I’ve been away travelling and working in France and Spain for the last month or so, to prove it’s not all been play, here is the latest site I’ve put live.
It’s for CoaST which is a tiny but vehement social enterprise working towards one planet tourism – ie a tourism providing benefits to the community, economy and the environment, operating within our social, financial and environmental means. They’ve spent the last few weeks adding some excellant content about all sorts of green issues, have a cup of tea and spend some time looking through it.
I am still working on it and more features are being added daily so keep an eye on it.
I have the privilege of being selected to stand for Green Party in my local Cotham Ward for the council elections this coming May. Long standing candidate Geoff Collard is standing down due to other commitments and I hope to build on the good work that he has done.
As in many wards in Bristol, especially in Bristol West constituency, the Green vote in Cotham has increased year on year, so that now only the Green Party are the serious challengers to the Liberal Democrats. Last year in Cotham, the we received an impressive 23% of the votes and maintained our clear second place well ahead of both Tory and Labour parties!
If you live in Cotham you’ll be receiving my first letter out introducing myself, if not you can read it here:
Like many of you I am hugely frustrated by the attack our coalition government has made on public services, on our society and on our way of life. I am forced to stand aside as I watch plutocrats like ‘Sir’ Philip Green get away with avoiding an estimated £300m of tax just as the government raises the tax bills for the rest of us, while still cutting services.
I can only protest in vain as one by one the pledges of politicians voted into office are ignored and the coalition agreement used to put forward any policy they like regardless of manifesto promises. The banker bonuses are still in place, tuition fees are set to rise.
But what can we do?
I am standing in the local council elections as I want to make a difference. I believe it is important that people are given an alternative to the big three parties. Labour deregulated the banks in the first place, the Tories have given rich tax avoiders jobs in government and the LibDems haven’t kept their promises.
The Green Party is the only political party affiliated with the anti-cuts alliance. It’s the only party that consistently stands up to big business and supports the local community – and we can make a difference.
This is a local election though, what can a Green Party local councillor do?
The council has a smaller budget now and needs to cut spending. The budget is dictated by central government but we do have some say on how the money is spent.
Your LibDem council has wasted £363,000 on the failed World Cup bid when London only spent £61,000! Your LibDem council has also decided to sell off 40 areas of green spaces, despite large scale protests and have not let the public examine fully their reasons for doing so.
Not a good record and not the choices that a Green councillor would make. We would prefer money was spent on local services rather than large vanity projects, we would oppose selling of your land at rock bottom prices to benefit property developers – we would argue hard to make sure the people of Bristol got the best deal possible – we already have one councillor in Southville doing this, more would mean the Green party would become the real alternative.
Sounds great, but who are you?
I’ve lived in Bristol for ten years, the last five in Cotham. I run a not for profit organisation that promotes art and drawing in the local community. I believe Bristol is a unique and world class city and I want a council that reflects this.
My work means that I am more than aware of the limitations of the coalition’s Big Society aims. The expectation that the welfare state can be dismantled and replaced by volunteers seems to be a cynical attempt to leave the poor and disadvantaged stranded, as well as cutting the types of services that we all feel are worth having.
Take cuts in library services for example, Ed Vaizey, the coalition minister for libraries, said last July. “There are all sorts of ways of configuring the big society,” he enthuses, “The George and Dragon pub in North Yorkshire is now delivering a library service and a pint to the community in Hudswell. That sounds like a good partnership to me.” The library service he is referring to comprises of one shelf and sixty books, not really a like for like replacement for the vital social hub that a library provides – surely we deserve better than that
Watching the brilliant Justin Townes Earle at St Bonaventures this weekend reminded me of the great Woody Guthrie and his anthem..
- This land is your land, this land is my land
- From California to the New York Island
- From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
- This land was made for you and me.
Anyone who has been hiking with me knows that I am still feeling sore about the enclosures of the 18th and 19th centuries and no phrase is more guaranteed to get my blood boiling than the ‘permitted footpath’, now I’m afraid it is happening again.
The coalition government and the local LibDem council here in Bristol have both started to use ‘these difficult times’ to start selling off the open spaces and forest that we own for a quick profit.
Apart from this being a particularly stupid time to start selling of assets, when prices are so low, the idea that this is a sustainable way forward to manage our finances to me seems very short sighted. The only ones to benefit from this will be the property developers.
- This land is your land, this land is my land,
- From the coast of Cornwall to the Scottish Highlands,
- From the sacred forests to the holy islands.
- This land was made for you and me.
- (A Billy Bragg version)
We’ve just been through a farcical consultation by the council over the sell off of green spaces in the city, despite many protests and the consultation being widely seen as fundamentally flawed the council have decided to sell off 48 of the original proposed 64 spaces with 9 being deferred.
The consultation itself was brought into question with reports of council officers only briefly visiting spaces and misrepresenting the number of people using them. Local residents couldn’t see for sure as the council delayed a Freedom of Information question a full 7 weeks past the date it was statutorily obliged to give the information, and of course past the date of consultation – see Stockwood Petes blog for info.
- As I went walking I saw a sign there
- And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
- But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
- That side was made for you and me.
On a larger scale the coalition government is selling up to 150,000 hectares of forest and woodland as part of their ‘Big Society’ plans, moving ownership from the government in the form of the Foresty Commission to private hands.
Despite stating in a letter to all MPs that ‘Full measures will remain in place to preserve the public benefits of woods and forests under any new ownership arrangements.’ it is unclear why private businesses would buy this land if there was not an opportunity to make a profit. If there is profit in running them as they are, then why don’t the government keep them and make a profit? If changes are to be made to the land to make a profit, what will they be and will our free and open access be assured?
This must be stopped, once sold we won’t be able to get this land back, below are some links that may help:
Hands off our forest – Forest of Dean
Petition – 38 Degrees – Please Sign
Petition – The Forester- Please Sign
I can wax lyrical for ages about growing up and being taken to Southampton Central Library every week to take out my four books. I still remember the heavy doors and wood panelling which immediately struck me dumb with respect for the contents within.
My sister and I would also go to the library during the summer holidays for childrens workshops on the no 5 bus and make totem poles out of toilet rolls and listen to stories. As I got older I graduated to the adult library and the even more exciting reference library where I would sit for hours looking up things and writing notes, on what I can’t remember…
I admit it’s been a long time since I went to a public library, I still read a lot but I buy books (when I can find a bookshop!) and use the internet for reference, but even so I have felt very uneasy about the proposed library closures by councils up and down the country.
Libraries are so much more about just borrowing books and looking up stuff, they are an important social hub for a community. When I was a teenager, on the dole and looking for work the library was somewhere I could go and read without spending money on coffee, books or heating.
My Mum goes every week, when she goes out of the house she doesn’t want to go to the pub and would feel uncomfortable spending much time in a café and in the winter she doesn’t want to sit on a park bench. The library is her refuge, a place where she can spend a few hours out of the house, there are millions like her judging from the protests up and down the land at the moment.
The coalition government don’t seem to see the worth of the library services and are happy to see them replaced with volunteer services, their ‘Big Society’ .
Ed Vaizey, the coalition minister for libraries, said last July. “There are all sorts of ways of configuring the big society,” he enthused, “The George and Dragon pub in North Yorkshire is now delivering a library service and a pint to the community in Hudswell. That sounds like a good partnership to me.” The library service he is referring to comprises of one shelf and sixty books, not really a like for like replacement for the vital social hub that a library provides.
This ignorance is astonishing, perhaps if the coalition had spent more time in libraries they would be better educated.
No posts lately because like most in the web industry my end of year is always the busiest time as companies rush to get their products to market for Christmas. This year has been particularly manic as despite the best intentions of all involved, 4 major projects and few small ones all landed on my desk in the same month.
After 6 weeks of long days and nights and no weekend breaks we are finally there and all have gone live (apart from one who’ll be live in the first week of Jan – sorry!)
Before I rush off to cornwall for a heavenly two weeks of pints, pasties and dog walking on the beach I thought I’d upload a couple of my favourites, both live and taking orders, check them out:
Last Friday morning was spent helping students cross the road at the busy Tyndalls Park Road and Woodlands Road junction. Ben, who lives just up the road, had seen how most mornings hundreds of students play a dangerous game of frogger at this busy stretch of road in an effort to get to lectures on time.
As the Green Party we are trying to get a crossing installed at this location but in the meantime we thought we’d lend a hand. Wielding some lovingly hand made lollipops Ben and I stopped the traffic to let the students cross, while Bill, Dom, Georgina and Chris took signatures for our petition.
We had a couple of frustrated motorists shout things at us for delaying their journey by thirty seconds or so but on the whole the response was very positive, with many university students and staff expressing thanks that this problem had at last been recognised.
If you want to sign our petition then just contact me and I’ll pass your details on.
A fantastic evening spent last Monday at the Tunnels with Eilen Jewell and her band, gives me the excuse to chat about something I’ve been meaning to say for a while, that is, how much I like St Bonaventures Parish Club here in Bristol.
I spend a lot of time listening to Spotify while working and one of favourites of last year was Eilen Jewell which I had first heard on the excellent Mark Lamarr friday night show on Radio 2. Hoping that she might be playing in the country at some point I had a look at her website and first saw the name St Bonaventures, Bristol. It was somewhere I had never heard of and turned out to be about 15 minutes walk from my house, I checked out the website http://www.crhmusic.com/ and there on the billing was my other favourite singer of the moment Diana Jones – fantastic!
So last October and with a skeptical but hopeful Carol, I went along to this old style parish club behind a church with sofas, good beer (Doom Bar) and one of the warmest sound systems you have ever heard and had one of the best nights of the year, see a review here:
Not only that we got to meet the band, say ridiculous things to them (so what can you say..?) and had a short starlit night walk home with massive smiles on our faces.
The next week we found ourselves there again, this time with Diana Jones, this turned out to be an emotional night. Diana’s voice and songs were so beautiful and sad, you could hear a pin drop and when she put down he guitar and belted out a powerful gospel song a capella – the audience were in tears.
Folowing these two we’ve now been to many nights there, notably Amanda Shires with Rod Picott http://www.amandashires.net, Elizabeth Cook http://www.elizabeth-cook.com/ and Po’ Girl http://www.pogirl.net
Recently some of the larger gigs have been held at the new Tunnels venue, which is a friendly place by the station, along with Eilen Jewell we saw the Chatham County Line boys there http://www.chathamcountyline.com/
Look them up, http://www.crhmusic.com/, go and see a gig, St Bonaventures is proof again the Bristol is full of surprises!
Last week saw the proposed Tescos in Stokes Croft go before the planning commitee with applications for changes to the shop front and external works and installation of plant and machinery.
Due to the valiant and exhauustive efforts of the http://notesco.wordpress.com campaign and with support from the large number of protesters who held a protest and festival on college green the approvals were not given and Tesco as I write do not have planning permission to open the store.
I haven’t been involved in this campaign but was involved in the battle against Sainsburys who tried, and succeeded, to open a store further up the road. This store is now being built.
The two campaigns had one thing in common, in both cases the local community was not given a say in the development of these stores.
In the case of Sainsburys the site had already been a shop so they did not have to apply for change of use planning permission. The only opportunity we had as a local community to have a say was when they applied to extend the alcohol licence. I presented a case at this hearing but was frustrated that any arguments were restricted to licensing and that the communities legitimate concerns about a large supermarket opening up amongst a nationally renowned high street of independently owned small shops were simply ignored.
With Tescos, they adopted the technique of applying for change of use planning through an agent without their name being mentioned, this meant the counillors involved had no idea who they were dealing with (did they not ask??) and the application for a shop was granted without a fuss. Only afterwards did word get out and the protests above began.
Acting within the letter of the law perhaps – but is it right?
This cannot be acceptable, local people must have a say on what happens in their local communities, the planning system must be revised so that voices can be heard. A national supermarket is a lot different to local greengrocer, and can have a disasterous effect on the surrounding community.
Have a look at the links below if you need convincing about the effects of supermarkets, but before you go have a think on one thing… a company like Tescos has a policy of opening as many stores as possible (there are 38 in Bristol alone) and they do this because they make lots of money – and the money they make and take away from the community is your money. If you buy your local food from local shops selling local produce more of that money stays locally to then be spent buying your products or paying you for your job.
Got a stinking cold at the moment so spent some part of yesterday afternoon nursing it and watching the Rebecca Hosking’s film “A Farm for the Future”. This has been around for a while but I hadn’t seen it before and was recommended to me by another member of the Green Party group looking into our agricultural policy.
It brought home to me just how much agriculture is dependant on the oil industry and how difficult it is going to be moving into a low carbon economy and still feed ourselves. The most striking part was the illustration of how we have killed the soil with modern intensive ploughing, the shots of the birds no longer following the plough were poignant, and the farm in shropshire with the particular grasses enabling cows to be left out all year round was inspirational.
I have had a long but unfulfilled interest in permaculture methods and it was fascinating to see mature systems in action and the output figures were indeed impressive. If this could be a practical way forward then it will be an exciting and challenging future with our landscape changing dramatically(again). More research to come…
Have a look at the film here:
I hope Rebecca hasn’t given up wildlife filming as the the shots of her farm are gorgeous.
And if anyone wants to chip in so we can buy a woodland near Bristol to grow food in .. let me know
Ducked out of the Sunday session of the Green Party conference to go to the Sturminster Newton Cheese Festival (priorities..) This was the first time for me and I wasn’t disappointed, two large tents dedicated to British cheesemakers and other local produce – bliss.
Buoyed on by a couple pints of cider and a ploughmans lunch I tasted every cheese on offer that I could, all were of a high standard and tasty but these were my favourites:
Windswept Cow Cheese
Wooton Organic Dairy – Little Ryding
Lyburn Farmhouse Cheese
It was fantastic to see such a wide range of local produce on offer and so many people at the show – roll on next year.