Sunday, May 08, 2016

Bexley Beer Festival 2016.

The photo above is a panoramic view of the beer tent at the 11th Bexley Beer Festival early on Friday evening; it would have been very difficult to get a similar shot later in the evening due to the sheer number of people who attended the event. It was superbly run, well attended, had a huge selection of real ales and ciders, and just for once the weather was excellent. The event was held at the Old Dartfordians Sport Club in Bourne Road, Bexley Village. 

What was interesting about the festival was the increasingly diverse nature of real ale fans; the cliched view of real ale festivals goers as being almost exclusively large and hairy middle to old - aged white men wearing socks and sandals seems to be changing quickly. The number of women was up markedly, and the number of visitors from other ethnic groupings was definitely higher than it has been. This is all very welcome news - I think the fact that real (or as some call it "craft ale" - a term that I personally dislike) has been getting a higher amount of coverage in newspapers and the general press may have attracted a wider and more diverse demographic - which is very much to be applauded. Getting the public away from noxious, gassy, mass produced, tasteless and chemical additive laden lager and into locally sourced, naturally brewed and sustainable real ale is a mission to be supported in my opinion.

Some very good news this week; a major CD, vinyl record and audio cassette - (remember those?) distributor is moving its centre of operations from Sydenham to a new £2 million warehouse in Lower Belvedere. Proper Music Distribution are the largest distributor of physical music formats in the UK; they currently stock over two and a half million CD’s and vinyl records, and they hope to expand even more when they move to their new, larger premises.  They supply a myriad of independent music shops around the country, as well as large supermarket chains such as Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrison’s and online retailer Amazon, amongst others. Proper Music Distribution stocks recordings from over a thousand independent record labels, and also runs its own specialist classical and folk record label. Contrary to popular belief, CD and Vinyl sales are actually rising – the idea that everything has been superseded by digital downloads is actually a myth. Drew Hill, the Managing Director of Proper Music said in an interview with The Times earlier this week “I challenge anyone to get up to London at 7am and watch us loading pallets of music onto UPS vans and tell me that physical music is dead”. Until recently, vinyl albums only took up a small amount of warehouse space, but now covers an entire floor of their old Sydenham warehouse – and the increase in vinyl sales is part of the reason of the relocation to the new, larger warehouse in Lower Belvedere. Hill said “It is an expensive move for Proper, as shifting pallets of vinyl around the warehouse is far more complex than shifting pallets of baked beans. Stacking vinyl can damage the records and the sleeves, and will result in the records being sent back. If a punter pays £20 for a record, it has to be pristine”. Drew Hill has a very poor opinion of City Link, the collapsed courier company, which used to be located next to the old Sydenham warehouse, and would regularly try to win their business “We would never, ever use them. We would watch them throwing boxes around and dropping TV’s”. Proper Music Distribution has been in business for over thirty years, and is gambling on the physical music market continuing to grow. “I’m not sticking my head in the sand. Growth will stop at some point, but the physical music market is worth £600 million in the UK. Our revenue is currently £21.5 million, there is still a long way to run”. This is good news on a number of levels; firstly the music buyer gets a degree of choice and availability that has not been available for quite a few years, and there will be employment opportunities for local residents as the business continues to expand. I sincerely hope that Proper Music Distribution does well in its new Lower Belvedere home. The London Borough of Bexley is becoming known for it being the base for independent music labels / distributors, as Bexleyheath is the home of long established Talking Elephant Records, who specialise in folk, progressive and psychedelic music. You can see their website here. Fans of non – mainstream music certainly have some choice nowadays.

The Maggot Sandwich's own occasional local restaurant reviewer and the creator and former chair of Bexley Invicta football club Brian Silk has written a piece on the current situation with local club Charlton. Even as a non - follower of Association Football, it makes for interesting and worrying reading:- "The current situation at Charlton – causes and remedy - Just three years ago, Charlton Athletic Football Club finished the 2012/13 season three points off the Championship play-offs. With some player investment, the club could have challenged to get back into the Premiership. In January 2014, Roland Duchatelet bought the club through through Staprix NV, ‘an investment vehicle with several football-related interests’, adding Charlton to his syndicate of smallish clubs throughout Europe. Instead of investing in the players needed, under Duchatelet the club has by all accounts sold off many of its good players and installed players from the syndicate who have not been up to Championship standards, let alone of the calibre to take Charlton to the Premiership. In addition, the club has relied on raw but promising youngsters, bringing some of them into the squad too early and stunting their development, and selling on the best in line with ‘the business model,’ as stated by Duchatelet-appointed chief executive, Katrien Meire. Charlton have also burned through five managerial appointments since Duchatelet’s arrival, including Karel Fraeye, whose previous experience had been in the Belgian third division. The 15 games lost under Fraeye can be seen as leading to Charlton’s relegation to League One for next season. The club has won just 18 of 70 matches since Duchatelet entered the picture. Alongside this, Miere has alienated fans with a series of failed publicity stunts, such as a video of two people appearing to have sex on the pitch centre circle, and calling dissatisfied fans “weird” for thinking they had a “sense of ownership” and comparing them to cinema patrons and restaurant goers who shouldn’t “scream to the people in charge” if they’re not happy with the service. Behind the scenes, the management team has been chopped and changed, with ‘yes men’ installed and a number of key roles currently unfilled, such as the chief scout and director of football. Roland Duchatelet, has hardly been seen at the club and has attended just one match in 12 months. It’s hard to imagine a more chaotic and self-destructive period of football club ownership than Charlton fans have to endure for 28 months so far. The club’s current situation is a particularly bitter pill for them to swallow, having been through the ‘dark years’ of playing at Selhurst Park and Upton Park and come through to see the club seemingly on the brink of returning to top flight football. That now seems a distant dream. It is no wonder that this family-friendly club has witnessed massive protests and even attempts to storm the directors’ box at the match I was at, and highly-active CARD (Campaign Against Roland Duchatelet). So what needs to be done to remedy the situation? Meire talks about “starting the rebuilding work immediately” to get the club back into the Championship, but who can believe that this will happen under her and Duchatelet? So change at the top is required. There are potentially two takeover bids around - one fronted by former chief executive Peter Varney and the other led by former Charlton defender Paul Elliott. Both rely on Duchatelet’s willingness to sell. Varney’s approaches have so far been rebuffed and Elliot’s has only just emerged". Thanks Brian - it will be instructive to see what actually happens. It sounds like the current situation cannot last very much longer. If you have an insight into this, and would like to express your views, either leave a comment below, or Email me at

The photo above shows MP for Erith and Thamesmead, Teresa Pearce next to the publicity banner mounted on the fence outside of Christ Church Erith. She's the patron of The Friends of Christ Church Erith, who are conducting an art exhibition in the church on Friday the 13th May between midday and 5pm, Saturday the 14th May between 10am and 5pm, and Sunday the 15th May between midday and 5pm. The exhibition will feature works of art from amateur and professional artists from the local area and beyond. The exhibition will include paintings, photography, sculpture and embroidery all based on the theme of "Our Erith".  Do come along for a visit - entrance is free, though a donation would be appreciated. 

Some readers who have been following the Maggot Sandwich for a long time may recall my account of back when I worked for Sidcup based computer retailer Silica Shop in their outlet in Lion House in Tottenham Court Road, London. One day, I was chatting to two blokes in the store when they invited me to come and visit them in their studio a couple of roads away; during my lunch break I visited the basement in a large and quite impressive stone building. The guys welcomed me into a darkened room filled with cigar smoke and all sorts of high end electronics that I could not identify. They then showed me a few clips – probably not more than thirty seconds of computer animated footage and asked my opinion. I was blown away – it was better than anything I had ever seen (to be truthful, at that point I don’t think I had seen much CGI – it was a very new field back then). After a few minutes chat and a horrid cup of gritty instant coffee I was shown out. I was impressed, but did not know what the footage was for. A few months later I was watching a music programme on TV (It may have been The Tube – I cannot recall) when I mentally stopped in my tracks – the CGI footage was being shown. It was the video for Dire Straits – Money for Nothing. I was gobsmacked – I had seen the making of one of the most famous music videos ever, from a band that were at the time pretty much the biggest on the planet. The video company was - and is called Framestore. They are still one of the market leaders in computer generated imagery for TV and film. The system I had seen being used to make the "Money for Nothing" video was called the Quantel Paintbox; the Quantel Paintbox and its pressure-sensitive stylus were groundbreaking pieces of technology when they were released in 1981, but they had their limitations. The huge 14-inch platter hard drive could store 160MB of data, enough for just over six seconds of video at 25 Frames Per Second. Longer pieces required playing out each frame to tape before wiping the hard drive, a risky process that resulted in staff working eight-hour shifts around the clock to minimise cockups. The Quantel Paintbox and its multi-frame follow up Harry—which could store up to 30 seconds of footage and manipulate multiple frames of animation at once—would come to dominate the TV industry throughout the 1980s and early '90s. Framestore, the company a chap called Mike McGee cofounded with Sir William Sargent in 1986, is the visual effects house behind Walking with Dinosaurs, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Gravity, to name but a few. Framestore's sizeable reputation has seen it expand to New York, Los Angeles, and Montreal, but its home in London remains surprisingly understated. In the 1990's Walking with Dinosaurs was commissioned by the BBC just three years after the 1993 release of Steven Spielberg's groundbreaking Jurassic Park, as part of an ambitious remit to raise the bar in science programming. Jurassic Park cost $63 million to make, and it featured just six minutes of CGI for its two-hour running time. The BBC needed three hours of back-to-back CGI at a fraction of the cost. After looking to the west coast of America to realise its vision, the BBC turned to Framestore and its head of computer graphics Mike Milne. Milne generated three shots showing how, with simple models and natural history filming techniques, the cost of the CGI per second could be brought down. At a total cost £6 million, Walking with Dinosaurs wasn't cheap—it remains the most expensive TV documentary ever produced at a cost of £37,654 per minute—but this was still more cost-effective than anything the US visual effects companies could offer.  Following the release of Walking with Dinosaurs in 1999, the series won two BAFTA Awards, three Emmy Awards, and a Peabody Award. It also made Framestore one of the most sought-after visual effects companies in the world. Its work on the TV adaptation of Gulliver's Travels, in which actor Ted Danson was filmed against a blue screen to create a dramatic sense of scale, netted the company a Primetime Emmy award, the first awarded to a company outside of the US. Framestore went on to win an Emmy every year for the next six years for its work on shows like The 10th Kingdom, Walking with Beasts, and The Ballad of Big Al. Numerous BAFTA awards and, finally, an Oscar for "Achievement in Visual Effects" for The Golden Compass followed. Today there are over 18 different departments in a typical visual effects studio. Concept artists and sketchers create the drawings from which 3D artists and animators create digital renderings. A physics team works entirely on simulations that try to replicate the intricate movements of cloth, water, and hair—elements that are extremely time-consuming for animators to recreate. Others work on the fire, smoke, and mists of a digital explosion. A rigging team creates the skeletons for 3D models, giving them the digital muscles they need to move realistically. At the end of it all, sat in pitch-black rooms, are the lighting and digital compositing teams, which take green screen footage of actors and layer it on top of computer-generated backdrops, while lighting artists make sure that every pixel is precisely lit to the director's specifications. When I look back at the handful of scruffy blokes chain smoking and drinking dreadful instant coffee that I encountered when I visited Framestore, I would never have guessed that they would become one of the most important and respected visual effects houses in the world.

Older Maggot Sandwich readers may be recall the giant Fraser and Chalmers factory. The company had a very long history; they started back in 1849, when two young Scottish men - David Fraser, a millwright, and Tom Chalmers, a foundryman travelled to the USA to take up careers in agriculture. Soon after their arrival in America, the California Gold Rush started, and they found it far more profitable to make mining machinery spares and equipment than to grow crops. They set up a large factory in Montana, and by 1860 they had moved to Chicago and continued expanding. By 1890 they were the largest mining equipment manufacturers in the entire USA. At this point they were approached to set up a new factory in England which was designed to supply mining machinery for the South African gold fields. The Erith works was opened in May 1891. The new factory was built on what had previously been a recreation ground. The British arm of the firm severed all connections with the American part, and by 1903 they expanded production to include steam plant, milling machinery, and general engineering products. Just after the First World War, the factory, which by this time employed four thousand workers and covered an area of thirty four acres was sold to the General Electric Company. 

Fly tipping is a particular problem in the local area, and is one of the biggest headaches for borough councils all around Greater London. Figures reported in the Evening Standard this week show that fly tipping is costing London council taxpayers in excess of £25 million every year to clear away illegally fly tipped waste. I understand that Bexley Council pays a contractor around £300 a load to take away illegally tipped waste. Some other London councils are making moves to increase fines for fly tippers. Currently the fine is £80, which is often cheaper than the cost of a small business paying a disposal fee at a licenced waste disposal tip. Newham council across the river spent £3.5 million last year cleaning up fly tipped rubbish, and their records show that their operatives cleaned up an average of nearly two hundred fly tips a day. Even the councils for affluent areas such as Kensington and Chelsea suffer from the problem. Last year they spent £219,000 prosecuting fly tippers, but only made back £505 in fines. The problem for councils is that catching and successfully prosecuting fly tippers is notoriously difficult. The burden of proof is exceptionally high – may fly tippers are businesses, and even if a number plate of a vehicle used in tipping is recorded by a witness, the company will often say that they don’t know who was driving the vehicle that day.  I have previously been involved in case which not only ended up with a prosecution, fine and confiscation of the vehicle involved, but also a custodial sentence of eight months for the guilty party. Unfortunately that was the exception, rather than the rule in such cases.

Regular readers will be aware of the severe problems the area has with illegal unlicensed and uninsured youths riding stolen motorbikes. Some are members of the notorious and criminal Bike Life TV UK gang, whilst others are just out on their own. The un-helmeted riders are a danger to themselves and others. The video below was shot on a dashboard camera by a member of the public back on the 21st February this year. It shows an incident that took place in Thames Road, Crayford. A hoody wearing youth on a motorbike with no registration plate rides over the roundabout and Eastwards along Thames Road. He is wearing no crash helmet and is riding in a dangerous and irresponsible manner. He loses control of the bike and collides with the rear of  Mercedes Benz saloon car. I will leave you to see what happens then. Personally I think the car driver reacted with remarkable restraint. It is also notable how other youths seemed to appear apparently from nowhere within seconds of the incident. I will leave you to come to your own conclusions. Leave a comment below, or Email me at

No comments:

Post a Comment