Can you do me yet? Rory Bremner at the Radlett Centre

Rory Bremner

In the week the Jerry Seinfeld played the 02, I went to see Rory Bremner. As Russell Howard warms up at the Harrow Arts for his 02 gigs, Rory Bremner was at the Radlett Centre. Despite this injustice, there’s no doubt that Bremner remains one of this country’s top impressionists and one of our finest comedy performers.

The first time I saw him live was in Edinburgh where he sat at a desk as Bill Clinton did during his impeachment testimony about Monica Lewinsky. The impression was spot on, the material brilliant. But what made it special was that the real life event had only just taken place. So it was no surprise to find Bremner riffing about FIFA throughout the night, on the very day events were unfolding in Zurich.

His targets included the last government, the current coalition, the Royals and celebrity culture with pretty much everyone else in between. The only thing missing is that he can’t really do impressions of the currrent crop. “I saw Nick Clegg the other day, he said can you do me yet, I said no can you?”

I saw the show with a Tory newspaper columnist who made the valid point though that if he could do people like George Osborne and Chris Huhne would the audience know what they sound like? But all sides of the political spectrum were given a hard time, his impressions of old hands like John Prescott and Michael Howard are still hilarious. It also struck me that unlike most comics who are telling stories or doing ‘bits’ on various subjects, Bremner just has a phenomenal amount to remember, and he never misses a beat.

It’s a shame he isn’t on television anymore, Channel 4 seem to have moved on to hipper acts. On the evidence of this fine show at the Radlett Centre he could certainly teach the younger generaion a thing or two.

Brett Spencer lives in Bushey and, in his day job, is interactive editor for BBC Radio 2 and 6 Music

Hertsmere votes

The count for the Hertsmere local elections and referendum that took place on 5 May 2011

The nice people at Herstmere’s communications department are doing a great job today keeping electors up-to-date with the count in the local elections and the referendum on voting reform that took place yesterday.

They’re using Twitter to post regular updates and pictures (like the one above, from the count itself). Yesterday they alerted us to the fascinating fact that not everyone who gets a postal vote uses it!

Have you voted yet? Of around 9,000 postal votes sent out we have about 6,000 returned.less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

And earlier today, they estimated the turnout for the elections:

A rough indication of overall turnout is 35% but we will hopefully be clarifying soon! Counters are still very busy…less than a minute ago via Mobile Web Favorite Retweet Reply

And provided the actual turnout for the referendum when it became available:

#hertsmere referendum turnout 40%. 28,905 voted. 22,721 at stations. 6,184 by post. We will keep u posted on local results as we get them!less than a minute ago via Mobile Web Favorite Retweet Reply

As I type this they’re relaying the results, ward-by-ward as they come in, like this one from one minute ago:

#Borehamwood Kenilworth labour Richard Butler electedless than a minute ago via Mobile Web Favorite Retweet Reply

Chris Hewett in the Watford Observer picks up the Liberal wipe-out at 1.15.

Harv Cohen, a Conservative councillor tweets with mixed news for the Tories:

Good news for #conservatives #hertsmere, Sam Dobin has held the seat for us , we have taken all Bushey ,unfortunately lost Kenilworthless than a minute ago via HTC Peep Favorite Retweet Reply

For me, as an elector, this poll has been transformed by social media. Where I might have been able to get results in real-time in the past, I had never bothered to. With details of the poll, the count and the result coming to me via Twitter, though, I’m significantly better-engaged. And the local authority’s willingness to use its own social media accounts to spread the word is a genuine public service. Well done Hertsmere.

The farmers’ market has landed

Peter McCarthy from McCarthy's Country Store, at Radlett farmers' market
Peter McCarthy from McCarthy's Country Store.

I nipped down to Newberries car park – the one behind Budgen’s – this morning to experience the first day of operation of Radlett’s experimental farmers’ market. About a dozen stalls with a good range of produce – meat, bread, cheese, plants and honey plus a couple of slightly more offbeat products – were all present and the place was quite busy. Stallholders told me they were pleased with the turnout, especially for day one. The market is run by a large specialist firm and the stallholders present were all professionals in this game. I suspect this is the case with most ‘farmers’ markets’ these days. Not the bucolic, self-organising, community-driven ideal you may have been expecting. Peter McCarthy, whose McCarthy’s Country Store pitches up at over thirty markets per month, told me he’d expect the Radlett market to do well.

I had a particularly nice chat with Mr and Mrs Gorski, whose Hertfordshire Honey stall stocked only the product of their own hives in Benington near Stevenage. Consequently I am significantly better-informed about the different types of honey, about the flowering of hazels and willows and about the booming honey market than I was this morning. Ask me anything. Mr Gorski told me they sell everything they produce and thus won’t be needing any further publicity. Hence no photo of Mr Gorski!

As to the produce, I can confirm that the Gorskis’ light honey is delicious and that the sourdough stilton and raisin bread from Redbournbury Watermill is mindblowing with a bit of cheese on it. The market is set to run on the third Sunday of the next two months, so the next one will be on 15th May.

Did you go down to the market? What did you think? Will it be a hit? Or is the location a bit too well-hidden (that’s my concern)? Leave a comment below. Sadly I only had my iPhone on me so the pictures are a bit rubbish – more here, though and Clive Glover has some more pics and some interesting background on the three-month trial on his Radlett blog. And, by the way, there was a terrific Food Programme about the mother of all farmers’ markets – Borough Market – on Radio 4 today. Well worth a listen.

Honey from Hertfordshire Honey in Benington
Honey from Hertfordshire Honey in Benington.
Peter Coleman from Laycroft Free Range Poultry
Peter Coleman from Laycroft Free Range Poultry
Martin from Redbournbury Watermill at Radlett farmers' market
Martin from Redbournbury Watermill. Martin wins 'Best Facial Adornment' for this month by a mile.
Bread from Redbournbury Watermill at Radlett farmers' market
Bread from Redbournbury Watermill, including a killer raisin and stilton sourdough.

Loud and exciting – science at Fair Field

A remarkable morning of science at Fair Field Juniors last week. It was National Science and Engineering Week so parents (and scientists) Susan Branigan, Anita Kelly and Lisa Illingworth-Law came into the school (on Red Nose Day) and set up dozens of science demonstrations in the hall. During the morning, every child at the school had an opportunity to play and to learn.

I spent 45 minutes with one of the year 3 classes (I’m chair of governors at the school) and saw – and heard – activities about the body, sound, colour, and forces. It was immense fun and the children were inspiring – soaking it all up and explaining the demonstrations to each other as they went from activity to activity. I hope the school’s parent-scientists can be persuaded to do this regularly!

I recorded a montage of sounds from the session: click the play button to listen here or sign up for the Radlett Wire podcast on iTunes to download regular items about Radlett to your computer or MP3 player.

Download the MP3.

Standing room-only for anti-incinerator meeting

The WING group's anti-incinerator public meeting at the Radlett Centre on 24 March 2011

UPDATE: I’ve added details of the campaign’s Twitter account.

The Radlett Centre was full to the doors for last night’s public meeting. And the WING anti-incinerator group‘s formidable package of information and political organisation went down well with the assembled crowd. The campaign has evident clout – what other campaign could attract two local MPs to a public meeting affecting constituents of only one? (correction: a comment points out the the Harper Lane site is actually in the constituency of Anne Main so this is clearly the concern of both MPs). Both spoke strongly against the scheme, questioning the legality of the local authority’s process as well as the usefulness of the scheme and its potential impact on the village. Calls from the floor for disclosure of the contact details of all the Hertfordshire councillors involved in the decision met with raucous approval. As did the suggestion that those of us who buy our electricity from E.ON, the Radlett scheme’s sponsor, should switch to another supplier.

There is much anger about the incinerator – at least amongst those represented in the room. But it’s not clear how much opposition there is in the wider community for a scheme that, if built, will occupy a former aggregate yard a mile from the village. If I were a councillor on the relevant committee I’d have my tin hat at the ready right now.

The WING group has a Facebook page and a blog and is on Twitter. The organisers are cleverly mobilising environmental opposition to incinerators in general for the campaign – there are plenty of useful links on the blog. There doesn’t seem to be a hashtag for the campaign yet but I’m sure one will emerge.

Daniel Renak from the Joely Bear Appeal at Fair Field school

Fair Field Junior School on Watford Road was buzzing today. Daniel Renak, one of the organisers of the Joely Bear Appeal‘s regular blood donor sessions, was expecting 150 people to come through the school to give blood during the session. There was a bouncy castle for donors’ children and the kitchen was turned over to catering for donors while they wait (and for the vital post-donation biscuit). I spoke to Daniel about the history of the appeal and plans for the fiftieth donor session, to be held in Borehamwood in the Summer.

The Joely Bear Appeal is on the web and on Facebook. There are more pictures from the session on Flickr.

This, by the way, is the first entry in the new Radlett Wire podcast. While we wait for the podcast to show up in the iTunes directory, you can subscribe directly using this feed or just play the audio here:

Download the MP3.

A new convenience store on Watling Street

We’ve been dropping into the new shop in the Oakway parade on Watling Street since before Christmas so this is a belated welcome to owner Ali Sumbul (pictured) and his family who run the shop. Staff are terrifically friendly and have the entirely charming habit of noting down the things you’re after that they don’t have in stock so that they can get them in for your next visit.

Retail is pretty brutal at the best of times but whenever a new shop opens in this grim climate I find myself crossing my fingers. Ali’s chosen an unpromising stretch of Watling Street which has seen more than its fair share of closures but his shop is open all hours and serves the Northern end of the village that’s a good walk from Tesco and Budgen so he stands a chance of making a success of it. I do hope so!

Radlett’s number one illustrator

I ran into Paul Ellis, Radlett resident and genius illustrator, outside Tesco yesterday. He told me he’s got a new web site. Paul’s a modest man but clearly immensely accomplished in practically any medium – from the most delicate pen and ink drawing up to a thirty foot wall-filling mural (nip out onto the smokers’ terrace at the back of The Railway on Watling Street for a quite mind-blowing example of the latter). His portfolio confirms this. He helped me with some beautiful comic book-style illustrations for a booklet we produced at Fair Field Junior School a year or so back and I’ve seen his work sell as quickly as he can hang it at the annual Radlett Art Society exhibition.

From his web site, I also learn that he’s illustrated a number of album covers, including one for the legendary Nick Drake.

The picture shows Paul at a fireworks display ages ago.

World-beating shelter up at the Rec

It wasn’t long ago that Radlett’s policy on kids hanging around up at the Phillimore Rec was to hire a security firm to move them on (a parish council leaflet boasted of the success of this policy) but that all changed last Summer when Hertsmere erected a clever shelter at the edge of the playing field. It’s a warm-toned wooden affair that acknowledges the need for teens (and pensioners, for that matter) to just hang out.

It’s not meant to provide real shelter from the elements but it’s got some seating and it’d probably protect you from a shower. It’s an intriguing enhancement to the park. Annick Collins is a partner in the small firm of architects that designed the shelter, Superblue. She emailed me to tell me that the Radlett shelter has been included in a ‘top ten’ list by architecture blog Architizer – alongside some quite awesome structures from all over the world. Since it’s reasonable to assume Hertsmere won’t be building anything like it for the foreseeable future, I think we should make the best of our one world-beating structure.

A guarded welcome for the Radlett crime map

Pity the poor residents of Craig Mount – a not-particularly-long cul-de-sac in the South East corner of Radlett – victims (or at least witnesses), according to the new government crime map of the area, of 5 crimes in December alone. In that period, the data suggests, Craig Mount was the scene of one robbery, one vehicle crime, one violent crime and two ‘other’ crimes. Of course, it’s entirely possible that Craig Mount is Radlett’s crime hotspot, although it does seem unlikely (and there isn’t even a pub there). The doubts expressed in the 36 hours since the data went public suggest we might be seeing some ‘bunching’ of crimes for the sake of convenience or that some of these crimes may not have been crimes at all. Certainly it’s impossible to tell if any of them resulted in convictions – that data’s not here.

We are, of course, big fans of linked data from public sources but this particular release looks like it may have been bodged. Will Perrin – localism champion – on his King’s Cross blog highlights weaknesses with the data, including mapping inaccuracies that misplace crimes (he wonders why this government project isn’t using the excellent Ordnance Survey maps, recently opened up for purposes like this). More damning perhaps is the verdict of the database hackers and developers consulted in The Guardian. These are the people who’ve been pressing for the release of public data like this in usable forms and building applications on top of it. One of them points out that historic comparisons won’t be possible with the new release because only one month’s data will be available at any one time.

Adrian Short, one of the developers quoted, goes further and calls the exercise “pseudo-transparency”, and says that the site is “worse than useless”. Most of the big releases of public data we’ve seen from the data.gov.uk initiative have been received with at least qualified enthusiasm so it’s unsettling that this important block of data has been rubbished by the data jockeys.

So we’ll welcome the crime map but reserve judgement on its value at least until we’ve been convinced that it’s more than a political exercise – a settling of scores with intransigent police forces and the previous regime.

Type your postcode into the search field at police.uk for your own data. The results page provides some other useful information – the names of your beat coppers, for instance, and the dates of crime prevention events near you.