So how was your 2018? This was mine.



Writing a blogpost because creating a video medley feels like too hard work.

Remember that a couple of days before the start of the year, I was in a hospital bed recovering from exploratory surgery at Papworth Hospital (now Royal Papworth) following a suspected heart attack.

…hence starting this with a thank you to all who looked after me during that trial of life.

I wrote about it in this blogpost, which in the grand scheme of things says you come out a very different person from the one before. As a result, I ended up dropping things like hot stones – in particular anything political and community action.

Keeping Cambridge Special in the face of massive expansion – but special for whom?

Filming at a joint event at the start of the year – I wonder how these events will look to future historians in say in the year 2065 or 2200? Or will future historians be more interested in what delegates are wearing, the accents they speak in, and the set up of the conferencing facilities?

More Qs on the proposed metro system for Cambridge

When I tabled this question, I had no idea how controversial things were to become in the year ahead. From my perspective looking at things over a 100 year+ time horizon, Cambridge’s future transport has to involve tunnels along with something other than buses transporting people around and beyond town: i.e. it has to connect surrounding towns and villages too. Just before the end of this year, the Greater Cambridge Partnership *finally* published a video that should have been launched at the start back in 2014.

Had something like the above been commissioned and published back in 2014, they would have saved themselves a huge amount of work and aggravation.

Top economist Kate Raworth visits Cambridge for Imagine2027

An important series of events this was – Imagine 2027 by the Cambridge Commons & the Equality Trust brought together a number of top progressive thinkers to get them to set out their visions for life in 2027.

The centenary of some women being given the vote

Surely the politicians of the day were told that this would be a ***really rubbish headline*** in a hundred years time. But we’re stuck with it. The leader of the non-violent law-abiding suffragists, Millicent Garrett Fawcett was honoured with a civic blue plaque, unveiled by Cambridge’s first woman MP Anne Campbell (Lab – Cambridge 1992-2005).

Anne Campbell at the Cambridge Guildhall.

I was also invited to film a large conference on Women’s Suffrage in February 2018 – the videos are in this playlist with a number of top researchers and institutions in a field that hasn’t had nearly the attention its achievements deserve.

2018 began with protests too

The University and Colleges Union on pensions, which became something far greater than they had expected – turning into a wider campaign about imagining a better university that serves the many, not the few. Cuts by the Conservative-run county council were opposed by Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors. The structure of local government remains a sore point as it has done for over a century.

Clashes between developers trying to wriggle out of legal requirements on air quality versus new residents who quite understandably wanted to hold them to it

The ever-controversial CB1 development led to this confrontation at The Guildhall making the developers and their agents even less popular than they already are.

This made the Cambridge News in March, at

We had more familiar faces from politics TV (and the centre left/liberal press) in Cambridge with Imagine2027 including

The history of Cambridge the town had its profile raised

Not only through my efforts but those of others too. Tony Kirby gave a crash course on the history of housing in Cambridge.

For the Cambridgeshire Association for Local History

..while in South Cambridge, locals protested against the loss of one piece of local history. Queen Edith’s doesn’t have the grand historic buildings of the centre of town so we need to be careful with what we have. But ‘the market’ as structured works differently.

The County Council announced it wanted to sell off Shire Hall.

So I enquired about turning part of the site into an expanded Museum of Cambridge.

Governance issues

In the meantime things got heated between the county mayor James Palmer and the leader of Cambridge City Council Cllr Lewis Herbert and the newly elected leader of South Cambs District Council, Cllr Bridget Smith. This would only be the start of an eventful autumn.

In the meantime, the protests continued – this time on climate change.

While experts in the local building industry asked what sort of communities Cambridgeshire should be building.

The CFCI (who gave me a grant for a new camcorder) hosted this event which gave a series of scenarios that politicians really should have included in their consultations and publicity to local residents.

The Pro-EU campaign rocked up to Cambridge

…and TV and radio comedian Mitch Benn opened fire. Politically.

…Followed by Sir Vince Cable of the Liberal Democrats, along with short summaries from county reps across East Anglia.

Spending a long hot summer in an air conditioned archive

It was the only way to cope I found. Turns out the archives is full of historical gems. The public may complain that they don’t know who their councillors are, but in the 1930s people were so familiar with them that they were easily caricatured. Here’s Dr Alex Wood of Cambridge Labour Party (PPC 1931 and 1935 in Cambridge) depicted as a carrot, and Albert Stubbs as an onion.

360919 Ronald Searle Alex Wood Carrott vegetable show Cartoon

…as Ronald Searle illustrated in the run up to WWII.


Turns out they had heatwaves in the olden days too.

Talking of olden days, Clara Rackham also got a blue plaque. This is her re-dramatised during the 1926 General Strike.

Above – Clara Rackham dramatised at a celebration event at ARU. Below, a colourised photo of Clara Rackham by Palmer Clark and Photo Restoration Services that I commissioned the latter to undertake from an image in the Cambridgeshire Collection.

181010 Clara Rackham Palmer Clark HiRes colourised Low Res.jpg

Clara Rackham, original image the Cambridgeshire Collection from the Palmer Clark glass plates

My favourite image from the glass plates, although a damaged negative, is the one below of Eglantyne Jebb, co-founder of Save the Children, and former local resident.

Eglantyne Jebb Palmer Clarke High Res_1.1 colourised before after

Eglantyne Jebb, original image the Cambridgeshire Collection from the Palmer Clark glass plates. Restored by Photo Restoration Services.

Finally, I purchased a wonderful vintage British Rail poster from the 1950s and gifted it to the Museum of Cambridge.


I presented some of the images from the archives, and the poster above, to Cambridge City Council’s full council.

Cllr Anna Smith (Lab – Romsey) for Cambridge City Council.

I also gave my first presentation on the Women who made Modern Cambridge for the Cambridge Festival of Ideas. Around the same time I launched a new local history Meetup Group.

Finishing the year with more protests.

Climate change again, followed by the anti-Brexit bus

Extinction Rebellion forms in Cambridge

A big yellow bus arrived in Cambridge.

Anti-Brexit campaigner Madeleina Kay in Cambridge, with Boris lookalike @FauxBojo.

And finally…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s