Sunday, December 5, 2010

Layer 395 . . . The New Dickensians, Victorian Christmases, Chatsworth Road, Markets, Regeneration, Honky Tonk Shopping, Having Fun, Fats Waller, Sutton House, Will Hutton, Fair Pay and a Better Capitalism

Today, out and about in London, it felt very Dickensian, and in a very good way. In my little corner of it, at any rate.

By the late morning the sky had cleared, and in bright sunshine we, the Christmas shoppers and winter strollers, were out and about, dressed in layers of thick clothing and a variety of hats, hoods, scarves, mittens and gloves; our steamy exhalations filling the air.

The shop owners of Victorian Chatsworth Road - an up and coming area if ever there was one, or so I'm told - had worked with council officers to put on a 'pilot' Christmas street market. It's been many years since the old Chatsworth street market gave up the ghost of Christmases past, and ceased to be. That was back in the days when the huge new supermarkets with equally large car parks had just opened up, and local shopping seemed doomed for ever.

We're now in an era where people again love going to local markets, 'farmers markets', and suchlike, and local commerce is on the increase.

Take the crossroads in Chatsworth Road, for instance, where there's a cluster of excellent and interesting businesses - L'Epicerie (whose French owner seems to have been a key player driving the new market scheme), the Book Box Bookshop, Venetia's Coffee Shop, Hop Toyshop, and the Creperie, which has recently opened and seems to be doing very well indeed. In all, according to the map produced by the Chatsworth Road Traders and Residents Association, there are over 80 business premises clustered together in the central stretch of the road.

Check out the excellent dokofilms movie on this site.

And watch this space for an Oxzenfilms movie - hopefully within a couple of days.

‘We had everything from clothes, cheesecake, jewellery, baked cakes, quality tea and even impromptu piano and clarinet serenaders. It was a crisp day but the sun shone and hundreds of people enjoyed the atmosphere.

‘It’s been kept at 20 stalls to start with, but we have every confidence it will grow from strength to strength as time goes on.

‘We would encourage those interested in running a stall to look on the website or call us, and for the rest to pay Chats Market a visit on December 5 or 12 for more bargains and interesting buys for Christmas.’

Chatsworth Road Traders and Residents Association (CRTRA), working with Hackney Council, are running three pilot markets in November and December before considering a larger, regular market from 2011. The market has a long history and was in its heyday in the 1930s, with up to 200 stalls lining the street.

Ian Rathbone, interim chair of CRTRA, said: “Markets offer a great opportunity for local residents to start up a business, allowing them to test their ideas and meet their customers.”

He continued, “Chatsworth Road has seen many changes over the last few years and the benefits to the local community of a revived market will be tremendous – a chance to meet people and build community spirit, a place to buy and sell goods – from gifts and clothing to food – all while supporting a local high street and contributing to the continued regeneration of E5.”

Remy Zentar, owner of L’épicerie, and CRTRA Treasurer, added: “Reviving the market will bring new people and more business to the street. It’s about offering the customer more options and the experience of shopping locally.”

According to this website, their current 'To Do' list  is -

* bring back a weekly street market
* make Chatsworth Road your favourite shopping street in Hackney
* promote our neighbourhood
* get the whole community involved
* have some fun!

So it's not all about making money and increasing turnover. The reformed Scrooge would have approved.

One of the fun elements today was being able to enjoy coffee and mince pies bought from a table in front of Venetia's whilst listening to live music coming from a honky tonk pianist  playing a piano parked at the crossroads, ably supported by a clarinetist, a guy playing a snare drum with brushes, and a guy playing a metal bollard with drumsticks. Well done the pianist for his excellent choice of jazz, ragtime, blues and stride. Loved the Fats Waller songs.

Ain't Misbehavin'
This Joint Is Jumpin
I'm Crazy 'Bout my Baby
(How many songs open with words like 'effervescent' and 'eulogising'?)

I love these lines:

"I'm exasperated 'bout my offspring -
My offspring's exasperated 'bout me." 


From Chatsworth it was a shortish walk to Sutton House for its annual Christmas Fair. Every neighbourhood would be greatly improved if it had a National Trust gem like this one. When I think back to the days when this house was neglected, semi-abandoned and left for squatters to occupy . . . Those dim dark days of the Thatch revolution.

I think I'm right in saying that this is the only National Trust property in Inner London.

Every room today was filled with stalls and activities, such as instant portrait painting.

 In one room someone was spinning yarn whilst running a stall; in another someone was playing a lute. Another room was filled with music by the likes of Joni Mitchell and Marvin Gaye. Perfect.

I am on a lonely road and I am traveling
Traveling, traveling, traveling
Looking for something, what can it be . . . ?

Joni Mitchell
All I want


Will Hutton's column in today's Observer has generated a tremendous amount of comment - mainly from complete bozos, right-wing trolls, City fatcats and would-be fatcats, and backwoods Tories. Of course some of them are clearly all of these things.

Oxzen's comments attracted a fair amount of ignorant response, I'm proud to say.

Rein in the fat cat salaries or see public services suffer even more

The current market in top people's pay is creating an imbalance in society that makes life less fair for everyone

by Will Hutton

In tough times, when people's interests are stark, the what-is-fair question rises up. Who is deserving or undeserving of great reward? Is there common ground on which to make a judgment?

So what is fair? I've been considering this for the last six months while working on the first phase of a report on how to achieve fair pay in the public sector, along with any implications for "social norms" in the private sector, at the behest of the prime minister and chancellor. My answer is that people expect their reward to rise in proportion to their effort and contribution, recognise they should not be rewarded for luck and want the process to be impartial. But they also concede that in organisations others contribute, so no single person can claim to scoop the pool of reward. Fair pay has an upper boundary. Hence the case for at the very least tracking and monitoring a measure of how pay is distributed between the top and bottom .

The stakes are high. Britain needs to drive up the performance of its public sector and keep its top public sector pay fair. And no less urgently the private sector needs to get a grip on the CEO pay arms race in the name of a better, more productive and fairer capitalism. There are risks with reform and tracking pay multiples. But the bigger risk is doing nothing.

Will Hutton's been banging on about creating a better, more productive and fairer capitalism for ages - since well before he wrote The State We're In. And a fat lot of good it's done us, thanks to the blasted Blair and New Labour.

The reformed Scrooge, taking pity on Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit, and his family, decided to become fairer and more generous. Handing over a proper living wage brought benefits to both the employee and the employer.

What hope is there of Cameron and Co taking notice?


More glorious cricket - for the record:

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