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Sunday, 30 June 2013

Councils Helping the Arts

Following the retreat of Newcastle from cutting all their arts funding, and the more recent debate on creative industries in the Commons, how Councils support the arts is becoming a hot topic, so I thought I would blog about some of the things they can do.  I take the value of such support as read, and just go through some of the ways in which it can be provided, and a few of their pros and cons.

Most Councils have a variety of potential performance spaces.  In principle, this could include any park, but also a variety of Council buildings.  These work best if designed for the purpose, such as "folly" erected on the site of the former Dollis Hill House.  In Brent we have three major venues identified in our Arts Strategy. These are the Tricycle Theatre, Willesden Library Centre and the Civic Centre.

Willesden Library Centre is a cautionary tale in terms of designing such spaces.  It is now being totally rebuilt in what will hopefully be a far more effective form. The 1980s original had some performance spaces without any sound proofing, meaning that they could not be used as the neighbours complained of the noise.  I suspect the same was true of the outdoor space at the back.  The cinema there was originally intended to be a theatre, but was built without any dressing rooms.

The Civic Centre should be a much better venue, albeit still with some problems.  The atrium has already hosted some worthwhile events.  The meeting rooms in the drum are designed to be as flexible as possible, and of course there is the libraries.

Brent libraries are a key part of our Arts supports in this and so much else.  Now that they are all available 24 hours a day, it gives much greater flexibility for events, with virtually no cost to the Council.  Lots of the Brent Dance Month events take place in libraries for instance.

The final way in which the Councils can support arts through buildings is Meanwhile spaces.  This is problematic as you either have to pay the business rates direct or forgo the revenue, which obviously costs either way.

Direct Funding
Councils can also give direct funding, as Brent does to the Tricycle Theatre for example.  The days when you just gave money to people are long gone, so these grants are subject to agreed objectives and monitoring.  This kind of thing is becoming more and more difficult as central government cuts the budgets.

Indirect Support
Indirect support is not as obvious, but could be valuable.  For example, I suggested to the library service recently that they could do specific displays around each of the Tricycle's productions as they came up.  The new Artistic Director seems to have a penchant for plays with many layers of meaning, which should give plenty opportunities for book stock on lots of different themes.  It is also possible to give a bit of publicity and communications support.

Support via Planning
There are also ways to support the Arts through planning.  Some capital can be made available through planning gain, like the IKEA football.  This can be controversial, as art is such a subjective business.  More interestingly, planning policy can be used to build some arts provision into an area, a bit as has long been the case with community space.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Addendum on Paul Lorber Book Sale

A quick further note on Cllr Paul Lorber's summer book sale, as posted on yesterday.  It was referred to in the Kilburn Times headline as a "summer reading campaign". Brent has an annual non profit reading campaign, the Summer Reading Challenge.  This is promoted by many local authorities in partnership with the Reading Agency, a well known UK charity that promotes reading.

Last year's Summer Reading Challenge was hugely successful.  The 2012 Challenge saw 4,335 children join; more than in 2011.  I hope that this year! Which has a creepy house theme, is as successful.  Brent is also a leader in an adult version, the Six Book Challenge, where last year we had more participants than any other library service.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Lending or Selling?

The Kilburn Times reports that Cllr Paul Lorber's organisation "Friends of Barham Park Library" is offering books for 50p as part of an effort aimed at "slashing the cost of reading".  There are several odd features about this story.

Firstly, I understood that Cllr Lorber had solicited book donations as part of what he regards as a library service.  Those of his doners used to municipal library services may well have assumed that a library service was one that lent books for free.  Giving you a book in return for a "donation" sounds more like selling books along the lines of a second hand bookshop.  I like second hand bookshops but they are a different thing to libraries.

Secondly, this is all supposed to raise funds to hire part of the Barham Park buildings.  These buildings have been through a tendering process, and the Council (as Trustee) has decided to rent them out to an Arts organisation for a period of 15 years.  If they are being used for that purpose, I don't see that as being easily compatible with Cllr Lorber's organisation moving in.

Thirdly, the justification that Cllr Lorber has generally advanced for retaining a library at Barham Park is that Barham Park is too far away from the alternatives for people to travel to alternatives.  His organisation is based at a shop in Wembley High Road.  It seems to me to be slightly further away from the site of the former Barham library than the Brent operated Ealing Road library.

Finally, although this is touted as a time limited scheme, Cllr Lorber is quoted as saying he is "slashing" the cost of reading. That implies is used to be much higher, which makes me wonder whether he was lending books for free previously.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Fairtrade Recertification for Brent

I am glad to see that Brent has been recertified as a Fairtrade Borough.  The original Certification took place only after years of campaigning, in which my colleague Cllr Janice Long was prominent.  She helped ensure that attaining Fairtrade status was a pledge in the Labour manifesto, and got included in the Corporate Strategy.  The previous Tory/Liberal Democrat administration made a half hearted application in 2008, but basically gave up after that was refused.  Indeed the Tories always came across as negative about the whole idea.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

More Local Government Cuts

It looks likely that local government is going to get another severe round of cuts by George Osborne.  I really don't know how already very hard hit Councils like Brent are going to cope.  The reports focus on the main 28% cut, but that is in addition to others such as the reduction in Council Tax Support and crisis payments.  Somehow local authorities will have to make the budgets add up, as the kind of denial practised by that mendacious clown Grant Shapps is not possible.

Electric House in Willesden

Yesterday, I went to the closing party of Electric House in Willesden, which is now being closed for redevelopment.  It has previously been used by BAR as an art gallery and by Brent library service for extra study spaces during the exam period.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Technological Trends in Brent Libraries

This time last year it looked as if ebooks were sweeping all before them in the book market.  More recent figures suggest a slowing down.  If true, that should make the problems around lending ebooks less urgent for libraries, but they will remain as a creeping trend.  It is therefore still important for the government to address the issues in the Sieghart Review.

The other technological trend that is less remarked on is that people are increasingly bringing their own devices into libraries and using them there.  This is quite different from the model which people have been used for the past twenty years or more, of users logging on to a library owned computer.  It seems that Internet usage is now spreading more to mobile devices.  Brent libraries, of course, provide free WiFi.  The new Wembley library also has a number of iPads.  It will be interesting to see how this trend develops.  For instance, will people increasingly want to access the Internet from soft seating rather than desks?

Monday, 24 June 2013

Changes in Food Growing in Brent

A while ago, the Guardian carried a piece on transition towns.  These are self formed networks interested in working out innovative ways to develop low carbon living.  Brent has its own version in Kilburn.  They tend to focus mostly on food growing projects, such as fruit harvesting, and it reminded me that I have been meaning to post how the Council's food growing strategy has evolved beyond a traditional allotments approach to something more imaginative.

When we were in opposition, my concerns focused simply on providing allotments to meet demand, which appeared to be rising rapidly.  Once we won power, I asked for some work to be done on this, and it turned out to be quite artificial.  The database was never cleaned, so that people just stayed on it forever, even if they moved away.  After a cleaning exercise, and a rise in fees, the demand seemed much more manageable.  With the additional step of giving smaller allotments to newcomers, it looks as if we can meet that traditional type of demand.

However, the strategy we passed in August 2012 now recognises that there are lots of other approaches to food growing these days.  In some cases, schools have adopted food growing projects.  There are also a number of food growing opportunities around meanwhile sites.  At a modest level, there are herbs being grown in the plants on Tubbs Road Pocket Park. A lot of these types of schemes have in common that they are in some sense collective and communal, whereas traditional allotments tend to be more individual and proprietary.

On the Doorstep Again

Out on the doorstep in Harlesden Road and Doyle Gardens yesterday.  It was a reasonably nice day, but it seems to get harder and harder to find people in, whatever the time.  No doubt this is part of social change, but it can't be good for democracy.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Comprehensive and Efficient Library Services

Lincolnshire library services are now being cut back in a way that I have suspected that many authorities would sooner or later come round to.  It is a harbinger of the situation predicted by the Local Government Association, where authorities simply have no money to perform their most basic functions, and sometimes not even then.

For libraries, this means cutting back to the bare minimum even when they are delivering a statutory service.  This is a point often lost in discussions on statutory services _ that you can deliver them in different ways including minimalist ones.  As local authority budgets dwindle, there is a logic to authorities defining their statutory duties in the narrowest possible terms.  However, Lincolnshireshire appears to have gone further than anyone else:

This is the first  authority I can recall whose cuts have been so clearly tailored to reach the minimum statutory provision. Public Libraries News

A Curious Duty
In terms of the 1964 duty to provide a "comprehensive and efficient" service, this could lead to restrictions that will distress many people.  The duty has some curious features.

Firstly, it does not apply to buildings at all.  There is no duty to provide library buildings, merely services.  Hence there is no legally enforceable standard for how many buildings you have.  In principle, an authority could provide a service without any buildings at all, although I don't see how that would work in practice.

Secondly, the SoS takes the view _ expressed clearly in all the (non) intervention decisions _ that computers are not part of the library duty.  This is so absurd in terms of how people understand modern libraries that many people find it hard to accept.  Logically, it would mean that PCs, WiFi access and even ebooks have no place in any legal library duty, which would mean a Council would have no duty to provide them.  I have suggested before that if this interpretation is allowed to stand, there will effectively be no library duty at all.  However, I think that in the Brent case, Mr Ouseley J implied that there could be a duty to have electronic devices implied in the Act.  The best way to resolve this would be new legislation which would mean that we were no longer working with laws drawn up before the invention of the microchip.

An Even More Curious Argument
It is also interesting that Lincolnshire are interpreting the law with an emphasis on a duty to provide an efficient service.  That comes out strongly in paragraph 2.49 of the Lincolnshire report where they say they have"no choice".  In other words they are using it to argue that they have an actual duty to close down their less efficient branches to come into line with the 1964 Act.  That sounds to me like a rather desperate excuse to close down libraries that you want to close down anyway.

The Brent Approach
In Brent, we have chosen a very different route, of trying to maximise the quality of our library service.  This has been a difficult argument to get across, as it seems counter intuitive to many people, but as we move into a more positive phase _ with more library users of six libraries than we had with twelve, I hope people will begin to see that the blanket condemnation was not the right response to what is actually a positive and well thought out strategy to bring our library service into the present century.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Betting Shops Again

Unfortunately, Newham lost its test case on betting shops that I alluded to a few days ago.  The lead member in Newham goes into the reasons here.  The frustrating thing here is that the public overwhelmingly want a reduction in these kind of outlets, but the regulations work in such a way that it is incredibly hard for local authorities to deliver on their wishes.

Nick Boles, the Tory minister responsible, seems quite relaxed about betting shops spreading all over the place.  I concede there is half a point in wanting to avoid empty shops, but surely that is the kind of decision that should be made locally rather than by a central government minister? Harlesden Town Centre, for instance, has an occupancy rate above the national average, so no pressing need to lower standards to get more shops in.  The problems are more around low margins and the types of shops.  People complain about too many betting shops and chicken shops.  Surely authorities like Brent should be given the ability to listen to their wishes.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Willesden High Road Regeneration

Over time, I have been asked a number of questions about the state of the public realm in Willesden High Road. This currently, understandably, dissatisfies many people.

I have pointed out before the experiment that Brent has been carrying out with trade waste. There is also the issue if household waste.  Currently, officers are targeting Harlesden and Stonebridge, as the worst areas, but hopefully others can be targeted as those improve.

Secondly, pavements near the Willesden Sainsburys seem to be in a very bad way, but hopefully we can relay these. It has been noted as an area of poor paving in an area of high footfall.

Thirdly, there is a ponding issue at the junction of Willesden High Road and Brondesbury Park.  In wet weather, the street simply fills with water. This is partly due to the lie of the land, but also down to poor drainage.  When the Willesden Library redevelopment was going through the planning process, I made this objection specifically and it is now part of the conditions.  More widely, we now have a gully cleaning contract that should improve our gully cleaning substantially, thanks to the application of new technology.  This will also benefit part of the High Road, such as just outside what used to be The Crown pub, that have also suffered from surface water flooding.

This sort of thing may all seem very minor, compared to big issues like the redevelopment of Willesden Library Centre or The Queensbury, but improvements to the public realm are proven to be beneficial to shopping centres as a whole.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Photos of Wembley Library

Photos are now available of the newly opening Wembley Library here.  None of them give an external look unfortunately. This is a pity as the outlook on Arena Square and on Wembley Stadium are two of the things that make the site so good.

Brent Poet Laureate

Tomorrow evening, Brent's Wembley Wordfest will feature an evening with the Brent Poet Laureate Simon Mole.  Simon is well known in Brent, but this is the first time that the Brent Library Service has had this kind of formal relationship with a writer.  It seems an innovative way for libraries to work in support of the wider Arts agenda, and was one of the many good ideas put forward in the Libraries Transformation proposals passed in 2011.

Changing Waste Management

Something of the complexity of the waste management market can be gathered from this piece in the FT.  West London should be diverting almost all its remaining landfill waste to energy from waste by 2016/17.  This will be much more in accordance with the waste hierarchy than our current arrangments.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Tree Treatments

I have been finding out a little more about treating trees.  The most recent publicity was about the oak processionary moth, which has killed off oak trees in some parts of London.  Brent did have an issue of this sort in King Edward VII park, but fortunately there is an established chemical treatment which Gristwood and Toms (our contractor) were able to implement.

Most of Brent's oaks are in our parks. Our bigger problem is with ash trees, where there is no identified solution for ash tree dieback.  We have several hundred ash trees on our streets and many more in our parks.

Incidentally, anyone interested in urban trees might want to be part of the tree survey currently being undertaken by the Natural History Musuem.  It is intended to give a baseline for the study of the damage done not just be diseases, but also the effect of climate change.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Official Opening of Wembley Library

I attended the official opening of the new Wembley Library today, which I guess is the culmination of the Brent Libraries Transformation Project.  As I came up to the new library, the little girl in front of me opined that the (automated) door in front must be magic as it opened without any human aid.

Once inside, the library proved every bit as good as I hoped.  It actually opened to the public yesterday, and more than 2,000 visitors went through that first day

More on the UK's Low Wage Economy

There are some interesting figures on the UK's low wage economy here.  The constant pressure on wages and incomes is not only immiserating, but also unsustainable.  It helps to destroy domestic markets and depress the economy further.  All government ministers' rhetoric on deregulation and so on will not alter that.

End of the Co-Op Bank

The end of the Co-op bank is prophesied here.  If so it is a dark day for mutualism. Financial services have traditionally been a good area for mutual solutions, with the Nationwide the strongest example, but if the Co-op Bank goes down, it will have a chilling effect on mutualism as a whole.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Bracken Moor at the Tricycle Theatre

Last week I went to see Bracken Moor at the Tricycle, which is well worth seeing.  It is essentially a ghost story, and comparably good to The Woman in Black.  The Artistic Director, Indhu Rubasingham, told me that she likes the audience to be surprised by her programming, and it certainly does that.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Bridge Park Sports Centre Redevelopment

Tomorrow's Executive has a long awaited report on redeveloping the Bridge Park Sports Centre in Stonebridge.  The existing sports centre was I believe originally a bus garage, and is really in need of very significant investment to bring it up to modern standards.

The basic idea of the new proposal is very similar to the redevelopment of Willesden Library Centre. There is a partial land sale to a developer to provide capital to rebuild the centre.  In this case, the sale would be to the landowner of the long derelict office buildings next door.  Redeveloping those into something productive would itself be an improvement worth having.

At present, the proposal is at an exploratory stage.  The things I would like more detail on as the project moves forward are:

1) What would the facilities of the new sports centre?
2) Would it have the same pricing structure and concessions as other Brent Sports Centres (as we secured by agreement in the Moberly sports centre)?
3) Is it possible to vary the archaic management arrangements?  The existing centre is one of the very few in London to be run directly by a Council.  This was a condition of the grant that built it back in the early 1980s.  It is likely that rolling it in with a wider leisure services contract would give the taxpayer a much better deal.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Creative Industries Debate

I am glad to see that Harriet Harman has managed to secure a debate on the creative industries.  Hopefully, this will raise the profile of a sector whose economic importance is often overlooked.

More Detail on the Defection of Cllr Carol Shaw?

Cllr Carol Shaw has gone into more detail of the reasons for her defection on the Hampstead and Kilburn Conservative web site.  It makes for curious reading.

Blaming the Liberal Democrats for their hypocrisy in promising no tuition fees before the election and then voting for them afterward is a widely shared view, but after all the Tories voted for the same policy.  Her opposition to improving Willesden Green Library Centre does no favours to her constituents. She may well have not been supported by her colleagues on various issues, although I suspect they probably feel unsupported by her.

I still haven't seen any response by either Sarah Teather or Brent Liberal Democrats as a whole to this further desertion from their party.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Feel the Lack of Quality with Capita

The FT carries an interview with Paul Pindar, the chief executive of Capita. I am surprised that his approach to outsourcing appears to be based entirely on bargain basement pricing.  Most procurement exercises I have taken part in (for example the current waste and street cleaning contract procurement in Brent) have paid a great deal of attention to quality.

I doubt whether his apparent model of lowest cost no matter how poor the quality is going to work over the long term. The veneer may be coming off his desk, but at some point he really will need a new desk. More seriously, he doesn't mention redesigning services to be more efficient, which should be perfectly possible in some cases.  More seriously still for his model, if your only offer is charging less than someone else, there will always be someone else willing to charge even less.  At some point that pressure will start cutting into your profit margins.

In the meantime, the cheap as chips services you provide are likely to become notorious for their poor quality.  Once that reputation reaches a certain point; it becomes very hard to turn it around.

I am glad I don't live in Barnet, where Mr Pindar's company is taking over most of the Council's services.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Some Sort of Answer on Help to Buy

As reported in the Guardian, I am glad to see David Cameron rolling back from Help to Buy in response to a question from Seema Malhotra MP.

I have criticised this policy before as likely to increase housing costs, enmire the government in the sub-prime market and do nothing to help the unaffordable cost of housing. Although David Cameron's answer helps limit some of the damage, it still shows no awareness that overpriced housing is a result of not supplying houses, and that market mechanisms have been totally inadequate.  Cameron's answer is also characteristically vague as to what mechanism is going to deliver his desired outcomes.  I particularly wonder about how he is going to stop people from abroad  taking advantage of the scheme for speculative purposes.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Boris Johnson's Empty Promises

Boris Johnson has produced a policy document full of ambitions that he presumably hopes someone else will achieve.  During his five years as Mayor, he has managed lots of words, but actually activity has been allowed to run into the sand.  House building has reached a nadir.  Transport investment is under threat.  Police numbers are being cut.  At least on air quality has now done a screeching u-turn although I suspect only because he is afraid of an EU fine.  Meanwhile, the city has been entertained with various vanity projects, of which the new routemaster is the most prominent.  It is a warning that whoever succeeds him needs to have skills others than those needed for generating publicity.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Betting Shops Test Case

An important test case on betting shops is coming up in Newham.  This is also important for Brent as the epidemic of betting shops has reached a similarly unacceptable level here.  Current laws make it very hard for Councils to stem the tide of more and more of these shops opening everywhere, despite their unpopularity.  Many of their users seem to find them addictive, and spend a vast proportion of their income on the machines where are the real driver of profitability.  They are also frequently associated with crime, particularly drug dealing.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Cllr Carol Shaw Defects to the Tories

Cllr Carol Shaw, erstwhile Liberal Democrat in Brondesbury Park, is reported to have defected to the Tories.  It will be interesting to compare her explanation of her new allegiance with her remarks on leaving the Tories in 2003.

Brent Council Civic Centre Opens Today

The Architects Journal reports on the new Brent Civic Centre in Wembley, which opens to the public for the first time today.  A detailed rundown of the environmental benefits can be found here.  A quick summary of the benefits in general is here.

The whole project illustrates the importance of staying the course.  We now have a building with demonstrable benefits environmentally, fiscally,  organisationally and in wider economic terms.  It has taken more than a decade to achieve.  There have been numerous attempts to push the whole thing off course, which would have cost the taxpayer dearly.  The whole project is a reminder not to allow mischievous and often unelected elements to undermine your strategic objectives.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Public Accounts Committee on Local Government

The Public Accounts Committee has reported that a number of local authorities could face financial collapse, in the sense of no longer performing their legal duties.  What surprised me is that although this has all been widely debated for years now, the Department of Communities and Local Government has no plan for what it will do when it occurs.  One of the possible collapses is said to be Birmingham, so it is not a marginal issue.

The report also confirms that the government does not understand what the implications of the various changes the Tory/liberal government have forced through actually are.  That probably means it is in breach of of it's equalities duties, and perhaps even that it has acted irrationally in a legal sense.  I don't suppose it will be taken to court for this, but it does suggest that the quality of Eric Pickles decision making is not the greatest.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Harlesden High Street Bring Bank

I noticed a short time ago that the bring banks outside 139 Harlesden High Street have been removed.  On inquiry, it turns out this is a temporary measure to better enable access to the old service station site next door, which is finally being developed.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Local Authority Pensions

The FT has been doing a series of articles, such as this one, on local authority pension schemes.  This looks like an area where local authorities could achieve real savings without impacting on services.  As well as demanding lower rates from fund managers, there really seems no good reason why each authority has to have its own scheme, rather than just merging them.  Of course, a problem with the Brent scheme is that historically it has been so underfunded that merging with Brent may not be an attractive proposition.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Brent Central Parliamentary Selection

Following my recent post on Sally Gimson, I have been asked about the Labour selection for Brent Central.  My view is that there is currently no front runner. The list is open and it could go anywhere. The selection does not start until September.

Brent Council Civic Centre Opening

As the Brent Civic Centre is on the brink of opening (on Monday), it is worth looking back at some of the photos of the construction period.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Arts and Politics

I am not sure that Liz Forgan gets it quite right in her interview with the Daily Telegraph.  Whereas it is true that many politicians see the arts as an "add on", I suspect that attitude is shared by people in general.

The kind of view she expresses about the Bristol Old Vic as an integral part of Bristol is not commonly recognised. In Brent, I would say the Tricycle Theatre can play that sort of role for Kilburn High Road. The new Civic Centre could act as a regeneration magnet, and the new Willesden centre might be able to do the same for Willesden High Road, but not sure that is widely appreciated.

I am also not sure that I sympathise that the "new rich" should be the mainstay of arts funding.  If arts activities really provide wide social value, which I think they do, what is wrong with them being funded from public funds?  Do we really need to fund from grotesquely overpaid bankers?  In fact aren't such charitable donations just a way of covering up gross inequalities that should not be there in the first place?

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Brent Benefit Problems

With another councillor, I popped into the Harlesden Job Centre to see how well the Council's one stop shop facility had relocated from Willesden.  Aside from the signage, which we both thought poor, it looks like a good facility.  The number of enquiries being dealt with have gone up markedly, but there is extra resource to cope.  I suspect many people are still going to Brent House, but from 10 June, the facilities of the Brent Civic Centre will become available.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Sally Gimson at the Tricycle Theatre

I went to the Sally Gimson event at the Tricycle Theatre this evening, which was interesting.  My impression is that the Hampstead and Kilburn candidature for Labour remains wide open.

Housing Impacts

The gloomy effect of the government's benefit cuts are covered by Dave Hill in the Guardian.  The picture he paints is of small localised communities desperately trying to keep together to the bemusement of the government policy makers.  Recently, David Cameron opined that policy research, in that case into equality impacts, was unneeded because"smart people in Whitehall" knew best.  This seems to be an example where the narrowness of backgrounds of the smart people in Whitehall, and their failure to ask the people on the receiving end of their policies directly contributes to policy failure.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

New Highways Contract

The upgrade of Harlesden Town Centre that has just begun is the first to be done under the new Lohac contract.  That may seem an unexciting fact, but the important thing about it is that it allows costs to the taxpayer to be driven down without loss of service quality.

The new contract comes after years of work by TfL to develop a common London wide specification for Highways work.  Brent is one of the first Boroughs to come on stream. The common specification allows costs to be compared across Boroughs so if one is markedly higher than another, the difference will be clear.  It also means that contractors that have performed well under the contract will have an entree into a much wider pool of work than they could get from one contract alone.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Mammoth Curiosity

The BBC is reporting that frozen mammoth remains have been found with liquid blood inside.  I am intensely curious as to how liquid blood is found in frozen remains.  The idea of cloning the creature strikes me as extraordinarily cruel for such a social animal, so I hope no one attempts it.

Wembley Library Wordfest

Details of the opening festival of the new Wembley Library are now announced.  The sheer variety of the events is what impresses me the most.  Of course, the whole Civic Centre. Building was designed with performance in mind, making spectaculars like this far easier to mount.  Thus our libraries transformation project transforms not only our library service, but also our arts strategy.