Sunday, December 03, 2006

Being nosey

Ute and I had a meeting on Tuesday with the director of Abbey Manor College and the head of their Dressington Avenue site (the John Evelyn Centre). V useful to meet them, find out more about their work and how they felt plans to demolish the sports hall at Ladywell Day Centre would affect them (their students currently use both the hall and the adjacent grass regularly). Abbey Manor College has 2 sites - one in Lee Green and the other in Dressington Avenue. They cater for students who have already been or are likely to be permanently excluded from mainstream education. Students work towards qualifications in various subjects including (hope I get this right) sports and leisure management, graphic design, hairdressing and constructions skills, as well as having classes in basic skills (maths and English).

As a nosey person, it was also interesting to have a look inside a building with such a rich history. A grade two listed building, it's one of the few remaining bits of the vast Ladywell workhouse which once covered all of what is now Slagrove Place, Dressington Avenue and Foxborough Gardens. The picture above is of the dining hall, which is where most of the classrooms for Abbey Manor college are today. The building has been pretty well preserved, but with classrooms 'plonked' in the middle of the hall, and flats in other parts of the building. Other bits of the workhouse that have survived include the Watertower in Dresssington Avenue and the Ladywell Training Centre (the building behind Ladywell Tavern). While searching for a picture of how it used to be, I've found several interesting websites about workhouses and lots of old photos of Lewisham and south-east London. Oh, and I came across another interesting blog about south-east London, see Transpontine.
On Thursday I met up with some students from Goldsmiths who are interested in setting up a 'Green Democratic Society Party'. We didn't have Freshers' Fayre stall at Goldsmiths this year, unlike the previous 3 years, when we got a really good response on the day then didn't find anyone willing to get the group off the ground. Possibly not having a Freshers' Fayre stall was the answer, as its absence was apparently noticed and prompted this group of students to look into setting up a society of their own. I'm trying to persuade them to be a Young Greens society, but we'll see.

From Goldsmiths I went straight on to a short Overview and Scrutiny Committee (full council minus the cabinet) meeting to set up a housing sub-committee (!) to look into how ALMOs and PFI schemes are being set up in the borough and the implementation of the decent homes programme. I am going to be the Green person on the committee and am looking forward to delving more deeply into the ins and outs of housing in Lewisham.

I was back at Goldsmiths on Friday for an event to mark World AIDS Day. There was a speaker from The Positive Place talking about the crucial work they do there and someone from the NUS talking about a recent visit she'd made to southern Africa. One shocking statistic I took away from it was that 200 people around the world die of AIDS every five minutes. Positive Place are waiting to hear if they have got their funding for the next year, which normally comes via the NHS, but they are rather worried how the budget deficits of various PCTs will impact on them.

On Saturday I went to a 'market research viewing facility' off Oxford Street to watch a 'focus group'. All sounds a bit New Labour and not the kind of thing the Green Party usually has enough money for. Basically it was two groups of people who were paid £40 to take part in a focus group on politics. They started off with a general discussion on politics, their view of political parties, if you were prime minister what would you do etc, then they were told that the research was for the Green Party, and asked for their views on the Green Party and various posters and slogans that are being considered. We sat in another room behind a one-way mirror. Very interesting to see how we are perceived by others, and very useful to get others to look at what we thought were good ads/posters, but some of which, in retrospect don't work. Again, it also appealed to my nosiness to eavesdrop on their conversations! Of course, I couldn't possibly divulge what they said!

When I came out of the focus group thingy, I wandered down Oxford Street, which was closed off to all traffic in a special bus and car-free pre-Christmas extravaganza. Lots of street entertainers, lots of promotion of cycling and walking by good going and those organising the Tour de France, which of course is coming to London and (ever so briefly) Lewisham next year. Well, it pops into the borough along Evelyn Street then goes back into Greenwich but it does, nevertheless, pass through Lewisham! Oxford Street is considerably more bearable without the traffic, but the shops still seemed to be selling the usual tat and I wasn't inclined to linger long. Popped in to the art sale at St Andrew's Church on Brockley Road on my way home and got some great hand-made Christmas cards.

Today I abandoned Ladywell once again and went to the Animal Aid Christmas Without Cruelty Fayre in Kensington, which is an annual pilgrimage for me, then went on to help out Camden Greens with a by-election they have this coming Thursday. Sian Berry, the Green candidate, is one of the Green Party's principal speakers (the closest we have to leaders) and a founder of the Alliance against Urban 4x4s. Fingers crossed.

Not many council meetings between now and Christmas, so time to take stock of first few months as a councillor, try to wrap up any outstanding casework, start to look ahead a bit, binge drink etc.

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