Established 2003. Now incorporating The Sudbury Hill Harrow and Wherever End Times

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Caption contest

Phone hacking: Senior Met officers dined with News of the World editors | Media | The Guardian

Artist's impression

"If we play our cards right we can dine out on this." (?)
"They do a right good dinner do Murdoch's mob." (?)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Brent plans to demolish Willesden Green Library Centre

Exclusive. The following requests were put to Brent Council as official Freedom of Information requests by a concerned resident about Brent Council's plan to demolish Willesden Green Library Centre:

1. A list of meetings where proposals to rebuild WG Library Centre have been discussed
2. minutes for these meetings
3. any documents that have been prepared relating to these proposals. If it does not breach section 12 costs, then this is to include emails. If cost limits are breached, then please exclude email discussions, but include all attached documents.
4. the complete costings for the refurbishment of the library, broken down by year, since 2005

Their initial response only addressed question 2 as follows:

"Following careful consideration, I regret to inform you that we have decided not to disclose this information. The exemption applied is section 36 Prejudice to effective conduct of Public Affairs. This exemption applies as the requested information is commercially sensitive and the meetings were in a "pre-application planning process".

Further correspondence and request for clarification for the exact reasons cited from those possible under Section 36, and for an Internal Review (another official in the Council to review the decision), produced a partial response as follows:

"We can let you have information in relation to question 4 and the attached report which went to the Executive this week, although I appreciate you will be interested in those Appendices which are not publicly available. I am afraid the remainder will need to await the Internal Review."

"The only refurbishment we had was in the year 2006 and it cost in the region of £700,000. The second one was the Archive move to Willesden and this was for £70,000 for over 2 financial years."

Click the link to see the project plan for Willesden Green Library Centre demolition and rebuilding council offices and housing.

"Summary 1.1. This paper outlines redevelopment options for the Willesden Green Library site. It sets out proposals for the comprehensive redevelopment of the entire site into a mixed used scheme to include a new bespoke flagship Council building with housing. The new Council building would provide a vibrant cultural hub for the south of the borough and have a customer facing offer. The purpose of this report is to gain the necessary approvals required to test the market and establish if the redevelopment of Willesden Green Library can be delivered at zero net capital cost to the Council."

There is a plan to dispose of some of the land backing Chambers Lane, presumably the centre's car park. It was recently changed from free for library centre users to a half-baked pay and display scheme where you have to go into the centre and request a permit from the security desk at the other end, then walk all the way back out and display the permit in your car windscreen, on pain of clamping. The detail of the land to be disposed of is in Appendix 1 "not for publication". There is a mention of "the developer partner" which sounds like a cosy stitch up may already be underway.

In justifying demolition of the library centre the plan tries to make a case that the site is not suited to purpose at present, no possible operators for the vacant cinema (formerly the Bellevue, now vacant) and "canteen" (formerly Gigi's Café Bar, also vacant) have come forward (did they advertise?) and it needs modern cabling. It concedes as it must that the existing library is superb and well used. It claims that people are not able to find their way around the site and use the museum, which begs the question why did they botch the recent move from the Grange Museum and why their admitted expenditure of £840,000 since 2006 has only resulted in the building becoming unsuitable for use and semi-derelict.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Only Boris

What ski helmets can teach us about keeping libraries open

"Imagine a horror film called Tadpole Head in which a weird cranial mutation is transmitted – via biting? Bodily fluids? Telepathy? – from person to person. Imagine if the contagion spread from season to season until thousands of formerly happy-go-lucky skiers were in its zombie-like thrall, and the hills were crawling with the glistening black bonces of a new race of human scarabs. That is what is happening at ski resorts all over Europe. Armies of Darth Vaders have colonised the Alps." (Telegraph)

Fear not, Boris's somewhat tortuous logic comes round to supporting the libraries, if you can follow it. The series of headlines on Boris here reads like a list of books about one of the lesser known PG Wodehouse characters. "Trust Boris", "Only Boris", "Boris on Top Form" etc.

Friday, February 18, 2011

From Willesden to the world

Photo by Chris Hamilton-Emery

The picture shows "Alex y Robert" the novel by Wena Poon now available on the high street nationwide from WH Smith.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The greater society

What Willesden Green writers' group means to me

An amusing and ultimately moving tribute to the local writers' group. It also serves as a reminder that people do not need to be patronised by plutocrats with transparently phoney gimmicks like "The Big Society". Don't you hate it when somebody tells you to do something you're already doing? The group meets in its local library, planners please note.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Short list for the Willesden short story prize 2011

UPDATE: Results announced

Congratulations to the writers listed below and to everyone who entered. It was a pleasure and a privilege to read each lovingly and painstakingly crafted short story. Deciding which ones to short-list was far from easy.

Short list for the Willesden Herald short story prize 2011

"Apartment" by Y.J. Zhu
"Blue Raincoat" by Teresa Stenson
"Dancing with the Flag Man" by Nemone Thornes
"Gusul" by Adnan Mahmutovic
"Homecoming" by Alex Barr
"Out of Season" by Mary O'Shea
"Overnight Miracles" by A.J. Ashworth
"Set Dance" by Angela Sherlock
"The Bedroom" by Micheal Coleman
"The Place" by David Frankel
"Thingummy Wotsit" by Adrian Sells
"Victor" by Emma Martin

About the writers

A. J. Ashworth was born and brought up in Lancashire and is a former journalist who now works in publishing. She has an MA in Writing (distinction) from Sheffield Hallam University and her stories are published or forthcoming in Horizon Review, Tears in the Fence, Crannóg, The Yellow Room, Lablit and the Voices anthology.

Alex Barr's short stories have been broadcast on radio 4 and have appeared in magazines such as STAND. He has published two poetry collections, LETTING IN THE CARNIVAL (Peterloo 1984) and HENRY'S BRIDGE (Starborn 2006) and won third prize in the National Poetry Competition 2000. He is currently collaborating with Peter Oram on a translation of RILKE'S French poem sequence VERGERS and a series of books for children. He has worked as a journalist, architect and lecturer, and now lives on a small holding in West Wales with his wife Rosemarie, a ceramic artist.

Michael Coleman is a 60 year old Archive Conservator from Belfast. He has 3 children, 3 grandchildren and has been besotted, and sometimes dumbfounded, by his wife Patricia for the past 42 years. He loves sailing and jumping in puddles. He writes short stories, poetry and has a completed novel for teenagers waiting on a publisher.

David Frankel was born in Salford, but can now be found lurking around the darker corners of Kent, where he lives and works as an artist. He has been a secret writer most of his life, and is now working on the final stages of his first novel and a collection of short stories. He won the Earlyworks short story prize in 2009.

Adnan Mahmutovic is a Bosnian Swede, a homely exile who teaches literature at Stockholm University in daytime, and works with people with mental disorders at night. His book Thinner than a Hair came out in 2010 as the winner the Cinnamon Press first novel competition. His short stories have appeared in Stand, The Battered Suitcase, Rose&Thorn Journal, Cantaraville, SNR, and anthologised in [Refuge]e (Konstafack), and We’re Créme de la Crem (Biscuit publ). (

Emma Martin lives in Wellington, New Zealand, arguably the windiest city in the world. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the Victoria University of Wellington. In previous lives she has been a taxi driver, circus worker and film censor.

Adrian Sells is married with a young daughter and lives in London. As a global markets strategist, his only published works to date have been in the financial press. He read English at Cambridge and, after many years recovering from the experience, now writes in his spare time. He has completed numerous short stories and is currently seeking representation for his second novel, a thriller set in South London called "Thirteen Days in Winter". Away from work and writing, he loves opera (twice a judge on the Olivier Awards opera panel) and the theatre. ‘Thingummy Wotsit’ will be his first published work of fiction.

Mary O'Shea's ambition to have an ordinary life sprang, more or less directly, from one summer spent working as an undercover agent at a Butlin's Holiday Camp in North Wales, and another waiting tables at a Mafia-run restaurant in Newport, R.I. Ordinary living led her to the practice of fiction. Stories have become her passion. She published some (New Irish Writing, London Magazine), won prizes for some (Hennessy Literary Award and runner-up in the William Trevor International Short Story Competition), designed and presented a course to encourage like-minded others (U.C.C. 2005-2008). She lives with her husband, in Cork.

Angela Sherlock has worked in information retrieval; as a chefs’ assistant and as a (not very good) coil winder. She taught English in secondary schools in London and in Devon, where she currently resides, as wife, mother and fiction writer. Leaf Writers’ Magazine has published two of her short pieces. Her first novel (as yet unpublished), The Apple Castle, was long-listed for The Virginia Prize and shortlisted for the Hookline Novel Competition. Set Dance is from her second novel, Exports, a collection of interlinked short stories about the Irish Diaspora.

Teresa Stenson's short fiction has been published in various places, most notably the 2009 Bridport Prize Winners' anthology. She is 29 and lives in York, where she balances two jobs with her writing ambitions. Along with writing short stories, Teresa is in the midst of creating a longer piece of fiction.  She keeps a blog about her writing at

Nemone Thornes was born in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, and studied Philosophy at Newnham College, Cambridge. At nineteen, she sold her first story to The Yorkshire Post, and her humorous short stories appeared in the Post for the following eight years. Since starting to write serious short fiction in 2007, Nemone has won prizes or been shortlisted in over twenty literary competitions. Her stories have been published by Leaf Books and Writers’ Forum, and are awaiting publication at Dark Tales magazine.

Y.J. Zhu is a native of Beijing, China who now lives in San Francisco. Her first published work describes racing a motorbike across the Taklamakan Desert. She has also delivered a yacht to Mexico, sailed up the Mekong River, and cruised down the Irrawaddy River. Materials for stories come from a variety of life experience, including biking across France, exploring Angkor and Machu Picchu. She currently makes her living managing projects for financial institutions.

Results event

Join acclaimed local author Maggie Gee for an evening to celebrate the short story and find out who has taken the prize mug at a special event on Thursday 7 April in Willesden. We are grateful to Maggie Gee for adjudicating and to Willesden Green Writers' Group for all their help with this to date.

Launch party                 Facebook Event               New Short Stories 5

Supported by Willesden Green Writers' Group

White smoke seen

Habemus short list. Details to follow.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Competition short-listed: You have email

Stop Press - Habemus album brevis

Strange particoloured smoke has been twirling from the special chimney on the roof of Herald House. We have had to bring in an expert smoke signal reader to interpret it. Jerome says we have a short list of twelve stories but we must not release the details yet until certain formalities have been observed.

Email messages have been sent to the twelve people whose stories are in the short list.

Update 9/2/2011: Announcement of the short list


Sunday, February 06, 2011

Kung hei fat choi 2011

The Year Of The Cat - Al Stewart

Chinese year of the rabbit and Vietnamese year of the cat 2011

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Short story competition: Near to a short list

Word has it that there is a battle between the modern and the classic for the last few places on the short list. While the world watched momentous events unfolding in Egypt, here in Willesden old Fred the roofer rigged up a special chimney on Herald House yesterday. Each year I fear a little more for Fred as he swarms up his ladders without a care. Dark or white smoke from the metal chimney indicates either more time needed or a conclusion respectively. So far black smoke has been seen clearly once (8 pm). There appeared to be another wisp of dark smoke before midnight but that has not been confirmed.


Thursday, February 03, 2011

Taxidermy of The Spotted Dog

Clean gone are the sticky floors of centuries,
The fist-dented panels stone dead and buried.
Its ceilings have swallowed their last tale of smoke.
Only the facade remains, tied up outside.

Stephen Moran

Willesden High Road

The Crazy Cock bar and restaurant (Bulgarian style)

Babsie's Filipino Oriental Store