Growing Groups

Working for the Voluntary Sector in Hastings

Ending the Universe on the Right Note

We’ve been having a bit of a discussion at work about the end of the universe, which if you didn’t already know, may be scheduled for this Wednesday. This is the day when the people at CERN turn on the Hadron Collider in search of the sub atomic particle called Higgs Boson. Apparently, the moment the collider gets up to full power goes there is a very small chance that all the energy focussed on a few accelerated atoms fired at one another in an effort to create a ‘beginning of the universe moment,  will also create a black hole. The immensely strong gravitational field will then of course suck everything into it, resulting in the end of the universe.

The first I knew about this was a programme on the telly at the weekend, hosted by the former D:Ream keyboards player Brian Cox,  according to the telly programme he’s not only a keyboard player but also a nuclear physicist and who works on the CERN accelerator!

My work colleagues were naturally quick to grasp a number of perhaps less well considered aspects of all this, showing a particular interest in whether there were likely to be any other big name musicians working on the project, who will also therefore  be playing a pivotal role in the future of the universe on Wednesday.

There wasn’t much doubt that Kraftwerk would be employed in some capacity, since most of them also played keyboards and have a fair amount of technical skills. That bloke from 1970s band Sparks was also a racing cert – well the band is called Sparks so that must help.

On the same keyboards theme Rick Wakeman – already showing proven flexibility as a Countdown competitor  – may well be involved with some of the super conductivity stuff. Don’t forget he has a considerable amount of dry ice experience when staging some of his worst work like all those ice spectaculars in earlier decades.

We were also all in agreement that Mick and Keith have probably taken some time off from the corner shop over the past few years to help bring the project in on time.  Also, if celestial surnames were anything to go by, there may even have been career openings for Keith Moon and Edwin Starr.

So the key question that remains for you to answer is:

Which other musicians would you suspect are ‘moonlighting’ with jobs at the CERN particle accelerator – and what do you feel are the possible implications for the future of the Universe as a result of their role on the project:-)


September 9, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Do they get it?

I’ve just had one of those classic email requests from the East Sussex County Council, asking if I can shunt four documents round for them, to advertise a grant opportunity for young people.  Apart from simply seeing email as a replacement for the postal service and a way to save on stamps, it really misses out on the concept that the VCS is communicating with people in a range of ways rather than just pressing the ‘forward’ button.

The message itself  says ” this fund is available for young people to apply for grant funds to improve local youth facilities – it is not a fund for adults to apply from”.

Excusing the fact that you apply TO rather than FROM, this just seems to fail to use all the resources that could be used to put the message out.

Grant opportunity – great, but why can’t they use their own website to post the documents and just send us a link to include in e newsletters, our own website, blogs etc (I could have even included it here!).

Putting aside the fact that an increasing number of younger people now look on email as being ‘for old people’  it would just be so much more effective in getting the message out (and responses back)!

August 12, 2008 Posted by | voluntary | | 2 Comments

Websites n stuff

I went to soggy Brighton on Saturday to buy some bits of shiny anodised metal – now sold as part of the essential equipment to go with every outdoor hobby that features on the magazine rack in W H Smiths.

On Sunday I went for a clamber at Harrisons Rocks,  playing on Far Left, Elementary and Unclimbed Wall. These climbs are all graded around 5B and 5C which in truth makes them a good grade or two beyond me without quite a lot of tight rope. Mind you I suspect they are a good bit easier if you,ve done them before and you know where each of the holds are.

On Monday I uploaded some stuff to our work website on request from Rose ( Volunteer Centre Organiser at Hastings Voluntary Action ) who is gradually assembling a good practice guide for Volunteer Using Organisations.  Also, with a bit of help from SCIP I managed to rig up SyncMyCal with our work website. So we now use a Google Calendar to publicise events as the first stage towards shairing the same sort of process with the other Councils For Voluntary Service in East Sussex.

August 12, 2008 Posted by | climbing, voluntary | Leave a comment

Sync my Voluntary Sector

I’ve been fiddling about with a bit of software called ‘SyncMyCal’ this morning.  This is the tool identitied to help all the Councils for Voluntary Service (CVS) in East Sussex to provide one single web based calendar for training and event information.

SyncMyCal is a widget that sits with your Outlook Calendar Toolbars and allows multiple users of a google calendar to update their own entries at the press of a button. Its been possible to upload a single Outlook calendar to Google page as a freebee for some time – without any extra software – but the problem comes when you want to update existing information (because this is when you want some items deleted, some added and others amended).

Now with The final google calendar can be stuck in any web page

The AskCaspar website presently holds a copy of the google calendar which all East Sussex CVS’s will be able to send information too, but it’s pritty easy to past the same calendar into any of the websites of the contributing Councils for Voluntary Service.

I’ve also had a quick go at this on the Hastings Voluntary Action website in preparation for the glorious day.

August 8, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What comes around, goes around

I’ve been uploading lots of interesting stuff to the Hastings Voluntary Action website recently.

My boss has done a paper – which I’ve just uploaded – on the implications for the voluntary sector of the shift towards service commissioning as opposed to grant aid. The paper speaks for itself and as a sensible employee I never pass comment on my bosses work on line.

That said, reading the report reminded me of some of the territory I visited in my earlier life as a Councillor on the good Borough of Hastigns. Following the Cabinet/Scrutiny reorganisation of Local Government – an event doubtless etched on everyone’s consciousness (not) – I ended up in a fairly full-time occupation as the trusty Cabinet Member for Neigbourhoods, Community and Housing.

But painfully aware that no local authority is an island – except of course for the Isle of White – I  felt it was important to have an involvment in some national organisations trying to grapple with bigger issues. For me this meant playing a an active part on the Executive of an organisation called the Local Government Information Unit.  If you’ve never heard of the LGIU (why should you), among other things,  it is an impressive powerhouse of policy wonks who have made some compelling arguments about the greater freedoms and flexibilities needed by local government to respond to local needs and stimulate innovation in local service delivery. At the time those arguments helped to shape much of the light touch settlement that has since been established between local and central government.

Now that I’ve left elected office and moved back to the voluntary sector (a  sort of poacher turned pheasant move) I prefer to stay away from all that high profile championing of the sector stuff. Since work life is infinitely better hold up in the attic (rather like the couple in Beetlejuice), where you can fiddle about with a good database / newsletter / website.

Anyway,  viewed from the attic, it looks to me,  like those who are charged with championing the sector are now going to have to convey similar arguments to local councils that councils once made to central government.

Its my birthday today, so Kate bought me some Friends. Yes yes, I know what your going to say, “you cant buy friendship John” , but you can buy these.

August 7, 2008 Posted by | climbing, Hastings, voluntary | 2 Comments

Types of Rock

I ‘ve just come back from a weekend with my local climbing club in the Peak District, climbing on  millstone grit. The picture below was taken at the weekend.




To most people rock is just rock, in the same way that snow is just snow unless you end up spending a lot of time dealing with it. But to people who climb, rock tends to be thought about by the type of faults it has in it, how abrasive it is and all kinds of other things which affect how easy it is to hang on. Millstone grit is not my favourite rock, because its mostly made up of big rounded lumps, with large flared cracks running between them. Gritstone climbing favours tall people with excellent balance skills who are happy hand jamming and smearing.


This is not a description of me, I come from a long line of stumpy Welsh trolls, for whom, anatomically it is far more difficult to achieve the long reaches and tai chi style balance moves needed on grit.  I like limestone, a rock where there are plenty of lovely pockets dotted about, small edges at varying angles, narrow chimneys to wedge your back against and overhangs with sharp angles to grab hold of. Here is a picture of a limestone climb – with lots of lovely sticky out and in bits.




July 31, 2008 Posted by | climbing | Leave a comment

Oiling the wheels

Someone has lost a filing cabinet key at work – not me I should add –  but as ‘Information Officer’ I pitch in to learn all about filing cabinet locks and how to order new keys. So if you ever want to know all about what the digits and numbers here is a very handy piece about it.

I’m in anorak heaven today, since I’m now listing our website on an excel worksheet. As the site grows I need to log what tasks need attending to on each of the different pages. Excel has turned out to be a really useful tool for doing this, because you can use individual rows for progress with specific pages, with hyperlinks to the specific pageson the web and  columns for dates and  work that still needs to be done. to be done

Look at that, I’ve now discovered other people living in anorak heaven too!







July 7, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Googlemaster of the Universe (ish)

How happy am I at work today? Very happy thank you.


In my life, there are little things that please my mildly obsessional mind in ways that more rounded individuals would probably find rather troubling. Today I am chuckling (though only inwardly, since I share my workspace with others) because by careful crafting of meta tags I have clawed our website up the greasy pole of Google UK, we now have top rating when you type in the letters HVA. So take that, Hackney Voluntary Action and the Herpes Virus Association, you are no longer top dogs, from now on Hastings Voluntary Action have top position on the prime interweb search engine – result!


Climbs Around London


















Yesterday evening my wanderings took me to Stone Farm, a long way from Hastings but a beautiful sunny and breezy evening on a sandstone outcrop not too far from Forest Row and Crawley. Playing on the rocks with other members of the Hastings Rock and Fell Club was really good fun. Stone Farm Rocks have some really good boldering and some extremely good bolderers (people who bolder), here is a youtube of someone called Danny Coleman making light work of a difficult Stone Farm bolder problem to give you an idea of the games climbers play.


Stone Farm bolder problem


And while we are in that neck of the woods, a reference is due to possibly the best ‘knock my town’ website I’ve yet to see on the web. Ladies and Gentlemen I give you This is Haywards Heath (don’t forget to turn the sound up).

Lunch time already, and  too much of this morning has been taken up dealing with information and potted history from the Hubs and Capacity Builders websites.  After much chasing of dead links and sifting through lots of ‘management speak’ this has all been boiled down to pritty much three lines of text and three links to go on the Group Support page of our own website. My view is that most voluntary organisations and community groups probably don’t give a monkeys about where everything came from, which organisation morphed into, collaborated with or partnered who ever else, so none of that gubbins gets on to our website.



This exercise has been of considerable benefit to me, in part because I now have a greater historical understanding of the restructuring of voluntary and community sector support services at a national level, but more practically because I have learned that if you keep the shift button pressed down when you click something in the ‘Other Places’ menu on the left hand side of an XP window it opens a new window



June 26, 2008 Posted by | climbing, Hastings, Uncategorized, voluntary | Leave a comment

Eridge is nice

Well Eridge Green turned out to be a brilliant place to climb. The site was pretty much deserted except for our Wednesday club meet.  The climbs were all in reasonable condition (that’s climbing talk for dry and not covered in green slime) and very few biting insects.

I’ve been adding some more stuff to our website at work today on the subject of Seedcorn Grants. This is a pot of money made available for voluntary and community groups by East Sussex County Council. Councils for Voluntary Service across East Sussex are becoming more involved in the applications process for small grants from a variety of statutory bodies – which makes good sense since CVS’s accumulate the most comprehensive information on the voluntary and community sector in each local area.  

June 19, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Something New

I’m off to Eridge Green this evening, tucked off the main A26 and quieter than Harrisons Rocks for some reason.

June 18, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment