Category Archives: Wisbech Town Park
Wisbech Rock Festival 2014
We all rolled up at the crack of dawn – or some unearthly time on a Sunday that felt like the crack of dawn – ready to set up the Rock Festival. And when I say “we all” I obviously am not referring to any lazy, inept or just plain bone idle “never shows” whose idea of being a Councillor is getting their face in the paper quite often. No, I am referring to the people who turn out, time after time, without fail, in any weather. Sam Hoy, Garry Tibbs, David Oliver and his whole Family, Michelle Tanfield, Reg Mee, Stephen Brunton, Jonathan & Susannah Farmer, Hannah Campagna, Aigers Balsevics and his Eastern European Volunteer Team.
But disaster struck. The rain was pounding down, the skies were black, we were all drenched and everybody was hoping that maybe, just maybe, all those dire weather forecasts were wrong and it might brighten up. We set up the stage, the barriers, the PA guys were hard at work wiring the sound system.
Come Eleven-Thirty the rain had been joined by a powerful wind. Most of the stalls hadn’t shown up and the fairground guys – who provide the power for us all – were concerned they were going to get stranded in the mud. It wasn’t looking good and then the death knell sounded when the safety team advised that it was now too dangerous to proceed. Although the P.A. was fairly waterproof, the band’s equipment would not be. The wind was blowing the rain straight onto the stage leading to risks of electrocution and slippery surfaces. Drenched and tired already, we had to face the fact that we could not proceed and would have to cancel.
A brief discussion led by Sam Hoy resulted in our deciding to try and move to an inside venue. It was incredibly short notice and there were thousands of pounds worth of kit to be moved. But cancelling meant losing the investment in the entire event and letting the music lovers of Wisbech down. A number of major venues were complete wash-outs, no pun intended, their bureaucracy or risk aversion meaning we couldn’t move there. (Their loss, I feel.) We got a generous offer from The Woodmans, in Gorefield, who deserve praise for saying: “Bring it all here, we’ll make it happen.” And we would have done, but it was a little far out to be sure the public would all get there. Luckily, the Queen Mary Centre stepped up and offered their venue even at this incredible short notice.
Suddenly we were all rushing around, breaking down the equipment we’d already set up, loading things into cars and lorries and anything with wheels and an engine. How on Earth we managed to shift everything from the Town Park to the QMC in an hour I will never know. Unbelievable awesome volunteers, I think, were the solution – alongside the most professional, helpful and reasonable sound system guys it has ever been my pleasure to meet and work with.
Social Media came to life – with Facebook lighting up with news of the move. All the forums and discussion boards were helpful, particularly “Wisbech Oh Dear” and the Wisbech Discussion Forum. John Elworthy got the move publicised on the Wisbech Standard’s website which was excellent. Twitter crackled and buzzed with the news.
And at about 2PM the opening power chords of Kamikaze Hotshots boomed from the mighty speakers through a busy and excited hall at the Queen Mary Centre. It was time to rock.
I don’t think I have ever experienced quite such a positive vibe at a Wisbech event as was evident throughout the day. The bands were really varied, from the slick rock n’ rollers of Gifford to the country folk rock of Rattleshack. From the smooth delivery of The Merlins to the “in your face” rebel rock of Death Radio. On the internet, the buzz was excellent with attendees saying how much they were enjoying the day. The only sour note was a tiny handful of moaners – most of whom were not in attendance – the same people who can always be counted on to moan about everything everywhere. Their grumpy grumbling was broadly drowned out, which I think is a good thing. There are some folks who are just not happy until others are unhappy.
The free face-painting was much enjoyed by the young and older alike. I even had my own face painted with a bolt of lightning over my eye and some letters and words that tickled me at the time.
The Mayor, Michael Hill, and his lovely wife Jane, both stayed for the entire day. They were such good sports and later in the event both could be seen wearing the Wisbech Rock Festival T-Shirts with their chains over the top. When the compère pointed this out they got a massive cheer from the audience. Some other towns may have Mayors who wouldn’t be seen having fun at an event like this – but Wisbech has always been pretty good at finding Mayors who aren’t afraid to have a bit of fun with the people who live here.
Cllr Stephen Brunton, our St. John’s Ambulance First Aider, who gives up his free time to keep people safe and well and can always be counted on to help at town events. On this day he helped a young lady who was taken suddenly ill, several other minor abrasions – and a Staffy dog which ran in from the thunder after having apparently bolted in the storm. (Dog was successfully returned to his owner after being calmed down and given a bowl of water.)
Hannah Campagna with Drew Cameron. Hannah, a newcomer to the Festivals Committee, handled the P.A. and sound people as well as so much more. Her knowledge, experience and commitment to the town are second-to-none.
It is a shame I do not have a picture of Aigers Balsevics – proprietor of The Angel, the King’s Head and the Three Tuns. Because he deserves to be recognised for doing so much to make the day a success. Unfortunately, since he never stops moving and working long enough, nobody has a lens fast enough to catch him. But trust me when I tell you that this man and his never-ending team of Eastern European volunteers are quite simply awesome. We could not have made this happen without them.
What happened on this miserably wet Sunday was out of our hands. We were already soaked and would have been happy to press on for whatever crowd braved the weather in wellies and macs but once the safety people said “no” that was that. Except that from the ashes of potential disaster rose an off-the-cuff, last minute, scrabbled and rushed and thrown together replacement. It wasn’t ideal, but we made the best of what we had and my goodness if it didn’t all work out rather well. The day was a triumph and it was an absolutely thrill and a pleasure to have played some small part in it. My hat goes off to all those wonderful volunteers who just would not give up, and to the organisers who rolled with the punches and came up swinging. To the bands who played so well and entertained us so thoroughly. And to the fine people of Wisbech who turned up, danced, sang and made merry until night fell. More power to you!
Have Your Cake And Eat it
I enjoyed the letter in the Wisbech Standard today from the collective “opposition” on Wisbech Town Council. If anybody ever wondered what the difference was between Independents, Labour and the Lib Dems on the Town Council, the answer is “none whatsoever” apparently, given that these supposedly disparate parties all seem to be singing from the same hymnsheet. What’s truly horrible is that I agree with some of what they say – but there are some distinct differences between their position and my own.
So what are their demands?
Well, first they are angry about the 35% increase in the Town Council’s precept. As a town taxpayer I did not support it either. But we need to put it into perspective. You notice they quote the percentage rather than the amount? This is because the percentage sounds scary. The actual physical amount it adds up to does not sound quite as terrifying. But it is fair to say that in these hard-pressed times any additional amount must be seriously considered. And as those collective lefties on the town council know it was seriously considered. After all they were there for the debate. They also know that the people of Wisbech were asked to vote on some aspects of it in the local press and came out strongly in favour of the two instances of what they call “high spending.” There is something truly ironic about the Left arguing against higher spending when it is all they did for thirteen years when they, and their ideological pals, were in power. It’s interesting that they aren’t actually opposing the work that is planned for the town market square, or even saving the toilets, but simply the spending. Shades of my favourite Magic Money Tree ™ transplanted to Wisbech?
The second thing they seem opposed to is the Bramley Line. Of course, as ever, they don’t say they are opposed to the Bramley Line because that would require taking a position rather than just generic griping. In fact they say: “We all dream of a Railway line for Wisbech.” But then go on to moan about the money being spent to acquire the lease and prevent the possibility being lost forever. Now again, I share some of their views. I haven’t yet seen a business case for the railway I can get behind – but they are forgetting one thing. The Town Council asked the people of Wisbech to vote on the issue. And they did. Overwhelmingly in favour of spending the money to save the line. So when they talk about the “actual needs of Wisbech residents” they clearly don’t mean the needs as expressed by those people, because if they did they would surely have to support the spending? What they apparently mean are the “actual needs of Wisbech residents as we would like to imagine them.” Which is all well-and-good, if a little bossy, but should be stated more clearly so that people don’t mistakenly think they are worried about their actual opinions.
Finally, they moan about the town toilets having been saved (again, without actually opposing the policy.) They think the people of March got a better deal (although, as I understand it, the people of March take a different view…) Now I’ve been clear before that I think the Town Council’s intervention to save the toilets was a fantastic move. I don’t claim to speak for everyone in Wisbech in the way they they are convinced they do, but almost every person I have spoken to is supportive of the policy. The people of the town value our wonderful Town Park and know that on hot days when families are out in the sun, and teenagers are kicking and throwing balls about, and kids are zooming down the slide and clambering on the climbing frame and queueing up to buy ice-cream from that happy chap in the van – people need a place to pee! I’m sorry to be blunt, but there it is.
I would have liked a council tax freeze across the board as much as the next person. But in the end you want your town center spruced-up and made safer or you don’t. You want to keep your public toilets or you don’t. You want to protect the chance of a railway line in the future of you don’t. I think the majority of the people of Wisbech do, and where they’ve been given the opportunity they’ve voted to say so. Yes, it meant an increase of 35% in the precept. I believe that’s about 15p a week on a Band D property. Seems like money well-spent to me. The opposition want to have their cake and eat it. It’s not possible, my friends.
A Purchase Of Convenience
To cut a long story short: Fenland District Council was considering shutting some of the public loos in and around Wisbech to save money. Cllr Hoy and Cllr Cox, supported by most of the public, opposed this. Some discussion was had and, with the majority of Wisbech Town Council on-side, Fenland District Council offered to sell the toilets to Wisbech Town Council, who would take over their management thereafter. The deal was sweetened by it being a “zero interest” loan that could be paid over an extended period. Hurrah! Toilets saved. Localism in the flesh. Common sense prevails. Or so you’d think…
The usual ragtag of opposition, desperate for something to criticise and drowning in cynicism, cheer-led by some sections of the local media, have decided that this outcome is actually bad. Why? Because “the people of Wisbech shouldn’t have to buy something that is already theirs.”
So let’s think about this. Wisbech Town Council (the purchaser) has no money of their own. It’s all taxpayers money. The taxpayers of Wisbech. Fenland District Council have no money of their own. It’s all taxpayers money. The taxpayers of Fenland (in which Wisbech resides and is capital.) So this “purchase” is the transfer of money from one taxpayer pot to another taxpayer pot. The money that Wisbech Town Council has less to spend on the people, Fenland District Council have more to spend on the people. As I said on Twitter, if you have a tenner in your left hand and you move it to your right hand, you don’t complain that your left hand has made you less wealthy with its ill-conceived transfer.
Of course, that’s simplistic. It’s not quite the same. Wisbech Town Council generally only spend their money on Wisbech, whereas Fenland District Council spend it across the breadth of Fenland. So you could argue that the Wisbech money is being spread more thinly by the sale (if you were mean-spirited enough to do so.) But using this argument you could equally say that the people of Chatteris and March and Whittlesey have been subsidising our public toilets in Wisbech until now. It’s a silly tit-for-tat way of thinking about money in the public purse, born not of any economic sense but of a desire to sew dissent and create resentment.
But not only that. It’s wrong too. Because it ignores the asset which Wisbech has purchased. Wisbech Town Council transfers the money to Fenland in exchange for the loos. Wisbech now “owns” the asset of that value. The money it paid to Fenland District Council then gets spent across the whole of Fenland – including Wisbech. Which means that Wisbech now has the asset on its book and still gets a fair portion of the cash back in FDC expenditure. This is the equivalent of you buying a house and then finding the bank paying your energy bills for you after the purchase.
Heads whirling, the nay-sayers then try to say: “But Wisbech will now have to pay for the upkeep and management of the toilets.” Yes, this is correct. Wisbech will have to, but Fenland District Council will not have to. Once again, we have an equilibrium. And while its again true that the Fenland saving is spread across a wider area, Wisbech Town Council will benefit from lower overheads, local knowledge and proximity to the assets it is managing.
All that has really happened here is a transfer of cash for accountancy purposes. The asset has moved in ownership between two different public bodies. If Fenland District Council had transferred it “for free” then there could equally have been an outcry about “District Assets Being Given Away For Free” to Wisbech’s benefit. Which would have been equally silly, but the other side of the same illogical coin.
Nevertheless, I’m sure it will make a good rabble-rousing headline and it’s something new for the opposition to twist malevolently into Angry Leaflet material. It just seems like such a waste of time given the real issues which face the town, the district, the county and the nation.
Photo (c) hat-tip Wisbech Standard.
Dawn Chorus Day 2011
Its Spring again and the dawn chorus in Wisbech Town Park is as good as it ever was.
Bank Holiday Sunday is once again Dawn Chorus Day.
And for the third year running I’m joining the Dawn Chorus organising team alongside my friends John Smith and Cllr. Simon King for a wonderful and delightful morning with a crowd of other eager adventurous types in the beautiful Wisbech Town Park. You’ll see me in the park, helping cook and serve the free breakfast and generally enjoying the community good will and spirit.
Organiser Johm Smith said: This year our walk around the Park will again be led by Paul Stancliffe form the British Trust for Ornithology at Thetford. Paul amazed and intrigued everbody last year as he explained how to recognise the songs of the different birds. Because the birds were “live” Paul could explain that their songs can vary and showed ways of recognising those variations. Even serious birdwatchers thanked Paul for giving them new tips and the children were: “well impressed”.
The bacon roll breakfasts are always a real hit and this year should be no exception as BB’s catering are once again providing the tasty fare. Thanks to generous sponsorship from BBs, Premier Foods, the forthcoming new Tea Rooms & Restaurant “Number 10*” and the gift of bacon from Richard Plater and bread rolls from shops in town – all this is free, we simply ask for a reasonable donation to The Friends of Wisbech Park. This is a true community event enjoyed by young and old alike. An ideal adventure for all the family.
If you’ve never been before, I can highly recommend it. If you don’t like the idea of getting up so early: don’t be a wuss! It’s one day – and a wonderful day it will be!
The full poster can be found HERE.
See you there, I hope!
*The forthcoming new Tea Room & Restaurant called “Number 10” is me, alongside my two partners. I’ve sponsored this event as well as helping organise it every year and this year is no exception. I strongly believe that local businesses should help and support community events such as this. Which is why i’ve done so since the very first year.
Necessary small print for election time, in regards to my joint candidacy with Cllr. Robert Scrimshaw for the Parson Drove & Wisbech St. Mary District Division:
Promoted by Mrs D N Clark on behalf of the Conservative Party Candidates both of 111 High Street, March, Cambs PE15 9LH.
This post has been submitted by a contributor. The author of this guest post would like to stress that it an expression of personal opinion and does not represent the opinion, official or otherwise, of the Cambs. County Council, of the owner of this blog (Steve Tierney) or of any other person or body. (Future guest posts by other contributors would certainly be seriously considered. If you are interested – email Steve Tierney with details of what you’d like to write about.)
More Vandalism In Wisbech Park
After the recent theft of a whole Holly tree from Wisbech Park the problems continue. The Friends of Wisbech Park were distressed to hear that several of the nest boxes erected last spring have been damaged.
Regular bird watchers in the park were horrified and could not imagine who would commit such a heinous crime. They have been scratching their heads to work out how it was done.
The nest boxes are attached to the trees are all more than twelve feet from the ground. It’s not easy to get up there a bird regular watcher told me. The damage is only to the front of the nest boxes and seems to be particularly bad around the entry hole. Could it have been caused by an air rifle or even a very powerful catapult or crossbow? We were baffled.
Then on Sunday morning Stella, a regular watcher of wildlife in the park discovered the answer. The culprit was identified and, as usual he was a male, she could clearly see that.
And how was he caught I hear you ask. Did someone see an offensive weapon? Did he have a crossbow concealed under his coat or did he have a catapult hidden in a carrier bag?
No it was by the noise he was making. You see Stella had heard the sound before in her own garden, or so she thought. But this time it seemed to sound hollow. What could it be? Well follow your ears she mused. So she did. And what did she find? Well there he was all decked out in his Sunday best. With his red cap and his black eye, he must have had a heavy Saturday night!
“So was the culprit caught? Was he arrested? Was he put in the stocks for a week?” Well not exactly. “Why. Where were the police? They’re never there when you want them.”
Well it’s not really that simple, you see. “Sounds like an open and shut case to me. You just can’t ever find a policeman when you want one.” Now wait, hang on a minute it’s really not that simple. “Well it sounds pretty simple to me!” Will you please shut up and let me explain?
You see the culprit was a fine a male Green Woodpecker and he wais making the entry hole big enough for him and his bride to be to set up home inside.
“So crime solved, this could have taken up quite a bit of police time, if it hadn’t been so promptly solved.”
– John Smith
I took my five-year-old son Joe to have his haircut today. It’s not something he’s incredibly keen on and so, once it was over, we paid a visit to the playground. The way I see it, you can offset the trauma of buzzing clippers with the screeching of happy children. Joe seemed to agree.
The playground I chose was the one in Wisbech Town Park, which he always enjoys and which is generally busy enough to ensure many youthful playmates. But there was an added incentive too. Wisbech Town Park has recently benefitted from the addition of a whole bunch of new adventure play equipment including; balancing beams, climbing equipment, a spider swing, high-speed seat gyrators and an excellent Zip Wire.
Upon arrival we noticed that the new equipment was very popular. But I was a little concerned to see the crowd of “big boys” (Joe’s words, not mine) who appeared to have taken control of the two most exciting pieces of equipment, the spider swing and the Zip Wire. This is one of the criticisms often levelled at play equipment of this type, that it encourages an unwelcome age bracket who frighten other users and vandalise the attractions.
I approached the Zip Line first, upon which several teenage boys (I’d guess at thirteen or fourteen years of age) were intent on riding simultaneously. They were swearing loudly and continually at one another in an aggressive way. Since I had my young son with me I took issue with this and shouted: “Oy! Language!” The boys got off the Zip Line and all apologised, immediately moderating their use of profanity. They then pulled the Zip Line up and encouraged my son to have a go, even going so far as to run with him for a bit of extra speed! Joe was very pleased.
Seeing that they were actually nice kids, others who had kept away approached and took their goes too. Not only were the teenagers willing to release their stranglehold on the zip wire, they enjoyed being able to help the younger kids use the equipment, go faster and have more fun.
After some balancing and climbing we made our way towards the Spider Swing. This had a more dramatic demographic upon it. Much older boys (late teens, I would guess) had loaded some younger youths on board and were spinning it extremely fast indeed, much to the merriment of a pair of giggling teenage girls. Certainly faster than the machine should really be going and at wider angles. Also loaded more heavily than is likely intended.
At one point there were eight kids on a swing intended for two or three, spinning wildly at high speed and eccentric angles. “Are they naughty guys?” my son asked. ‘Naughty Guys’ is the simplistic term we use to describe criminals on TV, super-villains in his Spider-Man comics and anybody who isn’t being ‘good’. I explained to him that they were just playing and were probably not “naughty guys” and as ever he was utterly fearless.
Striding up to the Spider Swing my son asked loudly if it was “his go now”. The largest kids immediately stopped the Swing, ushered the current riders off (much to their relief, several of them had gone green) and helped my son on. “Not too fast,” Joe told them. Sure enough, they whooshed the ride around at just the speed he liked, checking occasionally with him to be sure it wasn’t too scary. Then some of the younger boys jumped back on and they all swooped and spun happily.
There are some obvious conclusions to all this. I did not encounter a single problem, despite the large groups of ‘unruly’ teenagers. When addressed reasonably and confidently they responded politely and respectfully. When I challenged their behaviour they acknowledged the point and addressed it. More than that, when given a little responsibility they grabbed it with both arms and were very pleased to help others enjoy themselves.
However, given time these same kids will break that equipment. Seeing how it was being used there is really no doubt about that. And once it’s broken it’s put out of use for everybody. They aren’t deliberately vandalising it, they have just finally found something they seem to be allowed to do and they are using it with the boisterous, exaggerated manner of any teenager anywhere. Furthermore, when adults are not around to offer an example of how to behave, their behaviour will likely become more extreme as they feed off one another’s rebellious energy.
But there’s the big problem, right there. We’ve provided a playground for younger kids. It’s great. Those who made this happen should be very proud of it. It’s yet another successful addition to Wisbech’s wonderful Town Park. But if you want to avoid the ‘Big Boys’ and ‘Big Girls’ using and abusing the equipment then there are really only two choices. Supervision of the play area, or giving them something and somewhere for their own age group that is better than a younger children’s playground. I prefer the latter.
These are not kids for whom you can build a skate park and say: “there, that’s that sorted” as if you’ve miraculously occupied them all. Although a skate park is certainly a good start. These are kids with a wide range of interests, backgrounds and behaviours. It stands to reason they need a wide range of activities, clubs and places to go. Just like everybody else does. They need some protection and supervision to counteract their worst tendencies, and they need some freedom and responsibility to reflect their best ones. What they don’t need is to be ignored or derided simply for wanting to enjoy themselves. That is precisely how you turn a perfectly reasonable teenager into a “naughty guy”. If you don’t believe me, just ask Spider-Man.
Too Many Cooks
The Prime Minister has had one of those weekends. You know the ones; everything goes about as wrong as it can go and all your friends try to stick daggers in you every time you turn your back on them. Or maybe you don’t ‘know the ones’. It’s actually quite difficult to become so universally disliked that everything you do turns to dust. Let’s face it, Gordon Brown is stewing in his own cooking pot. He lit the gas, chose the pan, selected the spices and vaulted into the bubbling mixture. The fact that he is now simmering close to boil is a problem entirely of his own making. He has surrounded himself by weak and ineffectual ministers who, faced with such a terrible mess and with the imminent demise of many of their careers, do what weak ineffectual people always do. Blame somebody else. It doesn’t matter that he’s the man who chose them for their positions or that he’s the one they are always saying is: “the right man for the job.” All that seems to be on their minds is how to keep their personal gravy trains rolling into the station a little longer. One minister (or ex-minister) after another has been lining up to smirkingly suggest they would be ‘happy’ to save the day. As if. They can no more ride to the rescue than a drowning man can prevent an air crash. There are too many (bad) cooks in Gordon Brown’s kitchen. The food is poisonous and the whole place reeks of rot. It’s time to look at a new establishment entirely… and a brand new Conservative menu.
Bowthorpe Reunion Party
The Bowthorpe Association is a charity which helps and supports people who suffer from mental illness in and around Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. The trustees (of which I am one) are putting on a Reunion Party for old and new service-users tomorrow (Wednesday) night. The purpose of the party is threefold; to give service-users a chance to meet and chat with old friends and new, to ask everybody what sort of services they would like Bowthorpe to try and provide in future and to build a strong bond of trust and friendship between the Association, Service Users and other interested parties. We’re laying on refreshments including snacks, hot drinks and soft drinks and the Association very much hopes people come along and take part.
Bowthorpe ReUnion Party
Wednesday 6th May 2009
7PM – 9PM
The Elgood Hall, William Road, Wisbech.
Morning Has Broken
Very early Sunday morning the Friends Of The Park’s ‘Dawn Chorus’ took place. The plan was to bring together people from all walks of life, of mixed ages, in mutual appreciation of the wonder and power of nature in Wisbech Town Park. “Don’t be silly,” some people probably told John Smith, whose brainchild this event was. “Nobody will get up at that time to stand quietly in the middle of the park.”
“Who is going to want to listen to bird’s singing? They’ll all still be in bed after their Saturday evening festivities.”
Something in the region of one hundred and fifty people turned out to listen and to watch and to marvel, slack-jawed in wonder, at the beauty of the dawn as it unfolded over the discrete but magnificent gardens of our wonderful Town Park. The birds, perhaps enthused by their new audience, sang their hearts out as a fresh new morning broke over the assembled crowd.
I was proud to be part of John’s team, offering what little I could in support. I made the webpages and handled the online bookings. Upon arrival I was on the registation desk checking people in. Later, I was dressed as a parrot for quite some time to amuse the children and make a spectacle of myself for newspaper photographers (Why a parrot? No idea. I just did as I was asked.) Then I was drafted into the kitchen and given to cooking bacon for the free breakfast rolls. I cooked a lot of bacon. Maybe it sounds like I did a lot. Not a bit of it. I did the same as everybody else, because the whole team (no more so than John Smith himself) threw themselves enthusiastically into the event.
The Dawn Chorus was an absolute triumph. Cynics were converted to enthusiasts. The community in all its diverse shapes and sizes came together. Wisbech Town Park provided the incredible backdrop for a memorable morning. I was, quite simply, blown away by it. On behalf of myself and everybody who enjoyed the Dawn Chorus so much:
Thank you John Smith and the Friends Of The Park.