Sunday, July 10, 2016

Erith Fun Day 2016.

Erith Fun Day 2016 at the new venue of the field behind Erith Sports Centre. The new venue meant that many more stalls and exhibitors could take place than in previous years. The new venue lacked the atmosphere of the Riverside Gardens, and was difficult to navigate with a child's buggy or wheelchair, but this was far outweighed by the positive benefits. Unlike the Riverside Gardens, which is located on a main road, the sports field is completely self contained, so small children were able to run around safely at will. I also noticed that visitors seemed to stay appreciably longer at the new venue - probably a combination of more to see and do, along with the fact the stalls were not set out in a line like they were in the Riverside Gardens, which used to mean that visitors would walk the length of the road, then go straight home; now they were far more likely to walk around in a circle and spend more time than before. 

Various bands and acts played on the main stage over the course of the afternoon. A couple of people suggested that a dedicated live music tent might be a positive suggestion for future Fun Days. The increased size of the event could certainly justify this. A strong wind blew for much of the day, and although the level of amplification used was by no means excessive, I heard a report that the sound of the fun day activities could be heard in Slade Green. 

Piper Chic Mackie and the Black Watch Pipe Band; in the photo above Chic is checking the output of a set of bagpipes with some kind of measuring device. Rumour has it that when not playing music, the bagpipes can take still out a T72 main battle tank at over a hundred metres....

It was quite windy on the open sports field, and many stallholders had problems with their gazebos wanting to take off.  The event was very well attended, and much larger than in previous years. A new addition to the event was a beer trailer, which attracted a long queue of thirsty visitors; from what I could see, it only seemed to served lager, so it was of no interest to me personally. 

The local Police and Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association were well represented at the Fun Day - you can see Claire Tack (in black, to the left of the picture) trying to get out of my shot. She did not succeed!

The photo above shows the Current Mayor of Bexley, Councillor Eileen Pallen, with her husband (and Mayor's official escort) Mark, alongside Councillor Ed Boateng, who represents Erith Ward. All in all, the Erith Fun Day was a great success - many more exhibitors and visitors than ever before, and the weather was OK - no rain, though it remained overcast for much of the day. I think that thanks must go out to the organisers for what must have been a huge amount of work. Now I look forward to next year's event!

One thing seems clear to me since the News Shopper closed its Petts Wood Office and made its reporters spend much of their time working from home; through no fault of their own, the accuracy of their stories has suffered to a greater or lesser extent. They have also reduced their use of their staff photographer – a pleasant chap I have bumped into at many events over the last few years. The News Shopper seems now to rely on (usually poor quality) photos taken by eye witnesses using camera phones, and to employing stock images. They also seem to have increased their usage of screen captures from Google Street View. I understand that this is all a means to reduce overheads – running a local paper nowadays is a really hard thing to do, with advertising rates static or decreasing, and the widespread use of browser ad blockers by visitors to their website. I can appreciate all of these decisions the newspaper has had to make in order to be competitive, and indeed to survive. What I cannot understand is the dislocation of reporters from the local area when it affects the quality and accuracy of reporting. There have been several instances recently where stories have had serious errors that have not been picked up and corrected by the editor. Currently the News Shopper is carrying a story about the Bexley Business Academy; it says:- "An Erith school has been de-rated to “inadequate” by Ofsted after a damning report shows improvements are needed across all areas. The inspectorate has given The Business Academy Bexley (BAC) in Yarnton Way a withering set of scores including substandard levels of management and leadership and a shoddy quality of teaching and assessment. Ofsted also reported that outcomes for pupils in the secondary school are inadequate with progress is too slow across the curriculum - including in English and mathematics. White British pupils, and boys in particular, are making poor progress, the report adds. Teachers do not have high enough expectations of what pupils can achieve at the school and as a significant number of teachers are temporary, this is also inhibiting pupils’ progress, Ofsted inspectors believe. Management policies and practices are also weak meaning self-evaluation is inaccurate and therefore the school’s weaknesses are not comprehended. For example, in the secondary school, poor teaching has led to unacceptable behaviour from pupils, too much of which has gone unchallenged by teachers. Financial constraints have also led to reductions in provision, including for pupils who have special educational needs or disability”. The story is all very well – it is disturbing to hear that a key local school is underperforming, and it will be interesting to see what measures are put into place to restore the school’s performance. What does irritate me is a fundamental inaccuracy in the reported story. Yarnton Way connects Lower Belvedere and Abbey Wood, it is NOT located in Erith. Bexley Academy is located in Abbey Wood. The News Shopper has been making some fundamental errors of this nature recently, and it undermines their reporting authority and credibility. I note that even the negative Ofsted report claims that the school is in “Yarnton Way, Erith”, which is hardly cause for optimism. You can read the full Ofsted report by clicking here (download a PDF file).

Following my article last week about the break in and burglary at the Cross Keys Centre, and my invitation for suggestions as to how the £3.9 million regeneration fund for the local area could be spent, I got the following message from a regular reader who chooses to remain anonymous:-"You asked for regeneration suggestions. Not exactly Erith Town Centre, but it seems a shame the Council didn't have the money (or enthusiasm) to keep the Splash Park open. And surely they could regenerate the lovely Carnegie building before something awful happens to that.  I know you hope it will become a civilised pub, and I'm happy with that, but it would be good if Bexley still kept ownership and granted them a long lease. Or what about investing money in a regenerated lifeboat station by the riverside, as you have recommended previously? And what about the road improvement proposals they had, whereby the corner end of Christ Church's grounds would be sold to the Council to make Bexley Road a bit wider?   Is that still on the cards?   It all went very quiet. I don't suppose the Council own the unsightly block with the kebab shop near the fish roundabout and where the Erith Snooker Club was/is?  If they did, then that could be redeveloped and smartened up, with some proper shops.  But then there are still empty units in the town centre.  Perhaps the Council could invest some money there to somehow make it easier for businesses to survive??   I really don't know. Or put some stocks in the town centre to put those young toe-rags in who vandalise and steal. Talking of which, the youths whose photos you have published clearly touched the stair railings and other places - I assume they are not "known" by the police and have their fingerprints on record? "

Back in January I wrote the following:- "Word reaches me that production of the new revised BBC version of “Top Gear” is not going very smoothly. I understand that the pilot episode for the new format of the show has been screened to a test audience, who apparently hated it. BBC bosses have demanded extensive changes and re – shoots. Personally I am not bothered, as I won’t be watching the new BBC Top Gear when it airs in May. I am sure that many people like Chris Evans, but personally I cannot stand the man – my reflex action whenever I encounter him on TV or the radio is to either change the channel or switch off. I, like many “proper” Top Gear fans, am waiting for the announcement of the air date for the new car show starring Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond, and produced by “proper” Top Gear boss Andy Wilman which will be shown on Amazon Prime. I am happy to take out an annual Amazon Prime subscription just to watch the new show. Apparently even some of the crew working on the BBC revamp of “Top Gear” refer to the show using the acronym “TGINO” which stands for “Top Gear In Name Only”. I think this says more than enough about the confidence in the programme. Time will tell, but I would not place to many bets on the success of the show under the stewardship of Chris Evans." Oh how prophetic I was!

I received an Email earlier this week from one of my local contacts; she wanted to let me know about some positive developments that are about to take place in the Arthur Street Estate. The estate, which is located on the opposite side of Northend Road to the Erith Park Development (which, incidentally has recently won London Regeneration Project of the year at the London Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors Awards (RICS) and has been shortlisted for a National Housing Award for Best Regeneration Project). The Arthur Street Estate consists of three high rise blocks of flats – Cranbrook House, Cobham House and Canterbury House, and some low level accommodation – Challock House, Charing House, and The Nursery. Orbit Housing Association have managed the estate since February 1998. Historically the Arthur Street Estate has been regarded by many as somewhat of a problem, this is principally because historically there has been a large proportion of prolific offenders, people with a criminal background, and people with high support needs - particularly with drug and alcohol dependency living on the estate. Figures from a police report for the 12 months to 30 September 2011 showed 56 suspects of crime in Bexley living within the postcodes for Arthur Street Estate. Of the 56 crimes, only 1 was a motoring offence and 3 public order offences, the remaining 52 more high level crimes. The effect on community sustainability has been huge, with law abiding residents seeing this as short term housing, a means to an end. They have often been subjected to incidents of Anti  - Social Behaviour. This led to those residents requesting transfers, moving out from the properties and increasing turnover of residents. Orbit have been working with Bexley Council and various authorities to address these issues, and much good work has now been done, in a similar way to how Orbit were able to filter out the real trouble makers from the old Larner Road Estate, and not permit them into the new Erith Park Development, and since the start of the programme the situation has markedly improved. Now Orbit are about to start a new project in relation to the estate. They are consulting with the residents of the Arthur Street Estate regarding what they would like to see happening to it.  The invitation reads: “The Arthur Street estate is now almost 40 years old. Your local Orbit team has worked hard to keep this an attractive place to live but we don’t think that’s enough. We need to make some important decisions about the future of the estate to make sure we provide homes where people want to live, now and in the future. We want to hear your views. Should Arthur Street and Boundary Street: • Be redeveloped (similar to Larner Road/Erith Park)? • Left as it is? • Do you have other ideas? Drop in to our exhibition at Peareswood School on Saturday 16 July between 11am - 3pm and give us your views. If you miss the exhibition, our consultation will continue on Facebook Arthur Street Future after 16 July”. This sounds like an excellent opportunity for residents to actually have a proper say about what happens to their residential environment. My own view (as a non – resident) is that the main tower blocks are old, fuel inefficient and end of life, and should be demolished and replaced with modern, energy efficient apartments with better buggy and wheelchair access – as has proved so popular from the new flats on the Erith Park Estate. As for the lower – level accommodation, I feel that some could be extensively refurbished, but many of the buildings will have concrete frames, which are always problematic, especially as they age. To be honest, most of the housing stock on the Arthur Street Estate is old and looking understandably rather worn and past its best. What do you think? Leave a comment below, or Email me at

Following the despicable forced closure of Belvedere Splash Park by Bexley Council, the park has been closed and silent for the most part, with access to the site limited by metal barriers. The public toilets on the site have been unaffected by the closure of the Splash Park – they are some of the only public loos still open in the whole London Borough of Bexley. One of my sources tells me that there was a disturbance last Monday, when at around midday he drove past the toilets, where two fire engines were in attendance. Bearing in mind the toilet block is constructed of brick, and the interior is composed mainly of stone and porcelain tiling, it makes me wonder as to exactly what could have been burning? Apparently drinkers in The Eardley Arms (the Mos Eisley Cantina of Upper Belvedere), across the road were looking on with interest. I know Bexley Council are strapped for cash, but surely an insurance job on a public bog would be out of the question? If anyone can cast light on the origins of the khazi conflagration, please let me know.

Long – term Maggot Sandwich readers may recall that in the past I have mentioned FrightFest – the UK's premiere fantasy and horror film festival. One of the main sponsors and organisers of the annual festival are Darenth based video and TV production company Splice Media. FrightFest will be taking place over the long weekend of the 25th to the 29th of August at the VUE West cinema complex in Shepherd's Bush. You can see a list of all of the films that will be shown at the festival by clicking here. Tickets for the event can be obtained by clicking here

Bexley Council reported earlier last week that it was joining with Lewisham and Greenwich to make use of Connect Care, a new data sharing initiative designed to speed up health services. The programme was supposed to combine data from hospitals, community health bodies and GPs’ patient records together with local authorities’ care systems to form one record for each person. For example, if someone receiving home care was to go visit Queen Elizabeth Hospital emergency department, the nursing staff will be able to access details of your medications and the social care plan in place for you. Then, their social worker and GP would be able to see that you attended Accident and Emergency  and take appropriate action. This all sounds like excellent, forward - thinking stuff, if it was not for one fact. The NHS currently has the worst reputation for data security of any organisation in the UK. Whistle blowers alerted the UK's data watchdog to twenty NHS trusts, thirteen local government authorities, five courts and five central government departments with reports of serious data breaches in 2014 (the most recent year for which records are currently available). An extra 498 data breaches were self-reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) by the NHS departments. Further, 148 local government departments also admitted to losing personal information, a Freedom of Information request has revealed. The breaches ranged from losing hardware like a USB key or printed copies of patient information for example, to uploading sensitive information to websites, to technical failures and hacking. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Cafcass, the children and family’s court service, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Crown Prosecution Services were named and shamed. The NHS’ title as ‘most investigated’ for potentially serious data breaches by the ICO could be the nail in the coffin for health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s highly controversial care data program. The scheme to feed patient records into a UK-wide data program was proposed to allow online access from any health service and to serve as an extra revenue stream for the NHS by selling "anonymised" information on to third parties. Of the breaches that were self-reported, four breaches were served undertakings, highlighting their seriousness. They were in the retail, health, local government and estate agent sector. Now perhaps you can understand why I was about to formally request that my data not be stored in this new system - as I have no faith whatsoever on the information being kept safe and private. You can download an opt - out form from here - good old fashioned NHS technology - you have to print out the form and post it to them. Not quite like writing on the back of a sealed envelope, but almost. Only days after the announcement by Bexley Council, the Department of Health announced a complete reversal of policy; The controversial  patient information-sharing scheme has been binned. The closure of the scheme was announced in a statement by minister for life sciences George Freeman MP. It follows a review by the National Data Guardian Fiona Caldicott which recommended better safeguards for the sharing of patient data. Freeman said: "In light of Dame Fiona’s recommendations, NHS England has taken the decision to close the care data programme. However, the government and the health and care system remain absolutely committed to realising the benefits of sharing information, as an essential part of improving outcomes for patients. "Therefore this work will now be taken forward by the National Information Board, in close collaboration with the primary care community, in order to retain public confidence and to drive better care for patients." The Care data programme has faced ongoing controversy and delays since it was first announced three years ago. The main concern around the programme has been the sharing of sensitive medical information with commercial entities without explicit consent. So far one million people have opted out of the scheme. However, the report by Caldicott  recommended that patients must be allowed to opt out of their personal data being used for purposes beyond their direct care. It said not enough had been done to gain patients' confidence in the scheme. Earlier this year, a leaked document revealed that the Royal Free NHS trust had controversially signed a deal with Google's DeepMind to give the outfit access to 1.6 million patient records. Responding to the announcement, Phil Booth, coordinator of medConfidential, warned that while the "toxic brand" may have ended, the government policy "continues to be the widest sharing of every patient's most private data". He said: "The care data programme did exist, and has a toxic legacy leaking across the NHS".

The rather pleasant photo above of Erith Riverside Gardens was taken back in the summer of 1966 - exactly fifty years ago. It shows how both the gardens and the river have changed in the intervening half century. 

The second photo from the summer of 1966 shows Erith High Street. The only building that is still present nowadays is Erith Post Office, to the extreme right of the photo. All other buildings have sadly been demolished. Thanks to the ReV for sending me the historic shots. 

If some readers think my concerns with cyber security are a little on the paranoid side, then perhaps you should consider the following story; security researchers at Binghampton University in New York State have been investigating the use of smart watches, and have discovered that a person wearing a smart watch is vulnerable to malicious snooping which can reveal details of their cash dispenser PIN number and other private information. By combining smart watch movement sensor data with an algorithm to infer key entry sequences from even the smallest of hand movements, the team was able to crack private ATM PINs with 80 percent accuracy on the first try and more than 90 percent accuracy after three tries. Mobile systems and cyber security expert Yan Wang said in an interview on the website “I have to admit, at the beginning, I thought this would be science fiction, but it can actually be done. There are just so many sensors on these wearable devices. It provides sufficient information of your hand movements.” There has long been concern over the security of smart watches, fitness trackers, and other internet-connected wearables that gather sensitive information, such as what time of day a user leaves their home. To infer user inputs on keyboards, past cyber security studies have used cameras to observe how a hand moves over a keypad or machine-based learning techniques to train a program to detect user movements.  Now, spying on a PIN just got much easier, thanks to sensors that measure acceleration, orientation and direction in wrist mounted devices. The researchers conducted 5,000 key-entry tests on three different keypads—a detachable ATM pad, a keypad on ATM machine, and a QWERTY keyboard. Twenty adults performed the tests wearing one of three different devices: the LG W150 or Moto360 smart watches or the Invensense MPU-9150, a nine-axis motion tracking device. The security team downloaded sensor data from the tests, which recorded hand movements down to the millimetre. Using an algorithm they called the “Backward PIN-sequence Inference Algorithm,” the team was able to break the codes with alarming accuracy. The most challenging part of the process was eliminating errors that emerge when trying to calculate distance moved based on acceleration, says Wang. The team found the best way to minimize those errors was to work backwards: Most people end a PIN entry by pressing ‘Enter’, so the team started with the Enter key, then traced backwards to each preceding key—a hacker’s version of join-the-dots. The method does not require an attacker to be anywhere near an ATM or other key-entry pad (such as an electronic door lock or computer keyboard). Instead, data can be stolen by either a wireless sniffer placed close to a keypad to capture Bluetooth packets sent by the wearable to a smartphone, or by installing malware on the wearable or smartphone to eavesdrop on the data and send it to the attacker’s server. All very worrying stuff.

And now let me publish an appeal to all the readers of the Maggot Sandwich. The weekend of the 23rd / 24th July will mark the tenth anniversary of the start of Arthur Pewty’s Maggot Sandwich. The blog has not missed a Sunday publication since then. I would be interest in getting feedback from you on the blog – how you discovered it, what you like / dislike, and any anecdotes related to the Maggot Sandwich that you might have. The specifics are open to you. If you would like to write a short piece for publication on the 10th birthday edition, please Email me at at least three days before Sunday the 24th July with any submission. Your submission can be anonymous should you so wish.

The ending video is a short documentary on the origins of London - how the great city came to be. 

1 comment:

  1. Some Fun Day thoughts...

    The beer trailer had something from Caveman Brewery, so it wasn't all lager!

    It would have been good to have seen Bexley Brewery there, but maybe that wasn't possible with the beer trailer booked? Maybe the local CAMRA could run something next year?

    I thought the new venue worked really well - more room for more stalls meant more reason to hang around for longer. It was also good as there was plenty of room to just sit on the grass, let the kids run around and generally take a breather before entering the fray again.

    While the quality of stalls varied, this felt far more like a proper Erith Market than the official Wednesday version.

    A couple of minor negatives:

    The sound needed looking at - it was far too loud at times, and seemed to be bouncing off the leisure centre, so was often hard to hear, despite the volume!

    It generally felt too removed from the town centre, but I'm not sure how to resolve that without losing the benefits of a large, enclosed space.

    But all in all, a good day out, and great to see a proper community event in this area.