Monday, December 19, 2011

1500th blog post!

The blog post that proceeds this one, about the carol services I have been to this year turned out to be the 1500th entry on the blog.

This fits handily with the 154,041 page loads since I put statcounter on to the blog about a year in, enabling me to monitor who visits the blog, what they searched for, what they read, how long they visited, whether they came back, how often, which were the most popular entries etc. A few years later I also had the benefit of Google Analytics which does pretty much the same thing.

25,000 unique visitors on average visit each year, last year it was 26,000 and a staggering 7000 people are regular visitors each year.

In the last month, the main referrals - where someone linked to me from - are the Daily Post, Dale Street Blues presumably, Facebook, Blogger itself - I must have featured as a sample blog at some point this month, Twitter and cemeteryscribes.

Most traffic though comes through Google, which is not surprising given that Blogger is a Google platform and they always promote their own sites above those of say wordpress in their search results - or I am assuming that is the case. 934 people in the last month came to me via a Google search for key words which they found on my page.

Depending on the day and the time of day when you search, and how recently I made a new entry, if you search for simply "Louise" or "Baldock" I am often on the first page of Google UK. Now you tell me whether that is exciting!

I began writing the blog in April 2006, 5 years and 8 months ago.

In that time I have won national awards from Total Politics, four times. In 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011, this year making it into the top 75 left wing blogs. You can link to the results for each award by clicking on the logo to the left of the blog, this will show who else was awarded and where we all appear on the list.

But it hasn't been plaudits all the way. Readers will know that the injudicious use of the "b" word concerning political opponents, written on the blog in 2007 in a story about candidate fixing, was consequently reported to the Standards Board by one of them in 2009 (obviously a slow reader), and this resulted in my being forced to resign from the shadow cabinet following all the fuss. (The standards board chose not to investigate or take the case forward, but the local newspaper did a hatchet job after being sent a leaked letter and the damage was done).

I was determined not to let that stop me blogging though and have gone to write long articles about infertility, the monarchy, the AV debate, written a short story for Autumn, publicised community events as an online notice board for organisations in the ward I represent, commented on art, literature, culture, gardens, plants, parks, holidays, cars, weddings, funerals and citizenship ceremonies, LGBT events, particularly Pride, days out and days in, and generally had plenty to say about all sorts of eclectic things.

The most popular articles remain the two about fake golden virginia and dodgy cigarettes being produced and sold in Kensington, 20 people a month read those, every month, for several years now. I hope I am helping some people to stay away from counterfeit tobacco products as a result.

The many entries about our beloved Deane Road Jewish Cemetery and the funding we have received from the Heritage Lottery Fund to support its restoration get lots of visits from people keen to set up their own projects and looking for inspiration and advice.

Interest never declines either in stories about cash machines and having to pay to draw out your own funds in poorer areas.

I get asked to undertake a tremendous amount of interviews with media students at Liverpool John Moores University (and I always say yes) as part of their studies, enabling them to practice their questioning skills and their film techniques. I do smile to myself thinking about the poor tutors on the course thinking "Here's that Louise Baldock again!" as they mark their students work. These requests often come because a student has chosen to write about a subject that I have written about and they have found me through a search engine - inner city regeneration is a very popular one.

I have seen many other people start blogs and then falter over those years (and amen to that in some quarters!), they often don't realise how much commitment and perseverance you need to keep on writing stuff, how you have to keep a little corner of your mind alert to things that people will find interesting and want to read.

You really do have to put the work in and in some years I have written much more than others. In 2008 I wrote by far the most number of entries, an amazing 393, that is more than one a day, it doesn't surprise me though to see it was that year, given my passion for culture, it was Liverpool's year as European City of Culture and I was making the most of it by going to so many fabulous events.

This year I have written only half that amount, although have written some much longer articles as opposed to streams of shorter ones. Of course with my interest in all social media, including Facebook and Twitter and my professional website at I guess I don't have the same time to give to the blog either, without  short-changing other forms of social media.

I am occasionally asked to give presentations at conferences about the use of social media and how you can use it to promote yourself, ideas, political campaigns, community issues and so on. While I describe the many different ways in which one can engage with the wider public through social media, through blogs, websites, facebook, twitter etc, I do tell my audience that I am not an expert by any means. Rather I see myself as a "jobbing" social media proponent who uses all of those means but is not ever going to be called into Newsnight for my views (just as well really, to be honest).

Because my blogging is eclectic and I concentrate mainly on Liverpool rather than the national picture, I certainly don't get the same following as the national political sites for instance. But that was never my aim. There are hundreds, if not thousands of people out there who want to write about national politics and about who said what to whom during a debate in Parliament. That has never been a market I felt I could or would want to break into. I prefer to keep it local and relevant to a particular readership. And I try to pitch my contributions to people who I probably know and who can feel a connection with me when they read what I write. And I never wanted to write a blog that was just about politics, I like to talk about a much wider range of subjects, as my readers are very well aware.

The people I write about - often with praise - like our local community police team, or the staff in the Registrar office for instance, are all regular visitors and will often talk to me about things they have read here.

The only thing that disappoints me, and I have never quite known how to surmount it, is the small number of people who actually comment on the articles they read. I get stopped in the street (no really, I honestly do) and in the workplace, by council officials or people from the many organisations I am part of. I get emails and texts about things I have written, I see them shared on FB and Twitter, but the place where a comment would be logical, right here, is rarely the place where it actually happens.

I wonder why that is? Do readers find it difficult to master Blogger's comment system? Or do they think I wont publish them if they write them? Years ago when the blog was under permanent attack from a certain political party, I often deleted comments, but these days I publish 99% of them. Do people fear having their identity known? I only wish I knew what holds people up from writing here where we can all share. What are your thoughts on this? I know I wont get them here, but you can stop me in the street and tell me if you like!!!

Anyway, if you are still with me, thanks for making it all possible, worthwhile, rewarding and exciting. I look forward to sharing the next 500 posts with you.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The voice of Christmas

We all have our favourite thing about Christmas. For some it is the face of their children on Christmas morning, for others it is a restful holiday from work, for the extroverts it is the festive parties, for me it is always the Carol Service.

And I have enjoyed three this year (and it is only the 15th, albeit late at night) so I might get a few more in yet, and will definitely be in Wesley's favourite octagonal chapel on Christmas Day morning.

This week I have enjoyed a lovely service at the RC Cathedral (Saturday 10th December), St Hilda's CE School Christmas Carol Service (where I am a Governor) at the Anglican Cathedral (Tuesday 13th December) and tonight I enjoyed the Liverpool Welsh Choral Christmas Programme at the Philharmonic Hall.

All wonderful and all featuring exciting versions of this year's seemingly new favourite carol, In the Bleak Midwinter (frosty wind made moan).

I am feeling thoroughly Christmassy now, thanks to all the great choirs, speakers, conductors and musicians.

May I echo that vital lyric as I wish you all the best for the Christmas season "We all want some figgy pudding so bring some out here!"

Tory PM David Cameron's £448m Troubleshooting scheme for "problem families"

I am just throwing these thoughts out there in the hope that someone will engage with them. I will make this as easy and simple as I possibly can in the hope that someone will poke a hole in my argument if I have it all completely wrong (but I don't think I do).

In Liverpool we have had something we call Family Intervention Projects for several years now, actually we call them FIPs because in Local Government acronyms are King, but I digress.

We have been working with the NSPCC and with Domestic Violence Forums to support individual families who need extra help in order to grow and develop on a level and lawful path (that's my description not theirs).

These schemes, which have tremendous success rates were funded by the Labour Government directly to local councils, through something called the Area Based Grant, ABG, amongst other funding streams.

The Tory/LibDem coalition was quick to pull the ABG as one of its first acts and our FIPs are funded to a lesser degree now than they were.

I have been driving up and down the M6 for several hours today listening to the Radio and listening in particular to interviews with PM David Cameron and Louise Casey who is apparently to head this up for the Government (she of the Inclusion and ASB programmes for the Labour Government). And this is my question and my concern.

How does any part of what is being suggested differ in any way from what was already being done and if the Tory/LibDem Government thinks this is the way to go, then why did they already pull the funding that paid for FIPs (and put less back in than they took out, by the way)

Or am I missing something obvious?

No really, I mean it!! Please advise!!

North Liverpool pensioners enjoy a Queenie Christmas

Herbert Howe, of Herbert of Liverpool hair sylist fame, his sister and her husband stepped into the breach this year to support the Pensioners' Christmas Party held annually by the police of Tuebrook Police Station.

In recent years local councillors have used part of their devolved budgets to fund the festive lunch enjoyed by hundreds of pensioners in the north of Liverpool, however council belts have been considerably tightened this year. Anxious that they should not be scrooges this year, the Police, lead by the wonderful Sergeant Simon Joyce, his supportive Inspector Paul Harrison and their hard working team, approached Herbert to ask whether his family's Trust in the name of their beloved mum Queenie, could help.

The Queenie fund said a big yes and Herbert, his sister and her husband were at the Devonshire House Hotel on Tuesday (and Wednesday) joining hundreds of pensioners in a fabulous festive knees up.  I popped in during my lunch hour on Tuesday and was thrilled to be in time to hear the lovely school children from St Michael's RC Primary on Boaler/Guion Street sing to the happy diners. Afterwards they joined the adults, rocking round the Christmas Tree.

Another wonderful event, with the community police and local partners and agencies, including our much loved Cathy Patterson waiting on the guests.

Well done everyone! And a happy Christmas to all!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Unofficial NW Regional Labour Party Christmas Quiz

I found the original of this photograph in LP Regional Office last week. I would say it shows the 1992 Labour Party General Election candidates for the NW of England (with the manifesto), although I am not quite sure why Harriet Harman is in the photo in that case.

How many candidates can you name? and which constituency did they stand for? You will have to say where they appear in the photo, otherwise you might just have googled them!

Good luck!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Carol Festival at RC Cathedral, Liverpool

Lisa and I had a wonderful day today. We began with a viewing of Alice in Wonderland at the Tate on the Albert Dock then moved through the city, having something to eat at Sahara, a lovely Lebanese restaurant behind the Everyman and then a fabulous carol service in the RC cathedral. As an officanado of the same I can tell you that this was a beautifully sung and delivered programme. I feel really christmassy now!

You just can't beat a bit of Cliff

While I was away in Coventry last week with the good people from the Local Government Association, one leader told me that she had stood next to Cliff in a motorway service station on the M6 the week before. Apparently she was behind him in the coffee queue with some of her colleagues, and she nudged them and indicated Cliff to them as they waited in line, but not everybody recognised him. I wish I had been there! I could have told him how much I love this particular song. Do please enjoy and  draw from it everything you can.

Friday, December 09, 2011

RJ Swift Consultants Ltd : A warning

On 24th October 2011 I agreed a deal with RJ Swift Consultants Ltd
Registration Number: 7618470

I would pay £500 for 53,000 email contacts of NW businesses, and to help me to verify the data, Jeanette Mccambridge @JenMcCambridge their enthusiastic saleswoman said “we will run and manage 3 x email campaigns to the NW data (approx 17,000 per send) and after you have done all 3 campaigns we will give you the full file of 53,000 contacts to keep. We will create the HTML free of charge per campaign and send you full reports from our analytical software.”

It sounded like a great deal.

I paid £500 that evening by internet banking.

A week or so later when there had been no progress, I contacted and spoke to John Murphy at the firm who told me that they had had to sack the young man they were hoping would develop the campaigns for me, as he had been caught selling data to competitors. John assured me that he would be hiring someone else as a matter of urgency. Mark then contacted me in early November saying he was the new starter, and we began to work together on a campaign which was to promote some marketing training I was delivering in Liverpool.

On 8th November however, when work seemed to have stopped again, I wrote to him (at his private email address) and he replied saying “I have left this company now as I was not completely happy with their business practices.”

At this point, on the grounds that they no longer had my confidence, I wrote to the company asking for a refund. I directed my correspondence to Jeanette the saleswoman and copied in John Murphy the manager, neither responded. I wrote several times more to no avail.

I then wrote to Rebecca Jane Clark, the director, at the email address which is advertised on the firm’s website, telling her that I was contacting the people who featured in the testimonials in the marketing materials that Jeanette had initially sent me about their offer. I said I was going to talk to them about the level of service they received from the firm and the level of service I was receiving.

That unsurprisingly triggered a phone call from Jeanette saying that a cheque would be put in the post forthwith. She also asked me about the conversations I was having with "their customers". A second phone call a week later apologised for the lack of cheque but promised it was still in hand. It is today 9th December 2011 and having still received no refund,  I have submitted a claim online in the Small Claims Court.
The invoice/order form for the firm shows that they are registered at 31a Station Road, Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear NE26 2QZ They also advertise themselves at operating at 4 Boyd Street, Ouseburn, Newcastle upon Tyne, England, NE2 1AP (in Jeanette’s email footer) and on the website for RJ Swift Consultants Ltd.

I assume they are closely related to the company Swift Mailing 7227070 who claim to be located at 1 Boyd Street, Shieldfield, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear, NE2 1AP

They are both registered at the same address in Station Road, Whitley Bay. The director for Swift Mailing is Thomas Brian Murphy. I don’t know whether he is related to John Murphy whose email address appears on this website and who I have spoken to on matters relating to RJ Swift Consultants.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Movement for a Republic, Liverpool meeting

If like me you are a Republican - you believe that Great Britain should be a republic, rather than have a heriditary monarch -  you might be interested in tipping up for this meeting.

Republic in the North West meeting: Liverpool, December 10th
The newly formed Republic in the North West will be holding its second meeting this weekend. Items on the agenda will include jubilee plans and how best to campaign across the region.

The meeting is 1-5pm: Quaker Meeting House, 22 School Lane, Liverpool L1 3BT

All Republicans are welcome!

Carol singing at the Newsham Park bandstand on Saturday


10th December
4.00 – 5.00pm
Followed by Refreshments

Victorian Christmas at Edge Hill

Victorian Christmas
At Edge Hill Station
Tunnel Road, Liverpool L7
Saturday 10th December 2011
12pm – 4pm
With Brass Band, Carols, art and craft stalls, festive food and drink, theatre and also Father Christmas with a toy for every child.
Victorian Costumes
Everyone Welcome

RIP Wally Edwards, Labour and Co-operative Party stalwart 1923 - 2011

Yesterday was Wally Edwards' funeral at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Norris Green.

It was very well attended by hundreds of Labour Party and Co-operative Party members along with Wally's family.

The eulogy concerning Wally's political life was given by Councillor Martin Cummins and was very well written and delivered. So much so that I have asked him to send it to me so that I could put it here and leave it as a permanent memorial to our dear friend.

Peter Dowling commented to me as we were leaving the funeral that Wally "always played with a straight bat". Who could ask for a better epitaph?

This is what Martin had to say

Brother Wally Edwards – A Eulogy

Sisters, Brothers how will I find the words to express the depth of gratitude  that we owe to our wonderful Brother Wally Edwards for a life time of service to his beloved Labour Party, the ideals of Co-operation and to us his brothers and sisters gathered here today to celebrate his life.

I was 22 years old when I found out that I had a brother. It was Wally himself that told me. The first words he said as he shook me by the hand when I joined were: ‘Welcome to the Labour Party, Brother’

When Wally called you Brother, or Sister, he did not mean these words in a ceremonial sense or indeed figuratively. He believed, with all of his soul, that when we join the Labour party we become part of a family whose rich, majestic ancestry binds us together in a lifelong struggle for social justice and which compels us to unconditionally strive to achieve : ‘From each according to their ability, To each according to their need’

People have asked me how long our Brother Wally was in the Party. I tell them he was in our family long before I was born, others will tell you that he was there before their parents, or even their grandparents were born. It is said that on Mount Sinai when the Good Lord was handing the commandments to Moses he ran out of stone tablets. Turning around he saw Wally there and he wrote the 11th Commandment on Wally’s heart. Looking down Wally read the words emblazoned on his heart. They read:

‘Thou shall be socialist ’

And our Heavenly Father placed his hand on Wally’s broad shoulders and said:

Whatever they do to these, the least of my brethren  ... they do unto me.’

When I was told that Wally had completed his work on this Earth I felt the same acute sense of loss I experienced when I was told of John Smith's passing. It was as if something fundamental, something irreplaceable had been lost.

What I find profoundly sad is that I will probably never be able to reach for a book about the life and times of Wally Edwards, Man of Labour, the international best seller and required reading for all Party members.

And so it rests with us, his family to pass on his legacy by word of mouth. What, brothers and sisters, will we tell future generations?:

I will tell them, in the words of another,   that our Brother Wally was a natural, a born counterpuncher with a whip quick mind and a fine musician’s instinct for stringing words together.

Our brothers Jimmy Woods, Phil Rowe and Liam Moore will tell them that as a young man Wally’s mettle was forged at a time which saw the nationalisation of the Bank of England, of civil aviation, of the railways, of  telecommunications.  That he saw the creation of the National Coal Board which supplied 90% of the nation’s energy needs. That he bore witness to the establishment of the National Health Service, the nationalisation of canals, road haulage and electricity and of the iron, steel and gas industries for the common good.

Our Brother Nick Croft will tell of the fact that Wally served under 5 Labour Prime Ministers and that at annual conference in 2008 he received the prestigious merit award and he will speak of the tears we all shed when he was honoured with the award of Honorary Presidency of West Derby Constituency Labour Party.

Our sister, Sheila Murphy and colleagues at Region will tell them that Wally was a legend, a man of great integrity and unquestionable loyalty who always listened to other people’s point of view and who never judged those who had different opinions to his own.

Our Brother John Mooney will tell them about the day in 1997 when Everton were playing their last game of the season against Wimbledon, a match they had to win to avoid relegation. When John got to the ground the cash gates were closed. Forlorn and  ticketless he made his miserable way home only to bump into Wally who insisted that John take his ticket for the game. Gratefully declining John wished this true socialist farewell and went on his way a much happier man particularly when he found out that his brother had watched Everton sensationally avoid relegation.             

Our brother , Dave Hanratty will tell them of his skill in the boxing ring and that his twinkle toes and dulcet tones were enjoyed by  thousands who saw him sing and dance with the Pirrie Players in order that in his words ‘the old folk could keep their feet tapping’. (The Pirrie Players – 25 women, Wally and Alex, I wonder what the attraction was!)  and of  how he and his right hand man Alex, both well into their 80’s at this time, were fondly known as the Over the Hill mob as they topped the bill singing Match stick men and match stick cats and dogs  at Karaokes nationwide.

Our sister Pam Thomas and our brother Courtney Owen will tell them of his encyclopaedic knowledge of Labour Party rules and the humility and compassion with which he would offer advice and guidance to calm stormy waters at passionate disputes during meetings which would surely have disintegrated into chaos were it not for his benign intervention.

Our brother, Pete Mitchell will tell them about last year when Wally, aged 87, was campaigning in the local Government elections. Pete received a call to tell us that Wally was going to be arrested for breaching electoral policy. We rushed to the polling station to find a bunch of Lib Dems shouting about the fact that Wally was unduly influencing voters with what he was wearing. We turned around to see Wally’s cheeky grin peeking out from behind a Labour party rosette the size of Big Ben. He then spent the rest of the day rallying our flagging teenagers with the words: Come on sisters, brothers only another six hours to go.

His brothers Tony Jennings and Phil Knibb will tell  of the Friday afternoons  they spent with him over a beer shortly before he passed on when they spoke of politics and the old days  and of how much Wally said it meant to him to be in the company of old Comrades. And of how he would then break the reverent silence with a chuckle saying: ‘Pity I wont remember any of you tomorrow’

Our brothers Jimmy Woods and John Volleamere will tell them that the very ink that wrote these words flowed through his veins:

 To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.’

Brothers, sisters this is a sad day but it is also a day filled with hope and pride. A flame never goes out if you use it to kindle another. Looking around this Church I can see so many flames kindled by Wally Edwards. To those who say we will never see his like again I urge you to re consider. Because we are Wally’s family we will see Wally all around us. We will see him in our Brother Joe Anderson as he lies awake deep into the night worrying about how he can protect the vulnerable from savage Coalition cuts and in the 20 hour working days he puts in with our brother Paul Brant and cabinet colleagues to protect their beloved Liverpool from the Camerons and Osbornes and Pickles of this world. We will see it every time our sister Roz Gladden visits a nursing home or a care home or a day centre as she valiantly seeks to defend the elderly and the sick from the ravages of Government policy which targets the infirm and the impoverished whilst the rich languish in yet more bonuses.

We will see him every time our brothers Steve Rotheram, and Stephen Twigg, and our sisters, Louise , Maria and Luciana  stand up for us in the Commons to do battle against the want, squalor  disease, ignorance and idleness hurled with  callous indifference against our people by the Coalition benches.

And brothers, sisters Wally will be there every time we pick up the phone or knock on a door canvassing for our party, shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters who represent us in the Council chamber on the path, God willing, to a new Labour Government which will see compassion replace contempt, justice replace inequity and humanity replace a number on a Capitalist spreadsheet.

To Wally’s immediate family I offer on behalf of the Labour Party, our sincerest gratitude for your grandfather, your uncle, your brother, your dad.

To our Wally I say God Bless you Brother …. May you rest in Peace Comrade.

Friday, December 02, 2011

LGA Leadership Academy

I have been away in Coventry a lot this week, planning and then co-ordinating a programme for Local Government leaders (that is Councils to you and me), helping them to develop their leadership skills. Warwick University Business School is a fantastic venue, wonderful staff, great rooms, fab food, and thankfully the participants from different major political parties were all great people. We learnt a lot together and I hope they go away energised and ready to work on their personal leadership challenges. I look forward to January and February for our next two modules about political leadership and community leadership. They know who they are and I expect they will be dropping in to this blog via Google any day now. I am waving an enthusiastic hello! You have my details and if you need to contact me, you know I am keen to support you and make this experience really useful.

And to the participant who said I should have a pay rise, a big smoochy kiss!

Sri Lankan shop assistant murdered in Huyton

I have been working away for a few days and have come back to catch up on the Liverpool Echo editions piled up behind the front door.

I was horrified to read about the murder of a Sri Lankan shop assistant in a corner shop in Huyton on Tuesday night.

Police are waiting for their investigations to progress a little before they decide whether this was racially motivated hate crime or a robbery gone horribly wrong but early indications in Thursday's paper suggested nothing may have been stolen from the shop.

The Echo naturally drew parallels with the murder of Anthony Walker but we should not jump to conclusions.

Whatever the facts turn out to be, please rest assured that I will be following developments very closely indeed.

Liverpool Public Sector Workers Strike November 30th 2011

I was proud to march with 12000 people angry and concerned about unfair changes to their pensions. I am in a private stake holder pension these days - and my bosses don't contribute towards it, but I still have sympathy with the public sector. I have been in 8 pension schemes since I started work, a balance between company schemes, personal schemes and public schemes, and 4 stakeholder schemes (3 where the employer did contribute). Many of them will not deliver what I was promised when I took them up. 

I was told I would retire at 60, now it is 67. How old will I be before I actually do retire, will the goal posts be moved again? Will I even be alive to receive a pension by the time they let me go?

They do say that we are all living longer, but you tell that to the people of Everton who die at 68 years old on average, and Kensington isn't much better.

My residents may as well forget the very idea of a pension! Worked into the grave thanks to an uncaring Government.

And there is the young woman aged 25 I heard on the radio, a teacher, still living at home with Mum and Dad told to pay an extra £100 per month into her pension - and retire later - just to stand still with where she would have been a few years back - and that is from a frozen salary with a miserly 1% increase in future years. She said she wont be able to move out for ages now that her income is so reduced.

A picture tells a thousand words - and here are mine.

PS Councillor Richard Kemp, LibDem Deputy Leader in Liverpool tweeted on Wednesday  ‘Lots of Liverpool Council staff working today. Well done all’. And later, that the shops were full of shoppers as a result of the strike, and that ‘Every cloud has a silver lining.’ So we know where he stands!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Liverpool Apprenticeships

I wanted to share this update with you about the creation of apprenticeships by Liverpool City Council's Labour Administration. It is simply wonderful news!

What follows is information from Councillor Nick Small, Cabinet member for Employment, Enterprise and Skills and was a response to a question asked by a LibDem councillor who was querying the Labour council's record.

I wanted to clarify the number of apprentices Liverpool's Labour administration has helped create since taking control of the City Council in May 2010.

Before detailing the numbers, I want to explain where we are coming from on this. We want to focus on high quality Level 2 and Level 3 apprenticeships, aimed especially at 16-19 year olds and in sectors that do not have a high take up rate of apprenticeships and are priority areas in the city - especially the low carbon economy, visitor economy and creative industries. At a time when the government is encouraging cities like Liverpool to rebalance its economy in favour of the private sector, it's important that we don't limit our efforts just to the City Council and the public sector, as opportunities here will be limited because of spending cuts. Having said that, we have - as an employer - led by example and created 80 apprenticeships starts at the City Council and encouraged our joint venture partners to do the same.

It's also worth clarifying what the government's role has been on this. Government funding only covers the training element of an apprenticeship - it doesn't cover the wage costs, which has to be met in full by the employer. In cities like Liverpool there's significant market failure, which the government hasn't addressed, so we've had to, by funding incentive payments to employers, publishing apprenticeships to young people (a recent survey by the Association of Colleges found that only 7% of 14 year olds knew what an apprenticeship was) and making it easy for SMEs to recruit employers through the Liverpool Apprenticeship CIC.

I believe there was a real lack of political will to make a difference on apprenticeships under the previous Lib Dem administration.

When we took control of the City Council in May 2010, the LibDem administration had created only 7 apprenticeship opportunities. We pledged that we'd create 100 apprenticeships in our first year, but we've managed to beat that. Since May 2010, through a range of initiatives, we've already directly helped create 635 apprenticeship starts. These would simply have not have happened if it wasn't for this administration. Here's a full breakdown. I've met many of these apprentices and have seen first hand what a fantastic job they are doing.

250 - in the hotel sector through the De Vere Academy (funded through a set up grant by Liverpool City Council)

133 - in a range of private sector companies through a business grant scheme (funded by Liverpool City Council)

100 - young apprentices through the Merseyside Apprenticeship Programme (funded by Liverpool City Council through the European Social Fund)

80 -  at Liverpool City Council

28  - at Liverpool Mutual Homes

24 - at Enterprise, the council's highways, street scene and refuse partner

20 - at Glendale, the council's parks maintenance partner

A few weeks ago we announced the start of the Liverpool Apprentice CIC. This is a £1.2m project, again mainly funded by the City Council, which will see the creation of 1,300 new apprenticeships across the city over the next 3 years. This is a joint venture with Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, which represents 1,700 businesses in the city, Liverpool Community College and the Eldonian Group.

During the course of the apprenticeship, all apprentices will be paid the full national minimum wage rate and not the £95/week apprenticeship wage.

Once the CIC is up and running, we'll have created a total of nearly 2,000 apprenticeships in our first 4 years of running the City Council.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

KVfm Online Writing Competition

Writing Competitions

KVfm Online Liverpool's Premier Community Radio Station is offering you the chance of getting your short radio play produced and broadcast on KVfm Online in 2012 in our search for New Local Writing Talent

We want you to write a short Radio Play but there are certain rules:

- Your play should last no longer than ten minutes
- Have no more than 3 characters
- And have a maximum of 3 locations

We will be judging all the entries and the best 3 (in our judges opinion) will be produced and broadcast on KVfm Online in 2012, with the overall winner receiving a prize of £100
Closing Date 2nd December 2011

In conjunction with our Short Radio Play Competition The Reading Room is running a Short Story Competition.

Entrants are invited to submit a short story complying with the following rules;

- The title or theme is to be ‘The Meeting’
- Must be no more than 1,500 words
- Must be submitted as a word document by e-mail

Our panel of judges will select the best 3 (in their opinion) and these 3 lucky entrants will receive a recorded reading by a professional voice artiste of their short story, with the overall winner receiving a prize of £100

Closing date is 16th December 2011

So Get Writing!

For more details contact KVfm Online on
0151 345 1290
or email or

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Go tell it to the birds

This a rather strange story that I am hoping an ornothologist might help me with....

It is perfectly true and it happened over the weekend while I was staying in Blackpool for NW Regional Labour Party conference (which was great, but more of that later perhaps)

I arrived on the Friday tea-time and checked into my hotel. My room was on the fourth floor on the side of the hotel, this is the top floor and I guess you could say the room was in the eaves. The en-suite bathroom, like the bedroom, had a sash-window, and it was open about 6". I pulled the blind down to cover the gap.

In the morning, after selecting my clothes for the day, I laid my suitcase on a dressing table in the bedroom, closed the cover, pulled the blind up in the bathroom and went for breakfast.

When I returned to the room at tea-time, there was bird droppings on the lid of the suitcase but the rest of the room was unmarked, as was the bathroom - and there was no bird present, I checked!

I was most puzzled and went downstairs to tell the staff on reception. Clearly a bird had got in to the bathroom, flown across it, into the bedroom and over to the dressing table at the far side of the room. There was nothing to perch on but I figured that perhaps it had been chased, maybe by the chambermaid, and had messed before being either captured or encouraged to fly away. The reception desk knew nothing about it though. There had been no reports of any birds in the room.

I went back to the room and sat on the bed, catching up on a bit of TV, when a bird came and tapped on the bedroom window.  It was not a very big bird and I may have caught a hint of gold or green about its chest.

It flew away when it could not get in but came back again about 20 minutes later and repeated the exercise. I should say that it was not the bathroom window it was trying to access, but the bedroom one, although I guess it may already have tried and failed at the former which I think I must have closed in the meantime.

On Sunday morning I took my suitcase down to the car, went for breakfast and then went back up to the room, just to check I had not left anything behind, before going to settle the bill. Imagine my surprise to see fresh bird mess in exactly the same place on the dressing table as before - only of course my suitcase was not there any more - and nor were any birds.

So, it would appear that a bird was in the habit (or developing a habit, given that the hotel appeared to know nothing about it) of flying into the bathroom, across the bedroom, depositing its mess in a precise place and then flying back out again.

Has anyone heard of anything like this happening before?

There were nets above the third floor windows, across the space between my building and the next building, but they did not extend as far as my floor, so clearly there had been problems with birds historically.

I don't really know what to make of it. Thoughts?

Friday, November 04, 2011

Berneslai Homes - are they up to the mark in terms of Equality and Diversity?

Well I spent a week with them in October 2011 so if anyone knows, it is me.

And the short answer is yes, they are not only up to the mark, but actually Excellent.

I really enjoyed learning about some of their  best practice, and was particularly interested in their Rainbow Tick scheme, promoting LGBT friendly businesses and their "If something doesn't right" policy for vulnerable residents. I am now hoping that Diane Weston, the lead officer, will come over to Liverpool, and to Venture Housing in particular to share her good work with us all.

Talking to a colleague about the visit later, he referred to equality strands and I told him that they are now to be known as Protected Characteristics - and thought you might be interested in learning what they are here.
For information:

What is a protected characteristic?

Where this is referred to, it refers to a person belonging to a particular age (e.g. 32 year olds) or range of ages (e.g. 18 - 30 year olds). For further information on age please follow the link to the UK Legislation website.


A person has a disability if s/he has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on that person's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. For further information on please see disability on the UK Legislation website.

Gender reassignments

The process of transitioning from one gender to another. For further information please see gender reassignment on the UK Legislation website.

Marriage and civil partnership

Marriage is defined as a 'union between a man and a woman'. Same-sex couples can have their relationships legally recognised as 'civil partnerships'. Civil partners must be treated the same as married couples on a wide range of legal matters. For further information please see marriage and civil on the UK Legislation website.

Pregnancy and maternity

Pregnancy is the condition of being pregnant or expecting a baby. Maternity refers to the period after the birth, and is linked to maternity leave in the employment context. In the non-work context, protection against maternity discrimination is for 26 weeks after giving birth, and this includes treating a woman unfavourably because she is breastfeeding. For further information please see pregnancy and maternity on the UK Legislation website.


Refers to the protected characteristic of Race. It refers to a group of people defined by their race, colour, and nationality (including citizenship) ethnic or national origins. For further information please see race on the UK Legislation website.

Religion and belief

Religion has the meaning usually given to it but belief includes religious and philosophical beliefs including lack of belief (e.g. Atheism). Generally, a belief should affect your life choices or the way you live for it to be included in the definition. For further information please see religion and belief on the UK Legislation website.


A man or a woman. For further information please see sex on the UK Legislation website.

Sexual orientation

Whether a person's sexual attraction is towards their own sex, the opposite sex or to both sexes. For further information please see sexual orientation on the UK Legislation website.

You are also protected if you are discriminated against because you are perceived to have, or are associated with someone who has, a protected characteristic, For example protecting carers from discrimination. The Equality Act will protect people who are, for example, caring for a disabled child or relative. They will be protected by virtue of their association to that person.

Liverpool Wavertree local government council candidate selections

9th October 2011 saw the selection of Labour candidates for the 2012 local government elections for Liverpool City Council within the Liverpool Wavertree constituency.

We began at around 1pm, with local members voting for their own local candidates, in six separate meetings. There was an enormous amount of competition, with Childwall alone attracting 7 possible candidates. After several great selection conferences, speeches and presentations, all of which I chaired, I can confirm that the Labour candidates for 2012 for the local elections are as follows

Childwall - Ruth Hirschfield, local ward captain who spearheaded Jeremy Wolfson's campaign in 2011.
Church - Dr Richard Wenstone, Royal University Liverpool Hospital professional
Kensington and Fairfield - Councillor Liam Robinson - popular local councillor seeking re-election
Old Swan - Councillor Gary Millar - seeking his first election as a Labour councillor after defecting from the Liberal Democrats last year.
Picton  - Nathalie Nicholas - Operation Black Vote graduate 2009, mentored by Cllr Steve Radford and latterly with me, Nurse and Liverpool Wavertree CLP Women's Officer.
Wavertree - Helen Casstles, Public Health professional

It is easy to say that I am impressed and humbled by the calibre of our candidates, but that does not make it any less true!

I am looking forward to campaigning across the constitutency and across the city to support them

Kensington and Fairfield Landlords Forum

Just a quick blog to let you know that we have now held our second meeting of the Kensington and Fairfield Landlords Forum, designed to improve communication between private landlords and elected representatives and council staff in the immediate area.

You may not know but our ward has many more private landlord properties than is the norm in the city and we are very keen to improve our relationships with them. It is only going to be by working with private landlords that we can develop and maintain a situation where only good quality tenants are accepted to live here in Kensington and Fairfield. At the last meeting 7 landlords were engaged, including one with upwards of 1000 properties, albeit not in all our area.

We also had a further meeting, this week, at Tuebrook Police Station with resident home owners in Halsbury Road and a private landlord in their street over problematic tenants. We made huge progress and I feel quite positive about the future in that particular case. No more Soft Cell Sex Dwarves in our street, thank you!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

BNP conference in Wavertree

On balance I think it was a positive thing that I was not around at the weekend when the BNP came to Liverpool, to my own area in fact, barely half a mile away.

Had I been at home and available to protest against their conference, I would have been there. And irrespective of how vocal our leader of the council, Labour's Joe Anderson was, I would have been yet louder and more strident.

That people with such abhorrent views should have been spending the weekend on my very doorstep fills me with shame and despair.

I don't know how many British Citizenship Ceremonies I have now attended and spoken at, it must be in excess of three dozen by now. But I do know that I take painstaking care each time to tell our new Citizens how  much we value the input from every new person who comes to live in our country. As Paul Amman reminded us last year on International Migrants Day, December 2010, some of the people who built this beloved city came from overseas.

A German migrant, Carl Bernard Bartels created the most iconic representation of the symbol of the city the Royal Liver Building Birds

Scandinavian migrants brought the city its dish, Lobscouse

Malian Djimi Traore, Scot Kenny Daglish, Jamaican John Barnes, Welsh Craig Bellamy, Brazilian Fabio Aurelio, Dutch Ryan Babel, Czech Vladimir Smicer, Israeli Yossi Benayoun, Irish Steve Staunton, Dane Jan Molby, Welsh Ian Rush and Pole Jerzy Dudek are just a sample of the many migrants who have contributed to the success of Liverpool FC

Irish migrant Edward Chambre Hardman whose legacy for photography is still preserved at his studio 59 Rodney Street which is now owned by the national Trust

Swiss migrant Carl Jung's Liverpool Dream

John, Paul and George were descendants of Irish migrants

Russian migrant Vasily Petrenko is principal conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Nigerian Victor Anichebe, Australian Tim Cahil, Polish descended Phil Jagielka, Russian Andrei Kanchelskis, Welsh Gary Speed, Scot Gary Naysmith, Canadian Tomasz Radzinski, Spanish Mikel Arteta and American Tim Howard are some of the many migrants who have contributed to Everton FC's successes

Yemeni migrant, Tahir Qassim MBE is one of the founders and chairperson of the Liverpool Arabic Centre. He is also Chair of the Liverpool Black and other Racial Minorities (BRM) Network, Liverpool BRM Education sub-group, Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival (LAAF) and a Board member of the Bluecoat Arts Centre.

Descendents of Jewish migrants from Europe: Samuel, Yates, Montagu, Mozley and Joseph participated in the administration of Liverpool, helping in 1798 to found Liverpool's leading cultural organisation, the Athenaeum

In 1863 Charles Mozley, then president of the Hebrew Educational Institution, became Liverpool's first Jewish Mayor (buried in Deane Road Cemetery)

Jewish migrant descended David Lewis, founded the iconic Liverpool store (also buried in Deane Road cemetery)

John Archer was one of Britain's first black mayors (Battersea) born in Liverpool, John's father, was a Barbadian ship's steward whilst his mother, Mary Theresa Burns, was Irish born

Chinese migrant Mr K H Li, founder of the Chinese Youth Orchestra and contributor to the soundtrack of the Last Emperor

Singaporean born Michael Chew Koon Chan, Lord Chan of Oxton was House of Lord's only peer of Chinese origin and a consultant and lecturer at Liverpool's School of Tropical Medicine

Chinese descended Liverpool born Hong Y "Frank" Soo was the first non-white man to play football for England

Craig Charles, Cathy Tyson, Paul Barber are all renowned Liverpool born actors of African-Caribbean descent

Liverpool born, African descended, Walter "Wally" Brown CBE was principal of Liverpool Community College

And many, many more have clearly contributed!

There is NO ROOM in Liverpool for the BNP. Above all the areas in the NW who voted Nick Griffin into the European Parliament with a derisory 6% of the vote, using a system which I believe is broken, Liverpool had the smallest support for his wicked ways.

Election results in Liverpool are clear, and remain clear. We don't want your sort here, we don't support you, we don't welcome and we want you to take your tainted custom elsewhere.

Significant Update on Deane Road Jewish Cemetery

Another exciting couple of weeks for our Deane Road Jewish Cemetery Restoration Project.

On Sunday 23rd October we celebrated the first service to be held in the cemetery in well over 80 years.

It was a tombstone consecration honouring Lyon Samson, a Dutch immigrant optician who died in poverty in 1843 when no-one could afford a stone for him, but now his descendants have come together many years later to pay for one. They found each other through an interest in family history when they separately made contact with Saul Marks, our project chairman who is a Jewish genealogist.

I should point out that the grave stone setting or consecration is a very significant event in Jewish tradition. I imagine this is because the funeral should take place extremely quickly after death and so it gives an opportunity for the bereaved to honour the deceased where they could not make it to the funeral. Usually they occur on the first anniversary of the death, but in this case it was somewhat later than that...

We asked Michael Sprince to create a short film for us that would reflect this unique and special occasion.  

I would personally like to thank everyone who came to support the family of Lyon Samson. Members of the cemetery committee who turned out in force, members of the local Jewish community, particularly those from the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation, Reverend Stanley Cohen, and the patrons, particularly Luciana Berger MP, fellow councillors, Pam Thomas (who was very helpful in providing assistance about future wheel-chair users to the cemetery) and Jeremy Wolfson, as well as the local police (who engaged one little boy beautifully), community members and interested passers-by. About 50 people were there to pay their respects to a man who died 168 years ago. Honour thy father and mother. It was very moving, you can take my word for that.

And on Monday 31st October, an exquisite date all things considered, the committee and the congregation handed over the responsibility of the cemetery to our builders and contractors. The scaffolding has gone up on the glorious listed facade this week and we look forward to the fruits of their work. We hope to take a restored cemetery back into our hands next Spring.

I recall many meetings in 2006 and 2007 in the Job Bank, as the committee sat and debated our options, when our chairman Saul Marks, plaintively and regularly asked "Do you think any of this will really happen?". Saul, it is time to believe.

And we have also discovered a most wonderful blog about our Heritage Open Day, courtesy of TheLiverpolitan. If the author wishes to make himself known to us, we would be delighted to keep him updated about our restoration project progress.

African Scams sink lower than amoebas on fleas on rats

I may have stolen a line from Frenchy in Grease there, but the sentiments are spot on.

I got this APPALLING piece of spam mail today, I am nearly speechless with horror.

Here it is, from


My name is Mrs Yetunde Owolabi from Repulic of Benin, I gave birth to three plates, 3 children at a time after the death my husband on 18th of June 2011 by auto car accident. Already we have received 5 children from God, right now I can’t take care of them so I have decided to give them out for adoption, if you are interested let me know, I am not selling them but you will only pay for adoption fees to the ministry in concern and the Lawyer will legalized all the relevant documents and the baby will become legally yours.


Mrs. Yetunde Owolabi

That there are such disgusting people in the world who would pray upon infertile couples on one hand and lascivious perverts on the other hand, frankly disgusts and horrifies me.  If any reader knows where I can report this email, in the hope that the international internet police will investigate, please let me know as soon as possible.

Enjoying a British Citizenship Ceremony as a guest

Last month I was delighted when one of my constituents, Sergey, invited me to attend his British Citizenship Ceremony, as his guest.

It was most interesting to see the ceremony from the other side. I did attend one about four years ago when I was first exploring the possibility of officiating at one, but since then have only attended as the official representative.

It was Cllr Paula Keaveney's turn to welcome the new citizens and present them with their certificates. We had a funny moment in the anteroom when we met upon my arrival and I promised her I had not come to check up on her performance. The staff all had a double-take too, thinking I had come a week early or that they had booked two speakers.

Paula's contribution was fascinating, because she was able to explain that she was the Leader of the Opposition in Liverpool, and that in Britain, perhaps differently to people's home countries, this was not the source of violence or oppression. She used her position to emphasise the nature of Britain's democratic values, I thought it was a very thoughtful and clever line to take.

Sergey, originally Russian, was thrilled to become British. Two others nurses who work with him at Alder Hey were also guests and we were all proud to be there to witness this special moment.

It's time for a real referendum on Europe (but not at the moment obviously...)

Now there's a thing. First we had the personally signed pledge on Tuition Fees in opposition (remember that?) which was abandoned in office as part of the grubby coalition.

And now we have the "It's time for a real referendum on Europe" u-turn.

This one is compounded by the fact that the Libdems actually collected a petition from people who, like them, demanded a referendum.

"We the undersigned believe the Government should give the British people a real choice on Europe by holding a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union"

Wouldn't it be interesting if 100,000 had sent the little slip back to Cowley Street? What if it was the same 100,000 who allegedly signed the online petition which resulted in the debate in the House of Commons about whether we should have a referendum on Europe now and which in a complete volte face, the LibDems voted against last month?

So the LibDem campaign mantra now runs something like this....

What do we want? A referendum on Europe!
When do we want it? Now! It is time! Oh, hang on, how about at a later date, to be confirmed? You see when we said "It is time" what we really meant was "Let's see if we can get some Tory and UKIP supporters to come over to us, because they will vote for any party who gives them a referendum on Europe. It doesnt matter if they would vote in a different way to us, they just want a referendum and we can say we will give them one. Frankly we will say pretty much anything to anyone if it gets us more votes."

This is what Nick Clegg said over last month's debate.

"I have always advocated a vote on Europe if there is a proposal on the table to transfer significant chunks of sovereignty and policy from our country to Brussels – but it's not on the table. We should stop tilting at windmills about threats and challenges which simply aren't there right now."

Does sound the same to you as the statement on the petition above? No, not to me either. No wonder politicians have a bad reputation with voters.

(I dont think we should have had a referendum either, in case you were wondering)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Young people's Art display on Botanic Road / Wavertree Road junction

I confess I don't really know the full story behind this wonderful art exhibition, but what I can tell you is this:

It was supported by Riverside Housing Association and My Place

It was created by young people from various local youth clubs and schools, very creatively assisted by professional artists. I think I am right in saying that it was also helped along the way, possibly financially through our devolved budget, by the Picton ward councillors.

It was unveiled on September 16th 2011 at 1pm, but I didnt get there until 1.15pm so I missed all the speeches that would have told me more....

I am hoping that Councillor Tim Beaumont or RHA staff will come and comment on the entry so that they can give you more of the facts. I would like to be able to name check the artists and the young people.

The artwork shown here is a series of large framed pieces, attached to the hordings around a cleared site where a pub used to stand, on the corner of Botanic Road and Wavertree Road, more or less opposite Matalan.

I will start with a photo I have taken from Google Street View, showing what the site looked like a year or so ago.

The site is now completely fenced in and these wonderful pictures are displayed right around the fence.

Each painting or picture, all of which have a 3D aspect, depicts local history, geography and culture which I will endeavour to describe for each image. They dont photograph well as they are behind perspex which reflects poorly for the camera, I do hope that you will go and have a look at them for yourself so that you can truly appreciate them.

The art work was unveiled about six weeks ago and driving by every day, I have yet to see any graffiti or damage, which shows how much the local community value it.

I tried to photo the paintings and images obliquely to minimise the reflection, but you can still the trees that were behind me, in Botanic Park, in each image. The actual images do not have the trees within them...  You can click on any image to see a much bigger version (this applies for every photo on my blog by the way)

This painting shows The Beatles, the Superlambanana, Kensington Picture Drome (now Wetherspoons) and displays the words "Edge Hill Youth Club", our first clue as to possible artists.

This image shows the Anglican Cathedral, the Aviary from Botanic Park, now long gone (or is it the aviary from Sheil Park, also long gone?), the Everton FC  banner and a Tag Art image, which may be our second clue about the artists.

I took this photograph to show where the art is displayed, to give you an idea of the location and the scale.

This image shows Joseph Williamson, an early 19th century retired tobacco merchant, sitting in the entrance of a tunnel. These tunnels lie underground in the immediate vicinity and go nowhere, They are a great feat of engineering and yet serve no obvious purpose. Many have speculated as to the reason for their construction and philanthropy is often cited - that Mr Williamson paid men who were otherwise out of work to construct these tunnels, so that he could keep them in gainful employment when times were hard.  This truly remarkable story and more can be found at the Friends of Williamson Tunnels website. The image also shows the street sign advertising Edge Hill district, Smithdown Primary School shield (more clues) and a glass conservatory which I am guessing once housed the city's Botanic collection in Botanic Park - is it all coming together for you now?

I love this one. Ice skaters at Kensington Silver Blades, the Littlewood's Building - the home of the nation's wistful dreams for over 50 years, St John's Radio Tower and the emblem of Liverpool City Council.  The hands of the clock on Littlewoods are in 3D relief.

This image shows the Wavertree district sign, along with a Riverside HA emblem, the shield of Liverpool FC and the wonderful Kensington Library.

Now I am challenged by this picture. Not being a native of Liverpool, or even a native of Edge Hill, Kensington, Fairfield or Wavertree, I am not familiar with these images. We have a priest, but is he is a local priest from St Anne's perhaps, or Sacred Heart, or St Sebastians, or is he an ArchBishop or Bishop? We have the Liver Building, 100 years old this year, happy birthday old lady! We have a Your Place emblem - who are part of Riverside Housing Association and you may know them better as the Clean Team and we have a statue of a woman and child that I think sits outside of Liverpool's Women Hospital.
Now I am back on familiar ground. This piece shows the bandstand from Newsham Park (well I hope it does, I guess there may have been a bandstand in Botanic Park, but I keep my fingers crossed), the RC Cathedral, an image of the Kensington district street sign and the emblem of St Anne's RC Primary School.

And we come to our final image. George Stephenson's Rocket - he had his engineering works at Edge Hill - the oldest passenger station in the WORLD!  The Boating Lake in Newsham Park, and trains going in through the tunnels at Edge Hill Station that take them on to Liverpool Lime Street . (The history of the Railways owes a lot to Edge Hill and Liverpool and George Stephenson - although as a former Teessider I will still have to give a plug to the Stockton and Darlington Railway which was the world's first publicly subscribed railway)


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Liverpool's Man Booker Prize Event at Garston Library

A great night last night, beautifully organised by Peter Wallace, the Reader Development Officer from Liverpool City Council. Sadly his last as he is taking early retirement at the end of the month. He has been brilliant in his role and I know we will all miss him dearly.

Six people read extracts from the shortlisted books and talked about their perceptions and then we voted on which book we thought would win. We were right! Julian  Barnes with The Sense of an Ending won in the country as well as in the stunning Garston library.

I read from Carol Birch's Jamrach's Menagerie, which I didn't enjoy at all, unfortunately, if you want my notes, just send me an email and I will post them over to you.

But I loved hearing about the other books, talking to readers from book groups across the city about what they liked, and swapping tips about good reads. We also found out about a new set of books, republished to celebrate 21 years of Vintage, the covers are beautiful and I look forward to seeing a few of them on the shelves in Kenny library.

You will be able to hear audio footage of the evening on the next edition of the Reading Room on KVFM online.