Shrub End Starting Orders

Righto – and so the ink has barely dried on the Notice of Election for Shrub End.

Is anyone up for this CBC by-election?

It would seem so…

The vacancy has come about after the resignation of LibDem Cllr Karen Chaplin.

Which was… ‘unfortunate.’

Especially so for the Love Me I’m a Liberal Lot. The last thing they want right now at the Town Hall is another bloody by-election.

The results from the ‘all outs’ back in 2016 suggest that this should be a two horse race between the LibDems and the Tories.

But 2016 was a long, long time ago in both local and national political circles.

The Chronic has grown a beard, shaved a beard and then grown it back again in this timeframe.

And we still haven’t got the CHUFFERS what is meant by Brexit.

Or even a joined up wheelie bin policy in the borough…

Looking back to May 2016 and we see that the good folk of Shrub End returned LibDem Cllr Lyn Barton with an impressive 960 votes.

LibDem Cllr Chaplin came second on 569 and Conservative Cllr Pauline Hazell third with 526 votes.

You have to work your eyes down the list all the way to 9th spot to see the first Labour candidate appear. Bruce Tuxford received 324 votes.

Even the bloody UKIP candidate received more votes than the top placed Comrade.

And so why is the local CLP out in force around Shrub End?

It’s all about Tim, Jezza, innit?

And Dave.

Labour’s Cllr Dave Harris’s Maypole Division for ECC covers the Shrub End CBC ward. Dave is a top campaigner and can work the doorstep.

Plus this will be something of a Sate of the Parties poll ahead of the next BONKERS election by thirds in May 2018.

It is the reason that all three parties are taking it so seriously. Win Shrub End and you gain the momentum for nine months time.

A win for Labour would also lead to a reasonable request for an extra seat at Cabinet. It would be interesting to see who is next in line in the talent pool, plus who would get the boot from the top table.

One senior CBC Cabinet member has already tried his luck in trying to oust a political rival from Cabinet.

Nice people…

Add into the equation a washed up national Tory party, the Corbyn Wave (which saw the unlikely victory of Lee Scordis in the ECC Abbey Division) and a wtf LibDem party nationally, and well – anything is possible.

And so who are the candidates when Shrub End goes to the polls on 7 September?

The Tories have put up Vic Flores. His political rivals have already labelled him an online troll.

Anyone who heard the close of the CBC Full Council meeting last Wednesday will know who the real trolls are.

It is refreshing to see the LibDems select some young talent in Sam McCarthy. If elections were fought and won on facial hair alone then Sam is yer man.

As for the Comrades of Colchester Labour?

Um…

Apparently interest has been so high that the selection process is still taking place.

Or something.

Remember how the local CLP delayed and dithered before announcing a GE candidate back in June?

Some fella called Tim did rather well.

This election has already been dubbed the Wheelie Bin Referendum by some [um, The Chronic.]

We don’t think that Brexit concerns will play out very well on the Shrub End doorstep.

Some interesting exchanges have already taken place online.

But hey!

Don’t worry, Little People.

Everyone will kiss and make up and work together around the Cabinet table once the Shrub End political bun fight has been cleaned up.

Plus does anyone know who actually called the election? Ten names and all that.

Which party triggered this?

Comments, below…

Northern Gateway… again

The next hurdle for the Northern Gateway should get the green light when CBC Cabinet meets at the Town Hall on 9 August.

It’s a long running saga that would have gone to penalties many months ago if this was a football match.

The SEXY Colchester Northern Gateway (North) Sports Development Project Review is up for consideration by the LibLabIndie love in of a Cabinet.

As with all things Cabinet, plenty of discussion will take place, concluded by Cabinet AGREEING on the detail in the Officer’s report [pdf].

It’s how #localgov works, innit?

It should all be plain sailing:

“To update revised funding ahead of the planning application.”

OK…

But wait! What’s this?

The Cabinet report slips in the minor detail of:

“Reducing capital costs.”

A good payer is master of another’s purse, etc.

It seems that the pounds and pence for the flagship CBC leisure scheme aren’t quite totting up.

Whoops.

CBC appointed a design, environmental, engineering and costs specialist [SNAZZY] in March of this year.

They are probably playing them a fair price, leading to the cost for the Northern Gateway to be revised.

The situation seems so serious that the report states that holting the project was considered.

Other options were to postpone the Northern Gateway whilst another funding source was looked into; a third option was to focus on rugby and cycling only.

But never let it be said that the LibLabIndie love in is nothing but an inclusive lot.

And so instead we have…

We have, we have…

Um?

We’re not entirely sure tbh.

Open democracy at the Town Hall means that when cut comes to chase at Cabinet, the Little People will be thrown out of the Grand Jury Room.

We aren’t allowed to listen – or report – on the finer details.

Good this, innit?

All that we know is that:

“Officers are are continually seeking new sources.”

This sounds remarkably like the Creative Business Centre at 37 Queen Street.

In the end it was those nice Tories at ECC that bailed out the LibLabIndie love in.

We can’t quite see this happening this time round up at the Northern Gateway.

Planning is expected late in 2017; a final handover is scheduled for March 2019.

#WillBlogForMoney etc.

Warm and Toasty Coast to Coast Comes to Colchester

The Warm and Toasty Club returned to Colchester Arts Centre on Sunday to deliver a snapshot of the Coast to Coast project.

Plus we had a brass band, a Bard and biscuits.

NEVER forget the Warm and Toasty biscuits, friends.

Warm and Toasty aims to collect and share stories from some of the more senior folk in our Essex patch. Coast to Coast has been working along the North Essex golden sands over the past year or so making new friends.

These friendships seem to come easy for Warm and Toasty host Johnno Casson. The suited and booted fella has been charming folk from Clacton to Walton, and bringing their stories to Colchester.

Johnno has also been able to bring some of the stars from these stories back to our town as well. A packed Arts Centre included the faces of some of the social history stories that would later be shared.

The Haven Croft and Warde Chase residents didn’t hold back with their waving once namechecked. People are proud to be associated with Warm and Toasty.

But you won’t sell out the Arts Centre on social history alone. You need a little light entertainment for a Sunday afternoon. WHOOPS could be heard from the floor as Johnno explained what was coming up on the Warm and Toasty stage.

So many familiar Colchester faces had gathered at the Arts Centre for the afternoon. Warm and Tasty crosses generations. Pre-school cherubs mixed with ladies and gents with War time memories.

SHOWTIME started with an eyes to the right as the Arts Centre stage revealed a full on brass band to bring a little Warm and Toasty happiness. 1st Class Brass are a community band based in Colchester. The membership spans young to the more experienced. They fitted in rather well at Warm and Toasty.

Johnno then introduced something very different with solo female performer Sasha. The Cathedral voice could fill a space like St Paul’s. The old St Mary-at-the Walls surrounds were captivated by the keyboards and vocals.

Follow that.

Few people could. But then Martin Newell is not exactly any old person. Introduced as “East Anglia’s finest songwriter“, Martin made his way to the front of a space that he has dominated for many decades.

You never know what you are going to get with Martin; piano? Poetry? Smutty tales? Sometimes all three contained in one song.

His first short set opened with a masterful poem about the Queen, and ended with a beautiful piano piece celebrating the life of ‘My Young Mum.’ It fitted the Warm and Toasty remit like a well warn cardigan.

Another rising star soon emerged on the front row. Young Felix was keen to pass comment on the acts throughout the afternoon. Johnno had discovered a mini-me to fill his sizeable three piece suit.

We’d hesitate to say that the headline act peaked too early, but Biscuit of the Month put in another powerful performance. You won’t find this at the Reading Festival…

Up for debate this month was Rich Tea Vs Malted Milk – or Hilary Clinton Vs Donald Trump, as a young audience member was keen to share. Johnno put an end to any Sunday afternoon political interference.

Warm and Toasty team members Jeanette and Dawn served up the biscuits as debate took place about which is more worthy. Johnno delivered some well researched biscuit facts. Google NEVER lies.

One word answers were asked to describe Rich Tea and Malted Milk: bland, dry, and even circle – a contribution from a brave two year-old sitting with her parents. Two years-old are rather good at telling it like it is.

A show of hands had the surprise verdict of Malted Milk being the May Biscuit of the Month. Another polite attempt was made to politicise biscuits with the silent majority winning. It was a good point, and one that was well made. But Warm and Toasty songwriter supreme Marina Florance was waiting to perform her first set.

Marina is the musical glue that helps bring the Warm and Toasty social history to song. She has been attending and contributing to the Memory Afternoons with her songwriting partner Jules Fox-Allen. The pair are the magic that turns the social into song.

Johnno explained how Warm and Toasty cherishes the people that we work with. It is the coming together that helps to bring these stories out into the open. Marina made sure that the residents from Haven Croft in the audience took full credit for their stories as she sang Down on the Naze.

So many ideas were contained in the verses; so many more conversations to share. Which all meant that it was a decent time for a traditional toast break.

You want toast?

WE GOT toast.

White, brown – even gluten free. Detail is everything at Warm and Toasty.

1st Class Brass opened the second half of the show.

We went from Scott Joplin to the Pulp Fiction soundtrack.

The real stars of the show were then given a little more time. A short video produced by Tim Brunsden was played explaining the relationship between the residents and the songwriting team.

A CD has been pressed up containing three pieces of Warm and Toasty unique songwriting.

Johnno then introduced Mia Standen, a very young performer playing one of her first major gigs. Mia held the attention of the Arts Centre crowd. She grew in confidence for the duration of her short number. We would love to see her back at Warm and Toasty.

A short audio recording from a Memory Afternoon was shared. Johnno explained how we don’t celebrate the working lives of people in our community who might not make the headlines. Their social histories are just as important and tell us more about our community.

This led to Marina playing a couple more numbers to bring these memories to life in song and verse.

The process has come full circle. We were present at many of these Memory Afternoon sessions where the stories were first shared. And here they were, making an appearance in song at the Arts Centre. The best stories are always the ones that are true.

A hush filled the Arts Centre once again with the return of Sasha to the keyboards.

And then it was left to Martin Newell to close the May Warm and Toasty with a Sunday afternoon music hall romp. No one else is making music quite like this. Martin is at the top of his game right now. His game is one which has little rules, but is greatly enjoyed.

This was a Bank Holiday weekend in Colchester that had many competing events taking place around our town. It is humbling to see that an old church can still be packed out on a Sunday afternoon as generations come together to celebrate life with a non-secular agenda.

We like to think that it is the FREE toast that brings the masses out; we are all social by default. Warm and Toasty is rather good at reminding us of this.

Warm & Toasty Walton Return

You never know what to expect from a Warm and Toasty Club memory afternoon. A good starting point is in the name: warm, toasty and memories.

But beyond the warm friendships and the shared memories, the rest can be a little random. This is what makes Warm and Toasty so special.

Johnno and the team are continuing with the Coast to Coast project as we enter into the spring months. A Walton-on-the-Naze return is taking place with the team working with residents at Warde Chase.

The aim remains familiar: invite a gathering of some of the more mature members from our community and see where the conversation takes us. The conversation can be quite random. This is all part of the Warm and Toasty experience.

The Warde Chase residents presented a new element to Johnno and the team. The residents are the youngest of baby boomers that Warm and Toasty has worked with. This means that the memories are still fresh.

But has our society changed significantly in the past four or five decades?

Some friendly introductions started a recent Warde Chase session. Not all the residents knew one another, such is the size of the Warde Chase.

Johnno spoke about the power of stories. You can’t deny this attraction. We can look at art, listen to music or even watch TV together. But a shared conversation allows others to consider, and then comment.

The end result is a unique oral experience where we try to make sense of the past. It helps to have some wise heads around.

Joining this Warm and Toasty session were three of the volunteers – Vivian, Michael and Howard. This trio are also experienced swing dancers. This led to the topic of dancing.

Residents were asked to recount their days of going out dancing and what it meant to them.

Warm and Toasty GOLD was struck within the first few minutes. Warde Chase resident Roger delivered what seemed like one hundred stories in five minutes:

“My aunt Millie was a champion ballroom dancer. They took me out and taught me how to dance. From an early age I learnt how to do it the right way. I was then a stage hand at Covent Garden Opera House and so I saw all the greats dance. I even sang with Pavarotti!

I was singing some Elvis. He came over to me. I asked him if he liked Elvis. His manager and the Director of the Opera House were going mad! He gave me a hug. He said your voice is an instrument and you must use it every day. He sang Nesun Dorma. I said you teach me how to sing that, and I’ll teach you Hound Dog.

I’ve always been able to sing, and my mate Stuart could dance. We always got the girls, one way or the other. I look at kids dancing now and I don’t know where they get it from – spinning on their heads. We use to do that but we were drunk.”

Roger then went on to deliver a brilliant Beatles story that involved blagging it with the band whilst entertaining the ladies. A similar Tom Jones yarn followed.

The Pavarotti story was so powerful that we’re leading with this and saving up the Beatles and Tom Jones for a Warm and Toasty rainy day.

Follow that, Sue!

“We use to go to Illford Palais on a Saturday night. I don’t think it was to dance but to drink. I was a teenager. We shouldn’t have been in there. We also went to Barking Town Hall. Brian Poole and the Tremoloes use to be there. They were becoming famous.”

Brian Poole isn’t en par with The Maestro, but it seems that access to the stars was something of a recurring theme.

Warde Chase resident Wendy was a little more reserved with her dance of choice:

“I was more of a ballet fan. It’s graceful, it’s artistic and beautiful. I always wanted to learn to jive though. Because we were poor as I was sent to ballroom dancing. Someone gave me a pair of white plastic boots. I left – I couldn’t stand the embarrassment!

I did get the chance to do a solo spot at the Royal Albert Hall but I bottled it. I still enjoy watching it. Every muscle is used. It is amazing what ballerinas go through.”

But what happens if you have two left feet when it comes to dancing? Sue spoke of her own dancing anti-climax:

“I couldn’t wait to the age where I could get out and dance. But I can’t dance! I can’t jive. People tried to teach me but I couldn’t. But about 15 years ago I joined a modern jive class. I did this until recently. We do a bit of line dancing. But I’ve got two left feet. I was a wall flower. I’d rather put on a pair of roller skates and go to Ally Pally.”

Roger’s lifelong pal Stuart was next up to share his dancing memories. The stage was set as Roger let slip Stuart’s nickname of ‘Snake Hips.’

“We were 15 when we first went out. We were told that we had to be careful in these clubs. A gun was pulled on us. We use to dance in The Bell pub. I do line dancing now. I’m too old to do it now. We did have some laughs. We saw the Yardbirds and the Byrds at Walthamstow Baths.”

The memory afternoon went full circle with some Warm and Toasty volunteers sharing their experiences. Michael and Vivian were trailed to put on a first class dancing masterclass. Expectations were high for their dancing memories.

Michael’s story shows that if at first you don’t succeed…

“There was nothing when I was younger. I couldn’t do dance. I was terrible. It wasn’t until about 17 years ago that I met a girl. She said I can’t see you because I’m going to a dance class. I asked if I could come along. Twenty years earlier I saw jiving for the first time. I said I want to do that! My wife at the time said you will never do it as there was no teachers. But I’ve learnt it now.”

Sylvia is a Warde Chase resident who admitted to being a little nervous. The warmth of the group led her to adding a little more detail about her dancing memories. It was wonderful to hear how dancing can be seen as an alternative form of expression:

“I lived in Barnet. There was the M20 dance studios. I was 13 when I first went there. It made me feel free. I wasn’t that confident. When you express yourselves through your body, it gives you confidence.”

The generation game kept on being played. Jill is a younger sister of one of the other residents. She found that the decade or so gap led to a very different expectation when it came to dancing:

“I didn’t go to any dances. I just went to the pub until 2am! My daughter dances though. I spent most of my life taking her around. The Eagle in Tottenham is where I use to drink. I worked in the City and then came home in the morning.”

The dancing genes may have skipped a generation, but they are continuing with Jill’s daughter – who just so happened to pop her head around the door to check up on the Warm and Toasty session. They are a VERY friendly lot over at Warde Chase.

All of this dancing talk was exhausting. A tea break was called for.

You can take Warm and Toasty on a Coast to Coast Essex tour, but you can’t lose the biscuits. Or the conversations.

It was great to hear the tea break chat continue with the dancing theme in smaller groups. This is where more detail can be shared. Similar connections are made as we realise that dancing is one of the art forms that can still unite us.

That was theory anyway.

How about the practical?

Step forward the twinkle toes of Vivian, Michael and Howard – three resplendent Warm and Toasty volunteers who are also a bit nifty on their feet.

A demonstration of dancing from the 40s and 50s followed. You could see some of the residents shuffling their feet as their memories of how to jive came back to them.

But Warm and Toasty is about participation, not observation. Soon most of the residents were on the makeshift dance floor and joining in with what Vivian called a ‘stroll.’ It was more like a mild afternoon hike to be honest.

Johnno and the Warm and Toasty team will be continuing to work with the Warde Chase residents over the coming weeks. Other volunteers will be attending and helping out with the skills that they can offer. There is talk of a commissioned song about the Warde Chase memories being composed.

If you want to experience the glamour of a Warm and Tasty full on show then you are in luck. The next Warm and Toasty Club will be taking place on the afternoon of Sunday 28 May at Colchester Arts Centre.

Some of the memories from the Coast to Coast sessions will be shared. Tickets are priced at a bargain £5 – a price worth paying alone for Biscuit of the Month.

Wheelie Bin WOW

Colchester Borough Council has filed a patent for: Transport-Enabled Units of Refuse – WHEELIE BINS to you and me.

With the wheelie bin trial across some wards being rolled out in a few months, CBC has started to make preparations.

The Chronic has seen a draft document to patent the transport-enabled units of refuse. It states that bog-standard wheelie bins are not suitable. This is because not all of the borough wards are making the wheelie bin switch.

Instead the Council has hired a London design team to come up with a solution. The six month project has led to a hybrid of a traditional domestic bin with retractable wheels.

The design means that the current fleet of refuse trucks won’t need to be updated. The transport-enabled units of refuse can be collected by the refuse team – with or without wheels.

London design agency bitznbins was commissioned by CBC after similar work carried out last year in Burnley. The crack team came up with the idea of reusable black bin liners. The Burnley bin men empty the sacks on their truck, and then throw the empty bin liners back into the front garden.

The patent document prepared by CBC describes how the new Colchester bins will work. If you are in a wheelie bin ward then you will be supplied with a ‘movement platform’. This looks a little like a square skateboard with four wheels.

The idea is that residents can easily place their bins on the movement platform when it is their collection day.

Higher class wards such as Wivenhoe will be able to keep their existing bin arrangements. Most residents in Wivenhoe are able to afford retro metallic dustbins from architectural salvage yards.

CBC is confident that the transport-enabled units of refuse will be able to help boost the finances of the borough. If successful then the units will be sold to other local authorities that aren’t blessed with the local government brains that we can boast in Colchester.