As in 2008 and 2009, I shall round off the year with a little look back at the impressive and less than impressive events which filled our odd moments in the past twelve months. This, then, is Technomist's review of the year 2010 in Walthamstow, with awards for those places, businesses, organisations and individuals who have really made their mark locally in the past year. Or not.
Musical Venue of the Year
As in the two past years, I shall begin by considering the musical venue of the year. Some might think that this would a chance to award the Plough, which is sadly shutting in January and turning itself into flats, but by instinct I do not like the awarding of accolades to quitters so think that the Plough will have to be passed over for an award, even at this, its final opportunity.
The Standard continued its tradition of astonishing inconsistency in the quality of the acts it put on, (bands ranged from the sublime to the downright shite) while the threats to the venue from from developers continued all year. They may well not make it to the end of 2011.
The Town Square was not blessed by much in the way of noteworthy live music in 2010, though the pseudo-Native American Pan Pipe Band did please many punters, if the frequency of postings on You Tube is anything to go by.
The William Morris Gallery hosted a fine evening of highbrow classical music for charity which was worthy of mention, if only because it was free for those with thick enough faces who avoided putting money in the buckets prominently on display. St Mary's Church disappointed as a venue, despite the august quality of the acts, because of the extraneous building noises that were known to intrude on the audience's enjoyment from time to time. Lloyd Park worked well as a venue in 2010 (it was my winning venue for 2009), as did the Rose and crown from time to time. With the folk club moving its activities there for 2011, I expect it will become an even more serious player on the local cultural scene than it managed in the past year.
My winner, though, for venue of the year, is the High Street. This venue won in 2008 because of the many buskers who'd made it such a nice place to mooch about in. In 2010 it wins not so much because of these - I felt there were slightly fewer about for some reason - but for the excellent Rough Science gig put on there by local artist Jason Hawkridge during the E17 Art Trail.
In 2008 the sporting highlight of the year was the closure of the Walthamstow dog track. Im 2009 the heroisim of local boxing trainer Simon Summerville stood out in my mind as did the athletic talents of Tom Ellis, Jack Burnett, Reece Knowles & Reece Bartlet
In 2010 the year was marred at a national level by the doings at the World Cup and all that followed, while McDonald's continued with its eye-deadening attempts to cheerlead us into enthusiasm for the corrupted neo-Olympic jamboree that will soon be upon us in 2012.
There were several local examples of sporting prowess to inspire the indolent in 2010, including that of Bianca Williams, who became the UK Schools 100m sprint champion while Kamran Akhtar lifted a 176kg rock at the Walthamstow Mela. The sporting highlight of my year however was provided by 10 year old Luxi, who on 29th May at the Seni Wushu Open Competition became the children's champion and won 2 gold medals at Long Fist and Weapon.
Shop of the Year
My shop of the year last year was Bonnerís Fish and Chip Shop on Pretoria Avenue. This year it is Wilkinsons, which has turned out to be an invaluable addition to the High Street since it opened in November 2009. The stock may not be spectacular, but it is reasonably priced and well-laid out. They usually have what I am looking for and the staff are nearly always pleasant.
Service of the Year
I usually cite some business or other for their superior services rendered, but this year I think the public services who feel so put upon by the threats of our nation having to balance the books should get the recognition they deserve.
The most memorable service of 2010 was actually rendered at New Year when the year was still in the wee small hours of its very first day. For all that, I have great pleasure in nominating the London Ambulance Service for the way two of their female crew managed to patiently get one of my blind drunk neighbours onto his feet when he'd collapsed in the street. He'd swilled back so much booze he could not recognise his own front door. Itwas a cold night, and if he'd lain there blubbing and wailing the whole night no-one would have got any sleep at all. He might even have have died of self-inflicted hypothermia if he'd simply gone to sleep as was his want. Having searched his pockets for evidence of his identity, the two paramedics were eventually able to point him the three or four doors along the road to his welcoming abode and with the assistance of a couple of young policemen who also arrived on the scene, he was eventually able to place his key in the lock and recognise the homestead from whence he'd come.
New Business of the Year
We were graced with a new chinese supermarket in 2010, as well as DEM, a turkish carpet shop, the Eastenders bric a brac shop and a refurbished Chinese take-away in the form of Chow and Cha, to name but a few. To my mind, though, the best new business was the fresh nan bakery in the High Street, because it is has the most interesting wait for their wares.
The winner of the worst business award for 2009, was Somaliland, a brothel and God knows what else in St Jamesís Street, which was happily shut down. It threatened to re-emerge in 2010 in the guise of the Walthamstow £1 shop, an establishment which seemed to have not much more than toilet paper on its shelves but required an armour-plated strongroom at the rear to protect the takings of this trade and whatever drugs they were really there to flog. This too has been shut, but not before it became my worse business of 2010.
Waste of Money of the Year
Huge sums have continued to be wasted by our council throughout 2010, on propaganda, stupid stunts and campaigns fronted by our useless politicians, not least of which were the vast sums spent on asking people how the council should cut a budget they had already decided how to axe. Chris Robbins, our council leader, also wasted our money and time pretending to campaign for more police for the borough, while Clyde Loakes crept out from under a rock to fill our Town Square with rubbish trucks and have his picture taken.
The jury is still out on some public expenditure, such as the cost of creating a Speaker's Corner in Stoneydown Park. It was so late in the year it only seems to have been used on the day it was opened, but maybe it will get some use in the spring time.
Some waste was more symbolically stupid, such as the unaccountable sums dispensed on the pretence of being part of the 'war on terror', including some £75 spent on icecreams . Even bigger wastes seem to have occurred where the general council payroll is concerned, with some £15 million spent on agency staff in the first 7 months of the year. The fish has been rotting from the head by all accounts, with even Chief Executives shamelessly dipping their bread at the taxpayer's expense.
All this makes the 2008 winner, the money spent on the ridiculous TV in the Town Square seem like a model of probity, while "Spinal Tap on Ice", the symbolic accolade for 2009, seems too small in scale by comparison to this year's cess pool of crap accountancy. So what is my waste of money of the year 2010 to be? Yet more council projects and instances of malfeasance?
(And can't private businesses or individuals compete in the face of the pisspoor showing by our borough council? Do the Liberal Democrats not even get an honourable mention for the money they squandered on leaflets in the general election? I think not. That was small beer.)
When the bills eventually come in in the form of 'the cuts' and the same old faces who form part of the local Labour clique manage to cling on to their power and jobs while honest folk are shown the door, we will understand more of how much money our council has squandered in 2010, and in all the years preceeding it. Rather than naming any particular piece of expenditure or folly, though, I think the wise thing to do is simply point the finger where the problem lies. The biggest waste of money in 2010 is 'Waltham Forest Council' an institution which is so thoroughly 'not fit for purpose' that something entirely new needs to be put in its place.
Most Popular Delusion
That how people voted at the last election meant that we would not have to pay the bills run up by the last Labour Government or at our local authority.
Nick Tiratsoo, already deserved a knighthood for uncovering the corruption and financial malfeasance at the heart of our council back in 2008 when I gave him this award the first time. He didn't get it the next year, as it went to Nicholas Taylor for taking on a firm of clampers in a one man protest and getting his money back without being thumped. The new government will be changing the law to ban such extortion in future.
However, Nick Tiratsoo is nothing if not tenacious, and has carried on his probing into the council's finances and contractual arrangements, helping expose further merde and wastefulness, so for this reason he is again the recipient of this prestigious award for 2010.
Cultural Low Point As ever, so many.
2010 included many antics from Islam 4 UK, Waltham Forest Muslims and others of their ilk, and the blatant falsehoods made by London and Quadrant should also be in the running for an award - the greedy developers falsely alleging that their staff had been threatened in order to try to avoid letting the public say what they thought about their plans to develop the dog track site.
At one point in the year I thought that some examples from the 'entertainment' world might make the grade for this award, what with the abysmal display put on by a coprophiliac and somewhat humourless rock band in the Standard, but no-one quite rose sufficinetly to the occaision, though there was a late attempt by the world of entertainment to snatch a victory by tastelessess with the news of late night 'bikini parades' in what counts as a residentential area outside the Forest Road Snooker Club. The fact that most people knew nothing about this till the last few days suggest though that this has been all too discrete an activity to be really worthy of a win.
In contrast, 2009 had been marked by the Labour Party in its various guises seeking publicity through 'astro-turfing' using minors, sometimes even on school premises. In 2010 the council continued the slide further into the same old slime, this time abusing our children by instituting a programme in Walthamstow schools to encourage kids as young as eleven to spy on their siblings - as a show that 'something was being done' in our diverse and politically correct schools as part of the never-ending 'war on terror'. No evidence ever emerged to demonstrate the effectiveness of this odious activity from an intelligence gathering perspective, nor did any advocate of the disgraceful policy among our supinely ambitious pedagogues ever give thought or voice to the moral, developmental or educational issues involved. Although they have received an award already for Waste of Money of the Year, I regret therefore to have to fill up this illustrious borough's plywood trophy cabinet with yet another gong for the year.
Best Public Art
The whole of the E17 Art Trail wins this award, as ever but I should mention a couple of artists' work which still stands out for me several months later, such as Charlie Hall's Icarus at Lloyd park and Wendy Macmillan's work which was on display in St Michael and All Angel's Church Hall on Northcote Road.
Cultural High Point
Usually, this is some event in the E17 Art trail, or associated with it, such as the graceful acceptance kiss sent to our community (well, to the judges, but Ruth Armas is so pretty I would like to think some of the warmth was directed at everyone else) by the successful actress in the International Film festival. I often enjoy fleeting moments of companionable lunacy in the High Street, particularly the ones which have an air of spontaneity about them. I do think though that the cultural high point of 2010 came in a church, during a concert where we were treated to some sublime and jazzy harp playing by Oliver Wass and the British premier of a Concerto by Nobuya Monta.
Bargains of the Year
Most of the bargains were small, but not unappreciated for all that. I was very pleased with packets of seeds in Wilkinson's sale for 10p each, large pots of double cream for 20p in ASDA, and enough raspberries from Sainsbury's bought at 20p a punnet to make several jars of very delicious jam.
Loss of the Year
My bike, stolen from my back garden was a significant loss to me personally, but probably wouldn't have too many people giving a hoot. Still, its my blog, so the bike gets it. I wonder if I will ever get it back.
Crime of the Year
The spectacular crime wave we have enjoyed since I began this blog has continued, and some of the crimes dating back years, such as the murders of Julie Dorsett, Melita Jo and Michelle Samaraweera, remain unsolved, with the perpetrators free to continue their activities. Those crimes relating to the money which has gone missing from Council remain unpunished, while further scandals come to light.
There have been more killings, the most poignant one in many ways being that of Grenadan tourist Kelvin Francis, who was killed outside Captian's Fish Bar at the top of the High Street. His parents had to make an appeal for funds on the internet to be able to repatriate his body.
It is, of course, invidous to select any one criminal act for an award, as well as likely to offend the victims, but I feel on safe enough ground giving the accolade to a crime which never came to court and probably never will. It gets perpetrated regularly by officials whose job it is to regulate the behaviour of other drivers and bring th force of the criminal law upon them. Thus there is some irony in 2010 that the driver of vehicle index number KY09 XZO was filmed in the act, blocking a cycle lane and apparently parking so as to create a traffic hazard while attempting to levy fines on others less hypocritical than himself.
Local Politician of the Year
With a council as dreadful as ours, it is difficult yet again to think positively about some of our local politicians, let alone single one out for an award. As a result, 2008's Local Politician of the Year was 'Gary Glitter', an 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. In 2009 the award was won by Naz Sarkar, who was living and working in Reading (where he failed to win a Parliamentary seat in the general election) while taking his allowances as a councillor in Waltham Forest - no doubt pretending that we were always on his mind, as Elvis would have put it.
For 2010, we can choose from such dim luminaries as Marie Pye, who has been known to tour the area like some member of the Royal Family having sofas expensively humped around the borough, or the likes of Clyde Loakes, who is back on the payroll again spouting a load of rubbish. Neither of these is a particularly worthy winner, however, in that they are more tedious than entertaining.
I might, in a fit of positive thinking, have rewarded Matt Davis with this distinction, for attempting to highlight the waste at our council in a stunt involving invoicing the Labour party for the money that has been blown on crap. This Tory councillors's failure came, however, from his ignorant fantasy that the sums wasted at our council came to a mere £534,000, when anyone who cares to take a look at the disgraceful situation knows that many millions of pounds have been frittered away or lost in the last few years. These , of course, are millions the Tories in opposition have failed to prevent being poured down the drain.
I have therefore decided yet again that no elected official will gain this prize. It goes instead to a rubber statue of Alfred Hitchcock, which formed the centre-piece of a rally by supporters of the EMD Cinema.
Political Campaign of the Year
As in previous years, the prize for political campaign of the year goes to some person or group who has actually achieved something as opposed to making a lot of noise about it. For that reason, sadly, there is no prize for the Socialist Party who began fighting entertainingly for free speech but ended up in a dull compromise with the local council over the use of revolutionary tressel tables in the Town Square. The EMD campaigners also gained a lot of good publiciity for their cause, but we still don't actually have a cinema, nor have SOS managed to Save the Stow as yet. The prize, because they got what they wanted, has to go to the campaign to keep the Waltham Forest magistrates' court open, albeit that Their Worships had the most senior judge in England on their side.