September is normally a time when people commit to something new – especially with a new academic season of evening classes. But the national and global backdrop looks increasingly gloomy.

Let’s start this post with a little bit of Earth, Wind and Fire 1999 stylee

There were only three times in my life where I can recall really looking forward to the future.

  • 1995/96 with GCSEs looming, leaving school and going to sixth form college
  • Autumn 1999 – leaving Cambridge to go to university
  • November/December 2006 – leaving Cambridge (again) to move to London with the civil service fast stream

I can’t recall going into a September when the national and global background to everything was so unbelievably doom-laden. Whether it’s the violence cutting a swathe from the western deserts of North Africa all the way to the Himalayas, to the horrific scandals in Rotherham where the entire public sector seems to have imploded due to the repeated catastrophic collective failure over an extended period years to protect our most vulnerable children. The full official report is here. It’s devastating in its conclusions.

Is it happening elsewhere?

With the latter, judging by Twitter’s response to Panorama of 1 Sept 2014 (watch again here, but with a trigger warning) I’m surprised something hasn’t already kicked off given the anger and rage being expressed. A number of people mentioned that this wasn’t the only place such horrific things were happening and where the responsible authorities were allegedly turning a blind eye. I hope the victims are getting the support they need and the perpetrators brought to justice. At a wider scale, there are a lot of very difficult questions many people need to answer. At the moment, we’re seeing too much denial.

Choosing to become responsible for each other

This was a theme of Puffles’ election campaign in spring 2014, from which evolved Be The Change – Cambridge. Basically I got sick and tired of waiting for the oil tanker of the local public sector to change direction – especially given the inevitable paralysis that austerity brought. You can’t have confident, outward-looking, dynamic and buzzing institutions when everyone is fearing for their jobs, watching talented staff leave and are overwhelmed by increasing demands on the back of problems in the economy. Therefore to expect a public sector alone to deliver what Cambridge needs on the back of such a big hit was never going to happen. Someone had to do something.

Too big for my boots?

It’s one of the accusations been thrown at me. And that was one of the softer ones! But then others have said those who say it can’t be done should stay out of the way of those that are doing it. After ages of nicely asking, and then more assertively asking, it got to the stage where I had to stand up and be counted – and follow that through with longer term actions. First was the election campaign, the second has been putting on this event, and the third has been the vox-pop interviews I’ve been doing. It’s easy to ignore one person who goes on like a stuck record. (I have been known!) It’s much harder when there are dozens of people with lots of ideas, all of which are recorded on camera.

It’s not just the organisations backing Be the change – Cambridge, but have a look who is coming along on Sat 13 Sept. Cross-party representation across local, national and European tiers of public office. We’ve also got another very special guest facilitator who we’ll be announcing this week too! Keep an eye on our website!

Back on the radio again – and doing more filming

I’m back on Cambridge 105FM later this week. Here’s a previous interview where I discuss the new laws allowing greater community reporting at council meetings.

I’m also going to be doing lots more vox-pop interviews, both as part of the ‘Be the change – Cambridge’ project but also as part of learning how to improve my use of video and audio editing software. This set of clips is an early draft that needs lots of improvement

Sing it back, sing it back, sing it back to me!

The above lyrics taken from Moloko, another circa autumn 1999 track. One of the reasons I’m still so angry about my time at university is because my experience was the complete opposite of the hope and excitement I had. I remember at the time that I was one of the last of my ‘year out’ cohort to go to university. Everyone else I had met had gone the previous year or had departed in the days or weeks before. In my mind I saw myself as being on a metaphorical runway waiting to take off – having outgrown my home town (the nest). The early parts of this scene from Forrest Gump reflect how I was trying to psyche myself up for a move to Brighton.

The only difference was that the soundtrack to driving down to Brighton was ‘Danger Zone’ by Kenny Loggins. Even thinking back to how I was feeling back then makes my heart buzz. Unfortunately I the activities I wanted to do at university – in particular the vibrant on-campus music learning environment simply didn’t exist. I remember going along to a musical chorus with one of my flatmates, and it was horrific. I was a first year, one of only two blokes there and went along because I quite liked the idea of a sing-song outside the then oppressive atmosphere of Cambridge. This one was even worse and I never returned. Fifteen years later, Andrea Cockerton arrives to sort things out. The result? This.

The Dowsing Sound Collective in Cambridge are also looking for a few more men to join us. Also, we’re expanding to Brighton, London, Norwich and York. Some of you reading this live in one of those four spots.

One of the things I mentioned years ago that I wanted to get back into was public performance. After the experience in Brighton I never believed I would sing again. Funny how things change.

Me at The Apex in Bury St Edmunds - Photo by Mike Oliver (
Me at The Apex in Bury St Edmunds with the Dowsing Sound Collective – Photo by Mike Oliver (

The picture on the left was after me and Puffles had appeared with the Dowsing Sound Collective as part of Basement Jaxx’s ‘Power to the People’ project – which has just been released as part of their new autumn album ‘Junto’. We didn’t just appear in one of their videos, I appeared dressed as a vampire – The Count from Sesame Street. And Puffles? As a vampire bat. Think about it: Puffles. As a vampire bat. In a Basement Jaxx video.

From 1m21s if you’re interested.

The plan for this autumn?

I’ve also got a number of things in the pipeline that are all related to the principles of Be the change – Cambridge. The target? The 2015 General Election. Raise awareness, make the contacts and help people get informed and educated in time for when the national politicians come to town.

So…that’s me being the change…

What about you? What can you do to make even a small positive difference round your way? Because given the toxic national and international news backdrop, people could do with some inspiration. Could you be that person to inspire them? Could you be that person who provides that essential support to someone else’s inspiring project?

Are you prepared to run the risk of failure in order to reach your potential?

With just under a fortnight to go, and with a big marketing push this week for next week Saturday, I am staring that risk in the face. And it is a frightening place to be. But an exciting one too. If you’re in Cambridge and are free on Saturday 13th September (or know someone who is), your city needs you.

Many Bridges

One Cambridge

It’s your city

Be. The. Change.


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