverpool Mural Project's first and most wonderful piece of art and here are a few photos of its splendiference

The posters are painted too by the way, you cannot see that on a photo but in the flesh you can see how magnificent they are.

(And spy Colin, giving you the human scale for the immensity of this project)

- I have asked Peter from TLMP to come and work with me to find a suitable site in Kensington, we must have our own, it is my dream.

Click on each photo to see the full sized photo

Never the 'twain

I was reading the first edition of a new magazine which came in the post today, Total Politics, and read an article with Gordon Brown where the journalists explained how they had been bundled into a side room (described as a cupboard) for a few minutes to avoid running straight into the visiting Prime Minister of Canada on their way out of Number 10 Downing Street.

I was reminded of my days working for the Labour Party when I was Deputy Chief Steward at a LP annual conference in Blackpool in the late 1990s.

TB had invited two particular guests to talk with him and other senior LP politicians and to engage in the conference during the week – David Trimble and Gerry Adams.

They were both at our conference on the same day. I was in charge of stewarding Gerry Adams around conference and my colleague and mate Chris Southward was in charge of stewarding David Trimble. There was a sticky moment, as we were waiting for the Leader’s Speech, where Chris and I were “joined at the ear”. He was on his radio and I was on mine, ensuring that we did not meet in the building. He would say “entering corridor to the theatre, south side” and I would reply “exiting corridor to the north side” and we crept round the building doing our best to ensure that the two never met in the conference centre.

Neither was meant to be anywhere within camera shot as TB paid tribute to Mo Mowlam for her part in the Northern Ireland settlement. Neither should receive a greater share of the TV coverage than the other.

Incidentally, you will recall this moment yourself, because you were told by countless journalists over many years that TB disliked the standing ovation Mo got. I know this is rubbish, he clearly set it up for her. My many years of conference have shown me that nothing as important as this happens by chance during the leader’s speec.

But for me, as Deputy Steward, minding the cinema “overspill” where we were putting the extra thousand or so people we could not fit in the main hall, there was a further complicating factor.

Michael Portillo, the man we all still then loved to hate, was sitting downstairs in the darkened theatre as Gerry, who incidentally has the most overpowering charisma of anyone I have ever met, his minders and I were watching from the balcony. Portillo was filming the leader’s speech for a documentary he was making. He was no longer an MP by this time, having been defeated by Stephen Twigg.. But I feared a potential riot much more serious than anything the two opponents in Northern Ireland could do to each other in such a place.

I imagine Gerry and David were only too well aware of what was going on between the two of them, in terms of who was sitting where, they each had some rather serious looking body guards with them. Portillo on the other hand, was very much undefended, but thankfully, on the whole the dark kept him fairly anonymous. There were some Labour Party members sitting near him who spotted him and were frantically nudging each other, gob-smacked to see him there but fortunately most people never knew he was there.

One day I shall write my memoirs!

(And Susan will help me, because she was at the heart of so much of this)

Berlin Bears and Liverpool Lambananas

A different take on the craze that is sweeping Liverpool perhaps?

Here we have a "tail" of two cities (oh the puns she comes up bears have tails? Lambs certainly do.)

In Berlin when Lisa and I visited, they were exhibiting bears - the symbol of Berlin - which had been decorated to represent countries across the world. We came across about half a dozen scattered across the city and a further 50 or so, all gathered together in a herd, or a pack, or a growl, or whatever is the appropriate term for a group of bears.

And in Liverpool for the last week or so, a similar grouping of lambananas have been gracing the city streets, each decorated by different groups of residents, artists, local businesses, the public and the private sector. (I am calling them lambananas rather than superlambananas because I think only the original is "super", surely these smaller versions are merely lambananas?)

They have a lot in common, and they share a lot of characteristics.

I would be interested in your thoughts on the comparison and in the fantastic efforts that people in both countries have gone to.

Let's begin with a Berlin bear that Lisa and I met about 5 feet away from the line from the former Berlin wall.

He is a really European Bear as you can see.

Then let's have a look at one of the Liverpool Lambananas.

I shall start with my favourite. Painted by Kensington children, and representing the five fruit and veg we should all eat each day. This lambanana is currently displayed in the Walker Art Gallery - and that has got to be the TOP location that any budding artist could possibly wish for!

Indeed the poster on the wall next to the lambanana makes this very point. The photo shows the children painting the sculpture but misses out the section where one of them explains how "made up" she was to learn that their wonderful art work would be displayed in such a fantastic place. I take my hat off to them all for a fantastic piece of art.

If you are paying attention and if you click on the photo and blow it up to its full extent you will see a strawberry, broccoli spears, an orange, a banana and what is on the top? A melon perhaps?

Let's go back to the bears. Lisa and I had a clear favourite, the Iraq bear with the magic flying carpet carrying children across a mystical world.

The next Lambanana I want to feature stands proudly outside Allerton library, where I visit every three weeks to get my next book fix.

It features a map of the local Wavertree/Wavertree/Chruch area, sadly my road is missing but Colin's road runs across the face of the lamb - how cool is that!

The next photo shows a whole host of Berlin Bears, reaching to the heavens, from all over the world, are they not simply glorious? They are currently gathered next to the museum of Berlin in a courtyard where we had our lunch. Great dining companions they were too.

Of course I could not forget Kensington and Fairfield's own Lambananas in this gallery.

Have you met Kenny? He is standing on Kensington, at the junction with Hall Lane, and seen by many thousands of motorists and pedestrians every single day which is why Liam, Wendy and I picked this site for him. He is adorned with hand-drawn picture of mythical animals (as he himself is a mythical animal) drawn by local Kensington children under the tutelage of Kensington resident Barbara with the support of METAL.

Compare him with the Berlin Bear from Cuba who is a cheeky little chap and really took our fancy.

There is also a Lambanana in Newsham Park which has excited local people no end. The staff in the Adult Learning Centre are so thrilled that their sculpture has been attracting tourists on the culture trail. Never before, or at least for many years, has there been any reason for tourists to visit our park and everyone is truly delighted.

This sculpture is adorned with flowers, at the heart of each being a photo of a different local person.

I am sure that one of my readers will also want to recall the cows in Manchester, this temporary artworks and sculptures are a great way of enhancing a city's art and culture offering.

Enjoy - if you click on a photo it will present itself in a much bigger form, feel free to save them and use them, but if you use them on the web, please give this site some credit. Thanks.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

August 1st 9pm - exciting event in Newsham Park

I have just picked this up through email

The Emperor and the Tiger show features a magnificent mechanical
tiger, musicians, amazing costumes and colourful carnival dancers.

This show tells the story of a greedy emperor who demanded taxes - the people must pay! But when wise man Awlia Shah leads the people to plead with the Emperor, riding on the back of a giant, noble Bengal tiger, the tyrant is forced to think again. The power of the Tiger overcomes the Emperor and the people's pride and wealth is restored.

An original soundtrack with spoken narrative and magical special
effects animates this unique project, before the firework finale lights up the skies

A culture company event which sounds very good - do go!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Arthur Dooley - can anyone help with an update?

Steve Clancy, an artist friend of mine is coming to visit in a week or so's time, and has asked me to discover whether we have celebrated Arthur Dooley during this year of culture.

He has also sent a link to a BBC story which talks about a campaign set up a few years ago to find a new home for his collection.

"In the celebrations for Liverpool has there been any mention of Arthur
Dooley who I remember back in the 60s as the man who valiantly took on
those he called the Bond Street Bandits.

He was ****ed off with the manipulation of the 'art market' and values
being dictated by the spivs in London.

He was an icon for every artist - traditionally trained or otherwise -
who was a working artist.

A damned good man."

Can anyone advise me or him? It would be good to have something to take him to visit when he and Cath come over.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Newsham Park "pavillion" - an update

You will recall my blogging before several times about the inappropriate plans put forward for football pitches (good) and location and type of changing rooms (bad) on Newsham Park, to offset, for three years, the loss of same at a site in West Derby where a new school is going to be built.

I had a meeting with the relevant officers today and with Councillor Berni Turner who is the Executive member for Parks, to discuss our concerns and look at the progress that has been made since the original application was pulled.

I then attended a meeting of the Newsham Park Forum, which reports to the relevant select committee.

I am pleased to say that the council has now identified a suitable site in the area that councillors, residents and members of the Friends of Newsham Park had wanted new changing rooms to be located to. So it is to be just south of Gardners Drive instead of the Prescot Drive end of the park.

And they have also done some homework about possible alternative and affordable temporary changing rooms and have found out about what councils in other parts of the country have used for temporary changing rooms. They offered us some alternatives and we chose a scheme that we want them to research further, of a brick clad building, with a tiled roof and possibly a bit more interesting that a plain rectangle, perhaps with a small protrusion (I have tried and failed to think of a better word for a ground floor extension, perhaps in the centre of a facade, making a T shape where the leg of the T is really quite short. What are they called?)

We also told the planners (Education chiefs and Parks chiefs) that we wanted the new changing rooms to have suitable planting and landscaping round it, to make it more a part of the park and less "plonked down".

They now understand what we want from a temporary structure and will go away to research further.

City Safe wardens who deal with crime in parks were on hand to advise about how to make the new changing rooms secure, while preferably not turning them into a fortress with barbed wire etc!

The general idea is that we will have two proper football pitches, properly maintained (and will create a wet-land area nearby, with eco benefits, to help keep the pitches drained) and they will be supported by changing rooms which will be quite close-by but not on top of our bowling green which I know there is already a need for. I have been approached by several local people who want a bowling green facility so I hope we can get this too, perhaps out of the HLF bid.

I shall now give the potentially good news to the two local adult football teams that have been pursuing me about the appalling provision in the area.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Deane Road Cemetery open afternoon - a triumph!

I am delighted to report that we had a massive response to the open day today. Around 250 people visited.

There was a wide variety, many were local residents who were keen to see just what was behind the fabulous (and listed) portal they had walked past so many times on Deane Road. I spoke to residents who were able to point to the house they now lived in, or one they had lived in previously, where they had had partial glimpses of the cemetery from bedroom windows. I spoke to people who live in Kensington or Fairfield and are very interested in history, also some had come from other parts of Liverpool with an interest in history because they had read about the open day on an internet forum. I dont know who posted for us, but thank you, whoever you are.

Several male visitors from the area admitted to climbing in to the cemetery in their youth to scare themselves with talks of ghosts and two very respectable looking ladies told me that as small and presumably thin children they had squeezed their way through the railings to have a look round.

One woman told me that her Dad had wanted to buy the cemetery 30 years ago thinking it was an empty building (at that time the gates were covered in metal sheets so it would not have been apparent that it was a cemetery and not a neglected building). She said he will be sad to have missed this open day but will be interested in our next one!

I spied members of residents associations in Elm Park, Fairfield, Sheil Park, Kensington and Lister Road area.

I also spoke to people who had come to Lidl to shop and had noticed our banner advertising the open day, made by our head gardener, Muriel. They were very excited to have an extra bonus to their visit to the shops.

Counting myself, 10 of the 90 Liverpool City Councillors turned up for a tour, Liam and Wendy came of course but the visitors also included several Jewish councillors who had their own personal and family interests in taking the tour and others interested in the history of the city. Jim Noakes, new councillor in Clubmoor and a lifelong Kensington resident told me that he had last been in the cemetery at the age of 8. The husband of an 11th councillor came on her behalf to show support for the project.

There were at least 3 teachers from different schools in Liverpool, thinking how they might bring children on tours in the future when the cemetery is fully refurbished.

We had visitors from the local business community - including the business members of Kensington Regeneration and both the current and former chairs of Dream High which I often blog about.

Four members of our police team popped in, not to arrest us for making a noise but to take a quick tour for themselves. Unfortunately a busy Police Helicopter overhead made the guided tour a bit difficult at times, but we managed.

Members of staff from three local RSL Housing Associations took the tour, as did two community wardens.

They were joined by residents from Friends of Newsham Park and workers from a nearby community care centre who are interested in how they can have a future relationship with us.

An Anglican vicar was our first visitor and members of the congregation from another local CofE church also came later - they had been part of an environmental clean-up a few years previously and were pleased to see the progress we have made.

Steve and Sheila from Kensington Vision came and interviewed various visitors and committee members for their Southbank Show, on-line radio podcast. Hopefully I will be able to link to that once it has been uploaded.

The committee has commissioned Michael Swerdlow to make a DVD about the project which we hope will help us to raise funds and awareness of the cemetery, and he got some wonderful footage. I saw him filming the huge groups taking the official tour from our project manager Saul Marks, and he also interviewed Rod Bromley of the Probation Service whose support for the cemetery, bringing offenders in to help with the more heavy tree and shrub clearance and the worst of the undergrowth, has made the difference between success and failure. I did a little piece about our plans for the future once the cemetery is refurbished.

Frank Dunne, well-known local politico came along and was extremely generous with his time. He took lots of photos (I think I heard someone say he was a keen amateur photographer), and then went home, downloaded them, printed them out and brought them back later in the afternoon, along with some photos of the last time he was in the cemetery in the 1990s. He took particular note to take some photos of a grave where we had just identified a descendant amongst the visitors who had not brought a camera, a very generous gesture. Thank you Frank.

Many other amateur photographers turned up, I spied at least 8 with cameras who were taking some atmospheric shots across the cemetery.

We were particularly pleased to welcome a special guest, Rex Makin, who has been very supportive of our refurbishment project. It was wonderful that he could attend and he gave the open afternoon an extra gravitas.

I was very worried about the weather forecast - rain all day, but we were relatively lucky. I was on site from about 1.30pm and the first visitors turned up at 2pm, long before we were ready. They were kept dry as were the visitors up until probably 5pm. We did have a couple of torrential downpours but even they did not deter people. We did have a few hardy folk touring in the most horrendous rain, their guide notes for the DIY tours, totally soggy.

But it dried up again and a new lot of people turned up about 6ish.

Some of the visitors were children, and two of those have offered themselves as volunteers for digging and weeding too.

I am moved beyond measure about the scale of the support today, we now have a big job on our hands, to read and assess all the questionnaires that people filled in on the way out, to find out how people can help (two gardening groups spoke to Muriel about how they could volunteer in the future), about how they would like to use a refurbished cemetery, about how they can help us to promote the cemetery in future and with some fundraising ideas.

I had thought that if 30 people turned up it would be a reasonable success, 250 was way beyond my wildest dreams.

I would like to thank the Merseymart at this point who did us proud with pre-opening publicity, many people came because they had read about the event in their free paper.

The committee is thrilled beyond compare, we were all hugging each other at closing time. Thanks to all of them too; Saul Marks our Project Manager (and resident Jewish genealogist) undertook many tours and was almost hoarse by the end, his enthusiasm, which is huge is also infectious. Everyone who took his tours were very impressed with him and with what they learnt. He roped his father and sister in to help "on the door" too, thanks to both of them. Saul's Dad should be very proud of him.

His girlfriend Leanne was great on the exit, encouraging people to complete their questionnaires and make a donation. We had a collection box from the Synagogue in Princes Road which we put out while it was dry and had to fetch in during the rain as it is probably Victorian (and would presumably have been familiar to some of those buried here) and we wanted to keep it safe. Saul is opening the box tomorrow with the Treasurer so we dont know how much we raised but there were some notable donations and we thank very much everyone who gave so generously.

Cath Taylor and Maria Curran from Kensington Regeneration who sit on our small project committee were great, bringing a display board, laminated photos of the "before" shots to show off, printing off DIY guide notes (they had to run to the C7 offices, not once but twice to print more off, given the huge numbers of visitors). They also brought brollies for the more hardy visitors to keep them dry as they went round.

Arnold Lewis, committee member and Jewish Archivist undertook tours too and interviewed Michael's guests for the DVD.

Our other committee member, Lisa Vingoe from C7 was unable to attend but offers huge support in helping with funding applications to organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund.

As he left, I did say to Ron Gould that I found myself with tears in my eyes a couple of times, just to see how much people had enjoyed their visit and how many had come.

As I drove away I reflected upon those buried in the cemetery and how pleased I hoped they would be that their final resting place was being recognised today and that so many people had come to pay their respects and learn more about the cemetery and the history of the influential people buried here.

I sincerely hope that our secret and hidden cemetery is now much more firmly on the Kensington and indeed Liverpool map.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Open Afternoon at Deane Road Jewish Cemetery tomorrow - Wednesday 18th June - final reminder

You will have read before about the open afternoon

I am reliably informed it will rain all day

Which is a bit of a bummer

But nonetheless, do try and come, it will be eye-opening, I promise

Bring a brolly!

(And also look forward to a further blog in due course about the need for a similar group to tackle the ASB currently being caused in the Green Lane Jewish Cemetery with thoughts about we can all get involved with curing that.)

Dream High in Wavertree

I went to the Dream High panel meeting today which was in the Resource Centre on Wavertree High Street.

We discussed four new entrepreneurs from East Liverpool and how we could help them. Interesting businesses with interesting stumbling blocks.

I hope our suggestions will help them.

Dream High, as I have said before, is part of the Sirolli Institute's programme in Liverpool and we consider business propositions from Kensington, Fairfield, Old Swan and Dovecot in the main part.

We are always looking for new panel members; To be a panel member you should have something to offer the entrepreneur in terms of contacts or advice. It could be finance, marketing, HR, product development or placement, anything really. Otherwise you should be a local resident or business man or woman who can help identify budding entrepreneurs who would benefit from our free assistance.

Do please get in touch if you can help with either of these!

A few notes on our trip to Berlin

Karl Scheffler, author of Berlin: Ein Stadtschicksal, in 1910 wrote “Berlin ist eine Stadt, verdammt dazu, ewig zu werden, niemals zu sein” ("Berlin is a city condemned forever to becoming and never being.")

He would be pleased in 2008 that it has now most certainly arrived!

I wont write too much in here because I have plans to include the range of photos and some writings on my travel-blog one day in the fullness of time. (Dont hold your breath though, I have put the pictures of Ireland up but still no words, perhaps this summer I will find the time for both)

But I must say that Lisa and I had a wonderful trip to celebrate our 30 years of friendship last weekend.

We flew direct to Berlin from John Lennon Airport.

We stayed at the Pension Classic in Wittenbergplatz in a large clean room with a view of the square, and it was about £35 per night each B&B which for a capital city centre is amazingly cheap.

We split our trip into four parts really, 18th, 19th and early 20th century Berlin, Second World War Berlin, Cold War Berlin and the Reunified city.

For the first part we visited the Brandenberg Gate commissioned by Friedrich Wilhelm II as a sign of peace and built from 1788 to 1791;

the Reichstag building constructed to house the first parliament of the German Empire, opened in 1894; the Siegessäule in the Tiergarten, the Victory Column commemorating German defeat of Denmark, Austria and France in the 1860s and 70s; the Volksbuhne theatre in Rosa Luxemburg Platz, established in 1914 as a result of a grassroots people’s movement.

All were magnificent and nothing I can say about them will be any more interesting than anything you could find by Googling. They certainly knew how to "do" buildings in Berlin in centuries gone by.

We also went to the Bauhaus Archive while we were in the Tiergarten.

We met a lot of very courteous people who were dedicated to customer service while we were in Berlin, but not alas in the Bauhaus. Not my thing really, I love art and architecture but it was far too stark and plain for me. I think the chrome tube furniture was a real innovation at the time, but as a child who sat on our one special "Habitat" chair in front of the TV, it was all a bit old hat to me.

We went to the Field of memory: the relatively new memorial to European Jews who perished under the Nazis and passed the site of Hitler's bunker as we approached it. The guidebook didnt make the obvious link between the two but I wonder whether the creator did nonetheless draw some inspiration from this. A whole series of grey concrete blocks, set on a grid system, each of a different height, some only a few feet high and some 15 feet high, with cobbled paving in between that rose and fell gently across the site, made walking through feel at times like being underground or in a dark place. A lonely memorial, bleak and very moving.

Generally though I think Berlin is thought of most as the home of the Berlin wall during the Cold war. There is little left of the wall now, naturally the city wanted to demolish it and open up the city for reunification. But it has not all gone, a few hundred yards are left standing for visitors to contemplate.

It was built in 1961 in an attempt to halt the flow of East Germans leaving for a better life in the West. It was also designed to prevent the worst excesses of the West polluting the Communist ideal they wanted to establish - they called it "the anti-fascist protection barrier".

It lasted about 30 years before it was torn down on 9th November 1989 (Mum's birthday), a wonderful day we all remember so well - especially her I expect.

I have not read up on how the line was drawn between East and West Berlin but at times it passed within 6 feet of people's front doors. Imagine one day you live in a wide street with beautiful buildings on both sides and the next day when you open the front door there is a plain concrete wall about 20 feet high in front of your nose.

It was thrown up in about a fortnight, starting one night with barbed wire and within two weeks becoming a 4 metre high wall with 50 gun towers.

Behind this wall, on the west side, was a strip of no-mans land and then a second wall between this and the east side.

I understand from reading Stasiland before we travelled that there were rabbits playing in this no-mans land in certain places and in one particular spot someone had built an allotment, but generally it was somewhere you could expect to be shot - there was a shoot-to-kill policy if discovered.

We did the "Check Point Charlie" walking tour, walking along the line the wall had taken, through the check point where the East and West checked out those arriving and leaving.

We stopped for a while to read the display boards about those who had tried to leave, some successfully and many not. I was most fascinated with some aerial shots that the Stasi had managed to have taken during the 1980s I think, where you could see into West Berlin which looked prosperous with lots of new and modern cars parked outside new buildings, and into East Berlin which remained a wasteland where the bombs had fallen during WWII but no money was available to rebuild.

We also went to the New National Gallery built in 1968 which houses some great art, including Edward Munch, Picasso and Klee.

Potsdamer Platz is the new part of former East Berlin in the new capital city of the Germany. Here you can see the full benefits of membership of the EU with a huge rebuilding programme, and because it was all a waste ground, the new buildings have been built in lots of space with wide tree lined streets and plenty of room. A marvellous example of new architecture.

Evenings were spent eating and drinking and making merry - and watching the early games of the European cup.

We also had a great night out at Kleine Nacht Revue, a real Berlin Cabaret (...when in Rome etc)

We couldn't understand a spoken word and were the only people in the audience of about 20 (it was a tiny club) who were not German, but it was fairly straightforward. Marlene Dietrich, sings, gets very popular, meets man, falls in love with man, war comes along, couple struggle, couple fall out of love, man dies later with some pathos, with lots of singing.

We loved it!

I am sure we did other things which I have forgotten, but you get the general idea.

I will save the Berlin bears for my post about the sudden influx of mini superlambananas and I will draw a veil over us missing our flight home on Sunday because we had underestimated the slowness of the Sunday rail service.

We are now looking forward to our 40th celebrations, suggestions anyone?

(Thanks to Les for his helpful email of tips for our visit and Kevin for his loan of the guidebook! You were great.)

You can click on any photograph and if I have uploaded them properly you should be able to see a much larger version in all its glory.

Liverpool is the top musical city

Further to an earlier blog and letter to the Daily Post about Liverpool's battle to become recognised as the most musical city in England, I am delighted to say we won!

(I did write to the Echo too but they didnt publish it, I think they may have run their own piece that week instead).

YEAH! (yeah! yeah!)

Sheffield were 2nd
Manchester were 3rd

and Leicester were 4th (Leicester???)

Something else to be proud of in our special year

For more information on the rest of the best, go to

Monday, June 16, 2008

Police Open Day in Liverpool

invite you to a

Community Open Day

St Anne Street Police Station, St Anne Street, Liverpool 3


between 10am and 2pm.

Meet the Drugs dog and walk through the knife arch before seeing the horses and having your fingerprints taken during a tour of the station.

Come along and meet the officers and staff who police your area.

Parking is provided at Everton Sports Centre and shuttle buses will provide transport to and from the station.

Additional dates for your diary where the KND Police Team / PCSO's will be

Sat 28th June Newsham Park Arts Event 11am - 5pm.

Friday 4th July Frenzy Club Event at St Francis of Assisi School -
this is a diversionary activity for 13 - 16 year olds from the Kensington area and further information of times and cost will be available from Chris Flood at C7.

Sat 12th July Kensington Fun Day at The Police Club Fairfield, a
great day out for all of the family, plenty of events and fund raising activities.

and finally............... commencing in June and on the last Thursday of every month there will be a Police Surgery being held between 4pm and 6pm at the
Life Bank, Quorn Street, L7 where residents are invited to come along and have their say about local issues or concerns on a one to one basis with a Police Officer or PCSO.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

David Davis - mad or brave?

I dont usually comment much on national stories, as I have said before, there are millions of other sites better qualified than me to comment.

But this is so bizarre I feel I have no choice but to mention it.

David Davis MP for Haltemprice and Howden (in East Yorkshire, just a bit above Hull) has resigned his seat in Parliament to force a by-election which he then intends to fight, on the matter of the 42 days detention for suspected terrorists.

I suppose he must have already spoken to those of his party membership locally who have agreed they will select him again to fight this seat?

The LibDems have already said they wont be contesting it and tonight's BBC news seems to suggest that Labour wont either.


Is this a genuine and heartfelt stance from a politician from a party that was once happy to detain IRA terrorists but now has had a rethink (possibly), is this a stunt, which it seems is already backfiring (also possible)?

I do hope the Labour Party does not stand a candidate. For several reasons really; on a practical level we dont have the money to fight yet another byelection: we would not win H&H in a good year, never mind a few months after Crewe and Nantwich; and finally we dont need to give this situation the oxygen of publicity.

I was dizzy with the implications until I heard about the possibility that we would not contest it. A master stroke, the very best (sorry Mum and Cynthia) "F*** off" message that we could have dreamt up.

It is obvious when you think about it that giving house room to the decision of a politician to stand down and cause a by-election but stand again on a single platform, would, if granted, give succour to all sorts of people to repeat this.

So I hope the Labour Party continues to decide not to contest this and to make a mockery of the election which is what democracy must naturally require. Otherwise, when and where will it stop?

How very very odd.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Ein Kurz Auf Wiedersehen

Morgen Fruh gehe ich zum Deutschland (Berlin).

Ich bin sehr glucklich

(und ich habe keine umlaut auf mein computer)

So, entschuldigen sie bitte fur meine ruhe bis Montag.

Ich habe nicht in Deutschland gefarhen seit 28 jahre. Es ist auch 27 jahre seit ich Deutsche gelernt.

Which means that this is probably all wrong, sorry! It really has been a long time, I hope Lisa and I will be able to remember our lessons after all these years.

See you next week!

And talking of the Liverpool Mural Project

It is finally here! Hurrah! Our first mural!

Colin, Mike and I drove up to Litherland on a whim last weekend to see the new mural on I thought Croxteth Road or Croxteth Street. Armed with an A-Z we found our way through the one-way system but could not find the mural when we got there and a passer-by had no idea what I was talking about.

Back home, checking again, I realised we should have been looking for Croxteth Avenue.


So now we have to go back again and see the mural for ourselves, but in the meantime, here are some photos that Peter has sent me. Doesn't it look truly magnificent?

I shall definitely be going and will put my own photos up afterwards.

Now we must find a second location, this time in Kensington or Fairfield. So if you have spotted a good gable end for this fantastic project then do please let me know.

PS As far as I can tell, if you click on the image it will expand and show you a bigger and clearer version.

Irish Reception at St George's Hall

I am dancing on air tonight, having spent the evening as the guest of the Irish Ambassador to the UK, in the company of President Mary McAleese at an Irish reception to celebrate Liverpool's European Capital of Culture status and the strong and powerful relationship between Liverpool and Eire.

A confirmed Eirophile (is that right? Have I just invented that?) I adore Ireland and am slowly working my way round it over successive visits. If Dublin is at 3 o'clock I have probably made it round the clock to about 10pm. There cannot be much left now before I hit Northern Ireland and I would love to visit there too, especially the massive lake I can see on the map that dwarfs any in the UK.

Councillor Joe Anderson was invited to two separate functions today with the President and knowing how much I love her and Ireland, he kindly invited me to accompany him this evening to a wonderful musical evening in the truly outstanding small concert hall in St George's Hall. He was really very thoughtful and kind in ensuring that my evening was wonderful, introducing me to people and including me in his conservations (and in telling the President how big a fan of hers I am).

We were entertained by four musicians, forming a group; John Carty on fiddle and banjo, Kieran Hanrahan on Banjo (who hails from Ennis in Co Clare, my favourite County in Ireland), Arty McGlynn on guitar and Matt Molloy on flute (I think they called it a concert flute, it looked more like a wooden instrument than a silver one?)

They were wonderful, playing reels, jigs, polkas and other toe-tapping music.

They were joined by adult Irish Dancers Rosemarie Cooney and Derrie Murray and by 8 year old Roisin Seoighe, who danced and also sang in the sean nos style (songs which are unaccompanied, songs that have been repeated generation by generation for many hundreds of years).

When the President spoke she explained that these 7 performers were the cream of Irish music and she was proud to bring them to Liverpool to showcase the best of Ireland in a city that was showcasing its own talents to the world.

She spoke wonderfully well and without notes for the main part, about the strong relationship between the UK and Ireland and the strong relationship in particular between Ireland and Liverpool. She talked about the Great Starvation of the 1800s and how a million people left Ireland and came to Liverpool, either to stay or to pass through on their way to a new life elsewhere.

Every time I go to Ireland, when I tell them I live in Liverpool I always get the same reaction - that Ireland considers Liverpool to be part of the same country. That Liverpool is Ireland's second (or sometimes third after Cobhe) capital city. That Liverpool and Ireland are on either side of the same coin.

President McAleese said that in every brick of every building in Liverpool there is a little bit of Ireland.

I loved Ireland long before I came to Liverpool, even as a visitor, and I love that my adopted city is so close to my adopted country.

At the reception after the event I was fortunate enough to be personally introduced to the President and to her husband but I was amazingly tongue-tied and only really managed to thank her for a wonderful evening. I am afraid I was not able to tell her about my Irish ancestors (including my GGGGrandfather Philip Brady who was the "Herbert" of Dublin in the 1850s) or that I fully intend to retire to Ireland when my time comes - to the Banner County

I also had a long chat with Rex Makin and his wife about the Deane Road cemetery project, they are hoping to make our open day later this month.

And I also had a chat with Phil Redmond about the Liverpool Mural Project and how important it is that we promote the new mural very strongly in the hope that others now take up the opportunity to have a mural themselves.

What a great evening!

It is month's later but I just found the President's speech on the web - and she mentioned my name - I dont think I noticed at the time, I was far too star-struck. How lovely!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Fairfield Residents Assocation and Paul McCartney

I went on Monday to meet with the Chair and Secretary of the Fairfield Residents Association who cover Fairfield Crescent and Prospect Vale, the beautiful Georgian part of Fairfield.

I was greeted at the front door by two ladies who I dont think will mind me describing as pensioners who were on a real high following the Paul McCartney Liverpool Sound concert at Anfield Stadium the night before.

"Wasn't it marvellous, we have not stopped singing or smiling since" they enthused.

They had watched the concert on BBC2, as indeed had I. The Labour Group did have some tickets allocated but we chose to give them to some of the city's Looked After children.

From what I could see on the TV, every time Sir Paul began a new song, he only needed to play the first three notes and the stadium went wild, and the crowd sang along to every word of every song.

It looked like a great evening and I would have loved to have seen the Zutons too who are one of my favourite bands and really remind me of the Kinks.

So Liverpool was buzzing on Sunday and on Monday and indeed tonight (Wednesday) at another function I was attending, it was buzzing there too.

I understand there were some real issues about the organisation of the event - lots of questions being asked about the allocation of seating - people who had paid premium prices sat in the same seats as people who had paid the least - and some people were divested of their umbrellas and in one case an old lady had her two bananas taken from her (they were potential weapons apparently) but in terms of the musical content it would seem that the night was a tremendous success.

And the Fairfield Residents Association pre-meeting went very well too. We have agreed a whole list of priorities, mainly involving Newsham Park and its environs as it borders these roads at its southern boundaries. We will now meet later this month as a group, residents, councillors, the police and LCC neighbourhood management to work out how to progress these priorities.

Speke Hall for lunch

I met my friend Elaine for lunch last week and we decided, as it was such a lovely day, to go to Speke Hall and have soup, a crusty roll and a cake in their cafe.

As a card-holding member of the National Trust I thought it would help to flash my card but actually when I told the lady on the desk that we only wanted to visit the cafe she waved us through.

If you have not been to Speke Hall then I would heartily recommend it. It is a wonderful Tudor house, with original features, including some William Morris wallpaper (of a later era obviously). One of my favourite places to visit, especially when they are putting on special events with staff in period dress. Christmas is particularly lovely. Otherwise the rose garden is very beautiful.

It is odd to be able to hear the planes at John Lennon Airport revving up their engines (they live next door) but once you have learnt to put up with that, you will feel like you have gone back several centuries, and indeed in all ways that matter, you will have.

Operation Black Vote launch in Liverpool

I have blogged before about Operation Black Vote in Liverpool

We have now had the launch in the Town Hall and I am going to be mentoring Caroline Chege who is a young Kenyan woman with tremendous potential. Expect to see and hear a lot about her in the coming months.

The launch was really quite moving. We were in the council chamber and the majority of the guests, filling seats normally reserved for councillors were from the black and ethnic minority communities. I would imagine it may well have been the first time the chamber has ever seen such numbers and it really felt good.

We had speeches from the Lord Mayor, the leaders of the three main parties in Liverpool (LibDem, Labour and Liberal), from the Operation Black Vote National Co-ordinator and founder member, Simon Woolley and from Councillor Anna Rothery, Liverpool's only BME councillor.

Simon was particularly inspirational, referring to the success of Barack Obama in America and saying that he believed our 9 shadow councillors were Barack Obama's in the making.

Joe Anderson, Labour leader made a short but strong speech saying frankly that Liverpool's record in terms of BME representation is very poor and that we must now grasp this chance to become more representative.

Anna spoke emotively of being the only black face in the council chamber and said she hoped that if she was fortunate to be elected to the council again in 2010 then she hoped as she looked round at the following meeting, she would see "people who look like me".

One of the guests at the launch has left her own thoughts on this blog.

The 7 women and 2 men are from many different BME backgrounds, I wish them all every success in their mentoring and hope that at the end of their scheme, they will choose to pursue a goverance role, whether it be a political career in local or national government, a JP or a school governor. Right across the governance spectrum we need more leaders from minority communities.

As I sat and listened to the speeches and as I met the different shadows, I felt both proud and honoured to be involved in this ground-breaking project.

Elm Park Residents

It was the last Wednesday in the month and so it had to be the Elm Park Residents Meeting.

As usual we were discussing the collection and return of wheely bins. We have promised residents that we will pay for communal gardens in the entries in Elm Park if they will learn to manage their waste disposal thoughtfully and keep their dogs out of the entries. It is proving a very big task but LCC Neighbourhood Services are doing what they can to ensure that the bin men do the right thing and the residents do the right thing.

But I am afraid it remains the case that "there is a lot done but a lot still to do"

We also talked again about the tarmacced area at the end of Parton Street on Prescot Road where demolished shops used to stand. We organised a meeting for later in the week with the land-owners to work on a project to put planters in here and grow some flowers and spiky plants up the walls to stop kids (and would-be burglars) from trying to climb over into the entries and cause trouble.

We might even have a mural, are you listening TLMP?

A very useful meeting where the three of us councillors backed residents wishes to support the Arts Festival in Newsham Park later in June.

Liam's Trainers Project

I shouldn't call it that really; they are not Liam's trainers, they are trainers that Liam wants to get rid of.

We will all know about telegraph wires adorned by training shoes, tied together by the laces and thrown up. It is alleged that the location of said trainers advertises the presence of drug dealers to make it easier for drug addicts to find a supplier. I dont know whether this is true or not.

But Liam is deeply offended by their presence on our city streets and his first independent action as a brand new local councillor has been to walk round the streets finding these trainers and draw up a list.

He has now asked officers to take action, which we will support with funding from our locally held budget, to remove them and return the landscape to something more respectable.

I think this is a brilliant initiative. It doesn't really matter what the trainers signify, we dont want them hanging above us and I think this is a very good move.

If you live in Kensington and Fairfield and you have trainers dangling from wires near you, please contact Liam and he will add your street to the list of those that he wants the cherry-picker to visit. It wont be cheap but it will be worth it. It is not just about what these shoes purportedly stand for, it is about how much we care for our neighbourhood.

I think this is precisely why we benefit from having new councillors elected. They see things and care about things that our eyes have not seen.

Site visit on the Phythian - can we stop that ASB through estate design planning?

The Phythian estate in Kensington is the best council estate in Liverpool.

I should qualify that really. It is not a council estate any more, two months ago it was transferred through stock-transfer to a private company named Pinnacle, under the umbrella of Liverpool Mutual Homes.

And in any case, lots of residents bought their homes over the years, so few now live in social housing.

However, despite all that, it is a fabulous estate.

Great houses with big gardens, all beautifully maintained, a really great place to live.

But for one particular family on the estate it has become a hell.

They live on the end of a cul-de-sac where there is access only for pedestrians at the end of the road.

This pedestrian access has become a magnet for trouble. Young people hang round there, drinking beers and chatting each other up, which would not be so much of a problem except that as they get drunk they begin to urinate in the close (girls as well as boys). Also drug dealing takes place in the quiet corner and sometimes motorbike riders use the limited access to flee from police.

We had a meeting on site with the affected home owners and watched some video film they had made of a particularly bad evening when police had to be called to disperse crowds.

We were joined by a member of our council's neighbourhood management services who had lots of good ideas about how to solve this problem and I am hopeful that we might be able to put this right for these residents and their immediate neighbours.
He had several suggestions and was also able, while we stood in the street, to phone the CCTV managers and have the camera that covers this area moved, so that it looked right at the problem area. Impressed? Moi? You Bet!

Now I should say that in the years since the estate was built, a project was undertaken to redesign the estate to factor out most crime and ASB that were troubling the original residents, and it was fantastically successful. Houses were turned round, front doors moved to the back, entries closed, gardens extended, lights put in. It made a huge difference.

It is testament to the TRA of the time that there are so few problems left on the estate.

We hope that with this last final change we will have achieved a near perfect estate.

Kensington Regeneration - Quality of Life committee

I have been on the board of Kensington Regeneration for a year now and a few months ago I was elected to a committee called "Quality of Life" which concentrates on those aspects of the New Deal for Communities that deal with community relationships. That is a particularly important part of the organisation in my view.

We had a meeting last week to look at some of the funding bids that had come in. Some we passed and some we asked more questions about, but it was all very interesting stuff.

What I particularly like is that the committee chairs and vice-chairs tend to be local residents who have learnt so much from their experience, had training, got involved in all sorts of activities and have got thoroughly to grips with the stuff that makes a community cohesive.

It is not without its controversies but always thoughtfully discussed.

I dont know how much is confidential, so wont talk about the particular bids we discussed, but they are going to really enhance the lives of local people.

Very interesting.

European Neighbours Day

What a great day at Venture Housing on Boaler Street last week. European Neighbours Day, celebrates communities and neighbours and was first organised in France, or maybe Germany? following the death of a neighbour whose body was not discovered for a long time.

Now once a year we celebrate our neighbours and have a happy day with them, enjoying their company in shared activities. At Venture Housing there was a packed diary. The morning was for the children, with a bouncy castle, lots of toys to play on outside, arts and crafts, making face masks, face-painting - just the thing for half-term. Then for the adults there was a game of bingo and for all some very tasty international food. I went over in my lunch hour from work and ate some paella cooked outside in a huge pan three feet across. You could also have bolgnese or chinese food and lots of cake! There were free hanging baskets for 80 lucky residents (which local councillors helped pay for from our locally held budget).

Hundreds of residents turned out to enjoy themselves. And as I looked round I could see staff from three different Housing Associations who all supported the event - so well done to C7 and Rodney Housing as well as Venture. I saw PCSO's, staff from the LCC Neighbourhood Management Team, board members from Dream High, officers from loads of our Tenants and Residents Groups, the Clean Team. Merseyside Chinese Association had a stall as did lots of other groups.

Wendy arrived just after I left and agreed with me that it was a really great event.

I cannot wait until next year when, if it is possible, it will be even bigger and even better.

A very neighbourly day indeed.