Sunday, August 30, 2009

Alun Parry - the We Can Make The World Stop album launch gig

Alun Parry, you just gotta love him - and as it said in the review of his new album in the Metro (hey, you have to start somewhere), this man is "the heart and soul of Liverpool"

He invited his fan base, of which I am proud to be a member, to a free gig at the Casa on Hope Street on Friday night for the launch of his new album We Can Make The World Stop. And what a great night was had by all.

There were a couple of guys in support, Vinny T Spen and Stuart Todd, who were very good but we were all waiting for the main event and Alun didn't disappoint.

He sang about half of the tracks from the new album, some from his back catalogue and also a few covers to get those in the audience really going who were not so familiar with his own work. Of the covers I particularly enjoyed Space Oddity (he said he wanted to song about a working man, that we would all know, and had chosen a song about a working astronaut!). Brown Eyed Girl is always one of my favourites, for obvious reasons, and it was a great idea to get us all singing along to a Beatles song, given it was the beginning of the Mathew Street festival weekend (You've got to hide your love away - with lots of enthusiastic "hey"s from the audience).

The gig was going out on live feed on the internet so we all shouted hello to the world periodically as the beer flowed and we became ever more enthusiastic. I was sitting next to a Norwegian man now living in Honduras who was amazed by the art work in the Casa and in particular a mural depicting Latin American freedom fighters, a great backdrop for Alun as he sang about Desi Warren (wonderful song) and about the breakdown of capitalism and the exploitation of the workers. The Casa was also a good place to be singing "I want Rosa to stay, not just today, or tomorrow but forever". I struggle mightily with the treatment of asylum seekers in this country, it is no secret, and I do what I can to support the work of Asylum Link and if more people could hear this song the world might be a better place.

We were challenged to say what we thought new song "Hello Barren Desert" was all about, Alun saying he was not absolutely sure himself, but would take his lead from the best of the reviewers. So I shall have my turn, it seems pretty obvious to me that with lyrics about the "sun burning the pastures" and the rising of the waters, that it is about global warming, but clearly that was only part of the story. There was a verse about the whisking away of the sheep - which is very biblical only I am sure he didn't mean it to be - I cannot quite fit this in with my global warming theory. There were also echoes of The Times They Are A'Changing, which he did in fact sing later, was that a clue Alun? Is this song also a tribute to Dylan? And was there perhaps a bit of a Palestinian reference going on? I am going to suggest there might have been. Over to you mate.

The new album is great, you should order one from the website, I think my favourite song is probably "Waiting for the Lovers" which he dedicated to Michael Causer, a song about two gay men, meeting and falling in love in a club, while a gang outside "clutching broken bottles" wait for them to come out.

And I loved "Take the mother's name" based on a study of Engels. This covers a really fascinating subject not just for feminists but also for genealogists; the fact that although we know with certainty the mother of a child, we don't know who the father is (short of taking DNA tests - not something around in Engels time) and yet we insist on passing property and name through the paternal line. I have traced my family name back 500 years but there is no certainty that any of the male Baldocks were really my ancestors - unlike the female lines, all of whom I have also traced, and are definitely my grandmothers through the generations.

If you do buy the album, and you should, check out the centre pages of the accompanying booklet for photos of fans.

The set began with a very well behaved folk crowd, sitting listening with quiet intent to thoughtful lyrics, beautifully delivered, and thanks to Alun's skilful assessment of his audience, moved in and out of more familiar songs, so that we could sing and clap and cheer, before settling down again into reflection. Thanks for the invite Alun. I hope you enjoyed yourself as much as we all did.

Port Sunlight and the Lady Lever Art Gallery

Mum and Roger came over to stay last week and we had a trip, with Colin, to Port Sunlight and also the Lady Lever Art Gallery.

It was a lovely day, the flower beds were looking great and we were mightily impressed with the war memorial erected by Lever Bros, probably the most splendid in all the country. The museum was open and we enjoyed looking round, and watching the short film of the history of Port Sunlight, although I did think it was a bit dear, I am so used to getting into our national museums for free that it was a shock to have to pay.

We had a look round the Lady Lever - a lot of it is not to my taste, lots of dark victorian stuff and horrible chinese vases, but Roger enjoyed Whistler's etchings. There were some lovely Pre-Raph paintings, some quite famous, it is funny to think of them hanging just up the road. Also I saw the original of the painting often used on wedding cards, I forget its name, but it is Victorian and the bride is in front of the hearth, in her dress, fastening her veil while others watch. Is it called Wedding morning?

Definitely well worth a visit if you have not been for a while

Heritage Lottery Fund visits Deane Road Cemetery

Sally our caseworker from the HLF came to see us at the cemetery last week to talk about our submitting our second stage bid, but it seems there will be a mountain of work to do before we get there. We will need to employ a consultant to help us with a lot of the specialist reports we need to submit, but the HLF have found us a mentor to help us to move in the right direction.

The sun shone while we showed them round the cemetery and a huge dragon fly came and hovered over our heads, offering his support to our thoughts about how parts of the cemetery could be a haven for wild life, that it does not all need to be municiply sheared down to the ground.

I think they could feel our passion and they certainly enjoyed hearing Saul's stories about the people buried there. They took a copy of the DVD home to watch later - which reminds me, I need to agree a date for screening at FACT for that

Annual boiler service

The guy from British Gas came to undertake my annual boiler service this week and this time he remembered to ask me if I had a Carbon Monoxide detector installed. Top marks - I gave them a rocket after last time, when they gave me a form showing that I did not have a detector (which of course I do), without even asking me or discussing it with me.

Through the CO Awareness Society I was able to talk to the top BT guy on the phone that time, and he promised action to ensure that this is not just a tick box exercise but a real safety need. People should be told about them during the service, and they are meant to try to sell you one then and there from the van - mind you they are much cheaper in Rapid, but that is not the point.

So I am pleased with the progress they are making

Visit to UK Border Agency to discuss citizenship ceremonies

At a recent citizenship ceremony in Liverpool I met up with Tony Dalton of the UK Border Agency who runs the whole citizenship ceremony service for the UK. He is based in Liverpool by happy chance and invited me to have a look round their offices, meet some of his staff and talk about the ceremonies and how they might evolve.

They were very welcoming and explained the system thoroughly. We then had a really useful chat about the future of ceremonies, I took the opportunity to describe some of the improvements we have already made in Liverpool. I am going to work with them on the future of the service, what works well and what we might want to change.

For instance, I am campaigning to get rid of the word "tolerance" from future services. And we would like to involve a greater number of the ordinary general public and particularly children and young people, in future ceremonies.

It was fascinating and I look forward to helping them to develop this further.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Credit Union Unfair Levy

To my readers who want to engage in the campaign - being run between Liverpool and Manchester Co-operative Parties, please copy and forward the enclosed text to all your friends.

I am contacting you to express my outrage that Credit Unions and Credit Union members are being punished for the deeds of greedy and incompetent bankers.

Credit Unions have received an invoice from the FSA to make a payment by 1st September 2009 in relation to the FSCS Deposit Taker Default Levy 2008/2009.

This is a ridiculous situation as Credit Unions are mutual organisations who provide financial services to some of the most deprived communities in the country and asking them to pay for the mis-deeds of massive financial institutions is unfair and unjust.

I am asking you to campaign by contacting Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling, John McFall and as many other MPs that you know to persuade the FSA to reverse this scandalous charge and to issue credit notes to credit unions nullifying the invoices that have been issued.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Credit Union Crisis

Please help with our campaign to protect Britain's Credit Unions from closure

The FSA are making credit unions pay for the bank failiures by taxing them to contribute to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. Up to now Credit unions have not had to contribute. We are not sure how much each Credit Union has to pay but for one credit Union in Scotland this is £75,000 and payment is due 1st September 2009.

South Manchester CU is saying "If our contribution is anything like this we will close and ironically our members will claim their shares back from the FSCS."

According to the regulations Credit Unions are viewed by the FSA as the same as Banks. If implemented this will close down most Credit Unions in the country.

Write to Gordon Brown/Alistair Darling, John McFall and Lord Myners, do it now!
If we lose our credit unions then we will let the loan sharks - and the banks - have their head in our poorer areas. Already Kensington and Fairfield people are paying £1.80 to use cashpoint machines in our area. We need our credit unions.

You can write to them all c/o

Houses of Parliament
Or use this form

Friday, August 14, 2009

Liverpool Eastern Approaches Business Leaders Group Newsletter

A new electronic publication has been released by the local business forum for the East of Liverpool, as chaired by Graham Knott at Gardner Systems - home of the business breakfast.

This wonderful publication can be viewed here

I see there is an article from Gary Millar within, amongst others, and a focus on some local businesses

Please feedback to the chairman at the address contained within the publication

Time to end the myth about thieving Scousers!

As part of my drive to demonstrate that Liverpool (and particularly Kensington and Fairfield) is not a hotbed of crime, here are the 20 postcodes in Britain that experience the most burglaries.

Not one of them in Liverpool!

NG5 Arnold, Notts
LE3 Braunstone, Leicester
NG2 West Bridgford
CH66 Ellesmere Port, Cheshire
LS8 Roundhay, Leeds
SW11 Battersea, south London
S8Norton & Heeley, Sheffield
N8 Hornsey, north London
CR0 Croydon, Surrey
BN3 Hove, Sussex
NG3 Sherwood, Notts
NG8 Bilborough, Notts
BR3 Beckenham, Kent
M28 Worsley, Gtr Manchester
LS15 Crossgates, Leeds
E17 Walthamstow, east London
BS7Horfield, Bristol
SW6 Fulham, south-west London
SE23 Forest Hill, south-east London
SL6 Maidenhead, Berks

Not great news for Nottinghamshire or London, but pretty damn good for Merseyside!

Boro playing in Wales tomorrow

Got to be careful how I say this, given who might have joined my readership, I don't want to be found criticising the Welsh, but I do hope my Boro boys stuff Swansea City FC big style tomorrow.

3pm kick off, on a Saturday, what a novel time and day for a football match!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

24 hours left to vote for the International Slavery Museum

See this blog about the National Lottery Awards, and an update from Dawn at NML.

Get voting!

Labour conference comes to Liverpool 2011

What terrific news, Labour conference is coming to Liverpool in 2011

I was on the NEC back in 2005 when we wanted to arrange it for 2008 but the city could not guarantee that the arena would be ready in time, so we have had to wait.

But it is going to be marvellous, to be able to show the city off to our LP members and friends from across the country. I know they are going to be massively impressed and will want to come back again, individually and as a party. And what a great opportunity this is going to be for Liverpool Labour's profile too.

I could not be more pleased.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Just a light trance

Lisa has been training for some time as a hypnotherapist and was looking for a guinea pig so I said she could practice on me if she wanted to, the deal being that I help her with her marketing in due course. We started on Monday night, with her “just putting you into a light trance” gulp. Anyway it was all very relaxing, I lay back in a comfy chair with my eyes closed and breathed deeply while she talked to me in a very quiet and gentle voice. I was yawning my head off by the time it was all over, desperate to go to sleep. Funnily enough, when I did finally get to bed I was completely unable to sleep and lay awake until 4am!

Getting arty in Manchester

Fresh from the shower after my rubbish gathering, I went over to Castlefields in Manchester with Suzanne. We had a fabulous chilli, which she had made herself, that always impresses me, when someone cooks actual food, and then walked up into the village for a night out with some LGBT Labour women. I was terribly sensible though, I think I only had 4 drinks all night, well, I say “sensible”, maybe I just couldn’t thole the prices, one or the other, you decide.

The following day we walked up to the Manchester Art gallery where we had a really good look round the second floor and admired the Anthony Gormley suspended from the ceiling there – made out of iron washers by the looks of him. Then we went over to the Cornerhouse and admired the exhibition relating to the Manchester Parade. There were some great banners, made by a professional banner maker, I loved the one in worship of the chip, and a carnival float which was a replication of a cafĂ© on Bury market. I found that delightfully obscure. We walked back into Castlefields along the Rochdale canal and had a late lunch with Mandy and Mike before I came home. A lovely 24 hours.

Fairfield is SPARKLING

This Saturday Liam gallantly stood in at the surgery while Wendy and I went out with our RSL friends, picking up rubbish on the streets of Elm Park. There was an inordinate amount of freshly dumped sitting room furniture, particularly in the gardens of Balmoral Road, I did wonder if it might be something to do with the end of the academic year, perhaps landlords clearing out after students had left?

Anyway we bundled it all into skips and had a very thorough tidy up. There were 20 skips out across the patch (L6) as part of Sparkles Day, organised by Venture Housing Association with other RSLs, through Putting Neighbourhoods First which is a partnership meeting we hold monthly to take up some of the issues that L6 misses out on by not being in the New Deal area. We were joined by a group of young men on community payback, thanks to them for getting stuck in too.

In the afternoon Liam and I spent 3 hours door knocking in the Holt Road area, meeting old friends and making some new ones. We came away with a long list of casework, so it is a good job we called round.

Going back to Bradford

The Central Youth Club mini bus took a group of KVFM resident presenters to Bradford to have a look round BCB, Bradford Community Radio on 106.6. We would really like a full time radio licence in Kensington and Fairfield and have carried out various fact finding trips to other stations to see how they operate and talk about how they are funded. It was much bigger and more professional than others we have seen and we were perhaps a little daunted at the amount of money involved in this particularly station, they have a big space in a converted supermarket in the city centre, probably not the scale of operation we had in mind ourselves.

Before I took the wheel for the journey home (I do love to drive high up in a cab, especially over the Pennines), we called into the National Media Museum where I saw some very special old friends, live and in the flesh and it was really them! (as you can see - although the note said that Hamble had gone to where poor old dolls end up, and had been replaced in the latter years with Poppy, shown).

The title of this blog owes its name to this wonderful song by Smokie.

Kensington LIFT (Local Improvement Finance Trust initiative)

Liam, Wendy and I went to the Tea Factory on Wood Street to visit the NHS people last week. We wanted an update on our new Health Centre facility, work on which we hope will be beginning in 12 months time. It will be at the bottom of Holt Road, at the junction with Edge Lane, between there and Quorn Street, more or less, and will (hopefully) house a couple of GPs, a dentist perhaps (all subject to their willingness to come) and a pharmacist. There will also be a consultation to determine what other services would be good there, eg what is the rate of diabetes locally, would we benefit from a diabetes clinic, what about a phlebotomist to take bloods, etc. Of course a lot of this is going to be predicated on who wins the next General Election and the strength of their commitment to Liverpool and to Kensington.

Your community matters

Well it certainly does in Kensington and Fairfield anyway. Despite torrential downpours, we still managed a good 60 or so people at our event on July 28th, probably 20 fewer than usual but then that meant we had more food to go round for the hardy souls that turned up. Presentations from Richie Ghost, acting Sergeant at Tuebrook, back home from a year in Iraq with the reservists, Gary Travers, standing in for Larry Murphy who has been promoted into the city centre team, their gain, our loss, Tracy Ramsey from the Youth Service who is a very welcome addition to Team K&F working very closely with Wendy, Tony from the PCT – I have forgotten his surname but he said it was the best YCM he had ever attended and he was delighted by the calibre of residents on his table – I could have told him that myself, they are simply the best, and Jackie Rotherham from the JET. Thanks to everyone at LCVS for helping to organise it, also Cathy Patterson and Lisa and Vicky at the school. Another terrific success.

GEARS planting day

Wendy and I were up early last Saturday to meet GEARS residents (Fairfield streets close to Edge Lane) to help plant up 75 hanging baskets for local residents to display as part of the Kensington Regeneration environmental enhancements. It was a hot sunny day and we were in good company, with the wardens, GEARS TRA officers, Kenny Regen staff and contractors. Thanks to Karen Harald for coming out with copious cups of tea and glasses of cordial!

Relaxing in York

I had a lovely visit to York to stay with Susan and Tom, Dylan and Alice. I don’t have any photos to share this time, because my camera phone broke! We had an Indian meal on the Wednesday night which was lovely and which, since I left Yorkshire, I don’t get anything like enough of, then spent Thursday morning at the cinema (Ice Age 3, Dawn of the Dinosaurs, not impressed). Lunch in Frankie and Benny’s where Dylan was very poorly and burning up, then a walk round Mothercare where he was miraculously restored to health. Medicine is amazing! He was delighted with his Rory sleepers while Alice was her usual beautiful sunny self, playing a great game of “throw it on the floor and let silly Aunty LouLou pick it up again” most of the afternoon.

Malcolm’s family tree

Mum has finally finished her research on Malcolm Kennedy’s family tree, so I took it over to him last week to show him what she had found. (We have more or less exhausted our own family research after 25 years, so it is fun to have a go at other people’s for a change). He comes from good working class stock, in Northumberland and Cumberland, and in South Scotland, very interesting. Three generations of publicans in Kirkby Stephen, miners, farmers, agricultural labourers, some fascinating census returns too. Now I need to find another friend for her to research.

Our choir at Citizenship ceremony

I was delighted to be able to introduce our choir, Sing Your Heart Out from St Francis of Assisi Academy, Gardners Drive, Fairfield, to the new British Citizens in last week’s ceremony. They sang two beautiful songs and made the afternoon really special.

I hope they will come again, I think they enjoyed it as much as the citizens did.

I also read out a wonderful poem Caron’s son had found at home (one of the Registrars) by Benjamin Zephaniah about the recipe that makes up Britain. We are working quite hard on making each ceremony as special as we can. I am also thinking about asking Benjamin if he wants to come and read it out himself one week.

Great to see we can still fill our anorak quota!

I organised some Constitutional Training in LP regional office in Warrington, and 40 people came from across the North-West, to learn about running local government panels for selection of candidates, handling appeals, running investigations into wrong doing by LP members, etc. It was lovely to see Eric Wilson again who kindly came down from Cumbria to run the session for me. And we have found some very capable volunteers now as a result.

I was amazed at the turnout, it seems there still are party members out there who love to grapple with the rule book. A big shout out to all fellow anoraks!

Game on!

8pm tonight, the football season kicks off
Boro v Sheffield Utd
Come on you reds

VHA secures funding

I stole this story from Insider - the Liverpool edition - it saves me writing it myself. This is fantastic news, especially for the larger families who can now consider Botanic Road as a potential home.

Housing association scores funding
Liverpool-based Venture Housing Association has secured a £5m funding package from Lloyds TSB to build new houses in the city's L6 and L7 postcodes. The finance will be used to develop 13 homes on Stringhey Road and Whitefield Way and improve a further 30 dwellings. Other work includes converting flats in the Botanic Road area into larger houses for extended families. Further funds will be drawn to enable future developments of another 20 new build properties which are currently in the initial planning stages.