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London’s Boroughs at 50

5 Jan


From Dave Hill’s review of Tony Travers’ new book, London’s Boroughs At 50:

In the east we find a cluster of very different boroughs all trying to contend with the consequences of London’s lost industrial past in various ways. Newham is perhaps the most conspicuous example. Travers describes the Tate and Lyle plant there as “one of the most important, enduring industrial icons” of London – it was, after all, one of the few major companies based in Newham that didn’t move out as part a calamitous economic decline between the mid-Sixties and the Eighties. Today, Newham is a regeneration crucible, one “increasingly linked into the post-industrial growth of inner and central London.”

The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, of course, has become a huge part of that: “The regeneration undertaken was on a scale that might otherwise have taken decades.” Bringing a successful modern Games to London was the triumph primarily of Ken Livingstone and Tessa Jowell, but they weren’t the first to try. Travers mentions that Conservative GLC leader Sir Horace Cutler had a go back in the late 1970s.

No concessions

14 Aug

Freedom of Information request posted on What Do They Know:

I understand that you provide a discount to concessionary groups at leisure centres. I attended East Ham leisure centre recently to register my children and myself for swimming lessons and other activities. I brought necessary proofs but was refused concessionary payments facilities as your staffs confirmed that asylum seekers or asylum support are not included on their system.

Therefore I urgently request you to review your scheme and add extra concessionary groups such as asylum seekers as you actually do for students and those who receive council tax benefits. You are aware that asylum support is offered by the Home Office and as an asylum seeker and his family supported by NASS, we are entitled to free services within the borough. In this particular case, I am not asking you for free services but merely requesting you to add this particular group of applicants in your system to avoid future complications in this respect.

I will be thankful if you could provide me your policy in this respect as I have checked other boroughs which do give concessionary payments to asylum seekers supported by NASS under Section 4 or 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. I am concerned to note that Newham council do not have this in place.

Contrary to the myths peddled by the popular press, life is pretty tough for asylum seekers while their cases are being processed. If this is the result of a deliberate policy decision by the council it is appallingly mean-spirited and petty. If not, it’s something that can – and should – be put right quickly.

World in motion

12 Jun

The Guardian’s football writers have made their predictions for the World Cup. Here are mine:

Who will reach the final?

Brazil will play Argentina.

Who will win? Who knows, but it will be a cracking match.

Who will be the leading scorer?

Karim Benzema – France

The French have a straightforward group in which they will score a lot of goals. They stuffed Jamaica 8-0 in their final warm-up game and look to have a settled, happy group of players, all pulling together. The decision to leave the disruptive Samir Nasri behind will pay big dividends.

Who is the player to watch?

Angel Di Maria – Argentina

His performances for Real Madrid at the end of the domestic season put higher profile team-mates like Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo in the shade. Reproducing that form will be key to Argentina’s chances of winning the tournament.

How far will England go?

Out in the group stages. Obviously I hope I’m wrong, but I can’t see them winning a single game.  

Most looking forward to

Seeing how far Belgium can go.

They have a really good squad, with quality all over the pitch: Courtois, Alderweireld, Kompany, Van Buyten, Vertonghen, Chadli, Dembélé, Fellaini, De Bruyne, Hazard, Januzaj, Lukaku, Mirallas. They could be the surprise package of the tournament.

Least looking forward to

The inevitable tabloid monstering of Roy Hodgson after England limp out. And getting up in the mornings.

Feast of St Clare

10 Aug

Tomorrow, August 11th, is the feast of St Clare.

St Clare was one of the first followers of Saint Francis of Assisi. She founded the Order of Poor Ladies, a monastic religious order for women in the Franciscan tradition. Following her death, the order was renamed in her honour as the Order of Saint Clare, commonly referred to today as the Poor Clares.

Late in life, when she was too sick to attend Mass, the Holy Spirit projected a vision of the service onto the wall of her cell.

She is now the patron saint of television. And in her honour I shall spend the day watching re-runs of Top Gear on Dave.

Going Overground

28 Jun


Photo by bowroaduk

The government has announced that it will spend £115 million to electrify the Gospel Oak to Barking line. This is very good news for those that campaigned to improve the line, but better news for those that use it.

The incorporation of the line into the London Overground network and the consequent improvements in the service – new trains, clean stations, more frequent running – has unlocked huge demand.

The previous operator, Silverlink, ran an appalling service which unsurprisingly attracted few passengers. When Transport for London took over continuing to use two car trains probably seemed a sensible idea, but now trains are full to bursting during peak times. It’s an extremely uncomfortable experience for many passengers, if they can actually get on the trains at all. I’ve given up using it for my commute home as there’s only a 50/50 chance I’ll be able to board and if I do it’s so crammed I feel in danger for my life if the driver has to brake suddenly.

The obvious solutions would be either to add additional carriages, or to run an even more frequent service to spread customers over a larger number of trains. But adding a third carriage isn’t an easy option. The trains apparently come as a unit, so you can’t just de-couple them and stick an extra bit in between. TfL has to either buy new trains or pay Bombardier a fortune to custom-build and fit middle carriages. For a relatively small number of trains that can’t really be used anywhere else, that’s not especially efficient.

Running additional services is also difficult, as the line is limited to eight trains an hour in each direction. Four of these are reserved for freight, so the current passenger service is maxed out.

Electrifying the line will solve a big part of the problem. The trains that serve the rest of the London Overground can then run on the GOBLIN and they are all at least four carriages long.

It may also mean that new through services can be opened up to Richmond and Clapham Junction. Some peak “congestion buster” services already run to Willesden Junction, missing out Gospel Oak, so the track and signalling are already in place.

Now the money is there, let’s hope work gets underway quickly.


One last chance

24 May

In late February, armed with just his football boots and (cough) supreme footballing ability, Ben da Costa of social media agency Jam went on a mission to make it as a professional footballer at Europe’s top clubs. He had just 7 days.

It turns out, much to Ben’s surprise, Europe is actually quite big and it would have taken far more than his allotted week to visit everywhere. It also became apparent that football clubs are strangely reluctant to let random people in for a trial when they turn up unannounced.

This film is his journey around the Netherlands, (a little bit of) Germany and (a tiny bit of) France. Along the way he gets to meet Steve McLaren and – more impressively – Patrick Kluivert.


Transforming Health Care

13 May

Transforming Health Care

Something I wrote for my company’s blog about how one US hospital has used ideas pioneered by Toyota in car manufacturing to transform patient care.


1 Mar


About 10 years ago I started a local website called (I still own the domain name and use it for email, though the site is long gone). Of all the emails I received about the site, by far the most common request was for information about an artist who once lived and worked in Forest Gate, L Kersh.

Mr Kersh specialized in what he called “horological collages” – pictures made up from bits of clocks and watches, like the example above. These works have travelled far and wide and their owners were keen to know more about the artist and his work.

I posted a number of these requests on the site and, quite remarkably, various members of Mr. Kersh’s family got in touch. They were proud to know how much pleasure people continued to get from his work:

I found your website on a link from Ebay while I was trying to find work done by Len Kersh.

I am proud to say he was my Uncle, he was married to my Aunty Marion (my Mum’s Sister). I remember as a child going over to over to see them regularly at their house in Station Road, Epping, Essex, UK.

I have fond memories of him and remember him being a lovely Uncle. His Wife now lives in Spain but stays in touch with My Mum on the phone & sometimes pops over to the UK to visit her.

Another wrote:

Just want to let you know that Len Kersh was my uncle and he passed away a few years ago. He had three daughters and I would love to have contact with them.

I live in Sydney, Australia. Thanks to the internet I was able to find cousin Nigel and would love to find these other cousins. I actually met one of them at the factory in 1977.

and cousin Nigel also got in touch:

L (Len) Kersh of London was my grandfather’s nephew. Len’s father, Jack Kersh and my grandfather, Michael Kersh were brothers. They were born in Riga in Latvia, and emigrated to the United Kingdom (Sunderland in Jack’s case, and Glasgow, in my grandfather’s case), where they lived out the rest of their days.

The story goes that Len was a “bit of a lad” in his youth, and got into all sorts of trouble. He eventually left home in Sunderland, and made his way to London. There he lost touch with his family, but made good by developing an idea with which he had helped a family member do a school project – the making of collages from old odds and ends. Ultimately this developed into his “horological collages” with which so many people are now familiar the world over.

I only recently made contact with Jack Kersh’s side of the family as he and my grandfather apparently fell out over some matter, and never saw one another again. It was only by chance that the daughter of one of Len’s brothers, Bennie Kersh contacted me from Australia. I now have the missing pieces of our family tree, and it’s quite something.

I don’t know what happened to Len, but I do know that his brother Charles is still alive and well and living in South Africa, where I am in contact with him through his son, also named Jack. I’ve asked him for further information about Len, but I’m not sure if he will have any further information beyond what I have described above. I do know that Len, Bennie and Charles had four sisters – Ethel, Elsie, Eva and Rose, and I’d love to know what became of them and of Len’s children, if he had any.

I hope that fills in some of the missing information on my distant cousin.

As can be seen from the certificate of authenticity that accompanied every piece he produced Kersh’s studio (or “factory” as his niece called it) was at 332 Romford Road. Sadly, there’s nothing now there to tell the world that this was where Kersh worked.


A new home

18 Feb

Twitter announced at the weekend that it was closing down Posterous, almost exactly a year after it bought the business.

It was pretty clear at the time that this was about hiring the talent behind Posterous rather than acquiring the service and its millions of users.
Nonetheless the news has caught people by surprise and left them looking for a new home for their blogs.

As was obvious from the masthead on my old site – Martin Warne’s posterous – it was hosted by Posterous. I asked on Twitter if people could recommend a new home and the answer that came back was “WordPress.”

So right now I am working to shift the site over to Most of the content is now here, I just need to do some tweaking to the tags and categories, and then re-direct the domain to point at the new site.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

Talking to Jeff Jarvis about Tax

14 Nov

[View the story “Talking to Jeff Jarvis about tax” on Storify]