Archive for March, 2013

Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology – Wednesday 6 March 2013

Learning through genetic inheritance and discovering outcomes made available through twin research is a well used and productive academic formula for advancing our knowledge of disorders and disease.  However, this comparative research technique has been finely tuned over many years across the natural and human sciences with the controlled methodology of twin research able to yield a considerable wealth of information through empirical testing supported by the use of non-experimental questionnaires.

Having briefly met the team from Kings College on a previous visit to St Thomas’ Hospital, I was very pleased to look for ways of assisting Dr Kirsten Ward and her colleagues in the Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology, in trying to find more twins for their register, specific to an 18 – 25 age range across all ethnicities.   Their task is to trawl opportunities across all seven London boroughs south of the river in putting together a far deeper research analysis of what their original data had revealed through applying twin research techniques to a far greater representative sample of this younger age range in our multi-cultural capital.

With the experience of gigging with Ragz CV and Junior Booker at the Brixton Jamm last year, I was keen that Dr Ward found a slot in her busy schedule to welcome us to their department and the result was a meeting of minds from very different ends of a research learning continuum. It came as no surprise to be told that the age range and ethnicities that we needed were off the radar of research involvement and therefore, our opportunities were confined to gaining the confidence of young people, using what social scientists used to refer to as participant observation.  Here young performers like Ragz and Junior could display the benefits of positive rap, whilst projecting a comedy style that allowed us to laugh at our apprehensions and forget about the predictable reaction in turning down the volume when asked to help find those valuable twins who could be instrumental in producing a research breakthrough for those living and working in our seven London boroughs south of the river. 

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Southbank Centre’s Festival Wing – Wednesday 6 March 2013

It was so rewarding, as an elected member of longstanding to see the Southbank connection growing and dare I say it, spreading its wings with the local authority engaging enthusiastically with the vast array of artistic expression right on our doorstep.  These are events that some years ago might not have seemed possible but with our inspirational riverside neighbour; Jude Kelly at the helm, who knows what else we might achieve as a co-operative council.

Although much has been written about the brutality of the original design, with the concrete blocks courting much of the critical attention; it is this roughness of sixties style that offers the perfect raw material through which to accommodate the imaginative concepts of spatial extravagance presented by grateful architects of the twenty first century who, with the support of serious investment will allow us to add an exciting dimension of artistic focus to our town centres north of the borough.

Whist the preview of plans for the Festival Wing on Wednesday last was pitched just right for congratulations and praise, I would like to think that this excitement will be captured as an expression of borough-wide regeneration, something that this festival site knows only too well.  Sadly, our co-operative links with the Old Vic as a prime site in theatrical prestige is still in need of a cultural therapy that might be even more demanding than the Southbank connection.  Here it might be down to a perception of social divide that has been allowed to separate what should be their regular inclusion on our council radar, by a local authority keen to be associated with such a wealth of artistic achievement and a share of their national acclaim.  Thankfully, the scene dock doors are now open on the Southbank for us all to encourage wherever and whenever possible, a dialogue for essential funding that will make such a huge contribution to the progressiveness of a London Borough south of the river.

 

 

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A double whammy for the Streatham BID and BRAVE the movie – Friday 22 February 2013

Next door to the Mayor’s Parlour is Room 126 and on Friday last it became the nerve centre for Electoral Services and the emotional focus for the long awaited outcome for the Streatham BID.  As the count was being completed, in what was a crucial decision for the business community, the burning question for everyone in the room was, would Streatham businesses lend their support to the concept of a Business Improvement District?  Well the answer was a definite and resounding yes, with 84% of those who voted clearly in favour of what must surely be good news for Streatham and a further endorsement for the commitment of our Commercial Town Centre Manager Angelina Purcell.

Equally, congratulations, to the Streatham Odeon for their highly original promotion for BRAVE the movie because back in late July the following appeared on the Mayor’s Webpage. `Meridian is the central character in the latest Disney movie now playing at the Odeon in Streatham where I caught up with Cinema Manager Sussannah Mortimer and General Manager David Carpenter on Saturday afternoon.  

The exploits of BRAVE is your local movie must.  Its just right for the holidays and if the foyer games and activities that await you ahead of the onscreen action, written for audiences of all ages are as much fun for you as they were for me, then is entertainment all the way in the safe hands of Marie, Leon and Steve, our Odeon team who add that extra ingredient of welcome to the enjoyment of this delightful movie.

 

With that sort of appeal it was not too much of a surprise to hear that this animated adventure story was amongst the nomination but to learn that it had won best in its category at the Oscars was surely a high-five for the team at the Streatham Odeon.  And although this congratulatory link to Hollywood is only tenuous it is an indication that Streatham has much to offer and not least in the contemporary influence of the creative arts and if the decision on the BID is anything to go by another substantial credit for the local business community.”

 

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Twenty Five Years Loyal Service to Housing – Monday 25 February 2013

It was with great pleasure that we were able to welcome Lambeth Living to the parlour on Monday in celebration of achievements by colleagues who had successfully completed twenty five years loyal service. The occasion was a timely centre piece in acknowledgment of how far the local authority had advanced over the last decade in meeting challenges posed by housing and yet, when faced with finding lasting solutions to those longstanding issues raised at Neighbourhood Forums and Tenants Council, the rewards for this steady progress seem slow and irritatingly small in comparisons to other areas of our advancement.

However, as each recipient was congratulated by Keith Hill Chair of Lambeth Living, I became very conscious of what we had achieved as a local authority and that it was only our historical past that prevented us from giving it full recognition, because the light at the end of the tunnel so often turned out to be yet another train heading towards us and more than ready to derail the process and comfort the doubters. 

Well on Monday last I was confronted by a deeply ingrained and professional enthusiasm for a no surrender approach as an endorsement of progress in difficult times by five highly committed members of staff each with 25 years of loyal service.

As a long term subscriber to the learning organisation I was heartened by what I heard as we began to network following the awards in being told about the introduction of the Solutions Team.  An intuitive response to addressing gaps in service delivery that 25 years service would not be slow in revealing, such as those interfaces where we have not been able to learn enough, or not communicating the learning that we have, or perhaps even more worrying, still not able to learn from mistakes that can be rectified. 

According to one contributor, we might not fully appreciate service gaps within the Client, Contractor and Sub-Contractor relationship.  A vital information chain from which the links are too often missing or simply not seen as necessary, leading to delays, disappointment and then anger aimed at whoever is next in line to pick up the customer service phone. 

We wish the Solutions Team every success in finding the gaps and learning from mistakes but I do hope recipients of the awards will be asked if there are any lessons still to be learned in moving from a housing operation offering customer service to delivering a contractor regulated service to a housing operation.

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