For too long St Albans South Signal Box was a paint-peeling eyesore at the entrance to St Albans. So it was a fantastic thing when local residents in Ridgmont Road decided over a pint that they could and would rescue it. It now glistens in old Midland Railway scarlet livery, is open to the public on appointed days, and was a perfect winner of the main award at last night's St Albans Civic Society annual awards ceremony. You can read all about the signal box and its restoration here. Significantly it was one of the very few non-residential projects highlighted in last night's architectural slide-show compered by Roy Darby. All the projects were completed in the 2008 calendar year.Read more
I attended last night's screening of In Transition at the Maltings Arts Theatre. Encouragingly so did lots of other people including senior representatives of Labour and the Greens. Transition is an exceedingly interesting movement - started in Killane in Ireland, became established at Totnes and now an increasingly global movement. It is about how we can individually and in local groups make the transition from oil dependence to local resilience, very much based on personal and bottom-up initiatives. An impressive group of people in St Albans are now leading the charge.Read more
I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon in the blazing sunshine at Clarence Park yesterday. It was the St Albans Mela and there was a crowd of well over a thousand to hear Mumzy who Wikipedia tells me is the first and only artist of Bangladeshi descent to have made it in the mainstream British music industry. He certainly wowed the crowd. But I confess I also thoroughly enjoyed the more contemplative atmosphere of the poetry tent where very distringuished and learned men chanted rich rivers of verse. I spent a large part of the afternoon with our mayor Iqbal Zia and it was great seeing the pleasure people took in seeing him wearing his chain.
We talked to many in the crowd - most were from St Albans but a lot had come to St Albans from elsewhere - some from Luton, London and Hatfield and a particularly large contingent from Hemel. I hope this is the first of an annual series - it deserves to do well and grow. Oh, and I should have written that it was all organised by the St Albans Youth Council with just a little help from their grown-up brother. They should all be very proud of what they have achieved.
Following much feedback from long-suffering St Albans commuters, I brought the issue of rail company performance and over high fares to the floor of the Liberal Democrat conference today by moving a motion on the reform of rail franchises.Read more
I have just spoken at Liberal Democrat conference in Bournemouth on the issue of MP expenses. Here is what I said:
Most people don’t have an expense account, never have, never will. Those relatively few that do are used to proper checking and monitoring as a matter of course. I ran large teams at director level in both the public and private sectors, I used to stress to my teams that every taxi journey, every fancy meal, every overnight was made on the back of some poor person up a telegraph pole or down a hole, driving a truck or sitting for hours at a cash desk. Having an expense account is a real privilege – in the public sector or in the private sector. I also used to say to my staff that if I ever wanted to get rid of them, the first thing I would do would be to examine their expense claims. I meant it. We can now examine MP expense claims thank goodness. This motion rightly demands that if they are found to have committed wrong, they should face the full rigour of the law. But how can a law breaker be a law maker? In any normal job, they’d be out on their ear.Read more
We are in the consultation phase for the new Local Development Framework for St Albans - what used to be called the Structure Plan when I was small. Sites for supermarkets? Where could a new school go? Do we have to build on the Green Belt? The final document produced from this process will help define the answers.Read more
With apologies for the delay in this posting while we moved the blog to a new platform, I want to report how totally stunned I was by the quality and magic of the recent production of Hamlet by St Albans based Theatrix performance arts school at the open air amphitheatre in the grounds of St Albans School.Read more
I wholly agree with Nick Clegg that today's announcement by Gordon Brown of a "debate" on constitutional reform is little more than a deathbed conversion to political reform from the man who has blocked change at almost every opportunity for the last twelve years. It is also typical that David Cameron refuses even to consider electoral reform. The current system entrenches and endorses wasted votes - general elections are decided by a handful of voters in key marginals. Everyone else might as well go to the beach. The much talked up Alternative Vote System (AV) would at least mean that every MP received a vote of sorts from more than half of those voting but it certainly is not proportional.Read more
I'm not sure that Arnold Schoenberg would resonate with this splendidly irreverent summary of his mammoth Gurre-lieder by members of the Hertfordshire County Youth Orchestra (CYO) after their performance of the work last week. By any standards it is a gargantuan piece of music and it was a hugely brave undertaking for the CYO under the baton of Peter Stark. Once the fierceness of the air conditioning with consequent music flapping hazard had been solved, it was an extraordinarily rich and intimate experience even though we were in the huge space of Westminster Central Hall in London.Read more
Keech Cottage Children's Hospice is a thoroughly worthy cause. I have seen in my own family the comfort hospices bring to the dying and the bereaved. They depend so much on volunteer fundraising. Wendy Berriman in Bricket Wood has for several years organised an annual garden party to raise money for Keech Cottage. This year's event raised over £2,000, the sunshine was glorious, and at its peak over 100 lunches were being consumed round Wendy's Oakwood Road house and garden.