Saturday 29 June 2019

The Saturday List #221 - Ten marvellous London moments I would have missed without the Robert Elms show

The week before last, we saw the 25th Anniversary of the Robert Elms show. This is on BBC Radio London between 10am-1.30pm Mondays - Fridays and 10am-1pm on Saturdays. I have been listening to Robert since almost the beginning. Robert and I attended the same school, although he was three years older and I didn't know him. I did meet him briefly at The Ramones at the Roundhouse in 1977, as my sister who was also Ex Orange Hill met some schoolfriends at the gig and he was among the crowd, but I have to confess I don't remember that aspect of the evening. I was turned on to his show by my good friend Boz Boorer, another ex Orange Hiller, who informed me "Elms has a show on BBC Radio London, have a listen". By that point, I was aware of Robert as he wrote a for The Face magazine. He is great friends with the editor Graham Smith, who's brother Russell I played football with for many years (also ex Orange Hillers).

I have always tried top organise my days to listen to the show ever since. The reason? It is far and away the best way to get to know London. A couple of years ago, one of my Aussie Cousins emailed me to say she was coming to London. She asked what to do when she visited, I said "Listen to Robert Elms for a month before you come and you'll know as well as I do". She did and now is an avid listener in the outback of Queensland!

As I was involved in the Mill Hill Music Festival, I didn't get the chance to write this blog last week. I thought I'd catalogue the ten best things I've done in London as a result of listening to Roberts show.

1. The Elephant. This was a giant, mechanised elephant stalking the streets of London. Like many things, when I first heard about it, I thought it was bonkers. But curiosity got the better of me. It was a spectacle beyond belief. London does such things in an amazing way.

2. The reopening of Borough Market. After the appalling terrorist atrocity, Robert's show did a piece on the reopening, speaking to market traders. The market was shut for a couple of weeks for forensic purposes etc. As I mentioned, I used to work in Park St and use the food court regularly. I made a special trip to show my solidarity. I bought a stack of cheese, fish and meat and had lunch. A couple of the traders said that the response of Londoners was amazing. I wouldn't have known about the reopening without his show

3. Crossbones Graveyard. I used to work in an office in Park Street, just around the corner. I'd never even heard of this spot. Robert had a guest who had an installation at the site. It was amazing and learning about London history is one of the best aspects of his show.

4. Mikel Murfi at The Tricycle Theatre performing the Man in Womans shoes. This is the best thing I've seen at a smaller theatre venue. Robert had someone on the show talking about the Tricycle Theatre and as a result, I've kept an eye on whats on ever since. It is amazing how many little gems like this are only around the corner. We go quite regularly, it is now called the Kiln Theatre. You hear of all sorts of such places on his show.

5. A Tale of Two Barnets at The Phoenix Cinema. Back in 2012, we had a packed showing of the documentary film I produced with Charles Honderick at the Phoenix. The cinema was so packed we had to have two sittings! I got the idea when Robert interviewed someone from the Cinema, who mentioned that the cinema had many private screenings as well as showing all the best films. It had never occurred to me that you could simply rent a cinema and show your own film!

6.  The Punk Exhibition at The British Library. As an ageing punk, this was a joy. I don't keep an eye on the shows at the British Library so this would definitely have passed me by.

7. Oil City Confidential at The NFT. The Feelgoods film, followed by a gig featuring Wilko Johnson and Alison Moyet. This was an amazing night, and I heard about it on the Robert Elms show, as did a few friends. A large contingent attended this amazing night.

8.  Greenwich Royal Observatory - There was an amazing show which we took the kids to, probably about 2004, which we'd heard about on Roberts show. When you have small children and want different things to do, such tip offs are vital.

9. Richie Havens at the 100 club. There are many gigs I've seen over the years, and I keep a very close ear to the ground, but I've heard of 100's of these from Roberts show. If it wasn't for Robert I'd never have seen Richie Havens at the 100 club. I was listening to the show, he mentioned the gig and within 10 minutes I'd booked tickets. Richie was a hero of mine and I'd have missed him if it hadn't been for that moment. I probably book 10 shows a year as a result of tip offs from Robert and his show.

10. Whitecross Street food market. I was working around the corner from this near Moorgate for a while and was unaware of the amazing array of different street foods on sale. A throwaway comment about places with good street food caught my attention. I think a listener said it was the best and cheapest food to be had in Central London. A quick trip confirmed this. Even better you could get the food and eat it over a pint in the Two Brewers. A fantastic way to while away an afternoon!

There are plenty more things, I've no idea how many gigs, albums etc in total the show has introduced me to. We recently booked up for the Ronnie Scotts big party at the Albert Hall as it was mentioned on his show, so we'll be off to see Van Morrison. I hope that the show has another 25 years left in it. I think it is actually a far better show than when it started. Like a fine wine, it has matured.

Friday 28 June 2019

The Friday Joke - 28/6/2019

There has been few things I've seen this week that have made me smile. This did. I know it was from the 6th May, but I'd not seen it before. I think it's an excellent lesson for all tweeters. If you say something interesting, people will follow you (and you won't have to do all the 'I follow back noncense' )

And here's my picture of the week!

Have a great weekend

Thursday 27 June 2019

Exclusive - The insiders guide to how Boris Johnson will save the world

In my day job, I meet all manner of interesting and well connected people. You would be quite surprised how music brings us together. Whilst most of our customers are better known for their musical prowess, many people simply play instruments for pleasure and many more have children that are talented and have time to while away, whilst they have lessons etc. As they have time on their hands, many have a chat about life, the universe and everything. A few are involved in politics and some take an interest in the blog. I was fascinated to learn a few weeks ago that one of my customers has a role in the team helping Boris in his bid to become PM. This came to light recently in a conversation about the Mayor of London Sadik Khan and his polices towards live music. I made an off the cuff observation that he had been a massive disappointment and that Amy Lame had also been absolutely useless as a Night Time Tsar for the Mayor. There are real issues that could easily be addressed. I outlined many of the ideas of the #SaveLondonMusic campaign. My customer said "What about Boris?". I replied that he was even worse and had no interest at all in promoting live music when he was London Mayor. He was quite disappointed with my view of Mayor Johnson, but couldn't cite anything to support his contention that Boris was good for the London night time economy and live music scene.

On the next visit, some homework had been done. A few examples of initiatives under Boris were cited, but these were too little, too late. The London nightime commission, set up a few months before the end of his eight year reign being the main. At this point, my new friend explained their key role in Team Boris and his plans to become PM. I was pleased to learn that in the event of Boris becoming PM, I will be getting an invite to No 10 to discuss ways to improve the Live music scene (to be honest I'll believe it when I see it). 

I was more interested in what Boris will do if he becomes PM. The #Brexit problem is, in my opinion, not something within the remit of any PM to resolve. I expressed this view. My newfound friend smiled and said "Do you really think that Boris doesn't have a plan?". This fascinated me, Boris never really struck me as someone who had a plan for anything. "We'll he doesn't do detail, but he is great with strategy, that's why he beat Ken to become Mayor, when no one gave him a chance". So I asked what is his plan. The problem Boris has is that the October deadline is fixed and whoever wins has no majority, with a large number of Remain supporting MP's and the ERG. That is a circle that can't be squared. 

My new friend, to my amazement said "Boris isn't Theresa May, he knows that Parliament won't support any specific outcome." So how can he deliver? Well that is actually quite simple. He is not associated with the mess that Theresa May has cooked up. Once he has his feet under the desk, he will declare that things are far worse than he imagined now he has the full facts. He will declare that an emergency budget is required to prepare the economy for the shock of a hard Brexit and he will instruct the civil service to prepare immediately for a hard Brexit with no deal. He will hope that this will spook the EU into being more amenable. The emergency budget will effectively be a giveaway, which will put money in people's pockets. If the opinion polls react favourably, Boris will then call a general election in September or October, specifically stating that it is the only way to deliver a Brexit. Boris and his team believe that they can achieve a majority and that unlike Theresa May, they have a plan to thwart Jeremy Corbyn. Boris also knows that he has only a short honeymoon to do this. If Parliament thwarts his plans, he will go the way of Theresa May, only more quickly. Once Boris has a majority, he can then do what he likes, knowing that he has five years to pick up the pieces. His deal? He wants us to be in the Customs Union, but not in name, he wants all the MP's to come home and he wants to pay less than the £39 million divorce bill (even if it costs more in the long run) so that he can say he's got us a better deal. If he could trim it to £35 billion, he can claim that's £4 billion for the NHS. 

It all makes perfect sense to me. Of course this is just the view of one person on the team. I've no real idea if it is 'Plan Boris', but it sounds far more credible and sensible than anything either Mr Hunt or Mr Johnson has publicly uttered. Out of good manners, I asked if I could blog this. So long as it's unattributed was the answer. It seems that Tory MP's are not universally keen on the idea of snap election after the May debacle. This may also be misinformation, spread to unbalance the opposition. I can only speculate, but as a blogger, it would be remiss not to share it. Don't bother asking for any more details as they won't be forthcoming.  

And my views? I think Boris will romp the members vote, unless he falls under a bus, cardboard or otherwise. I suspect that we will still be in the EU on1st November. I suspect that Boris knows this as well. But he will only be able to say this when he has his feet under the desk and can say "Due to the previous administration, there have been no preparations and so we are moving the deadline to 25th December as a Christmas present to the British public". Leaving during a holiday when there are low traffic volumes etc would be a very smart move. It will give the ports etc time to prepare. Is Boris the best man for the job? Well personally I wouldn't choose either. I think Jeremy Hunt was an unmitigated disaster as health secretary and is dangerously right wing. I actually think that Boris is far more of a centre right character than he pretends. His term as Mayor demonstrated some clear One Nation tendencies, that his followers on the right have seemingly completely missed. I think Boris gets infrastructure. I suspect that on the plus side, he'll make sure London gets Crossrail 2 and will probably cancel Heathrow expansion and build Boris Island if he gets a 100 seat majority. 

As he is extremely crafty and duplicitous, I suspect that he'll neuter Farage by saying he needs a majority for a Hard Brexit and then when he's in power, Farage will discover how Boris's ex wives feel about him. Boris thinks he'll be the next Churchill. I agree, but sadly I think that Brexit will be the Boris Gallipoli moment. Whether we will get the D-Day moment when he's in his 70's and drinking a bottle of brandy a day, I really don't know. 

Wednesday 26 June 2019

What were the Finchley Conservatives thinking when they invited the DUP to tea?

Mike Freer + Husband
There are many things I disagree with the Finchley and Golders Green MP, Mike Freer about, however I support to the hilt his right to marry the partner of his choice. Mr Freer is entitled to meet someone, fall in love and marry them, because he lives in Finchley. He has taken advantage of this right and I for one hope Mike and his husband have a long happy life together.

However if he lived in Northern Ireland, this right would be denied. There is only one reason for this. The Democratic Unionist Party run the show and they believe that people involved in same sex relationships are second class citizens and should be denied the right to have their marriage legally recognised.

This documentary from the BBC gives some idea of the challenges that people face. I find the situation abhorrent.

Same-sex marriage

Why am I mentioning this? I was shocked this morning to see a tweet from the leader of the DUP amongst a sea of smiling faces of Finchley Conservatives in the Constituency offices of Mr Freer yesterday.

If you look at the responses there are some sickeningly fawning tweets in reply from various members of the Finchley Tory Party. Of course it is a free country, everyone is entitled to hold views which the rest of us find abhorrent. I am not one for stopping 'controversial' people speaking at such engagements. Not because I support them, but because it allows us to see the true colours of those that invite them. Had Arlene Foster not been invited, I would have no idea that the Finchley Conservatives were 'delighted' to sup with someone who actively blocks the rights of Gay people to marry and of women to determine what happens within their own bodies. They are happy to welcome the leader of a party who's sole reason for existence is to deepen and widen the secretarian divide in Norther Ireland, which is hugely insulting to everyone of Roman Catholic origin in the constituency.

The DUP leader with Finchley Tories last night
I would be interested to hear Mike Freer's views on the visit. It is convention that an MP is informed of such visits. Does he welcome the DUP Leaders visit? Does he agree with her policy for same sex marriage in Northern Ireland? Does he agree with the DUP's antipathy towards Roman Catholics? Does he agree with their policy towards womens rights. Is he happy to have him standing in his offices, under a picture of Lady Thatcher? These pictures send a strong statement to everyone in Finchley and Golders Green about the local Conservatives and where their sympathies lie. Whilst I am not shocked about some of them, the fact that Mike Freer, of all people, allowed such a person to be welcomed into his offices and extends such a warm welcome tells you all you need to know.

Tuesday 25 June 2019

What is wrong with Barnet Council? Democracy under threat!

The Mill Hill Music Festival is over, my thoughts return to more mundane issues. Much as I would like to avoid all matters Barnet Council, sadly sometimes one has to speak out. For over ten years, I have done everything possible to ensure that Barnet Council is run as well as possible. I've written over 4 million words of blog on the subject. I've attended over a hundred council meetings and asked God knows how many questions, with the aim of trying to draw attention to clear mistakes etc in council papers and bad policy decisions. This has lead to some extraordinary victories.

Perhaps the greatest of these was the unearthing of the Metpro scandal. I don't take sole credit for this, as my fellow Barnet bloggers all played an equally important role in exposing this. For the uninitiated, Barnet Council was employing a highly dodgy company to supply security services. The company did not have proper SIA accreditation. The company were submitting invoices including VAT when they were not registered. They were charging 30% more than the going rate. Following questions from bloggers, the Audit committee (under the chairmanship of Liberal Democrat opposition Councillor Lord Monroe Palmer) agreed to do an investigation. This was only achieved by all four bloggers asking numerous detailed questions. These convinced Lord Palmer that there was a significant problem. He ordered an inquiry. As a result, Metpro were dismissed, the council engaged a new supplier at 30% less. They also identified many unnecessary services. The review identified a whole stack of weaknesses in the general procurement system. I've no idea how much all of this has saved taxpayers, but on the security contract alone, it is over £2 million. The value of "armchair auditors" in this was recognised by the local government secretary Eric Pickles, who praised the Barnet bloggers at the Tory conference. I have always said that my problem was not with the colour of the administration, but with its inefficiency. Eric Pickles was a sensible secretary, who recognised that in many ways, despite our ideological differences, the Barnet bloggers were doing exactly what a sensible Tory would want us to do. The local Tories were highly embarrassed by Lord Pickles. Rather than realise they had £2 million more in the coffers, they reacted in the most bone headed way possible.

The first thing they did after the 2014 Council elections was abolish the precedent that guaranteed Audit committee independence. By convention, this committee, alone in Barnet, had an opposition party chair. This guaranteed independence. The chair was also a suitably qualified and senior councillor. This meant that there could be no hint of shenanigans. Lord Palmer welcomed the intervention of bloggers. He was a sensible, grown up politician, who did his job properly. By removing the independence, the credibility of the committee was undermined. Before the last election, Councillor Hugh Rayner, a long standing Tory councillor was in the role. He did a reasonable job, and at one meeting discussing Capita congratulated both myself and John Dix for bringing numerous issues to his attention. In his final speech, he stated that the councillors on the committee did not have the qualifications to do the job of audit oversight properly and called for more training for the committee.

Sadly, on his departure, this was not listened to. Tonight, the Constitution and General Purposes committee are debating placing the following restriction on Public engagement at meetings - Full details here

1.7 The Committee are requested to consider the proposals of the Monitoring Officer as set out below and comment accordingly:

1. Questions and comments should be amalgamated; it is perfectly possible to raise a comment as part of a question.  The number of words for each question/comment should be limited at 100.

2. Questions/comments should be raised under the current rules for questions.  This means that the council and lead officer would have notice of the question/comment before the meeting and would therefore be in a position to amend the committee report (if necessary) to include a relevant matter raised in the question/comment, if not currently within the committee report.

3. Residents may raise one question/comment on an agenda item.  The question/comment must relate to the substantive matter to be determined by the committee.  No more than two questions from residents will be allowed per agenda item taken in the order of receipt by the Governance Service.

4. Residents may raise one question/comment per committee meeting in order to allow as many residents as possible to raise questions/comments and ask a supplementary question at Committee.

5. The deadline for submitting a question/comment be extended to 10am two clear working days before the meeting.  Questions/comments will be responded to verbally at the meeting only.  Residents will be able to ask one supplementary question for each question/comment made.  If there is insufficient time to deal with all questions in the 30 minutes of allocated time, a written response will be provided within a reasonable period.  The Chairman should also have the discretion to request that a question answered at the meeting also be responded to in writing.

Under these rules, there is no way that the Metpro scandal (or any of the numerous problems that Bloggers have uncovered) could have been drawn to the attention of the relevant committees.  Let me spell out the issues (My comments in Red Italics)

1. Questions and comments should be amalgamated; it is perfectly possible to raise a comment as part of a question.  The number of words for each question/comment should be limited at 100.

If there is a complex technical issue to raise as a question, an arbitrary 100 word limit will prevent a properly constructed question, this is especially true for issues on budget. It will result in simple, inane, sloganistic questions, rather than sensible, well thought out, detailed questions.

2. Questions/comments should be raised under the current rules for questions.  This means that the council and lead officer would have notice of the question/comment before the meeting and would therefore be in a position to amend the committee report (if necessary) to include a relevant matter raised in the question/comment, if not currently within the committee report.

This is a sensible amendment

3. Residents may raise one question/comment on an agenda item.  The question/comment must relate to the substantive matter to be determined by the committee.  No more than two questions from residents will be allowed per agenda item taken in the order of receipt by the Governance Service.

If a resident notices multiple problems within a report, it will now be impossible for more than one to be addressed. This will mean that there is no opportunity to correct obvious errors. This will also favour organised pressure groups, trades unions and political campaigns, who can muster a gang of questioners, over ordinary, concerned residents. 

4. Residents may raise one question/comment per committee meeting in order to allow as many residents as possible to raise questions/comments and ask a supplementary question at Committee.

This is highly dishonest. Under the present system, residents questions are round robin'd so that you ask a question, then the next resident on the list does. When all residents have had a turn, the process starts again. No resident misses an opportunity under the existing system. 

5. The deadline for submitting a question/comment be extended to 10am two clear working days before the meeting.  Questions/comments will be responded to verbally at the meeting only.  Residents will be able to ask one supplementary question for each question/comment made.  If there is insufficient time to deal with all questions in the 30 minutes of allocated time, a written response will be provided within a reasonable period.  The Chairman should also have the discretion to request that a question answered at the meeting also be responded to in writing.

Whilst I welcome the extension of the deadline, the lack of a written answer is a clear attempt to a) limit the time available for questions. By answering the question, rather than supplying an answer, the half hour will soon be eaten up. Furthermore, it gives little opportunity for residents to ask supplementary questions. In short this is a ruse to stifle debate.

It is clear that the new leader of the Barnet Tories, Councillor Dan Thomas, is not keen on the public, transparency or engagement. This is his first action and it is quite frankly despicable. Once there is a new Prime Minister, I will be writing to them to draw their attention to this issue. Everyone in Barnet should be concerned. If for no other reason than the fact that the Borough would be £2 million worse off if these rules had been in place in 2012. What sort of regime excludes the public and stifles public debate.

Monday 24 June 2019

The Mill Hill Music Festival - End of Festival report

On Saturday, we had the final night of the 13th Mill Hill Music Festival. Last night, after 9 days of frantic activity, I had an early night and slept like a log! So how did it all go?

Well here is the summary. 

Friday the 14th June
Hartley Hall - The Hendon Band of The Salvation Army

I couldn't attend this event, as I was at the Adam and Eve. Clare attended, the Hall was full and the band played an excellent programme of music. The band are one of the regular features of the festival and traditionally open the festival

The Adam and Eve  - The Ron Lewis Partnership with The False Dots

This was an amazing night. My band played a short acoustic set, to kick things off and then the mighty Ron Lewis Partnership got the whole place up and boogieing

Saturday 15th 
The BBC Elstree Concert Band

This was the first concert to sell out and the audience were not disappointed. The BBC Elstree band are festival regulars and the audience loved their program of music from The Oscars.

Sunday 16th 
The Adam and Eve - The Ron Russell Partnership

Our traditional Jazz lunch was well attended and was a blast. It's not often you see a Jazz lunch end with the double bass player dancing with members of the audience!
This was me during the soundcheck!

Monday 17th
Mill Hill Synagogue - Stewart Curtis with K-Groove

This is a beautiful venue and there was some excellent music played. Stewart Curtis is a highly accomplished musician and the crowd were given an absolute treat.

Tuesday 18th 
Hartley Hall - The Charles Court Opera performing HMS Pinafore

This was a tumultuous night. Once again Hartley Hall was packed and the show was excellent. Charles Court Opera are highly professional and put on a show that is both uplifting and great fun.

Wednesday 19th 
St Pauls Church - Organ and Harp Recital

This show featured some absolutely amazing music, from such great composers as JS Bach. The acoustics of the church are incredible and this was the best attended classical concert the Festival has staged at St Pauls.
Mill Hill Golf Club - Jimmy Cannon and Elizabeth Tillotson

Sadly I could only pop in for a quick shandy after the recital. I caught a number by Elizabeth Tillotson, which was an excellent jazz blues number. Every table was busy, so I rather hope a few new people have discovered the delights of the Mill Hill Jazz Club.
Thursday 20th
Hartley Hall - The Alan Barnes Octet

Alan Barnes is a true giant in the Jazz world. This was a special gig for the committee. It was the last concert organised by Brian Peerless, our Jazz expert, before his sad and sudden passing last November. His great friend and fellow committee member Luciana read a heartfelt tribute to Brian. The band also dedicated several numbers to Brian and Alan shared some great stories.

Friday 21st 
Mill Hill Golf Club - The Foundations with Recollection

The Foundations were amazing. Hits such as Build Me Up Buttercup and Baby, no that I found you, were interspersed with soul classics. The Foundations were the first UK multi racial band to have a no 1 hit. I think the audience saw why! Recollection as support were excellent.

Saturday 22nd 
The Adam and Eve - Joe Angel and the Pamodzi band + Charlotte

And we finished with a  real blast, Joe Angel at The Adam and Eve. This was an amazing night, the busiest ever according to the pub. I didn't count (how could you), but I wouldn't be surprised if over 300 people were there. There was literally no room at all when the band were playing. The support from Charlotte, a young artist from Mill Hill County High was also brilliant. I suspect that she will be a star of the future, not too many people can carry off an Amy Winehouse number, with just a single guitar, excellently performed by Ollie. 

So that's what happened. How did it happen? Well in the early summer last year, the festival organising committee held a meeting to decide whether to proceed or not. The committee were Dan Bleich, Sarah Bourn, Lucia Carabine, Gerry Keane,  Brian Peerless, Joan Scannell MBE, Clare Tichborne and Roger Tichborne (me). The first job was to agree to proceed. With this in the bag, we then set about securing the venues. One of the great by products of the festival is that we can put some cash in the coffers of the local venues, which helps support our local community. We soon agreed to proceed and secured Hartley Hall, St Pauls Church, The Adam and Eve, Mill Hill Golf Club and The Synagogue. With the venues secured, we all started recruiting artists for the program. I was tasked with organising the popular music slate. This meant The Ron Lewis Partnership, The Foundations and Joe Angel. Joan organised the Salvation Army, Sarah organised the Recital, Dan organised the Opera, Clare organised the BBC Elstree Band and Brian the Jazz program. I also booked the Klezmer, Val at The Mill Hill Jazz club organised her act. In October, we had meeting to pencil the names in. The next meeting was scheduled for early December. Before this occurred, a bomb was dropped. Brian unexpectedly passed away. This was a massive shock to us all. The first question was "should we proceed", but all agreed that Brian would be horrified if we didn't. There was also concern that the Jazz bands were doing Brian a favour and may not be so interested. This proved to be completely unfounded, as they were desperate to pay tribute.

By Jaunary, we had the programme ready. There was much proof reading etc. By March, 12,000 leaflets were ordered and we then had a three month publicity blitz, with a huge leaflet drop and social media posts. We also had numerous logistic planning meetings. In the past, Lesley, our bar co-Ordinator had dealt with that, but she was unavailable. Clare took on the co-ordination and a team of volunteers was put together, with Joan and Clare sorting the details.
 In April, whilst leafletting, we had a volunteer to replace Brian. Rob Sykes got hold of a leaflet and offered his help. It was agreed that he'd attend meetings etc and see if he enjoyed the experience. I think he did!

As it was the 13th Festival, being superstitious, I was worried. The sad passing of Brian was not exactly a great start. I am pleased to report that apart from an accident at St Pauls, requiring a precautionary ambulance and Dan being savaged by a sausage dog on the final night, it went rather smoothly.

I must, at this point,  say thanks to the people who have helped, especially Fr Stephen and Gillian and Pete at Hartley Hall, Paulo and the team at The Adam and Eve, Rabbi Schochet, Gerry and Marshall and their team at Mill Hill Synagogue, Rev Jo, Rev Jan, Bob, Jenny and Jill at St Pauls, Val and Gordon at The Mill Hill Jazz Club, Pete and the team at Mill Hill Golf Club, and our amazing helpers Mary, Sue, Yumery, Joan, Val, Elaine, Gordon, Stephen, Fil, Matthew, Paul and all of those that my brain is too fried to recall right now. Thanks to Marina Hobson OBE, our patron for her continued support.  Without all of these people, we couldn't stage the festival. For Clare and Dan who do most of the paperwork etc, the festival is a year long activity, I handle the logistics with Gerry so for us it is a hectic two weeks. For the rest of the committee, there are specific tasks in the run up and then some very busy and late nights. I usually put a stone on during the festival and my cholesterol goes through the roof, as all I eat is burgers and chicken from Red Rooster at midnight! If we did it all the time, I'd probably be dead long ago. 

The numbers were good. Around 150 musicians participated. A finger in the air calculation is that over 2,000 people attended. We run the festival on a not for profit basis. The aim is to pay the performers and to keep prices down. Every venue met or exceeded its numbers, so we have a small profit to carry forward to 2021. Unlike most festivals, there is no grant, no subsidy and no major corporate sponsors. Mill Hill Wines, support us, by acting as box office at no cost, which is amazing. They also help out with loan of glasses etc. Please buy a bottle of wine there if you enjoyed the Festival, or even better attend a tasting!  You won't be disappointed.

My company, Mill Hill Music Complex sponsors the PA and sound equipment. This is probably worth £2,000 and makes the popular music content deliverable. It is one of the benefits of running your own business, you can do such things. From a hard nosed commercial perspective, it is good business, as it puts the words "Mill Hill Music" in the public psyche, and we have had great support from BBC Radio London etc, in the promotion.

Yesterday all of the PA systems, lights and staging went home! There will be repairs and testing this week, but all in all, it's been a very successful week. 

Hendon Development - A guest blog by Gerrard Roots

Hendon in recent years seems to have become a mere adjunct of Middlesex University (MU). It now appears that MU's domination of the area is to be extended even futher. Plans are afoot to demolish the former Meritage Club (now Well-being Hub), and adjoining buildings (including the Citizens Advice Bureau and the Mencap respite house) at Church End NW4, to be replaced with halls of residence for some 260 students; to demolish the Ravensfield House and Fenella buildings (currently used as MU offices) and nearby shops on the Burroughs, to be replaced by halls of residence to house twice that number of students; and to create a new office block behind Hendon Library (on the site of the old children's clinic) to accommodate the MU staff displaced from Fenella and Ravensfield. (The plans claim that the essential services, and the shops, will - eventually- be reinstated.)

These plans were inadvertently revealed when a 'restricted' document, appended to a report on the Hendon Development, to be discussed at Barnet's Assets, Regeneration and Growth Committee on 13 June, appeared openly online. The document was overnight retrieved, and resticted once more. However, I had read the plans and felt that as now they were in the public arena they should be discussed by the ARG Committee in public. I submitted a question about the plans, was asked- courteously- by the Head of Governance- to withdraw it ,but refused to do so. (How could I 'un-read' what I've read). My question was put on the agenda, with a written reply saying that the plan had been revealed by 'human error'. I attended the meeting, asked a supplementary question, only to be told that as the document had only been revealed by mistake there could be no response from the Committee The whole agenda item (initially designated as 'public') was then discussed only after the removal of the press and public from the meeting.

This raises two points. Church End is one of LBB's Conservation areas. With St Mary's Church and Church House, the Model Farmhouse and its former Milking Parlour, Rose Cottages, the Greyhound pub, and Church Farm House (formerly LBB's museum) it is one of the few tangible reminders of Hendon' s rural past. Its survival is essential. No-one would argue that the 1970s Meritage, etc, buildings, were in themselves attractive, but they are small-scale, and they currently house important services to the public. Their replacements will be three four-storey blocks ('world-class' of course as so obviously all MU new buildings are) which will overshadow everything around them and largely serve only the University. There will be no parking places, as MU's policy is that that its students should not have cars. Any resident of Church End/ Greyhound Hill and envirions will know that MU students have, shall we say, a different view.

The second point regards Barnet Borough's attitude to this farce. I have been told that the agenda item was merely to allow councillors to vote to approve a Strategic Outline Case or SOC: i.e an exploration of the financial impications of the plan. I was told that there would be extensive committee debate once the plans were fully framed, and a public consutation before any final decisions were made. So what? The scheme will happen because the scheme suits Middlesex University, and this small, senstive area of old Hendon will beyet further bombarded with buildings and traffic. I have no grudge against MU, far from it, but the University is just one other organization that Barnet's Tories are in thrall to. In Hendon it's MU, elsewhere in the Borough, it's the major building developers,' free' school chains, even Saracens RFC. (Of course, internally, Barnet is under the thumb of Capita.) This suits Barnet's complacent, ignorant and idle Tory councillors perfectly. Let such organizations decide what they want, and then simply vote in favour of it. Curiously, the only group that Barnet's Tories are not in thrall to is the Borough's ordinary residents; they are of no importance and may be safely ignored.

Here is a small film I made with Gerrard on the day Church Farmhouse museum closed.

Gerrard Roots is a resident of Hendon and the former curator of Church Farmhouse Museum. Guest Blogs are always welcome

Sunday 23 June 2019

The Mill Hill Music Festival - Putting it all to bed for two years

Last night was the final night of the Mill Hill Music Festival. We had a party at the Adam and Eve. What a party it was. The pub tell us that it was their best ever night. It has never been so busy in the nearly two hundred years that a pub as been on the site! There was no space at all inside and the garden was completely packed as well. As the festival goes through the week, the excitement builds and on the final night Mill Hill traditionally lets its collective hair down. We had two amazing acts.

First up we had Charlotte, accompanied by Elliott, a young duo from Mill Hill County School. The festival traditionally supports new, young local artists, and giving them a slot on one of our busiest nights was a great way to showcase them. The audience went wild and this short clip shows why

Then we had a tour de force from one of my best friends in the local music scene, Joe Angel. If you book Joe for a show, you are booking a guaranteed party, and that is exactly what the Adam and Eve had.

Joe is a talented performer, full of charisma, he has a great voice and an amazing band. As a couple of his usual band members had gigs elsewhere, he had to pull in a few favours, but didn't disappoint and the place went wild.

We had spent most of the day rigging the stage, PA and lighting and it was great to see it put to such great effect. When Joe finished, I played my Ska selection to keep the party going. We finished at midnight and by 00.30am had it all broken down and were on the road. As a crew, we are a pretty slick operation.

This morning, we unloaded it all back to our studio storerooms. And by mid day, that was that for two years. Later in the week, when I've had a chance to gather my thoughts, I'll write a full report, but I can say that this year was probably our biggest and best festival. All in all, well over 2,000 people attended the events over the nine days. The festival aims to do three things. The first is to promote live music in Mill Hill. The second is to bring our community together. The third is to showcase our area. I think we totally succeeded in all three.

Saturday 22 June 2019

Mill Hill Music Festival Day 9 - Rog's Festival Diary

We close the festival with Joe Angel
Wow, what a night we had last night. For us festival organisers it was a very long day. We started at 10am, building stages, erecting Gazebo's, putting up security fencing and lighting, etc. By 4pm, the site was ready for our soundman Vince to begin the erection of the sound system. Vince is the go to man for larger PA systems in Barnet and for an outside gig, with a nine piece band, he is the ideal man. As I mentioned yesterday, I've known Vince for 30 odd years and he's a man I trust implicitly to do the job and he didn't disappoint. We had an amazing crowd for the gig. First up were Recollection, one of the better covers bands in the locality. They served up an excellent set of standards and got everyone well warmed up for the Foundations.

The Foundations came on just as the sun was setting and the whole place was up having a boogie from the first bar of the first number. It was great to see so many friends turn up for the evening. The Golf club serves great beer and good food at more than reasonable prices. Where else could you watch a band with no 1 hits around the world and have a burger and chips thrown in for £20? The setting is glorious for gigs and with the amazing music, it was one of the most memorable nights in Mill Hill.

Here's a few snippets

Recollection kicked off at around 8.15, the sun was shining and during the set, the crowds built up (especially for the burgers). This is a short snippet of the Zutons Valerie, and a 360 degree tour of the venue.

Then we had the Foundations, this was the closing number, their iconic No 1 global hit, Build Me Up Buttercup

If you were wondering what numbers you missed, here's the setlist

It was a late night, with all of the gear needing to be put away, followed by a busy morning taking down stages and gazebo's, big shout out to the local scouts for the loan of the Gazebo, the festival is a truly community based festival, with local Churches, Synagogue, Scouts, sports clubs, businesses and residents all coming together to support us. Just to give you some idea, last night there were over 25 committee members and volunteers involved in the various tasks, as well as the Golf club staff of perhaps another 20 to serve food and beer and manage the logistics. To host the 300 odd people on site and make sure they didn't wait too long to get served with food or drinks is a massive planning operation. I like to think that every year the festival gets a bit better. We also had a surprise visitor, who was most welcomed. I was asked to join the Festival organising Committee by original founder, Jane Ellison, back in the 1990's. Jane was formerly a Conservative Councillor in Mill Hill, before moving to Battersea and winning the seat as an MP in 2010. She seemed set for great things, but narrowly lost her seat in 2017, following the snap election. Jane now works for the World Health Organisation in Geneva, but flew in specially to see the Foundations. Although we stand on different sides of the political divide, I've always had huge admiration for Jane as a proper politician who served the community and got things done. We need more people like Jane on all sides of the political spectrum. It was great to see her and she had a blast. She can be proud of her legacy in Mill Hill.

And so on to tonight. One of my favourite bands is closing the festival, Joe Angel and the Pamodzi band. I like them so much, I got them to play at my wife Clare's 50th birthday party a couple of years ago. Come down tonight to see why! I've got to walk the doggies now, then build a stage and a PA system at the Adam and Eve.

Hope to see you later.

Friday 21 June 2019

Mill Hill Music Festival Day 8 - Rog's Festival Diary

It feels like the end is in sight! The penultimate day of the festival. Tonight we have an amazing concert with The Foundations, 60's soul legends. It is a special gig for me. Alan Warner, the guitarist is one of my oldest friends in the music business. He is a bit of a mentor in many ways. When I was a spotty, 16 year old guitarist, I recorded a series of demo's with my band in his private studio. Alan is an amazing guitarist, I could hardly play the instrument. We were a truly awful band at the time. My schoolmate Boz Boorer from the Polecats had recorded a demo at Alan's studio and got a record deal with independent label Nervous records. It seemed to me an obvious thing to do. I realised that the level of musicianship in The False Dots was nowhere near as accomplished as the Polecats, so I thought it would be wise to seek Alan's advice.

I told him we wanted to record a demo, but would appreciate some advice. He came down to a rehearsal and I don't think that even though he'd been in the business for a decade or so, and had international hits, he'd never seen anything quite as awful as the fledgling Dots. I suspect any other sane, rational human being would have run a mile. What did Alan do? He arranged for a professional drummer to join the band, gave me some advice on songwriting and told us to rehearse like hell. We took the advice and when the first demo was done, everyone was astounded. Years after, when Al became a firm friend, I asked him why he bothered. He said that although the band was musically awful, he recognised that we were good songwriters and needed encouragement. He also recognised that we had a 'proper band chemistry'. I owe Alan a huge debt for that. That is why tonights gig is special for me. The band are amazing and as Alan lives in Mill Hill, it is only right that he headlines the biggest gig in Mill Hill this year. Ticket sales have been amazing and it will be a great night. The support band are Recollection, which has Gerry Keane on guitar. I have known Gerry since I was four. He was at both St Vincents and Finchley Catholic High with me. Gerry was the first person I knew to start a band and they did a gig at FCHS when were both 14 or 15 years old. I immediately was inspired. If Gerry could do that, so could I. Gerry is a ot more conventional a guitarist than I am. His band are a really solid 60's and 70's covers band and throw in some of the better contemporary music as well. It is no exaggeration to say that I am excited. Even better, I am not doing the PA, having outsourced it to a good mate of mine Vince. I worked with Vince at BACS over 30 years ago. He has built up the best hire rig in Barnet and is the go to man for any bigger gig we arrange. As the gig at the Golf club is outside and there are many logistical issues, it is great to have him on board. Tickets are still available for tonights show and will be on sale at the door. If you pick them up from Mill Hill wines, they are only £13. On the door they are £15.

Last night we had Jazz legend Alan Barnes with his Octet at Hartley Hall. It was an amazing show. It fell to me to do the sound system. It was easy and a pleasure. The hall was packed again. Here are a few snippets.

The concert was in memory of our Jazz organiser Brian Peerless, who passed away in November. This was his swansong, the last gig he booked for the festival. There was not a dry eye in the house as committee member Luciana read a tribute. Alan Barnes dedicated several numbers to Brian in his storming set.

It was our final night at Hartley Hall. It was  pleasure afterwards for the Festival team to adjourn to The Bridge Tavern for last orders. We bought Gillian, the amazing Hall coordinater a half of lager for her efforts. Scant reward, but as she says she loved helping, she seemed happy. We had an amazing team of volunteers running our bars etc, so big thanks to Mary, Sue, Yumery, Joan, Val, Elaine and all the others who pitched in. Pete the caretaker also did a sterling job. Hartley Hall has become the cultural centre of Mill Hill. The team deserves a big shout out, as does the Vicar Stephen, who has been highly supportive.

Anyway that's it from me. Got a festival to run!

Thursday 20 June 2019

Mill Hill Music Festival Day 7 - Rog's Festival Diary

Three days to go, six in the bag! Last night we had two concerts and I managed to take in both. The first was at St Pauls Church, featuring a Harp and Organ recital. The concert featured Sam Austen on Organ and Milo Harper on Harp. St Pauls is an amazing setting for such a concert, and it worked exceptionally well. Usually when we've had classical music at St Pauls, we've had an audience of 50-60. This was what we were expecting and as we we gave the audience a complimentary glass of wine or soft drink at the interval, we catered accordingly. Lasts nights audience was twice that size, with 22 people turning up on the door. As a result, Dan was dispatched to Mill Hill Wines to pick up more supplies.

The concert was organised by committee member Sarah, who did an amazing job. St Pauls were very supportive and there was not too much for us to do, other than usher people in and take tickets. Sadly one of the audience, and elderly lady, had an accident making her way to her seat. An ambulance had to be summoned as a precaution to ensure she was alright. Fortunately the paramedics arrived promptly and without fuss made sure she was alright. As a precaution she was taken to A&E, with her family. As ever, when I have to deal with the parts of the NHS I am suitably impressed. Interestingly enough, this morning as I am writing this, on BBC Radio London, the morning show was about females doing front line jobs. The ambulance crew was all female and I had absolute confidence in them. Not relevant to the festival, but I felt it is important to stress that London is a city where we passionately believe in equality and the crew made me feel proud of our city. As we were waiting for the ambulance to depart, one of the paramedics complemented the beautiful sounds coming from the Church. She said that she'd have loved to have attended.

The concert was a great success and as the audience left, they were highly complimentary. I had a chat with one lady, who told me it was the fourth event she'd attended, but she was going to Whitstable today, so that was her lot! She told me that she's a widow and since her husband passed away, she really appreciates such events, as an opportunity to get out and meet people. For me, the way the Festival brings the community together is as important as the music. At every event people have told me they've seen friends they haven't seen for ages.

After the concert finished, I made my way up to Mill Hill Golf Club. This is the home of The Mill Hill Jazz club. They organised the event and we include it as part of the festival. Again it was encouraging to see a great crowd for Jimmy Cannon and Elisabeth Tillotson.

They presented a lively Jazz show. It was great to see Stewart Curtis with his wife at the show, Stewart played on Monday with K-Groove at the Synagogue. It was a small example of how the local musical community support each other.Sadly I had to leave before the end of the show. Clare had been playing with The BBC Elstree Concert Band at The Elstree Festival at Allum Hall and had some timpani's to unload from the car.

Yesterday was a light day for me. From here on in, it is a different story. Today we have an amazing show, with Jazz Sax legend Alan Barnes at Hartley Hall. This means that a PA has to be provided, so its a load in/load out and an evening sitting by a desk. I am much looking forward to it.

There are still tickets available, so if you fancy some truly awesome music tonight, come along. Tickets can also be purchased at Mill Hill Wines. There are also tickets available for tomorrow night. Must shoot, got to walk dogs, check PA system and all sorts of other things!


Wednesday 19 June 2019

Foundation Tickets back on Sale & Mill Hill Music Festival Day 6 - Rog T's Festival Diary

First up, some exciting news. We had put sale of tickets for The Foundations on hold due as we'd reached the indoor capacity. As the weather forecast is now for fine weather, the event can be held outside. This means that we are reopening sale of tickets. If you order them in advance, they are only £13, if you buy them on the night they will be £15, so place your order now.

You can order them via the Festival Website for collection on the door, or buy them from Mill Hill Wines.

The link to order is here this will be an amazing night!

****** Rog's Festival Diary ******
So we are now more than half way through the festival and thus far it has been magnificent. Last night we had a barnstorming performance of HMS Pinafore by The Charles Court Opera at The Hartley Hall. When we put the events in the programme together, each committee member will suggest specific events and then they deal with the organisation. The Opera is very much the baby of Dan. I consider myself an expert in the matter of all things Rock & Pop gig organising, but Opera is a completely different matter. For one thing there is no PA system, there is an elaborate stage and the lighting and staging is key. Therefore to stage such an event in a festival, you really do need to work with a professional company. Over the 26 years of the Festival, we've dealt with quite a number of these. Last night we hosted the Charles Court Opera Company. I have to say that in terms of professionalism, they were A*. The festival crew did our bit, supplying a Hall and selling all of the tickets. The team at Charles Court did the rest and very impressive it was too. My involvement was limited to setting up chairs, acting as door usher and lugging out the heavy set at the end.

The audience were extremely appreciative of the show. Many people were asking to have the company back next time. As you can imagine, Dan was very pleased with the response. Best of all, the show broke even, which, as a festival organiser is a very good thing. To stage an opera in the Hartley Hall, at reasonable prices, we rely on a sell out crowd and a decent bar taking, and had both. The Mill Hill Music Festival gets no grants or support from the arts council or The London Borough of Barnet. We aim to operate on a not for profit basis and any profits we make are ploughed back in to the festival. This has allowed us to buy stages, lighting and means we have the cash in the bank to print the programmes and pay the up front costs for the next festival. Our mission is to put high quality music on in Mill Hill at a reasonable cost, to bring the community together and to promote live music. I think we do rather well. All of the committee and volunteers are unpaid and do it for the love of music. Some of us are musicians, some of us are just music lovers. We all have different tastes and our aim is to provide a mix for everyone.

Tonight we have a very interesting programme.

First up, we have an amazing classical music concert.  An exciting collaboration between Samuel Austin (organ) and Milo Harper (harp) with a variety of solos and duets at the lovely setting of this church. The concert will feature a programme of chamber music from the 18th century to the present day.

For this collaboration between Samuel Austin (organ) and Milo Harper (harp), we will hear a variety of solos and duets at the lovely setting of this church. The concert will feature a programme of chamber music from the 18th century to the present day, with familiar classics including works by composers such as Bach and Handel, as well as some lesser known works by composers such as Hindemith.

The ensemble is a blend of two of the most ancient instruments and promises to be a delightful evening in the favourable acoustics of St Paul’s Church. Samuel studied organ at The Birmingham Conservatoire and The Royal Northern College of Music, winning the coveted Organ Recital Prize at the latter. Samuel is now the Assistant Director of Music at Aldenham School, as well as Director of Music at St Paul’s Mill Hill! Milo Harper is also a multi-award winning harpist, he is gaining a reputation as one of the leading UK harpists of his generation. Samuel and Milo have come together to organise what will surely be a scintillating programme of music for tonight’s event.

Then we have some high quality jazz at the Mill Hill Golf Club, hosted by The Mill Hill Jazz Club.

We have two of Londons finest Jazz singers,

Elizabeth Tillotson and Jimmy Cannon. Together, they will be exploring songs from both the American and British songbook with music from the Golden Age of songwriting, covering the jazz standards you love. Jimmy is also an accomplished saxophonist who has toured and performed with Sir Tom Jones, The Commitments, The Syd Lawrence Orchestra, The Rat Pack touring show, Rodriguez, Maroon Town, Roger Taylor, and Mbawula. Highly regarded London based singer and pianist Elizabeth Tillotson graduated from Leeds College of Music with a first in jazz, and has been in demand ever since. With her exquisite phrasing and understated vocal style, Elizabeth brings a memorable interpretation of her extensive repertoire of well known songs. They will be joined by a selection of top class musicians for tonight’s performance.

So what are my plans for today. It is a fairly light day for me. The classical concert requires no PA system and the Jazz club host the 'Later' event, so I will help on the door at St Pauls Church, then have a beer and watch some quality jazz after. As the next three days will be full on, it will be a welcome break! Tomorrow night we have a very special show. It features the Alan Barnes Octet and is a tribute to Brian Peerless, our Festival Jazz impresario. Brian organised this event, before he passed away in January. It will be his final curtain call as a festival organiser and Alan has prepared a special trubute to him. I don't expect a dry eye in the house.

That's it from me. I'm off to the studio to earn some money!

Tuesday 18 June 2019

The Mill Hill Music Festival Day 5 - Rog's festival diary

So today is the half way point in the festival. I suppose that technically, the mid point will be around 815pm during the interval at the performance of HMS Pinafore, by The Charles Court Opera.

So what have we learned so far? Every event has been well attended. Mill Hill has a large base of  music lovers, who are happy to turn out for our events. We've learned that people get excited by the Festival and put events in their diaries more or less as soon as they hear about them. We've learned that people love the eclectic mix of events we put on. We've learned that Mill Hill has some amazing venues for live music. There are a few other things we've learned. People seem to be drinking less. Every time we've staged an event featuring the BBC Elstree Concert band, the shows have sold out, but this time we sold more bottled water than wine for the first time ever! Also for the first time, people turned up without cash, wanting to pay for a drink by card. As the festival is run by volunteers every two years, getting a card payment option for events would simply be impractical. Fortunately, the individual in question was able to borrow a fiver from a friend, for a glass of wine and a bottle of water. 

So on to yesterdays activity. We had the amazing Stewart Curtis with K Groove at The Mill Hill Synagogue. It was a well attended event, in an amazing setting. The hall is a great venue, with much thought put into the acoustics and the comfort of people attending events. The synagogue were extremely helpful as the event was for the community, with the security charges waived and members of the team volunteering. This made a huge difference to the finances. As the festival is run on a not for profit basis, this allowed the prices to be kept reasonable.

For me the festival day started at 2pm. We arrived at the studio to collect the staging, lights and PA system. I had some other work to do at the studio, so having loaded the van up, I eventually departed at 4pm. Gerry, Steve and Dan had started on setting up the stage and lights. By 5pm, the PA was set up and ready for the band. By 6.15, they were assembled and did a leisurely sound check. Stewarts band are very professional and easy going and it is always a pleasure to work with them. 

Here are a couple of tweets that you can get a flavour of what we enjoyed.

It was as smooth as cream! No tantrums and tiara's there! I know several of the band from the studios and it was great to be paying them for a change!

At 7pm, the crowds came in and were treated to around two and a half hours of excellent music. At the end. all of our team of volunteers pitched in, breaking things down etc. By 10.45, the PA system was all back at the studio and I was tucking into a tasty chicken shish kebab from Cobans. As I hadn't eaten since lunchtime, that was most welcome.

Today we have the Charles Court Opera. For me this is a light day. No PA systems to be lugged, no stages to be moved. The company have their own riggers. The event is almost sold out and it will be a full house, I think there are maybe ten tickets left, so if you want to get one, get down to Mill Hill Wines ASAP or turn up as early as possible.

And that's that for today.