Voting in Edinburgh 2017 (or Auckland 2013 or Stratford 2010…)

 

I’ve not that long moved through to Edinburgh, so the forthcoming council elections will be my first in this city. Having got through the post the other day my first and to date only election communication/advert for the upcoming local authority vote, I read it carefully and with interest. Turns out the Conservatives are quite into recycling (at least, when it comes to the words in their campaign leaflets), which I was not expecting…

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It seems according to the leaflet my Conservative candidate, Mark Brown (@mr_mark_brown), is being supported by Ruth Davidson, which makes sense (and would be a bit odd if he wasn’t, given they are members of the same party). I also note, as an aside, that in a small boxout containing four paragraphs from Ruth, she uses the word “independence” three times – which is also strange, given that as far as I’m aware local council elections don’t tend to have a direct say in constitutional changes. The only URL given to find out more about the party’s policies in this local election is given as ‘scottishconservatives.com/No2indyref‘. Leaving aside the indyref reference, why does the Scottish Conservative party have a website hosted on an American .com domain, as opposed to a more unionist friendly .org.uk or even a .scot domain? They could have a much shorter address if they wanted to use conservatives.scot or similar.

Anyway…

Back to Mr Brown, who the leaflet mentions stood previously as a Conservative candidate in 2012 (I assume unsuccessfully). A bit of googling shows up his pitch from 2012, which is oddly similar to the leaflet today in 2017 (although apparently his out of the office hobbies have changed from cricket and rugby to football)…

From 2012 [Source]: 
Screen Shot 2017 02 15 at 20 01 55

He manages a portfolio of SME companies for a global independent Invoice Financier in the City’s Southside. Outside the office, Mark enjoys playing Cricket for the Woodcutters CC & Holy Cross CC, and was President of Broughton Rugby Club from 2006-2011.
Mark is looking forward to meeting as many local residents as possible between now and the election to find out what the real issues are on the doorsteps throughout the ward.
He said, “I am proud to have been selected as the Conservative candidate in the Drum Brae / Gyle ward. This is a ward that plays an integral role in shaping Edinburgh’s economy, through it being home to many of the key players in the financial industry and the iconic Gyle Shopping Centre. It’s also a great part of Edinburgh in terms of its recreational facilities and green spaces.
My message is a simple one. I believe that it is time for change and a time for real leadership in the Council. This will only come from understanding the needs and aspirations of the people that politicians are here to serve. Politicians must stop seeing themselves as a special breed, destined to the ‘statesmen’.
I will be someone who will put local people first, someone who will understand their problems and represent and fight for their interests. My number one priority is to help people make the best of their lives. We must always work towards a bigger and better Edinburgh and whilst maintaining core political principles, I am more than willing to work with others in the multi-member Ward to deliver a blueprint to help shape Edinburgh’s future.”

From the 2017 leaflet:
“[Mark] manages a portfolio of SME’s for a global independent Invoice Financier in the City’s Southside. Outside the office, Mark is a volunteer at Spartan’s Football Club where his is their media manager and also enjoys a passion for photography.

Mark is looking forward to meeting as many local residents as possible between now and the election to find out what the real issues are on the doorsteps throughout the ward.
He said, “This is a ward that plays an integral role in shaping Edinburgh’s economy, through it being home to many of the key players in the financial industry and the iconic Gyle Shopping CentreProtecting our open green spaces – of which the ward has several – is key because in a city like Edinburgh, public places are social safety valves, mixing the people of this city in common enjoyment.”
“I believe that it is time for change and a time for real leadership in the Council. I will be someone who will put local people first, someone who will understand their problems and represent and fight for their interests. My number one priority is to help people make the best of their lives. We must always work towards a bigger and better Edinburgh and whilst maintaining core political principles, I am more than willing to work with others in the multi-member Ward to deliver a blueprint to help shape Edinburgh’s future.

Now obviously there is nothing wrong with re-using your own pitch from a few years before, although given it was unsuccessful previously, seems a little lazy to be copying and pasting it all quite so wholesale. But some of the bits of text seemed to have a different provenance…

This is an odd phrase that’s changed slightly and been upgraded in importance from the 2012 to 2017 sales pitch:

Mr Brown, 2017: “Protecting our open green spaces – of which the ward has several – is key because in a city like Edinburgh, public places are social safety valves, mixing the people of this city in common enjoyment.” 

Turns out it is astonishingly similar something a candidate for the Mayor of Auckland, New Zealand said in 2013: Uesifili Unasa, said “As mayor, protecting our open, green spaces is my commitment to healthy communities. In a city like Auckland public places are social safety valves, mixing the people of this city in common enjoyment.”.

Screen Shot 2017 02 15 at 20 02 03[Source]

And how about Mr Brown’s central and repeated commitment that “I believe that it is time for change and a time for real leadership in the Council” ? He’s been very consistent on that from his initial go at Edinburgh Drum Brae in 2012 “My message is a simple one. I believe that it is time for change and a time for real leadership in the Council” to his attempt to stand in the Westminster elections in the Western Isles in 2015 (“My message is a simple one. I believe that it is time for change and a time for real leadership at Westminster” – [Source]). 

Oddly, a very similar phrase also turns up in Stratford on Avon in 2010, ‘My message is a simple one. I believe that it is time for Change and a time for Leadership”… said the successfully elected Conservative MP for the area, Nadhim Zahawi:

Screen Shot 2017 02 15 at 20 01 25[Source].

Much of the rest of Mr Zahawi’s text is also quite inspirational, as it turns out: 
Mr Zahawi, Stratford, 2010: “I will be someone who will put local people first, someone who will understand their problems, and represent and fight for their interests. My number one priority is to help people make the best of their lives.” 

Mr Brown, Western Isles, 2015: “I will be someone who will put local people first, someone who will understand their problems and represent and fight for their interests. My number one priority is to help people make the best of their lives.

Mr Brown, Edinburgh, 2017: “I will be someone who will put local people first, someone who will understand their problems, and fight for their interests. My number one priority is to help people make the best of their lives.” 

So this is a message that can be successful, it would seem (despite the word ‘represent’ disappearing between 2015 and 2017), but possibly not just in Drumbrae … ?

I have nothing against Mr Brown and wish him the best of luck in this campaign, but it does strike me that if you’re not able to produce three basic paragraphs of genuinely new text about your personal and political beliefs and how you will help the people of this ward if elected, it at the very best doesn’t look like you’ve made much of an effort, and at worst if this was a student essay it would be clearly flagged as containing plagiarised material…

I look forward to receiving similar leaflets from other candidates so I can check their own re-use or recycling of materials!

 



 

 

 

 

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Verity in Glasgow

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Today, to celebrate the amazing contribution Verity Lambert made to creating and shepherding the world’s best TV programme, Doctor Who, fellow Who-buff Jon Melville and I visited the archives at Strathclyde University in Glasgow.

Turns out Verity was given an honorary degree at Strathclyde, so after she sadly passed away in 2007 a lot of her collection ended up there. They’ve put on a display to tie in with the 50th Anniversary, and it’s well worth a visit.

[Can I also just say that compared to many other archives I’ve visited over the years, this place was a breath of fresh air. Enthusiastic, very friendly staff went out of their way to go and get more items from the collection to let us see without even being asked, and wonderfully, they were even happy for us to take photos. Many thanks to Rachel and her colleagues!]

More about the exhibition and collection here:

http://www.strath.ac.uk/archives/iotm/february2011/

It includes a load of photographs – of Verity herself, and of the many programmes she was involved in over the years, plus many of the awards and formal recognition she had received.

Plus of course, her two Baftas!

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My favourite item though was her director’s chair…!

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[Although the signed photo of Rik Mayall, describing Verity as ‘my own VIAGRA replacement’ is a close second!]

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Strathclyde Archives are also on twitter as @stratharchives – follow them !

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Upcoming Talks

Just looking at my diary, and realising I have quite a busy time coming up with talks and presentations. Here are the current dates until the end of the year…

The Crown Jewels of Maryhill – Thursday 10th October 2013, 19.30
Bearsden Horticultural Society in Bearsden Burgh Hall

The Life and Adventurous Times of Ian Barr – Wednesday 16th October 2013, 10.00
Workers Educational Association in Skelmorlie Community Centre’s Reading Room

The Crown Jewels of Maryhill – Monday 21st October 2013, 19.00
Johnstone Church Guild, St Andrews Trinity Parish Church

Glasgow’s Canals Unlocked – Thursday 24th October 2013, 19.00
AHSS Strathclyde Group in Adelaide’s, Bath Street, Glasgow

The Crown Jewels of Maryhill – Tuesday 29th October, 10.30
Glasgow BMA Ladies Club in the Mitchell Library, Blythswood Rm, Level 5

Scottish Cinemas – Weds 30th October 2013, 14.30
Volunteer Guides, Graham Hill Bldg, George St, Glasgow

The Crown Jewels of Maryhill – Mon 18th November 2013, 14.00
Bearsden Cross Church Guild in Bearsden Cross Church

Cinemas of the South Side and Beyond – Tuesday 19th November 2013,
Pollokshields Heritage Society in the Fotheringay Centre

The Crown Jewels of Maryhill – Friday 29th November 2013, 19.00
Greenock Philosophical Society in Watt Hall, McLean Museum, Kelly Street, Greenock

The Crown Jewels of Maryhill – Thursday 5th December 2013, 14.00
Edinburgh NTS Members Centre, Augustine Church, George VI Bridge in Edinburgh

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Subway Heritage

Recently I was quoted in the Herald in an article about plans to remove Cessnock’s individual subway signs, amongst other changes in the modernisation of the system. Here’s the full text of what I wrote for future reference…

The proposed removal of the stylish and unique subway signs at Cessnock is just the latest step in SPTs apparent quest to remove all evidence of the system’s historic past, and in particular anything that doesn’t fit in with the current modern “branding” colours. The signage being removed may not be original or authentic but importantly it was specifically designed to fit in with its individual surroundings and listed buildings – something the new generic branding can’t hope to do.

Cessnock is just the start – the plans for Buchanan Street are available on the Council planning portal, and include the removal of the original and historic train carriage that’s welcomed passengers to the station – and given them a flavour of the past – for decades. Its planned replacement? An unclearly defined “art wall”. I’d argue the old carriage and its history, displayed here in a prime position in the city centre and not hidden away in storage, has a level of impact to count as culture enough. Use it as a way to tempt people to visit Riverside or the other museums, but don’t remove it!

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No one denies that this modernisation is very welcome, and very overdue. But when the underground was last overhauled, the people running it went out of their way to celebrate the past of the system, not hiding all of it behind the shiny and new like the current plans seem to do.

There’s also been a great opportunity missed with this refurb to celebrate the foresight of the Victorian engineers that designed it. Many stations had glass roofs, allowing natural light to beam into the gloomy stations. Both Cessnock and Kelvin Hall still have these roof areas – boarded up since the 70s, but perfectly capable of being reinstated. You only have to look at the glorious restored glazing at Glasgow Central on a sunny day to get a sense of the impact this could have had on the subway stations, had SPT had the vision to celebrate, rather than hide, their subway heritage.

Gordon Barr 

Elsewhere in the same issue of the Herald, the designer of the Cessnock arches had this to say.

Pleasingly, since this, SPT have agreed to reinstate the Cessnock signage.

It will be interesting to see what they do with the Buchanan Street train…

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Upcoming Talks and Events

Looking at the calendar, I’ve got a busy couple of months coming up of giving talks and presentations. If you’ve not yet heard me going on at length about old cinemas, stained glass windows in Maryhill, or the exciting life of my father, Ian Barr, then fear not!

There are plenty of opportunities coming up…

January 11th – 19.30 [Greenock Philosophical Society]
Traveller, Not Tourist: The Adventurous Life of Ian Barr

January 15th – 19.30 [New Kilpatrick & Bearsden Church]
The Crown Jewels of Maryhill

January 31st – 19.30 [Barrhead & Neilston History Society]
Cinemas of the West Coast

February 4th – 19.30 [Bearsden Literary Society]
The Crown Jewels of Maryhill

February 12th – 18.00 [National Library of Scotland]
Early Cinema in Scotland
A joint talk with Rush Washbrook of the Scottish Screen Archive – learn about the early cinemas in Scotland, as well as see some of the sorts of films that would have been seen in them!

February 17th (2pm) / February 19th (6.30pm) – [Glasgow Film Festival 2013]
Cinemas of the City Centre Walking Tours
By popular demand, Gary Painter and I are re-running the walking tours originally pioneered for Doors Open Day as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2013. Tickets £5; places can be reserved by emailing walks@scottishcinemas.org

February 21st – 19.00 [Dundee Civic Trust]
Scottish Cinemas: Dundee
A joint talk with Gary Painter of ScottishCinemas.org

February 26th – 14.00 [St Luke’s Church Guild, Milngavie]
The Crown Jewels of Maryhill

March 14th – 19.30 [University of Glasgow Ladies’ Club]
The Crown Jewels of Maryhill

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Good Ideas

As it’s the end of the year, I’ve been thinking, as you do, idly over a glass of wine while sitting in the house where I grew up, of how to best help solve the world’s trickiest problems.
And while I’m not able to solve all of them, I think I have pretty good ideas to sort out at least two…

Idea #1 – Reducing the Annoyance of Orange Marches (and all other long parades, etc.)

Sadly, I can’t help with the noise, associated nastiness or religious issues, but there’s one bloody annoying part of Orange marches – and to be fair, also all other marches; I’m only singling them out cos there seem to be much more frequent than any other – that I can help with.

Picture the scene: you’re in town, you’re going for a train, you go to cross say St Vincent Street and OH BLOODY HELL A MARCH. Going to have to stand there for ages while they all file past; no chance of nipping across or managing to get your train. You can’t even jump on a bus, cos traffic has been brought to gridlock by the mass of people moving past without a break.

[Yes, that train, the train you were going for and had left just *exactly* the right amount of time to get to, assuming there would be no marches or ticket barriers (*) in your way.]

But! With one simple, tiny change, no longer is this a problem.
It’s an idea that, I’m pleased to say, is sheer elegance in its simplicity:

Marches use the roads. So logically, marches, and their participants, should all have to obey the rules of the road.
*Including stopping at traffic lights when they turn red*

There – take a moment to think about that. It is genius. It is simple, and it would work.

Any folk taking part in a march simply have to stop or go when the lights tell them to – like any other bit of traffic would! This would allow folk to cross at pedestrian crossings – and even more helpfully – other traffic on the cross-roads – not to get all blocked up as well.

Folk who want to march or protest about things can, and folk who just want to catch their bloody train on time can as well. Everyone is happy 🙂

So, who’s with me for the letter writing campaign to our Politician Overlords to make this happen ?

Idea #2 – Reducing the Ridiculous Amount of Money and Hassle it costs to Have a Wedding These Days

Now, this is an idea I’ve discussed earlier iterations with various people over the years, but they’ve all failed to find it as appealing as I do. But I’ve recently figured out a tweak that should make all the difference…

The background is that weddings are unreasonably expensive – whether or not you’re having one, or being invited to one, the costs add up. If you’re invited as a guest, you feel guilty if you don’t spend money on a fancy present, and its often tricky to find something you think your friends would like, rather than just something for the sake of it.

From the participants perspective, as folk are increasingly likely to have lived together and set up house prior to getting married, the old sensible idea of using a wedding list to get the stuff you need for a house is less useful.
How many more toasters or pots do you really need?

So, currently, the wedding is very expensive, and you end up with lots of stuff that isn’t necessarily that useful, bought for you by folk that couldn’t think of a better way to show they care about you.

Solution: people who want to come to the wedding – or who you’d like to come – don’t buy you presents at all – but they do buy shares in the day. They can buy as many shares as they like – and shares start out very cheap, so the people keenest to come along – your immediate family & friends that actually like you and answer the invitation quickly pay very little indeed.
The closer to the day of the wedding, the more expensive the share price gets.

So if more people want to come at the last minute (some vague relative’s friends daughter your parents are insistent should come along because), the event does get more expensive, but there’s also more money in the pot to pay for it.

(Also, these would be non-voting shares, so while people will have a sense of ownership and participation in the day, they don’t get any actually say in how it’s run; The wedding itself is then effectively the AGM – no admittance except to shareholders.).

So, people would be helping to get together and contribute to giving you something nice – the happy day that you want with the people you actually care about most likely to be there – and don’t feel guilty for not contributing, and you don’t end up bankrupted amidst a sea of cruet sets.
Everybody wins (and gets a nice share certificate to frame and put on their wall).

Plus, if there’s any cash left over, you could spend it on the honeymoon or on buying a new gadget 🙂

 

 

 

(*) Don’t get me started…

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Title Post

The name of a film is a carefully chosen part of its marketing, of its atmosphere, of telling you what it’s all about.

In the very old days, of course, when you bought your cinema ticket, it was probably dispensed from an automaticket machine, a wee piece of paper printed with the price of the ticket, and not much else.

Screen Shot 2011 08 22 at 19 43 36

Then came progress – tickets printed on a wee dot matrix printer that, amazingly, *had the actual name of the film you were seeing on it*.

Fantastically useful for keeping track of what films you’d seen and when. But then came Progress.

Thermal printers, different papers, smaller tickets, very odd font and layout choices, and the amount of space given over on the tickets to fitting the name of the film in gets smaller and smaller…

Very little attempt is now made by the cinemas to adapt the tickets to the films, or to pick sensible abbreviations to make them fit sensibly.

This is why, when sorting through a pile of old tickets recently, I discovered the following films I have apparently seen:

The Little Known Movie Spin off from the Teletubbies…

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The James Bond movie to end all James Bond movies…

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The sequel to the hit film ‘Batman Is’…

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A prequel to spider man, starring his mother…

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An Italian film about a killer cyborg from the future…

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Some other kind of film I’m not very sure about… Touching Adult ?!

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…and finally another film in the series: Planet Of Verb, Planet of Adjective, and the…

Screen Shot 2011 08 22 at 19 49 35

 

Anyone else got any other nice examples of almost might-have-been films ?

 

 

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