Tag: Personal

Six months after the Royal Court brought two quite brilliant new plays to the Bussey Building in Peckham, V-Day London put on an equally exemplary performance of the Vagina Monologues and an accompanying play written in 2009 by the same playwright. Yes, I know, visiting four plays in six months hardly makes me the connoisseur of a thriving theatre scene, but I hear the Royal Court are bringing their Theatre Local project back at the end of May with two brand new plays and more workshops which I won’t want to miss. The Vagina Monologues performance was all the more impressive given that it was performed by a mix of trained actors, amateurs and doubtless all shades in between. I went to the wrap party on Saturday with my friend Bob – a source of fun for some of the actors given a certain monologue concerning a man called Bob…

A mere eighteen months after it had been given to us, Rachel and I went on our Trip Stylist day out around the City of London, “exploring hidden corners and treasures“. We started out with brunch in a very nice little café tucked so well away that it made me wonder how anyone could find it without a tip. It was a very chilly morning, so a warm start was just what we needed. Rachel had mushrooms and a poached egg on soda toast, I tucked into a savoury pancake mountain. We set off on full stomachs along narrow streets and past a few recommended parks in nooks and plaques in crannies to the Museum of London. I’ve cycled and walked past it innumerable times, that odd bunker in the middle of a roundabout, but never entered before. The exhibition design isn’t all that easy to follow, but it took…

It was probably the Peckham Pavilion at the Venice Biennale that cemented Peckham’s place in London’s art scene. Since then there has been a steady flow of journalists, hipsters and artists dropping in to study contemporary sculpture and relax in a trendy campari bar. But this art world has made little effort to reach out to, and integrate with, its host community. So it was with some scepticism that I made my way to the brilliant Bussey Building for the launch of Theatre Local Peckham, the Royal Court’s second outing into a south London community to stage plays and theatre workshops. They’re hosted by Mickey Smith’s CLF art cafe, an unkempt converted factory normally home to drum and bass nights, community meetings and art fairs. But I was wrong to be sceptical. The Royal Court’s artistic director spoke before the play of their Sloane Square theatre being exclusive, a place that…

Two parallel worlds are starting to rub up against each other – open data enthusiasts and local activist groups. As Sam Smith has pointed out, embedding the power of open data in other worlds such as local activism has barely begun. Maps are one medium where I’ve been trying to bring these worlds together. Stepping into the ring In the left corner we have people like Rob Hopkins, who has just written a great summary of Transition Town groups mapping wild food, local groups and visions of the future. This wonderful work makes use of relatively open tools like Google Maps, but (so far as I can see) they make absolutely no use of open data, and keep all of their data in their own separate mapping systems. In the right corner we have open data crowds like OpenStreetMap, and after some prodding from me the Greater London Authority and…

After packed weekends at weddings and the Green Party conference, and with my fiancee away for a week, I’ve spent a very nice weekend doing those things I always mean to do. Top of my list was to build a cold frame-come-greenhouse for overwintering my herbs. One salvaged broken chair, a trip to the DIY store and a few hours work later and I had fashioned the rather nice frame pictured opposite. It is sitting on our small balcony, the only space available to most Londoners. I’m not really sure which of the strawberry plants, rosemary, mint, coriander, broad-leafed parsley and the chives will survive the winter but at least they now have a cosy little added help. In between ironing, cleaning, sit-ups and press-ups, I’ve also caught up on some of the debate following the autumn Green Party conference. No mention online of my motion introducing policy on Community…

According to my profile, today marks my fifth anniversary of OpenStreetMapping. When my friend Robert introduced me to this useless web site I wasn’t too excited. It only really showed about half of the British motorway network if you waited long enough for the very basic map to load, and editing, well, that took a lot of patience. But curiosity and Rob’s enthusiasm got me hooked, and in August 2008 I organised my first mapping party. Here is a blast from the past showing us adding in the first coverage of Reading, England: What followed were five years interspersed with many pleasant hours mapping parts of Reading and the surrounding countryside, St Albans, Criccieth, south east London, Hackbridge, Shrewsbury, Dumfries & Galloway and countless little excursions for walks. As a keen cyclist, I particularly enjoyed entering some of the first London data to create a really useful web map for…

The chart below shows a breakdown of where my monthly gross income goes. I’m earning in the region of £30k/year, above the London average but not exactly an enormous sum. One of my favourite adages is that British people want Scandinavian public services with American tax levels.  Raising taxes to tackle the deficit is treated as something approaching political suicide. But do we pay all that much in tax? Put aside the fact that at 36% of the UK’s GDP, the current tax level is lower than under Margaret Thatcher (when it dipped to 40%) and much lower than the Swedish level of around 50%. How does tax affect me? Well my income tax and council tax, which pay for all the basic public services, the roads, waste collection, public transport investment, welfare for people in harder circumstances and much more account for less than my rent, which pays for…

After a week speaking at a digital rights demonstration, a free map meeting, a 600-strong Critical Mass and lots of electioneering capping off days at the office it was quite a relief to complete the weekend with a spade, wheelbarrow and several tonnes of soil. Growing Southwark, who I first came across last September, have been running a community food growing project on the Cossall Estate in Peckham. I planted my broad beans at the event in February – here’s a pic of me with my pots – but this time the work was much more heavy going. Residents, Growing Southwark volunteers and a team from Veoila with 2 master carpenters worked together from Thursday-Sunday to erect a 18×1.5×0.6 meter raised bed. When I got there on Sunday they were filling them up with 16 tonnes of organic soil and soil improver. After a couple of hours lugging large quantities of soil around…

Way back in July – goodness, that seems a long time ago! – I went on holiday near Kircudbright in Dumries and Galloway, which is in south west Scotland (I had no idea either). The landscape is actually quite beautiful. Not breathtaking like the higher Scottish peaks, but almost deserted beaches with warm seas for swimming and really gentle hills for walks. We went for a hike up one and I put some basic details into OpenStreetMap when I got back. But now somebody has scanned in a set of OS 7th series one inch maps from the 1950s and the results are very clear. Maps go out of copyright after 50 years so it’s fair game. I’ve spent a few evenings winding down from work by tracing streams, forest, woods, salt marshes and correcting the coastline. Given that the “no names” map style is currently very out of date,…

Weekends that begin with 8.29am trains back to London for Green Party meetings are never going to end with a relaxed glow! Still, in amongst it all I came across two real surprises. First was Bounce’s breathtaking Insane in the Brain show at the Peacock Theatre. If you get the chance to see this, go! I can’t pretend I understand most contemporary dance, I’m not really partial to ballet and I’ve never liked dancing myself either. But this Hip Hop interpretation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was witty, very cool and it kept my my tired brain’s attention throughout! Here’s a sample clip: After a welcome lie in, Rachel and I met up with Kathryn on Sunday afternoon for a stroll in the surprisingly wild Sydenham Hill Wood. A little nature spotting (we just about identified oak, hornbeam, sycamore, hawthorne, beech and silver birch trees) was rounded off…