This is Technomistís review of the year 2008 in Walthamstow, with awards for those places, businesses, organisations and individuals who have really made their mark locally in the past year.
Musical Venue of the Year
2008 was a year of great uncertainly where live music was concerned. Although a few good musicians have entertained people and been well-supported doing it, events and venues ranging from the Standard to the Assembly rooms spent much of the year under a variety of threats.
The Standard, when not threatened by the mediocrity of the acts it sometimes books, (they do have good ones, but not consistently) was under threat for some of the year from developers.
The Assembly rooms was indirectly threatened by me, in the form of my representatives from the Council, who decided to over-price the venue to the point that they nearly didnít feature the Forest Philharmonic after the summer. The Town Square also saw a musical event by the Council to celebrate the Olympics ruined, this time by one of our local murderers.
The biggest gig of the year, if that is an appropriate word, was, according to the organizers, probably put on at the defunct dog track by the Kingsway International Christian Centre. The events I enjoyed most though were all free and relatively spontaneous Ė a rave on the Marshes, (which was pointlessly curtailed by our local police force), the regular buskers in the High Street and the singing of carols at the farmersí market a couple of weeks back.
With so much going on then, you might think it difficult to nominate a local musical venue of the year, but in fact it is very easy. My winner is the High Street.
If horse racing can be described as the sport of kings, then dog racing is the sport of someone or other. The highlight of 2008 therefore has to have been the closure of the Walthamstow dog track. It has had everything, furry homeless animals, people protesting, divine intervention, double dealing by wheeler dealers, even David Beckham put his oar in.
Shop of the Year
My shop of the year, for amusing me unendingly with their piles of ridiculous special offers (they currently have a locally useful supply of discount snowboarding helmets on offer) but still managing to be correct about the recessionary Zeitgeist, is Lidl.
Service of the Year
For friendliness and good honest value for money it is hard for me to not nominate M&S Dry Cleaners, the Post Office opposite Buxton Road at the St James's Street end of the High Street and the Bengal Curry House.
New Business of the Year
There is a tie in my mind between Tradicia, which has a wonderful smell on entry and is a visual treat I can eat, (it really came into its own for interesting little items to put to stockings this Christmas) and Ferdin Fashion Fabrics, which has greatly enlivened the High Street with its excellently presented fabrics.
Its a toss up for this award between the truly evil Oakam, and the really truly awful Reed in Partnership. Both have arrived in our High Street to live off the backs of the poor. Neither contribute anything we really need. Oakam wins because if I had my way they would be in jail for what they do.
Waste of Money of the Year
The ugly TV screen in the Town Square, an authoritarian wet-dream of the pre-credit crunch fantasists who have hi-jacked the Olympics and driven their tanks right onto our metaphysical lawn. Now that the consumption of alcohol to the point of paralysis has been banned, it has no-one watching it at all.
Worst Financial Deal
442% interest offered to borrowers by Oakam. The only thing worse than this is the fact these guys are not in jail. Yet.
Most Popular Delusion
That banning any more new fast food outlets is going to turn our youngsters into Olympians.
Nick Tiratsoo, who deserves a knighthood at the very least for uncovering the corruption and financial malfeasance at the heart of our council. So far he has only managed to get Loakes to resign from the chairmanship of the Local Strategic Partnership, a body which, ironically, also has the Borough Police Commander on it as a member. But for alerting the public to the true face of the current administration's leadership, he is my Unsung Hero of 2008.
Commentator of the Year in the Waltham Forest Guardian
As I canít nominate myself and Mr Khalid seems to have been banned for stepping over the line once too often, I nominate Bert Small. He is rarely polite, often funny and usually first. He is, of course, under suspicion as a journalist, but that does not matter in the slightest as far as I am concerned.
Cultural Low Point
The TV screen in the town centre gets its second mention here vying with the truly ugly celebration of The Mallís Christmas, which involved something called "Money-Back Month" making its bid to replace advent and which kicked off the festive entertainment on the 8th of November. Neither of these though can compete, naff as they are, with cultural obscenity of the alleged firebombing of the publisher of 'The Jewel in the Medina' by a local man.
Best Public Art
The whole of the E17 Art Trail ought to win this hands down, and in fact they do, but I can't resist mentioning one of the runners up, a much misunderstood piece of public conceptual art provided by the council in homage to the dadaist Duchamp.
Find of the Year
The rave on the marshes in midsummer and the exhibition on the E17 Art Trail put on by Paul Robinson and Anssi Sojakka.
Bargain of the Year
A whole prosciutto ham from ASDA for a tenner, 9 pineapples for a pound from the market and a box of mangoes, also for a pound from the market.
Loss of the Year
The freedom to have a beer in public. The closure of Bunter's Grill comes a close second, but there are other cafe's and no more public spaces.
Crime of the Year
Despite the spectacular crime wave we have enjoyed in 2008, some of our most noteworthy criminality has involved things for which no-one has yet to be brought to book. Some of the crimes date back years, such as the murder of Julie Dorsett, whose body was found at some local allotments. Some are still very much current and may be on-going, such as those crimes relating to the money which has allegedly gone missing from a Council poor fund while under the direct oversight of the Leader of the Council. Others will gradually fade from memory, traumatic to those they were directed at but largely forgotten by the public at large, such as the raid on the Blackhorse Road tube station and several robberies at bookmakers. Some have become so normal it is as if they are mere wallpaper, such as the longstanding activities of a number of organised gangsters who sell counterfeit dvds and smuggled cigarettes in the High Street.
One of the most amusing crimes from a satiristís point of view was possibly that which came to light as having been committed by Liaquat Ali, the Mayor, who was before the beak for not sending his child to school and then for not paying his fine, despite actually having been a magistrate in the court that fined him.
Where crimes which have led to arrests are concerned, as well as the usual terrorism for which Walthamstow has some international renown these days, and the killing which put paid to the Olympics celebrations, there was a local mini youth crime wave for the police to respond to this year. The nastiest crime involving a Walthamstow man, though, was probably the Ďcaustic rapeí. While it is invidious to select any one incident or death from so many, perhaps the killing which stands out most in my mind was the beating to death of Melita Jo in the churchyard at St Maryís Church.
Local Politician of the Year
With a council as dreadful as ours, it is difficult to think positively about some of our local politicians, let alone single one out for an award. One or two did do honourable things, if they can be called that, this year, for instance Councillor Imran Abrahim, who resigned from the council after he was prosecuted for wife-beating.
Councillor John Macklin deserves an honourable mention this year, for, well, being a politician and ousting the previous LibDem leader Mr Rainer and heading up his party. There are a few people who think he should go further and oust Labour's Clyde Loakes as Leader of the Council, but Macklin will need Labour Councillors to help him do that. If he shows the political skills to achieve that co-operation in 2009, he will be a sure bet for next year's award.
In the meantime, we still have Loakes in charge, so no cigar. Quite what Loakes's hold over his colleagues is, so that he can still survive in power despite the scandal that surrounds him, is something which some locals have been known to murmer about in local pubs, but the laws of libel would prevent me from repeating here if I could ever lean in close enough to overhear. He is quite an operator. In the midst of all the flying merde, Councillor Loakes, showed his mettle as a New Labour party hack by getting himself selected to stand for Parliament in Northampton should Gordon Brown ever have the bottle to face the people.
Loakes's side-kick, Councillor Wheeler, deserves an honourable mention, here, for admitting what many of us had long suspected - that he had been telling us all lies. But I really can't give an accolade to an elected politician who is a self-confessed liar, can I.
The local politician who sums up the nastiness and futility of the local political scene for me though is a celebrity wannabe. This year's Local politician of the Year is 'Gary Glitter', the unknown member of the BNP who took it upon himself to put out leaflets attacking the LibDems in a by-election his party didn't even have a candidate in.
Political Campaign of the Year
There have been a number of campaigns underway this year - one whose bandwagon was jumped onto by the council and every politician going was the campaign to save the local post offices, other campaigns like Fight The Height were less happily pandered to, being feared by the local political leadership. Possibly the most threatening is that being waged almost single-handedly, though with huge popular support, by Nick Titatsoo against the corruption and malfeasance of some of the council's officers and the Clyde Loakes clique. Other campaigns which made good headway during the year but which seem to me to be in danger of petering out include the St Jamesís Street Library campaign. The most effective campaign to date, because it seems to have worked, is that by the members of the Forest Philharmonic who bit the rather mean hand that was feeding them and seem to have got away with the funding they needed to carry on with their music. For that reason, I would award them Campaign of the Year.