Tag Archives: islingtonwharf

A good time to be in New Islington?

From the Manchester Evening News via Steve on Twitter,

An ambitious plan for a multi-billion pound regeneration around a new-look Piccadilly station can be revealed by the M.E.N. Town hall chiefs want to unlock the rewards of the planned High Speed 2 rail link long before it arrives – in a regeneration bonanza dubbed the ‘opportunity of the century’. Planners want to create a new ‘gateway quarter’ modelled on Amsterdam and New York.It would be centred around the new HS2 terminal – and a grand new entrance plaza replacing the existing front of Piccadilly station.

The plan would also include:

  • A leafy boulevard linking London Road with east Manchester, ending in a park on Fairfield Street – creating a green corridor between the Medlock Valley and the city centre.
  • A ‘Spinningfields-style’ business centre between Great Ancoats Street and the Rochdale and Ashton canals.
  • An ‘East Village’ of waterside homes, shops and offices in Piccadilly Basin.
  • 10,000 new homes between Piccadilly and the Holt Town area of Bradford.
  • New homes, green spaces and offices on the former Mayfield Depot site.
How Piccadilly station could look after the arrival of HS2

Sure there will be some kick back on the plans but honestly from Piccadilly Station to Great Ancoats Street is pretty poor. Heck part of it is the red light zone. I do wonder about Piccadilly Basin which currently is a nice quiet part of the city but as long as none of the Northern quarter is taken over, I don’t have much of a problem.

If the plans go ahead along with the new retail park which will include a cinema, it will be a great time to have bought at Islington wharf.

Barbra Streisand moves to Islington wharf?

My Dad Found This In A Dumpster

Ok the title is misleading, Barbra Streisand is not moving to Islington Wharf. But I bet if you lived here, you might not be so surprised, heck the chances are you might be excited! Maybe if I changed to another gay icon like Nick Frost, I might have you convinced?

Its Manchester Pride this bank holiday and its amazing to see how large a venture its turned into. I was seeing reports on Twitter that one of the events was warehouse project styled. For those outside of Manchester, the warehouse project is…

The Warehouse Project is a series of club nights organised in Greater Manchester, England, since 2006. It runs from September through to New Years Day each year plus occasional one off dates such as Bank Holiday weekends. It began operations in the disused Boddingtons Brewery in Strangeways, and then moved into a space under Manchester Piccadilly railway station, which previously served as an air raid shelter

The key point is Pride is massive and I was talking to Jane yesterday. I estimated 40% of islington Wharf might be gay… However Vivid Lounge’s Sam, suggested to me that I might be in the minority. In other words there may be a lot less straight people that I think living at Islington Wharf.

So what is it about islington wharf/new islington/northern quarter which seems to attract gay men and women? Me and Jane were talking about this yesterday too. Could it be one of these?

  1. Is it the proximity to Canal Street (Manchester’s famous gay village)?
  2. Is it being close to Piccadilly train station?
  3. Is it the flat prices?
  4. Is it the 5% deposit scheme?
  5. Is it that islington wharf is gay friendly generally?

Sam thinks its a chicken and egg problem, but the proximity to the village (canal street) is great for gay people. I don’t personally think its that close but considering other areas, like castlefield, green quarter, spinning fields, etc he might have a valid point. The proximity to Piccadilly station is attractive for everyone including myself. I can go from door to train in less than 15mins walking.

Sam suggests maybe lots of gay people working away from Manchester and this would be high on the list maybe? I do know a few people who work in London 3 days a week and yes they are gay.

The price of the flats and the deposit scheme might work hand in hand. Saving up 5% deposit for a flat is great news and to be fair if your buying it alone this can be done. Usually saving a deposit of 10% is a struggle and only a couple can do it maybe? (before you scream at me in the comments yes I know lots of gay couples but generally I would say most gay people in Islington Wharf are single, judging by the shocking amount of men on Grindr – that I’ve been shown!)

The chicken and egg problem Sam suggested might come into play with the last one. How do you make it gay friendly? I would suggest Islington wharf is full of modern thinking/liberal people who don’t have a problem with gay people in society. I remember one guy who was gay himself, who seemed a little shocked that I was so accepting of gay culture (he assumed I might have a slight problem). I think he expected me to be upset about it or something?

If anyone works out the answer to the question, they will be very wealthy (and of course rich which would be a shame)

What ever the reason, there are some interesting studies about the difference a Gay community can do. I’m just happy to be living in a place full of interesting liberal minded people… Starbucks and Pizza Express (meant to be the sign of a up and coming area right?) do not have a patch on the rainbow flags and consistent looking at mobiles screens of the gay community. Funny enough, Umair Haque said something which is very fitting

Never bet against love. It’s the only force that has ever truly changed the world…

What a difference a year makes… Vivid LoungeUK

2013-05-25%2020.53.27

Fran of Vivid Lounge UK welcomes you with that warm smile, while Sam hides in the Kitchen (maybe to keep his head from exploding)

Over a year ago I wrote a blog post which made me one of the most hated people in my apartment block (islington wharf). It wasn’t deliberately made to piss anyone off but I guess no one wants to hear the truth, specially when things are on the line. Some said I was in-sensitive and my timing was very bad. No matter what they think, I wrote a number of points which I suggested could be to blame for the rapid shutdown of Vivid Lounge.

  1. Engagement with the residents and residents committee…
  2. Get Decor
  3. Environmental factors
  4. Taking feedback on the chin
  5. Celebrate every moment
  6. Its not just about us…
  7. Whats on the menu?

Each one I backed up with some of my own thoughts….

Anyway over the last year or so, I’ve witnessed a place go from closed to busy and delightful.

So what happened? Well frankly they did most of the things I suggested in the blog post. Of course I’m not suggesting I was directly responsible for the transformation but the owner(s) did read the post at least.

So whats changed?

Wooden Tables throughout

The decor of the old Vivid lounge was too plastic and white. It didn’t feel homey and because of that it suffered deeply. Well now the white plastic table/chairs are gone (good thing because they were falling apart anyway) and we have wooden tables and benches. Ok from Ikea but to be honest I and others couldn’t care less. Every single customer who has come in has said great things about the new look. More wood is planned and I’m sure it will be a similar effect.

The bright stark lights are all gone and now theres gentle hanging lights and plenty of tealights/candles. Its really making use of the space better now (at least on the ground floor). The top floor still needs to be sorted out as its basically a store room right now.

Feedback is less welcomed, but only because Sam the owner is convinced he knows everything. I guess its like telling Steve Jobs how to run Apple. And like Jobs, Sam has his own strong opinions which drive the momentum of VividloungeUK. He’s a bit of a perfectionist, so at least he can spot the problems. He also seems to be amassing the right people behind him (including a Fran who was a manager at Starbucks). On top of that the amount of staff has dropped down to about 2 -3 on the weekends and 1-2 during the week. Much more sensible levels of staffing.

Vivid Lounge

Saturday and Sunday before 1pm its possible to get a full english cooked breakfast and its even possible to have it delivered to your door if you call up or leave details on facebook. But there are limitations to the size of the kitchen, meaning the hugely popular vividboxes had to go. Now you have a couple choices from the specials which is every day now. There is also a menu with daily pre-made sandwiches in a fridge you can just grab if your in a rush. When I walked in today, there was some made menus on the table. I hear the full menus are coming real soon but generally you can see what they got from whats on the board and stuff in the fridge.

2013-05-25%2020.51.06

Theres much more engagement with the other apartments in the area and they even deliver to Milliners Wharf, Vulcan Mills and Chips. Vivid isn’t reliant on just islington wharf anymore, theres a much more local pub feeling and they even play with the local and homemade idea in their branding.

I can’t praise Sam and VividLoungeUK enough (although I wouldn’t do the first one to his face because we regularly takes the piss out of each other). I do wish he got a proper website and there were changes to upstairs but honestly I’m impressed.

Well worth visiting and making your local if your in the New Islington area of Manchester. Look forward to a review update in another year…

Manchester remapped….

Manchester remapped

I do wonder how many Islington Wharf people walked pass the power lead going from block B reception into a usually closed door leading to the main retail unit? Well I didn’t and followed it through a number of doors and spaces before emerging into the main disused retail unit in Islington Wharf.

I found the Manchester remapping art/architecture project… Which was run by Manchester’s architecture college.

Manchester remapped

So if you not guessed the plan is to recreate most of the special buildings in manchester in plasticity and then start tweaking the shapes and forms. You can see media city below for example.

Salford Quays remapped

The students are doing this till Saturday. So if you want to go check it out for yourself you got a bit of time.

Barber Boutique: Therapy for men

The Barbershop is the place men go for therapy. When I say therapy I don’t mean the traditional notion of therapy, its something much more subtle.

My barbershop called Barbers Boutique understand this very well. They aim to provide a place where men can be pampered in a way which is acceptable to the most alpha of males. Before I went to the crazy year of making love event on Saturday morning, I had my hair cut, a nail manicure and a neck & shoulder massage. Why? Because it was great to be treated like a king for a little while.

I actually added a review to Qype too.

The barbershop is a great place which is often overlooked in modern times.

It’s a great place to chew the fat with other men. When I went to hair stylists, I hardly ever talked to the woman who cut my hair. I’d chat about my family and theirs and that’s about it. The woman who cut my hair usually ended up chatting it with the other women in the salon, while I sat there awkwardly.

Barbers, on the other hand, are interesting guys with interesting stories to tell. On my visits to the barber shop, I’ve met a retried Army Ranger colonel, a musician who spent 13 years on the road in a jazz band, and a man who is the third generation in his family to take up the profession. Each of them had fascinating stories to share. And I in turn feel at ease to say what’s on my mind. There is conversation about politics, cars, sports, and family. Guys read the newspaper and comment on current events. In between the banter, jokes are told and laughs are had. And everyone is involved: the barbers, the customers getting their haircut, and the customers waiting to get their haircut. Adding to the enjoyment is that a variety of men take part in the conversation; young, old, and middle-aged join in the mix.

I think there’s a good argument that barbershops are among America’s last civic forums Where do people go today just to talk with others in the community? Coffee shops? Every time I go to a coffee shop, people are at their own tables minding their own business. The only other place that I can think of is a bar, but bars are now co-ed instead of being bastions of manliness. Graduate student, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, wrote an article about how discussions in traditionally black barbershops shape political ideas in the African-American community. She noted how political debate in barbershops can be vigorous and engages young and old alike. Unfortunately, white Americans are missing out on this experience. So, if you’re wanting to get your thumb on the pulse of civic life in your community, head over to the barbershop.

This very true for barbershops in the UK too. Theres no doubt about the conversations I’ve over heard in the barbershop are just great. I remember the first time I got involved in a discussion in Kellys of Bristol.

I was young and the discussion turned to computers. This is way back in the early 90′s when computers were still somewhat rare in most peoples lives. I had a PocketPC device and although I can’t remember the exact line of questioning or viewpoints I remember it was quite a lively debate.

Everyone my generation must remember Channel4′s Desmonds a classic barbershop and although it played up to stereotypes a bit, showed how vibrant the Barbershop can be. 10 years later, Barbershop once again tried to put across the unique nature of a barbershop for the world to see. Different characters rubbing shoulders, doing deals and push/urge/troll each other on. There is not doubt this is a man’s place for therapy… No matter how dysfunctional you may think this sounds… It might have something to do with Social proof, or the eyes of peers  but I always feel better about myself after a good haircut.

Its also worth noting the people who setup the barbershops tend to be very entrepreneurial in nature, hence why its great to hear the future plans for Barbers Boutique.

I look forward to the new Barbers Boutique… Although goodness knows how hard its going to be to get an appointment in the future…! Will it be the return of getting up at 8:30am in the morning to get first in the chair ahead of the rest? (Haven’t done this since I was a child being taken to the Beedo’s Barbershop in St Pauls, Bristol)

Islington wharf without water

GVA Islington Wharf sign in the lift

I have no words to explain what on earth is going on in Islington Wharf right now…

There was a problem with the water supply a while ago in April. GVA (the management agency) tried to fix it but something needed replacing which required the water to be turned off in Block B (125 apartments).  I was in Copenhagen when this happened so I came back and everything was the same as before, except when I turned on the tap to wash a glass – It blew out so quick it took the glass out of my hand and broke in the sink.

A few days goes by and its clear something is not right…

GVA Islington Wharf sign in the lift

I and others spotted and reported a massive pool of water in the ground floor stairwell. It seemed to be running down the inside of the stairwell. Anyway before long GVA posted notes saying they were having to turn off the water not during the day like before but during the whole day and night. This was about Thursday. then it was communicated things were still not right and that would mean another 24hours of no water. 2 days of no water!

And when I say no water I mean absolutely no water from any taps in the flat. Yes no washing up, no dishwasher and no loo flash water. Luckily I tend to have a jug of water in the fridge and my kettle was full.

Anyway by Friday (today) it was posted around that not only will the water be off but it will be off till Tuesday evening…!

I was moaning before, but till Tuesday? over the May bank holiday! Well thanks… What a wonderful bank holiday weekend most of the people in Islington wharf will have… Here’s what GVA left us all under our doors, on the forums and facebook.

Water for Islington Wharf

URGENT WATER SUPPLY WORKS

As you will be aware we have been working to try and resolve a problem with the mains water supply to the building. Following a review on site today and based on specialist advice we have received, we do not propose to undertake another temporary repair due to the risk of failure and health and safety implications if water should escape into the electrical intake room.

Contingency Plan

We have arranged for 3,000 bottles of fresh water to be delivered to site so there is 6 bottle of water by each apartment front door and there are spare bottles in the block B entrance. All other building systems will operate normally.  A full permanent repair has been authorised and this will be completed on Tuesday.  Our current information is that all residents will be able to return to their apartments on Tuesday evening.

Now bear in mind we’ve been told it will be fixed by a certain date a couple times before, I’m not feeling too confident about Tuesday evening.

To be frank I’m peeded off but I like many others haven’t really got anyone to blame or shout at. Yes we could shout at GVA or ISIS (the company who actually own the building and employee GVA as management agents) but its actually not there fault. They have been good (not perfect but good for once). Early in the week, we had a toilet in the caretaker office and a tap in the bin store to keep us fresh?

GVA and ISIS offered us the ability to stay in a hotel down the road near Piccadilly but for myself this is almost pointless. Instead I’m trying to get conformation about the costs, so I can head down to Bristol and just get away. And thats how I and maybe many others just feel like.

Its all the small things which you forget like water to brush your teeth, toilet water to flush, water to clean the dishes, water to clean our clothes. If the water doesn’t come back on Tuesday night, it will be almost a week without water. This is bad bad news and to be honest if you were in my position you would also be peed…!

Won’t even remind you about the state of our garden right now too…

The walls of our garden

The walls of our garden

Yes the wall fell down and there is now a massive 2 story drop into a carpark…

You can can’t help but feel like the whole place is falling apart…!

Update…

The water was turned back on Tuesday evening at about 5pm, and work has started to fix the 2 story drop down to the carpark. ISIS and GVA can count themselves very lucky they didn’t end up all over the BBC news site like this almost exact carbon copy event in Yorkshire. Although it was for about double the amount of people and they were much more organised and took advantage of the open web. No point in moaning about it on a closed Facebook group, nothing will change and your also playing into there hands because no one else can see the problem.

Want to run a bar? VivID Lounge

Autumn BBQ

I’ve enjoyed having VivID Lounge right below where I live. It was like having a local pub (I assume) but it was a European styled lounge. However there were problems right from the start and it looks like its the end of the road for this current version of the lounge.

This will be a very difficult blog post to write and I’m going to leave out peoples names and dates because its not really fair. Its also worth noting I’m not really in a position to be talking because I’ve never opened a bar or ever run an physical establishment. So really this is the thoughts from a outsiders view. I’ll probably get peoples backs up but, hey I’m doing it for the right reasons I believe… and I would happily say most of the same stuff to the previous owners of VivID lounge…

VivID lounge was one of those jokes for the longest time. Some of us believed it was a hoax by ISIS to get interest in the space. However it turned out to be real soon after I moved into Islington Wharf, with a paper survey through everyones postbox. Months after, things started happening. First a council application for food and alcoholic drink then one for a late night licence. It was clear it wasn’t a hoax after all. Then finally things started happening in the glass space, including a call for employment.

Due to open in July in time for the Ice Cream Festival, it didn’t quite happen and it was another 3 months before it actually opened, missing most of summer. It also opened with no big fanfare or announcements. The owners said they didn’t want a big opening.

So for months, people have walked past it and seen its open but haven’t gone in. Don’t get me wrong sometimes it was busy but generally its quiet and there 1-5 people sitting reading the news, enjoying a coffee. Why…?

There’s a whole host of reasons I believe… but here’s my thoughts…

  1. Engagement with the residents and residents committee…
    I’m on the committee and also form the social committee and although we had a very successful night for the residents just recently (pics you can see here)… It wasn’t enough. I had planned to do feedback sessions to the residents about whats going on but got busy, and it didn’t happen. Ultimately I would suggest that more work needed to be done to engage residents. Not just sticking flyers through there post boxes, but actually banging on doors and massive discounts just to get people through the door everyday. This seemed to fall between the cracks of the owners and the residents committee, I can only suggest if we had known things were going so badly we would have got involved far earlier
  2. Get Decor
    Yes named after a favorite tune but ultimately the decor of the lounge was very uncomfortable and unfriendly. Plastic white chairs with white tables and only one sofa (next to the toilet). What it really needed was to take a note from places like North Tea Power, NoHo, Apothica, Common, etc. Simple cheap sofas with simple cheap wood tables. It would feel a lot more friendly with all those wood/earthy tones instead of stark white/orange colour scheme. Its a lounge… and the décor just didn’t quite match what you think about when you think European Lounge.
  3. Environmental factors
    VivID always struck me as very light and breezy due to the massive amounts of glass throughout but at night it always had the lights on very high… It was always a mood killer and although they had tea lights, they were over powered by the heavy lights throught-out the space. They really could have done with killing most of the nights and using many more candles (but there might be other reasons for this)
  4. Taking feedback on the chin
    In the early days, it was mentioned many times by many people that it would be great if VivID lounge would do a cooked breakfast on the weekends. VivID would only do healthy/hearty breakfasts containing porridges and muesli… The excuse was sometimes “the kitchens not big enough…” “We don’t want to be a greasy spoon” “If we gave everyone what they wanted… we would be bankrupt.” It was so bad, that people would come to me and moan to me about it! So in the end I ended up telling them again on behalf of others. If I had known things were so bad earlier, I would have been much more forceful at the very start.
  5. Celebrate every moment
    VivID missed its original opening date by a few months, but even when they opened it never did a launch event… This is a crying shame because many people didn’t know it was open for a while and even if they did, there was no real reason to go and check it out. I could mention social objects here but I won’t… People like an excuse to be there, thats why the quiz nights worked. Lastly there was no closing party (from what people tell me). There wasn’t even a “thanks everyone for supporting us type thing” (I wasn’t there on the last Saturday, so I’m going on hear-say), instead there was a message on the facebook group. So much for celebration…
  6. Its not just about us…
    Islington Wharf wasn’t the only flats in the area. Yes it was right underneath but actually there was Chips, Quantum, Millerners Wharf, Piccadilly Basin, etc, etc.. I don’t personally know how much effort went into engaging with those people but theres been a estimation that at least 1200 other people are a short walk from VivID. Even if they could convince 10% to come in regularly that would be great for business. VivID is also on the way to the Manchester City ground and the couple of times they tried selling things to the fans, its been very well received. I guess what I’m saying is, I believe there is enough footfall and someone will make a killing
  7. Whats on the menu?
    The menu was a mess of new and old items. Some of the old ones were no longer sold and the new ones you had to ask for. On top of that, there was only a few choices in certain categories. For example, only one black tea (my own bug bear) but about 4 different types of fruit & a green tea… Many times I wanted a earl grey but couldn’t get one. Near the end I learned they had them but it wasn’t on the menu or board! Seriously… This is systematic of the problems with the menu as a whole. When dim sum was added to the menu I was excited and told people about it, but later when a friend came in for dim sum, they couldn’t see it on the menu, so was disappointed. This is the same case for the fried breakfast… I understand the menu was fluid but they really needed paper menus to reflect this.

Autumn BBQ

There are many more but these are the main ones…
Of course it would be wrong of me to just highlight the negatives… It was a centre piece in the islington wharf community and the amount of people who we met there was great. As I said before I imagine its like a old town pub which all the locals hang out and socialise. In actual fact VivID lounge was the social object. It was the reason why people left there flats and chatted to each other. Its the reason why I spent a ton of money at VivID lounge even though the coffee and tea wasn’t as good as they could have been (North Tea Power can sleep well). The staff were generally friendly (specially some of the women, who were very cute), and the people you found hanging around were always cool and friendly. I’m sure there were many friendships which were formed via Vivid and as it seems will out live VivID.
Once again its a shame and to be fair its a difficult time for all independent coffee shops (Outlet closed down a while ago too) and you’ve got to be prepared to not make any money for at least 2 years it seems. Real businesses are a total different game from what I’m use to and I have total respect for the people involved in making vivID lounge…. I hope there not too hard hit and they will bounce back very soon…
Of course if your interested in taking over VivID lounge, do get in touch… I’ll happily pass your details on to the owners. I’m very confident with the right understanding of the mistakes above, enough money and once the new tram station and marina opens it will be a killer coffee bar

Getting people together is what I do

And out came the shots

I seem to be a connector…

I have identified there is something in me which gets excited about getting people together. Its almost like my brain releases extra dopamine at the notion of getting people together.

Recently I’ve been made the social committee chair for my flats (islington wharf). Well I kind of made myself it really. But so far we’ve had one drinking meeting and 2 dinners (last friday dining club). The last one was just last Friday and it was good fun for everyone. 12 strangers around a dinner table made for 8 in the northern quarter on Friday night.

On the way back on Friday night, I walked home with Brian and in my slightly drunken (well only really slightly tipsy) state started to talk about my role in the islington wharf community.

I felt my role was as a connector.

When I first moved to London, I knew no one and lived out in deepest south London (Thornton Heath) with my cousins and aunt. After about 2 years while at college at Ravensbourne Design College, I started to get to know more people via my jobs in Central London and of course the college its self. But it wasn’t till about 3 years in London that things really started happening.

I attended in the early days meetups across London and had so-so success with them (best one was when I met Lucas, who I’m still friends with today). Then I attended a few blogger meetups including one where I met lovely people such as Suw Anderson-Charman. Anyway at some point I attended a geekdinner and was intrigued by the simplicity of it. So when I arranged with Tim O’reilly to come to the BBC, it made sense to throw a geekdinner for him too. At that point was my first go at social organization. The rest is pretty much history but you can read a good account of the geekdinners events in over 5 years of blog entries [1][2][3][4].

During the geekdinners I got mixed up with BarCamp via Ben Metcalfe. Once again you can read all about those in blog entries over the years [1][2]. I built a large body of friends who I could go out with almost any time because at least one or so of them would be out doing something at some point during the week.

But then of course I moved to Manchester.

I moved early which meant I didn’t really know many people, in actual fact I only got to know people who had come to previous barcamps I had run. Then I got to know friends of friends, not many but a few. But generally I was alone like I was in London when I first moved there.

Now I feel after almost 4 years in Manchester and its been a struggle I grant you that but I think finally its starting to click…

Theres something in me which kind of thrives on building communities and connecting people.

When I moved in to Islington Wharf, there was a promise of a community and to be fair there was something but I can hardly call it a community. So rather that sit there and moan about it, something in me grabs the opportunity to make things better for myself and everyone else whos not willing to do something about it. My first party which was attended by only a few people but I did knock on every single door on my level and the level above and below. Most people haven’t even knocked on there neighbors door!

Later I arranged a halloween party which was a lot more successful and afterwards kicked off a whole range of parties and friendships. Another idea later was to start a last Friday dining club. Someone elses idea but executed by myself… I’m also flirting with the idea of setting up a cinema club but to be fair I’m putting it on hold since someones already started one. I got a feeling Ben might need some help with it and I’m not certain of the format (but I’ll reserve comment till I go along).

So what is it about me? I just don’t know… But I won’t stop and I’ll be doing what others won’t.

A halloween party for my fellow residences

Halloween Party

Islington wharf where I now live now has a fantastic communal garden (which I’ve been using to read my kindle and play with my pacemaker) and I thought it would be a grand idea to have a party in the garden for all the residences of islington wharf.

So the plan is to have the party and allow people to bring a couple of friends with them. I will lay on a bit of party snacks (I got plenty left over from my flat warming party back in September) and everyone will bring there own drinks. On top of that, there will be two contests, one for the best carved pumpkin and another for the best fancy dress on the day. I’ve roped ISIS’s hollie into supplying the pumpkins and maybe supplying some really nice prizes on the night to the winners.

Finally I thought it might be nice to have a organised trick or treat for the kids of islington wharf. Get everyone ready with treats and go around the flats with a couple of adults to supervise the whole thing. I’m not sure how many kids there are in the flats but I’ve seen a couple playing in the garden since I’ve been here. Its slightly ambitious but even if we get 10% of the residents down on Sunday night, thats still over 20 people.

So why am I doing this?

Well when I first saw the location the garden was certainly a selling point. I really wanted a balcony but I gladly gave it up for a communal garden which I could relax in and share with others. I’ve seen a few people using the garden but not nearly as many as I would have thought. The thing about flats is they have a rep for being impersonal and loney places where people tend to not talk to each other as they leave there flats. In actual fact Tracey Langford said it in her recent interview for east manchester.

Tracey, who runs her own business, says the idea of a community appealed to them too: “We didn’t want to live in an soulless place where nobody spoke in the lift.” She adds, “We also wanted a high proportion of owner occupiers so that people really cared about the building. There is a mix of properties here with houses that face on to the communal garden, which are ideal for younger families.”

And that communal aspect prevails. Says Tracey, “In fact, the first Islintgon Wharf baby was born here a couple of months ago and the whole building was invited to the first birthday party of one of our residents!”

Its all about Community

Community, yep the big C word. Its one of those things which is very hard to just do, it needs to be organic. But fear not, this is just one of the ideas I have to bring people together. ISIS haven’t done a bad job so far but theres certainly some room for improvement. The next logical step I think is to sort out the community forum which is currently hosted on a external site somewhere. I signed up to join the forum ages ago and my membership is still pending (even after months).

My neighbor across the hallway is talking about setting up another better supported forum but I’m wondering why we don’t just setup a facebook group? Although to be fair it seems I’m not the only one who thought about this. The tricky part in a community is getting everyone on the same page (or getting the word out about the site), this requires actual physical work like putting up posters and speaking to people, something which seems to be sadly missing it seems.

ISIS should be involved in the community process too, but not be the driver of the process. It needs to come from the community/residents its self.

So I’m hoping to improve on the community building which has already started. I can’t say it will translate into sales for ISIS but for me this isn’t about that. Its about building a lovely place to live. I already live in a amazing place with some great views and great architecture but in this case, theres nothing wrong with wanting more. A rich vibrant community of caring people who I can share a wine with in the garden? I’m working on it one step at a time…

The people of New Islington

I was interviewed by East Manchester a little while ago about my move to Islington Wharf in New Islington. Today I discover my interview has finally gone live.

Here’s the interview bit with me, its worth checking out the rest including the Langford family and amazing story from James Gilhooly…

Originally from Bristol, Ian is a senior development producer for the BBC. He fronts BBC Backstage, the BBC’s early adopter network to encourage participation and support creativity through open innovation.

“When I first heard that the BBC were moving to Manchester,” says Ian, “I thought NO WAY. I had never lived up north before and I believed all the stereoptypes.”But Ian, who was living in the London borough of Woolwich at the time, lived up to his early adopter claims and spent some time researching the area before moving up three years ago. “I soon realised I could afford somewhere really close to the city centre,” he says, “having been used to driving across London.”

It’s close to the city centre without any of the disadvantages.

One of the first BBC employees to have moved north, Ian says he was pleasantly surprised. “It was really lively,” he said, “and there were loads of diverse areas but not so far apart.” Ian spent three days looking at flats and gauging how much he could afford to buy. He settled on Islington Wharf and hasn’t looked back.

Even in the short time he’s been here, Ian feels like he’s seen a lot of changes: “It really does feel like they’re getting on with things,” he says, “I like the idea of being part of something new and exciting.”

There are ways Ian’s life could be improved. “I can’t wait for the tram to be finished,” he says, “I should be able to be at work in 27 minutes with a change. With no change, it could be as little as 15 minutes, which beats driving across London.” And he’s keen for the community to develop a little more. “There’s a nice mix of young professionals, older people and even families,” he says, “but we could have more going on between Islington Wharf and Chips and the other buildings.”But East Manchester has the potential to be great, says Ian. “It has the potential to attract a lot of the Northern Quarter crowd and once the tram line is open, that will make a huge difference.”

It was a fair interview, not much changed from what I said. I never thought I’d end up back in the East of the city (Woolwich is in south east) but I do think New Islington could be like the east Castlefield if things are well developed in time. Like the south east of London, this area is really up and coming so its really good to get in early.

Some people have asked me if New Islington is like Islington in London? I got to say not a chance, although it would be great to have a load more restaurants.

Window Cleaning Islington Wharf

Window cleaners

We got a note in our letter boxes on Thursday that the window cleaners would be doing our block on the weekend. I did wonder how they were going to do it because the top of Islington Wharf is not level or very friendly for window cleaners. Actually after a talk with the window cleaning team, they are actually using the penthouse gardens on the top floor to tie there ropes, hardly ideal. The building is also a weird shape, making cleaning it even more of a challenge that say something like Beetham Tower. Although they did point out that the over hang certainly makes things tricky. Islington Wharf has lots of overhangs and angles, so it requires many “drops” according to the window cleaners.

I took a load of shots with my new Nikon d40x. Nice guys and what a job, I certainly wouldn’t do it, my fear of heights would be a killer.

Photos of my new flat at Islington Wharf

The view from my new flat

So this is the view I’ll be seeing a lot more of in the very near future. It is the view looking northward across the Ancoats, i mean new islington area which I learned on Saturday use to be the home of the italians who moved to Manchester in the early 20th century. Of course I’m nice and high in the islington wharf block of apartments. I would have like to have been on the other side but it was an extra £10k to be on the south side with a balcony. Hey at least I get to see the Manchester City stadium (sport city) and the rest of new islington including the planned beach which meant to be put in just next to Chips (the two tone block of apartments in the middle of the picture).

So to go with the floor to ceiling windows, is two bedrooms a nice large lounge with kitchen and two bathrooms. There’s also a huge community garden for everyone in the building. I took advantage of the governement scheme which is now ending this weekend. Basically its a interest free loan for 30% of the property while you put in 65% in a mortgage and 5% via a deposit. Its a good deal because the loan is interest free for 5 years then you can either pay it back via the sale of the flat or pay it back slowly at a low interest rate.

I get the keys on Thursday, so only a week now and everything seems to be swimming along nicely. Thanks in part to my sister (Sharon) and Billie Wilde (my estate agent and mortgage advisor). Billie kept trying to get hold of me on my mobile phone but couldn’t get through due to #mybrushwithdeath. So in the end my sister picked up the call and got back to Billie with the bad news about me being in hospital with the bleed on the brain. Billie informed everyone involved and held the mortgage for as long as she could.

When I was well enough to continue the flat buying process she came to my house with everything to sign before I went to Bristol. If Billie and Sharon had not done what they had, I would have lost the flat for sure or at least the mortgage which would have been a real lost. So thank you to both of them, I’m very happy to pay the small fee to Billie because she really did over and above what she needed, to make sure I got the mortgage and ultimately the flat. And of my sister for being my caring sister. I owe you one, hope you enjoy the flip camera I bought you.

Its open season at the forresters

Islington Wharf

I’m now at home if you want to come around for a visit, but if possible please wait till I move if possible because I’ll have more space. Yes to add to my stress (as such) I was going through with a move to the new flats at New Islington. My sister was smart enough to call my estate agent (billie) and put the whole move on hold while I was lying in a hospital bed. Luckly I was able to pick everything back up again which means I’ll be moving in the next few month. I just got accepted for the Mortgage which I got at a very good rate.

So of course, come around but call me first on my mobile or house phone so I can direct you to the right building and right flat.

don’t expect too much of me because I get tired quickly and can’t go a far distance, but I am clearly Ian :).

I plan to take the full amount of time out so will be getting myself on the xbox a lot, which means getting a xbox live gold account and maybe learning how to use the control pad to play games like Halo. I expect to be buying a few games which I’ve missed such as Portal, gears of war, etc. If anyone (@si_lumb) wants to lend me some games that would save me a load of money. Will I buy a Playstation 3? I don’t know, I’m considering it.

So I guess if your on Xbox Live look out for (Cubicgarden) because thats me. Otherwise I’ll be shopping for my new Pad or going to the cinema. I’ll be online but not that much because I want to stay away from work stuff. Adrian says everything is taken care of, so I believe him.

Once again, thanks to everyone and I hope to see or touch base at some point over the next few months.

A few noticeable recent changes

Islington Wharf

One step closer to moving to Islington Wharf, now I actually have a deposit down on the flat I wanted. I’m just waiting on Plumlife to agree I’m able to join there scheme (which was ok last year, so not expecting any upset) and then I can apply for the mortgage (which shouldn’t be a problem this time due to the highly motivated mortgage advisor I got). After which I should be able to get everything going and maybe move next month or so.

On the computer front, I just upgraded my Dell Laptop from a 120gig to 320gig and then gave it a brand new Ubuntu install. Not only did I upgrade it but I also switched to the i86_64 version as my laptop runs a Intel Core 2 duo 2 chipset. No idea why I’ve never done it before but early indication says so far the resource control over the applications and switching is much better and I’m shocked at how smooth things are. Don’t get me wrong the x86 version was fine but there is certainly something extra about the 64bit version.  What is strange is the amount of memory available to the machine, it still indicates there is about 3gig of memory available (3262meg) not the full 4gig. I also have a couple of problems with getting Dropbox and XBMC working. Plus settings for Firefox, evolution and gnome wifi networking didn’t transfer over so well. Which is a pain. I can still boot into my old 32bit partition using a usb enclosure which means if I knew where the correct files were I could drag them over easily enough.

Finally Orange are being a pain in the ass and I can’t now upgrade my phone till August, which means the HTC Desire isn’t the phone it is now. Even the HTC Incredible will be old news. Maybe the Dell Lightning and Mini5′s will be of interest? Anyway in the meanwhile, it seems Android running on the HTC Touch HD or Blackstone has progressed to a point where the screen does not always stay on and so the battery doesn’t die within a few hours. Actually if you turn off Wifi, it will last a day which isn’t bad. So most of the time I’ll have my phone running Android in the near future. I just need to get the settings for 3G/HSDPA and work out how to divert the sound to the headphones instead to the loudspeaker.

Urgently on the look for hot properties

Urbansplash's Chips and Islington Wharf

It was about a year ago when I went looking for a place to buy in Manchester and the new islington or ancoats part of the city centre (East Manchester) was looking pretty attractive. This time around I’m much more secured in my mortgage and how much I can spend (although thats not a lot due to a base line deposit) so hopefully this time around it the question really will be Chips or Islington Wharf?