Nottingham – city of rebels (still)

That cute little kid Macauly Culkin (remember him in Home Alone?) popped into our fair City at the weekend.


Actually it was him with his band, the Pizza Underground. He’s trying to forge a music career. The only problem is that Nottingham is now a serious hotbed of musical talent and we Nottingham folks have a high threshold on quality. Culkin clearly hadn’t been told. He ‘played’ our world famous Rock City. A hallowed turf where the likes of Bowie, Nirvana, Oasis and Blur have trodden the boards.

This new band are apparently pushing a comedy set – taking well known hits and replacing key words with pizza references. It does sound crap and he was found out very early. I’m not sure I would pay!

After wrecking Lou Reeds Perfect Day with ‘Perfect Pizza’. it went horribly wrong. The crowd evidently didn’t feel that booing him was enough – so soaked him in beer…

He lasted just 15 minutes.

People were ejected as the organisers would have to do. And the organisers made a statement about a few people ruining the set.

It seems that Nottingham retains its crown of City of Rebels…

(Obviously I do not condone the sort of behaviour witnessed)

The dawn of a new era in broadcasting – Notts TV is born…

I can remember being in a meeting at Antenna some time ago when Confetti Media Group were thinking about bidding for a Nottinghamshire based TV franchise. It all seemed really exciting.


Notts TV was then won, not once but twice, by Confetti in conjunction with NTU and the Nottingham Post. In the last 198 months a lot of hard work has gone into the planning of the new station. And today it launches on Channel 8.

This is brilliant opportunity for Nottingham. It gives us a local TV station which will be driven purely by local stories. Being independent it doesn’t have the shackles of the BBC. It also gives many young people the opportunity to work in TV – something that has traditionally been hard to achieve unless you can get into the mainstream broadcasters – and those opportunities are few and far between.

This TV franchise sits cleverly with the Nottingham Post (who gather news) and with the broadcasting course of NTU. In addition is is seated firmly in the heart of the Creative Quarter where Confetti’s headquarters are. Many young people will get an opportunity to work in a real life TV station.

I think this is brilliant and fits so many local agenda’s. Local stories and local talent will make this a success.

I’m off tonight to the launch party and can’t wait to see what the new station has in store for us…

The house price conundrum

I blogged earlier this week about the problems of the house market in London. I was interested to see some of the facts issued this week about how our house prices have changed in the last year.


The headlines from the Office for National statistics:

* UK house prices rose by 8% in the year to the end of March (the newspaper headline)
* The annual property price increase in London stood at 17%
* Excluding London and the South East of England, prices were up by 4.7%
* Prices in Northern Ireland increased by 0.3%, and by 0.8% in Scotland
* The average home is now worth £252,000

So, as always the statistical headline is a nonsense. An average of 8% doesn’t really apply – London is skewing the figures. The regions are rising – but at nowhere near the rate of the Capital and South-East. Northern Ireland was hit hard in the recession and hasn’t recovered.

One of the ‘big ideas’ to lam this all down is to increase the base rate. There is a rise on the horizon – but it is a relatively crude tool. In London it has potentially less effect as it is reckoned that 40% of purchases are in cash!

I don’t know what the answer is. I listened to a debate on Radio 4 where it was clear that the new tightened Mortgage lending rules are causing some issues. There are some anomalies when ‘computer says no’ to a number of people who clearly, on a common sense basis, should be suitable security for lending.

We have, of course, had an issue with building houses (the supply side). There were 112,630 houses completed in England in the last year, a rise of just 4% on the previous year. We are told that we need to build 250,000 homes a year to meet demand. More supply should, in theory, assist.

There is no simple and easy answer but there are different problems in the regions to those south of Watford! One size does not fit all…

Nottingham – The worst place to live?

I can’t pass on a ‘story’ doing the rounds that I live in the eight worst place to live in the UK.


You can read this fully researched and statically accurate data here. The people have spoken apparently (or strung a few words together?)

Except that they don’t quite have that luxury – by their own admission, “This list is not based on any hard statistical evidence, but the volume of comments on Chavtowns. We have applied for access for the API, so next years figures should take the volume of anti-social of behaviour in the area as well!”

Oh, thats ok then.

At least they have found some intellectual, I presume from one of our world class Universities to help. Going by the slightly unusual birth name of “Jaded Agoraphobic”, he or she suggests:

“I’ve lived there all my life and I don’t think I’ve ever been into town, day or night, without seeing someone being attacked or harassed, or some dregs of society having it out in the street”

The good news is that we can all partake in this crowd-sourced research. It will be peer reviewed. As they say, “So you want to add your town to Chavtowns? Well we just don’t add any old rubbish to the site. You need to write a minimum of two paragraphs for your article to be considered. Just putting “my town is crap, don’t come here” is not going to cut it. We like articles that are darkly comic and cynical.“.

I think we can treat this piece of critical analysis with the attention it deserves. Ignore it. Even if it is darkly comic and cynical.


It’s difficult to explain what has happened over the last few months in the local market. Most of the press have eyes on London and the South East. There is a boom there without doubt.


One of my housing developer clients told me they are seeing £350,000 for a 500 square foot studio apartment in Islington. That’s a space 20 ft wide by 30 ft long. In that you have to squeeze a bathroom, kitchen and living sleeping space. The plan picture is 500 sq ft. Imagine if there re two of you – cosy!

You might have spotted that my blog posts are a little sporadic of late. The reason is that my work-life has changed beyond recognition in the last six months. I have bids at pre-crash prices on land, I have offers out on buying land and buildings and we are working as long hours as I can remember. All great for profitability – hard on the sleep thing!

But i can’t help but wonder if this is all a bit flash in the pan. None of us hope that this is the case – it’s been a long depression! But we all know that any Government funded schemes have to be spade ready and ideally finished before next March. The interest rates may well increase – although I have a suspicion that June 2015 is more likely than next January!

All eyes are on the General Election. In reality no one knows what is going to happen – uncertainty never helps a fragile market.

I just hope that we don’t go bust – again.

Collaboration in the Industry

Yesterday I was part of a panel speaking at Nottingham Trent University (The Poly to me). It was a session looking at how collaboration works (or doesn’t) in our industry. Actually I was a bit of a lone voice as the audience and some of my fellow panel members were quite ‘building’ focussed.


There was an interesting question put to us; “Do we need Universities any more – can we teach people via Apprenticeships and on-the-job training“. At first sight this is a fair point. Particularly in my profession. Some of the work I do could be taught in an office. Some of what we do can best be described as a process. So yes part could be learned.

But a profession is more than just a process. The joy of my work is that I am sometimes challenged to think. To come up with solutions. Solve problems.

I was asked in the week on another occasion whether any of what I learned at the Poly was ever used by me? Well it is. The core skills I learned about technique I use most days. The the legal framework in which we operate hasn’t changed much (other than the odd bit of case law) and I use that a lot. My knowledge of building construction still is critical to my day job.

So my view is that we do need Universities to train our future surveyors to think. To grasp the core skills of building construction, measurement, value and the law. Understand how property works as an asset class. We can collaborate with the learning institutions to make sure these skills are delivered to make surveyors employable.

What I don’t think Universities can do is teach ‘commerciality’ and I guess that only 1 in 10 graduates enter our office with it. We can probably teach it to another 4 and the rest will probably never get it. That may be tough – but I suggest is true.

The habit has been broken…

Last year as we wandered towards summer I was looking forward the my 10th Isle of Wight Festival. The Boomtown Rats were a highlight as you probably know if you hang out here. They were brilliant.


But this year my annual trip to the Island won’t be happening.

It’s all about the music. The line up is I think as weak as I’ve seen. This is a festival at which I’ve seen Bowie, The Rolling Stones, The Killers, The Police, The WHO, R.E.M, Paul McArtney, Neil Young (who was crap), Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen. Quality acts.

But this year – Biffy Clyro, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Kings Of Leon are headline acts. I’ve seen them all. And whilst they are ‘ok’ I can’t say I would rush to see any of them.

The only band worth seeing are The Specials and The Selector (who are relegated to graveyard spot). I last saw both of them in 1979 at The Kimberley Leisure Centre as part of a bill with another small band from the time – Madness…

I’m going to miss the tent and the whole ‘not washing’ experience. But my back to nature expedition is on hold this year. I’m going to have to settle for Splendour at Wollaton Park. Good reasons for this – it’s a mile from home so the tent stays firmly down. Oh – and Geldof and the Boomtown Rats are coming. Result. Who needs the Isle of Wight?

Nottingham in pictures…

Last night I was at Nottingham Trent University again (I seem to have been there more in the last few months than I was in the final year of my Degree!) – this was another exhibition.


As part of the 170th year celebration (which I blogged about before here) last night was a photography exhibition – by Martine Hamilton-Knight and the RIBA. The focus was on Sir Michael Hopkins work.

Marine has been photographing the architecture of this particular practice for the last 20 years. And there was a romp through the last two decades. The Inland Revenue, The University Jubilee Campus and latterly the Nottingham Trent University Newton / Arkwright extension all feature. There are some magical photographs and iconic views.

You probably know I have keen interest in photography – I aspire to this level though! Martine spoke at the event and mentioned the importance of light and good architecture on her work. Some of this architecture is fantastic – and looking at the body of work on show you realise that we do have some truly inspirational buildings in the City. They have been portrayed well.

There’s always that question you get asked- if you could do anything other than your current job what would you do? And I would always answer – I’d be a photographer. I have always been interested in the medium and I get to takes lots of pictures for my work. But thats not the level of art Martine and others achieve. That takes work – not just snapping!

It was an inspiring exhibition. I am inspired. I will get the camera out more.

The best phone for business?

Our mobile telephone contract at work is coming up for renewal later in the year. I know because I’m being offered all manner of enviable never to be seen again deals by countless companies. I know who they are when they call as the call always starts with ‘how is your day today’. As if they care really?


Since the initial iPhone was introduced that is what the business has had, across the board. We are on iphone5′s at the moment; rumours of an iPhone6 abound. The anticipated release date is September – so our contract timing might be good.

I like my iPhone as it is fairly bullet proof. It also syncs nicely with all of my mac gear. It is easy. But the battery life is nothing short of appalling – I think perhaps 6 or 7 hours at best.

And it has really lost its excitement factor. It is fairly boring.

At the weekend I had a look around the competition – and the Samsung Galaxy is clearly way out in the lead. Apple must be terrified of them. The screen is better, the camera so too. OK, it doesn’t run IOS but you are not tied to the Apple Store where Apple have a stranglehold on what you download and buy.

I have decided to try the Samsung as an experiment over the next few months. I’ll let you know how I get on…

An interesting marketing approach?

I mentioned my ‘watch search’ last week. And I am always on the lookout for a new camera – I still have ‘a few’. But I don’t own the Rolls Royce of cameras – a Leica.

They have a new advert. It’s long. I don’t suggest you watch it all – unless you really have nothing better to do!

In effect a technician spends 45 minutes polish in the new Leica T.

As someone suggested I wonder if Dulux might be following suite soon with a the ‘watching paint dry’ version?

I can’t work out if I think this is clever or not!