Thursday, 5 April 2018

Christmas Day? WT....?

Eh? Christmas Day at Easter?! Well all I can say is I have been very busy!! I/m not a social media junkie, and recently became aware that some people think they 'know' me by what is written in social media. It's another example of the rapid judgementalism which we all seem to suffer from...fake news people!! That said, I have taken an extraordinarily long time to finish my blog, and to update the Watford Homeless website. I am remiss, and shall put this straight forthwith. Hence Christmas...

I'm a bit 'bah humbug' about Christmas. I find the whole build up quite stressful, loads of people in the shops and a very materialistic attitude from the entire world (or so it seems). I do daydream about going away, having a 'not Christmas' somewhere but where would I go to escape? Every media channel from Facebook to terrestrial t.v. gets infected by the seasonal bug. I would have to find a total retreat, somewhere off the beaten track, and disconnect from all things electronic from say, October to December (those early adverts drive me crazy!).

Instead, I try to get in the spirit...but this year I refused to engage in the mass commercialisation of what was, once, a simple Pagan festival. I decided not to buy presents. This is how the idea of volunteering on Christmas Day began.

A work colleague, Sarah Wood approached me (knowing my feelings about the season of goodwill!) about spending some time with the homeless on Christmas morning instead. This little project just grew and soon enough we had a little army of well-wishers. The New Hope trust were pleased with our donations and one of the nice things was having children involved as well.

We raised a small amount - which are going on pants yet again - to donate, in addition to the small food mountain that some people brought along!

What to do next year? Perhaps this is my 'retreat' to do something for others and try to forget the Christmas madness all around.

Bah humbug and a Happy New Year :)

(Seriously, Ruth, it's Happy Easter!!!)

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Open Talk TV SWHerts moves a step closer...

It was back in 2016 that the original idea was mooted for a local TV channel to provide a voice for local people to share stories about local issues.

Over the past couple of months this has been resurrected. Plenty of discussions have been taking place with Victoria Hart of Hart-in-Media a local  award winning video production company to bring this into being.

Victoria Hart
The aim of the TV Channel is to bring stories to light of things going on in our community which need addressing. This isn't an opportunity to just have a moan, rather, to look at the situation and work out how it can be turned around so everyone can win.

We often see in society situations that don't sit well with us, or that we feel could be improved. Being a completely independent channel... not funded by business or others with specific agenda's we are hoping that Open Talk TV - SWHerts can begin a trend that starts to emerge in other parts of the country...

There are a great many stories out there... sometimes they are only from one perspective, but by airing those views and canvassing others, hopefully we can begin the process of opening dialogue and seeking solutions where everyone wins, rather than just a few with influence and the financial strength.

Example of recent work by Victoria Hart

Friday, 2 March 2018

Community, Conversation and Coffee

On the 1st Thursday of every month a number of people from Carpenders Park and South Oxhey meet at Perk Coffee shop on Delta Gain. the 1st of March was no exception... although the weather did conspire to make it a little more difficult than usual.

The coffee shop was as warm as ever... the hospitality friendly and inviting.. and the coffee up to its usual amazing standard! The conversation was also very interesting... 

This month two of the local councillors from the area attended along with a selection of local business people and it was nice to see Caroline and Paul the new occupants of the Hairdressers on Delta Gain.

Conversation turned to the redevelopment in South Oxhey and the new occupancy deal for businesses that want to be there. Rents are allegedly 3 times what they were before and only a tiny percentage of the old businesses are able to return there. The hairdressers moving in to Delta Gain are from the old South Oxhey parade.

Also discussed was the parking situation behind Delta Gain. Many folk park there and head into London on the train, others use it as a spare off road parking facility for extra cars... and worse! The challenge with the car park is that it is in private hands. There is little the council can do about it.

I can't help feeling that if it was explained to the land owner that it would benefit everyone (including themselves) if the car park was better managed then they would be in favour. If more people could park easily... they would use the shops more often (raise the vibrancy of the parade)... this would in turn help the local businesses to be more successful with less churn and change... which ultimately would mean less admin and work for the landowner... it could be a win / win / win and everyone benefit... which would then benefit the community... Maybe a chance for some community mediation?

Not just Conversation though...

A number of the local businesses also attend the monthly Business Development Network meeting we also host at Perk... this is on the first Tuesday evening (6:30-8:00pm) and enables local businesses who want to work as a team, help and support each other to meet on a regular basis. If you'd like to come along on the 6th March the link is here... if your first visit then use the promo code: "1stVisit" to come along for free and experience what we do... very friendly, no pressure, great local people.

Learning & Development... 

in amongst the other discussions yesterday there was still time to pick up tips, tricks, get connected, explore new ideas and even get help with technical issues on Spreadsheets... spreadsheets was a subject of one of our regular "Learning Sessions" series.

On each Tuesday we run a series of "Learning Sessions" to enable us all to upskill. More info here

There are plenty of community events being hosted in South West Herts throughout the month so if you would like to come along and join in the conversation then please do... you will find everything listed both on the SWHerts Facebook Page and the calendar for Link4Growth SWHerts.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Should we be more honest about our business?

Many of us start a business with little or no prior experience. Some of us are the first in our entire family to venture out alone. So it is no surprise that we question ourselves and our own ability.
  • Why is it other people in similar businesses are doing much better than me?
  • How come everyone seems to be doing so well and yet here I am struggling?
  • What am I missing here? 
What you are missing is that NOT everyone is doing great... perhaps this is actually a 'thin veneer' that is perpetuated because to show vulnerability isn't the accepted thing... that might appear like we're trying to get the sympathy vote... or worse, risk 'the thought' in others that we're not up to running a business... who wants to work with struggling people right?

But underneath that smiley exterior is a battle with our own authenticity. It is so hard to feign a smile of happy success when we really are working all the hours barely scraping by.

To say "yeah things are going great" ... when in truth most people can "see" how tough it is, "see" the reality, even if we think we're pretending well. Body language says way more than the we think it does... about a lot of things! ... we don't have to broadcast how tough things are... but...

Maybe it is pride... maybe it is our desire to conquer this mountain all alone... or maybe it doesn't even occur to us that we're not the only ones having challenges... It may have been true in the past that in business you kept everything secret inside your own 4 walls... but that doesn't have to be the future.

Perhaps we need to rewrite the norm in business. Bring together 'like minded business people' that instead of keeping up the pretence that 'everything is going swimmingly' are able to discuss honestly without judgement the challenges being faced and... where everyone is collectively committed to supporting, nurturing, helping... advising... signposting and even mentoring each other to win. That would be a bit special wouldn't it?

That feeling we get that we must be the 'concrete zeppelin' disaster of business owners ... or that there must be something wrong with me because everyone else seems to know how to run their business much better than me... or thinking that perhaps I'm not cut out for this and I should just pack it all in... it's all too hard... I'm so tired... all the fun really has left the building! ... I don't even remember why I thought that starting this was a good idea anymore!

is that you? ... I think most small, micro businesses and sole traders feel this at some point...

Maybe we ought to reflect and see that there are a million ways we can run our business...

Consider the following :-
  1. We might have just tried the wrong combinations. The solution is there somewhere.
  2. Something is working well but it could be improved... 
  3. We haven't got the right product mix on board yet? ... let's keep innovating!
  4. ...that perfect collaboration... it's just around the corner... more conversations? 
  5. What we're saying or doing might not be attracting the customers we want 
  6. or... we might just need to skill up a bit, or take advantage of technology more effectively...
  7. Where can I get the strength to keep going? ... Meet more inspirational and enthusiastic people

The point I'm making is that rather than a catastrophe... we are probably all about 80-90% there, we are doing way more good than we are bad... we're already A**, congratulate yourself!!  ... the challenge for us is that it's always the last 10-15% that is the 'business owners' reward for 'taking the action'.. so while we are struggling to work out our personal success combination we're hurting... we're in pain... and it isn't fun! ...

So rather than beating ourselves up, let's be honest with each other... let's agree we need to work on what we are delivering and fine tune the engine... it isn't nice having to pretend we're enjoying things when bills keep coming... and overheads need paying... putting on a brave face works for a while but the truth comes out in the end.

And yet we're all part of the same local business community. So why don't we work together? grow together? ... and help each other? We are all amazing and we can all succeed... there is enough for us all... and we don't have to struggle all alone. Facing the challenges head on, talking things through with an attitude of 'this is already a success' ... just it's being a little elusive at the moment... but I'm sure we'll find the answers very soon!!

Through talking, meeting, learning, collaborating and co-creating... we can build deeper relationships, be honest with each other...develop trust, support, and build a strong, vibrant, local independent business community... we're not competing; we're collaborating... and together we can all win!

You know... everyone likes a hero... someone who battled against all the odds... someone who nearly 'Gave up' ... but found the courage and strength to carry on... and who finally won through! ... you are that hero... and you are writing your heroes journey... and no harm having some friends alongside to accompany you!

That's the plan in South West Herts... for more info follow this link

Monday, 29 January 2018

From Anger to Action, Gecko Theatre opening the door for social change

Earlier in the month, We posted Are you disillusioned by Brexit or being "Wedded" to the state? which was to introduce the performance by the Gecko Theatre company and their new play "The Wedding".

The performances took place last week at Watford Palace Theatre on Tuesday and Wednesday with the finale on Thursday. The show will be touring the UK before embarking on a world wide tour with the first stops being South Korea and Australia.

The production brings into question whether our own contract with the state that we are born into works for us or not... and encourages us each to consider what part we play; either going along with what is (continuing with the wedding contract) or... Taking Action and following our passion.

Amit Lahav the creative director of "The Wedding" channelled his anger at 'the state of the state', into his area of expertise and passion (theatre) to produce an emotional rollercoaster of an experience that, for many, could be the catalyst for "Taking Action" and innovating new ideas and hope in our communities.

On Saturday Amit hosted a workshop back at the Theatre for those that felt compelled to take this further. The purpose of the workshop? ... to bring those passionate about 'Taking Action' to come together in an atmosphere of 'being free from the pressure to meet any needs or expectations of others' to share, innovate, co-create and collaborate ideas for social change locally around Watford.

It was a privilege to be amongst 30+ people, from a diverse range of backgrounds, ages and experience (like community) and just feel the energy, and desire, to do something. The collective enthusiasm and excitement was amazing. I think Amit has struck a chord here with many, and through his unique production provided an insight into the very real appetite for change that exists out there in our communities.

The real challenge is growing that momentum into a tidal wave of unstoppable action and growing the beliefs that

  1. We are not alone in our dissatisfaction of where we are, there are thousands, if not millions of us
  2. That we can take action, we don't need permission, no one is stopping us
  3. We are the cavalry, no one else is going to do this. Only we 'collectively' have enough resources to bring about the changes we each would like to see
  4. That by joining up the dots we can support, help and learn from each other
  5. We do not have to inherit our future, we can create it, by doing what works for us

... and the most exciting thing is... we can start right now!

I share Amit's passion for continued development and growth of grass roots change. We have the potential to create a very different future and it would be amazing if looking back 'The Wedding' was instrumental in inspiring people to 'get up and take action'. What a legacy that would be Amit?

The workshop on Saturday provided an opportunity for local people wanting to 'do something' to meet each other. That community of change makers is so vital. Many great ideas die and wither on the vine simply because it is so tough to be the 1st to do something differently. It's enough to challenge ourselves to go in a different direction, but when everyone around you is judging and trying to pull you back, the odds soon stack up against us. That's why we need to work together and co-create... we're never alone... we just need a great support network.

In Watford (South West Herts) we have been working at building this support network and infrastructure for 6 years now, based on the ideas of Link4Growth. It has been evolving over that time and still continues to do so.  What it seeks to provide is :-
  • A voice for all local groups and people doing great work in the community
  • Free to use noticeboard for all those that wish to add their own updates / stories
  • Local calendars of community activity, to raise awareness of what's happening (shared access, updated by those wishing to do so)
  • Local events to get support / help : Community Coffees (free to attend, no agenda)
  • Regular "Learning Sessions" so we can all pick up new skills and improve ourselves and our effectiveness in what we are seeking to achieve
  • A set of tools that accelerates the process from an idea to action (nationally)
  • Self funding. Owned by the Members of the Association (totally inclusive). Not linked to Government, not political, no profit motive (not owned by a business), not attached to any religious groups.
  • Links and connections to local 'community centric' businesses 

As Amit and the Gecko Theatre company tour the UK, they will undoubtedly uncover a real appetite for change right across the country. Each area will have their own set of challenges whether they be economic, geographical or human, but by connecting, collaborating, and sharing our talents, experience and energy we have a real opportunity here... let's Do It shall we?

If you would like to get in touch about any of the above details below

Monday, 22 January 2018

We welcome new local Blog onto our SWHerts Bloggers site

It was great to meet Caroline Bloomer yesterday at our Once a month - Link4Breakfast community gathering at the Junction Cafe on St. Albans Road. [community events links here]

Caroline who is based in Abbots Langley is a supporter of community and hosts a number of local groups including Watford's Maths-Jam and another for sceptics and humanists.

It is not the first time we have met as Caroline frequents Yellow Comedy events locally and has also taken advantage of "Learning Sessions" we host at +The Kitchen Croxley. Caroline shared with us that she also writes a blog, Curious & Philosophical (philosophy, science atheism for time poor people)... and has been aligned to PR companies and involved in editing in the past too...

We have now added Caroline's Blog to the SWHerts Bloggers web site. It is located in two place... 2nd in the A-Z of blogs and also under the Local Comment category.

Are you a writer?

You may not even consider yourself a "writer", but if you have a story to tell or something that you and others find interesting and would like to share... why not get in touch?

if you...

  1. Currently write a blog? 
  2. Would like to blog but not sure how to start? ... or... 
  3. are involved in a project and would like us to share something you have written about what you are doing?

We'd love to here from you... drop us a note or... visit the ContactUs page and complete some details there.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Walking the walk...Alex's Night-time Adventures!

Alex Murray recently completed the ultimate challenge – he slept rough to raise awareness of homelessness for the New Hope Trust! 

I caught up with him recently to find out about it…

So Alex, what was it like?!
Alex: Cold lol!
Of course, so what made you want to do it?
Alex: I wanted to support people, but also saw it as an opportunity to raise money.
What time did you get there?
Alex: We got there at about 9pm, watched a film, chatted…not much sleep! I think I slept for about two hours on and off.
Was it the cold or was there something else that made it hard to sleep?
Alex: Being uncomfortable. Uncomfy, plus being cold equals a nightmare! I basically made myself into a cardboard sausage roll to cope. Luckily it wasn’t too noisy, but I did have to count sheep to get myself to drift off.
I can only imagine! What must it be like for Watford’s rough sleepers, who do this every day?
Alex: Exactly…not easy. It takes some resilience; real survival.

Tell me about the after effects…
Alex: I felt dreadful. It was like having a hangover but no booze! I needed a duvet day to recovery, food…kip…etc.
If you were to do it again…what would you do differently.
Alex: Well, definitely bring some alcohol…something to sip to keep you warm on the inside. Another pillow and more layers…I thought I’d prepared for this but no, I needed more layers.
That’s interesting…so the alcohol thing…some people complain about giving to rough sleepers ‘they’ll only spend it on drink’.
Alex: It gives you a real insight into alcohol abuse – you need something to help you get to sleep but also to take your mind off it. The NHS spends a lot of money on alcohol abuse treatment.

I think I would want to drink, it sounds like a nightmare.

Alex: It was hard. I would do it again though as it is for a really good cause.

Alex - respect to you! It's easy to say the right things, but to take that step to make a difference takes courage. 

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Random cafe going from Strength to Strength...

It seems only 5 minutes ago that I caught up with Jane Johnson the 'huge energy' behind the Random Cafe initiative that is making a real difference in the Watford area.

The Random Cafe launched only back in September 16th but progress has been nothing short of amazing.

Over 1 ton of food has already been saved from the bins and reintroduced back into the community. Jane is quick to add that this has been a team effort and she is immensely grateful to a rock solid core team that has formed around the project that has enabled the remarkable success so far.

The events for 2018 have already been published as you can see to the right... 4 venues now up and running each month in different parts of Watford enabling a wider range of people to join in and be part of the project.

Jane cited 3 main reasons why she believes the Random Cafe project is working so well...

  1. Built on a really supportive network of people created through the Reason coffee and book shop, and the legacy from the fabulous work and ideas of Neal Emery. These people form a real core of supporters who attend, participate and promote the Random Cafe... plus provide regular, valuable financial contributions each week. On average 35+ people visit the cafe each week it runs.
  2. The desire to create a community space that brings together different community groups and provide a real contribution to community life. This is already happening with groups wanting to assemble on days the Random Cafe is open... but the potential when a permanent full time venue becomes available is immense.
  3. The ability to provide for those that are in real need in these difficult times we live in. Food banks, homelessness and people in dire financial straights has unfortunately become common place and initiatives like the Random Cafe are making a real difference to people's lives.

Below we caught up with Jane, who was pleased to share what has happened since the inception of the Random Cafe back in September 2017...

Please follow the Random Cafe on Twitter 
Like the Facebook page 

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Are you disillusioned by Brexit or being "Wedded" to the state?

Are you a tad more than a little bit mesmerised by events over the past few years?

Do you feel that your relationship with the 'State' no longer serves you?

It might surprise you to learn that you aren't alone. Amit Lahav started off by being quite angry about current events but then decided to channel that anger into a creative and positive idea for facilitating change.

Amit Lahav is the owner of Gecko Theatre productions. He is also the creator of 'The Wedding' which is the result of his inspiration. "The Wedding" is played out from the perspective that we are all "wedded" to the state in some shape or form. It also helps us to consider whether that marriage is working for us, and challenges us to ponder whether a divorce might be a more satisfactory course of action!

Lyn Gardner ( @ LynGardner) wrote for the Guardian back in April 2017 - Gecko - The theatre company divorcing post-brexit britain it is a great read if you would like to learn more about what to expect from the show.

We are absolutely delighted to have the show coming to the Watford Palace Theatre on the 23rd through 25th January 2018... additional to the performance for those that are interested in "Taking Action" locally there is a Workshop on Saturday 27th Jan from 1-4pm (venue to be confirmed) where the intention is to bring "change makers" together, and take the energy forward into real local projects to effect change.

Take a look at the Gecko Theatre website here... take a look at the Trailer, and book your tickets!

Below a video interview with Amit Lahav talking to Chris Ogle about "the wedding" and the inspiration behind it...