October 2006 Archives

Street light halo (small).jpg An online pledge-petition has just been created in support of lobbying MPs for the experimental introduction of 'daylight saving'. Twenty-first century climate change, with its requirement that we save energy wherever possible, makes the need for this proposed three-year experiment even more pressing.

I've timed this blog to come on-stream at a very particular point in the year - the exact date and time (in 2006, Sunday 29 October at 2 a.m.) when the clocks go back one hour for the duration of the Winter. It's an hour when I hope I shall not be paying much attention, but also one that many of us anticipate at best with unease. The extra hour in bed tomorrow morning is great; the prospects daylight-wise from now until the end of March are not.

Rethinking daylight for the 21st Century
There are various moves afoot to keep this issue in the public eye. There's a bill (probably about to expire) in the Lords, and just this morning (Saturday 28th October '06) there was news that the Local Government Association has joined the Policy Studies Institute in predicting a reduction in accidents and other unpleasant things if we moved the entire day forward by one hour throughout the year - which would mean one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time in the Winter, and two hours ahead ('Double Summer Time') for the rest of the year.

And now we have the blog-petition: SaveOurDaylight is an extension of the debate which surprises me not at all. It's organised by Victor Keegan, who has also written a piece for The Guardian's Comment is Free on the issue.

Mr Keegan has pledged to write to his MP about this if 50 other people sign up to do the same. My guess on the basis of the enormous interest in the 'clocks go forward / back' entries on this website is that he will need to be looking for his pen and paper before too long at all.

The benefits are real
Of course there are a few people in any situation for whom change brings problems, but the evidence favouring change so far is overwhelming. And that's before we even seriously get to the environmental advantages -now critical, but not much factored in during previous examinations of the benefits of so-called 'daylight saving'. In my books the challenges of climate change really have to be the clincher.

The petition is there to be signed. Go for it!

As I keep saying, it really is a win-win.

The full debate about BST is in the section of this website entitled BST: British Summer Time & 'Daylight Saving' (The Clocks Go Back & Forward).....

Wind turbine (small).jpg It's a big distance from the mythical Northlands of Noggin the Nog, to the brutal facts of global warming, but Noggin's creator, Oliver Postgate, is doing his bit to help. The next step is to try to understand the realities of the complex connections between science, politics and people. Then we really shall begin to see how to establish sustainable living, and how to deliver on the ground what we know in theory is required.

Oliver Postgate is a name which takes me back many years..... it turns out because he's the author of the wonderful Sagas of Noggin the Nog which were so enjoyed by us all at a point where little bedtime stories featured large in our lives.

But now Mr Postgate is appearing in another guise, in The Guardian advertisements (the latest on 16 October), bringing news of potential environmental doom for our planet.

Good for Oliver Postgate. He has seen how urgent is the task of acting to control (or hopefully reverse) environmental damage, and he is doing something about it. This position may be a very long way from the gentle Northlands of Noggin the Nog, but, in the real world we actually live in, where Oliver Postgate now finds himself is an extremely apposite and important place to be. If Al Gore can go there, why not, I ask quite sincerely, also Oliver Postgate?

Science and politics
I'm one hundred percent with Mr Postgate in his assertion that:

As nobody can pretend to know for certain what is going to happen to the climate, the only safe and sensible thing to do is to deal with it now.

But I'm not sure Oliver Postgate is also correct when he tells us that:

The present government has been making a show of tackling [environmental issues], but the task it has given to its scientists is not simply to find a way to end global warming - they could do that at once - but to do so "without cuttimg either our economic growth or our living standards".

As these are the two main causes of global warming, this task does, as they say: 'present some difficulties' in that, from among the many different specultaive predictions on offer, the scientists are being expected to seek and select, as definitive, the most 'politically practical'.

A confusion somewhere?
To unpick all the understandings in these two brief statements would take some while. Questions of scientific direction, funding, feasibility, cost, the connections between science and government and, ultimately, political deliverability would all need to be examined in a way which is beyond even a detailed weblog posting. Each of these is an enormous topic in its own right.

Perhaps we shall return to these themes in the future.

Political reality
But there a few matters which we can address immediately. These are:

1. Scientists advise government, on the basis of the best available evidence. Their reputations depend on giving guidance which will withstand the scrutiny of both their colleagues and wider stakeholders. It is important to accept and endorse scientists' professional independence.

2. What is done by government with scientific advice is a political, not a scientific, matter. The grim reality is that politicians can only take forward policies which, even after they have factored in leadership, example, costs and so forth, still seem to have a chance of success, of being accepted by the voting public.

3. We can all, therefore, help the Government by letting them know we really and truly want to see global warming reversed (or at least arrested) and, critically, that we are also genuinely willing both to take the consequences, and to argue the toss with others who resist this challenge to their routine and expectations.

4. To do this we would have to stop just cynically criticising politicians who want to do more but believe it would be political suicide, and start having the courage to praise them for what they are already doing right. Not a cool thing to do, but nonetheless essential if we sincerely want to see real progress.

What to do now?
So who's up for it? The spirit of Oliver Postgate's Noggin the Nog, a good and cheerful childhood example for anyonel, will surely be with us if we choose positively to help bring about the difficult political changes required.

In the meantime we need to remember that scientists have shown change is incremental. We may not be doing absolutely everything right in our own eco-lives, but doing what we can to reverse damage keeps the issues very much alive, and is a lot better than doing nothing.

As one significant, successful but not always best loved trader keeps reminding us, Every Little does indeed Help.

Mount Street river vista (small) 06.10.1 078.jpg Sefton Council says Antony Gormley's Iron Men may soon leave Crosby Beach. The national Theatre Museum, which it has been mooted should come to Liverpool, has yet even to be considered by the City Council. Where's the cultural leadership and vision which could mark Merseyside as a fascinating place to visit?

Here we go again. The cultural drag, if I may call it that, which afflicts so many places is once more theatening to relegate our sub-region to the 'might have beens', a place which could have been braver and better.

In just one evening last week (on Wednesday 18th October '06) Liverpool City Council took the extraordinary decision not even to discuss a motion about how the city might acquire the national Theatre Museum, whilst on the same evening Sefton Council voted not to keep Antony Gormley's one hundred Iron Men on Crosby Beach.

There is a real danger that we on Merseyside will end up looking as though the last thing we want is to support culture, just at the time when the mantle of European Capital of Culture is about to be ours.

Time is short
The Daily Post and others have already started a campaign to reverse the Gormley statues decision, with some success already. It is now necessary for others to ensure that Liverpool Council does the same, and makes a real effort to bring the national Theatre Museum to Merseyside .... of, if they can't, for someone esle to do so The benefits of doing this are clear and have already been discussed on this website.

The reputation of Liverpool and Merseyside in 2007/8 rests on imaginative and forward-looking leadership and real vision in culture and the arts. It's time everyone in Merseyside pulled together on this.

Read more articles on the National Theatre Museum.

Redditch stop sign (small) Img0275.JPG Over-enthusiastic urban traffic control is not just irritating; it blights communities and probably adds considerably to environmental damage. Unnecessary vehicle miles because of one-way systems and artificial no-through roads probably add considerably both to community disintegration and to local and global pollution.

Redditch car park Img0282.JPG Redditch is a ‘new town’ created by planners. Of course it existed many years before town planning had ever been invented, but in its contemporary form it is testimony to the diligence of urban planners. Rarely can there have been a more elegant design on paper which causes more motor fuel to be consumed in the name of separating vehicles and people.

I am surprised that anyone approaching Redditch in a vehicle ever reaches the town centre. The main civic and shopping area (or what remains of it; Tesco and Alders recently pulled out, which is perhaps telling) lies within a cordon of formidable highway more complex to negotiate, it sometimes feels, than the M25. Of course there are multiple car parks, concrete towers in celebration of the modernity of forty years ago, but one is left somehow to guess which stopping point is best for what – always assuming there are available parking spaces, and that the appropriate exit lane from the cordon can be negotiated in order to reach them.

A maze of dead ends
Redditch road Img0277.JPG Redditch roofs Img0288.JPG Much harder still is finding one’s way around the Redditch hinterland. This is negotiated by roads modelled on what could perhaps be described as a double figure of eight - think four leaf clover - with the main town area at its centre. The entirety of this vast expanse of roadway is blanketed by trees and bushes in abundance (no problem about this, they absorb carbon dioxide; except that every mile of the highway looks exactly the same as every other mile) interspersed by occasional glimpses of roofs and other signs of habitation.

The real challenge starts when one tries to reach any of these habitats, places where real people lead their real lives. We tried to do just that not long ago, and found ourselves tantalisingly close to the given address, but quite unable actually to get to it. We could look and see, but not touch…. Every likely-looking route (we even had the local street map) ended in a one-way system or an intentionally blocked route, negotiable only by cyclists or pedestrians.

Cul de sacs and cars
Redditch blocked road Img0286.JPG Good, you may say, making areas near a town centre people friendly, not car friendly, is just the thing. But is it? We saw not one bicyclist, and precious few pedestrians, friendly or otherwise (and this barren landscape was in what elsewhere might be called the rush hour). What we did see was row upon row of street-parked cars. And it took us five attempts, even with perfect map reading, actually to reach our already visible destination.

So how do all the urban motorists of Redditch negotiate their way as they go about their business? My guess is, by travelling many miles every week more, perhaps at speed, than they would need to were the road system not so extravagantly complex. And thus is wasted an enormous amount of vehicle fuel, at significant cost, personally and environmentally.

Not just Redditch
Princes Ave bollards Img0997.JPG Princes Avenue barricades Img0994.JPG This is not just a problem in Redditch. Princes Avenue in Liverpool, the genteelly faded dual carriageway from the South into the city centre which was the location of the 1980s riots, has almost no side streets which can be negotiated from the main thoroughfare. All smaller roads were blocked with concrete barricades at that time of strife some twenty years ago, by the authorities, the more easily to ‘control’ the situation. So every day even now there are long queues of traffic trying to negotiate the few available points of access and egress for this major road in and out of Liverpool.

And, as I suspect is the case in Redditch, large parts of the urban environment are inhabited by people who find it very difficult to move out of their ‘enclaves’ because almost all routes to the wider world are blocked. Wide, fast, urban roads might as well be rivers without bridges if you live surrounded by them.

These examples can be multiplied many times over across the nation. There may well be a special case for intervention of this sort in central London and perhaps a few other specific places with excellent public transport, but does it make sense elsewhere?

Wasting fuel, worsening the environment
A re-think is required. By all means encourage traffic calming; and please do improve the visibility and viability of public transport. But don’t unnecessarily block roads and lengthen car journeys.

The local environment suffers (and so, for instance, do asthmatic children) when car journeys are longer than needs be; and the costs in terms of global warming are as yet to be determined.

Measure it and change it
We need an urgent audit of what damage these urban vehicle blockages inflict. If the costs are anything like as enormous as I suspect, planners and other will need to reconsider their strategies pretty quickly. Removing obstructions and calming traffic, if these measures prove to be required, are not costly changes in the greater scheme of things. Public transport and sensible home to work distances are probably the best full solution, but they take longer; sensible interim measures are required.

Town planners and civic authorities today are not responsible for the (usually) benign misjudgements of their predecessors. But we are all responsible for the sustainability of communities and indeed the planet. The time for action on this is now.

Lime St roadworks (small) Img0190.JPG The rhetoric of train travel is that it removes the worry from travel, providing an efficient and comfortable way to get around. This may well be true once one's actually aboard; but first you have to get a ticket. And then you have to be sure you can get to the station on time. These tasks can be daunting.

For reasons various it wasn't possible for me to order my train tickets on-line a few days ago. So I made the mistake of thinking the easiest thing would be to call in at Liverpool's Lime Street Station Advance Bookings Office.

It's one way to pass half an hour .....

Long queues and few staff
Lime Street travel centre Img0174.JPG The queue in the (rather grey) booking office had about thirty people in it, and probably a third of the ticket booths were open. The intending passengers, representing a pretty wide range of the British population, included folk with elderly relatives and folk with small children. All stood resignedly awaiting their turn, the queue they formed slowly weaving up and down between the barrier ropes.

One small girl, possibly four years old, started the wait happily dancing around the booking office, and ended it outside in the main concourse, sobbing under the silent care of her grim-faced young father, whilst her mother battled at the ticket kiosk with the baby, the pushchair and the arrangements for their travel.

Nowhere was there any seating, let alone any corner with play equipment for younger children, or perhaps a water dispenser.

No access?
Lime Street gateway roadworks Img0192.JPG At last however I was able to procure my (oh-so-expensive) tickets and, deeply grateful that I don't have to work there, to escape the depressing 'facility' whereby one secures train bookings in Liverpool Lime Street.

But that turned out not to be the end of the story. The station has been surrounded by the Big Dig for several weeks now - and things are getting worse. The local papers that afternoon were full of messages from the Powers That Be to the effect that we should not drive to Lime Street because of the continuing snarl-ups. The evidence that day of the chaos around the station added serious substance to this advice.

Don't let the train take the strain
So there we have it. Those without the internet are faced with a long and uncomfortable wait to book their tickets, and in any case people may not be able to approach the station by car / cab to be dropped off.

We have mentioned the perils of local train travel in Merseyside before. And it hasn't got any better as a customer experience. (Not encouraging for Liverpool's 2008 celebrations, is it?)

No wonder that carbon emissions are still going up, whilst the Mersey economy at least remains challenged. Has no-one here seen the connection between 'good' train-related experiences and 'good' economic and environmental impacts?

Prof John Belchem.(small) JPG.jpg For three years Professor John Belchem and his University of Liverpool colleagues worked on a scholarly publication to record Liverpool's eight hundred years as a city (1207 - 2007). Academically impressive, the book offers vibrant testimony to the human actions and achievements behind the dry facts - just as those attending made the official launch of this publication, in the setting of Liverpool's splendid Town Hall, such a warm and memorable occasion.

Town Hall chandeliers Img0157.JPGLiverpool Town Hall is always a spectacular venue in which to celebrate a special occasion. It reminds us vividly of what the City of Liverpool must have been like in its prime, and what indeed it could still be again.

Nowhere, then, could have been more appropriate as a location for the formal launch on 18th October 2006 of Liverpool 800: Culture, Character & History, the University of Liverpool Press book edited by Professor John Belchem about the first eight hundred years of this sometimes infuriating and always fascinating city. Liverpool is on the verge of another momentous era in its long history, as 2007 and 2008 approach. (You can see just some of the many special aspects of Liverpool life and legacy in the books listed immediately below this article.)

Cllr Joan Lang (Mayor).JPG Liverpool 800 is an impressive publication which charts as honestly and openly as it can the ways in which Liverpool has progressed over the past eight centuries, from its 'small beginnings' in 1207. As the book's back cover reminds us, Liverpool rose, not always by admirable means, to become one of the world's greatest seaports, so that by 1907 it was the second city of the empire. But what happened thereafter resulted in a vastly different prospect for this enigmatic city. John Belchem's book, in charting the rise, fall and we trust rise again of Liverpool, will I know be a big hit; and I hope it will also offer a focus for just how we can now move forward to a second period of success and (this time, benign) global influence.

New friends and old
Andrew Pearce.JPG Christina Clarke & John Vaughan.JPG Peter Brown Img0151.JPG Not withstanding the importance of the occasion, one of the nicest things about the Liverpool 800 launch was much simpler than all this. It was, as on other similar occasions, an excellent opportunity to catch up with friends old and new.

In the course of the evening I chatted with many people, including the Lord Mayor, Councillor Joan Lang, with whom years ago I sat on the City Arts Festival Committee, as well as those stalwarts of Liverpool's civic history, such as John Vaughan, a local historian, now retired from the University of Liverpool Libraries, Christina Clarke JP, a ceaseless advocate for the preservation of our built heritage, Dr Peter Brown, chairman of the Merseyside Civic Society, and Andrew Pearce, at one time an MEP for Merseyside and now chairman of the Liverpool Heritage Forum. Others with an impressive knowledge of our civic heritage whom I know from the Liverpool Echo Stop the Rot campaign were there too.

In the same room, also chatting happily with everyone assembled, were people such as Rodney Holmes of Grosvenor, who is in charge of our huge new Paradise Project 'Liverpool One' commercial development, and others from the University of Liverpool, the Liverpool Culture Company and the City Council, all in their day jobs busily engaged in promoting our future prospects as a city.

Tom & Kate.JPG And then there were folk 'from the community' such as Tom Calderbank and his wife, who have worked so hard to raise the profile of places like Toxteth Town Hall and The Belvedere.

In all, a richly diverse assembly of people, with their varied focuses on the past and the future, to celebrate the richly diverse history of our city.

A history which brings us together
John Belchem.& book JPG.jpg I could go on, but lists are never complete and after a while inadvertent omissions start to become obvious. However one looks at it, this book launch was an event which brought together people from many parts of Liverpool.

But of course the main person on this occasion was the man who with his co-authors has seen it through from beginning to end, linking all these varied threads into one cohesive whole. John Belchem spoke to us about his book without notes and with much passion. It was good to see him so delighted with the interest in, and support for, his finally completed project.

A welcome message
John Belchem Img0154.JPG John's theme when he addressed us was one to which we can all subscribe: History tells us, he said, that Liverpool has always thrived on celebration. The city's fortunes prosper when, whatever the reason, there are parties and festivities to be had! The launch of Liverpool 800: Culture, Character & History, in our fabulous Town Hall, was an excellent practice run for what we all hope will also be an outstandingly excellent couple of years for Liverpool, in 2007 and 2008.

Theatre Museum (small) CIMG0748.JPG Sometimes things move quickly. The proposal to bring the national Theatre Museum to Liverpool when it closes in London seems to be one of these times. Just ten days after being mooted on this website, a proposal to take action will be debated tonight by City Councillors in Liverpool Town Hall.

The idea of the national Theatre Museum (the National Museum of the Performing Arts) coming to Liverpool took a step forward this morning, when the proposal first posted here ten days ago appeared as an article in today's Daily Post.

TownHallCIMG0770.JPG Liverpool City Councillors Joe Anderson, Paul Brant and Steve Munby (Labour) will this evening put a motion entitled NATIONAL THEATRE MUSEUM to full Council, proposing that:

Council notes that the national collection of performing arts memorabilia, at the Theatre Museum in London, part of the Victoria and Albert Museum, is to be dispersed when the Theatre is closed in January 2007.

Council calls on the Leader to explore the possibility of bringing it to Liverpool to develop as a special national element of our celebrations in 2007 and 2008? Liverpool has a great tradition of theatre, opera and the performing arts in this city, and the V&A could open the revived exhibition as a 'V&A in the North', as the Tate has done with Tate Liverpool.

To the national exhibition we could explore adding the archives of our own theatres, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society's archive and the history of Hope Street, Liverpool's performing arts quarter.

Progress indeed
I am very hopeful that the motion will be carried with cross-party agreement, since Cllr Mike Storey (Liberal Democrat), Liverpool's executive member for special initiatives, has told the Daily Post that he would support examining such a move for the Theatre Museum collection, and Cllr Steve Radford (Liberal Party) has also indicated his general support to me.

This is how we in Liverpool should all be working when it comes to the arts and culture. HOPES has produced, and the politicians have made progress with, a potentially good idea which would enhance parts of our civic 'cultural offer' in a very positive way. Just as with the development of the Hope Street Public Realm works, I hope we can deliver here something which involves both public and community voices in a virtuous circle, and so secures added value locally, regionally and even nationally.

We await the outcome of this evening's Council Meeting with interest....

Read more articles on the National Theatre Museum.

Hope Street's 1st Farmers' Market (small) 05.10.22 005.jpg The Farmers' Market scheduled for Liverpool's Hope Street today has been cancelled because of pressures on officialdom. This is not a new scenario when it comes to efforts to enhance the local community's engagement and enterprise. What could those 'in charge of granting permissions' do to prove themselves, rather, as partners and enablers?

The Daily Post this morning reports that the intended monthly Farmers' Markets in Hope Street (third Saturday of the month) willl now begin in November, not today. After two very successful test runs (last October and during this year's Hope Street Festival - though why not as we suggested before then, I don't know) there was a real head of steam for the event today. People just love markets, with all their variety and colour!

But it seems the authorities can't cope... not enough time for the policing (in Hope Street? - probably Liverpool's most sedate throughfare till now at least), not enough notice, and so forth.... and the Farmers' Market organisers, Geraud Markets, are upset.

Not a new problem
Sadly, this 'not enough notice' and / or 'can't be done without big payments' scenario is not new. It caused the delay of this year's Hope Street Festival, originally planned for June, and it has been the undoing of several other events along Hope Street (as well, I suspect, as elsewhere).

It is fair to say that perhaps Geraud Markets, who have a joint venture arrangement with the City Council, might well have made appropriate contact with the authorities earlier - they are a big organisation - but that doesn't really explain the history of City Council 'can't do' which seems to overarch so many attempts to engage and involve people in our local community. The thwarted efforts are too many to list here.

Basic objectives put aside
Whether you look at the very worthy stated objectives of the Farmers' Markets joint venture with Liverpool City Council, or at those of much smaller organisations such as HOPES: The Hope Street Association, you will find a serious intent to improve the health, environment, general quality of life and enterprise climate of our Quarter.

The City Council may well claim to endorse these fine words - and individually some of its officers certainly go the extra mile in doing that - but overall their actions speak don't do much to demonstrate the commitment when it matters.

Supporting local communities - or not?
The question that perhaps those in charge at Council HQ have to ask is, 'What are we actively doing to help? And is it actually enough?' No private organisation or individual is obliged to support the enterprise and engagement of Liverpool communities, and some of us feel sorely tested. But it seems the message still isn't getting through.

1 today (website) (small) 06.10.11.jpg This website went live exactly one year ago. Its owner has learnt a lot about 'web-based journals' and 'blogging' in the 365 days since then.

11 Octcber last year was a scary day for me. It was the day I finally took the plunge and 'went live' with postings for my pre-prepared website.

Technical 'challenges'
Over the last twelve months I have learnt to write in several different styles and a new 'voice' (generally less academic and more direct), I have touched on many topics which take my interest, I have learnt to manipulate Moveable Type and to insert weblinks and photographs (you too can do it, if you try...), and I have had many and long discussions with my admirably ever-patient web designer, Nick Prior, over matters large and small (most of which started by my asking, 'How do you ....?').

I like to think Nick has been on a (gentler) learning curve too - mostly about how little some of his clients (specifically, me) know of things web-based. Perhaps it has offered him a view of the process through the eyes of an enthusiastic, enquiring and reasonably articulate weblogger who would like to make as much contact as possible with her readers, but knows nothing about the technical side of things. In my imagination I am not constrained by the technically conventional, because it's all new to me!

Friends and ideas old and new
I have 'met' many new friends over the internet, and have talked about my weblog postings with many 'old' friends over coffee. This in itself has offered me a lot.

I have also discovered something of what I think about issues and areas of experience which I did not expect to pop up from my mind, but which have somehow become little contributions to this website. It's illuminating to me as an individual to see where my thoughts take me, and perhaps it's sometimes also engaging for others. A weblog is far less constraining than an academic paper or a one-off article, more like a conversation between the different parts of my experience. I personally would miss my weblog now, if I didn't have it.

Categorising thoughts
As Nick Prior said recently, the opportunity to map out one's thoughts in such a categorised way (computers are very unforgiving, though fortunately my web designer isn't) is both interesting to the writer and difficult to achieve. I hope as the reader that you sense more of the former ('interesting') than the latter ('difficult').

Nonetheless, categorising my ideas has proved to be one of the most tricky tasks. How does one bring together connected individual postings as 'topics' without huge numbers of categories and sub-categories to guide the reader? My aim is to give this weblog some coherence and integrity, so we have general headings to provide an indication of where one might find the articles of most interest; but even that seems to leave things a bit too wide and woolly.

I plan therefore to introduce a category of postings entitled Resource List (or similar), where I will offer a brief guide to what's been posted so far on particular recurring themes, with a note on why I believe the theme is of interest. It has been fascinating to see which topics have been most selected and pursued by my readers!

Becoming business-like
I am now trying to make the whole arrangement a bit more business-like; just in the past day or so I have signed up with Amazon and Google for 'appropriate' referrals through my website, and we shall all be watching to ensure that's what we get. If it works, this should help to defray the costs of running the site and it may even open our minds to (new?) publications and other items of interest about which some of us, on occasion including me, were previously unaware. We shall see.

Sharing ideas
But most importantly, ithis website has given me the opportunity to share thoughts and observations far more widely than before, with all the challenges and benefits which derive from this. There are now almost two hundred postings on the site, which has had hits from seventy seven countries across every continent. As Nick Prior predicted, the rate of increase in the past three months has been striking - he told me that without external promotion it would take eight or nine months to get going - and now we have some one hundred unique visits a day (often many more page views) and rising.

For me this is encouraging indeed; obviously people like to visit my site; sometimes they even post comments as well. And that's just great.

What next?
So what should I be concentrating on for the next year? Is the coverage of topics a good balance? Do you like the photos? Are the weblinks useful? Your comments and ideas are, as ever, really welcome.

Thank you for visiting, and please come again!

Theatre Museum London banners (small).jpg The national collection of performing arts memorabilia, at the Theatre Museum in London, is to be dispersed when the Museum is closed in January 2007. So why not send it instead to Liverpool, as a 'V&A Liverpool', and let us up here have it as a very special part of our 2008 European Capital of Culture celebrations?

The sad news this week is that London's Theatre Museum is to close. Its home in Covent Garden near the Royal Opera House is to be no more, and its exhibits will be dispersed by its parent body, the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum.

A loss for the arts world, and everyone else
Theatre Museum London Unleashing Britain (Beatles) poster.jpg I'm sure there will be knowledgable people who will conclude that the merits or otherwise of the Theatre's exhibits justify this decision, but to me it seems shocking. I visited it quite recently for the 'Unleashing Britain - Ten years that shaped the nation: 1955-1964' exhibition and, as I reported on this weblog, I found the whole place fascinating.

Perhaps the Theatre could be said to have been its own worst enemy, insofar as it always look closed even when it's actually open - the doors seem blank and much of the exhibiiton is 'below stairs', in a wonderful but not-visible-from-the street warren of tunnels and small rooms; but the external visibility problems could easily have been resolved.

A bright idea?
Theatre Museum London 06.10.12.jpg However, if people in London don't want the Theatre Museum collection as an identity, I have an idea.... Why not bring it to Liverpool for us to enjoy, and to develop as a very special national element of our celebrations in 2007 and 2008? We have a great tradition of theatre (and opera) in this city, and the V&A could open the revived exhibition as a 'V&A in the North', as the Tate has done with Tate Liverpool.

And to the national exhibition we could of course add the archives of our own theatres, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic's archive and the history of Hope Street, Liverpool's performing arts quarter.

There's just about time to get the ball rolling, if we all started to work on this now. It would be a superb asset for Liverpool, and would keep the national exhibition in the public eye, when all our vitiors arrive for Liverpool's 2008 European Capital of Culture Year. We have plenty of large buildings which could be put to good use in this way, and surely the maintenance costs could be found from somewhere, just as they will have to be if the artifacts stay in London anyway?

Benefits all round
If London really doesn't want to keep the Theatre Museum as an identity, here's an opportunity for them to do something really good as partners to help us 'up North' to gain even more value from our special years in 2007 and 2008, and beyond.

Read more articles on the National Theatre Museum.

Dusk @ Speke (small).jpg One hundred years ago a London builder, William Willett, decided to cost 'Daylight Saving' hours in terms of health, happiness and energy. Judging from the MSN and Google search engine referrals, many of us would like to see the same thing happen again.

To my amazement the MSN search engine has been listing one of this website's articles on 'Daylight Saving' as around number one of over 347,000 entries (the article's also 7th of 21,000+ for Google). Obviously, there's a lot of interest in this topic!

Daylight saving in another age
The strange thing is, as I've now discovered, it all came about in the first instance because of a London builder, William Willett (1856 - 1915) who was riding on Chislehurst Common in Kent one Summer morning in 1905, and realised that a lot of people were still abed, with their curtains drawn. This was more than Willett could take, so at his own cost he published a pamphlet (not an uncommon thing to do in those days - probably the equivalent of a media release now?) entitled The Waste Of Daylight, in which he extolled a complicated way of 'extending' daylight hours by making Summer Time 'later' in the day.

Willett's ideas only became law in 1916, during the First World war and after his death (and then in a less complex mode), when the idea began to make sense in terms of energy saving at that time - though the benefit was short-lived because every country on both sides of the combat then also adopted it.

The cost-benefit analysis, 1907-style
Today, there are many who believe that Willett was right about British Summer Time, but quite wrong in thinking that we should have British Standard Time (i.e. 'Winter Time') at all. Willett argued that Summer Time would be healthier and happier for everyone, who could enjoy the lighter Summer evening and the leisure opportunities the 'extra' hour afforded. Even more impressively, he costed the economic benefits of the manoeuvre (£2.5 million p.a. in cash terms then, after lighting cost adjustments). And all this at his own expense.

Contexts change
What is deeply puzzling to many people is that this careful cost-benefit analysis has not been applied as carefully to our contemporary world. Willett wrote his pamphlet at a time when gas lighting was the norm, and when motor cars had barely been invented. At that time much more of the British economy was land-based and evening paid-for leisure activities were probably far less in demand than now.

So why has there been no more recent work on this? Where is the contemporary data which gives a full appraisal of the costs of having 'Winter Time'? No longer can we even just think about what suits, and what is most safe and healthy for, us as individuals.... more 'feel good' serotonin, or more 'sleepy' melatonin? Safer journeys in the morning or in the evening?

Now even these judgements do not suffice; we have constantly and urgently to think also of what is least costly to our planet.

Judging from the current interest in this topic on the worldwide web, a lot of people would agree with me and many other commentators: the time has come to follow the example of a London builder of a century ago, and think anew about Daylight Saving and its benefits.

Penny Lane entrance (small) 06.10.jpg Penny Lane in Liverpool is one of Liverpool's most famous streets. How sad then that the high hopes of this community have been dashed so many times, as they try to secure their dream of a Millennium Green and a Centre for visitors and locals alike. A decade waiting is quite long enough. Now there must be some action.

Penny Lane (street).jpg Ten years is not a long time in the life of a city, but it can be in the life of a community. In that time people can arrive and depart, have families or see their youngsters leave. Many things determine the likelihood of any of these events, not least changes in the tone and appearance of that community’s actual location.

These thoughts came to mind as I recently made a visit to Penny Lane, that part of Liverpool’s inner suburbs, not far from my own home, which has been immortalised by our most famous sons, the Beatles.

Does it have to take a decade?
Penny Lane Millennium Green signs.jpg Ten years ago local residents decided they would like a Millennium Green and a Centre for locals and the many visitors, on the Grove Mount site of fairly undeveloped land along Penny Lane. After much hard work they secured a promise of such an amenity as long as they were able to secure the land and produce a sensible business plan. As part of the celebratory activity following this promise, I took ‘before’ photographs of the area – which I had hoped would swiftly be superseded by the ‘after’ photos.

Three cameras and thousands of photographs later, I'm still waiting.

The City Council has made various vaguely encouraging noises over the years, but nothing of substance seems to be happening. The field still hosts very occasional children’s football matches, but is if anything is more derelict than before. It is strewn with litter and worse; and the building in the corner is in a serious state of collapse.

Community impact
Penny Lane Millennium Green building.jpg Unfortunately, much the same can be said of some people in the local community. Local youngsters (by no means a majority of them, but enough) use the field to hang out, disturbing and worrying other residents, whilst those who campaigned for the Millennium Green hand on grimly to their dream, never having imagined when they began that so much later still there would be no evidence of success.

Is this the way to treat people who give whatever they can of their time, imagination and enthusiasm in trying to improve their community?

People Power
Penny Lane cat.jpg Someone once said that a theme to which I consistently return is People Power. Too right, if what is meant by that is respecting and helping decent folk to maintain the areas in which they live. This, in my books, is a requirement on us all.

For now, the only satisfied ‘resident’ of the proposed Penny Lane Millennium Green is the cat who suns himself on the entrance pillars to this sorry, derelict site. I really hope that before long the powers that be will get a grip, and that, before the humans decide to give up completely, this happy little felix will have to relocate.