My Friend Steve (In Memoriam)

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There are some people you meet in your life that become a kind of reference for the place you live, the times you have, and the triumphs and failures you go through. My friend Steve was one of these people for me.

I had come in contact with Steve before I moved to London. In 1999 my brother and I were talking in that kind of half serious/half joking way of creating an internet service provider company. So when moving to London became a fast reality I reached out to The London Economic Development Corporation ( LEDC) and it was Steve who replied. 

Frankly I didn’t know what the hell I was doing or what I was talking about, but with the bravura that comes with being in my 20’s, I bulled ahead. When I arrived in London in December of 1999, Steve, with his usual grace and charm, invited my wife and I over for diner. Fortunately for us Steve, his wife Sharon, and his brilliant son Jeff had some people in common with us. The Longstaff’s. Kip and her sons, Nic and Michael, had a long standing relationship with The Glickman’s and on that December evening my wife and I arrived and began an 18 year relationship with the Glickman’s.

Jeff and I created plays together, had serious long talks about art, and I have had the joy of being a part of his work as a film maker. Sharon has always been generous with her time and expertise in design, and my wife Heather always made sure Sharon got our year end newsletter. But then there is Steve. My reference for my time in London.

Steve was there during the struggles and triumphs we’ve had with our daughter Erynn. Steve was there when , with my gifted friend Jennifer Wigmore, we created the Theatre Arts program at Fanshawe – Steve sat on the first advisory committee. Steve was there to see some of the plays i directed and preformed in. Steve was there during my time with Emerging Leaders, always encouraging me and always supportive. Steve was there with Sharon when we bought our home and quietly suggested i needed a good stereo and helped me choose one at his business, London Audio. 

Steve was there with thoughtful advise on the many times I fell flat on my face and had few friends. Steve was there. That’s the point. Steve was there to introduce me to London, to make a family from out west feel welcome in a new town, to show me the good places to eat in town, to introduce me around, to offer his wisdom and insight, to share his sharp and riotous wit when we sat together, and …well …to be Steve.

About a year ago I received an email from Sharon. Steve wasn’t doing to well and things were difficult, but Sharon was very grateful for our year-end newsletter and wanted to let me know how Steve was doing. Steve had Alzheimer’s. 

I asked if i could come and spend time with my old friend and over the course of the next year I was blessed by the time I had with him. 

Steve was born and grew up and married in Montreal. He went to University there and like many others decided his new family needed to leave that city and find opportunities elsewhere. London is where he came, and with his family, created London Audio. Steve served on many Boards in our community including Kings and at The Grand Theatre. He gave back to his community again and again and in so doing quietly added to the tensile strength of our forested city.

During this last year he memorialized his life in Montreal and London with me. He would tell me again and again of the accomplishments of his sons and how deeply proud he was of them. He told me of his childhood on the streets of Montreal and of his early married life with a brilliant young wife. He would share with me his philosophies of business – you must make sure the customer always gets what’s right for them. He shared his thoughts on politics and religion and the deep admiration and fondness he had for his friends and colleagues. 

My most cherished memory of this past year though is sitting quietly, no words needing to be spoken, and listening to music. We would sit for a few hours and listen to his favourite album, K.D. Langs Songs Of The 49th Parallel. Sometimes I would play my ukulele and sing for him and sometimes we would sit and talk. It was…..so very good. 

In his last week of life we was hospitalized and I would go and visit him to spell off Sharon or Jeff for a short time. I would sit and play K.D. Lang and just be with him. I was with there the day he died. Jeff and Sharon had left for a quick bite and so I sat and played his favourite music and offered what comfort I could. We spent two hours together . Me holding his hand and him, eyes closed, listening to his music. I left at around 4:30 p.m. that day. Picked up my wife from work, went home and ate some supper. It was 90 minutes later that Sharon let me know he had died with Jeff and her next to him. 

His funeral was a triumph of a life well lived. His three sons lionized their father with humour, honesty, and deep love. London came out and marked the passing of someone who made a difference to our little city, not with flash and spectacle, but with quiet service and dignity. And his friends, those of years, and those of his life in business , came and shared the grief of his passing. 

For me Steve’s funeral marked something else though. It marked my time in this city and pointed to a way of being and engaging – a way I have often failed at. It pointed to the loyalty of friendships long developed, it pointed to the strength of serving community, and it pointed to the pleasure of living a life well.

It was a privilege to know Steve. From my first moments in this city to his last moments among us. It was an honour to spend time with him in his last year. It was a joy to hear him telling me the stories of his life and it was with pride I watched his family, friends, and community honour his life. Thank you Steve for your generosity of spirit, your warm and joyful wit, and for allowing me to be a small part of your life for the last 18 years. I have been marked by our time together and will carry your examples with me in my heart.

Thank you dear friend

Rest In Peace.

 

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Ward 5 – The Choice

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Let’s talk about the Ward 5 race ‘cause that’s where I live, and I have a vested interest. In the ward is the incumbent, Maureen Cassidy, who has served the last term on Council as our representative for Ward 5. Running against her in the election are some people. Notably Randy Warden, who ran and lost n the last election, Charles Knott and Shane Clarke.  What has marked this election across the city, and here in Ward 5, is misinformation, sign wrecking, and anonymous attacks through websites and signs.

Sadly this seems to becoming a norm in London, and I don’t think the media pay enough attention to the trumpifying of our local elections. That said I want to talk about these candidates and who I feel should choice for Ward 5.

For a majority of candidates in Ward 5, there is little difference between the anti-BRT candidates. They oppose BRT without a lot of details. Most say we need to reconsider BRT because of cost, the need for “better” consolation, or that it won’t fit our future needs. Again their clams are light on details and strong on ten-word opinions. The problem though is that Ward 5 residents need the next ten words to understand exactly what their plans are beyond “further discussions or consultations” or “ preparing us for autonomous vehicles” that may or may not ease traffic.

The problem is with these claims, and others that include safe consumption and development is that they don’t have any credible alternatives and are so sparse on details that we could be another decade waiting for any response to growing congestion in London while they discuss and consult. We need action now, not in 2029, on our severe infrastructure and congestion issues. If you want some thoughts on BRT from some leaders with some credibility and experience, then I suggest you read our former mayors ( and outstanding past Ward 5 councillor)  Joni Baechler and Jane Bigelow here on the facts of BRT

About some of the candidates:

Randy Warden is an outstanding volunteer in our community, especially with St.Johns Ambulance and The Canada 150 celebrations. He has given a lot of his time, and his efforts to London should be applauded for this. That does not make his sparse platform and his views on serious issues affecting London very detailed. On his platform page Randy has two lines on job creation, two lines on BRT, two lines on making life easier for families, and two lines on making life easier for families. If you watch the Ward 5 debates you see the same pattern of sparse answers and hardly any details. Randy’s campaign tagline is “leadership you can trust” but it’s tough to do that when there is little substance to his campaign. Randy is a nice guy and a great community volunteer but we need leadership, and a significant part of leadership is clearly articulating a vision and plan for where we are and what we should do. Randy doesn’t do this.

Charles Knott:  I haven’t been able to find much out about Charles other than his campaign website and Linkedin profile. He’s lived in London for some time and went to The London School of Economics to complete masters degree in science. He worked for a bread company and a motor company in customer service, has created a flooring business that supplies Mixed Martial Arts( MMA) companies, and is a manager of a sports clinic. I haven’t found anything about community service or volunteering. Charles has many of the same views as Randy does, though with more words that describe essentially the same viewpoint. You can read his platform here. Again my complaint is the same as I had for Randy – lots of declarations but few details backing up his clams. Charles talks a lot about job creation, and rightly so, but anyone who has spent any time on economic development will tell you that City Councils have little control of job creation. They can create small incentives through development but Councils are severely limited by law on what they can do to attract business to a city. The industrial land development was an effective way Council did this in the last two terms. But it is also important to understand that according to LEDC ( London Economic Development Corporation), who is charged with attracting business to London, says there are 1500 jobs available right now to at great companies. Our problem is we can’t attract and retain the talent we need to fill those jobs. We have a talent attraction and training gap problem in London, not a business attraction problem. How do you attract young professionals to our city? Well, there’s a lot of research on that, and googling Richard Florida is an excellent place to start as is looking at the CityLab website.  I don’t find Charles to be a credible candidate – claims and assertions are fine, but they need facts and details to be believable.

Shane Clarke: I have a lot of time for Shane Clark as he works on issues that are close to my heart. Poverty, mental illness, addictions, and the serious crisis we have in this city when it comes to our most vulnerable fellow Londoners. Shane has only three issues on his platform. Addictions, affordable housing, and snow removal.  I really respect Shane’s commitment to working and advocating with those who are most in need of our attention and focus. Think Shane also has an outstanding character and his care for his fellow Londoners is evident in his work and his volunteering. If my first choice for Ward 5 wasn’t elected, then Shane has the humility to listen and the strength to stand up for his values and our Ward. Check out Shane here

Maureen Cassidy: Maureen has been a long time advocate and volunteer in London especially when it comes to development issues in our ward. Joni Bachelor endorsed her 4 years ago as her choice to replace her, and again this election, and I believe she has done an outstanding job advocating for our ward and major issues across our city. Fiscally she was a part of the Council team that brought in multi-year budgeting and lowered our city debt by 10%. Maureen has advocated and works on issues from poverty, to indigenous issues, to very complex development issues. Throughout she has been consistent, and I believe very effective as a Ward 5 Councillor. I have had my disagreements with Maureen on some big issues, but she has always taken the time to hear me out and at times modify her views if she thought mine were valid.  Have seen her do this with fellow Ward 5 residents as well. She is not afraid to face tough issues and never takes a position for the sake of an easy political win.  I know her to be steadfast, very competent, and above all someone whom you can trust to work for the best interests of Ward 5. Here’s another reason why I support Maureen. She has details to her platforms and facts to back them up. Unlike Randy or Charles, she has more than ten-word answers. I respect that a lot and appreciate the time and thought that went into it. Here is Maureen’s platform and importantly here is the endorsement of some people who are leaders in Ward 5 and London.  I encourage you to vote for Maureen’s re-election as our Ward 5 city councillor because she has shown courage and commitment in the face of adversity and more importantly stood up for Ward 5 while facing it.

It’s a little confusing right now: Provincial Election

Well the wondering and prognosticating is finally over friends. We’re going to an election on June 12th and while some may have made up their minds as to who they’re voting for my suspicion is most have not. How can this be you ask? Aren’t the Liberals scandal ridden? Well lets look at that and look at our own culpability in this confusing time.

Tim Hudak and Andrea Horwath have, on the surface at least, decided not to support Kathleen Wynne’s government because of principle. They can not longer in good faith work with a minority government that is mired in scandal ( code for gas plant,Orange, E-health, Herb Grey Parkway ) and support a government is covering up important information ( code for gas plant) . Now our friend Tim Hudak would tell you that he wants to hang an open for business sign on Ontario ( code for tax cuts for corporation ) and to get our spending under control ( code for cutting social programs ) . Andrea Howarth would have you believe that she can no longer let this Government continue on because Ontarians have lost faith in them and the Liberals plans are unattainable. But Andrea Howrath did sit in Queens Park and held her nose while two budgets went sailing by despite the scandals she keeps referring too.

We can’t deny however that Dalton McGuinty left a huge mess behind and we did as a province lose a billion dollars on the gas plants and lets not forget E-Health or Orange either. Both left a sour taste in the mouths of us all. So where does this leave us when it comes to Kathleen Wynne? Were any of these scandal her fault? Was she involved at all? Well it would be difficult to believe a Cabinet Minister had no knowledge of any of these issues but it’s not really clear what her involvement was. So we’re left with a lot of murky water right now around our new Premiere.

If you believe AM radio then the Liberal ( or NDP or Green (or any “lefty”)) are not to be believed and that if we do then you’re a fool. Listening to CBC radio however on the drive up to Kingston on Friday there we’re as many NDP as there were Liberals as there were Conservatives who called in and the vast majority said they didn’t know who they were going to vote for. Many said they wish that these parties could work together to get Ontario back on track. I think both of these are on the minds of Ontarian’s right now and given the lack of cooperation, or even civility,it’s a confusing picture and  people don’t know which way to vote.

I’ll be honest friends I have never been a fan of the austerity agenda of the conservatives. It’s never made much sense to cut spending on the one hand and to then cut taxes for large corporations, or the wealthy, as well. This is like saying if i owned a business and i wanted to increase profit I would give a bigger discount while cutting the costs to the maintenance and advertising for my business. Makes no sense. The current form of Thatcher/Reagan conservative thinking is so old and so dated and limited that until we see a reinvention of the conservative movement it holds no water. I hope that reinvention happens.

The NDP and the Liberals are at least saying we need to invest in education, transportation, health and these things cost money. Want high-speed trains? You’ll pay more in taxes. Want more money for the disadvantaged? You’ll pay more in taxes. Want more youth job funding? You’ll pay more in taxes. I like that. Like being told that we need to invest and that investment will cost and won’t suddenly appear at the end of the rainbow. It makes sense.

Locally we have some great people running for all four parties. Deb Matthews, Nancy Branscombe, Judy Bryant, Jeff Bennet, Peggy Sattler, Gary Brown, Teresa Armstrong. All great Londoners who you should all take sometime to talk to. But they will all be swept up in this election and the orders of the party. You see local candidates don’t have much to say on platform or even if they agree with the whole platform. If the party says you don’t do debate then you don’t do debates. If the party says start attacking the leader and the candidate then you start attacking. You become the local labourer for the bossman/woman of the party. You do but you don’t get to say much tat is your own. This is also too bad.

All the parties will attack while promising you they are the only choice and that if you want a prosperous future then you have to vote for them. But as I said earlier I believe many in this province are looking for more cooperation, much more civility. honesty in what we need to pay for, and most importantly we don’t want to be wined and dined during the election to be left wondering a week after  why they never call.

In the end though we need to examine our own culpability in all this and the way we do politics in Ontario. After all our current political climate would not be the way it is if we told politicians they couldn’t behave this way. That we will not stand for the vicious partisanship of party politics. That we will not stand for crass behaviour from those that lead us. That we will not stand for the lack of cooperation at Queens Park. But we won’t do this. We won’t do this and we will see another election come and go and the same dance begin again.

So in this confusing time of confusing choice take some time, do the best you can, vote, and try to at least say to your candidates to be civil, try to cooperate, so we can build a better Ontario. In the meantime let’s do that for each other as well.

An Edmontonians view of London and the Fringe – guest Blog by Kenneth Brown

In the face of some recent economic hardship, London is trying to remake itself as a civilized city of the 21st Century.  During the festival, I was a guest of Sean Quigley and his family, who live a quietly sane life in a comfortable, inauspicious condo in the northern part of the city.  Because Sean lent me a bike for the duration of the festival, most of my transportation around London was by pedal, and I thoroughly enjoyed my early morning and late night rides through elm and maple-canopied streets.  I like the way the sidewalks all seem to have wheelchair-access ramps, and I like the way that no one objects to sharing the sidewalk with bicycles.

Londoners are very typically Canadian.  They are polite, they use irony in many economic exchanges, and they are neighbourly in a way that people from my oil-booming home town of Edmonton have forgotten.  On three occasions, strangers pursued me down the street to restore something that I had left or dropped.  Twice, it was because money had fallen out of my pockets.  The guy I bought a bus ticket out of town from cracked a really funny political joke about how my bus ticket would be used to profile me.  People still say “I’m sorry” a lot, like proper Canadians do when they mean “let’s pass each other without getting in each others’ personal space.”

The physical beauty of London is, to someone used to the utter industrial utilitarianism of Edmonton, a pleasure for senses.  Massive trees, dignified brick and stone buildings, old churches, a kind of attention to attractive detail make this Westerner envious.  Yes, I did pass grotesque, aesthetically-controlled (that is to say impoverished) mass suburbs under construction in the outlying reaches of the town.  I pity the people who are trading the aesthetics of the old town for that extra thousand feet of space and the three-car garage where they can store their internal combustion engines.

Our Edmonton contingent, comprised of three different theatre companies with crossover membership, brought five very divergent kinds of shows:  a small-cast new American classic, a satirical one-man show, a raucus collective creation that a friend of mine once described as “rock and roll theatre”, a drama about aging, and a very delicate and sensitive one-woman show about a Bosnian refugee.  Having all decided to apply for the London fringe (on the strength of the relative success of last year’s Letters In Wartime), we all had high hopes that these shows would find an audience that would more than pay for the expenses of traveling three thousand kilometers.

We were greeted and welcomed graciously by everyone.  Our London Fringe organizers and hosts could not have been kinder or more helpful.  Joe Belanger, of the London Free Press wrote a huge preview article that was focused on me and my collegues.  Our technicians at the two venues we used were excellent; I can’t say enough kind words about Stephen Mitchell at the McManus Studio; he was simply wonderful, helpful, and good humoured.   We placed posters in all the strategic places we could find, we tried to find opportunities to get the word out, we put the shows up, and waited for the audiences to appear.

To say they didn’t would be unfair.  There was a dedicated core of Fringe-goers who attended several shows.  Joe Belanger did yeoman work coming out to as many shows as he could in order to get the word out in the Free Press.  The volunteers not only served their time in lineups and ticket booths, they made a real point of coming into the theatre to see the shows that their labour was supporting.  But the critical mass of ticket-buying customers willing to lay down ten bucks (a very modest outlay, in 2013) and be taken to some imaginary world for an hour or so never materialized. Only one single performance of one of our five offerings put enough people in the theatre that they became, not a collection of individuals, but that vitally different entity, an audience.  That is to say, a group of people who breathe, respond, imagine with group consciousness.  Anyone who makes theatre for a living knows how important that critical mass is.  There is an energy in the room that is unique to theatre.  The full house differs from the sporadic audience in an exponential way.

And then there’s the problem of money.  And yes, it does boil down to money, sad to say.  “It’s Just The Fringe” is a phrase that doesn’t make sense to one who has spent as much of their life as I have making my summer’s living producing Fringe plays. Fringe is not an opportunity to indulge myself in a little theatre.  It is my way of making a living by my wits for four months of the year.  The hard fact is that, where amateurs (and I use that word in its strictly economic sense) can AFFORD to do Fringe for love, I do it, as I have for over forty years, for money.  Not much money, but enough to pay the bills.  So I wont be bringing work like this summer’s back to the London Fringe; I simply can’t afford it.  So although Anatolia Speaks was so generously received by Londoners, I won’t be taking that risk again.  Even with the honours it was done by the London public, as our most successful play this year, it just barely paid its expenses while we lost money on the other shows we presented.

This has happened to me only once in 30 years of fringing at a dozen festivals in Canada and the USA (in Toronto, of course, where I took the first episode of a trilogy about a Canadian Spitfire pilot, and resolved thereafter never to bother with that festival again). It’s a bit of a shock to the system.  My unfragile ego took a little correction.  The main point, however, isn’t about how one theatre artist feels.  The main point is that the London Fringe as an entity will have more trouble attracting artists from far afield to share their vision of the country, the world, or the human psyche.  I believe I share the whole Edmonton contingent’s feelings.  Great people, lovely city, economically unviable theatre-making.

I truly hope that London comes to embrace the Fringe, that young people in this city come to see theatre as something as sexy, as important, as stimulating as a blockbuster movie or a night at the pub.  It’s certainly no more expensive.  I hope that the brilliant Jason MacDonald continues to work his subversive theatre magic (he is, by the way, a real star on the Western fringe circuit). I hope the Fringe finds that central gathering area where you can put up a beer tent, and get people together chatting and arguing the merits of plays.  I truly believe the city would be a better place for it.  Close the damn screen and get out amongst your fellow citizens.  That’s what theatre is good for.

Maybe next year Sean Quigley and I will write a show together and we can have an excuse to visit, hang out, blather absurd Gaelic humour at one another on stage.  And hope to pay for Fringe fee and the airline ticket.  After 31 years, I’ll be back to being an amateur.

Kenneth Brown, June 2013

Left / Right and 0%

START:In the debate about around the 2013 Municipal Budget I have noted an ongoing debate on twitter and in person on the role of government and the efficiency/inefficiency  of government regarding the collection and spending of our tax dollars. This has most often come up for me when speaking about supporting those who are living near or below the poverty line or in the provision of service for things such as transit, bike lanes, or Library services.

In thinking about this there are a number of divides that surface.

One: Governments role should be limited to providing only the most basic of services and that the impact of the services should be minimal on the tax rates established by government.

Two: Government is always inefficient and therefore where the option is to have a private/for profit service deliver this it will be better for efficiency and for commerce.

Three: It is the responsibility of the individual to make their own success and wealth and that it is not the role of government to provide this.

Four: Economic development can only be enhanced if the municipality provides economic incentives for businesses to locate in London such as reduced servicing costs, tax incentives, and reduced buying costs for land.

At the heart of the argument is the divide between the philosophies of the “right”and those of the “left” but I actually think this is a false place to consider the issues of the 2013 budget from.

One: If Government at any level provides only the most basic of services then we end up with a number of issues that cannot be addressed by the private sector. The private sector is premised on the idea of creating profit , within the confines of supply and demand, for the services and products it sells. It will not be motivated by, for example, a need to provide health coverage for anyone who cannot afford it nor would private enterprise see a benefit in providing affordable housing. Government would be motivated to provide these services if it is the will of the electorate and in the public interest. We must also recognize that the cost of not providing service such as affordable housing is actually greater in the long run than not providing it. The costs to our health, policing, ambulance, mental health, and welfare systems is actually greater in the end. Of note is the impact government programs have on taxes. Staying with affordable housing a study by the State of Utah in 2003 showed “Another measure of economic impact is state and local taxes generated by the increase in income earnings. The estimated income, sales and property tax generated by affordable housing programs in 2003 was $20.4 million.  This estimate was derived by applying an effective state and local tax rate of 10.2% to the $200 million in income generated by affordable housing programs”

In looking at the previous example we can recognize that Government can provide a service, in this case affordable housing, that can have a positive net economic impact on a cities economic well-being. The same example can be applied to transit or bike lanes etc. if in providing a service there is a net benefit to the population government can and should act on it.

Two: The idea that government is always inefficient is a popular meme that emerges repeatedly as a justification for moving services to the private sector or not providing that service in the first place. We have to recognize the roles of each sector, government and business, to answer this question.

Economist  John T. Harvey in Forbes Magazine said the “question still stands: does it make sense to run government like a business? The short answer is no. Bear in mind, first, that “efficiency” in the private sector means profit. Hence, to ask that the government be run like a business is tantamount to asking that the government turn a profit. The problem in a nutshell, is that not everything that is profitable is of social value and not everything of social value is profitable.” and goes on to say “Those arguing for a business model for government must necessarily be ready to shut down all government functions that do not earn a profit, regardless of their contribution to our well-being.” .  It is also important to remember that the most disastrous economic calamity since the Great Depression  happened because of private business.  If we follow the idea that government needs to be efficient by responding to its citizens needs , maybe through the use of deliberative polling, but is the best way to serve the social good it may help us to focus where we should put our efforts in the 2013 municipal budget.

Three: We all love the idea of the rugged, self reliant, independently made individual and much of the idea of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps “ or “ the self-made man” is attractive we have to recognize that no one achieves success by themselves independent of any others help. If we look at Bill Gates for example we know, through books such as Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, that he had opportunities that others didn’t from access to early personal computers to the time on those computers “  this case Gladwell’s 10,000 hours rule” to became an expert in developing software for them. Of course Mr. Gates was highly driven and created many opportunities for himself and Microsoft but even so he did not do this alone and we must recognize that if not for the generosity of some early supporters he would never have achieved his success. Should we not look at supporting those who are less fortunate the same way? If we provide the means for them to become housed, achieve a stable income, and access to training and education, could we not also be also helping to support another Bill Gates? And if not a Bull Gates how about a Bill the Plumber? Or Bill the Electrical Engineer? Or Bills kid the Doctor?

My point is that in assisting those who need our help we create a better overall outcome socially and economically for all of us. If we create the means where more Bills, or Beatrice’s for that matter , can succeed then we create a better social and economic well-being. In terms of the services we provide municipally this is an issue in the upcoming budget debate.

 Four: If we only look at economic development through the lens of tax relief and servicing we miss some other areas that may be of equal or greater benefit. it is no secret that I am a fan of Richard Florida and his thinking on economic development and the creative class argument. The greatest attraction for me to this thinking is that it is talent, not only a company or corporation, that makes economic development possible and through the attraction of talent we create opportunities for business and the municipality.

I view increasing our transit capacity and the development of bike lanes, pedestrian only areas, place making, and arts and culture as a means of economic development. The Arts and Heritage Councils working with the Creative Cities working group and through the London Culture office is about to present some new research on the impact of Arts and Culture on London’s economy and the results are staggering. The report, released to Council at the end of January , will show that these sectors have had significant impact on London’s economy.

By investing in these areas the municipality creates fertile ground to attract and retain talent to London that results in companies such as Digital Extremes or Voices.Com or The Uber Cool Store.

In and Article in Atlantic Cities Florida Quotes  William Fulton of Smart Growth America “This Millennial generation is the generation that decides where it’s going to live before it decides what it’s going to do.”. If we want this generation to decide London is the place where it’s going to live than we have to create the infrastructure for it to be attractive. Economic Development cannot only be seen through the lens of incentives for business but incentives for quality of life that attract the talent needed to support and create those businesses.

Finish: There is not a left or right to the above arguments but rather a how, where, and in which manner you want to live and by extension how you want your city, your London, to reflect those values. For me 0% does not offer enough of a balance of tax burden vs quality of life and quality of growth. The city we want to live in is in your hands and all you need do is express that during this important time of decisions. Share that view-point as I have shared mine here.

Solid Ground

We have gone through what seems to be an unending series of calamities and misfortunes that at times for me seems to shake the fabric of the world and I am left standing like a witness to a mugging. What was stolen was us, the collective we, and the ground we were standing on. The place where the crime happened is our forested city and perhaps like many bystanders we let this crime happen.

Our Annus horribilis began with racism on ice that fled to discrimination in a market which catapulted into park occupation in hopes of equality that was then dismantled which hurtled into the eroding of the middle class jobs, locked gates, and picket lines, that then staggered into the facts of increased poverty, lower employment, lack of opportunity for newcomers and new generations, that slid into the daily horror of bullying which finally sighed into the wavering of our belief in public office.

We also had moments and movements of hope this last year. Gatherings of the concerned and optimistic, heartfelt conversations over beer and coffee, presentations of excellence and inspiration, and revelries of who we are in dance, music, theatre, and words. These shared experience in twos and threes, hundreds and thousands, made the last year bearable when things seemed to have no chance of being better.

In the face of all this some come to the front to offer a way forward and drop out of site when they cannot find consensus, some are tenacious and keep iterating and creating, hoping that the next time the combination of idea, people, and place will coalesce into a magic moment and it will all come together. The majority will stand on the sidelines and remain mute hoping for a brighter day.

It is to all of you that I am writing this. I am writing because i believe that in order to know where you are going you have to recognize where you are and where you have been. I have been in places of bright optimism and bleak pessimism. In places where I have been comforted and have offered comfort. In places of screaming in rage and in places of counseling clam and tolerance. And it is in that we find the rub dear reader.

We are in a time and place of wild swings of intention and action, of inattention and inaction, of tolerance and rage, of expectation, hope, cynicism , decay and rebirth. We have no solid ground to stand upon and survey where we are and what we are doing, and know not where or who we want be today or tomorrow.  We are ricocheted around these times like rubber balls on concrete walls and we are left unstable.

We have lost the old solid footing of community institutions like churches, clubs, political parties, and often the comforting familiarity of community, neighbor and family. If this is the case then we must build new institutions on the old or rebuild that which has crumbled. Organization that do the work now that was once the purview of government and who work for the common good should come together and buttress each other, standing forward as places for community to grow from. Our institutions of higher learning can no longer look inside their own walls or so far beyond them thy the cannot see the people living around them. We live just outside the doors. Collective recognition of old institutions like churches should begin because they are the ones feeding and caring for the most untouchable and unloved amongst us and do this despite our growing disbelief and distrust in them.

Those with voices clear and strong need to step forward now and take up the reins of leadership in our community with the pledge that they will restore our faith in the offices of political power but with the understanding in their marrow that all of that power is derived from the people who live around them. They must pledge to never shun the input for those that gave them this great gift of trust and pledge that they will work tirelessly, not for themselves, but for us and our collective hope for a better place to be and live.

If we do this then we shore up the ground we are standing on and have a stable place to build upon and to look out at the world. If we decide to do this then we must not only point out what is wrong but point out how to make it right.

This is not about policy or party but rather it is about belief. The belief that we can achieve anything if we have the collective will to do so and that if we chose to, we can stand together again on solid ground.

Manifesto for a Creative City

For Michelle, Judy, and Natasha – as presented at Ignite Culture

Let us talk about creation and the creative, about art and making, about the width and depth of London’s creative class and creative places and challenge the definitions of what and where and who and when culture and art is and can be

Let us applaud the grace of the water as it passes us by through the four seasons and glance through hoar frosted trees at the sunlight that tumbles down on our upturned faces and know that we are blessed by the happy coincidence of time, place,  season and each other

Let us savour the lush aromas that slink out to our senses as we struggle valiantly in trying to decide where to feast ourselves. Let us offer our quiet appreciation of a job well done by the ones behind the walls of the kitchen and by the ones who whisk out to our anticipation marvels of palate and poise.

Let us scream our full throated joy in never resisting the beat or in lifting our voices in harmony  – – never wishing to be released from sounds that drive our hearts and fill us with the impulse to dance. Let us praise and thank those who put together music so beautiful that we are left breathless by the audacity of what has just stirred our most secret places.

Let us witness the grace of bodies in movement in the expression of the undefinable and gasp in wonder at the expression of a unique soul made manifest by the extension of arm and leg and neck and toe. Let us shake with excitement at the mad moves made by the mad young in perfected abandon on pieces of cardboard in the middle of a sidewalk.

Let us fall in to a palette of colours and lines and curves that holders of brush and pen, crayon and spray can make for us to gaze on —images so profound or of such whimsy that we want them to be enshrined on our private walls to gaze on and share with those closest to us

Let us clap and offer our thanks to the catchers of light. To the ones with lenses big and small that tell a life’s story or a moments thought in the millisecond movement of a finger on the shutter button. Or in the longer stories of photon catchers who tell us tales in the campfire glow of cinemas screen or monitors glow.

Let us marvel at the artisanship of digital magicians as they create places of play and communication and industry that move forward our entire world. That these keyboard wizards are as much a part of our creative classes as are the arts of the dancer, the actor, the artist, and the writer.

Let us listen to the scribble of the poet and the novelist. the blogger and the news chronicler, the inspiring an the inspired,  as they reflect  the experience of the city in which we live or the world we hope to see. In the sharing of the the personal and the profound, the plebeian and the pedantic, the reflective and the reasoned.

Let us recognize the places we have come from in the procession of our stately buildings and homes as they wind by us in the reflected window light of summer sun and let us be reminded of those who have come before us and built that which we now stand upon and walk through

Let us revel in the green embrace of our parks, trees, and spaces that we share with each other in summer …be suffused by riotous colors, the falling of leaves and the girth of our harvest in fall. Let us contemplate the slow babble of water and the stillness of snow and ice in winter and let us explode in an ode of joy for the release that spring gifts us with

Let us celebrate the playwright and the Director, the designer and the actor who stand before us in manufactured landscapes and make our collective narrative breathe and come to life . These thespians who speak the speech tripingly upon the tongue and dare to hold a mirror up to nature.

Let us look around again at the faces that pass us by and know that the whole of the world in all its the ages live with us and treasure that this has happened in old London town. Let us grab hold of that diversity of sex and race, youth and age, and gather it in the embrace of our beautifully diversifying london.

Let us decide to include the hockey fans and the monster truck rally goers and buyers of metal trees and not succumb to petty cynicism but welcome anyone with the courage to share in what we do  – to invite them to feel they are a apart of something greater than any one of us – our collective culture

Let us go to the holders of public purses inviting them to understand that with out us toiling in the golden seem of creation there would be no heartbeat at the fork of the Thames. That our food would be a little duller, our lives a little grayer, our street a uniform drab, –there would be no laughter amongst the clowns and there would be no tears of joy when the curtain falls.

Let us decide to scatter the seeds of our creativity across the whole of our city and not just to those with pockets deep enough to pay the entrance fee. Let us reach into our schools large and small, junior and senior, and grab by the scruff the imagination of the young, inspiring them to make things that would leave our efforts looking pale and slight in comparison

Let us understand that we do not need to compare ourselves to any other city or place but that within our own nooks and crannies, our own parks and boulevards, that the whole of our lives are encapsulated and all we need is see, and there before us we will find the muse of inspiration leaping to embrace us with outstretched arms.

Let us understand that without the efforts of the creative class this place would be so much less and let us take responsibility and decide to no longer shake our fists at deaf heaven but reach out to the people that pass us everyday and let them know in no uncertain terms that we are here and we make this world, this country, and this city a better place to live by the very act that we are driven to do. CREATE

Let us decide for once and for all that we can no longer attract or expand, make new or revisit old,  iterate or innovate , without the recognizing that the whole of our city is an experiment in art and creativity. That we should no longer make the potential of what we want to be up on the backs of tissue paper wishes but inscribe them into the very soul of our forested city.

Let me offer my clumsy words clumsily offered. I define art as play skillfully done and all that is needed is to understand that anyone or any place can be average but if we chose in this moment and in this time,  that this place, our place,  is brilliant —then we are and have always been a Creative City