Friday, March 28, 2008

Being homeless is cheaper

It turns out that housing is impossible to find in London. Gumtree is full of unregulated adverts with properties that vary from the sublime to the ridiculous.

I refuse to pay £550 a month for a box with a bed but if I pay less, I have to convince a house full of strangers that I am far more interesting/tidy/fun/quiet/clean/creative than the other 30 people who have just said exactly the same thing.

Either I am not as interesting as I think I am, which is probably true anyway, or there is something amiss within the rental housing market in London.

I have been to cocaine dens which cost more than former church rectories (I was offered the coke den, I was politely refused the church rectory). I have visited penthouse apartments on Shoreditch high street that cost less than an ex-council flat in the awful bit of Shadwell.

While it is an absolute pain for me, I understand how much housing should cost (£500 pounds.... for this!?). What about those coming to the UK for the first time or over here on work visas. There was a strong correlation between the quality of the property and how long someone has spent in the country. Landlords are getting away with murder because they can.

Does anyone have a spare room?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Bacon sandwiches

The reason emap is such a big company relies heavily on the quality of the bacon sandwiches. It's taken me a week but now I realise the power that these little baps have. Everyone lives off them, and rightly so. £1.50 well spent.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The plight of Ethnic Mutual

Graffiti covers the external walls of Ethnic Mutual’s offices. Placed next to Deptford Junction DLR station, in a run-down area of South-East London, they have suffered the effects of the fraud accusations aimed at the London Development Authority (LDA).

Inside, there are cracked windows and Titus Boye-Thompson, a company trustee, is sat in his office. It looks more like a lounge, littered with family photos and an electric organ, rather than the workplace of a company that has an annual turnover of nearly half a million pounds.

Ethnic Mutual, a loans and finance company to minority businesses, is one of six companies currently under police investigation after allegations of fraud relating to Lee Jasper, a senior race advisor to the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone.

Boye-Thompson is livid with the LDA and the ongoing police investigation. He blames them for creating this mess by not using funds correctly.

He said: “The LDA thinks that retail is buying a can of coconut milk, cooking the can of coconut milk and selling a can of coconut milk but it is so much more complicated. You couldn’t just set up an African shop in Yorkshire. No-one would buy anything.

“Instead, we’re being put in a situation where we are led to believe that government funding plus black people equals corruption. That is simply not the case.”

His point is that funding for black, asian, minority and ethnic (BAME) businesses, especially retailers, can only suffer under new tighter scrutiny created by the most recent allegations, despite it being the area requiring most assistance.

London Assembly Labour member Jennette Arnold said: “The LDA plays a crucial role in sharing London's prosperity with those areas blighted by economic inactivity and despair.

“It works with projects in which the private sector will not get involved or where the market has failed. If there were a profit to be made, the private sector would be there.

“It is precisely because these projects are so difficult, complicated and not necessarily run by experienced businessmen, that the LDA is involved. It is also the reason why some of them have collapsed or failed and their books may not be up to scratch. Does this equate to corruption?”

Not all people agree. Dee Doocey, a Liberal Democrat assembly member accused the government of wasting public money. She said: “At least half a million pounds of taxpayers’ money has just been flushed down the toilet” while questioning Ken Livingstone at the recent City Hall meeting. She was very careful not to mention the ethnic background of a majority of the businesses under investigation.

Leading black organisation the 1990 trust said: “Where are equally vigorous critical examinations of other candidates and a balance of views, instead of a singular focus on London's black community organisations? Why has the media not been as quick to investigate the finances of LDA funded 'white' organisations? How many have folded or gone bankrupt. How many know or are 'associated' with other prominent figures?”

Ken Livingstone said the entire issue was a “racist smear on [Lee Jasper]”.

Ethnic Mutual is, according to a member of staff, ‘not operating’, but then Boye-Thompson quantified this as ‘not currently taking on new business’. It is only offering loans of up to £20,000 due to current financial limitations from problems with funding.

He was interrupted throughout the interview by phone calls regarding offloading property. The company, by his own admission, has been made impotent by the police, which seized all working files from the offices.

He is adamant that the police will find nothing, and is even more confused by the issue of Lee Jasper and the LDA. He said: “We have never received a penny from them. We received grants from the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) but we are currently involved in a legal case with the LDA over arranging funding.” He believes that questioning the funding, directly led to police raiding Ethnic Mutual’s offices, then his home.

Much of the media and many politicians are calling for a shake-up in the way the Mayor’s office influences funding decisions. But if, as Jennette Arnold says above, the LDA is there to fund businesses that are not economically viable then fraud is not the problem.

Being unable to provide gleaming accounts does not make a company fraudulent, but it does make them incompetent. Applying for funding with a commercial venture that most likely will fail draws a similar conclusion. But these companies only form a small percentage of what the LDA does. Ken Livingstone quoted it as “less than one tenth of one per cent” but the danger is that all BAME enterprises will be treated differently because of it.

Jennette Arnold said: “For the black projects working at the frontline, the danger is that mud sticks. Nothing the police, the district auditor or anyone else says will satisfy those doing the throwing.

Until they find the smoking gun with the mayor's fingerprints on the handle, the mudslinging will continue and London's black community will be in the firing line.”

Monday, February 11, 2008

How to spend a Sunday night

Funny things happen when deadline nears

Oh James McLaghlan, not only is your name near impossible to spell, six weeks sat in the same seat for ten hours a day, seven days a week really has done some funny things to you.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Stare at your types (until they look away and you can do what you want).

Oh dear.
I was walking around the pound shop earlier this morning. It is perhaps the best place in the world for tat, and who doesn't love tat? The best bit was standing behind a perma-tanned 'yuufs' of about 15, mouthing off about not being able to buy party poppers because the little darlings were under 18.

What were they doing with party poppers? Perhaps they didn't read the word party. Is it even the school holidays? I am just contented that they made the most out of the sale at Elizabeth Duke. Argos and a pound shop, my morning was a welcome break from staring at grammatical errors. I'm not sure which one upsets me more: chavs or the incorrect use of a possessive apostrophe. They do realise that the stereotype (Bovvvvered) is not a positive thing... right?

Thursday, January 31, 2008

L** J*****

"Blogging, What is this blogging? I'm far too busy to blog."

I'm not entirely sure if that's a quote from me or James (I'm not sure if James' comment would've been as polite). Time is of the essence with two weeks until print deadline and the first Community Retailer.

What this means is that I'm blogging at one in the morning instead of sleeping, eating absolute rubbish instead of cooking and worrying far too much about the affairs of a single gentleman. I will interview you Mr J*****, and I will find out what's been going on. You have been warned

Right, there should be at least some semblance of a sleep before waking up once more. Mrs Shava... if only I didn't have to dream of you.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Youthmovies @ Barden's Budoir 26/01/08

Twenty or so surprisingly well-dressed people are stood in the freezing cold next to a notice board that is the only indication that they are near a gig venue. Some have moustaches, most are unnervingly tall and there is not a hint of fluorescent paint anywhere. This is like no other gig in the East End of London I’ve ever been to and we’re early.

This is Youthmovies’ first gig since last November. They are just about to get involved in the NME-led math rock scene in a very big way. Foals, the current plaything of the magazine, were formed when the singer of Youthmovies left the Edmund Fitzgerald, to concentrate on the band I have come to see this evening.

I sit by where t-shirts are on sale and realise that it is the band themselves who are selling them. This band have been on the radar for about four years, they are signed to a major label and have a hotly tipped album due out in a matter of weeks. Fame, it seems, doesn’t occur to them.

“It’s just so nice to be playing in front of people” the singer awkwardly smiles, referring to their record company funded jaunts around the country to widen their appeal. Here they are in their element, with people who have come to see an off-beat, confusingly brilliant renditions of songs with such titles as ‘When We Won’t Have to Make the Freezing Scene no More’ and ‘Soandso and Soandso’.

They make no apology for treading the line between genius and pretension with each crescendo – with each seven minute song and with each improbable change of time-signature. This is because they still write songs, and good songs at that. Some might even call them pop records but none of those people were in the crowd this evening, or even know who Youthmovies are at the moment.

They are the sort of band who only released 1,000 copies of their first E.P. and refused to re-release it in the same format, even after it sold out. They are the sort of band who are supported by a seven piece string orchestra who only played one song in their twenty minute set. They are the sort of band who take the crowd with them, and never ever let go.

The crowd of around 250 roared their approval to single The Naughtiest Girl is a Monitor, due out next month, described as not so much a single but just as their shortest and therefore the most manageable according to the record company. This band is musically astounding. Sometimes the lyrics get lost in a flash of intricate guitar work that is impossible to dance to but if you actually listen, there is a vulnerability there. This despite the throwing around of distortion pedals and the banging of synths.

Everything about the evening was magical. From the silver wallpaper to concertos, This was like no other gig I’ve ever been to and that is a wonderful, wonderful thing.

The single: The Naughtiest Girl is a Monitor is released on 3 March
The album: Good Nature is released on 17 March

Monday, January 21, 2008

The kids aren't alright

I have never quite felt as old as I did on Saturday night old, stood next to people half my height and a third of my age waiting for the band to start. What was even worse was the first band were of a similar generation. I didn't know people so young could grow afros.

You know something is not quite right when you're not quite sure whether you should be stood with the parents at the back or with the kids at the front. It's fine, I'm a journalist. I quite legitimately might have been working, watching 13 year olds watched by 13 year olds. 'The Lo-Fi Culture Scene' want to look like the Strokes, want to sound like the Strokes and want to be arrogant little gets. They succeed.

The only chance I had of seeing a gig at a club night before I was 18 was pretending to be older and hiding a young face with ridiculous hair, rather than just popping along at the age of 10 with my parents to swagger around, lemonade in hand pretending I'm it. Getting wolf-whistled by a group of girls just isn't the same when they look like they've just come out of the year 9 school disco, macarena, stolen small bottles of vodka and all.

The world has gone absolutely mad.

Lo-Fi Culture Scene


Right... we've fixed the blog. I've put up a new list on the board (next to a rather attractive picture of Jacqui Smith et al) and we're finally away. Just in time for the first day of online journalism.

What we learned today is that people don't read what you write. dsf h sdkfh shdkj f shdfkj skjdf hksf skjf kjsd fhksf ksdjhf kjs fkj skjdhfk ksdjf ksjhf kjs kjfhskj h. If you were scanning, then tune back in around here... and don't forget to hyperlink.

I have a feeling that the rather ubiquitous work load of our 'vocation' is acrimoniously apprehending our private vacation. Oh if I could see Roberta and her red pen now! (BIG WORDS!!!). To the weekend and a numberless, double figured amount of rewrites. Cheers (holding up fake Red Bull and coffee).