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Friday, 27 July 2012

"Be not afeard: the isle is full of noises."

The summer stays with us a little longer. Oscar contributed to Martin Creed's 'all the bells' cacophony to mark the start of the 2012 Olympic Games in London as I chimed in with St Mary's Church bells this morning - just up the road.

We were in St Mary's yesterday noon. Rev Brian Hall was showing around a group of us involved in designing a two hour Heritage Walk around Handsworth and Lozells. We'd begun the pilot walk at St.Mary's Convent, gone on via St Silas' Square to The Old Toll House...
Outside the Old Toll House
...on the corner of Villa and Hamstead Roads, before strolling on to see the Gatehouse to Heathfield Park - once the Lodge of James Watt's estate.
 - From St Mary's we climbed over the churchyard wall and strolled through Handsworth Park to the bandstand where I gave a short account of its loss and restoration with the re-opening of the Park on 8 July 2006
On this occasion we missed the Victoria Jubilee Allotments though they'll probably be included in the planned walk. We headed on to Soho Road for a lovely vegetarian meal with mango lassis at the London Sweet Centre before going round The Council House a few yards further up Soho Road, now home of the Handsworth Campus of City College.
Richard Trengrouse, Ashok,  Simon and Oscar
In our little group of strollers, Ashok, Aftab Rahman, Sue, Richard Trengrouse waxing enthusiastic about the buildings and green spaces; grumbling at examples of damage done them by lack of restoration or, worse, unimaginative restoration. We agreed over lunch that the tour should take in some family homes. Richard emailed us about an encounter on the way back to the walk's starting point at the Convent in Hunters Road
Hi Aftab. Brilliant day, thought the Convent and the park were wonderful  I didn't realise just how good Handsworth Park is, surely the best in the City. After I left you things just got better! I went down Terrace Rd onto Hampstead Rd to look at the restored terraces there. A rather dishevelled man covered in paint came out and went to go to his car. He saw me and accused me of being a historian, an accusation I hotly denied. It was Colin Simms and I got a guided tour of all nine houses and their courtyard gardens in the ninth house which he has just started renovating he has just uncovered the most spectacular stair rails and newel posts, so spent the end of the afternoon supping iced water with Colin! Best wishes,  Richard
Colin Simms restored terrace houses on Hamstead Road
Terrace House on Hamstead Road
Note to Aftab: I hope the Heritage Walk we are planning in Handsworth and Lozells and for which we have funding, will include the possibility of focusing on bad architecture in the area. I noticed how our conversation as we walked together through the neighbourhood was laced with annoyance, even anger, at the examples we passed of ugly renovation and unimaginative new building. The writer Evelyn Waugh wrote in the 1960s about 'the grim cyclorama of spoliation which surrounds all English experience in this century and any understanding of the immediate past…incomplete unless this huge deprivation of the quiet pleasures of the eye is accepted as a dominant condition, sometimes for mere sentimental apathy, sometimes poisoning love of country and of neighbours.' I hope we can draw attention not just to English but global aesthetics as these effect old and new, private and public buildings in Handsworth and Lozells. Here's an example of what I detest about so called improvement in our area (there's an image next to it of one of Colin Simm's restorations to show how beautiful these terraces on Hamstead Road can be). What was in the mind of the builder, owner, who did this to a house? 
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I've typed up the minutes of the meeting on 12 July at which 17 month after the problems of insolvency and lack of leadership were first presented we formally set up Handsworth Helping Hands, previously Central Handsworth Practical Care Project, as an unincorporated association - an extract:

held at 19.00 on 12th July 2012 at 34 Beaudesert Road, B20 3TG

CHPCH COMMITTEE:   Charles Bates*, Daphne Robinson
CHPCH VOLUNTARY ADVISORY GROUP:   Mike Tye (Chair), Linda Baddeley, Simon Baddeley, John Rose, Denise Forsyth, Charles Bates*
* Charles Bates is a member of both groups

1. Apologies: Cllr Hendrina Quinnen

2. Minutes of last meeting ~ 28th June 2012: Approved

3. Achievements of the Voluntary Advisory Group (VAG): LB reported:
 Over the last 15 months, the VAG have kept accurate minutes of all meetings, maintained proper accounts, filed receipts for all money spent and paid all debts, including reassessment and payment of income tax and national insurance for tax years 2010-2011 and 2011-2012.

All PAYE forms for 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 have been completed online and submitted to HMRC, (including amendment of incorrect 2010-2011 figures originally submitted to HMRC by BVSC), and the PAYE account has been closed. A £300 fine for late submission of 2010-2011 figures was successfully appealed by LB.

The majority of the Central Handsworth Practical Care Project Committee have resigned, leaving only four members. The two paid employees have both left the project voluntarily and have been provided with P45 forms.

Two vehicles (tipper truck and LDV van, (the former now impractical and the latter untaxed and uninsured and originally parked in the street) and the hardly used wood chipper have been sold. The remaining van has been MOTed, taxed and insured, and secure parking in the Handsworth Park compound has been obtained.

All tools belonging to the project have been removed from the garage in St Peter’s Road to secure storage in the Handsworth Park Compound.

Employer’s Liability and Public Liability Insurance was renewed for 2011-2012, but is now due for renewal again. (LB is obtaining quotes.)

The Voluntary Advisory Group has established good relations with the three Ward councillors, keeping them informed of progress and all matters concerning CHPCP.

From a position of being £20,000 in debt, the project now has a balance of over £14000 in the bank account and the Central Handsworth Practical Care Project is now in a position, in accordance with the wishes previously expressed by the CHPCP committee, to be closed, to be replaced immediately by Handsworth Helping Hands (HHH). Handsworth Helping Hands will have the same objectives as CHPCP.

4. Vote on VAG proposals re. dissolution of CHPCP:
LB proposed the immediate closure of CHPCP and transfer of all assets to Handsworth Helping Hands, to be used for the benefit of the Handsworth community. Three votes in favour, two from the CHPCP committee members present and one in writing from Mr Ilyas, who did not attend the meeting, carried the motion. The fourth CHPCP committee member, Mr Kennedy, did not attend, send apologies, nor put his views on the matter in writing.

5.Official inception of HHH

Acceptance of constitution: LB proposed that those present accept the draft Handsworth Helping Hands constitution. The HHH constitution was unanimously accepted.

Election of officers:
Chair:  Michael Tye
Proposed by LB,  seconded by DF. Carried

Secretary:  Simon Baddeley
Proposed by LB,  seconded by JR. Carried

Treasurer:  Linda Baddeley
Proposed by LB,  seconded by DF. Carried

Vice Chair:  Denise Forsyth
Proposed by MT,  seconded by CB. Carried

It was agreed that JR would shadow LB’s role as Treasurer.

DR and CB volunteered to serve as members of the HHH committee. Cllr Hendrina Quinnen, after council legal advice that HHH does not have to have a nominated ward councillor on its committee, will remain as a ‘friend’ of HHH.  HHH will continue to keep local councillors informed.....(continued)
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When Handsworth Helping Hands were clearing the gardens at CMAT studios in Grosvenor Road last Tuesday 17 July I got talking with people who worked there - Pervaiz, Lucy and Mikey - about the work of the studios. That led onto a discussion with Mikey about the film and tape in the Jack Hargreaves' archive. Mikey suggested it might make sense, in the absence of a Steenbeck machine, to digitise films and sound tapes independently, and worry about matching them later. They had the kit to digitise the sound. He'd explore what would be involved doing the same with the film. I made an appointment to bring samples from the archive in the lock up in Sherlock Street this Wednesday. 
Simon, Pervaiz and Mikey at CMAT
I showed Mikey the sound tape - carbon-fibre rods, picking up - pheasant shoot.
"It's in good condition" he said
"We can digitise that"
I showed him a reel of the 16mm film also from the 1970s, this one with Jack's writing recognisable the can 'Out of Town' programme film made on Colonel Hawker and Terns. 
We chatted. I realised that digitising the film wasn't straightforward. Mikey and Pevaiz had been exploring possibilities - but after some circuitous conversation I realised they had no suitable conversion equipment nor experience of digitising 16mm film. Here's a passage from the internet hinting at the challenge:
If you have a box of old 16mm film, digitizing it is either dead simple or very difficult. The dead-simple op­­tion is to send the film to a transfer service...doing the job yourself is hard and time consuming, as no consumer-level dedicated 16mm film scanner is available. It's physically possible to scan 16mm film frame-by-frame using a 35mm slide scanner or a flatbed scanner that handles slides. But this approach entails endless cropping and reassembly....A maximum 18 frames per second for 8mm film means 1080 images per minute of movie...
No way...and here's another website offering a 'secret' method for digitising film after dismissing standard methods:
...Project the film and video it off a wall then put the video into an all-in-one Video to DVD machine. It still flickers! There is a huge array of cheap and expensive machines all purporting to reduce this flicker. Some of them work, however with such manipulation any detail left is lost for ever as these type of machines compress MPEG and digitise at one set low rate. We have stacks of Documentary evidence to prove none of these methods work. We use a proprietary based system which is a closely guarded secret and the envy of our competitors. This system produces top quality, flicker free film transfers which are a pleasure to watch with rich colour, contrast and crisp sharp detail. You can clearly see the faces in our films....
Later at home I phoned Simon Winter of Kaleidoscope. He and colleagues played a key part in uncovering the 34 original Out of Town videos that Delta will be publishing in October.
We discussed the 16mm film in the collection.
"I know someone," he said "Kaleidoscope use him for digitising films they recover."
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Those lines came over the tele' spoken by Kenneth Branagh in the Olympic Stadium on Friday night...
Be not afeard: the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight, and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometimes voices,
That, if I then had wak'd after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me; that, when I wak'd,
I cried to dream again.
Lin said "But...that's not England, it's Corfu, Prospero's Cell!"... the gold and moving blue have stained our thoughts...brilliant speck of an island in the Ionian...waters like the heartbeat of the world...darkness opaque...we see in our dreams the world as if in some great aquarium...
Allowing for that small error I without enthusiasm for the thing, was transported into delight and admiration by Danny Boyle's orchestration of the opening ceremony Isles of WonderHe and his team surmounted that great challenge of entertainers - working with animals and children, demonstrating, in as brilliant a 15 minutes as I've ever seen or heard or read, that defining event of the modern age - the Industrial Revolution, not sparing us the Satanic Mills, the price paid for its wealth, dissent and protest and destruction of a green and pleasant land. 
As the performance proceeded we saw the empire - about which we're inclined to be like a softer version of the Anglo-German "Don't mention the War" - imploding, accelerating the resentment - already stirred by the plural 'Isles'; - of anyone needing an Island Story whose chief job is to keep the others in their place. The messiness carried many stories - the hybridity of London, the multiplicity of the British Isles. In a ceremony being blogged, tweeted and facebooked across the globe - narrowcast even as it was broadcast it was good to see Tim Berners-Lee feted as the inventor of the world wide web or - rather - as Watt's refinement of the Newcomen engine made steam really 'work', achieving the same for the Internet with HTML. I didn't get some of the more contemporary reference, Soaps and Pop, but it was something to get away with the Punk 'God save the queen, The fascist regime' in the same stadium as 'God save our gracious queen Long live our noble queen'. That was the span - the isle is indeed 'full of noises'. I don't recall having so many laughs at any previous Olympic opener. HM being called on at the palace by James Bond - Daniel po-faced Craig - and helicoptered by him to where she could parachute into the arena. I'd seriously like to see a vignette of the correspondence when that was agreed; Rowan Atkinson getting landed by Simon Rattle with the repetitive note that starts and runs through Vangelis' Chariots of Fire, becoming restless with it, looking, Bean-like, for distraction. Bouncing doctors, nurses and children from Great Ormond Street - part of a cheeky paeon for the NHS combined with fairy stories from Barry through Kenneth Graham to J K Rowling. Boyle had real nurses, kids and doctors - all volunteers - dancing. He saved some cash there and included tribute to that British predisposition - volunteering, something 'we' probably prefer to dancing, though that may be changing. Another of many similarly connected groups, were the relatives of the dockers present at the arrival of  M/V Empire Windrush at Tilbury this time 64 years ago to usher her replica into the stadium - relatives of dockers who might also have marched for Enoch Powell after his 'rivers of blood' speech in April 1968. The visual wit and the fun weren't fortune cooky treats. They vaccinated against the heavy risk of getting too tingly with emotion, let alone welling a tear - just what the doctor ordered for the British dis-ease. This was also my stepfather's England of hybridity, starting with the mixing of two races - preceded on this his last broadcast for Southern Television thirty one years ago by four minutes of commercials.
On Friday night in Ano Korakiana, apart from some unknown - άγνωστοι - miscreant spraying red paint on cars parked in the square to the fury of their owners, our news - Τα νέα μας - that on Saturday evening there'll be the annual festival of music, dancing and a roast to celebrate Ag Paraskevi:
1. Το καθιερωμένο πλέον ετήσιο πανηγύρι της Αγίας Παρασκευής πραγματοποιείται αύριο, Σάββατο 28 Ιουλίου 2012, το βράδυ υπό τη συνδιοργάνωςση της Φιλαρμονικής και της Εκκλησίας, που υπόσχονται διασκέδαση με μουσική, χορό και ψητά...
2. Άγνωστοι ψέκασαν χθες το βράδυ με κόκκινη μπογιά τα παρκαρισμένα αυτοκίνητα στην πλατεία του χωριού...προκαλώντας την αγανάκτηση των ιδιοκτητών τους...Τι άλλο θα δούμε!
3.Παλαιωμένο κακοτρύγη από την Πούπουλια είχε υποσχεθεί για τα πρώτα γενέθλια της εγγονής του Αγγελικής, ο παππούς Κώστας Απέργης...αλλά τελικά ήταν από Αλευκιμιώτικο αμπελώνα...
It will also the first birthday of Kostas Apergis' grand-daughter Angela - but like lots of the Ano Korakiana website it's tricky for me to translate. What's Αλευκιμιώτικο? and Παλαιωμένο κακοτρύγη?
Preparing for the party at Agia Paraskevi
Κορακιανίτικο πανηγύρι ~ Saturday night party in Ano Korakiana
On Saturday 28 July - the annual festival and party, panigyri:
Δύο ώρες πριν από την έναρξη του φετινού πανηγυριού της Αγίας Παρασκευής, οι προεργασίες συνεχίζονταν με αμείωτο ρυθμό. Γυναίκες της χορωδίας και του χορευτικού είχαν αναλάβει την προετοιμασία των λουκουμάδων, πλάι στους υπόλοιπους που ετοίμαζαν τις ψησταριές και τους υπαίθριους παγο-καταψύκτες, ενώ τα τραπεζοκαθίσματα ήταν ήδη στρωμένα. Την ίδια ώρα, στη γραφική εκκλησία με το νεόκτιστο και φρεσκοβαμμένο καμπαναριό, ο ιερέας τελούσε τον Εσπερινό, ενώ ο κόσμος που άρχιζε σιγά-σιγά να μαζεύεται περνούσε πρώτα από εκεί για το άναμα ενός κεριού.
Οι πρώτοι ήχοι της ορχήστρας λίγο αργότερα, θα δώσουν το έναυσμα για την έναρξη του πανηγυριού, ενώ καθώς νύχτωνε ο κόσμος γέμιζε το πλάτωμα. Λίγο πριν από τα μεσάνυχτα το υπαίθριο γλέντι βρισκόταν στο φόρτε του, με τον Πρόεδρο της Φιλαρμονικής να οδηγεί το χορό. Μα πέρα από τη διασκέδαση, το πανηγύρι, όπως κάθε χρόνο, θα προσφέρει μια ευκαιρία συνάντησης των Κορακιανιτών κάθε ηλικίας, που θα συρρεύσουν. Αργότερα, θα μοιραστούν λαχνοί προς ενίσχυση των διοργανωτών της εκδήλωσης, Φιλαρμονικής και Εκκλησίας και το γλέντι θα διαρκέσει μέχρι τις πρωινές ώρες…
Two hours before the start of this year's festival of Agia Paraskevi, preparatory work continued unabated. The women's choir and the dance group looked after the preparation of donuts, next to others who were preparing barbecues and outdoor freezers, while tables and chairs were already arranged. At the same time, in the picturesque church, freshly painted with a newly built tower, the priest was doing vespers, while everyone gradually began to gather, pausing to light a candle.
Later, the first sounds of the orchestra will trigger the start of the festival. As night falls people filled the plaza. Shortly before midnight, the outdoor festival was in full swing, the President of the Philharmonic leading the dance. But beyond the fun, the festival, as every year, will offer a chance for Korakianas of all ages who've flocked to the village to meet... the party will last until the early hours...

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Simon Baddeley