30 June 2010

Western Edinburgh Partnership Progressing

This evening I attended the Western Edinburgh Neighbourhood Partnership. For ease of reference I'll refer to it as the NP.

NP's are the local version of Community Planning where different partners from Council Departments, Councillors, the NHS,  Police and Community Councils come together to plan  and discuss local services.

There are 13 NP's in Edinburgh. They have all produced local Plans outlining how they will work to improve service in their areas. The most immediate and spectacular success has been the work between the Council and the Police. This close partnership working which has involved co-located Police Officers has been a major factor in driving down crime and anti social behaviour over the last 3 years.

Much of the partnership working has involved officers through Service for Communities Neighbourhood Teams and their work has resulted in great strides forward with  cleanliness, Housing Management and Community Safety issues. The formal partnerships  have taken a little bit more time to become established  but I feel they are beginning to make their marks.

Tonight we had presentations about proposed changes to the Community Health Management, improvements to drive even better results out of our police, a look at the terrific plans for the new Drum Brae Library and Day Centre and  also a discussion about the implementation of the local Plan.

All in all very good progress.

Read all about the Western NP at:

http://www.edinburghnp.org.uk/neighbourhood-partnerships/western-edinburgh


29 June 2010

The Worlds Worst Spies

The latest spy tale in the USA is  extraordinary due largely to just how useless they were as spies. The ten "alleged" spies haven't even been charged with espionage, merely failing to register as a Foreign Agents. They managed to gather a lot of information which was freely available making me wonder why they just didn't go for the Cyrillic version of Wikipedia.

Less  John Le Carre and more Ninotchka - the hilarious Greta Garbo cold war satire where she played an ice cool Russian agent who is seduced in Paris by Melvyn Douglas US agent. It has loads of running gags about communism and capitalism and also features the oldest joke I tell....

A man comes into a restaurant. He sits down at the table and he says, 'Waiter, bring me a cup of coffee without cream.' Five minutes later, the waiter comes back and says, 'I'm sorry, sir, we have no cream. Can it be without milk?'

The thing that appears to worry the US authorities most is why the Russians still feel the need to spy against them. It isn't as if relations are poor these days. I suppose old habits die hard but I do wonder if the US has stopped spying on the Russian.

28 June 2010

TV Ad Tackles Attitudes to Rape

One of the things that utterly appalls me is the number  people -  23% -  who think a woman who is drunk at the time of a rape is partly to blame. 17% think she has some responsibility if she is wearing revealing clothing.  

To challenge those attitudes Scotland's first TV ad aimed at challenging Scottish prejudices against rape victims was aired this evening. The ad features a man leering at a girl in a short skirt in a bar saying to his pal that "she's asking for it". The girl is then seen shopping for the skirt asking the assistant "I'm going out tonight and I want to get raped. I need a skirt that'll encourage a guy to have sex with me against my will." adding "As if!" as an aside to the camera.

This sums it up perfectly. Nobody is asking for it. I find the attitude displayed towards victims astonishing. Anything that can turn this around has to be welcomed. Good luck to Rape Crises Scotland in the campaign.

27 June 2010

Results Go as Predicted

My predictions for World Cup 2010 are still on course. Uruguay beat South Korea without really breaking sweat.

Mexico were well beaten by Argentina all be it with a very iffy  first goal  thrown into the mix. The ref was put in a hell of a situation because they showed the replay which indicated an Argentinian was off side a few seconds after he had awarded the goal and could not rescind it. The players went nuts but what was he supposed to do?



A similar situation happened with the Germany v England match. Germany were comfortable  4-1 winners and indeed one got the impression they took their foot of the gas when they scored their fourth with twenty minutes left. It could easily have been six or seven. 

At 2-1 an England equalizer, which was about a yard over the line,was disallowed. The squads of pundits were screaming blue murder but to be fair to the officials the ball hit the cross bar, bounced down over the line and then back up against the cross bar. It could easily look, to the naked eye, with a player obscuring the ground behind the goal line that it hadn't gone over. Again the ref after half time looked crestfallen. These mistakes are easily made and good refs can have their careers cut short after such events. It is such a shame. 

The game its self was one sided. Germany destroyed England on the counter attack. That being said Germany are not the force they were and Argentina, their next opponents will  present a much sterner test.
Last but not least Ghana - where my cash lies -  bundled the USA out. They face Uruguay.

26 June 2010

Knock Outs Begin

World Cup 2010 enters the knock out stages. The lasts of first round matches were a mixed bag with a some matches being tense, nervous, affairs others being free flowing and exciting.   The last 16 is all about winning so we should see much more fluidity.

The ties of this round will be Spain vs Portugal , Brazil vs a terrific Chile side - and Argentina vs Mexico. In each of these ties both teams will be major contenders if they win. Chile have suspended players and so are likely to be nudged out by Brazil - a pity as they have looked really good. Argentina I tip for, at least, the semis and impressive though Mexico have been I just can't see them beating them.

Apologies to my English and German friends I just can't see either of these sides being good enough to get past Argentina in the quarters.

Something that has struck me during all the squabbles between coaches of failing sides and their players is the images of  Diego Maradonna who hugs and kisses each of his players as they go on or come off the pitch. You do get the impression that his players would walk on hot coals for hims and he for them.  That leadership may see them lift the trophy yet.

25 June 2010

Health Board Development and last Full Council Before Recess

Wednesday I  attended an NHS Development day  discussing "Shifting the Balance of Care" away from principally Hospitals and Care homes towards looking after people in their own homes more. We have made great strides with this over the last 3 years with Re-ablement, Telecare and increased respite assisting  but we still have work  too do on this if we are to meet our aim of managing 40% of care in peoples own homes.

Today we had Full Council  where  discussion took place on issues such as Trams and Alternative Business Models - ensuring we can deliver as much service for the cash available in these straightened times.

On the UK front the week has been dominated by the Coalition Governments first budget.  I can't, in all honesty, say I am enthusiastic about it. The VAT increase sticks in my throat but in fairness I the Government are prisoners of circumstances. There is an urgent need to address the massive deficit. Polls and anecdotal evidence show that the public understands and are on board. I am also gratified by the numbers of people from right across the political spectrum who have been impressed by the way in which the Lib Dem's have managed to reign in the excesses they feared about the Tories ruling alone. The public gets that coalition is different and rather likes it.  

24 June 2010

Mouthwatering Ties in Store for the Last 16!

What a remarkable day in the sporting world. John Isner eventually won his epic tennis encounter against Nicolas Mahut in 5 sets the last going to an extraordinary  70 - 68 games. Some one said to me that a pundit stated that the effort would take them  the rest of their season to get over. The fact that it was a round 1 match and Isner hopes to have enough energy for  another 6 matches plus doubles is more alarming. I sincerely hope this pair milk it for all they can - the deserve it.

Not content with France bombing at the World cup and Engerland now facing  Germany Italy were knocked out by Slovakia.  A tournament of upsets indeed.  

My predictions..... Argentina and Uruguay will both make the semis but I am not prepared to go beyond that. Spain may still go out. Chile look really good and will be difficult to beat. The Dutch have been impressive but  they have done so in the group stages only to fall foul in the past. Brazil v Portugal will determine a lot. Both may make the semis. Again this one could be a classic as could Argentina v Mexico.




22 June 2010

National Award for ETF Suicide Prevention

Congratulations to Edinburgh Tenants Federation  who scooped the nationally acclaimed Frances Nelson Award for their pioneering work on mental health and particularly in the area of suicide prevention in high rise blocks.

The award was in the Umbrella Group category. As a result of ETF campaigning  200 council staff received suicide awareness training, key fobs with the Breathing Space Support helpline contacts were issued to tenants along with other other work with  tenants with mental health problems.

This has been a cutting edge project and one which I know has already saved a number of lives. Well done ETF.

Angel Sculptors Work Comes to Edinburgh

Angel of the North sculptor Antony Gormley has just completed his first Scottish Project. Six life sized statues have been placed in the Water of Leith from the point where the river snakes round past the Gallery of Modern Art down to the end of a Pier in Leith.

Art is such a  subjective thing and big  public sculpture even more so. In Edinburgh we have hasd very mixed results  with such public art. The Everyman Statue outside the Council HQ has been criticized by politicians; we had a kinetic sculpture at the top of Leith Walk for 10 years which supposed to light up when the  wind blew. It was installed during the era of power cuts and I can't find anyone who remembers it illuminated or who liked it. It was removed in the early 80's.

We have Eduardo Paolozzi's giant foot at the top of the Walk now. Paolozzi was at High school with my mother and his works were cutting edge and at times very controversial.

So how will these life sized figures immersed in the Water of Leith go down? Well apparently they are so realistic the Police have received calls from worried passers by.

21 June 2010

Nick Clegg Explains Why We Have to Do This

Why we have to do this
Dear Friend,

Tomorrow, the coalition government will deliver an emergency budget to bring order back to the public finances. It will be a difficult budget - but remember, as you hear it, why we have to do this.

Labour left our country with a mountain of debt. Every minute that goes by the government spends a staggering £80,000 on interest, that's over £800 million a week. If we don't take action now, the markets will force us into even more drastic measures as they have in Greece and Spain.


Without action on the deficit, we will carry on racking up unaffordable debts our children will have to pay off. We will carry on spending more money on debt interest than we do on our schools. And we will undermine the economic growth needed to create jobs and opportunities for all of us. There is nothing fair, liberal or progressive about any of that.
Of course, the Labour party will say that these decisions are not justified. They will say the budget creates risks for our economy and that Liberal Democrats have sold out to go along with Conservative cuts. They are wrong.

Every time you hear Labour say that, ask them why they covered up the details of the £44bn of cuts they themselves had planned. Ask them why they racked up so much debt that we could end up spending £70bn a year just on debt interest. And ask them why they created this fiscal bombshell in the first place by refusing to take action against the reckless banks even when Vince Cable warned of the risks they were taking.

Until Labour accepts the blame for the mess we are in and comes up with a plan for getting us out, they cannot be taken seriously.

We have always argued that cuts would be necessary, but the timing should be based on economic circumstances, not political dogma. The economic situation today means that time has come.

A lot has changed even in the last few months. The crisis in the Eurozone and the problems in Greece and Spain have put huge pressure on us. The new Office of Budget Responsibility has shown that the structural deficit is bigger than we thought. And in government, we have discovered billions of pounds of unfunded spending promises Labour had made, cynically raising people's hopes when they knew the coffers were bare.

So cuts must come. We have taken the difficult decisions with care, and with fairness at their heart. You will see the stamp of our Liberal Democrat values in tomorrow's Budget. But nonetheless, it will be controversial. This is one of the hardest things we will ever have to do, but I assure you, the alternative is worse: rising debts, higher interest rates, less growth and fewer opportunities.

Sorting out Labour's mess will be difficult but it is the right thing to do.
Best wishes,
Nick Clegg Signature
Nick Clegg MP
Leader of the Liberal Democrats & Deputy Prime Minister

Positive Steps in Mental Health as new Service Opens

A new mental health service based in South West Edinburgh opens today.  Positive Steps offers visiting support for up to 11 people experiencing mental health difficulties.  The project aims to help people live in their own homes and become more integrated in the local community.


Staff from the Council’s Health and Social Care Department will offer emotional support as well as supporting tenants in developing daily life skills such as shopping, cooking and looking after their home. The service being available 365 days per year it will also provide tenants with access to community events, employment and education.


Another part of initiative is the creation of an involvement group for people using the service where they can share their views and have an input into its development.

For my part I welcome the opening of this excellent  new service.  The people using this service will now be able to live in their own homes, achieve greater independence and feel they are part of the community. It will also help them manage and maintain a positive and healthy wellbeing. That has to be a good thing.

Crime Continues to Tumble in the Capital

The news that Edinburgh's crime figures have dropped by 10 % is terrific.

http://edinburghnews.scotsman.com/edinburgh/Edinburgh-crime-falls-by-10.6374099.jp

Over the years a lot of effort has gone into closer partnership working between Police, the council (through Community Safety, Licensing, Environmental Wardens etc) and other agencies. That work has been paying off  with steady falls in crime and antisocial behaviour. That we still manage to continue this downward trend is really gratifying. Well done to all involved.

20 June 2010

Edinburgh's School Kids Display Their Talents

I spent much of Saturday morning helping to introduce screenings by Edinburgh school children as part of an award scheme at the Film Festival. I did this event a couple of years ago and it was hilarious -  it included an animated short which was a cross between Reservoir Dogs and Pirates of the Caribbean but with a bloodier ending! Lets just say a crocodile was involved.

The Primary school children had a lot of wit in their short films and, on occasion, surrealism that Dali would be proud of including a banana having a fight with a carrot.

The secondary school films are traditionally darker but even here wit was never far away with one film being a parody of Jimmy Stewart's "Harvey" set on Bruntsfield Links. 

Part of the purpose of the project was that film making can often instill skills that are of use in other areas of life. We do have actors, writers, make up artists, cameramen, sound engineers living and working in Edinburgh but we also have others who have taken transferable skills learned on the project and managed to make a career in another field. And best of luck to them!

19 June 2010

World Cup 2010 - Hmmmm

The first tranche of games were disappointing but things have opened up for the second with a handful of real upsets.

I am looking forward to the knock out stages when real cup footie will be played. So far the teams that have impressed have been Chile, Argentina, Mexico and the Dutch. France have bombed and hot favourites Spain were banjoed by the Swiss while an initially sprightly looking Germany were surprise victims of the Serbs last night.

Then there is England....oh dear. They may still qualify I just don't see them getting beyond the last 16. It can't help the players confidence that the manager won't share his selection until the last minute. How are top class sportsmen supposed to get their heads in the zone at 2 hours notice especially the goalies.

At the time of writing Ghana (who I have in the Office sweep) have just drawn with Australia and I think my cash is going to someone else!

Prizes and Stars Galore in Edinburgh

Congratulations to Port of Leith Housing Association whose Goosander Development won large (over 100 units) Affordable Housing Development of the year last night at the annual Housing awards. Congratulation also to Craig Sanderson's Link Housing Association who scooped  the top Housing Association award!

Since I last posted the Film Festival has kicked off with the wonderful Illusionist opening jamboree. The film is terrific with a script by Jaques Tati and Sylvain Chomet with direction by  Oscar Winner Chomet. It looks great and has shed loads of running gags that will appeal to anyone who knows the city.

Already dubbed  the "hippest" film festival on the circuit and the "Festival of Discovery" by the Media the EIFF marketers wanted to "street bleach" Sunset Boulevard style stars onto the city pavements to add a little Hollywood glam but  found the city center pavements to be "too clean"! We will just have to make do with real live stars then and they are here in their numbers.

Among those in town we have Sir Patrick Stewart and  Britt Ekland who are both part of the Michael Powell award jury.  Powell was a great British Director of such films as Black Narcissus and the Red Shoes. He had a special feeling for Scotland and his name has been attached to one of the Festivals principle awards for some time now.    

Interesting times in town and there are some cracking films on show including a special screening of the Man that would be King - the John Houston Masterpiece.  Should be a treat.

15 June 2010

A New Approach to Inequalities

On Friday I hosted a seminar on the subject of Neighbourhood Partnership working and what the Partnerships can do to regarding Health Inequalities. 

In Edinburgh your life expectancy as a male can vary by as much as 25.8 years depending on where you live!

Factors which have contributed to this have included housing quality, alcohol, drugs, lack of exercise and poor diet. What is clear to me is that the NHS can do little on their own about this. For example alcohol is a licensing issue, a community safety issue, a Law and Order issue all often before it becomes a health issue. Exercise depends very much on facilities and access to green spaces.
  
On Housing Standards registered social landlords like  the Council are  doing what we can with the investment in the Scottish Housing Quality Standards to ensure that there will be no damp, cold social houses in Edinburgh by 2015.

The Public sector are spending many millions each year on 'health' inequalities, but problem much wider than health. We need a much more cohesive, multi agency approach to the problem. To achieve this we need to develop much closer partnership working between the Council, NHS, Police, voluntary sector and our communities. This needs to start with all partners at a Neighbourhood level. 

14 June 2010

Gull Free Housing at Western Harbour

I visited a  new Affordable Housing Development at the Western Harbour on Edinburgh's Waterfront. A very impressive development of 102 homes built  for Port of Leith Housing Association at Goosander Place, a site next to the old fish market.

The development boasts 8 homes for people with disabilities plus many, much needed, three bed roomed homes for families. Another interesting feature was the ground source heating system making this one of the most sustainable development in the country.

When I had finished looking at the magnificent views from top floor balconies I wandered down into the garden to find  three birds of prey tethered there. A falconer comes 4 times a week and his birds have a fly about in order to scare gulls away. They don't kill any gulls but this is enough to deter them.

Port of Leith are rightly proud of their new homes and hope to provide 500 more homes in the future to help address the shortage of affordable housing in the City. 

12 June 2010

Win for Scotland, Draw for England and the Council Makes the Semis

I am numb from the neck down. I have been playing in a touch Rugby tournament with the Council Team. We got to the semis but were edged out. Six matches takes their toll on an old timer like me but there you go.

England have just drawn  1-1 with the USA in the World Cup thanks in part to an English a goal keeping howler  the type Scottish keepers are infamous for. Less surprising was the role of Emile Heskey in England's goal.  He doesn't score many but sets them up at a staggering rate, He must be a dream for ambitious strikers to play alongside.


Today the England goalie who let in the USA winner in 1950, Bert "the Cat" Williams received an MBE! Poignant?

 
Our Head of Transport at the Council played in goal for the Scottish schools side and for Airdrie at a senior level. After the last budget I was unwinding in a bar with my Nationalist colleagues and he walked in. I asked him about his career as a goalie and whether it was true he had been capped at school boy level. He said yes so I tossed him a bar mat. He dropped it. For some reason I wasn't surprised!


Scotland's rugby players have just pulled of a remarkable win against Argentina. Playing in Tucuman where the home side have never lost they managed to win for only the third time against this very physical side.


Dan Park kicked all the 24 Scotland points and though all the tries were scored by the Argentine ultimately it is points that win the game. This result continues the great improvement under Andy Robinson.

11 June 2010

Affordable Housing, Firemen and Police Horses - Another Day out of the Office!

A very long and busy Thursday began by  tagging along with the Planning Committees annual bus tour of Affordable Housing sites. The new development at Fountainbridge, on the site of the old brewery, was really impressive.The streets seemed narrower than normally agreed by the Council, to keep in line with existing tenements. The height of the buildings  was also a noticeable. The results work really well. The brick finish - unusual in Edinburgh - really looked fantastic. This development was a mixture of high quality private homes and some housing for people with disabilities. 

The residence for people with disabilities was build with the assistance of the Merchant Company of Edinburgh and Dunedin Canmore Housing Association. 

I then moved onto the annual Play Safe event which was held at St Georges School. This event brings together Police, Fire Service, RNLI and ambulance services to show primary school children their work. Children from all the local primary schools in West Edinburgh were involved and I understand the BAA sponsor the event.

The fireman's hose was ably manned by a Community firefighter I had been at school with and  hadn't seen since I left. He has 4 siblings so we spent some time catching up about where each had ended up professionally and geographically!  

The tiny children, and you forget how tiny school kids can be, weren't bothered about our gossip being much more interested in the Police horses who were a very big hit as you can imagine.

9 June 2010

Minister Drops By To See Reablement First Hand

We had a ministerial visit to the North East Reablement Team this morning. Shona Robison who is one of the Scottish Governments Health Minsters kindly accepted my invitation to see this extraordinary project in action. 

The staff were in great fettle. They know they are at the cutting edge of social care services in Scotland and that they are running a cracker of a project. 

Reablement  is about empowering people who for have  found themselves to be infirm. Rather than giving them a Home Help in perpetuity, as happened in the past, they now receive 6 weeks of intensive support aimed at getting them back on their feet, rebuilding their confidence and building up their life skills again. In many cases  the person will require no care at the end. It is one the these occasions where innovation, financial saving and the  very best interests of the service user happily coincide. The results have been very encouraging.

It is such a person centred reform and I am immensely proud of it. Amazingly it was opposed by both Labour and the Greens when we pushed it through.

8 June 2010

Polish Opposition Leader Remembered

Last Sunday over 100,000 attended an open air mass to celebrate the beatification of Father Jerzy Popielussko murdered by the Polish secret Police in 1984. Beatification is one of the stages towards sainthood. I find this remarkable not because the church wants to canonize him - he was martyred which is one qualification - it is the speed of it.



Joan of Arc was martyred in 1431 but only beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920. St Benedict took around 600 years also. Fr  Popielussko is the first person beatified who I can actually recall being murdered. Up until now these martyrdom's have been abstracts from hundreds of years ago.

Pope John Paul II simplified the canonization process eliminating the need for the involvement of the "Promoter of the Faith" a position better known as the Devil's Advocate. The result was that the  rate of canonization increased substantially.

6 June 2010

Light at the End of the Tunnel for Border Dispute

Slovenes are voting today in a referendum on whether to accept a deal on a border dispute with Croatia. The subject of the  disagreement in the past surrounded the tiny Bay of Piran in the Adriatic Sea and led to Slovenia blocking Croatia's entry to the EU. The problem dates back to the break up of Yugoslavia in the 90's. The nub of the issue surrounded the border and how when extended into the sea it would impact on Slovenia's access to the sea. As part of the EU that shouldn't be a problem as freedom of movement is part and parcel of the Union.

The agreement that has been brokered by international arbiters and, if accepted, will act as a clear example to the rest of the Balkans that progress can be  achieved through dialog and a shared future in the EU.


I visited the Balkans last year. It is an extraordinarily beautiful place but the ethnic tensions still simmer away there. I visited Mostar where the old walled town has been rebuilt but much of the rest of the town still scarred by war as you can see from the posted  picture.

The vote is expected to be tight but which ever way it goes I hope that both sides accept it and I hope  the example that would set of how to resolve disagreements such as this will be followed elsewhere in the region.


5 June 2010

Fun at Corstorphine Fair

I spent the day at the Corstorphine Fair. This amazing community event I am delighted to say is well supported by the Western Edinburgh Neighbourhood Partnership. I will post in more detail about the Partnership and Neighbourhood working in the future.

Anyho' the Fair was a great success allowing many local groups to raise much needed funds and to publicize their work. The local Neighbourhood Team not only had a stall but also their new mobile library on display. It looked great and was very well kitted out. This library takes its services to the far reaches of rural West Edinburgh and estates where access to library services can be very difficult for some people. 

The Friends of Corstorphine Hill of whom I am the Honorary President had an excellent display of their work but also were selling  card board cut out kits of Clermiston Tower (see left for the real thing)! A bit like the  airfix kits of my childhood - what a cracking fundraising idea. I just couldn't resist!

It was great catching up with old friends and enjoying the fun in the sunshine. I also managed to get hold of some excellent home baking - one of the real treats about attending summer fetes and fairs - the cream cheese and cranberry biscuits have already been dispatched and very nice they were too.

This being Edinburgh as I am composing this the fine weather has broken and a downpour is ensuing.

Obama 's Your Daddy

BP is not the equal of the United States government. This president needs to tell BP 'I'm your daddy, I'm in charge, you're going to do what we say. You're a multinational company that is greedy and you may be guilty of criminal activity.' It's time that we understand, BP does not wish this thing well. They have been negligent. They need to whip out their checkbook and start moving into action and the president needs to push them. 

 James Carville


I'm a big fan of James Carville, former Clinton campaign guru who always has had a colourful turn of phrase. His frustration as a resident of Louisiana is clear. That being said  as a "greedy" multinational it is not in BP's interests to have oil spewing out into the Gulf of Mexico. They are not able to sell that wasted oil, which is what they are all about, they are going to have to pay out a fortune in compensation and their share price will continue to tumble.  



It is easy to have a pop at Obama, and Carville did back Hilary Clinton, but there are limitations to what he can do about this engineering catastrophe way out in the Gulf.  It shows what little power you have as president in cases where you simply can't send in the Marines!

2 June 2010

Innovation on Tower Block Fire Safety

I was delighted to see that my good friend and Vice Convener Norman Work has been publicizing  the positive  partnership between the Council and Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service. The event in question related to  Special Fire Liaison Concierges. 15 trainees are to be taken on to promote fire safety in tower blocks. This is excellent work and  builds on other innovative work carried out with the Council's own concierge services in tower  blocks relating to mental health and suicide prevention


Norman said:

This is a great partnership scheme, as not only will it provide local unemployed people with training and a job for six months but it will also build their confidence and work skills.

1 June 2010

Classic Footage of Brazilian Genius

I tripped across this extraordinary piece of footage from 1970. The tensions behind the most gifted International football team in history are  played out in this amazing  piece of documentary. Watch and enjoy and remember what  magic this lot served up a few weeks later!

 http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/panorama/2010/05/brazil_1970_pele_the_brooding.html

Film Festivals Past

I am waiting for the publication of the Film Festival Program due tomorrow. I am a Board Member and as an avid cinema goer the Festival is one of the highlights of my year. The quality of film on offer is always very high. Every year  I find myself wowed by an off beat  picture that I would probably struggle to come across in a multiplex.

By far the best film I think I have ever seen was such a screening.  Deepa Metha's masterpiece Water completely blew me away. She is one of India's most controversial film makers and indeed Water, which is about Widow Houses in Varanasi, had to be made in Sri Lanka as the set kept getting burnt down.

The film itself is so powerful, so moving and so beautifully shot. I have never sat in a cinema watching this without some one crying a river beside me. This work has everything. Magnificent performances, a terrific script and Gandhi!

If I can find anything that comes close this Festival I will be a very happy man.