The Italian Experience (3)

Here it is. We invented freedom of speech and democracy. So what was the third thing which he stumbles over or has forgotten ?


The Italian Experience (2)

I have by accident watched more than once the Prime Minister’s answer to Ben Bradshaw’s very legitimate question as to why the Germans and Italians have managed their test and trace system so much better than us. He starts with a reflex attack on the naysayers about our test and trace system pretending that it is run by the NHS when, as he must surely know, it is run not by the NHS but by Serco and its failure is the fault of the government and the private sector, not the NHS.

Then he goes into an astonishing and fascinating rant about how it is impossible to get the English to do what they are asked to do because they are ‘a freedom-loving people’ who were responsible for every development of freedom in the last three hundred years. Discuss. Of course, he did Greats not history. And then there is a fatal pause when he was obviously about to say that we were responsible for the development of the Rule of Law, but, in the circumstances, this might have been a touch ill advised, even by his standards, as he is the first Prime Minister who has breached the Rule of Law for three hundred years.

And have the Italians not loved their freedoms too ?


Whitechapel Bell Foundry (45)

I have been encouraged to post the information about the official hearing concerning the future of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry as below. It seems that you can listen to proceedings if you are interested and can submit evidence if you haven’t already. Normally, it would be held in public and in those circumstances, it was felt to be desirable that there should be a high attendance in order to demonstrate the level of public interest in the outcome, but with the hearings online, I suspect that this is no longer so relevant:-

Opening on 10:00 on 6 October 2020

Planning and Listed Building Consent applications by Raycliff Whitechapel LLP to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets for Internal alterations including reinstatement of a foundry (B2 use) and ancillary uses; refurbishment of spaces to provide new workshops and workspace (B1 use), with café (A3 use) in listed old foundry. External alterations to raise roof of hayloft building and create new link building. Demolition of unlisted 1980s building and wall to the rear. Erection of building along Plumbers Row and Fieldgate Street with hotel (C1 use) with ancillary members and guest uses in part 5,6 and 7 storeys with x2 levels of basement, with restaurant/bar (A3/4 uses) at ground and mezzanine level and additional workspace (B1 use) on ground and first floors. Roof plant, pool,
photovoltaics, waste storage, cycle parking, public realm improvements and associated works, at The Bell Foundry, 32-34 Whitechapel Road, 2 Fieldgate Street and Land to the Rear, have been referred to the Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government for his determination.

An Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State will hold an Inquiry opening on the date shown above in order to report to the Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government to assist with his determination. The Inquiry will be held as a virtual event run by an Inspector in the normal way, but with the parties invited to join via Microsoft Teams or telephone.

Documents relating to the applications can be viewed on the Council website
If the above web link fails to load, please copy and paste the above URL directly into your web browser.

Anyone wishing to attend the inquiry must make their interest known to the Planning Inspectorate Case Officer as soon as possible prior to the Inquiry, either by email or telephone after reading the Inquiry Attendance Information set out below. When contacting the Case Officer, it would be helpful if you could confirm whether you want to take an active part in the proceedings or anticipate attending just as an observer (see below).

Inquiry Attendance Information
Before deciding whether to take an active part in the Inquiry, you need to think carefully about the points you wish to make. All written submissions from the application stages will be taken into account by the Inspector and re-stating the same points won’t add any additional weight to them.
If you feel that taking part in the Inquiry is right for you in whatever capacity, you can participate in a number of ways:
To take part using video, participants will need to have access to Microsoft
Teams (via an app or web browser). This link gives further information on how to use this. Alternatively you can take part by telephone. Calls would be to an 020 number which will incur charges.
If you intend to take an active part in the proceedings, please make clear in your response:
· whether you wish to appear at the Inspector’s opening to address any
procedural matters;
· whether you wish only to make a statement to the Inquiry; or
· whether you would also wish to ask questions on particular topics.
If you want to take an active part but feel unable to for any reason, and/or the points you want to make are not covered in the evidence of others, consider whether someone else could raise them on your behalf.
Registered participants in whatever capacity will receive individual joining
instructions, providing details of any requirements, guidance and support,
whether joining by Teams or telephone.
You should note that the event will be recorded by the Planning Inspectorate for training and quality assurance purposes.
Planning Inspectorate References:
APP/E5900/V/20/3245430 & APP/E5900/V/20/3245432

Case Officer contact at the Planning Inspectorate: Elizabeth Humphrey
(, 0303 444 5384)


Whitechapel Bell Foundry (44)

I have been thinking about a comment made by a friend who walked from Clerkenwell up the Whitechapel Road. She remarked how sad it was that the Bell Foundry had been shuttered up for so long; and then pointed out that it is not so far from the old London Hospital building which is being renovated as the new Tower Hamlets Town Hall. Does Tower Hamlets, she asked, not care about its local history ? It made me think about the ways in which the Bell Foundry is a monument not just in its own right, but to the development of the city eastwards in the mid-eighteenth century, as Spitalfields expanded and potteries opened in Limehouse and Bow: examples of small industries dependent on specialist skills, of which the Foundry was an exceptionally well-preserved example; at least, I can’t think of others which survived in the same way. They will regret it. But by then it will be too late.


The Italian Experience (1)

I’ve been trying to figure out why it is that Italy doesn’t seem to be suffering from a Second Wave in the same way as France, Spain and now, looking at the statistics, we are too. It all seems fairly obvious: a very strict and totally consistent set of rules, which have been rigorously enforced by the carabinieri from the beginning; equally strict measures at the airports; a strong communal enforcement of mask wearing; publication of the evidence of medical problems, so that everyone knows and understands the problems and the risks; and a health minister who the public trusts. None of this is rocket science. But it all feels far beyond our world-beating government to pay attention to what is happening in other countries and to steer a consistent path between libertarianism one minute and a crackdown the next.


Indian Summer

In walking through Victoria Park this morning, I thought it was a perfect example of an Indian Summer; and then wondered what the origin of the term is. The answer is, as I’ve discovered, a bit hazy, like the time of year: its origins lying in North American usage when the Indians went out to hunt and the trees were then, as they will be now in New England, bright orange. In normal circumstances, it would refer to bright autumnal days in October and November, but autumn has arrived early this year – I assume because of the unusually hot spring:-


Self-isolation (10)

I know I should have rushed out with my new-found freedom to explore the outside world, but, oddly enough, after two weeks of isolation, I found myself inhibited, having forgotten what the outside world looked like, still wearing a mask and feeling like a bank robber as I went to the local cash machine – not that one needs cash anymore. My friendly robot thanked me for the part that I had played in the fight against Coronavirus, but, since the disease is increasing more in Tower Hamlets than in most of the rest of London, I feel more like a statistical blip than a local hero. Anyway, I thank my blog readers for providing my lifeline to the outside world.


Self-isolation (9)

No message from my electronic minder today. I suppose they’re worried that if they reminded me that I only have a day to go, I might be tempted to rush out now. Instead, I am principally worried about what to do next. If there is a risk, which there obviously is, that whoever I meet develops Covid, then I am going to have to limit my social encounters as far as possible, partly to avoid the disease itself and partly to avoid another period of compulsory incarceration. So, the future looks unexpectedly similar to the present, whatever my minder tells me tomorrow.


Gallery Display

I was afraid that the article I had written for this year’s Frieze Masters magazine about museum and exhibition design might never appear, since the fair itself is only happening online; but I was pleased to be sent a link this morning to the article which is now going to appear in the October issue of Frieze magazine ( I enjoyed writing it, because it gave me an opportunity to reflect on the rapidity of changes in the fashion for museum and exhibition design and how relatively little it is written about, although an excellent book on the subject, Closed on Mondays: Behind the Scenes at the Museum is due to be published by Dinah Casson in November ( I was also keen to document the displays on the first floor at the National Portrait Gallery which felt state-of-the-art twenty three years ago, but have already disappeared pending the National Portrait Gallery’s total renovation. I can hardly complain because these displays were themselves simply replacing the state-of-the-art display of twenty five years earlier, as I remember Richard Ormond commenting ruefully when they first opened. I can only look forward to their next incarnation.