Tweets from the beat: West Hampstead Sergeant joins Twitter

The police seem to have an uneasy relationship with Twitter. While accounts such as @MPSInTheSky attract legions of followers and brilliantly balance updates on activity with behind-the-scenes insights, the borough level accounts are a bit more hit and miss. Brent’s account is fairly active, for example, but Camden seems to have chosen to tread a much more cautious path.

Here in West Hampstead, we had an early adopter in the brilliant @WHLocalPlod with her Juliet Bravo avatar (cultural reference for the grown-ups there), but this was always an unofficial account, even though it was run with the utmost professionalism and integrity. Once she left the Met, there was a gap to be filled.

A year later and Sgt. Ian Hutton, the new(ish) Safer Neighbourhood Sergeant for West Hampstead & Fortune Green, today announced his official Twitter account: MPS_WHampstdSgt. He is one of a growing number of Safer Neighbourhood officers on Twitter – all with sanctioned accounts.

Sgt Ian Hutton

Sgt Ian Hutton

Getting on Twitter makes a lot of sense from the police’s point of view. It’s a good way of rapidly interacting with the public, especially with so many amplifier accounts out there who can ensure that public information news is disseminated quickly.

Of course, all police accounts emphasise that they are not to be used to report crime. This is pretty much common sense. In an emergency, call 999; if it’s not an emergecy, dial 101.

West Hampstead Life wishes Sgt Hutton the best of luck with his account. These are testing times for the police, but engaging with the public using the very channels that the public uses itself can only be a good thing. Inevitably they’ll cop some flak, and it’s always easier to abuse someone from the safety of an anonymous account than it is face-to-face. Nevertheless, if we want the police to be more accountable and approachable, getting them using Twitter is a good thing in my book.

I hope that the MPS Camden account itself is able to step up and deliver the same sort of service. As I write, at 10.20pm on January 9th, the account hasn’t tweeted since January 2nd.

Tweet of the Year: Your chance to vote

It’s that time folks… Forget the Oscars, the Grammys, BAFTAs, Bookers, Pulitzers and Nobels. There is only one award worth winning in West Hampstead – Tweet of the Year.

This year we have two categories: Tweet of the Year and Photo of the Year. All entries are anonymous – I’ll reveal all the nominees’ names after the results are in. There are prizes for the winners.

Voting ends on New Year’s Eve at 5pm. I’m going to trust you all to play nicely – I don’t want to have to bring in UN inspectors to oversee this!

Photo of the Year is a slightly trickier affair. I’ll show you all the photos and then there’s a poll at the end to vote for the one you like most. OK, not that trickier.

Cafe Bon gone

Cafe Bon gone

There's a lot of tartan at WHampstead this evening. Good banter. #EngvSco

There’s a lot of tartan at WHampstead this evening. Good banter. #EngvSco

Just posted a photo at West Hampstead

Just posted a photo at West Hampstead

#whampsunset Mill Lane 5.34pm, putting the west into west hampstead

#whampsunset Mill Lane 5.34pm, putting the west into west hampstead

Went to Dylan's to complain about ants in my son's donut and saw that they had bigger issues with animals.

Went to Dylan’s to complain about ants in my son’s donut and saw that they had bigger issues with animals.

The photocopier at my local Post Office really knows how to tell it like it is

The photocopier at my local Post Office really knows how to tell it like it is

Possibly worst example of fly tipping at Minster Rd recycling. I complained, council cleared but it goes on.

Possibly worst example of fly tipping at Minster Rd recycling. I complained, council cleared but it goes on.

Sky writer sunset

Sky writer sunset

Parking enforcement leading by example as usual

Parking enforcement leading by example as usual

Sun setting at the end of my street!

Sun setting at the end of my street!

Tweet of the Year: Vote now

Forget the Oscars, the BRITS, the Golden Globes or even Sports Personality. There’s only one annual award worth winning. The West Hampstead Life Tweet of the Year award. It’s here. It’s now. It’s competitive.

Below are the eight tweets I’ve shortlisted. Vote for your favouite – please vote only once, and I shall be on the lookout for people trying to cheat! The poll closes at midnight on New Year’s Day

There is an actual prize for the winner, so lets see who will follow in the footsteps of the inimitable Jon Kelly who won in 2011. He got posted to Washington DC recently – that’s the impact that having Tweet of the Year on your CV can have.

Off you go!

UPDATE: Winner announced

Spot a celeb? Think before you tweet

West Hampstead has its fair share of local celebrities – Black-cab driving Stephen Fry might have deserted us but there’s still the A-list thesp set of Jim, Imelda, Phyllida, Emma and Greg. There’s the permanently louche Bill Nighy. There’s actress Angela Griffin, singer Chaka Kahn (although no-one ever seems to see her), and many more. Most recently, David Mitchell (ok, he’s in Kilburn) and Robert Webb have been the most visible local famous people.

Webb, in particular, is spotted very frequently on West End Lane and in particular in a couple of the local pubs. I see him myself fairly regularly. Yet, despite the fact that I seem to tweet every five seconds, I generally don’t live-tweet celebrity spots – at best I’ll wait until I’ve got home, or be very vague about where I’ve seen someone. In the same vein, I tend not to retweet other people’s real-time local celeb spots. This is particularly true for those famous people who actually live here or who, like Robert Webb, are seen frequently – it’s really not news and i don’t think my twitter followers are that interested. If someone’s here for work reasons (Phil & Kirstie, for example) then it’s a different ballgame.

Why so prissy? I think that if I was well-known I wouldn’t really want my whereabouts advertised when I just wanted a quiet pint. Some people crave the limelight, others have it shone on them when perhaps they’d rather stay in the shadows.

I was interested therefore to see a short exchange on Twitter last night.

Hard to tell whether Webb’s being narky or funny, and I feel a bit sorry for @markmccluskey who clearly didn’t expect to be called out on his tweet. It’s true that most people who spot Webb don’t use his twitter name, so unless he has a search set up for his name(or for “that bloke from Peep Show” or “Jez”) he probably doesn’t see how often he’s identified.

The moral of this story – next time you see someone famous in the neighbourhood, maybe have a think as to whether you really need to immediately tell the world that you’ve seen them and – if they’re on Twitter – whether there’s anything to be gained from using their twitter name in any message you do decide to post. Failure to do so might result in Robert Webb asking you to explain yourself in person!

Kilburn floods while Twitter explodes

I woke up on Wednesday and lazily checked Twitter only to find my timeline swamped by a deluge of tweets about Kilburn.

A burst water main initially believed to be in Maygrove Road, but later believed to be in Christchurch Avenue, caused a quite spectacular flood that was up to a metre deep in places according to London Fire Brigade.

Photo via @Kilburn_Dave

As it was the morning rush hour, the flood caused considerable disruption but the sight of the road under water seemed to be so amazing that grumbling was largely replaced by astonishment.

Photo via @mossbat

This is exactly the sort of news story that works well on Twitter. It doesn’t require in-depth analysis, public bodies can get important information to the public very quickly, and – as my hastily aggregated Pinterest board shows – it’s very photogenic.

No surprise then that Twitter formed the backbone of news reports.

The Evening Standard’s quoted heavily from Twitter and (in later versions) from eye witnesses who’d tweeted.

LBC actually sent a reporter to the scene and she tweeted good photos of the large hole in Christchurch Avenue and of the cleaning up operation in local shops.

Photo via @stanchers

You’d expect the local media to be on site and indeed, after the CNJ’s Richard Osley fired up a Storify page about it, he dispatched reporter Ruth Stivey to the scene. Ruth tweeted a good photo of the damage done to the cellar of the Sir Colin Campbell pub.

Photo via @LollyGee
Photo via @RuthStivey

The Brent & Kilburn Times also actually went to speak to the flooded business including the pub.

Not everyone manages to nail the use of new media. Brent Council, clearly preoccupied by the arrival of the Olympic torch through the northern reaches of the borough popped up on Twitter with a link to a page (since thoroughly updated) announcing that the High Road would be closed for five days.

This rather melodramatic scenario was clearly nonsense as the Fire Brigade did an amazing job of pumping out the water in a matter of hours and traffic was already flowing freely by mid-morning, even if the pavements were still a little muddy.

Once the water was gone, so was the news interest. The Brondesbury Medical Centre was closed all day, and Thames Water’s loss adjusters have been on the scene no doubt trying to work out quite how much damage this flood has done. Having seen the photos it’s actually amazing that the damage wasn’t more serious. Hopefully all the businesses that suffered don’t also incur any financial loss.

A Tale of Two Lions

The Old Black Lion on West End Lane was established in 1751. It was a beerhouse not a tavern, meaning it could sell only beer.

The Black Lion on Kilburn High Road is older. It dates back to 1666. (The Red Lion on Kilburn High Road dates back to 1444! Thankfully now it’s called The Westbury).

Both pubs were rebuilt around the start of the 20th century. The Black Lion in 1898 and The Old Black Lion in 1912.

Click for full-size, taken from The Streets of West Hampstead, Camden History Society

When I first moved to Kilburn, the Old Black Lion was a Rat and Carrot. Yes, carrot. The Railway was a Rat & Parrot. The Rat & Carrot chain was fairly short-lived if I recall. It reverted to being the Old Black Lion.

Only a few years ago, the Old Black Lion underwent a transformation from fairly straightforward pub showing sport to The Lion – which always reminded me a bit too much of an All Bar One.

The Black Lion meanwhile became very popular, and I believe its ceiling is actually listed – if you can list a ceiling.

A few months ago, rumours were flying around West Hampstead that The Lion was closing and being sold. I contacted Greene King, the owners, who assured me this was not the case. It was being refurbed and would be all new and shiny and exciting. It took a while for that to actually get started but the refurb is taking place at the moment.

Then today I was followed on Twitter by @TheBlackLionNW6. Its bio clearly says it is in West Hampstead. The Black Lion in Kilburn (also in NW6) tweets – albeit rarely – under @BlackLionLondon (which might have pissed off some of the other Black Lions within the M25).

“Black Lion” search in Google Maps. “B” is Kilburn’s. West Hampstead’s isn’t there yet

This afternoon, The Black Lion (West Hampstead), tweeted a couple of photos of its dinner and lunch menus. They look quite expensive – it’s competition for The Alice House, not The Railway. At the bottom of the menus (very sensibly) is a website address: Don’t confuse this with The Black Lion’s (Kilburn) website:

I visited the website (of the Black Lion West Hampstead). It’s obviously not quite fully fledged yet, but it does have a contact page, giving its address (295 West End Lane) and a handy Google map. Which shows the location of The Black Lion in Kilburn.

West End Lane is suddenly the Kilburn High Road

With a degree of irritation, I pointed this out to the good people at the new (Old) Black Lion who said that that was indeed a mistake and they’d correct it asap. Hurrah.

In the meantime, the pub opens on April 26th. I am prepared to spend a lot of time explaining to people that there are two Black Lions (like there used to be) on two different roads but in the same postcode area. Before the internet this clearly wasn’t a problem as both coexisted for about 250 years. Now, everyone needs a unique identifier and perhaps “NW6” wasn’t the best one to pick. For a start why not go back to The Old Black Lion, or even call it “The New Black Lion”.

I shall leave the last word to Shannon, whose common sense could have saved the day.

A year in 140 characters

Every week, the round-up of the previous seven days’ events includes a Tweet (or Photo) of the Week. I thought I’d take the best of them and see whether they revealed anything more meaningful about the year we’ve just experienced in West Hampstead.

They don’t. But some of them are quite funny.

I’m sorry I haven’t included every single one here, and there have been some weeks where the competition for Tweet of the Week has been stiff, so some people have missed out on the prestige of being able to add the letters TOTW to their business cards despite some excellent witty and pithy tweets. At the end (you’ll need to let the Storify widget load fully) is your chance to vote for Tweet of the Year.

Here then, without further ado, is the run down of the things that made us tweet in 2011:

It’s the end of the year as we know it

It’s the last Friday of the year and as those of you on Twitter will know, Friday is traditionally the day that people tweet “Follow Friday” – back in the days of yore (2009) this was a nice way to introduce your followers to some other people they might like to follow. Now it’s become little more than a shout out for people you like. I hardly ever “follow friday” anyone, but thought that for the end of the year I’d make an exception.

On the record with Londonist

On Monday morning I found myself in Hackney Wick – bit out of my usual patch. I was there with @BarnetEye to contribute to the Londonist Out Loud podcast, hosted by the hugely likeable and professional N Quentin Woolf.

It was a strange time to be talking all things London. The riots of Sunday night were of course fresh in everyone’s mind, but we obviously didn’t know that the situation was going to escalate later that day. So, we joined everyone else in speculating wildly about the context. At this stage I didn’t feel I had much to add given that north-west London had yet to feel any effects from the trouble. I would have had a lot more to say had we recorded on Tuesday morning, both about the damage and the social media implications.

The whole experience was fun – oddly, aside from the rioting there wasn’t a lot of other fascinating London news to discuss, but we seemed to cover a fair amount of ground.

If you want to listen to me ramble on riots, blogging, and communities then you can do so.

Live tweeting a quiet night in Kilburn

It’s been a busy evening on Twitter. Naturally, I have a search set up for “Kilburn” in my timeline and from late afternoon it seemed that every other message came from someone suggesting that riots were going to kick off in Kilburn.

It became increasingly hard to determine fact from speculation from deliberate fanning of the flames – whether for fun or for more sinister motives.

Finally, I began to get more convincing sounding reports, many from people I know and trust, that said there wasn’t much happening. It became clear that there was a substantial police presence, and that shops were closing… although it was approaching 6pm, so some were closing anyway. Around 6.30pm someone tweeted that all the banks were closed. No kidding.

There began to be more reports of small groups of young men mooching up and down the road, some with masks. Initially skeptical I refrained from retweeting this, but eventually I was convinced. Several people were doing trawls of the entire High Road to see what was happening – after all Kilburn High Road is a mile long – and reporting that there was no actual trouble. Then there were solid reports that police were stopping some peole and shortly after the Guardian’s Simon Rodgers tweeted that 20 people had been arrested in Kilburn.

I’m willing to trust the Guardian, so lets assume this is true. The Guardian’s rolling riot coverage read:

Kilburn, in north west London, has also seen trouble reports Simon Rodgers. He says there have been 20 arrests near Kilburn High Road. Youths are roaming around the area, Simon says.”

This seemed a fair reflection of the situation, and was clearly chicken feed compared to the serious situation in Hackney, Peckham and Lewisham.

Unfortunately, the Guardian then tweeted this:

Follow LIVE #LondonRiots updates as trouble spreads to #Croydon #Kilburn and #Birmingham

Of course this got RTd to death and suddenly perfectly sane people were understandably concerned. Of course the news moved on, nothing at all happened in Kilburn, and the Guardian carried on talking about the serious problems in Croydon and Clapham. Is it too much to expect a follow-up to say that Kilburn was calm? I know the journalists are stretched, so maybe it is too much. This isn’t meant to be a Guardian-bashing post anyway. But it’s indicative of the challenge journalists and responsible tweeters/bloggers have in trying to be up-to-date with events while not falling for seductive sounding “breaking news” tweets. People like to give their false reports authenticity… “my aunt says…” “a colleague rang me to say…”, etc. But it’s fairly easy to weed those out.

Harder to unravel were those messages from people I know who hear something from someone they know and – in a commendable effort to be helpful – ping me to keep me up to speed. With so many people tweeting though, one isolated report without a picture is to be taken with a large pinch of salt. In every single case, further investigation revealed that the reported fact simply wasn’t true. Many were either misunderstandings, or nuance was lost in the brevity of Twitter, or it was the product of over-active imaginations. But each one gets retweeted, especially when it’s written by someone with a lot of followers, before there’s a chance to contradict it and the whole thing starts again.

Part of me wonders whether it’s worth doing this – I’m under no illusion that fighting (with some very able allies – thanks to Julius_Geezer in particular) all the misinformation has any impact on what might happen, but it does seem worthwhile to allay people’s genuine fears.

More importantly, I would much rather be spending an evening trying to counter some misinformation than writing about looting, arson and general thuggery in the neighbourhood. In the parlance of the day, stay classy Kilburn.

Welcome to the Neighbourhood

Welcome to a new blog about all things West Hampstead. Don’t expect long entries, but there’ll be comments, reviews, and musings here from time to time about all things NW6.

The blog complements the Twitter account (@WHampstead), so if you’re a fellow Tweep, follow me there too.

For the moment this is my blog, but I’m open to sharing it with other local residents who might have ideas they want to put down in writing. Send me a comment if you’re interested.