One and OtherWell… not quite… but this Sunday between 12 noon and 1pm Wandsworth will be represented on the fourth plinth in the shape of the Clapham Junction Town Centre Manager – Lorinda Freint.

And while you can’t get up there with her personally, you can get your message there. Lorinda will be promoting the SW11 Literary Festival which has been running all month, and thanks to the marvels of modern technology you can Tweet or text your messages which will displayed on a very low-tech whiteboard!

To be in with a chance of getting your message up there text PLINTH then your message to 07786 202844 (charged at standard rate) or tweet using as the hashtag.

And while you’re texting for the world to see – why not make your text rhyme for Battersea Poems.

SW Literary Festival ProgrammeThe launch of the SW11 Literary Festival takes place tomorrow night, which made me think it’s probably a good time to highlight Battersea Poems again.

Taking the text directly from the literary festival programme:

Text in your poem and be part of creating a biography of SW11 written by you, the people who live, work and visit Battersea.

Start a text message with Battersea then a space, then your poem, in one text only, and send it to 07786 202 844.

Take the people, places, and history of Battersea as your inspiration, but your poem doesn’t have to be about SW11, so a poem inspired by Clapham Junction might be about a journey…

You can submit as many poems as you like. Your poem will be published instantly on:

The best Battersea Poems will then be selected by a panel led by Apples and Snakes to be published in a printed anthology.

Sending a poem only costs the same as sending a normal text to your friend’s phone. You will not be signed up for anything, ever.

Competition closes 31/10/09

There are already some great poems on there. One of my favourites is:

Summer in battersea park
picnics and cricket
and two names in bark.

I’m going to pretend I know what I’m talking about and say I like it because it’s short and simple – and paints a vivid picture with the cricket match on the wider scale but the two names (which begs further questions, whose, when, why?) adding a little element of human detail.

I probably shouldn’t have identified it as a one I liked because I’m part of the panel… but I’ll try and balance things by saying that, of course, my fondness for the imagery is exactly balanced by my concern that the poem may be glamorising vandalism to a Battersea Park tree.

Sensationalist headlines over a free, and misleading, ad for
Sensationalist headlines cover a free, and misleading, ad for

Unsuprisingly a lot of people have asked me about the story on the BBC website suggesting that SW11 is a ‘burglary hotspot’.

Rather pleasingly I’ve been able to tell them the story is an absolute nonsense. An unfortunate example of a journalist cutting and pasting a press release (this time from and pretending it’s a news story.

In fact, fairly basic research would have revealed that actual crime figures show the list to be a nonsense. If the journalist had just glanced at the  link to Home Office statistics included with the story it would have raised enough alarm bells to dig a little deeper.

I set myself the challenge of finding a few areas that should have appeared on the list.

I’m going to confess that I’m cheating a little here. Crime statistics by postcode aren’t publicly available. So I’m comparing by borough, for which you can easily get statistics from the Home Office’s ‘Statistics on the Internet’ site. My justification and theory is this: crime in Wandsworth is relatively uniform – although Battersea is slightly higher than other areas, it isn’t disproportionately higher – therefore if I can find an area that doesn’t feature on the list with much higher crime, it follows that, even if uniformly spread, it is a hotter spot for burglary than any of the listed hotspots.

The rate of burglary in Wandsworth over the past five years (2004-5 to 2008-9 was 12.1 per 1,000 population). I needed to find somewhere higher.

It wasn’t hard. Personal curiosity pushed me towards my childhood home authority of North East Lincolnshire (which, according to contains all or parts of DN31, DN32, DN33, DN35, DN36, DN37, DN40 and LN3 postcodes). There the five year average was 22.8 burglaries per 1,000 population. Nearly twice the rate of Wandsworth, but none of those postcodes featured in the list.

I then tried to find somewhere leafier. South Buckinghamshire hit the spot for me. With UB postcodes and rather nice sounding places like Stoke Poges and Hedgerley it managed a five-year rate of 16.9 burglaries per 1,000 population. But somehow, it’s not on the list.

And there are plenty of other areas that don’t feature and probably should:

  • Bradford (postcode BD12) has a five year rate of 17.7 burglaries per 1,000 population.
  • Kingston upon Hull (postcodes HU1, HU7 and HU9) has a five year rate of 26.1 burglaries per 1,000 population.
  • Middlesborough (postcodes TS1, TS3, TS5, TS7 and TS8) has a five year rate of 20.7 burglaries per 1,000 population.

That was from a fairly cursory look through, but enough to make it fairly clear that the list is PR puff, rather than a serious attempt at mapping burglary hotspots.

This isn’t to say the story is complete nonsense, Leeds and Nottingham both have very high burglary rates and feature. But the story is really about what people who have applied for insurance through that site have said. There are all sorts of factors that will skew the results; things like internet access, consumer savvy and likelihood to even have insurance will all play a part – and this is as much a ‘study’ of those factors than it is of crime or burglary rates.  Unfortunately the BBC chose the sensationalist headline and story rather than accuracy.

I wouldn’t pretend Wandsworth is a crime-free oasis.  We do have low crime rates, but the recession means the decline in crime seems to have reversed.  But this is a national trend and  Wandsworth remains one of the safest places in London.  There are many areas across London and the country with significantly higher rates of burglary, while Wandsworth residents shouldn’t be complacent – and should take precautions against crime – they do not need to be panicked by stories like this.

What annoys me is not producing the press release (after all, it creates publicity and therefore business for them – though I’ve churlishly not linked their name), but the BBC just re-publishing it as fact with no critical analysis. This is an analysis of insurance application hotspots, not crime hotspots. All it has done is further skew the mismatch between crime rates and fear of crime – made some people feel less safe and, perhaps, lull others into a false sense of security.

Given the BBC’s public service ethos I expect better from the BBC. Sadly, it seems that expectation is misplaced.

For the sake of completeness I’ve included the figures from the Home Office below:

5 year burglary rates

I mentioned Battersea Poems in my weekly wrap-up last Friday and the service is now live.

It’s good to see there are a few poems on there already – you can read them (and hopefully be inspired to write your own) on the Thumbprint City website.

If you want to submit a poem you just have to text BATTERSEA followed by a space and then your poem to 07786 202844. It is a standard mobile number, so will cost you the same as any other text you send.

Battersea Poems runs until the end of October and the best poems will be included in an anthology published later this year.

Also published is the programme for the 2009 SW11 Literary Festival (which runs from 7 – 30 September). You can download the programme from the Clapham Junction town centre website.

It was with some nervousness I went along to The Goat last night for the Tweet-up.  I left having had a glass or two of wine too many but having spent an excellent evening in a fine put with good company.

Having never been to one (which really put me at a disadvantage for organising one) I wasn’t sure what to expect – or even how many people.  But in the end there was a good crowd that mixed well.

Ingrid Koehler, who works at the Improvement and Development Agency blogged about it this morning, referring to my little spat over surgeries.  (That post was followed by a Lambeth Labour councillor using it as an excuse for a bit of political knocking. Rather disappointingly I responded in kind rather than rising above it.)  I hadn’t particularly thought about it as any type of engagement – although I did end up talking a bit about the council with some of the people there – it was really prompted to have an excuse for a beer and by a bit of jealousy of SW15.

Obviously I’ll take any credit going.  But I think the key thing was that everyone enjoyed themselves – judging by the Tweets afterwards it seems that everyone did.  I certainly hope there will be more to come.  But for the time-being I would like to use this post to say thank-you to Bell Pottinger for their sponsorship, but most of all to the people who came for making it such a great night.

The time is nearly upon us. The SW11 Tweet-up is tomorrow.

First, the details. It’s taking place at The Goat on Battersea Rise. It seems everyone knows it well, but if you don’t their website has directions. I’ve suggested a 7pm start (but guess it will go on for a while, so come along when you can) and have reserved the upstairs area for the night. I’ve not been able to contact them to confirm, but if there is any change I will post here and Tweet a lot!

Second, the good news, it’s sponsored. Bell Pottinger Public Affairs (who have a few Twittering staff in SW11 and a Twittering chairman with Wandsworth connections) have kindly offered to stand us all a few drinks.

Third, you. Although this started life as an SW11 tweet-up it’s not exclusive – there are lots of people coming from further afield, the chief criteria are that you’re on Twitter and can get to the pub tomorrow night, and feel free to bring a friend if you’re shy. The more the merrier.

(And finally, I just wanted to say thank-you to everyone who has offered help, advice and encouragement while this has been organised.  It is greatly appreciated.)

Summer laziness
As I mentioned last week, things do start getting quieter during late July and August and my council work this week really showed that – I’ve managed to go the whole week without a single trip to the Town Hall. While that doesn’t mean I’ve done nothing (I’m sadly all too available on the phone and via email) it’s quite nice to think that I’ve managed a whole week without a visit to Wandsworth High Street.

More meetings with the police
Following on from last week I had another session with the local police on Thursday, this time with Nick Cuff, who is now the chairman of the Regeneration and Community Safety Overview and Scrutiny Committee. It was a useful session and concluded with a short patrol with one a constable from the Tooting town centre team. I hope to do a fuller post about it next week.

SW11 Literary Festival
If there has been one theme it’s been planning for what happens after summer. While there are a number of events planned one of the bigger ones (in terms of time and venues) is the SW11 Literary Festival. This morning saw the launch of the festival’s recipe contest – which will ultimately result in an SW11 recipe book.

The reason I mention this is not my love of food (which I clearly love too much, along with alcohol and not exercising enough), but because it meant I stood on St John’s Road for a good while this morning and was amazed at the number and persistance of ‘chuggers’ – those professional fund-raisers who try and stop you in the street and sign a direct debit.

Again, I want to post on this next week – mainly so I can consider and mull over my thoughts – but I’d be very interested to know other people’s views on chuggers.

After yesterday’s call for venue suggestions I’ve got a long list of potential venues.  However, only one of them was suggested repeatedly… The Goat on Battersea Rise.

I popped along today and had a look around (the last time I was in there it was a rather ghastly chain theme-pub to which I never wanted to return) and I think it will work. There seems to be a good selection of beer and wine – and I’m sure soft drinks, though I didn’t actually think to check them – and the venue seems well suited to a meeting of pseudo-strangers!

Of course, I’ve never organised a tweet-up before.  And I’ve never been to one either. But the very worst that can happen is that we all learn how to make the second SW11tweet a rampaging success.

So now most of the pieces are in place.  We have a time and date: 7pm onwards on Wednesday, 5 August.  We have a venue: The Goat, Battersea Rise.  All that’s left are the people. Are you coming?


I’ve been a bit slow in following up, but the suggested date is creeping up and now it’s time to choose a venue.

Rather than arbitrarily picking one I’m hoping people will make a few suggestions for me to scout. I don’t want to impose my taste on other people and don’t know exactly where everyone will be travelling to and from.

My inclination is to go for something near to Clapham Junction on the basis that there is plenty of transport there (by train or bus). The twtvite currently has 16 attendees and 6 maybes – a few less than I wanted, but I also know of another half-dozen or so who are coming and haven’t RSVPd on the site.

So, over to you, any ideas for a good venue? Leave me a comment or (and I guess most will go for this option) tweet me.

Jealousy might be an ugly emotion. But it also can motivate.

When I saw there was a Putney tweet-up organised, I can’t deny that I was jealous (and also a little annoyed that it was on my wedding anniversary). Surely anything SW15 can do SW11 can do better?

So that’s what I’m hoping to do, organise an SW11 tweet-up.

I flagged up the idea on Twitter last night and got a positive response, including from people who don’t follow me, which is a great sign. It was also clear that there was enthusiasm for the idea from further afield – with people from Balham, Tooting and Wandsworth wanting to come.

So here’s the outline.

It’s an SW11plus tweet-up
I started with the idea of SW11 and am sticking with it, mainly because I don’t want to get over-ambitious. But having said that, anyone from Balham, Tooting, Wandsworth – or anywhere else for that matter – is welcome and encouraged to come: we love SW11 and want to share.

It’s simple
Again, I don’t want to be over-ambitious. I was thinking pub, drinks, chat. Any extras might come when we have an idea of numbers and venue, but the key is going to be getting people in the same place and drinking talking rather than tweeting.

It’s your event
I’m a novice at this – and while I know I’m happy with a decent boozer I’m aware that might not be everyone’s cup of tea. So I’d like ideas, tips and suggestions.

And that’s it.

The next steps are to choose a date and venue. The very point where a bright idea starts getting messy, because there’s no way we’ll be able to come up with a date that’s good for everyone – so

I’m going to throw Wednesday 5 August out there as a date. Can you make it? Any good for you? Let me know, either comment or tweet @jamescousins.