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Graham Ellis - Regular updates - my diary

Links in this page:
YES, we have Air Conditioning!
SplashPad - extended September Hours
Thank you - helpers at Food and River Festival
Autumn - Trains and Assembly Hall programs
Come along, listen, ask, learn
Campus Parking - to be free for three hours
Melksham Free Dining - Fundraiser
Assembly Hall - next six weeks
ClimateFest, Melksham, 9th September 2023
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Some other pages on this site:

Graham Ellis - blog and • blog index
Graham Ellis - background and • views
Philosophies of working as a town councillor
The Role of the Town Council and Councillors
How YOU can help and • Contact me
Links to other web sites and • pictures
Through April 2021, I posted most days. Thereafter (elected) you hear from me here at least once a week.

ClimateFest - Thank You and where we are

A big "thank you" to the team who helped organise and run Melksham's ClimateFest '23 yesterday (9th September 2023) in the Assembly Hall, and to those members of the public who came along. Quality rather than quantity; we had far more chairs than people, yet the talks were highly thought provoking and the question and answer sessions lively and well informed. Whilst I would have liked to have seen more "bums on seats", that would have reduced the opportunities for everyone to interact - as it was, there were more hands up for the roving mike than could be immediately accommodated.

With any issue, campaign or business sector, things start with a disparate array of players and information - the "embryonic" and young phases. And that settles down and clarifies out over time. We are - in my view - at the point where we are tipping or have tipped over from the suggestion that's not commonly accepted that we can't go on as we have been in using resources up to an accepted but far from universal acceptance of the issue. Which, as I accept that we have an issue to look at, is a good thing.

But we are on new territory here due to the magnitude and breadth of the issues we're addressing - not so much the using up of resources, but the effect of the waste from those resources - primarily CO2 - on the whole environment in which we live. There were around two dozen pictures from everyday life around the tables yesterday, and on the back of every one of them were a few words wondering how things, and people, might look into the future. I don't know the answers but I do know the enormity that potentially effects nearly every aspect of life.

With any embryonic campaign, you have the wide range of active players some of whom make uncomfortable stable mates for each other. There were things said yesterday afternoon that I strongly felt were inappropriate, and indeed I was told (to my face) that one of my comments was offended; no offence intended, and I'm sorry if it was caused - and yet if that helped get the passion and importance across so be it, and perhaps it's even for the good as we get to understand as we all work together to learn and act to put that learning into effect.

And events like yesterday's is not in itself going to solve anything but it does inform and move things forward - not only in itself but in pre and post publicity. It was covered in multiple editions of the MIN, at the Food and River Festival, on social media, on banners across the town, and in person by us standing on a soapbox in the Market Place and shouting out, and walking the streets with a placard. And the headline of we need to deal with this has reached a lot of people; it's continued to do so after the event, ironically, with a great deal of social media comment that people didn't know about it - hey - we now HAVE reached people with the headline!

I am conscious I am writing a longer piece here that will have a smaller audience. And that's to be expected. The question yesterday was asked "why aren't Wiltshire Council doing more?" with a suggestion that they are doing very little. And yet when the panel spoke to that question it transpired that they *are* doing things that hadn't made the public knowledge - there is a lot going on / probably not enough in my and many views, but there isn't a complete block. I am resisting the temptation to get specific.

A common theme has been vested interests in the current worldwide systems that are said to be changing our planet, and the question how we in Melksham (but change "Melksham" to any other place) can help tune and adjust those interests to ensure a good future for the world. It lead on to a number of other questions such as:

* Should we as individuals even be bothering as there's little we can do, or indeed because we like this lovely hot weather?

* Should we as a Town Council be working to either inform or better the environment in our town, or should we be leaving it up to others?

* What difference can we make? Does it matter? Is it too late? Would the world be better for - well - not extinction but a significantly reduced load on that world either from us all making better use of what's available, or by having a much reduced population?

As a Town (parish) Council - we have a power of taxation and every parish of the hundreds in Wiltshire makes use of that. But we are mandated only on two things - to provide and manage allotments, and to take care of biodiversity in our area. So, ironically, some of those environmental issues are not just things we choose to do but things we must do.

1. Illustration - Mike, Bean, Shirley, Lisa and Simon on the panel

2. We always were (and it was confirmed!) that lots of people had other commitments on 9th September ... Facebook posts (here) and (here) asking "Out of interest, if you didn’t attend ClimateFest today, what was the reason?" are very useful in informing the team. Whilst very interested in the outcome, not my posts and, please, do not feel in the slightest bit guilty if you had other plans or (ironically) were heated out!

3. We hear a lot about election cycles and how important government and getting re-elected is to give those who stand to lead the power to be more in control and do things. We also hear about the underlying measurement of society success by growth. I'm not personally prioritising the shorter term grab for votes in the next elections (general, county, town, mayoral) over what I consider to be longer term important issues - and that's back onto my hobby horses of openness, evnironment and equality. As I put it yesterday - "I am not in it for the 2025 election popularity stakes to get myself (re) elected". But I do appreciate that if my fellow citizens don't like what I'm saying or doing, I'll then have less position to press those issues. There are some indications that by being consistent and explaining, even thins people don't agree with, that they'll put their vote and trust in you anyway. We may see - this is not "this week" stuff, but it is key into coming decades.

Published Sunday, 10th September 2023

YES, we have Air Conditioning!

Will their be Air Conditioning at ClimateFest at the Assembly Hall tomorrow?

Come to the Assembly Hall for 13:00 through to 17:00 on Saturday 9th September for ClimateFest '23. Keynote speakers from 13:15, "Any Questions" from 14:30, personal audits from 15:45. All welcome, free entry.

YES - the hall's AC will be turned on and it will be comfortable not cooking.

9th September is expected to be the hottest day of the year in an already getting-hotter climate, so without AC it would be unbearable. However, AC runs on electricity and much electricity is generated in an none-enviroment friendly way. So our "call" on this has not been easy. At present, the Assembly Hall's electricity is purely mains fed - however, there is a prospect for the future of solar panels potentailly across the Assembly Hall and/or the Blue Pool. I can share the sums tomorrow.

Illustration - a home AC unit that we're using, recycled from our days as a hotel. We have it running in our room at present - drawing electicity from solar panels on our roof, so operationaly "green". I can tell you about it tomorrow. We're reasonably pleased with ourselves about this aspect of what we do - lots of other areas we know we could do better. Again, happy to inform discussions tomorrow.

Published Friday, 8th September 2023

SplashPad - extended September Hours

Melksham Town Council has just announced that the Splashpad in KGV Park will be open every day in September from tomorrow (2nd) and not just at weekends. Opening at 10 a.m. and closing at 5 p.m.

The use of the facility is very weather dependent, and the Town Council is of course aware that schools are back in session - that does mean there's an opportunity for tiny children to have a splash in the middle of the day, and for older ones to come down perhaps for an hour in the late afternoon.

The Town Council has a major investment in the SplashPad and it makes sense to use it for a longer season; whilst there needs to be a member of staff around while it's open, there are gaps between the hourly stats and checks, and that person can be doing other things too. The WiFi in the pavilion is fast, and when I'm on duty (I am trained and will be volunteering on Thursdays) I can be doing other things - though able to drop them if needed for anything at the pad. Others are on a multitude of park duties including those now physically beyond me.

I have learned a great deal this summer, and I know that the team will have a "wash up" when the season finishes. There were significant discussion between councillors early this year, and we were also constrained by staff shortages. There are clearly the metrics of schools times to consider, and we also need to look at the hours of daylight (which we can predict) and the weather (on which the best we can do is an educated guess). These two graphs show daylight and temperature (for Bristol Airport, but near enough) - from (here) - average for recent years, and 2023 so far. I have overlayed a rectangle to show when we have been open, and another rectangle to suggest a tuning of the hours to make best use of hot afternoons and early sunny evenings.

Published Tuesday, 5th September 2023

Thank you - helpers at Food and River Festival

First and foremost, a huge huge "thank you" to Mike and Richard for each doing a very full day with me on the booth at the Melksham Food and River Festival over the weekend, and Sue for doing a substantial shift too. The festival was a wonderful opportunity to reach the general public with the autumn programs for the Melksham Assembly Hall and for trains from Melksham Station. It also allowed us to talk about environmental issues and promote ClimateFest for next weekend.

The weekend was a huge success for us - objective of getting information out there on three key topics achieved. We had a really simple stand strategy of reminding people of the environment, Melksham Station and the Assembly Hall and if they were receptive making sure they went home with literature. I have no count of how many people we spoke to, nor how many leaflets we handed out, but we were perpetually refilling the display table from our behind the scenes stocks, and we had only a very few breaks where we were not talking to people. It came, I believe, as something of a surprise to both Richard and Mike as to just how receptive people were; you can see a doubt as you approach people, but for the most part they are really positive once you tell them you're talking either Assembly Hall, or Climate, or Melksham Station.

Big "thank you" too to Adrienne and the team who put the event together and ran the day. Far too many to mention individually, but I really appreciate both the last minute opportunity to take part when the Town Council cancelled their stand midweek and all the on-the-day help. Both the friends of the Assembly Hall and the rail user volunteers were able to pull a stand and literature together at short notice, but, really we should not have "had to". Better co-ordination next time - I only heard of the MTC pull out "via, via" and but for the luck of that there may have been no presence for the Assembly Hall, and I have not got to the bottom of why the MTC stall, or the Quiz last week at the Assembly Hall, were both cancelled at short notice. Certainly not a lack of volunteer help, and indeed the Town Council came back in very, very late in the week and we ended up with some overlap / duplication.

That little "grouch" aside - a really good weekend, telling new people about the great things in Melksham, and meeting up with old friends and contacts. News at the Assembly Hall is ClimateFest, Rich Hall, Abba, Home Alone and much more this autumn. News at the station is that Melksham is now timetabled to have trains all day (and evening), every day, all year. New people have learned that; old friends have been updated to know that too.

Again - thank you everyone!

Published Monday, 4th September 2023

Autumn - Trains and Assembly Hall programs

Yesterday, I manned a booth at Melksham's Food and River Festival (there again today) - main intent to reach the public with information about the autumn program at the Assembly Hall (including next weekend's ClimateFest) and train times for the Autumn. Modern methods let us typeset leaflets in our own home and have them delivered within a few days - is doing so any use, or should we be simply talking to people and telling them to use their app, or should we simply be telling people about these things though social media?

It is .. fascinating to talk with Joe Public and see how (s)he reacts to the booth and the information we are providing. On rail

* Lots of people still want printed timetables. A number say "I use an app" or "I look online". And a number say "I don't use trains" in a dismissive way making it clear that they would never consider doing so. But many, many people take the timetables.

* There is - almost - a joy at having a simple line-of-route table; we have taken a management decision in a trifold leaflet to stick to just the Swindon to Westbury line. Questions are raised from time to time about other destinations (Bristol, Oxford, Weymouth, Cheltenham, London) but there was no way they could all have been covered an it would have diluted the readability of the leaflet.

* The "all day, every day" message - including evening trains - is a good one and well received. Concerns expressed are reliability (strikes especially causing concern) and ticket price - in some cases perceived, and in other cases actual. Getting the right ticket is also a concern; at Melksham we don't have station staff nor was there anyone who established themselves as an informed travel help point at the cafe or other local business there. Some people don't know where the station is, whether they can park there, and thinks it's way out of town.

* Leafletting has always been a wasteful process, but I came away with the feeling that a proportion of what we were distributing will be kept, attached with a magnet to the fridge, put in the pocket. Statements of intent, some of which will be carried out, to that effect.

* "Cold Calling" equivalents - walking up to those passing by and offering them leaflets - was very effective. With train timetables and Assembly Hall programs we very much had a positive re-direction of many people onto our agenda, with then carrying on better informed than they were as they walked along between stalls and funfair. I was joined by good friend Mike on the booth - who did a fantastic job; he has previous exhibition booth experience in a more commercial environment and was very much surprised at the positive reactions we were getting once we declared what we were promoting. We very much have the local groundswell o support.

* At the Assembly Hall, indications are that the autumn program is going to see big audiences, with certain tribute bands and comedians generating early excitement. There's a repeated desire to see more comedians - our offering is thin as we (as councillors) declared our senior Assembly Hall manager redundant and created a gap in specialist experience in our team, without any immediate plugging of that gap or plans to do so.

* The cancellation (midweek) of the Town Council stand at the Food and River Festival, at which the Assembly Hall program was to be distributed, gave me the opportunity to co-ordinate rail, ClimateFest and Assembly Hall volunteer interests into a new single stall, and I am delighted as to how well it worked. More notice would have been nice as it would have allowed for a much wider volunteer availability to help - most busy people ere already committed. A big "thank you" to the festival organisers in finding a pitch for the Town Council when they reversed their decision at the end of the week and said they wanted to come along after all.

Internal discussions about the various cancellations by The Council his week by all means - but I am gobsmacked that it got to the stage of pulling out of events and (in one case) rebooking.

In hindsight, my first choice would have been NOT to cancel the quiz night and attendance at the festival. For the Town Council to have asked for help which would have been willingly given.

My second choice - once being relinquished - would have been to let the community take over. For the quiz night, I asked about us re-instating later on the day it was cancelled, but didn't hear back in reply to my email; I suspect the staff were off duty. For the festival, I heard via my wife from the festival organisers who were co-ordinating another booth, and managed to help the organisers fill the gap usefully.

As volunteers, our booth's working well - writing mid-event. In a way we ended up with third choice - I would rather the Town Council, once decision made, had NOT reversed its position, leaned on the organisers to create a pitch, and set up a second Assembly Hall stand. They had individual event flyers, and fortunate for them I have a plentiful supply of autumn programs in the van. For them to turn up without even knowing how their key marketing piece was to reach them has left me appreciating, once again, the enormity of our decision to dispense with the Assembly Hall Manager tasks.

Putting this into context - Town Council presence and events are not my decision. I'm just one of 15 part time volunteer councillors and we employ a professional team to deliver. So where we are this weekend is not my choice, nor should it be. Personally, I would prefer the staff member on the Town Council booth to beputting his trust in volunteers, and his time into getting the Assembly Hall roof fixed. A manager should step in where necessary as is being done this weekend, but that shouldn't in my view have been necessary.

Published Sunday, 3rd September 2023

Come along, listen, ask, learn

ClimateFest in Melksham, 9th September 2023

Please come along - from 13:00. Entrance free. Talks from 13:15, "Any Questions" from 14:30 and personal audits from 15:45.

For the first ClimateFest, we (the Environment and Climate Working Group of Melksham Town Council) discussed inviting Extinction Rebellion to speak. A considerable discussion, but we decided against. We also decided we should plan to invite them this year, in 2023, and we have confirmed our decision. We will hear about clean electricity, building materials, electric buses and other transport, heat pumps, our own local audits and the world picture with Extinction Rebellion.

Why XR this year but not last?

Because grass roots movements move on. They start as protest and gain visibility and move on to partnership. It's the way that the Suffragettes brought votes for women, and in a small way it's the way we moved from protest to partnership locally in getting a useable train service back.

I won't add a "spoiler" to tell you what they will be saying - I'll just invite you to come along. Doors open 13:00, Friday 9th September, 2023, Melksham Assembly Hall.

Published Saturday, 2nd September 2023

Campus Parking - to be free for three hours

Wiltshire Council on Friday proposed to switch car parking at Melksham Campus from the current scheme to a maximum of 3 hours at no charge. Currently they have the orders to let them charge but they do not do so.

The consultation may be found on the Wiltshire Council website ((here))

Early days - I have only just spotted this (surprised that Town Councillors hadn't heard) - so I am just working out what it means. For nipping into the shops, the library, the pool, the Town Hall, the gym it will work. Think it works for bowling and tennis too, and for Church. For people working in town or the campus iteslf it's a bit of an issue. For cricket, events at the Assembly Hall and long council meetings it might be borderline of a bit short.

Published Sunday, 27th August 2023

Melksham Free Dining - Fundraiser


Charity FundRaiser last night in the Melksham Assembly Hall for Melksham Free Dining, organised and hosted by Michelle Donelan MP. I understand that over £4000 was raised for the charity, founded by Louisa Lewis, postCovid, and providing a real weekly lifeline for many lonely people - literally changing their lives. Behind every successful woman is a team, offering assistance and support. And our thanks to both teams who were there supporting last night; lots of names, some o which will be familiar to readers - far to many to name, and many of them helping so quietly I don't have a note of their names. I will mention just the principle's lieutenants - Tom Turner and Deedee MacLeod.

Very much a community event. A huge "Thank You" also to the members of Melksham Free Dining who come along to the event every week and took the courageous step of entertaining us on stage. A huge "Thank You" to all the businesses who donated items to be auctioned - some of considerable face value - and raffle prizes. A huge "Thank you" to everyone who came along, bid and won in the auction or who dipped into their pockets to buy raffles or "heads and tails" game spots. A huge "Thank you" to the Assembly Hall team running the hall and bar before, during and after the main event, and to the suppliers of our Fish and Chips from Union street, the delivery team who brought it up to us, and to the folks who had so long in the kitchen (at home) baking cakes.

Good to see everyone having an enjoyable evening, in addition to the raising funds objective. The real work by Deedee, Louisa and team carries on, week in, week out and what a life-improving that work is for so many as it expands from one to multiple days per week. The biggest "Thank You" is to them.

Published Saturday, 26th August 2023

Assembly Hall - next six weeks

What's happening for the public ...
31st August - Assembly Hall Quiz Night, 18:30 for 19:30
1st September - Shania Twain, 18:30 for 19:30
2nd September - Food and River Festival in the park
3rd September - Food and River Festival in the park
4th September - Melksham Movies, 14:00
9th September - ClimateFest, 13:00
14th September - Joseph and the Amazing Techicolour Dreamcoat, 19:30
15th September - Joseph and the Amazing Techicolour Dreamcoat, 19:30
16th September - Joseph and the Amazing Techicolour Dreamcoat, 14:30
16th September - Joseph and the Amazing Techicolour Dreamcoat, 19:30
18th September - Melksham Movies, 14:00
21st September - Melksham Historical Association, 19:30
22nd September - New Jersey Boys, 18:30 for 19:30
23rd September - The Mee Kats Rock and Road Band
28th September - The Unravelling Wilburys, 18:30 for 19:30
29th September - Assembly Hall Quiz Night, 18:30 for 19:30
30th September - Seriously Collins, 18:30 for 19:30
2nd October - Melksham Movies, 14:00
4th October - The Scoliotic Knight: Reconstructing the real Richard III, 11:00
7th October - Classic Rock Revival, 18:30 for 19:30
8th October - Roller Disco, 14:00
8th October - Roller Disco, 16:00

What's happening with urgent temporary roof repairs
Awaiting hear back ... after 17th August meeting

What's happening on longer term planning
Structural Engineer to look at Blue Pool and Assembly Hall for 25th September

Friends of Melksham Assembly Hall produced documents
July 2023 to September program - (here)
October to December program - (here)
Business Case - Blue Pool option - (here)
Complete library - (here)

Published Friday, 25th August 2023

ClimateFest, Melksham, 9th September 2023

Our climate is getting more extreme and as a race we're abusing and damaging our environment beyond what it can recover from. We used to say "in the long term" but the long term is with us NOW.

• What can we do about this locally here in Melksham and the rest of Wiltshire?
• What can YOU do about this as an individual?
• How much are YOU using resources beyond what is naturally regenerated?
• What changes could you make to come within 'limits'...
• and how can you do so in a cost effective (perhaps money saving) way, and with positive (or at least neutral) changes to your lifestyle?

Come along to Melksham Assembly Hall on Saturday 9th September 2023 from 13:00 for our ClimateFest where we will help you think about the issues and become more environmentally aware - it's a hugely complex topic and we are all learning.

Our program for the afternoon:
13:00 - Arrival
13:15 - Speakers
14:30 - "Any Questions" panel
15:45 - Personal Audit - 52 things to think about
17:00 - Close

Should you have an environmental message you would like to get out, please contact the organiser by the end of August and we can arrange for your group to have a table - arrival between 12:00 and 12:30 please but must be pre-booked. Spaces available as I write, but limited.

It will be a busy afternoon - between and during each of the hour-long sessions you will be able to visit a handful of stalls / displays looking at topics such as building insulation, reducing food waste, cleaner transportation, local entertainment and the effect of climate change on your wellbeing. The Assembly Hall bar will be open, serving primarily non-alcoholic drinks (but full range available) and there will be plenty of seating to sit and chat, and encouragement to meet new people and talk.

ClimateFest is brought to you by the Environment and Climate Working Group (ECWG) of Melksham Town Council. All are welcome and it's free entry. ECWG comprises councillors and others who all give their time free as volunteers to help inform and to keep an eye on the environmental effects and influences of the activities of the Town Council. Project Manager for ClimateFest is myself (Graham Ellis) reachable via or on 07974 925 928. My thanks to Shirley, Mike, Pat and Sue who make up the rest of the core team, and to speakers and panel who will be announced in the lead up to the event.

This event is designed to attract you to come along, to think, to learn. It is not designed to entertain. None of our organising team is in the first flush of youth - but this is all about our environment for the future and we encourage younger generations to join us. For those who do not yet run a household, our audit will let you take a look at what's happening in your home and help inform you to suggest change, and indeed to update your own activities to take better care of the environment for your future.

Published Wednesday, 23rd August 2023

Thank you for voting Graham Ellis onto Melksham Town Council

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