Monday, 23 May 2016

Five years on - Church Farmhouse museum remembered

One of the most shameful acts in the history of Barnet politics was the act of sheer vandalism perpetrated by the Barnet Conservatives on Church Farmhouse Museum. The museum was closed five years ago. We went along for the last day. We interviewed the curator, Gerard Rootes. We made a video. Now the building is rotting. The oldest house in the Parish of Hendon, used to be one of the gems of the Borough. This is how we treat our history. I'd been reviewing some old footage and I watched this film tonight. It becomes a little sadder every time I watch it. On Tuesday evening there is a protest at Hendon Town Hall, giving the people of Barnet the opportunity to let our council know just what we think of them. If you are thinking you can't be bothered attending,  please watch this film. How on earth can anyone not want to see an administration so callous as to close this fantastic museum for future generations get slung out on their ear.

Solidarity Protest Tuesday the 24th of May 6.00pm Hendon Town Hall

Do we have a reason?
Election Chaos

Solidarity Protest 24th May 6.00pm Hendon Town Hall


Sunday, 22 May 2016

Faith, religion and community

Faith, religion and community are probably the three most misused words in the English language. Often people use them interchangeably. In fact they are completely three different things. Religion indicates a preference to belong to an organised group that follows a particular spiritual path. To subscribe to a religion you need to subscribe to a particular set of rules and practices. Faith is an internal commitment that you believe something, without evidence that it contains a truth. It can be about religious or non religious matters. Many people would say things like "I have great belief in Manchester Citys team". Community refers to a group of people. Religious groups often talk about their community, but so do users of software products and people who like going to naturist resorts.

Another two words are needed whenever the words faith, religion and community are used together. These are tolerance and openmindness. There is a school of thought that blames religions for all of the worlds ills. From my perspective this is an extraordinarily bad misreading of the situation, because as far as I am concerned, the problems stem from greed, lust for power and lack of empathy for our fellow man. These issues afflict the faithful and non believers in equal measure. A common failure of religious groups is to be insular and to seek to "look after our own". Another is to seek to assist people purely as a means of proseletysing them. Sadly such people are often poor adverts for their creed and do more harm to the causes they are seeking to promote than any good they may intend.

I think that perhaps the biggest misconception that people of no religion make is to fail to recognise the enormous benefit many committed believers derive from their faith. There is a sometimes slightly arrogant assumption made that anyone who is a member of a religion is simply a deluded idiot who is being taken for a ride by a malignant organisation, simply intent on maintaining its own wealth and power. It is also assumed that the main driver for this is simply fear. For some this may be the case, but my experience of dealing with people of faith in the UK is that they belong to the faith community of their choice, not out of fear or ignorance, but as a positive decision to belong to a group that enhances their existence. For many, gathering for religious worship brings friendship, companionship and a sense of belonging. People enjoy the time set aside for meditation and listening to readings and discussions of religious texts. There is quite a lot of ambiguity in all religious texts and so if you subscribe to a faith, reconciling these is a key part of the journey.

There is a world of difference in the way fundamentalists view the world and the rest of the various religious communities. Fundamentalists view the key religious texts as literal truth. They believe that there is absolutely no scope for any discussion as to whether a text written hundreds or thousands of years ago can be interpreted literally in the modern word, often when scientific enlightenment has effectively debunked the story as a statement of fact.

Perhaps the prime example of this is the book of Genesis, where fundamentalists believe that the world was created in seven days aa mere few thousand years ago. They believe that all of the evidence to the contrary is simply artefacts left by the devil (although strangely the bible doesn't say "watch out for fake dinosaur bones left by the devil"). Most of the worlds religious community would take the view that the story was simply and illustration that things evolved in a certain way and that a process was involved. The wording was simply the best way that the authors of the early writings could get their arguments over. They didn't have the math or science to understand the physics of  "the big bang", so I'd say "let there be light" is a pretty good stab. Is it important whether God put the oceans there, or whether they simply coalesced as rocks and gases cooled down? It clearly is to some, but it won't change my life.

What has changed my life is the fact that as a member of church, I spend an hour a week in a contemplative mood. I listen to things which encourage me to be a better person. I get the opportunity to help with events for charities and for our community. There is a movement amongst humanists and atheists to develop a "church without God" movement. To me this is an eminently sensible plan. Many humanist ministers do a good job helping  people deal with bereavement. My view is that any minister of any faith who is helping people cope with life is a good thing. I fully respect the right of humanists and atheists to make their case and post their arguments. If people want a humanist minister to preside at their funeral that is fine. In Mill Hill we have a fine scheme which provides and overnight shelter for homeless people in winter months. This is run by the Mill Hill Churches group. I volunteer for this scheme and I am proud of the work it does. If the scheme was run by a non religious group I would be equally keen to help, because it is the right thing to do.

A mistake some churchgoers make is to think that they are in some way superior to the rest of the populace because they attend a building once a week and listen to some fine words. This is a real misreading of what religion and faith should be about. For me, it is a toolset, which is there to use to enable us to become better people and build a better world for our brothers and sisters and to help us deal with difficulties and crises. There may be other toolsets that do the job as well. To believe otherwise would be arrogant, but you really need to believe that a new toolkit is better.

Belonging to an organisation that is committed to making the world a better place can only be a good thing. Sadly many are put off by the actions of very unrepresentative people or groups. I tend to think of religions and churches as the doormen for a really fantastic club. Many of us have had the experience of trying to go to a club and finding a rude and aggressive doorman has either turned us away or made such a bad impression that we've chosen not to enter. We forever believe that club to be a terrible place. What we may not understand is that the unpleasant doorman wasn't carrying out the owner of the clubs instructions, but simply enjoying the power and prestige that their role gave them. For all we know the following week a new doorman may be there, one who would welcome us? It may even be that although the club is great, it is not for you. I've got friends who love genres of music and clubs I can't stand. That is just the way we are. I am quite happy for my friends to like their music and their clubs and I'll stick with mine. We still get on great and the things we share in common we enjoy and the things we don't share, we don't let divide us. To me faith, religion and community should be like that. Once we can all agree to differ, the world will be a much better place.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

The Saturday List #89 - Great Mill Hill Events past and present

Today we have a French market in Mill Hill. Not only that but at 9am Saracens will parade the Rugby European Cup through Mill Hill Broadway.  I thought that to mark the event I'd compile a list of a few notable events from Mill Hill.

1. Saracens parade the European Cup through Mill Hill today.
2. 1972 - Sir Terry Wogan opens the new Budgens supermarket in Mill Hill.
3. Mill Hill Music Festival - every 2 years for the last 20 years, this has brought great music to Mill Hill. Artist included John Dankworth, Acker Bilk, Paul Young and Humphrey Littleton.
4. St Josephs College garden - This was an annual event that occurred between 1964 and 1990. Celebrities such as Bill Pertwee and The Princess of Tonga opened it. Locals flocked to see the beautiful garden and farm.
5. Band day at Finchley Nurseries. A great anuual event, Check their website for details
6. John Cleese shot a Specsavers video outside my house last year!

7.Queens of the Stone Age Frontman Josh Homme had his nose cut off in Mill Hill in an episode of Toast of London , filmed at Mill Hill Music Complex

8. Iwan Thomas films for Strictly in Mill Hill!

Friday, 20 May 2016

Freedom Passes - The sad reality

Last night I was having a business meeting in my studio reception area with a client, to discuss a very important project we are working on. As we were discussing it, a young man with learning difficulties entered. He stood and stared at me. He clearly wanted to see me, but was embarrassed as he realised I was doing something important. 

As he suffers from autism, situations where he encounters an unexpected scenario can worry and upset him. I know this young man well. He did work experience at our studios. He is also the person who emailed me of his tale of woe, which broke the Freedom Pass story. He contacted me about it in despair.

Although my business is very important, I have learned that some things are more important. So I asked my client if we could break for five minutes. He was more than happy. 

I then went over to see the young man. He had simply come down to show me his new freedom pass 'I came down on the bus Roger'. He then excitedly told me he'd been to the council meeting and met Mrs Angry.

He laughed and said 'I thought she would be angry but she was nice'. He then said 'The Tory councillors were very rude to her. All she wanted was to help disabled people. Why did they do that?'

This young man summed up with this question a conundrum Which has been bothering me. Why do the Tory Councillors not simply accept there has been a monumental cock up, apologise and get Capita to sort it out. I am sure they are not spiteful, evil people who take delight in humiliating young autistic disabled people. 

The young man then thanked me again for helping him and bade us fair well. 

The gentleman I'd been having the meeting with had been listening intently. As we resumed the meeting, he asked me to explain what had happened. He was completely gobsmacked. He simply asked 'How could they do that to a person in that position?'.

All I could do is shake my head and say 'I haven't got a clue'. Sadly in this respect, I am not the only one.

Thursday, 19 May 2016


News has broken that the RUGBY EUROPEAN CUP which Saracens won on Saturday in Lyon will make a guest appearance on Mill Hill Broaday at 9a.m on Saturday morning prior to be paraded at Allianz Park at the must win semi final of the Premier League game.

If you want to see the EUROPEAN CUP then please head to Broadway to the French Market on Saturday morning nice and early as there is bound to be massive demand to see the cup and take photos.
The Mill Hill Broadway Blog will be LIVE STREAMING THE EVENT on Periscope and will be posting all the SOCIAL MEDIA feeds for the Market including INSTAGRAM - TWITTER - FACEBOOK and PERISCOPE.  There will be You Tube videos of the event posted after the event (Thanks to the Broadway blog for this info!)

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Barnet Council and management for dummies

All organisations have problems, make mistakes and cock things up. Only a fool thinks such things never happen. That said, the difference between a well run organisation and a badly run organisation is that a well run organisation learns from its mistakes. Barnet Council has had a whole string of major cock ups. I counted 23 since this blog started. The sad truth is that the organisation is dysfunctional, so doesn't learn. As someone who runs a successful business and mentors people, I thought I'd just give Barmet Council a few tips on why they continually fail.

1. Refusal to acknowledge problems. Local bloggers and residents have often identified issues long before the council has recognised that there are problems. If the council proactively engaged, many issues could have been avoided and others would have been far less damaging. As it is, Barnet only admit issues when they become catastrophic.

2. No one takes responsibility. In the 8 years I've written this blog, not once has a single Barnet Counciilor said 'I'll take responsibility for this and I'll sort it out' therefore there is no leadership.

3. Blame culture. Every time there is a problem, the politicians in charge find an official to act as scapegoat. They are paid off and sign non disclosure agreements, so we never find out what went wrong.

4. No continuity. Barnet employ consultants and contractors, who last a couple of years and take the knowledge with them. That is why mistakes are repeated.

5. Giving the wrong people important jobs. Barnet is full of people who are totally out of their depth and don't even understand the issues. Senior councillors rely on officers to do everything and are scared to challenge them.

5. Outsourcing. The council has lost control of decision making. They rely on companies who are only involved for profit, to make key decisions. The council cannot function without these companies as the capability has been lost. The companies know this and so have no commercial pressure to perform.

This is why Barnet now has become a by word for incompetence.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Scrapping of the BBC food recipe website

What is wrong with the BBC? There are many I love what they do and I love many of the programs they make, but seriously, they need to get their act together. The proposal to scrap the BBC Food Recipe website is quite frankly insane. I'm not a great one for cooking from recipes. I occasionally look at it if there is a specific dish to be done, which I want to do right. However, there is a huge army of people who love it.

I had never given it much thought previously, but I thought I'd look at the last page I viewed on it. This was the page for chocolate cake recipies.

BBC Food website
  In light of its impending closure, I was amazed to see that there is no paid advertising on the site. Of all the parts of the BBC empire to monetize, surely the recipe page is a prime candidate. Supermarkets, cook book publishers and suppliers all would bit your hand off to advertise on the site. The BBC could simply do what I do and put google adwords on the page and restrict the content to food related products.

Alternatively they could do a sponsorship deal with a major company such as Sainsburys/Tescos. I am a firm believer in a advert free BBC. It removes commercial pressures from program schedules. The website is different. You don't have to clicl on an ad if you don't want to. There is loads of "white space" that could feature an ad bar without compromising the offering. It should be quite simple to make the site self sustaining.

The adwords on my blog generates enough money to pay for my internet subscription. It doesn't make a huge difference to my household income, but it means I can take the family for a nice curry on occasion, courtesy of my lovely readers. If this little blog with 1,000 odd hits a day can generate that much, how much would the BBC food site generate for the corporation?

I know many will say it is the thin end of the advertising wedge, but websites are completely different beasts. If we have the choice between click thru ads on the BBC site or no recipes, surely its a no brainer? We all have to move with the times and it seems bonkers to pass up such an obvious revenue stream. It say plenty about the lack of commercial acumen of the corporation that such a proposal has not been mooted.

One strange aspect to this is that I don't really understand why the BBC need to remove the website. If it is because there is huge traffic and they pay high bandwidth charges, this supports the monetisation argument. If it is simply because they don't want the cost of updating it, it would be cheaper simply to stop updating it and leave the 11,000 existing recipes in place. 

If you don't want to see the BBC recipe website scrapped, then sign the petition here

Nutmeg - A Barnet success story

 The launch of Beyond The Class at Mill Hill Music Complex
We live in a wonderful Borough with some marvellous people. Last we I was extremely honoured to have some of the finest of our young people at my studios for the launch of a new youth magazine. Nutmeg is a community project that is an amazing success story. Nutmeg launched "Beyond The Class" at our studios and it was great to see so many fantastic people coming down for the event.

Nutmeg say about themselves
Nutmeg Community is an award winning charity working with young people to promote self-reliant, sustainable, cohesive and prosperous communities. Our slogan ‘Get a Piece of da Peace’ encourages young people to recognise that they are a piece of the jigsaw and play a part in bringing peace to their communities.
We deliver an array of highly effective projects engaging with hard to reach young people across the London Borough of Barnet, particularly in areas of high need (Grahame Park, West Hendon, Burnt Oak, and Edgware). Projects have included providing mentoring, organising community cohesion events, delivering workshops and promoting volunteering opportunities.
 The Barnet Eye believes that young people don't always get a fair press. I beleive all of our community should support projects such as Nutmeg. It is always great to write about good things in our neighbourhood.

Monday, 16 May 2016

The Manchester United bomb fiasco

As a Manchester City fan, I could hardly contain my mirth at the situation in Manchester yesterday. At first I was quite concerned. I have several friends and family at the match. Some actually live in Manchester! Of course when you hear of a bomb at a football match, tribal loyalties are completely put to one side. Then we found out that Manchester United's private security contractors had planted the "bomb" themselves as part of a "security exercise". When the news of this broke, my first thought was "have they put sacked Barnet CEO Andrew Travers in charge of security?"

What were these contractors doing? Can you imagine it. "Well Fred, we planted the package, but we couldn't find it". "Don't worry, its not a real bomb. The pubs are open, lets nip out for a pint". "Shouldn't we tell someone?" "Nah, a fan will find it and put it on Ebay as a souvineer".

But really, hilarious as it seems, there are serious issues.

1. Should an organisation have a safety certificate if they conduct such an operation, cant find the bomb even though they know its there, and dont tell anyone.

2. Why didn't the contractors tell the police?

3. If they can't find a fake bomb , what if it had been a real one?

80,000 people go to watch Manchester United games. They should be secure and safe. No one can make a case that the people who organise stadium security are competent. Heads must roll and a wider review of all grounds should take place. A message has been sent out to every nutcase in the world that stadium security is not fit for purpose. That has to be put right as a matter of urgency.