When I look back on what I've achieved as a blogger writing about the London Borough of Barnet, I think it is extraordinary. As the first of what has been called "The Barnet Bloggers", I kicked the whole idea into life. I felt that hyper local stories were not being covered by anyone. I believed that there was a huge amount of interest in what was going on in our community and that no one was writing about it. I believe that the fact that there are 2.6 million views of the blog have born this out.
The battles we've won, saving Friern Barnet Library, overturning the illegal parking charges, getting the Midland Hotel listed as an Asset of Community Value, getting rid of some truly rotten councillors and a criminal GLA member, saving respite care at Mapledown School and saving Barnet residents millions by exposing the Metpro scandal are things that spring to mind. These are campaigns we've been at the spearhead of. It has made all of the hours, all of the sleepless nights, all of the personal insults from former Council Leaders, all of the standingin the snow on marches, drinving around the Borough with a video camera, all of the sitting through unbearably boring meetings listening to intellectual leprechauns who masquarated of Councillors talking absolute nonsense, seem worthwhile.
Mill Hill Music Complex studios. When the studios started, they were a very different beast. They were known as "The Cottage", as we started in the derelict caretakers cottage in Bunns Lane Works. As a bunch of rather naive 16 year olds, we didn't realise that the term Cottage had a meaning in the LGBT community that didn't really reflect the activities we were hosting. As these anniversaries loom, I have realised that they really should be marked properly. The studios now play host to approx 2,000 musicians and artists a week. We directly employ 12 people, around 30 more people (tutors, choreographers, ballet teachers, Yoga teachers etc) rely on our studios to earn a living. 50% of our customers come from more than five miles to use our facilities, so we bring money into the Mill Hill economy. The journey from a small musicians collective into a massive hub has been a veryinteresting story. In parellel the story of the band, totally intertwined with the studios has been perhaps even more interesting. The only reason I started the studio was to ensure I had a place to rehearse. The fact that it has mushroomed into such a massive feature in the London Music scene is purely down to the fact that I needed a place to play my music in. When I realised others also neeeded a place, I decided that we would run it properly as a business, rather than as a musicians collective and a hobby. The change came in 1992. We'd rebranded the studio from The cottage to Unit 25 Studio to aoid confusion as to what we did. When I bought out my previous partners, we rebranded again as Mill Hill Music Complex.
|The False Dots|
I've decided to put all of this down. I am writing a book, provisionally entitled "How to succeed in the music business with no talent at all". It was one of my new years resolutions. It has to be out by the end of the year, as does the False Dots retrospective album "Songs of Love and War",which is a mix of songs from 1983-5 and new compositions, as performed by our current line up.
I have sadly come to the realisation that it is impossible to write the book and write the blog. In life, I've learned one thing. The only way you get anything done is to have a degree of self discipline and structure to your life. You set aside time to do the things you have to do. For the last year or so, I've allocated the time between 10am and noon for writing and researching this blog. My wife made me commit to not doing the 3am shifts after my problems with cancer. With family life, running the business etc, this means something has to give.
As there are some issues I care passionately about, I have decided to commit to a new timetable in my life. Last May, in their wisdom, the people of Barnet decided to renew the franchise of the organisation known as The Barnet Tories to run the Borough for another four years. Not only was it renewed, they were given a hugely increased mandate. Unlike some I respect democracy. I fully intend to spend the next three years working to ensure that in Mill Hill, they are booted out and sensible local people replace them. But it is futile to blog like a headless chicken about them. It has become clear to me that whilst I've nearly killed myself working to stop the worst excesses of their policies hurting the most vulnerable people, I've been cut out of many of the activities that oppose them by people who don't want anyone from outside a small cabal with a very set agenda. They are happy to use me when it suits them, but constantly seek to deny me a wider platform at all other times. I've noticed that recently references to the "Barnet Bloggers" fail to mention me at all, whilst heaping praise on other bloggers, more in tune with their views. Given that I've been far more active I find this rather sad. I am not the type of person to throw my toys out of the pram, but the fact that I get no support at all in what I'm doing and no useful information to help me write blogs means that I have to work ten times harder just to get the information out. It has simply occurred to me that if people co-ordinating campaigns don't want to supply the information, write the guest blogs, and use the amazing platform this blog gives, it is simply a waste of my time trying to do it all by myself.
So what does this mean for the Barnet Eye blog? Well it is not going to go away, far from it. But it will be changing into a slightly different beast. I have had a long, hard think about what I want to do and what I don't want to do. I am committed to my Environment Monday series of blogs. This is a passion, so I will continue to spend the three hours on a Monday putting them together. I love the Friday joke and usually this take five minutes, so that will continue. I enjoy putting the Saturday list together, so that will continue. I also enjoy putting the tweets of the week together on a Sunday. That only takes half an hour whilst I watch football. So all of those things will stay.
What else will stay? Well I am 100% committed to the fight to Save The Midland Hotel. That is central to what my band do. It is central to our community. I will continue to support Mark Amies in his fight to Save The Railway hotel. So if there is anything I can usefully do, I will.
How about this one, it shows the #railwayhoteledgware under construction https://t.co/DSf2I49P6W pic.twitter.com/xuo7UDVfvB— Mark Amies (@Superfast72) January 21, 2019
As to the rest of the time. I'll publish any sane and rational guest blogs that I am sent. I will publicise events such as The Mill Hill Music Festival. I will give updates on how the book and album are coming on. Clearly if some terrible thing blows up in the Borough of Barnet, I will also blog about that. So there will be new content here from Fri-Mon along those lines and presumably the odd thing during the middle of the week. I still support things like the #KickOutCapita campaign, but I won't be writing any blogs on the subject, unless there is something monumental. I won't be trawling through council papers.
One of the things I will be doing is making a few more videos, combining the music of The False Dots with issues affecting locals in Barnet. I think this is the future for local bands such as ours. Here's the one we did last year for the #KickOutCapita campaign. I think it is rather good. It immortalises the demolition of the NIMR.
There are a few things that will be exceptions over the next few weeks. There are a few outstanding FoI requests that may warrent a blog. There is also one major scandal that I am aware of that will be subject of a major blog, when the time is right. If there is anyone who wants to contribute a guest blog, I'd love to publish it. But life has moved on, so this will be the last Tuesday morning that I sit, listening to Robert Elms on BBC London, writing a blog like this.
Many thanks for your support. We hope that this will continue.
And if you know a good literary agent, let me know!