Sunday, 25 October 2015

Diwali Festival of Music and Light in Watford 26th October

Another one of the Watford Council's BIG Events took place today (26th October 2015) in #Watford High Street and Parade. Diwali brought out a real mixture of different cultures and was a great celebration of both the diversity and cosmopolitan nature of our town...

I believe that performances had been going on during the afternoon... I unfortunately only arrived at 16:35 as the night began to draw in... fortunately as the festival finale commenced at 5pm when the fireworks and light display on the bridge over the pond took place...

CKi (Community Kickstarter initiative) coming to #Watford soon!!

Are are ready? ... the CKi is coming to #Watford... so what is a CKi?

This is an initiative to bring together all the people doing great work in our community and to get all this information into a place where anyone can see what is happening. 97% of what is happening around us is good, the only problem is we don't know about it... it's underground and only those involved know...

Well that is about to change. We need to celebrate the good things being done, make them visible and enable more people to join in, engage and get involved. That is the core driver for the CKi... enable us all to work together to create a better community for us all to enjoy... and it's all free...

The initial core team meeting with happen at Reason Coffee and Book shop on the 3rd November at 7pm... and then the big launch for the programme in January 2016... dates will be confirmed after the initial meeting.

Below a short video on how it works... this is needed across the country in every town, village and city... time for the people to awaken and for us to create what we want...

Please get in touch .... comment here or tweet to @L4GSWHerts the time is now... not only in Watford... if you want to get involved these are starting in Rickmansworth, and will be on other towns in the SW Herts district.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

The Cassiobury Park gates could be reinstated within 2 years!

Friday 9th October I met with Kevin, David and Lesley all senior committee members of the Cassiobury Park Gates Project. We met at the site of the old Gates where Cassiobury Park meets Rickmansworth Road.

A bit of background to what has gone before... The old gates were removed for the widening of the Rickmansworth Road project back in 1972. The Gates had become a somewhat easy victim at this stage needing some repair and a bit of TLC. Although it was promised that they would be rebuilt, set back into the park or placed elsewhere... something that was never delivered on.

The committee to restore the gates was formed back in February this year and consists of 12 people all with different backgrounds and each able to contribute something both unique and vital to this project. What has happened since February has been nothing short of a miracle. Kevin said that if permission was granted they were in position to pretty much start the project so advanced were the plans now.

What started as an idea back in February has now gathered real pace. Based on the speed at which other projects progress the Cassiobury Park Gates has I believe set new records. 100's of hours, unpaid, have culminated in not only detailed architectural plans in place, but types of materials needed, how the gates will be powered, use to which the gates could be put, and all backed up with a business plan to ensure this becomes a net contributor to the community rather than a cost. When people are passionate about a project and something they love it is amazing how quickly things can come together!

There are so many great projects going on in Watford at the moment what with the Charter place redevelopment, the extension to the MET line and the renovation of other aspects of Cassiobury Park. The gates and their location would bring a huge bit of history back alive in Watford and make a massive difference to the popularity of Watfords Jewel in the crown, Cassiobury Park.

So what is stopping this project getting off the ground? The council own the land where the gates would be recreated and the costs to deliver would be in the region of £1m. The committee have various options on the table for raising the finance including a 'buy a brick' scheme and corporate sponsorship. All that needs to happen is that the council grant permission to build on the land. Something that would make absolute sense if it cost the council nothing and if enough people in the community supported the project.

So... Here's where you come in. There is a Facebook group 'Cassiobury Park Gates' please join it, that is where you can keep up to date with everything that is happening. There is a huge amount of documentation in the files section of the group of all the progress being made. There is a petition (with video) on there which you can fill in to support the 'Cassiobury Gates Project' and there are T-Shirts, mugs and Christmas Cards (most popular Xmas card being sold by the Peace Hospice this year). There has been a huge legacy already created by the team involved in this. Over 800 historic pictures have been unearthed about the gates and Cassiobury Park (many previously unpublished) and the only detailed technical drawings that exist today of the Gates have been crafted by this small but determined group.

There is a real chance here. A real chance to prove that the people of Watford can really make things happen for the people of Watford. These Cassiobury Park Gates, the Red Lion Community Pub project and a multitude of other smaller projects being led by the community are testimony to the fact that we can create the type of Watford we want in the future. It's not up to the council, they are there to do our bidding... So let's make sure they listen to what the people want and let's get these Gates put back in place... Shall we say 2 years?

Interview with part of the team on L4G SWHerts CommunityTV below... It's the first interview in the show

... and now for the German (Watford) Christmas Market

Watford needs a Christmas Market! ... or so the story goes. "many people have been asking if we could have a German style Christmas Market". I personally quite like the idea of a Christmas Market in Watford and I think many would support it too, however how it has come about and the communication to those affected by it has left a lot to be desired. I don't remember seeing the memo or the questionnaire inviting me to cast my opinion though... so who exactly the 'many people' are I haven't a clue...

Now although the notice in the high street only went up in September 2015 it seems that Town & Country Markets made the application back in the early summer... 15th July to be exact...

Full details here...

This application covers the following parts of the high street... some of the revisions to this drawing were completed in June 2015... none of the traders knew about this until September... objections anyone? Remember we have a market operating in this part of Watford High Street Tuesday through Saturday and Sunday afternoon... and this Xmas Market means this area will be out of action for the build from 9th November... open from the 19th November and then dismantled from around the 3rd / 4th January 2016. None of the existing traders can operate here during this period because an external market is being brought in to benefit from the festive season... all this after the disastrous move from the old charter place and a year of extremely challenging trading conditions. I trust I'm not the only one in feeling that the traders are not really being given a fair crack of the whip here...

Full details here...

The response to the complaints about being dislodged from their regular pitches has been, it's not a problem, you can relocate to the other side of the overpass, the Gade house part of the high street. Apart from the fact that there are traders already operating there this area is not as well frequented and requires people to walk even further to the market... perhaps they wouldn't bother at all having experienced the xmas market already?

But there is a late development... another plan has been submitted this time on September 30th...

As you can see from the drawing below. There is now an additional proposed second half of the Christmas Market that is now starting at the top end of the Parade. Thus providing a complete Christmas market now spanning from the Clarendon Road junction with the high street right up to the top end of the parade... which includes the existing traders who are now residing in the middle of the Christmas Market.

The full drawing can be viewed here...

As you can see... with one submission made in the middle of July (drawings designed in June) followed by a second hurried submission at the end of September with drawings finally completed just this week, that there has been a bit of rethinking.

I would hope that the recent amendments to the Christmas Market have been made because Town & Country Markets and the council have listened to the traders. Recognising how the original plans would have adversely affected the existing traders on whom they rely week in week out to provide a market for our town. The Market Traders that I have spoken too see that being in the middle of the Christmas Market means that they can continue to operate and that there is some hope at least that people will continue to walk up the town to the parade and provide that much needed footfall.

Both of these submissions have been made on the basis that this is a recurring annual event... so it looks like whatever happens this year will be repeated. Let's hope that any lessons learned will be fed back to improve subsequent years for all concerned.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

1st Anniversary of New Watford Market!! ... Shhhh nobody knows!

You could be forgiven for missing the first anniversary of the New
Watford Market, indeed hardly any of the market traders seemed to know either. A far cry from the opening day on the 10th October 2014 when one could hardly move with dignitaries and suits adorning the event.

So one year on and how are things down at the Market? I'm going to be quite candid here, I actually think the market is transitioning into something positive for Watford. It's not what was planned or what was envisaged but it is steadily changing. There is yet more change to come though. Counting up the traders there's approximately 15 brave souls remaining of the original 32 that made the 200m trip up the road from Charter place. There is every indication 2 or 3 of this number won't be there after Christmas and I predict more will go before the end of the winter months.

I took a video of the market as it was today, 1 year on and here is a link to the video from last year. Interesting to see the difference. There have been improvements at the market but Andrew Sparrow (Town & Country Markets) has been slow to implement many of them and we're fast approaching another winter without some protection against the elements. Good news though a sound system has been installed so Christmas carols could be on the way very soon!

With yet another debacle on the arrangements for the German Christmas market, poor communications, lack of consultation, absence of loyalty for the existing traders (spending their money on pitches each week) was probably the final nail in the coffin for market manager John. John who has been popular with the traders left today and was understandably not available for me to interview. A market manager from Reading plus another regional representative from Town & Country will be covering until a suitable replacement can be found.

Talking with Damion (junction flowers) and Grant (the footie store) it seems that the market will continue to evolve. Personally (and one shared by others) I believe that the rear section of the containerised section of the market will revert to storage with the front section under the food court continuing for those that need a permanent home. The remaining traders will fair better in the high street and with adequate storage provided at the rear of the market probably prefer to operate there either with fixed pitches or day trading options.

It has certainly been a rocky first year for the market. It's contract renewal time at this moment with a number of traders looking at their options. Changes at the Market are not likely to end anytime soon, but rest assured I will keep you up to date with all the developments as they happen. Look out for another post coming soon with details of the Xmas market. Plans are available from the council and if I can download them I will be posting them as well.

SW Herts L4G Community TV - 9th October 2015

This week we have three interviews for you, the first is +Chris Ogle  interviewing +Kevin France about a project to rebuild Cassiobury Park Gates. In the second I will be interviewing +Dipa Kotak , who is L4G District leader in NW London and who next week launches +Link4Business in #London. Finally, +Diane Richardson is chatting to +Fiona Flaherty about her new +L4G TV show on public health which launches next week.

Tania, Catherine and Neal are all away, so Chris is covering the local charity news and events. Chris will also be bringing you a local restaurant review. I will have the latest news and sports news as well.

All this and more, on what was a very interesting show.