How Personal Banking is Just the Beginning for Local Library Hubs

Until last August Barclays bank had been a popular business premises with a team of bank staff who worked in the monumental building at 18 East Street, on the way into the main town centre in Havant, on the south coast of Hampshire in England, for more than thirty years. The Havant branch was one of 103 Barclays branches to permanently close their doors last year.  (1)

After promising in a farewell message to continue be an ‘active presence’ in the community, this week Barclays have popped up in the town centre library in the Meridian Centre in Havant in Hampshire instead. Barclays welcome banner says “We’re here to help” and invites customer to “talk to us about your money matters”.

The bank operates a ‘cashless site’ which means no physical money is available to give out. They do however state that they can help the general public with banking services like getting started with digital banking, making your finances work better, protecting yourself from fraud, buying or improving your home and working out your insurance needs.

The introduction of digital banking has had a major impact on the way that banking is carried out. Banking customers can now manage many aspects of their account on their mobile phones and devices as using banking apps become the norm for most young people and adults who are confident with using technology. This has led to a decrease in people choosing to visit a bank to use ‘counter services’ according to the well-known high street financial institutions.

However, this digital banking trend can negatively impact citizens who struggle to afford or embrace the latest technology. Even simple activities such as paying bills and transferring funds can be fraught with potential obstacles for those who find anything to do with computers rather baffling. There is a real threat of online fraud for people of all ages and the security processes, involved in managing private information safely when using the internet are often complicated. It is understandable that those who are not confident will feel unsupported and unable to complete their financial tasks, without a real person to help them.

Libraries in the UK have for the last few decades provided a facility to help those on lower incomes gain access to current technology and they have offered internet services such as using personal email for applying for jobs. This has been an important community support role especially as the employment market has become almost exclusively digitalised.

This winter libraries have provided warm spaces and an ever-wider range of community services across England, Wales and Northern Ireland for men, women and children from all walks of life. The cost-of-living crisis has meant massively increased household bills particularly to heat older and more energy inefficient homes. Libraries have responded in welcoming and creative ways, such as handing out winter coats, in order to be a hub of support for their residents.

As early as 2005 a research paper sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation identified the possibilities of how libraries have an opportunity to maximise the value of services provided to their residents and outlines how “Any entity is a potential partner for a library: local and state government institutions and agencies, nonprofit organizations, foundations, businesses, schools, faith-based organizations, clubs. The most obvious way for a partner to help is to provide funding, but there are innumerable other ways for partners to get involved.” (4)

In 2015 the Halifax were pleased to announce a successful pilot scheme in operation in the library in Calderdale in West Yorkshire. Since then the Halifax building society known as the largest mortgage lender in England followed this event with a roll out in its namesake town of Halifax and to many other libraries around the country. Halifax, in conjunction with other banks have not been slow to identify the PR opportunities in sponsoring and physically supporting members of their community with learning about how to use IT and portable devices to access internet services. The Halifax has also described how another positive outcome is increased job satisfaction amongst their colleagues who feel they are given time in their work week to support their vulnerable and elderly customers in an important and personal way. (5)

“Almost 200 banks have closed in the last year including the likes of Santander, NatWest, Halifax and HSBC.” exclaimed the Basildon, Canvey and Southend Echo this January. The Basildon, Canvey and Southend Echo’s reporters have seen several libraries work in partnership with different high street banks, across the county of Essex in south eastern England. (3)

This spring in Shropshire in England libraries have been teaming up with HSBC to plug the gap in services for those who want to interact and get advice from another human banking specialist. Daniella Rudd, Local Director for HSBC stated that “We are so thrilled to have created this partnership with Shropshire Libraries, and are really looking forward to talking to local people to help them protect themselves against fraud, manage their money better and look at new ways of banking. The sessions are open to anyone, you don’t have to be an HSBC customer; so our friendly team look forward to meeting as many people as possible to chat over these important subjects.” Bishop’s Castle, Church Stretton, Much Wenlock, Oswestry and Shrewsbury (main Library) have all positively embraced HSBC’s expert sessions in their book lending centres. (6)

Many village libraries in England have closed in recent years partly due to the advancement of digital learning and the decline in book reading in the UK. Government enforced lockdowns during the pandemic have affected thousands of remaining libraries and community service centres in a variety of ways. However, over the last year or two libraries that are still funded by local councils have gained a new momentum as spaces to support both academic learners and those who need supportive spaces in the local vicinity of where they live. Families and individuals need to engage with others, find out what is available locally and access a multitude of health, education and social services.

Many libraries such as Waterlooville in Hampshire are inviting volunteers who live within a short walk or driving distance to help facilitate children’s story times, nursery rhyme times and more specialist meetups such as dementia friendly art classes. Volunteering can help people build skills and working with volunteers helps libraries reach out into their communities more effectively within their strict budgets.

Providing financial services and working with other commercial organisations can offer an ideal solution for organisations looking to work in partnership. Libraries can hire out spaces and this in turn can help them with much needed funding. Businesses can benefit from connecting with their customers and communities in supportive, flexible and creative ways. Libraries are usually situated with good transport links and it makes sense that during what are difficult times for many that the knowledgeable and valuable expertise of library managers and their teams can be pivoted and maximalised to provide a variety of supportive ways to serve their communities in ever more diverse, useful and uplifting ways.

Hampshire residents please note:

Barclays are currently available at The Library in Havant, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. From 9:30am to 5:00pm on Tuesdays and 9:30am to 1:30pm on Thursdays. Walk in appointments may be available, or to make an appointment visit barclays.co.uk/local

There are cash machines nearby at Lloyds, Nationwide and Halifax all these facilities are free to Barclays customers.

(1) ‘The Hampshire Barclays branches that have closed in 2022 including Totton, Petersfield and Havant’ Robert Edwards, Hampshire Live News, 21 September 2022 ‘The Hampshire Barclays branches that have closed in 2022′ Robert Edwards, Hampshire Live News

(2) ‘Warm Banks’ at U.K. Libraries Invite Locals To Get Cozy’ Molly Enking, Smithsonian Magazine, 19 December 2022 ‘Warm Banks’ at U.K. Libraries Invite Locals To Get Cozy’ Molly Enking, Smithsonian Magazine

(3) ‘Calls for south Essex libraries to host banking services’ Matthew Critchell, Crime and Courts Reporter, Basildon, Canvey, Southend Echo ‘Calls for south Essex libraries to host banking services’ Matthew Critchell, Crime and Courts Reporter, Basildon, Canvey, Southend Echo

(4) ‘World Library and Information Congress – Libraries a voyage of discovery’ Jessica Dorr, Martha Choe and Kara Hannigan, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 22 August 2005 ‘World Library and Information Congress – Libraries a voyage of discovery’ Jessica Dorr, Martha Choe and Kara Hannigan, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

(5) ‘Case Study: Halifax Community Bank’, Gov.UK – UK government official website, Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, 16 December 2015 ‘Case Study: Halifax Community Bank’, Gov.UK

(6) ‘Shropshire libraries hosting friendly banking advice sessions’ Shropshire Council, 19 January 2023 ‘Shropshire libraries hosting friendly banking advice sessions’ Shropshire Council, 19 January 2023

Retail & Eco Style Update: Much Needed Pastels Bring Spring Cheer

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Pastel fashion accessories retail display, Copenhagen
Pastel fashion accessories retail display, Copenhagen

This year the shops and florists in Copenhagen in Denmark and many other cities in the United Kingdom and Europe, celebrate the coming of spring with a rainbow display of the soft colours of the earliest flowers.

As the evenings grow longer the wools, velvets and furs of winter are stashed away and a collection of lighter materials are happily revealed throughout the stores, restaurants and the many personal service businesses such as beauticians. Most of us also eagerly embrace reflecting the coming of spring our own home interiors.

Patterns such as plaids, checks; heavy damasks, dark paisley and anything associated with winter festivities are carefully put away. A summery supply of textiles such as anything floral, nautical, stripey, fun, splashy, dotty, abstract, impressionist and sunburst themed, are eagerly discovered, embraced and reinstated, ready for the sunny and dry days finally arriving in the weather forecast.

A myriad of pastels and florals for spring are hardly a big surprise to style conscious folk. These sugar sweet pieces are well made and well designed by most conscientious retailers. Retail buyers know they need to offer special products to tempt people, who are choosing their purchases more carefully than ever.

This is because the public need to make the most of their expendable income which has been impacted by inflation and things like the rising cost of transport and the bills involved with running a home. Nonetheless, individuals and families across Europe are still surrounding themselves with the best items possible, to help them keep a positive mindset and enhance the enjoyment of their daily lives.

Spring accessories display Hermes, Copenhagen
Spring accessories display Hermes, Copenhagen

The variety and range of beautiful designs and home accessories available is a delight to see on the high street as well as at craft markets and out of town shopping centres, this season. We have seen over the past few years that (as well as some wildcard items) generally more consistent styles are returning each spring, summer, autumn and winter in the ranges of most fashion and home brands. This means retailers and designers are offering more traditional seasonal trends that dovetail nicely with what we have already in our abodes. This trend also chimes nicely with our aim to live, in a more sustainable way.

When dressing with style for the time of year as appropriately and intentionally as possible, adding a few fresh fashion pieces to our existing favourites, simply makes sense. The same concept applies to furnishing our homes. This method naturally replenishes items that are unmendable or that have been donated as they have become unsuitable, for whatever reason. It allows for new shopping list ‘needs’ to emerge as our lives change and we develop new pastimes and interests. This process also avoids the need for a radical overhaul of an entire collection of things, that we already have and own. It lets our unique signature style evolve over time, in harmony with our considered choices.

The joy of spring can be seen all around us in England as the buds, blossoms and flowers enjoy their time to glow in between the inevitable showers and more recently in England, a welcome sunny dry spell of very warm weather. Most people would consider rediscovering their spring summer clothes, shoes, materials and summer furniture for their house and garden as a happy activity.

Illums Spring 2023 flowers retail display, Copenhagen
Illums Spring 2023 flowers retail display, Copenhagen

Bringing the ‘outside in’ is an easy way of fully embracing spring even if the wind is still chilly outside especially on the coast. Any home-grown bunches of blooms and pretty branches can brighten up a space and instantly lift the spirits. Local markets and garden centres can help with this if your outdoor space is limited or you are living in the city.

Designer printed fabrics are a wonderful way of adding luxury to your life if you can afford it and it is wonderful to support the UK’s textile industry. However, updating your look for the holidays (or a relaxing staycation) needn’t be expensive. Vintage and second-hand shops can be a great place to pick up good quality floral fabrics which can nearly always be easily washed on a hand wash setting in a washing machine.

These jolly decorative material finds can be reinvented easily with some basic sewing patterns available online (see eBay, John Lewis, Hobbycraft or The Eternal Maker) or a quick peak at what simple no sew hacks can be found on YouTube and Pinterest. Easy Dylon machine wash dyes in pastel colours can revive tired embroidered and lace edged tablecloths and linens. If you have the time do try attending a natural dyeing course, which when mastered, gives beautiful soft colours that are most suitable for the laziest and haziest days of June.

Both colourful and neutral themed rooms can be transformed with cheerily clashing flowery pairings on the dining table or outside casual garden seating area, if you are lucky enough to have a green space. Mixing florals, spots and stripes works well if you stick to monochrome, all pastels or all brights.

Design Love pastel home accessories display, Copenhagen
Design Love pastel home accessories display, Copenhagen

It is a good idea to arrange your spring summer wardrobe in colour sections to highlight the various hues at your fingertips and see what tones you have most of. We recommend putting neatly away anything heavy, very woolly, furry and dark and enjoy the lightness of warm weather dressing. Identify any worn out or missing elements such as a summer coat, sandals or lightweight bag and enjoy putting them on your list and pursuing the high street for your chosen treasure.

We need to support our own communities more than ever at this challenging time economically. Shopping locally supports the people where you live and is better for the environment. Charity shopping can be entertaining and a nice way to spend time with a friend or family member locally without running up a store card bill. If you are short of free time, try Etsy for handmade and Ebay or Vinted for second-hand gems. Most large UK based charities have second hand clothing website stores online now. This means finding pieces in the right size is quicker and more convenient as well as the fun of reusing and recycling and the bonus of donating to your favourite charity at the same time.

Ideal Home Show London 2023 open wardobe pink display bedroom
Ideal Home Show London 2023 open wardobe pink display bedroom

June is also the month that many of the big discount Spring/Summer collection sales start both online and in the most well-known companies’ superstores and boutiques in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. So, if you are a little late to bag that expensive wish-list item you meant to order in advance, you may now be able to snag a gorgeous floaty gem or two this week, at a generous knock down price.

Making the most of your space with interior elements that are ready for summer will bring cheer to you and your visitors day. If you can treat yourself to a cool new outfit or two, in light natural fabrics that are ready for both impromptu coast and countryside activities. The Great British Sewing Bee, Chelsea Flower Show and Interior Design Masters on BBC iPlayer are a splendid source of inspiration on creatively mixing up a cocktail of eye-candy embellishments to give your life a visual lift. A little time getting ready for the prettiest time of the year to be shared with friends and family, will help ensure you make the most of the sunny days and light nights of June and you will be ready to easily breeze into the ‘get togethers’ and adventures of July and August too.

First Mix Tape Free Festival Launches Summer on the Solent

On Sunday May 7th Port Solent Marina held its first outdoor music event of the season. Part of the ‘Sounds of Summer’ series the marina organisers invited berth holders and the public to

“Get ready to dance the day away in the sunshine with live music from the very best local artists.” (1)

Several local acts performed tribute band numbers to the delight of all who visited the venue near Portsmouth in Hampshire. From midday a variety pack of singers, guitarists, saxophone players, drummers and other musicians entertained the men, women and children of all ages who gathered to see the upbeat live groups recite many well known and loved tunes.

The sun shone and the restaurants and bars were busy and buzzing and many folks enjoyed a cool drink sitting in deckchairs and outdoor furniture. There were also many standing attendees and lots of people were having the first ‘jig about’ of the year to some of their favourite songs. Some enthusiastic crowd members danced merrily and the atmosphere was fun and celebratory, following the coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla that weekend.

As this show was billed with a  ‘Royal Rythms’ theme most were dressed in red, white and blue and delighted to be amongst the marina community and their guests to toast the special weekend outdoors in the warm weather, which was a stark contrast to the driving rain of the day before for the royal Westminster Abbey church service and military procession.

Portsmouth was one of the cities that marked this special coronation weekend in the country’s constitutional calendar with a royal salute at the Royal Naval dockyard in Old Portsmouth. Thousands of families have military connections in this county and Portsmouth is historically known for being the home of the Royal Navy, in which King Charles III has been serving in one role or another since the 1970’s.

“Upon his mother’s passing in September 2022, all RN vessels became His Majesty’s Ship, while King Charles gained the title of Lord High Admiral, the historic, ceremonial role of titular head of the Royal Navy.”

The highlight of the afternoon was the excellent Elvis tribute band named Craig Jefferson and the Wonder of Elvis band’ who certainly got the party swinging. The King of Rock and Roll appeared in a shining gold jacket and sounded just like the late American legend. The track ‘Viva Las Vegas’ rang out and more than one local sung ‘Viva Gos Vegas’ as the town of Gosport, situated on a peninsular opposite Portsmouth harbour, is situated a few kilometres further south of the harbour estuary, from Port Solent marina.

The ‘Kings of Leon’ and Forever Queen’ ensured that a musical adventure and a good time was had by all. The marina asked that the rock favouring fans attending frequent the numerous bars and restaurants in the marina complex.

The next ‘Mixtape’ musical adventure in on Saturday 24th June from midday at Port Solent and there are more fixtures throughout the summer months. Bands appearing in June at the Bootlegs, Funkline and Ten Dollar Shake.

This commercial health and leisure and hospitality development was adversely affected by the loss of trade following the compulsory government lockdowns for NHS health reasons. Promoting this wonderful harbourside facility is essential to the future of the businesses in the area and livelihoods that depend on the local and tourist trade from visitors. The live mini festival series is just what is needed, in combination with other appealing activities such as regular car meets and craft fairs. Thanks to these talented artists the team at Port Solent can look forward to more successful days and evenings as everybody enjoyed the experience of soaking up the sounds, fine refreshments and good vibes by the water.

(1) ‘Sounds of Summer’ Port Solent website, 15 May 2023 ‘Sounds of Summer’ Port Solent

(2) ‘The King and His Navy’ Royal Navy website, 15 May 2023 ‘The King and His Navy’ Royal Navy

 

Sunset Concert at Windsor Castle is Highlight of Coronation Celebrations

Following the successful coronation church ceremony in Westminster Abbey that incorporated a full military parade to Buckingham Palace on Saturday 6th May, a big concert in Windsor Castle was held to celebrate the crowning of King Charles II and Queen Camilla. It was by great fortune that on Sunday 7th May that the beautiful spring evening was fine and dry, which was a complete contrast to the constant rain that drenched all involved (except the royals in their vintage gilt coaches) at the coronation procession, the previous day.

The British royal family has several castles across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland and they also own a private estate in Wales. Traditionally the Queen Elizabeth II and family chose to be based at Windsor Castle when in London. Therefore, it was fitting that William the Prince of Wales took to a grand stage in front of the famous 11th century fortress and welcomed an audience comprised of his father, the newly crowned King Charles III and his wife Queen Camilla and twenty thousand lucky ticket holders.

The show was a sellout musical extravaganza and featured artists primarily from the UK and all over the western world and also the commonwealth.

The pop stars singing live included Lionel Richie, Paloma Faith, Take That, Olly Murs, Nicole Scherzinger. Andrea Bocelli and Sir Bryn Terfel performed a charming and dramatic classical duet and there was choreography by Oti Mabuse the Latin dance champion.

There was a dazzling selection of metallic and bright costumes on show during the exciting show. Paloma Faith’s performance of ‘Firework’ was breath-taking as she appeared in a golden shining voluminous ballgown fit for a Disney princess. Nicole Scherzinger also looked and sounded amazing, wearing a sapphire velvet and lace asymmetric panel full length dress.

A royal orchestra and military band accompanied the wonderful tuneful acts. Legendary British disc jockey Pete Tong began the celebrations with a signature mix-up of lively tunes. Hugh Bonneville of Downton Abbey fame presented the acts who performed on a Union Jack flag shaped stage, with huge video screens arranged in the form of a crown beaming all the entertainer’s dancing moves clearly, to all who attended.

Songs, rhythms and beats from artists like Tiwa Savage and other Asian, African and Caribbean bands were woven into the variety of cabaret acts which lasted for around two hours. The celebrations were much more international, multi-cultural and ethnically diverse than the church of England service performed in Westminster Abbey the previous day.

A whole range of artists appealed to the audience who was made up of men, women and young people. Steve Winwood is a senior guitarist who entertained the crowd and Lucy Illingwood is an autistic and blind pianist who, at the age of thirteen, moved everyone with her inspiring performance for King Charles III and all his guests.

Royal fans Tom Cruise, Dame Joan Collins, Bear Grylls and Sir Tom Jones appeared by video message to wish the new King and Queen well and mark the occasion in their own styles.

The BBC’s Kirsty Young introduced the televised concert programme which was watched by millions and broadcast on iplayer soon after the event. A sign language version was also provided on BBC iplayer for those hard of hearing. (1) (2)

The Royal College of Art. The Royal Collage of Music, the Royal Opera and Royal Shakespeare Company collaborated with an inspiring and romantic mix of theatre, dance, art and music that delighted the onlookers.

A highlight of the extravaganza was the special version of Simple Minds “Don’t You Forget About Me” which alluded to a message reminding us all of taking care of the planet and all the creatures that live on this earth. This stunning visual spectacle was designed and coordinated by SkyMagic who following the late Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee concert, are now are well known for creating this type of multiple drone coordinated, sky simulated ‘fireworks and more’ experience.

“A total of 10 UK cities welcomed the celestial choreographies, including Blackpool, Sheffield, Newcastle, Edinburgh, and Cardiff, where the country’s dragon symbol spread out 140 meters long across the sky. Other shapes formed were butterflies, bees, a lion, and a tiger.” Explained DroneDJ which is an online magazine specialising in all things drone. (3)

The colourful and technical sky art was set against many well-known tunes from the United Kingdom. The displays pleased the royal family who seemed to be having a great time and also thrilled many concert go-ers who all seemed to sing, wave their flags enthusiastically and thoroughly enjoy the special occasion. A great atmosphere was created in England over the weekend and many people’s spirits were lifted. The impressive coronation ceremony and procession and then the delightful musical concert celebrated all things emotionally positive, community orientated and creative.

This fun, upbeat and fabulous gig reflected King Charles III’s Royal Air Force background and sporting interests and also his musical ability and affinity for the arts. The evening focused on the important message of conserving the environment and also supporting people across the United Kingdom and beyond, to live their best lives. This accessible musical treat cleverly communicated to all generations, the new Kings passion for respecting and caring for nature and our land and seas.

(1) Coronation Party, BBC iplayer, 7th May 2023 Coronation Party, BBC iplayer

(2) Coronation Party with sign language, BBC iplayer, 7th May 2023 Coronation Party with sign language, BBC iplayer

(3) ‘Coronation drone shows light up Windsor Castle and 10 UK cities’ Bruce Crumley, DroneDJ online magazine, 8 May 2023 ‘Coronation drone shows light up Windsor Castle and 10 UK cities’ Bruce Crumley, DroneDJ online magazine, 8 May 2023

Coronation Performed to Royal Perfection Despite Rain on King Charles Parade

After a week of final preparations amid glorious sunshine the heavens opened on Saturday, the long-awaited morning of King Charles III and Queen Camilla’s coronation arrived.

The ceremony of the royal inauguration has not occurred in England for 70 years due to the full life and long reign of Queen Elizabeth II, who died in the first week of September 2022.

Buckingham Palace described how the ceremonies commenced:

“Their Majesties The King and The Queen, escorted by The Sovereign’s Escort of the Household Cavalry, departed Buckingham Palace in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach for Westminster Abbey. The King’s Guard turned out in the Forecourt of Buckingham Palace and gave a Royal Salute as The King, The Queen and other Members of the Royal Family departed Buckingham Palace.” (1)

The royal family were dressed in beautifully embroidered costumes, military uniforms and heavy fur capes so they looked understandably comfortable (riding in the historic coaches) with the wet but not windy weather, for their memorable and constitutionally important national event.

There was a full and formal Church of England service at Westminster Abbey accompanied by a choir and an orchestra. The royal couple received communion and the sparking royal Sovereign Orb and the Sovereign scepter with Cross were ceremoniously given to the King and the incredibly precious old and jeweled St Edward’s Crown was carefully placed on King’s Charles head. The weighty St Edward’s Crown was gently adjusted by The Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Reverend Justin Welby on Charles III’s head. (2)

Queen Camilla wore Queen Mary’s Crown updated especially for the occasion with a diamond from the late Queen Elizabeth II’s collection. The Independent explained that “It will make the Queen Consort the first consort to reuse a crown at a coronation instead of commissioning a new one since the 18th century. The last consort to do the same was Queen Caroline, the consort of King George II, who wore a crown that belonged to Mary of Modena.” (3)

A day full of symbolism such as the weight of power in the heavy crowns and the passing of ceremonial robes and jeweled objects from previous royal generations. The Choir of Westminster Abbey sung ‘Zadoc the Priest’ which was originally commissioned for the coronation of George II in 1727 and was composed by George Frederick Handel. The royal family’s military achievements and responsibilities were conveyed clearly from the wearing of their official uniforms.

The royal couple led the armed forces parade through the capitol to Buckingham Palace and Charles was wearing special velvet and ermine fur robes expertly saved from previous coronations. Charles and Camilla led the procession in the fairy tale antique gilded coach that has carried many new Kings and Queens over the last two centuries. pulled along by eight Windsor grey horses.

“The Army, Navy and RAF came together at the coronation to put on a stirring display designed to confirm their ‘inseparable bond with the sovereign’ that clearly delighted him.” wrote The Times. (4)

Thousands of enthusiastic onlookers waved and cheered as the stunning spectacle processed through the dark wet streets of London. The black, red, white and blue uniforms shining and glowing with their embroidered and gold buttoned pristineness. The horses were a little ruffled by the huge crowd but kept masterly under their rider’s control throughout. This was especially impressive when the horsemen and women were also playing musical instruments. Princess Anne demonstrated her confident horsemanship appearing at the front with the royal couple with her role as the ‘Colonel of the Household Cavalry’ and Gold Stick ‘protector’ of the King and Queen.

Coronation Charles III procession with horses, on big screen outside Chichester cathedral, West Sussex
Coronation Charles III procession with horses, on big screen outside Chichester cathedral, West Sussex

Millions watched the excellent coronation coverage which was broadcast by every channel in the UK apart from channel 4. Across the country large screens transmitted the coronation ceremony in real time to citizens of all ages who enjoyed sharing the historic scene with their families. Umbrellas, wellington boots and mackintosh coats were worn everywhere in city centers. Residents throughout the United Kingdom ventured out in the pouring rain to congregate outside and witness the formal church service.  Together, some waving or wearing union jack flags they watched the crowning service and the royal military procession on big screens outside on their local cathedral greens and town hall plazas.

At the moment of the coronation military gun salutes rang out across the nation in Hillsborough, Cardiff and Edinburgh castles and from Portsmouth Royal dockyard. In addition, in London “The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, positioned on Horse Guards Parade fired a six-gun salvo” stated the Forces.net website. (5) (6)

Not all citizens were amused by the coronation

Not everyone in the UK supports the future of the monarchy and some would rather see England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland become a Republic. More than fifty protesters were arrested and a large group gathered in Trafalgar Square holding banners reading “Not My King”. (7) There are BBC reports that metropolitan police force were taking no chances with disruption to the event (after recent horse races have been disrupted by animal rights protesters) and it seems that some protest organisers may have been arrested before the day of the coronation as a preventative measure.

King Charles III Coronation was a security success

An overall successful day for the Metropolitan Police Service and the capitol’s security services who have had the enormous task of keeping the royal family, many international dignitaries and the general public safe during the largest military parade for decades. Amid anti-royalist demonstrations and with the backdrop of a tumultuous time with the United Kingdom involved in supporting Ukraine in a war on European territory, the police and the military have demonstrated their strength and close cooperation. The combined police forces were able to keep the peace and King Charles III’s coronation was completed without any significant hitches and will be remembered as a triumph.

Visible high security surrounds Charles II coronation, Chichester cathedral, West Sussex
Visible high security surrounds Charles II coronation, Chichester cathedral, West Sussex

Coronation an opportunity to understand the ecological vision of King Charles III

King Charles III has devoted his life to service to his country and also his interest in nature and ecology. This keenness to respect the environment is reflected in the coronation in details like the embroidered applique ‘tree of life’ portable hanging screens used in the service in Westminster Abbey and The Princess of Wales and her daughter’s floral headpieces by Jess Collett and Alexander McQueen. The live musical celebration party at Windsor Palace on Sunday night also reflected the opportunity to engage people about respecting nature and conservation.

His Royal Highness waited seventy years to sit on the throne and the new King Charles III may not be instantly relatable to the younger generation who have inherited from previous generations a worrying environmental future, who are dealing with the cost-of-living crisis, a housing shortage and the other challenges of living in Great Britain, Scotland and Northern Ireland post Brexit and during and after the disruption of national lockdowns. The vast wealth and land belonging to the Crown which includes more than ten palaces means that the Windsor’s lifestyle is not a way of life that most ordinary young people resonate with.

King Charles III has flown helicopters and aircraft and he is a musician and an artist who can communicate in several languages. Charles III wants to change the world with his views on ecology and looking after the environment, which may inspire many more young people yet, who share his ‘green’ objectives.

The Princes Trust which was founded by the then Prince of Wales in 1976 has helped thousands of young and disadvantaged folk lead productive and better lives. It would be wise to consider the ‘working royals’ a force for good and appreciate the positivity and income the royal family bring to our society. (8)

It is likely the royal family will need to continue to focus on efficiency and ‘quality not quantity’ in order to keep taxpayers happy to contribute to the continuation of supporting the working royals, who also do much as global ambassadors for the UK in terms of encouraging investment in Great Britain and the tourism economy. With a world that needs people who can inspire peace, reduce poverty and understand how to deliver big environmental change fast, having King Charles as a key leader in our country could be a fortunate privilege.

Sussex Residents watch Charles III coronation on big screen as they shelter from rain under Chichester cathedral large trees
Sussex Residents watch Charles III coronation on big screen as they shelter from rain under Chichester cathedral large trees

The Church and State – royal family supports stability in the UK

This traditional occasion repeats the coronation of many powerful monarchs throughout British history and establishes King Charles III as leader of the Church of England and also head of the army, navy, air force and all the military services. Although there was a nod to other religions by inviting and involving leaders and artists from other faiths, this weekend’s formal business was very much a Church of England experience. Much of the United Kingdom’s population is secular and this non-religious aspect is shown through the variety performances of the musicians and artists as part of the colourful and diverse festivities, after the crowning was completed.

The constancy of the ecclesiastical ceremony and the traditional rituals that surround royal life reflect the enduring and long-lasting nature of the British royal family. The system is deliberately designed to provide stability to the whole of the United Kingdom and the commonwealth countries it supports to continue the establishment of a stable and dependable economy and society.

The value of this historic organization which consists of several paid members of the royal family whose role is to encourage and support others was highlighted again during the Autumn of 2022. The death of the longest reigning monarch Queen Elizabeth II and the simultaneously unexpected and dramatic ‘revolving door’ of conservative Prime Ministers at number 10 during in the same week in September 2022, was dramatic but it did not rock the nation irretrievably.

Nobody was physically hurt as political power swung about somewhat uncontrollably for a couple of weeks. This stabilizing force was thanks to the ritual of a tried and tested ceremonial protocol and the balance and ballast that the royal family (supported by the military, civil service and other public services) give to the constitutional leadership of the political government in Westminster.

Long live King Charles III and may his and Queen Camilla’s influence can be a positive impact for our country and relationships with our international neighbours. We hope the new King’s experience and knowledge can inspire the royal family and our nation to evolve and pursue more peace and harmony with nature and the world we live in.

(1) The Procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace website, 8 May 2023 The Procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace

(2) ‘King Charles Coronation Attire Explained’ Isiah Magsino, Town and Country online magazine, May 6 2023 ‘King Charles Coronation Attire Explained’ Isiah Magsino, Town and Country

(3) ‘Camilla’s crown won’t feature controversial Koh-i-noor diamond at King Charles coronation’ Kate Ng Lifestyle section, The Independent, 6 May 2023 ‘Camilla’s crown won’t feature controversial Koh-i-noor diamond at King Charles coronation’ Kate Ng, The Independent

(4) ‘Thousands of bearskin hats rose in unison – the ultimate military salute’ Tim Shipman, The Times, 6 May 2023 ‘Thousands of bearskin hats rose in unison – the ultimate military salute’ Tim Shipman, The Times

(5) ‘Celebratory military gun salutes ring out across UK as King is crowned’ Julian Perreira, Forces.net, 6 May 2023 ‘Celebratory military gun salutes ring out across UK as King is crowned’ Julian Perreira, Forces.net

(6) King Charles III coronation day– Gun salute, Kings Harbour Master, Portsmouth, Royal Navy website, 6 May 2023 King Charles III coronation day– Gun salute, Kings Harbour Master, Portsmouth, Royal Navy

(7) ‘Police arrest 52 including republicans during King Charles’ coronation’ Andrew Macaskill, Reuters, May 6 2023 ‘Police arrest 52 including republicans during King Charles’ coronation’ Andrew Macaskill, Reuters

(8) ‘Our History’ Prince’s Trust, official website, 8 May 2023 ‘Our History’ Prince’s Trust

 

Fans Out of Order – Can We Wave Goodbye to Anti-Social Behaviour on the Railways?

English football and fans behavior – the big picture

Football is the most popular sport and leisure pastime and has been so for decades. (1) There are football clubs in most towns and cities in the UK and more than 11 million people play the game in England. (2) Football clubs help invest and develop local communities and promote keeping active and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

It is a common occurrence for regular rail travelers of all ages to bump into numerous colourfully dressed fans, all making their way to their match of the day together. Meeting football match attendees on public transport is especially likely all over the UK, if venturing out near to the home of the most popular clubs and stadiums, such as Wembley in north west London. Most people who head off to support their favorite teams are friendly and positive and are enjoying a fine day out appropriately.

Some English football clubs have millions of members, who often pay ticket prices of between 30 pounds for ordinary English club matches and often 100 to 300 pounds or more for the final games of a Premier league championship. Sports stadiums regularly seat an audience of around 30,000 attendees. (3)

Frequently clans of football enthusiasts from a specific region travel together to play ‘away’ at a different field in the UK. This may mean that in addition to their stadium seat tickets, fans are buying expensive return rail tickets of up to 100 pounds or more and spending a few hours each way traversing the country, to watch their chosen players win or lose their game.

This journey to the event location and back, then becomes a significant part of the day out for the mostly men and sometimes also women and children. They all want to return home celebrating their club’s success over the sporting opposition.

It is not unusual to see and hear fans congregating and traveling in a crowd together, often singing their favourite team’s songs, mostly in a high-spirited fashion. Both historically and today, rail operators work with football organisations to arrange extra services to accommodate hundreds of these keen sporting people planning to arrive at the same time, to get to their cross-country destinations conveniently. (4)

The problem of unruly fans on the rails: in the past and today

Since Roman times began, some gentlemen, adolescents and occasionally women are susceptible to forgetting their usual manners, as they become carried away by the adrenaline created by the unpredictable outcome of an important competitive event.

More recently in 1985, after a particularly nasty series of incidents involving English football hooliganism internationally, the football league in England banned drinking at matches.

Since the pandemic, generally public transport passengers in the UK have become more considerate and kinder to each other. Everyone in the UK experienced the same sort of social distancing and government restrictions together. However, some soccer fans still spoil it for the rest, by being inconsiderate and bad mouthed, behaving in a way that gained British fans a really negative international reputation in the ‘bad old days’ of the 1970’s and 1980’s.

This anti-social problem is not isolated to London, Sussex, Hampshire and the south east of England. It is not just Brighton or Arsenal fans (for example below) that can be rowdy, as the recent national newspaper and government reports show.

In the past decade or two, more than once, myself and my friends have had the unfortunate experience of being in the same place as a wave of hollering Arsenal fans racing to their game like a blue army on their way to battle. Although the individual fans for the most part are just exuberantly and energetically strolling and chanting along, the experience all together in dozens for the unsuspecting passerby is unpredictable, unsettling and memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Mostly (but not always) men of all ages joke and call out loudly to each other, as they jostle along merrily, sometimes but not always being sensitive to the space other public space users need. It seems that when several club members get together for an exciting match day, they forget to demonstrate the usual courteous manors and civilized behavior that nearly all British residents and overseas visitors are happy to observe at all other times, whilst walking down our streets and traveling on the rail network.

Every year there are thousands of polite and considerate football spectators are using the rail service. Often parents are setting a great example of sportsmanship to their children during a special day out. However, there are ‘packs’ of more rebellious supporters can easily ‘get carried away’ and ruin an otherwise pleasant journey for others.

These other people in the same carriage can include commuters, young families, women, young people, people traveling alone, those who don’t speak English well, retired folk and more vulnerable people and also those with special needs. Many disabled and more vulnerable citizens already find traveling on public transport very challenging indeed and they don’t need any extra hassle on their journeys.

Intimidating Behavior at Gatwick

Earlier this spring, on a cool Saturday late afternoon at Gatwick airport rail station, at least a dozen male fans exchanged heated words with community police officers and railway staff, who were trying to keep the peace. This rail security team were becoming increasingly high tempered themselves. Officers were attempting to make sure members of the public were not upset or harmed by the inappropriate and unruly football fans. The shouting and simultaneous bouncing about that the pack of Brighton supporters were performing, was along the edge of one of the busy airport rail station platforms, that is used by millions of people of all ages and physical abilities, every year.

After some minutes had passed a couple of the officers had to shout and threaten the rather unruly jostling pack of mainly male supporters with serious consequences if they did not behave. A transport police caution for ‘breach of the peace’ could have possibly been on the cards, as the supporters were making it difficult for local and international travelers, that were not interested in the match, to stand on the platform and wait for their train peacefully and safely. (5)

There were several minutes of an aggressive testosterone fueled atmosphere which was punctuated with shouts and masculine jumping about and singing out at the top of their voices. The overexcited football followers felt free to let off their internal steam, probably built up over several days, in their stressful modern lives.

Women on the concourse at Gatwick were looking worried about getting onto the Brighton train with these supporters and were being reassured by the security wardens. Some female passengers making their journeys on their own might have felt intimidated and nervous about getting on their connecting train arriving at Gatwick. This is because there would not necessarily be any staff overseeing the orderly behavior of all the passengers in their train carriage. “Don’t worry” said the community officer reassuringly to the ladies trying to share the platform with the wild crew traveling south west “they will be fine when they settle down on their train to Brighton”.

Fortunately for myself, as an individual female traveling through the Sussex airport rail station on that occasion, after an event in London, I was not going towards Brighton by train that day. I was very relieved when the supporters departed in their carriages, going in the other direction.

The luminous tabards and black uniforms of half a dozen burly officials is not what rail users would expect on a normal spring weekend teatime ordinarily. The whole scene was loud, confusing and unnerving for normal folk quietly trying to get on with their day.

Inconvenient public facilities prioritise queuing fans

The process of managing high numbers of football fans and their journeys can be disruptive to other passengers’ journeys if perhaps, inadvertently.

At Brighton station train operations managers keen to ‘divide and conquer’ the sporty ‘beautiful game’ followers design a separate route from the rest of their customers. This spring the south coast railway personnel carefully set up a massive cordoned off zone made of metal barriers in advance of a match. The temporary lanes were arranged to separate and guide the boisterous revelers to the right platforms for their journeys.

Consequentially, on the 19th of March the female members of the public who wished to use the women’s toilet facilities had to exit onto the station concourse through the ticket barriers, then leave the station through the grand main entrance and walk around the outside to re-enter the early Victorian station a different way and then pass through a gap in the barrier channeled side entrance, which all took several minutes to navigate unexpectedly.

This is an example of good intentions by railway managers to manage football fans that had a detrimental effect on the journeys of other rail users.

Why is anti-social behavior still occurring on the railways?

To some degree the ‘high jinks and over excited behavior is tolerated from other rail users and railway staff who seem ‘used’ to this often alcohol infused rowdiness. We know from the latest brain development studies that the ‘upstairs brain’ is not fully formed until around the age of 25. Even taking into consideration the understandably immature behavior of adolescent young people, it is still surprising that some grown adults that think it is acceptable to create such an unpleasant and abrasive scene. This is a rare occurrence but it is not uncommon. (6)

However, enjoying alcoholic beverages is still possible when traveling by rail in south east England. It is perhaps a significant factor that boisterous antics and loud chanting can be observed when in the vicinity of football match goers. Some fans get ready to make the most of an event in the same way that many people enjoy a few drinks at home before a big night out on the town, even if that means an alcoholic liquid breakfast. Alcohol affects the brain and can make drinkers behave in an out of character, sometimes irrational way and often with a lack of physical coordination.

In 2015 Paul Crowther Chief Constable of the English Rail Transport Police held a summit to discuss strategies for eliminating the problem of ‘hooligans’ who, according to the Evening Standard, were terrorising train passengers and Crowther talked about addressing the “casual thuggery” (7) Nearly a decade later this issue is still continuing to adversely affect non-football match attending citizens days out by rail.

In 2016 retired Law Enforcement Officer and Chief Superintendent Michael Layton QPM literally wrote the book about the ‘bad old days’ of football hooliganism in the UK and compiled a social history of the unfortunate legacy of those who misbehave on the way to the game, from the viewpoint of transport police officers who devoted their careers to bravely keeping law and order on the railways. (8)

In April 2022 the Daily Mail reported how a Portsmouth football club fan riled up by a mob of 20 supporters head butted and knocked out a rival Southampton fan, who was also on Basingstoke station in Hampshire but traveling individually. The violent young man was prosecuted and given a 6-month electronic curfew and a 14-month suspended sentence by the judge who was advised by the defense that the accused had been high on ‘tribalism’ drink and drugs, at the time of the shockingly awful incident. (9)

Also, at the beginning of April 2022 The Express reported that passengers were informed by their onboard train manager that their train was going back to the departure station Wolverhampton as there were “football fans on the track” A man was then arrested after unnecessary Saturday night violence broke out between rival clubs Wolves and Aston Villa and consequently train services across the region were disrupted. (10)

Online newspaper The Daily Record described how on the 12th March 2023 in Scotland a large group of “Feuding football fans were caught on camera in a vicious brawl outside a train station after Hearts faced off against Celtic at Tynecastle on Saturday afternoon.” Reporter Jacob Farr describes how “police officers can be seen in the midst of the brawl.” trying to restore some calm and peace. (11)

Annual UK government figures released in September 2022 show that there were 2198 football related arrests across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland plus an additional 140 ‘Schedule 1’ football-related arrests by British Transport Police (BTP) during the 2021 to 2022 season. (12)

2198 arrests is within 10 per cent of the figures recorded in the 2011 to 2012 season. This data shows that despite the pandemic and all the investment in peaceful football match attendance basically nothing has changed in a decade. This is despite an encouraging downward trend after 2011 where it looked like annual arrests were significantly declining year on year. (13)

More personal accountability and effective management is needed

With millions of passengers travelling by rail every year it is inevitable that there are sometimes incidents and unpleasant behavior that may offend others, at times. Football clubs and rail operators need to work together to ensure that fans can travel happily and efficiently to their destination in time for their match and that they are not able to get drunk and disorderly during their clubs’ games. At the same time rail operators and football club managers need to take action and create better systems to ensure that ordinary commuters are not intimidated or inconvenienced should their paths cross with the football supporters enroute, before or after a football game.

It is also a priority to make sure that the rail services ferrying the fans are managed correctly to make sure both journeys and the facilities all customers expect are safe, calm and pleasant for all passengers of all ages. The strategy of maximizing profits and increasing technology and reducing the actual physical members of staff (for example electronic ticket offices) does nothing to make those who are more likely to be picked on by over exhilarated or inebriated ruffians, feel safer on the railways.

There is already CCTV on stations and platforms and most trains and perhaps there is an argument that this needs to be extended to all train carriages to record any deter any impolite or upsetting incidents. However, unidentified video footage doesn’t seem to deter fans high on adrenaline and beer from misbehaving in the first place.

An identity checked personal seat booking service like when traveling with an airline may be one way to ensure more personally accountable good behavior on match days, all across the network.  Voluntary and paid ‘supervisors’ could be required to travel with fans on specific services related to a match day fixture that is selected by managers in advance.

Similarly, those attending football matches could be required to submit more contact and identity information when purchasing a ticket to enable transport security staff to track anyone causing any trouble on their travel to or from their game. People who are unable to travel to a football match and back without causing offense to other travelers should not be sold tickets or a set period of time, which would also deter those considering ‘jumping on the bandwagon’ and joining in with any inappropriate behavior whilst using the rail network.

(1) ‘Which Sports Do Brits Love the Most?’ Anna Fleck, Statista website, 5 Sep 2022 ‘Which Sports Do Brits Love the Most?’ Anna Fleck, Statista

(2) ‘Over 11 million people can’t be wrong’ Football Association, 11 June 2015 ‘Over 11 million people can’t be wrong’ Football Association

(3) ‘English Premier League Tickets’ SeatPick.com ticket sales website, 18 April 2023 ‘English Premier League Tickets’ SeatPick.com ticket sales website

(4) ‘Off the rails ~ The broken relationship between football fans and train travel’ Tom Hocking, When Saturday Comes, The Half Decent Football Magazine, June 2013 ‘Off the rails The broken relationship between football fans and train travel’ Tom Hocking, When Saturday Comes, The Half Decent Football Magazine

(5) ‘Breach of the Peace’ Green and Black Cross, legal support website, 18 April 2023 ‘Breach of the Peace’ Green and Black Cross, legal support website

(6) ‘Is 25 the new cut off point for adulthood?’ BBC News 13 September 2013 ‘Is 25 the new cut off point for adulthood?’ BBC News

(7) ‘Football hooligans are terrorising train passengers every week says British Transport chief’ Evening Standard, Alexandra Rucki, 17 April 2015 ‘Football hooligans are terrorising train passengers every week says British Transport chief’ Evening Standard, Alexandra Rucki

(8) Tracking the Hooligans: The History of Football Violence on the UK Rail Network’ Michael Layton and Alan Pacey’ Amazon Books 15 Jan 2016 ‘Tracking the Hooligans: The History of Football Violence on the UK Rail Network’ Michael Layton and Alan Pacey’ Amazon Books

LinkedIn review ‘Tracking the Hooligans: The History of Football Violence on the UK Rail Network’ Michael Layton and Alan Pacey’ LinkedIn review ‘Tracking the Hooligans: The History of Football Violence on the UK Rail Network’ Michael Layton and Alan Pacey’

(9) ‘Cocaine-fuelled football thug, 21, who head-butted rival fan and knocked him unconscious at train station in ‘unprovoked piece of mob violence’ is spared jail’ Jacob Thornburn, Daily Mail, 1 April 2022 ‘Cocaine-fuelled football thug, 21, who head-butted rival fan and knocked him unconscious at train station in ‘unprovoked piece of mob violence’ is spared jail’ Jacob Thornburn, Daily Mail

(10) Man arrested after football-related violence causes train chaos in Wolverhampton’ Adam Smith, Crime, Express, 4 April 2022 ‘Man arrested after football-related violence causes train chaos in Wolverhampton’ Adam Smith, Crime, Express

(11) ‘Feuding football fans brawl outside Scots train station after cup match’ Jacob Farr and Kaitlin Easton, Daily Record, 12 March 2023 ‘Feuding football fans brawl outside Scots train station after cup match’ Jacob Farr and Kaitlin Easton, Daily Record

(12) ‘Football-related arrests and banning orders, England and Wales: 2021 to 2022 season’ Gov.UK, 22 September 2022 ‘Football-related arrests and banning orders, England and Wales: 2021 to 2022 season’ Gov.UK

(13) ‘Drinking in seats at football grounds could be reinstated as part of a fan-led review into the game’ Sky Sports Football, Friday 24 September 2021 (13) ‘Drinking in seats at football grounds could be reinstated as part of a fan-led review into the game’ Sky Sports Football

(14) ‘The booze ban on train beware what happens next’ Mark Smith, The Herald, 10 March 2023 ‘The booze ban on train beware what happens next’ Mark Smith, The Herald

(15) ‘Bringing alcohol onboard’ West Midlands Railway website, 22 April 2023 ‘Bringing alcohol onboard’ West Midlands Railway website

Danish Traffic Nearly Jams as Transformative Light Rail Approaches Completion

The Greater Copenhagen Light Rail project is well underway. It will transform Denmark’s main city and the surrounding areas into an easy to use, reasonably priced convenient public transport system that is ‘eco-friendly’ and importantly, also ready for the urban growth that is expected in the very near future.

Transportation has been carefully planned in the Danish capitol and surrounding areas and is serviced with a radial shaped network of ‘S’ train stations which connect the suburbs with Copenhagen city center. This is in addition to a central Metro system enabling Copenhagen locals, workers and visitors to travel conveniently around the capitol without the need for parking.

“In 2025 the Greater Copenhagen Light Rail will run every five minutes in each direction during daytime hours, and every ten minutes in the evenings and at weekends.” states Ringby-Letbanesamarbejdet (Ring City-Light Rail Cooperation) who are the company commissioned to oversee the construction project which is commissioned through a partnership between the central Danish government and eleven councils in the Copenhagen region. (2)

The Greater Copenhagen Light Rail is “expected to have 13-14 million passengers per annum.” (2) Once completed in 2025 the Greater Copenhagen Light Rail will have 29 stations that connect with six of the existing ‘S’ stations to expand the transport system. This design will offer a more convenient alternative to the bus routes that are currently connecting to the existing stations on the ‘radial line from the city center’ train system.

The Light Rail runs alongside the R3 motorway which will be very convenient when it is completed. In the meantime, there is a lot of traffic and many ‘road works’ along the sections where the construction teams are working hard with their heavy machinery and construction materials.

Investing in the infrastructure in the capitol city area, where the most Danes live and work is an ongoing goal for the Danish government. In 2019 a ‘CityRing’ Metro project was completed to expand the existing Copenhagen metro public transport system. Adding 15.5 km to the network, this construction project brought the total distance of the metro system to 43 km and now features more that 40 stations. “The Metro Circle Line route takes 24 minutes.” explains online magazine Railway Technology (1)

Creating more environmentally friendly ways for Danish citizens and international visitors to travel for work and leisure around Copenhagen is a priority for leaders in Denmark. Making it easier to live in the Copenhagen area is good for both productivity and also the residents work life balance. Another plus is that the improvements to the infrastructure network increases opportunities for people of all ages, to access the excellent education, health and leisure facilities in the vicinity of Copenhagen

Copenhagen Light Railway Diggers on Route - photo A Howse
Copenhagen Light Railway works – diggers in front of office building – photo A Howse

.

(1) ‘Cityringen Metro, Copenhagen, Denmark’ Railway Technology, 11 April 2023 Cityringen Metro, Copenhagen, Denmark Railway Technology

(2) Hovedstadens Letbane, Danish Construction Company website, 11 April 2023 Hovedstadens Letbane, Danish Construction Company

(3) Ring 3 Light Rail Copenhagen, Railway Technology website, 11 April 2023 Ring 3 Light Rail Copenhagen, Railway Technology

(4) Greater Copenhagen Light Rail, Wikepedia website, 11 April 2023 Greater Copenhagen Light Rail, Wikepedia

 

Last Day for London’s Inspiring and Entertaining Ideal Home Show 2023

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Today is the last chance to see London’s inspirational Ideal Home Show in 2023. The main website describes the event as follows:

“From inspiring ideas, to innovative products and on-trend solutions for your home, the Ideal Home Show brings together full scale show homes, over 600 brands, tonnes of free talks, the latest technology and fresh ideas from a team of celebrity guests and experts. The show also offers health and wellbeing advice, an opportunity to be pampered, and places to enjoy some great food and drinks, all in the price of your ticket.” (1)

After a wet month full of mostly depressing news in England, the Ideal Home Show was a wonderfully uplifting tonic for all the senses. Despite the ongoing transport strikes thousands flocked to Kensington Olympia, London, W14 0NE already, to once again experience the delights of this quintessentially English celebration of all things home and garden.

The organisers arranged for ‘meet and greet’ team members to cheerily welcome visitors and make sure that they were heartily thanked and wished farewell as they left the historic exhibition venue.

The voluminous vintage hall accommodates over a hundred exhibitors that include companies and charities and designer names ranging from unknown start ups to household brands. The Ideal Home Show showcases the latest products and ranges for a wide variety of businesses that serve the home furnishings and outdoor environments markets.

This event is a good way to get a overall impression of what is new in residential interior design and also trends for garden living and the outdoor market related products and services. The Ideal Home Show is zoned into sections with likeminded exhibitors grouped together for clarity.

The Home Renovation Zone

This area creates lots of energy and impact as you arrive at the show and we were lucky enough to be able to smile at Greg Wallace of BBC cooking Masterchef and Inside the Factory program fame, who was having fun entertaining guests in his upscale and suitably named Greg Wallace Restaurant.

This variety pack of exhibitors included gorgeous kitchen companies, fabulous fixtures and fittings firms and a champagne bar.

Great Escape House at Ideal Home Show, Olympia, London
Great Escape House at Ideal Home Show, Olympia, London

‘The Great Escape’ is a custom built holiday home constructed especially for the show with all the latest in outdoor living chic and packed with examples of environmentally friendly interior design.

“The Great Escape has been designed and built by Mockba Modular utilising Metsec Framing Systems, showcasing just what you can achieve with amazing design for under £100,000. Inspired by the Grand Designs container home, it is reimagined for modular construction utilising 3D design and leading manufacturing technology (cold rolled steel design) to bring the structural vision to life.” (3)

Marketed as a “perfect retreat for a romantic getaway and to recharge your batteries, giving owners a very affordable option to achieve that dream second home.” This home would also be a dream come true for many Millennials saving up to get onto the housing ladder.​

The Interiors Zone

The central feature of the ‘show village’ this year is a complete new house that visitors can walk around called ‘the Money Making Home’. The three bedroomed mini town house incorporates many different rooms to make it easy for family and also visitors to independently relax and easily pursue their favourite activities. A social first floor decked patio space stylishly hosts casual get-togethers and summer dinners. We guessed the sometimes surprisingly eclectic mix of interior designs was an intentional decision to delight show attendees, with a whole host of fresh choices for decorating a brand-new villa.

The Money Making Home, Ideal Home Show, Olympia, London
The Money Making Home, Ideal Home Show, Olympia, London

Given the Ideal Home Show’s origins of socially enterprising aims, it is a reflection on British society that this desirable example of a perfect home needs an extra income generating additional wing, that can accommodate the most discerning AirBnB travelers, rather than an extra lodger who works locally.

Retro Arts and Crafts Bedroom, The Money Making Home, Ideal Home Show
Retro Arts and Crafts Bedroom, The Money Making Home, Ideal Home Show

This year on display through the ground floor hall was everything from beautifully screen printed wall artwork in fashion forward colours, to the latest technologically advanced toilets. Amongst the designer collections of furniture with reassuringly familiar names such as Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen’s London market inspired rich velvet Portobello and Columbia sofas.

There are many free talks and workshops held throughout the event with experts from magazines such as ‘Good Homes’ and even an ‘Expert Advice Hub’ where budding property developers can gain book appointments to gain useful information from knowledgeable professionals and therefore avoid any ‘costly pitfalls’ or regulatory building indiscretions.   A dedicated ‘Smart Home’ area shows the general public the latest in ‘hometech’ with ideas for enhancing the home and garden with discreet systems for controlling devices, appliances, heating and cooling, audio and entertainment equipment and much more.

Blue living room interior design, Ideal Home Show, Olympia, London
Blue living room interior design, Ideal Home Show, Olympia, London

The Gardens Zone

The garden section is more important than ever and several of the featured interiors built specially for the show demonstrated to potential customers how to effectively ‘bring the outdoors into the home’ in interesting and contemporary ways.

There were several companies selling exterior structures made out of wood and powder coated steel that maximise the enjoyment of outdoor space, whilst also controlling the changeable English weather with louvres, screens and blinds which can be activated at the press of a button.

One of the great things about this exhibition is that it provides an opportunity for small and medium sized British businesses to highlight their wares and promote their personal customer service. Dec from Nationwide which sells construction elements for the home and outdoors explained how the Ideal Home Show was an essential part of the marketing calendar for Nationwide whose showrooms and headquarters are based in Wareham in Dorset. Nationwide and several other attending supplies at the event were offering visitors special show discounts making the Ideal Home Show a great place to visit if home owners are in the market for home improvements this spring.

Beautifully crafted garden displays showed how with a strong theme and some imagination even a modest amount of space in the Olympia centre can be transformed into inviting outdoor areas for entertaining and relaxing with friends and family. Pretty patios and outdoor dining zones to suit new and old houses brightened the mood around the primary hued carpeted floors bustling with couples, day trippers and families.

The Eat and Drink Festival

At the Ideal Home Show this year the party is definitely happening in the upstairs kitchen or ‘Food and Drink Festival’. Beautiful music can be heard from a female singer’s ‘popular musicals style’ songs and she prettily charms the crowds. The public are having a ball discovering delicious foods and drinks from all around the world in one venue. Lots of exhibitors cook up all sorts of delicacies and everything from a special snack to a full blown lunch is available to be enjoyed, in one of the many picnic bench style seating areas or café themed eating places.

Even gluten free cakes can be purchased and teamed with many different types of exotic, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. A life sized ‘Rovers Return Inn’, a stage with day-time TV presenters wine tasting live and even a ‘King’s Coronation Cake Challenge’ added to the lively and noisy atmosphere and amused the mainly British diners who all seemed to be having a very jolly rainy day out.

On the first floor The Health & WellBeing Zone, The Home Accessories Zone and The Spring Clean Zone also present tips and tricks for spring cleaning and choosing the best in products for the home. The latest beauty and personal care products (such as massage chairs) are demonstrated and sampled. The exhibitors give visitors their latest solutions for how to feel fantastic and live your best life, so you and your family can make the most of creating your home retreat.

History of the Ideal Home Show

In 1908 the owner of the Daily Mail newspaper Lord Northcliffe started the annual exhibition “in the spirit of social reform, to stimulate debate about better housing conditions” (1)

Although English residents in 1908 would be amazed at the progress of modern living standards for the majority of the population in the British Isles we have a long way to go to achieve affordable good quality housing for all in this country. It is thought provoking that over a century later from the first Ideal Home Show the UK still has building more social housing and improving existing housing conditions as one of the primary objectives on the priority agenda, for all the political parties.

Bedroom interior design, Ideal Home Show
Bedroom interior design, Ideal Home Show

Ideal Home Show Launches Spring Living in Style

“I had such a great time with my friend at the show and we enjoyed splurging on beauty, make-up and home massage equipment.” declares one women who visited the show for the first time.

“I had a lovely day and enjoyed seeing all the different designs and show houses. I was particularly interested to receive valuable information from an expert about various aspects of converting my home into a property that is suitable for holiday visitors to create an extra retirement income.” explained another lady and keen interior designer.

From the enthusiastic men and women of all ages trying out the vibrating fitness boards to the queues of people making new friends and chatting as they eagerly waited to take the show homes tours, this event can definitely be considered a success. Nobody would guess that the UK has narrowly avoided a recession this week and that property prices are down by 3 per cent for the first time in decades from the vibe at the Ideal Home Show.

Putting together a show on this scale is always a major feat of teamwork and a massive financial gamble. The boldness and energy that the entrepreneurs and event managers have brought to the monumental Olympia exhibition centre this month reminds us all that the home is still the much loved English countryman and woman’s castle. The upbeat positivity and determination to overcome whatever external crisis may hit the economy is part of what makes this ‘nation of shopkeepers’ and small business owners enduringly great.

(1) ‘A bit about the Ideal Home Show’ Ideal Home Show website, 2 April 2023 ‘A bit about the Ideal Home Show’ Ideal Home Show

(2) ‘Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition: records, 1910-1990’ Records Department, Victoria and Albert Museum website, September 1990 Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition: records, 1910-1990’ VAM

(3) ‘The Show Village’ Ideal Home Show website, 2 April 2023 (3) ‘The Show Village’ Ideal Home Show website 2 April 2023

(4) Nationwide Home Innovations, Wareham, Dorset, 2 April 2023 Nationwide Home Innovations

Schneider Trophy and Beyond : See Aviation Treasures in ‘Flight’ at Science Museum for Free

The Schneider Trophy

The full title of the impressive Shneider Trophy is Coupe d’Aviation Maritime Jacques Schneider. Shneider was a French financier, balloon pilot and aviation enthusiast.

The large cup is formed of a silver and bronze sculpture set on a deep marble base and is currently on display on the 4th floor of the Science Museum, South Kensington, London, SW7 2DD. The sculpture depicts skimming zephyrs (flying nymphs) riding across a sea full of waves where Neptune and other coastal creatures can be found alongside, also conquering the water and air elements.

The Story of the Shneider Trophy

Since Jacques Shneider originally announced the Shneider Trophy in December 1912 it has been awarded to winning pilots of a race that was held annually and in more recent times bi-annually. The first race was help in Monaco on 16th April 1913 and the original race award for the fastest pilot was around £1000. The aircraft that were included in the prestigious race included bi-planes and sea planes, which were popular in the early part of the 20th century.

The 150 mile or more race was a triangular shape and pilots would take off at 15 minute intervals with their speed over the distances recorded carefully by race managers, in the style of a time trial. This encouraged innovation and progress in the development of aircraft design, as engineers competed to produce the fastest aircraft in their type and weight class.

It was agreed that if an individual aero club won three races in five years they would keep the trophy indefinitely and the winner of each of the three races would receive 75,000 francs. Between 1913 and 1931 Great Britain, France, Monaco, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and the United States all competed for the coveted prize. The race was hosted each year by the previous years winning country and over the years many thousands of onlookers attended Shneider Trophy events in Britain, Italy, Monaco and the United States. An excellent detailed table can be found on Wikipedia that denotes the race participants, individual aircraft and host countries.

There was a gap after 1931 and then in 1981 it was decided a special bi-centenary Shneider Trophy race would be held to relaunch the international aviation competition. Arranged by the Royal Aero Club and supported by a sponsoring computer company Digital Equipment Association (DEC) the annual races were supported by wealthy and royal attendees as well as being featured on a few television programs.

The Shneider Trophy at the British Race, Records and Rally Race Association Today

In combination with the Kings Cup, the Shneider Trophy race is still held annually whenever possible by the Royal Aero Club of Great Britain and often welcomes entries from other clubs in Europe. The pilot who most recently won the Shneider Trophy is British based Ian Harding in his Vans RV-7. To find out more information about getting involved in general aviation and visiting one of the air races in person as a spectator, or joining the club as a racer, visit the Royal Aero Club website and Facebook page.

See the Schneider Trophy at the Science Museum

Over a hundred years later the Schneider Trophy is still inspiring aviators to advance the speed and ability of their aircraft by entering this historic race. The Science Museum has designed a fascinating and wonderful permanent exhibition that follows the story of aviation since its beginnings in the early 1900’s and through to modern day jet aircraft and even a Red Arrows simulator. The Schneider Trophy has a cabinet with glass sides dedicated to perfectly displaying the fabulous and unusual art nouveau sculpture. The Science Museum is free, accessible and suitable for people of all ages. A tour of this ‘Flight’ show which features the brave aviators and engineers of the 20th century and brilliant artefacts such as original balloon designs, is well worth a visit to the West End of London.

(1) ‘Schneider Trophy’ Wikipedia, 17 March 20 ‘Schneider Trophy’ Wikipedia, 17 March 2023

(2) La Coupe Shneider et hydravions anciens, Pierre Pecastaingts, 13 May 1996 La Coupe Shneider et hydravions anciens, Pierre Pecastaingts

(3) The Royal Aero Club website, 17 March 2023 The Royal Aero Club website

(4) The Royal Aero Club Records, Racing & Rally Association, 17 March 2023 The Royal Aero Club Records, Racing & Rally Association

(5) British Air Racing Championship website, 17 March 2023 British Air Racing Championship website

(6) British Air Racing Championship Facebook page, 17 March 2023 British Air Racing Championship Facebook

(7) ‘Flight’ Science Museum, London, 17 March 2023 ‘Flight’ Science Museum, London

(8) ‘Barron Hilton, Pioneers of Flight Gallery, Schneider Trophy’ National Air and Space Museum Schneider Trophy, National Air and Space Museum, Smithonian Institute

Aviation Racers Celebrate Queen’s Cup on Centenary of the King’s Cup

The King’s Cup: Introduction and Race History

The King’s Cup is a trophy that is awarded to the winner of the Royal Aero Club race which has been held annually nearly every year since 1922. The Royal Aero Club, Records, Racing and Rally Association held the first handicapped cross-country race on 8th September 1922 from Croydon South London to Glasgow and King George V presented the first cup to the winning pilot Frank L. Barnard.

Many different types of privately and company owned fixed wing propellor aircraft up to a certain weight limitation are able to participate in the King’s Cup. The race is still held annually, and apart from a few omissions such as WWII and a cancellation during the recent lockdowns, if the weather is fair on the day the flying teams can compete. There is a prize for aircraft is each class as well as an overall King’s Cup winner.

Winning aircraft manufacturers include de Havilland, Piper, Cessna, Grumman, Scottish Aviation (Bulldog) and Vans (RV’s). The King’s Cup race is always held in the United Kingdom and traditionally pilots from the Commonwealth countries are invited to compete.

Although the track course may change annually, the same course is set for all participants, designed and organised by the Royal Aero Club for their members. Aviation engineers asses the aircraft and allowances are made for the different power settings, wing loading, weights and top speeds of the individual airplanes. After some careful numeric comparison and analysis by expert ‘handicappers’ the winner is announced.

The aircraft take off at different ‘staggered’ timings depending on the speed and other important factors. The handicap process means that all participating experienced pilots should then eventually head to the finish line at once, creating an exciting flying spectacle for onlookers.

Pilot uses chart and GPS to navigate, finding waypoints on the ground
Pilot uses chart and GPS to navigate, finding waypoints on the ground – photo by A Howse

The King’s Cup trophy is awarded in a ceremony attended by racers, club members and members of the public. The winner is the pilot that has flown his or her aircraft in the fastest time compared to their aircraft’s pre-tested safe top operating speeds, whilst also following all the procedures and rules of the race perfectly.

Start and finish airports that have held the race over the last hundred years encompass Hatfield, Baginton, Rochester, Finningley, Leicester, Shobdon and Sywell. Airfields can be a valuable part of community life as they provide many opportunities for education, leisure, business and creating historical attractions with character.

The King’s Cup: Modern Racing Today

Over the years new technology such as computer software, spreadsheets and algorithms has enabled race managers to more accurately calculate who has flown their aircraft most competitively.

GPS navigation devices have allowed race organisers to improve tracking aircraft flying in the sky around set prominent buildings, features and landscape points on the ground and in the water according to their chosen cross-country round route.

Small battery operated GPS digital devices can also record the heights the pilots have flown at during the race. Pilots and their co-pilot ‘navigators’ may use tablets and in-cockpit navigation that uses GPS and internet based technology to assist their navigation as they follow a ‘hard copy’ specific printed route.

Since WWII some new general aviation airports have opened across the UK. Dozens of runways, small airfields and airports have also closed in recent years due to lack of funding, change of private ownership and the pressures on local councils to make financially focused decisions, such as allocating land to provide space for new housing development.

Interest and activities relating to general aviation and vintage aircraft continues to be an important and valuable part of society and heritage in the United Kingdom. Air shows and events are enjoyed by millions of people across the British Isles. British aviation reflects positive qualities in our country’s innovation, collaboration, skills development and teamwork. The friendly folk at local airfields welcome people of all ages and abilities every year and provide a positive space for families and pilots of the future.

The Queen’s Cup – King’s Cup Centenary Race Weekend

A unique Queen’s Cup – King’s Cup race was held by the Royal Aero Club on September 2023 at Old Warden Airfield (Shuttleworth), Biggleswade featuring aircraft all registered before 1962. Bob Johnson in his Stolp Starduster was the winner of the conventional class. Mr. Simon Tilling won the prestigious Queen’s Cup – King’s Cup in his winning vintage class DHC1 Chipmunk.

A glamorous formal 1920’s celebration club social evening event was then held, to celebrate the winning pilots and participants and mark the centenary of the King’s Cup in high style.

(1) King’s Cup (Air Race) Wikipedia King’s Cup Air Race Wikepedia

(2) King’s Cup Centenery Race and Special Event, Flyer online magazine King’s Cup Centenery Race Event, Flyer magazine

(3) Aircraft Enthusiasts Group, based in Shuttleworth airfield, website Aircraft Enthusiasts Group website, Kings Cup

(4) British Air Racers RRR on Facebook British Air Racers RRR, Facebook page