Moon Festival: 50 years since we landed on the moon!

The Moon 50 Festival

Every once in a while delight of getting involved with something from near the start of its journey. These types of projects tend to have some very driven but cool people behind it.

Livia Filotico is the founder/creative director of the festival and been my main contact. She started the whole thing with a kickstarter. She didn’t get the money she requested but is pursuing the whole thing anyway, looking for other funding elsewhere.

So why the moon festival?

Celebrating people’s relationship with the Moon across cultures, time and disciplines and coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing in July 2019.

This year it will be 50 years since we first landed on the moon! It feels like lifetimes ago but actually its 50 years this July. When Livia explained this to me, I was shocked there was more celebrations planned for a massive achievement of human engineering and spirit.

Moon 50 Festival

Plans are a foot including a magical first event with Margaret Atwood. The festival was recently in the guardian’s 10 european art anniversaries in 2019 alongside some incredible art events.

I have been in talks with Livia for the BBC to be involved in some way too, but more importantly helping her out by connecting her with different people I know. We tried a number of things including attempting to put on a TEDxMoon! How amazing would that have been?!

The whole festival has a human storytelling emphases, which fits well with some of my research. But I was very happy for Livia to take me on board as a digital advisor recently…

The whole thing is shaping up well but could be massively accelerated with a few more sponsors behind some of the planned events. Interestingly its not just happening in birth place of modern time (London greenwich/woolwich) but also a couple of other places in the world. Maybe if you are interested in running a part of the moon festival in your city/country, get in touch with Livia. Would be amazing to see more international connected events.

Hate gentrification? Think about the community

Warning in lift of Milliners Wharf

There has been a number of issues around the New Islington (Ancoats and Northern Quarter) area as of late. including Mans body found in the Ashton Canal and the calculated mugging of someone at 7pm a few weeks ago. The later, took place on the tow path under the bridge by VividLounge and I say calculated because their were 4 people involved and they locked a gate forcing people to walk under a bridge, straight into their trap.

Warning in Islington Wharf lifts

Although not good for those involved, its a careful reminder of the not so nice side of living with gentrification.

Theres been a ton of tension in San Francisco recently, which was going to write about here but opted to write on Single Black Male if they accept it.

Woolwich

I’m under no illusion that we are the outsiders moving in on what many have classed as their home forever. You can feel the tension in the air sometimes, specially as planning permission is given and locals see another highrise which they can’t ever dream of living in. Its not the first time I have experienced this. When me and Sarah moved to Woolwich, we lived in a small set of houses in the shadow of some council estates.

The only real trouble we ever saw from some young kids, who decided to throw stones into our garden while we were having a BBQ with friends. Which to be fair is nothing compared to the Beckenham Halloween incident.

They were planned to be knocked to the ground (not sure if it ever happened?) but Woolwich centre is a different place, as I witnessed when I went back 2 years ago. This mainly due to the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) which connected Woolwich with the city of London in all of about 25mins and the Olympic games which had money filter down from Stratford (East London). One of the last deprived areas of London suddenly became pricey and we sold our house at the right moment, getting a buyer pretty much straight away. That is the upside of gentrification… and to be fair it was quite a nice place to live if you were careful and avoided trouble.

Neither me or Sarah were attacked or even hassled from memory. We knew our neighbors and some people in the area. We also took part in the residents committee when possible. Woolwich wasn’t bad, it had a nice local market and I could get a haircut at 10pm.

New Islington to Brixton via San Francisco

The problems with New Islington, seem to stem from property developers who have gone into the area and I gather promised a lot and failed. Not only that they screwed over a lot of the locals and refused to enter into a dialogue with them. Not only that they have carved out a section for themselves rather than opt for a softly softly approach. Ask anyone about the promises for new islington by Urban Splash and the Ancoats medical dispensary.

But its not always the tensions are the fault of building developers. Sometimes you get a community of people who refuse or don’t get the idea of joining a existing community. I would say this is whats happening in San Francisco from what I have been reading and heard. I’m not blaming the geeks, startups and general people. But I am saying if your company starts to put on special transport and security (yes I’m pointing the finger at the BBC too) this is not a good message to the local community. It basically reads, the local community can not be trusted. Trust is essential for community to grow.

My next stop is Brixton, South central London. Lovely diverse area with a rich history and some very troubling moments. When I was in London, it was a good place but like Woolwich, there were places you don’t go. Having spent some time on the jury there, I have seen what happens when you ignore this and go looking for trouble. However I recently went back to visit my sister who lives on the outskirts of Brixton because she can’t afford to live in the area anymore. We met next to the station which had a small Starbucks! This alone was shocking for me but then we walked around the Brixton market/village? which had transformed from a standard market to South London’s Shoretditch or Northern Quarter.

Trendy makeshift bars and restaurants selling over priced food and drink. Don’t have a problem with this part so much. But my sister told me the tale of how locals are being forced out in favor of more bars and restaurants to cater those who wonder from the tube, 200 meters into the market and back.

Novelist Alex Wheatle describes how his native Brixton has changed from being an area where many outsiders feared to tread to somewhere where south London’s young professionals can now go for an £8 burrito. But has Brixton lost its unique vibe? ‘It’s very pleasant,’ says Wheatle, ‘but I do miss that constant pounding of reggae’

Alex is right on the money, its cool but something might be missing, be it pounding reggae or something else.

If you haven’t heard Spike Lee’s gentrification rant about Brooklyn, New York its a must… Here’s just a few of the snippets I found interesting…

You can’t just come in the neighborhood and start bogarting and say, like you’re motherfuckin’ Columbus and kill off the Native Americans. Or what they do in Brazil, what they did to the indigenous people. You have to come with respect. There’s a code.

Or even move them all out…?

You just can’t come in the neighborhood. I’m for democracy and letting everybody live but you gotta have some respect. You can’t just come in when people have a culture that’s been laid down for generations and you come in and now shit gotta change because you’re here? Get the fuck outta here. Can’t do that!

Like I said originally, Ancoats was the Italian quarter, and although its changed. You got to have some respect…

That’s another thing: Motherfuckin’… These real estate motherfuckers are changing names! Stuyvestant Heights? 110th to 125th, there’s another name for Harlem. What is it? What? What is it? No, no, not Morningside Heights. There’s a new one. [Audience: SpaHa] What the fuck is that? How you changin’ names?

Remind you of New Islington or Brixton Village anyone?

Spike is kind of right in what he says, its a rant but most of the points are good. But I’m not so sure gentrification is 100% bad.

My hope is for communities to form and connect becoming stronger together. I mean who doesn’t want to live in a strong community where people look out for each other and their space? I am personally starting to do more to unite the residents but we do need to think bigger picture…

I think this is where the study of familiar strangers comes in to play nicely. I also heard about a hyper local project around microblogging, which I think could do wonders if people are engaged enough to get involved. Of course throwing Technology at a social problem is never the solution but it can help if used in the right way.

I mentioned recently in Return of the JFDI, the Ancoats Canal clean up project. James actively works with the local community on the project. He’s very active in the Ancoats area and adores where he lives.

The project is a great example of how two communities can come together to help bring together a better community. I will spell it out if you’re not aware, a tight community generally face less crime. Yes you’ve all heard it before, its all part of the Broken Window phenomenon. Want more… have a read

My point is… Gentrification doesn’t have to be aggressive or seen as them vs us. It can be nice and gentle, where everyone is involved and everyone is happy with the changes. I’m also not saying the local community are to blame for the crime but it in the interest of both communities to come together to push out the undesirable behavior.

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.

Moving house at long last.

In less than 2 weeks, me and Sarah will have bought and moved into our first house. This has been one of the most stressful times I've ever experienced. But I still highly recommend Shared Ownership to first time buyers living and buying in England.

In total me and Sarah have spent roughly just over 2500 pounds in solicitors fees, house deposit, mortgage arrangements, etc to secure the house from viewing to exchanging contracts. Not bad if you consider stamp duty alone could have cost us 1500 pounds plus if the house was not in Woolwich. Our solicitors Barnes Morley were pretty good. There online transaction checker was good but slow to update, I dont think its really integrated into there way of working yet. But the emails back and forth were always answered quickly and fully at stupid times of the day (for me answering emails at 7-8am would be a nightmare come true). Even when we asked the most simple and basic questions, our solicitor totally understood and made it as clear as possible for us first time buyers.

So from Novemeber its goodbye leafy Beckenham and hello urban Woolwich. Some of the things to look forward to is the near future for Woolwich. The Woolwich Arsenal DLR which has started work already and is due to end in 2009 will provide a train link straight into Bank DLR/Tube station. Then we have the olympics in the east end of London in 2012 which will include the woolwich area. I think there's some river things planned for charlton and greewich which is the next areas along. And the last thing which is also going on is the Thames gateway scheme, which includes a bridge a little bit down the road in Thamesmead and a whole host of other projects.

So all together, theres quite a lot of things going on in the area and us buying a place there might have been a really good idea for the future.

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