A slight concern over recent weeks as it seems that my little hyperlocal patch of Wivenhoe missed out on any Chronicle action over the Christmas period. But then come Saturday night, and I heard tales of the legend that is Scoop Scarpenter wandering around the town, delivering copies of the esteemed Brightlingsea and Wivenhoe Chronicle.
The hyperlocal news cycle is continuous. Early Sunday morning, and with a hangover just starting to kick start my day, and there was Scoop, making a lunge for my letterbox with the February 2011 edition.
And so here’s a brief headline updates of what’s in the Chronicle for Wivenhoe locals this month. Brightlingsea locals, lovely though I’m sure you are, can go and bugger off. Or start your own hyperlocal blog…
Local Police Station To Be Closed is the lead story.
“The decision by Essex Police to close their station at Brightlingsea, and their office in the High Street at Wivenhoe, and move their personnel to work out of the town’s fire stations has been met with considerable local dismay by residents.”
This is a win / win story for the Chronicle, covering both patches of the circulation footprint. Scoop has taken the story further, conducting a “random verbal poll,” probably in The Station, I’d wager.
We discover from the results:
“There is almost disbelief that the police office will be transferred to a site adjacent to fields on the outskirts of town.”
This feeling of “disbelief” is deduced from a sample of 70 Wivenhoe locals, with only five residents thinking that the closure of the police station is not a matter for concern.
In response, Essex Police point out that the majority of calls for Wivenhoe are coming in from *ahem* the University, which will now be closer to our fine police officers, once the move to the Fire Station takes place in March.
But it’s not all about the old Bill in The Chronicle this month. For those of a flag flying persuasion, celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee may be of interest:
“Wivenhoe Town Council is setting up a working party to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012. Several Councillors are involved, but they would like two or three members from the community to join the working party.”
I’m up for half of this suggestion – the party part. With personal plans for the Royal Wedding currently being put in place (based roughly around trying to avoid the happy couple) then no surprises that the Diamond Jubilee has yet to make it into my diary.
Given the Regal occasion, how about something based around Queens Road? It could even be an anti-street party, with the road opened up for traffic once again.
*HUGE irony insert there, btw…*
But let’s keep it positive. Page 2 of The Chronicle carries the story of Wivenhoe Eyecare picking up an Excellent Customer Service Award at the Colchester District Business Awards, 2010. Congratulations to all involved.
Poetry Wivenhoe is given a plug for 24th January at The Greyhound, as is the Folk Club for the 3rd February (no longer at The Greyhound, but now bedding down rather well up at The Flag).
Keeping it cultural and p.6 reports on the Gilbert and Sullivan Society production of Oklahoma! I really wish Mr G & S didn’t add an exclamation mark to their well-known body of work. I studied the Chronicle G & S Soc to Perform Oklahoma! headline for all of five minutes, yet still couldn’t see the joke. Hey hoe. 15th – 19th March is the run, with performances, as ever, at the William Loveless Hall. Tickets are on sale at both post offices.
Meanwhile, any news piece which states:
“There will be no bar and therefore revellers attending should arrive with their own drink and glasses…”
…gets the thumbs aloft from me. Mr Mayor’s “Forces Sweethearts” dance will be taking place on 12th February at, um, the William Loveless Hall, raising funds for our fine Mayor’s Charity Fund.
And that’s about yer lot from this month in the brilliant Brightlingsea and Wivenhoe Chronicle. Now then – who is friendly enough with the good Scoop Scarpenter to have a very kind word, and try and sort out a plug for the growing Wivenhoe Forum in the March edition?
The Brightlingsea and Wivenhoe Chronicle is distributed free amongst local households. Additional copies are 25p from local newsagents.
Here’s something of a brief plug for the fine folk running the Wivenhoe, Fingringhoe and Rowhedge Ferry. Nope – not they’re not looking for potential Sea Captains, but poetry and prose all about Wivenhoe. Even better if the words take on aquatic approach.
As part of the programme that will be printed ahead of the new season, some words of Wivenhoe wisdom are required. No mention if Fingringhoe or Rowhedge inspired artistic prose will suffice.
Um, good luck, neighbours…
Catherine Alexander is your contact, and the need is rather urgent. A brief of 300 – 500 words has been mentioned, but I think that anything that you think will fit the ferry theme would be most welcome.
My time here in Wivenhoe is sadly too short so as not to have experienced the ferry as yet. With a programme currently being planned, and with the request coming in as URGENT, then it can’t be too long before I find my Fingringhoe sea legs.
There was a young man new to Wivenhoe
Across to Fingringhoe he thought he would go
The ferry was late
He missed his date
And ended up back at home fing…
This piece was first published in the brilliant Colchester 101 magazine. Copies are available for free around pubs, shops and other public places in the town.
I’m a firm believer that you can judge the success of a town by the quality of the local charity shops. Sure it’s great to have the big High Street brands nearby, but the true character of Colchester shines through with the range of charity shops to choose from.
The very ethos of donating cast offs, speaks volumes about the social conscience of a town. This may sound like a liberal wet dream, but it is also something of a retail lifesaver for many local families in these uncertain economic times.
A recent trip into the town centre saw me pick up a woollen jumper, a couple of shirts and a pair of (unused) hiking socks. I blinked at the opportunity of buying a (used) 44DD bright pink bra. I still had change from a tenner, and so spunked £100 away on a designer man bag.
Age Concern along George Street, Scope and the PDSA on Long Wyre, Cancer Research at Culver Street West – it may not be a West End shopping experience, but I’d be struggling to find a pair of (unused) hiking socks along Regent Street for under £1.
What I find fascinating about our local charity scene, dahhhling, is the selection of clothes found within. The items donated serve as a social time capsule for the current state of the town.
Designer clothes don’t exactly grace the rails along the charity shop circuit. There’s a more practical approach, with sensible clothing, as your parents might have once said. This doesn’t mean that Colchester is dull – witness the bright young things scrumaging around in the bargain bins to buy some clothing that they will then customise.
Yep – Colchester is comfortable, rather than costly. This atmosphere helps to promote further creativity within the town. The bottom up approach of retail during this recession is booming, compared to the early 90′s. The black bin liner bidding shops that sprung up after Black Wednesday in ’92 are thankfully nowhere to be seen.
Instead we have the likes of Slack Space, the creatives at 15 Queen Street and the Hidden Kiosk Project by the old bus station, all successfully using empty building space to create something beneficial for Colchester under these challenging times.
Charity begins at home. Or along George Street, Long Wyre, Culver Street West etc.
Saturday night is food night in Wivenhoe. Which must make Monday – Friday booze night. Sundays are for walks.
A wander down from Jardine to the Bake House on Saturday evening and all of our local restaurants appeared to be serving happy eaters. Upstairs at The Greyhound, Bengal Spice, Valentino’s and the Corner House – it may have been cold outside, but food was helping to spread a little warmth within the Wivenhoe economy.
@AnnaJCowen and I are slowly, slowly eating Wivenhoe. With a table for four booked upstairs at the Corner House (hellooo!) Saturday night was a much-anticipated chance to sample the tapas menu that Nigel and Lisa have recently been able to put on offer.
The granting of an evening booze licence has allowed the Corner House to make the most of the historic building, both day and night. The space takes on a different ambience in the evening. Candles, some jazz funk and foodie types replacing the coffee ‘n cake crowd – it’s as though Wivenhoe has gained an extra eating establishment.
Tapas is the main theme for the menu. There is a selection of hot and cold dishes, with very much a mix ‘n match style to suit your palette (or pronunciation – how tricky is it to say Halloumi? Whoops.) The wine menu matches the Mediterranean feel.
Ordering for four soon became an eyes rather than stomach satisfying experience – Olives, Mediterranean Dips, Charcuterie Plate, Calamari, Hhh-halloumi, Borek, Santa Fe Potatoes, Baked Somerset Camembert and a Bread Selection – and that was just for the starters.
I’m hard pushed to choose my favourite selection of the evening. The Halloumi we had was tender, the San Fe Potatoes had a kick and the Baked Somerset Camembert was deliciously smooth and creamy as it melted away.
The booze wasn’t half bad, either.
All of this choice soon confused @AnnaJCowen, who managed to bring the fine food dining experience back down to her level by asking for a doggy bag.
But it wasn’t all about the fine food. Sitting upstairs at the Corner House and each time someone walks past St Mary’s, a twenty foot high shadow appears creeping up the clock tower. There is Wivenhoe comedy gold to be had in this scientific fact. A puppet show projection is just waiting to happen.
Some three hours later after first taking up our table, we staggered back up through the town, laden down with food and fond memories. Oh, and a doggy bag.
The softly, softly launch of the evening eating experience at the Corner House appears to be working. Word is getting around Wivenhoe of what a wonderful addition this is to our many splendid restaurants.
Feedback on the Corner House Facebook wall is glowing. It seems that the hardest working couple in Wivenhoe have managed to come up with a winning formula once again.
All this work and no play… ah – but look here: Vegas is set to come to downtown Wivenhoe next month:
“To Celebrate Lisa and Nigel’s’ 18th wedding anniversary (and the city they were married in) The Corner House will become The Vegas Lounge on Saturday February 19th. Expect an eclectic mix of music and food that would have been found in the golden era of Las Vegas. Book now and dress to impress Vegas style.”
There’s also a Vietnamese New Year event later on this week to add further variety to the menu. Booking ahead is advised, as is putting aside a whole Sunday to walk off the experience.
Woh – where to start with @Uni_of_Essex‘s Knowledge Gateway project and the projected impact that the flagship programme will have upon Wivenhoe residents?
The Nottage on a Friday night would be a good start. Having bundled a previous public meeting through inadequate advertising, the Estate Management team of our academic friends from up the road called Round 2.
Almost two hours later after a hostile dialogue between Town and Gown, some form of mediation was realised when Wivenhoe’s Mr Mayor, Brian Sinclair, summed up the mood at the meeting by stating:
“We are not against the University. We recognise the contribution that you make towards the town. Wivenhoe however is deeply concerned about the construction work involved for the Knowledge Gateway.
Oh the irony in the centre piece of the project being a Conflict and Resolution Centre…
In the blue corner representing the University were Andrew Nightingale, the Director of Estate Management, and his colleague, Andrew Heyward, the Knowledge Gateway Project Officer.
The Knowledge Gateway is defined by the University as:
“The new home for social and scientific research and business space in Colchester.”
But not in Wivenhoe, I note.
Wivenhoe locals are defining the project as the road junction feeding into the already congested Clinghoe Hill.
Planning for the project was passed in 2005. Clearance of the site leading down to the Colne is already underway. Work on the highly contentious slip road will start in April of this year, lasting a total of seven weeks. The Knowledge Gateway itself has a completion date of five years from now.
Andrew Nightingale opened the meeting, stating:
“We are not use to presentations. We are very much campus contained. The University is conscientious however of the impact that this will have on the community. We apologise for the poor advertising for the first meeting. This is NOT a consultation though. We already have planning permission.”
Andrew then outlined some of the finer detail of the scheme. The Knowledge Gateway is not all about the pursuit of academic excellence. There is also the slight matter of making money from the project.
Roughly a quarter of the site has been put aside for private residential accommodation. The University is selling on the freehold to a developer, with 400,000 square feet of commercial space also contained within the plans.
But new builds and new businesses need some entry point to get into the homes and office space. The Tesco end of Boundary Road will be blocked off, and a new road will be built to feed into the site.
Before Wivenhoe locals start to get excited about an alternative route into Colchester, no surprises to discover that once again, this will be a private road. The barriers from Boundary Road will be replicated in the new development, only allowing University traffic and public transport to pass through.
So where does this leaves Wivenhoe locals wanting a route into the Greenstead and Tesco roundabouts? Ah, that will be everyone’s favourite commute of choice, Clinghoe Hill…
With congestion during the rush hour already making the journey from Colchester Road down to Greenstead a half hour (ish) hell (ish) experience, if you were a transport planner then common sense would suggest not to add further to this existing congestion problem.
Plans were shown at The Nottage on Friday evening for… a new slip road towards the top of Clinghoe Hill, built purely for the purpose of allowing University traffic to flow into the Knowledge Gateway. The University Estate staff tried to sell this flawed thinking to Wivenhoe folk as a safety argument:
“This well help students to cross Clinghoe Hill safely,” said Andrew Nightingale. “The new junction will provide a safe crossing from the Greenstead Estate.”
It was around this point in the evening when the usually mild-mannered and tolerant folk of Wivenhoe turned the heat up on our academic neighbours:
“There already is a safe crossing,” came the cry from the floor. “The students are too stupid to use it.”
If the long-term imposition of extra traffic on our one route out of Wivenhoe wasn’t bad enough, the construction process looks like cutting off Wivenhoe, with no adequate commuting route into Colchester.
The seven-week period starting in April of this year will reduce Clinghoe Hill to a solitary lane. Andrew Nightingale outlined the alternative transport options:
“Wivenhoe is well served by public busses. There is a car share scheme, and it is possible to walk into Colchester along the Wivenhoe Trail.”
It’s extremely picturesque, ‘n all that, even with the Knowledge Gateway being built right behind you – but walking for forty-five minutes or so each day into Colchester? You’ve got to be one hell of a nature lover to walk it like you talk it.
The meeting was then handed over to Martin Mason from the Highways Agency at Essex County Council. With the University pitch to try and sell the project to Wivenhoe complete, now was the time for the nuts and bolts of transport to be addressed.
“The original option to access the Knowledge Gateway was a roundabout. Following some fatalities, we then asked the University to re-visit the access solutions.”
“Why don’t you build a bridge for the students to cross?” came the cry from the floor.
“People don’t like using them. They are lazy and like the quickest route.”
As was then pointed out from the floor, for the nation’s next leaders to be playing a game of cat and mouse across Clinghoe Hill, doesn’t exactly inspire you with confidence for the future.
Mayor Brian Sinclair then addressed the meeting, stating the opposition that he has encountered for the construction work whilst talking to Wivenhoe locals around the town:
“Greenstead roundabout was perfect when it was first opened. The congestion problem only came later when Tesco’s opened. The pedestrian controlled crossings means that students simply press a button and the traffic comes to a standstill.
I respect the overall development and support the Knowledge Gateway. Our feeling on Wivenhoe Town Council however is that the decision was made with no local consultation with the road users of the entire Tendring peninsula. This new proposed junction is simply crazy.”
Questions from the floor were then invited, and unlike the pace of traffic along Clinghoe Hill, they came in thick and fast:
“Why isn’t Boundary Road being used to access the Knowledge Gateway”
“…the planning application didn’t stack up.”
“It didn’t stack up for who?”
No answer was given.
Councillor Penny Kraft asked:
“Have you actually spoken to local residents? The problem is the controlled pedestrian crossing. If you install another one as proposed, this is going to cause immense problems.”
“…we do listen to local residents,” came the reply.
Councillor Robert Needham enquired:
“Is this the final option?”
“Who didn’t the figures stack up for with regards using Boundary Road?”
“Boundary Road would be a bomb,” was the answer.
Councillor Steve Ford then intervened, drawing upon his knowledge sitting on the Planning Committee at Colchester Borough Council:
“I would like to share some knowledge as to how these decisions are made. The developers carry out the projection of the traffic flow for this type of project. They obviously have a very prejudicial interest.”
Boundary Road once again dominated, with a question from the floor asking why Wivenhoe locals can’t use Boundary Road during the seven-week construction period.
“Boundary Road is… scheduled for roadworks during April to June.”
Which as pointed out from the floor, simply blows apart the suggestion that Wivenhoe folk can rely upon public transport during the construction period. Best dig out those walking boots, I say.
It was at this stage of the meeting that the weekend was starting to kick in, the sound of which was starting to drift in from the Rose and Crown nearby.
We ended with some degree of optimism. Mayor Sinclair once again praised the University and its broad objectives and benefits that it brings to Wivenhoe. There was plenty of broad agreement from the floor. Two thousand jobs are to be created as part of the project. The price to pay for this however is road congestion,
And so having sat through the two hour meeting, I have to come out with the disclaimer of, um… I don’t actually drive. As a non-user of Clinghoe Hill, I can only speculate as to the frustration this brings to regular commuters. You have my sympathy.
My own personal observation is the surrender of green space down by the Wivenhoe Trail. I am alarmed that this was granted planning permission with such ease. Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good.
It’s enough to make you want to stay within Wivenhoe.
A highly social Thursday evening, combining the company of the good folk of @15QueenStreet, a performance @ColchesterArts (again) and of course some booze action. These blog posts don’t write themselves, y’know.
With the ace Colchester Mini-Bar (that’s not really a bar, and no booze is really involved, oh no…) given the month of January off, the @15QueenStreet creatives called instead for a trip to the Arts Centre.
Booze followed, but purely in a creative capacity, with future projects and collaborations (very excited, btw) about the promotion of Colchester planned.
Having already attended the Colchester Beer Festival and Mark Thomas at the Arts Centre this week, my hat trick of visits proved to be the most unique and enjoyable. A beer festival is a beer festival is a beer festival; you then fall down. Mark Thomas was ace, but then I was expecting that anyway.
What I wasn’t expecting from Jamie Moakes and You Will Be Rare on Thursday night was an engaging and relevant piece of stand up performance, taking in macro economic arguments and the obsessive world of He-Man.
Jamie’s vision is to take on the economy. It is a fine and noble objective, but unless you have an oil well in your back garden, then it’s also a vision that is going to leave you somewhat out of pocket.
Instead Jamie has taken a micro economic approach, combining this with a flair for a piece of social art performance: corner the market in a particular commodity, and then you will have absolute power [hold off those He-Man jokes for now...]
It’s not really important where this absolute power is welded – which is just as well, seeing as though if George Osbourne is looking to appoint an economic advisor that specialises in the cult He-Man action figure of Ram Man, then Jamie is, um, yer man.
It’s a niche market for sure, and one which Jamie has been able to control. Put simply, he carried out the quantitative economic experiment of buying up as many Ram Man action figures as possible, and then seeing what affect this has on the overall market price.
The more important qualitative social story here is the performance at the Arts Centre and beyond, outlining what a fickle beast the economy is. Controling a market has nothing to do with skill or judgement; the profit and loss is purely based on quantity.
Jamie told the tale of how he took on the Ram Man world, by first of all stating a few facts and figures. His spreadsheet documents that he has bought to date 109 Ram Mans, at a cost of just over £1,000. It is estimated that there could be over two million little Ram Men in the world, just waiting to find their way over to Sunny Colchester.
This is very much an online project, using social media to spread the message and tell the story, as well as the obvious benefits of eBay to actually source the product and measure any market increase in price.
But what of the conclusion? Is the world of mid ’80s obsessive action figure collectors heading for the same fate as RBS? Sort of. Ram Man’s price increased by almost 200%. The nerds of the internet even began to discuss the implications, noting on various forums that there is currently a run on Ram Man’s [the plural of the short, stocky little fella is addressed during the performance.]
The performance ends with the message of don’t allow the market to control you. The mantra of everything has a price is correct, but you can control the price of a commodity, simply by buying into the dream – or not – as Jamie suggests at the end of the show.
It was all food for thought and drink, which is why the @15QueenStreet crowd then buggered off to the Hole in the Wall and bought five pints of Guinness as a social experiment in booze price fixing.
Or maybe that was just me?
The You Will Be Rare project is continuing, as long as the finances are in place, and as long as Jamie’s good partner can withstand having an army of Ram Men looking down from one end of the bed.
I personally just loved the idea that it wasn’t even the main character in He-Man that managed to sell out the show at the Arts Centre. I think that this said something about the creative tastes within Colchester…
Many thanks to Jamie for kindly offering to explain more about the project in the podcast below.
“Moving to Wivenhoe?” they said? “You’ll be bored out of your brain by the end of the first month.”
And so another month, another set of dates comes my way for @wivmovingimage, the independent community run cinema. I’ve spent the first part of the morning feeding the dates of the schedule into the calendar for the Wivenhoe Forum [um, you have joined, haven't you? Please do; please share some local knowledge and dialogue...]
So yeah, this Wivenhoe social life is starting to become something of a full time occupation. Boredom is a state of mind, as the Mother in Law once scowled at me before polishing off the last of the Christmas chocolates. With Moving Image and the many fine social groups around the town, and yep, my mind is in a rather nice place right now.
And so with a big bashing of the cinematic gong (steady the buffers) – hot off the press and here comes the early spring schedule for Moving Image. The two venues remain – Philip Road down towards lower Wivenhoe for the more mainstream schedule, and then Monday evenings up at the splendour of the Lakeside Theatre, @Uni_of_Essex.
Made in Dagenham stands out for me – a film all about Essex, screened in Essex. Fantastic Mr Fox will no doubt pull the family crowd in on the afternoon of 20th February.
All films are open to members and guests, apart from the member’s only Valentine’s Day love in at the Lakeside. Annual membership for Moving Image is a bargain £5, giving you a penny-pinching £3 admission on the night. Non-members pay £4.
Meanwhile, my one-man campaign to bring the legend that is, um, Purple Rain, to downtown Wivenhoe continues.