Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Fuel protest

The truckers are out again, and it's being portayed by the media (ITN tonight being the best example) of how circumstances are both interlinked and combining against Gordon Brown.

Closer inspection, though, tells a different story. While Brown's current travails may well be caused, in part, by tax issues, the fuel protests do not add to the evidence of a groundswell of opinion.

Since the first fuel protest in 2000, the numbers of protesters and their impact have diminished significantly. This time around, 1000 lorries were expected to stop us London residents going about our daily business, but less than 300 turned up.

The story is not that fuel protests are another nail in Gordon Brown's coffin. The story is that the fuel protests are a damp squib.

Sadly, our metropolitan elite aren't interested in this, perhaps the only salient fact to emerge from today's 'protest'.

Springtime Sport II - a score draw

Bristol City lost to Hull in a poor game, but England snatched an unlikely win against New Zealand in one that turned out to be a bit exciting.

The new Wembley, I can report, is very impressive indeed.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008


18,000 tickets sold out in 20 minutes.

By some miracle I was one of the lucky ones who managed to get my hands on one, and I'm on my way to Wembley.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Springtime sport

DIY day yesterday, which I meant to spend in the company of Test Match Special, but the weather saw to that.

So, my sporting weekend was dominated by the FA Cup Final. It's not the end of the winter games for me, as I hope to be at Wembley next weekend as Bristol City strive for the Premiership (if I can get a ticket).

I enjoyed the match. It felt like an occasion, and you got a real sense that it was about Cardiff and Portsmouth as places, as cities. Much more so than if it had been one of the 'big four'.

Sobering, then, to read that rugby risks the same differential between haves and have nots - and to see Bristol being used as an illustration of the poorer end of the scale.

Boris's "Director of Policy, Arts, Culture and the Creative Industries"

Munira Mirza is London's new Director of Policy, Arts, Culture and the Creative Industries.

Two points to make - firstly, I have no idea what this means for cultural policy in London. Mirza certainly hasn't done much and hasn't run anything. She's on secondment to the Tate as part of the Cultural Leadership programme - hardly a track record of high level strategy or delivery. But she's got some odd friends, which helps her kick up a stink and get noticed.

So, what does this mean for cultural policy in London? Haven't a clue, but from a position of ignorance let me suggest that Mirza will make the occasional trite statement, write the occasional policy paper and take home a nice salary, while the real powers behind Boris's throne continue the process started by Ken of hoovering up power and occasionally institutions.

Finally, I'd raise the issue of cronyism. Ken's was distasteful and I suspect Boris will be better. He's appointed councillors to the big jobs so at least they have some legitimacy. But it's still not good enough. The boundary between political adviser and officer is too fluid. Is Mirza an adviser to the Mayor or will she have some say over the budget for the Museum of London?

It was issues such as these, arising from the peculiar structures of the Mayor and GLA, that led to some of the problems around Lee Jasper, which Boris and the Standard exploited to the full.

They will have to be very careful not to be hoisted by their own petard.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Big, scary dogs

This post isn't about whether Staffordshire Bull Terriers are nicer than Pit Bull Terriers. I can't tell the difference, and to be honest, I'm not that bothered if there is one.

People have always had big, scary dogs to make themselves appear bigger and scarier to other people.

What's worrying me is that the people I see with big, scary dogs are getting younger and younger, and they are increasingly obviously owning these dogs as a status symbol, and one that is meant to intimidate.

I don't know whether this is a national trend, but to my eyes, it's certainly a local one.

It's a common sight to see groups of kids hanging around by the shops on Ladywell Road. That's fine. I don't want to be one of those who asks for kids to be swept from our streets, far from it.

But if a group of kids has one or more bull terrier-type pooches then my immediate reaction is not a positive one - to the kids, the dogs or where I live.

What concerns me is that this is exactly what the owners of these dogs want. You don't get a bull terrier, stick it on a chain, and leave it across a shop doorway if you want to get on with your neighbours.

Not sure what the solution is, but I'd feel a bit more cheerful if there was one.

I don't blame the dogs. I like dogs.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Artists' Parliament

Mark Ravenhill - generally one of the most sensible of the luvvies - thinks he has the solution to better involving artists in decisions about arts funding. His 'parliament' idea involves getting the great and the good together where artists can debate the future of culture - and inform Arts Council choices.

Once again the discourse is privileging artists in decisions which should not be about allocating resources on the basis of artistic merit or aesthetic judgement, but on the basis of how best to deliver the public good.

I'm all for involving practitioners more closely in decision making, but sometimes the money will have to go to the amateur dramatics club and not the National Theatre.

Ultra-utilitarian perhaps, but if you do give the luvvies the veto, then you risk access to cultural opportunity by the many.

Please, can we shift the debate onto one of public value? It might even help us find the proper place for excellence as a judgement criteria.

At the moment, we appear to be living in cloud cuckoo land.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Last day at the Mem

A sad day with a disappointing result. Bristol were a point down at the death, but there was to be no repeat of Jason Strange's drop goal heroics as his kick was charged down a the final whistle.

So, the Mem is now consigned to being a part of my history.

I got quite a few snaps of the last day, and there are plenty more on Flickr.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Mayoral Election

I was no fan of Ken, but it wasn't until I got into the polling booth and saw the name of that portly, blond posh buffoon that I realised how much I didn't want the Tories to win the mayoral election.

That they have done so has excited a visceral tribalism within me, the like of which I haven't felt since 1997.

The way I feel now, I'm not far off committing whatever it takes to keep the Tories out in 2010.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Goodbye to the Memorial Ground

So, it's definitely happening. The Memorial Ground is to be demolished. Two years from now a new all-seater Mem will arise, far removed from the Ground that I have known and grown up with.

There's regret that T will never stand on the terraces and watch Bristol with me as I did (and still do) with my Dad, but I know things have to move on.

Be that as it may, now seems an apposite time to recall the words on the Memorial Gates which I have passed hundreds of times on the way to and from my place on the terrace, and which, for me, has always made this more than a rugby ground.