Saturday 31 December 2016

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year for 2017!

Let's face it 2016 has been a bit traumatic on many fronts. Here's hoping the coming year brings happiness, tolerance and peace.

Sunday 20 November 2016

Eltham Lights Up 2016 and celebrates Roald Dahl this time

Willy Wonka and his Oompa Loompas come to Eltham!
Central London may have had its switching on of the Christmas lights last Thursday but for many families and residents in a certain south-east London suburb, the annual Eltham Lights Up event was the place to be.

Organised by Royal Greenwich Borough, this much loved Lantern Parade in Eltham High Street and the switching on of its own Christmas lights is well attended by locals. In the weeks leading up to it, local primary school children make illuminated lanterns which are proudly paraded behind their school banner. The event was also part of the Eltham Arts Winter Festival 2016 which ran from 29 October to 20 November and showcased over 150 arts events in Eltham this year. In fact, Eltham Arts's own Festival Finale takes place today, 20 Nov, at the White Hart.

This year's Lights Up theme was Roald Dahl on the occasion of what would have been his 100th birthday. Emergency Exit Arts, an arts organisation based in nearby Greenwich, which specialises in using visual performance, processions, puppetry and pyrotechnics, brought alive characters from Dahl's enduring children's books. They joined lots of gleeful lantern-toting children (and parents!) to celebrate this annual festive occasion now in its 17th year.

Here's my short film of this year's Eltham Lights Up thrown together from my footage:
I remember first attending this event when our two children were pre-school aged and were beside themselves with excitement waving glow sticks, watching the colourful parade and then the finale fireworks from the top of the M&S building. In subsequent years they've paraded with the Gordon Primary School, arriving early to assemble in what was then the playground of the nearby Church of England School in Roper Street, now the subject of scaffolding and the erection of a new building on this historic site just behind the High Street.

Now young teens, our children are naturally more concerned to 'hang out' with their friends wandering around trying to buy the best hot chocolate, leaving me to enjoy the parade from a different perspective.

Despite concerns about the effect on this event of the current improvements being made to Eltham High Street, the Council rushed to have it ready to host the Lights Up event and luckily succeeded. However, after some previous cases of hot falling debris, the fireworks have for the last couple of years been replaced by other finales, this year some fiery shooting musical flames. There was also musical entertainment laid on across three stages - on Passey Place, next to St Mary's and in the Eltham Leisure Centre - this years' acts included the Pytchwood folk duo, the band Little Beach, the teen boy band Decks and Quatrz, the Eltham hill School Choir and the Rock Choir. Welcome though this was, it made it difficult to get round and see them all!

People persevered through the early heavy rain and were rewarded with dry, crisp weather in time for the switching on and the parade itself. And so another Eltham Lights Up comes to an end marking the start of Christmas.

Other local lighting up events include:

Woolwich Winter Warmer
Saturday 26 November, 1pm to 5.30pm - General Gordon Square and Powis Street, SE18

Greenwich Christmas Festival
Saturday 3 December 12pm to 6pm - Cutty Sark Gardens, SE1

My posts on previous Eltham Lights Up events:
Eltham Lights Up 2012
Eltham Lights Up 2011
Eltham Lights Up 2010
Eltham Lights Up 2009

Tuesday 15 November 2016

Viceroy's House: film about India-Pakistan 1947 partition

Really looking forward to 'Bend It Like Beckham' director Gurinder Chadha's next film, Viceroy's House, due out next year. It certainly has a cracking cast in Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson, Simon Callow, Om Puri and Huma Qureshi :

Gurinder Chadha's films are always a treat especially to second-gen onwards Brit-Asians such as myself though they certainly have a wider appeal.  I also happen to hail from the director's same West London suburb and from a Sikh-Punjabi background so her material particularly resonates with me and it's always interesting to see what she's homing in on. Every Punjabi family has a partition story - I'm curious to see how she handles hers and how she mediates it within the grammar of film-making and the demands of commercial cinema.

In a more recent interview from this month, this time an event at America's Clark University, we learn that:

"Chadha is currently in the post-production phase of her film, “Viceroy’s House,” which will be released in 2017. The film chronicles the British partition of India and Pakistan, and the intertwining of many cultural perspectives during a controversial time in South Asian history. “I was very clear that this is a film made by a British Punjabi; it’s very much that perspective,” said Chadha. “No Indian could have made it, and no Pakistani could have made it, and no white British could have made it.”

Viceroy’s House” tells Chadha’s family history. “When I was growing up I had come to understand that partition happened because it was our fault — that we Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims couldn’t get on with each other,” Chadha recalled. “There was violence and the British had no option but to divide the country. … As a result I had somehow felt that the loss of a homeland was a result of my ancestors’ fault.” Chadha said that when archived historical documents eventually became public, she and her family learned the partition was a political act."

Read more from this event here.

Friday 11 November 2016

38* votes wins it: Eltham North by-election

Photo: Charlie Davis (right) just declared winner; Simon Peirce, on left with Eltham's Clive Efford MP
So following a hard-fought by-election in this very marginal ward, Charlie Davis has been elected the third Councillor in the Eltham North Ward to join existing Councillors Linda Bird (Labour) and Spencer Drury (Conservative). Congratulations.

The Eltham North (Greenwich) results:

Browne (Green) - 110.      3.5% (-6.0)
Davis (Con) - 1335.         42.2% (+10.6)   1st
Macaulay (LD) - 279.        8.8% (+5.5)
Peirce (Lab) - 1279 1297  40.4% (+9.3)     2nd
Ray (UKIP) - 160.               5.1% (-14.5)
Spoilt: 5

Reflecting the previous ward election results, the 1st and 2nd candidates came nail-bitingly close with only 56 38 votes separating them. Typically of by-elections, the turnout was low at 31.33% (it was 50.26% in 2014) with total votes cast 3,185 from a total electorate of 10,167.

Notably, the UKIP vote collapsed from 1,221 in 2014 to 160 this time and the Lib Dems show no sign of a come back. (see Comments below)

Cllr Davis will have his hands full with the current list of issues being raised by Eltham residents.

We can all now get back to being aghast at the American election results or starting Christmas shopping...

My posts on the lead up to this by-election here:
"Let's make Westmount Rd great again" or the Eltham North by-election

Eltham North by-election 2016: candidates declared

Who will 'Wynn' it? Eltham North by-election coming up 

This post originally published at 11/11/16 12.45am had the first candidate winning by 56 votes.
I took the figures from the Royal Greenwich twitter feed (as did a number of media outlets I see). But different and, as it turned out, correct figures were posted later on the Council website – the Labour candidate had in fact won 1,297 votes therefore the difference between 1st and 2nd candidates was even closer at 38. So there you have it. Thanks to 'Anonymous' in the comments.

Here’s the confirmation from Twitter:

and the website:

Wednesday 9 November 2016

“Let’s make Westmount Rd great again” or the Eltham North by-election

Never mind the end of times in the USA where a divisive, sexist, xenophobic celebrity billionaire has just been elected to represent ‘ordinary people’. All eyes, well local if not quite international, now turn to the by-election due to held tomorrow in the very marginal Eltham North ward in the Royal Greenwich Borough.

No fears here, I assume, of vote-rigging, grabbing furry feline animals or calls for hanging your opponent. At least, none that we know of.

It all seems a rather more sedate affair with some thoroughly nice chaps, and one rather quiet chap-ess.
I’ve blogged previously on the list of candidates and the recent electoral history of the ward. By now you’ve read their leaflets promising motherhood and apple pie. Issues currently exercising locals include developments in Eltham High Street including the new Cinema and the old favourite, parking restrictions. The Conservatives have the extra field to play in – criticism of the Labour-run home Council while Labour has additionally played to its NHS strengths and being able to work with the Labour Mayor on transport. Other issues include ‘better sports facilities’, more ‘starter homes’, ‘safety on our local roads’ and ‘new [outdoor] play equipment’ (Time, being totally distracted by a certain Festival and the USA result has meant no time for fuller analysis here…)

Meanwhile social media has meant that the citizens of Eltham have been able to quiz candidates directly. A recent entry to the lists of issues has been the discovery of an early morning licencing application by Vue Cinema with various candidates responding on Twitter to residents’ fears of a ‘Nightmare on Eltham High Street’, promising to listen to their concerns.
Candidates have also been asked by community group Eltham Arts how they would support the arts in Eltham – those that replied were positive, of course.

So who will replace Labour's Wynn Davies? Will it be Labour’s Simon Peirce, the Tory’s Charlie Davis or the Lib Dem Sam Macaulay? Vote tomorrow, 10 Nov.

*With thanks to Patrick Kidd for this great slogan for the Eltham North by-election which I spotted on his twitter feed:

Saturday 15 October 2016

Eltham North by-election 2016: candidates declared

So, following my post yesterday about the Eltham North ward by-election on 10 November, Royal Greenwich have speedily published the list of candidates, the morning after nominations closed:

What do we know?

Browne, Matt - Green Party candidate

He's been tweeting in response @5tewartChristie pointing out that Browne actually stood for the Tories in the May Glydon ward by-election....His twitter profile tells us he's a: "Repentant former Tory, now campaigning with the Greenwich Green Party (Green candidate in Eltham North by-election). Unrepentant Europhile. Guilty smoker."

Davis, Charlie - Conservative Party

Davis stood unsuccessfully for the Eltham West ward in 2014 coming 4th behind all three Labour candidate. The Greenwich Conservatives website tells us: "Charlie Davis lives on Dunvegan Road and works in financial services, and previously stood to be an Eltham councillor in the 2014 local elections". Tweets at @CDavisEltham.


Macaulay, Sam - Liberal Democrats
The Greenwich Lib Dem website tells us: "Sam lives in the ward with his wife and three children. He's particularly concerned about local early years education, safety on our roads, and improving the quality of local community facilities.
Sam is also a brand new member, having joined us in July, and he's keen to take the fight to both Labour and the Tories."  He tweets at @SamMacaulay3

Peirce, Simon - Labour Party
Peirce was Labour's 3rd candidate for the Eltham North ward in 2014 and came in 5th. Supported by local Labour MP Clive Efford and Council Leader Densie Hyland, Peirce tweets at @Peircey99 where he is described as 'Trade Union activist/ campaigner in Eltham and Woolwich.'

Ray, Barbara - UKIP
A different UKIP candidate than for the 2014 election when UKIP came 7th. Ray stood for the Hornfair with Kidbrooke ward in the 2014 local election where she came 4th, behind all three Labour candidates but ahead of all three Tory candidates.  I can't find a pic but this may be a (fairly dormant) twitter account, @Barbara76694562.

Friday 14 October 2016

Who will 'Wynn' it? Eltham North by-election coming up

Councillor Wynn Davies has resigned and there is to be a by-election on 10 November for the Eltham North ward. The Royal Greenwich borough website has this notice on their website - candidate nominations close today (14 Oct) and voting registration closes 25 Oct:

Eltham North is one of the Borough's 17 wards since their redrawing in 2002. Wynn Davies was elected one of its three Councillors in the 2014 local elections when the ward was a closely watched contest. This is because for a long time the ward had been one of few blue spots in a sea of red which otherwise typifies the Borough's wards. With UKIP-fever riding high in 2014 in the pre-referendum era (remember those days?), we all speculated about how far UKIP would dent the Tory or Labour vote. 
Here's the Eltham North ward's Councillor history:
The 2014 election of Davies and his Labour colleague, Linda Bird, marked a significant shift at the time, not just for reducing even further the already small number of Conservatives elected to Royal Greenwich Council, but also because of the unexpected ousting of Nigel Fletcher, the young personable Conservative Councillor.

Still, the 2014 Eltham North ward results were very close:
Only six votes between the 2nd (Bird) and 3rd candidate (Davies), and only 123 votes between the 3rd (Davies) and 4th (Fletcher). The closeness of these results again makes this ward election one to watch.  The EU 'Leave' referendum result may now have taken the heat out the UKIP vote, though the effect of national Labour's current travails remains to be seen.

Labour's popular local MP, Clive Efford, yesterday declared its by-election candidate to be Simon Peirce,'Trade Union activist/ campaigner in Eltham and Woolwich'- Peirce was Labour's 3rd candidate in 2014 and came in 5th.
Since losing his place in the 2014 local election former-Eltham North councillor Nigel Fletcher has been busying himself with his PhD and and his work with the Centre for Opposition Studies of which he was a founder. However, he was also declared recently as a Tory candidate for the neighbouring Eltham South ward for the next local elections in 2018. Question is, now that Eltham North has come up 2 years earlier, would he want to jump back to his former ward? Is it allowable and/or the done thing? If not, who will the Tory candidate be?

Good luck to Wynn Davies who I met once at an Eltham Arts AGM meeting and to whom his fellow Labour Councillor posted this tribute:

Finally, if you're wondering which areas the Eltham North ward covers, here's the boundary from the Royal Greenwich website:

Update: Just seen that the LibDems have announced ward resident Sam Macaulay as their candidate.

Further update: Royal Greenwich confirms the candidates

Saturday 17 September 2016

Arts Festival brings Opera to Eltham!

Eltham Park Baptist Church, Glenure Road, Eltham SE9 1JE

Saturday November 12th 2016, 7.30pm

In aid of Eltham Arts

Katy Batho ~ soprano
Elizabeth Key ~ mezzo soprano
Andrew Macnair ~ tenor
John Bernays ~ baritone
Michael Robinson ~ piano 

“A glamorous evening of entertainment to include well known opera arias and ensembles you know and love.”
 Tickets:  £12 (plus booking fee).  Email

£15 at the door. Book Early

This fabulous event has been confirmed as part of the Eltham Arts Winter Festival 2016, running this year from Saturday 29 October to 20 November.  It's a real coup to bring this to Eltham's doorstep.

You can read more about Eltham resident Elizabeth Key (above), the mezzo soprano for this event, in an article in September's Greenwich Visitor, by Gaynor Wingham. Whether you love opera to bits, or are just a bit curious about the whole thing (that's me...), don't miss out - you'll need to book your tickets fast.

We had a blast at the first ever Eltham Arts Winter Festival last year (31 Oct - 22 Nov 2015). You can catch up with that on the Eltham Arts Facebook, website and watch videos of the 2015 festival on the Eltham Arts YouTube channel (very amateur film-making is turning into something of a hobby of mine!)

The 2016 Festival has even more arts events, this time over 150, taking place all over the SE9 area. From exhibitions, theatre, live music, heritage walks and talks, a packed programme brings together the creative talent of local people and groups in the 23-day artsfest.

Eltham Arts, led by its indefatigable Chair, Gaynor Wingham, has coordinated the events with community partners, supported by committee members, to bring this creative smorgasbord to the south-east of London.

So what's happening where? A special pull-out programme will be in the October issue of The Greenwich Visitor (free!) at the beginning of the month and I'm happy to be contributing to some of event articles which will also be in the supplement. A leaflet is already hitting the streets and display boards of Eltham - that gives a taster of what's to come. Get in touch via the Eltham Arts Facebook, website or twitter (hashtag: ).

Saturday 25 June 2016

Eltham for Exit in UK's EU Referendum 2016

On Thursday 23 June all eligible Brits trundled off to vote at their local church hall, school or in my case, portacabin, to place their 'X' against whether the UK should remain part of the EU. We all know how that ended:

Source: BBC
The actual date of the referendum had been known since 20 February 2016, the day PM David Cameron had announced it. Before that, it was on 22 January 2013 that he had gambled in announcing that if the Conservatives won the next 2015 election they would seek to renegotiate the UK's relationship with the EU and then give the British people the "simple choice" by the end of 2017 between staying in the EU under those terms or leaving the EU.

Source: BBC
It is commonly accepted that, rather than apolitical concerns about 'giving the people a choice', it was concerns about UKIP gaining ground and pressure from within the Tory party which had led Cameron to take this huge risk. It was this throw of the dice, which ironically may have helped him win the 2015 election, that ultimately led to his resignation announcement on 24 June 2016, the day after his referendum defeat.

I write two days after the referendum when I, along with the rest of a shocked country, am still taking in the results. Many of us who had to be up the day after EU Referendum Day blearily closed down our tablets at 12.30am that night, hearing that the 'Remains' seemed likely to win over the 'Brexiters' albeit by a small margin. Having inched ahead a couple of weeks earlier, the mood of the country had seemed to change after the terrible death of MP Jo Cox on 16 June. It wasn't a seismic change. Despite the outpouring of grief for this popular 'Remain' MP, one felt that people were still sticking to their positions. The Brexiters upped the ante on their anti-immigration rhetoric (Farage had unveiled his vile 'Breaking Point' poster on 16 June) and Turkey bogeyman dog-whistles, while Remain, well er... continued to stress the benefits to the UK economy.

When, even more bleary-eyed at 5.30am the next morning, I immediately reached for my smartphone and saw the shock result, I admit I uttered an F-word to my equally surprised (though always unflappable) husband who then knew it was serious because I rarely swear.

Turning on the BBC I saw Farage's triumphant speech claiming the result as a victory for "real people, for the ordinary people, for the decent people". When I tracked down the Greenwich borough results, it seems our borough was full of unreal, unordinary and indecent people. The overall borough result was 55.5% remain - 44.4% leave. However the breakdown of results for each of the 17 wards wasn't openly available - only via those attending the count on the night. (Next day update: ward results available now on Royal Greenwich website.)

Luckily obtained the results (from @5tewartChristie) and they are posted on his 853 blog with excellent analysis.

All four Eltham wards voted leave, with only two others (Abbey Wood and Plumstead) doing the same. The 853 blog points out how Eltham has often behaved differently to the rest of the borough in elections - certainly Eltham has often the only wards returning Tory Councillors to the Council.

With Cameron's resignation, the way is clear for a more right-wing 'Brexit' government, set to be in place by the October Tory party conference, with the obvious top candidates being Boris Johnson and Michael Gove (leading Brexiters) and Theresa May (officially a Remainer, but a very quiet one...wonder why). No one has heard a word yet from Cameron's side-kick George Osborne.

Since then there's been talk of healing, building bridges and moving on - a lot of transformational journey metaphors. Anyone saying naughty things (i.e. having a heated go at the 'other side') is being outed and shamed on social media by presumably far more decent people. In some cases this is even extending to those expressing the view that the EU Referendum was really ultimately about immigration for many voters. Understandably many Brexiters are sensitive to charges of having run a xenophobic campaign, preferring instead to stress the democracy and sovereignty issues.

I've been thinking about the effect on one-time colleagues in higher education. I know that last Friday UK universities everywhere will have been focusing on the implications of our EU exit on their research funding, on their existing EU students and on their potential future EU students.Will EU students have 'overseas' status in future and, if so, will they still come? It was sobering to see the Times Higher Education's estimate of the "academic subjects most dependent on EU funding and now facing huge funding cuts":

This doesn't bode well for some of our south-east London universities, e.g. Goldsmiths and Greenwich, which offer these subjects.

Much analysis continues about the forthcoming EU exit negotiations, which PM the Tory membership will give us, whether the UK will break up and whether Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will face a coup and replacement. Perhaps to be ready for an election earlier than the Fixed Parliament Act- decreed 2020 date?