Brighton revokes Uber license

Uber’s license in Brighton will not be renewed, making Brighton the third city in the United Kingdom to revoke the minicab’s operating license after London and York, which revoked the license in September and December respectively. As with the case in London, operators are free to continue while the ban is under appeal. One can only speculate that this is why Uber chose to appeal, in order to extend its operating term indefinitely in the city. Uber did lodge an appeal in York but withdrew it, and is not operating in the area any more. Its London contract is too lucrative to lose and will be subject to a hearing in June.

There are many concerns about Uber. One is that concerning safety. It is easy for drivers to offer their services to Uber as long as they have a clean driving record, but that is no different from hopping into a cab driven by a stranger. The only part Uber claims to play is in matchmaking those who need a cab with those who can provide a cab driving service at a particular point in time, and hence if there is a complaint oof some sort, the matter is – conveniently as Uber claims – directly against the driver, and hence out of its hands.

I suspect that the decision to revoke Uber’s licenses in various cities is more a protest against how it operates. Uber does not have employees, or so it claims. The drivers provide its services but are not employed by that. Because of this, they do not have any employee benefits. Uber has also cleverly exploited loopholes in the law to avoid paying corporation text, so despite making millions in turnover, the drivers make very littie and the company pays very little tax.

Uber’s dancing around the law is perhaps more emblematic of society as a whole. Uber claims it is not a taxi company. It does not own vehicles. It is only a hiring service. In a way it is like saying musicians do not produce music; they only find a way for record companies, who wish to sell products (records and digital downloads), to match their products to particular buyers (fans). According to the website piano teacher finsbury park blog, musicians have always needed to be creative, but this dancing around the law that Uber is doing perhaps was a step too far, a tango too much for those taken along for the ride.

Will Brighton survive Uber? Surely there are many other licensed cab companies around already?
It would be interesting to see how Uber employees (in the loose sense of the word) rate against other employees like Deliveroo or Just Eat employees. One suspects the latter companies all operate under the same dubious guidelines.

Shelter Hall overruns

In light of the collapse of nationwide contract Carillon, it is prudent to examine how the costs of construction can overrun to the point where they cost more than forecasted.

Why is it that in the construction world, everything seems to cost more and take longer? Building contractors have had years of experience at cost estimation, yet the oft-quoted excuse is the lack of supply or staff, or some other excuse which presumably could not have been anticipated. You would think that with many years of experience in the construction industry, companies could at least factor this costs in foresight so that the cost quoted at the start is accurate over the course of projects.

All this highlights a problem within the construction industry. The quotations offered to councillors who approve such projects are deliberately low to secure approval, yet once approval has been obtained they balloon to their true size, or even an estimate, which cannot be gone back on because the contracts have been signed, or the structure is already have in place. But could you imagine if you ordered spaghetti from a restaurant, that you would have to wait longer for your food, and on top of that the restaurant tells you that the spaghetti is in shortage and therefore you would have to pay more and wait longer for the same bowl? Why do we accept this in construction?

The work to rebuild Shelter Hall in West Street is now forecast to cost twice as much and twice as long. Shouldn’t it be the case that contractors who don’t adhere to their own estimates of time and cost should bear the brunt of the extra cost themselves? The problem is that after subsidies to cover the extra rising costs from the original cost of ten million pounds, there is still a two million pound shortfall to fund the project that must come from the city coffers, or Brighton residents will end up with a half-finished mound of eyesore.

It is almost as if we build projects with the expectation that they will overrun, and we sign them off with blank cheques of money and time. We need a revamp on the construction system; contractors need to provide final cost estimates and timeframes when submitting for tender, and any shortfall should be met by them, as it impacts on the town’s infrastructure. We cannot have projects overrunning, doubling in cost, with the extra monies going to line the pockets of directors. It is a sad unethical abuse of the system

Brighton’s link with Beethoven: George Bridgetower

Of West Indian and German parentage (his father Frederick was an ex-slave from Barbados), but born in Poland, this violinist, dubbed ‘The Abyssinian Prince’, was a child prodigy. After coming to the attention of the Prince Regent in 1791, he lived in England for most of his life. Under the patronage of the Prince, who paid Bridgetower’s father £25 to become his guardian, he studied under François-Hippolyte Barthélémon, leader of the Royal Opera; Croatian-Italian composer Giovanni Giornovichi, Thomas Attwood, organist at St Paul’s and professor at the Royal Academy of Music and, most significantly, Haydn.

In December 1789, he performed at a concert in Bath, in the presence of King George III and guests; the Bath Morning Post reported ‘There were upwards of 550 persons present, and they were gratified by such skills on the violin as created general astonishment, as well as pleasure from the boy wonder. The father was in the gallery, and so affected by the applause bestowed on his son, that tears of pleasure and gratitude flowed in profusion’.

For 14 years, Bridgetower was employed by the Prince as first violinist with his personal orchestra at his homes in Brighton and London; he also performed regularly with the Royal Philharmonic Society orchestra. In 1803, while on a tour of Germany and Austria, he performed in Vienna with Beethoven, who subsequently dedicated his Violin Sonata No. 9 in A major (Op.47) to Bridgetower — ‘Sonata per uno mulaticco lunattico’. Beethoven described Bridgetower as ‘a very able virtuoso and an absolute master of the instrument’. However, the pair fell out over a perceived slight made by Bridgetower to a woman friend of Beethoven’s, and he changed the dedication of this work to violinist Rudolphe Kreutzer. A letter from Beethoven to Bridgetower and a miniature of Bridgetower fetched over £2,000 at a Christie’s auction in 1973.

He was elected to the Royal Society of Musicians in 1807, and became a Bachelor of Music at Cambridge University in 1811. Bridgewater died in Peckham and is buried in Kensal Green cemetery. In 2009, the Pulitzer-prize winning poet Rita Dove dramatised the relationship between Beethoven and Bridgetower in her Sonata Mulattica. In the same year, Bridgetower – A Fable of 1807, a new jazz opera about him, starring Cleveland Watkiss, and composed by Julian Joseph, was produced at the Hackney Empire Theatre, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act.

Sarah Forbes Bonetta

In 1850, anti-slavery advocate Captain Frederick Forbes of the HMS Bonetta, visited King Gezo of Dahomia, West Africa. During his visit, Forbes saw that a young girl, aged about eight years old, was to be ritually murdered in a ceremony called ‘the watering of the graves’. Forbes ascertained that the girl was a princess from a neighbouring tribe and that her parents had been massacred in a Dahomian attack at Egbado, during the Okeadon war. He later wrote, ‘It is usual to reserve the best born for the high behest of royalty and the immolation on the tombs of the diseased nobility. For one of these ends she has been detained at court for two years, proving, by her not having been sold to slave dealers, that she was of good family’.

At Forbes’ behest, King Gezo agreed to give the girl to Queen Victoria, as a ‘gift’: he explained that ‘She would be a present from the King of the blacks to the Queen of the Whites’. For a year, Sarah (sometimes ‘Sara’) Forbes Bonetta — as she was subsequently christened — lived with Forbes and his wife; she was presented to the Royal Family in November 1850 and her education and upkeep were paid for by Queen Victoria.

Both the monarch and her foster father were impressed with their young charge, of whom Forbes wrote, ‘She is a perfect genius; she now speaks English well, and has a great talent for music. She has won the affections, but with few exceptions, of all who have known her. She is far in advance of any white child of her age, in aptness of learning, and strength of mind and affection’.

In 1851, Sarah returned to Sierra Leone, but returned to England in 1855 and lived with the Rev. James Schoen and his family in Gillingham. She was invited to the royal wedding of Princess Victoria and Prince Frederick William of Prussia (the future Kaiser and father of Kaiser Wilhelm II) in January 1858.

During her stay in Sierra Leone, she had come to the attention of James Pinson Labulo Davies, a widowed former slave who, after being educated in Sierra Leone and coming under the patronage of the Royal Navy, became a prosperous merchant in Lagos. After his first wife’s death, he wrote to Sarah, proposing marriage; he was then living at 9 Victoria Rd.

After a series of discussions between the Palace and Mrs Schoen, it was decided in spring 1862 that Sarah should accept the proposal and, in preparation for her marriage, be sent to live with a Mr and Mrs Welsh in Brighton. Sarah was unhappy to leave her adoptive family and friends in Kent; she knew no-one in Brighton and felt increasingly isolated. She described, the Welsh’s home, 17 Clifton Hill, as a ‘desolate little pigsty’.

On August 16 1862, she and Davies were married at St Nicholas’s Church. According to the Brighton Gazette, the guests included ‘white ladies with African gentlemen, and African ladies with white gentlemen until all the space was filled. The bridesmaids [Davies’s sisters] were 16 in number’. Captain Forbes’s brother gave her away and the service was conducted by the Lord Bishop of Sierra Leone.

The party had a wedding breakfast at West Hill Lodge, Montpelier Rd, before the bride and groom left for London, en route to Sierra Leone. They had three children; the eldest child, Victoria, became the Queen’s goddaughter, of whom she was particularly fond. When she passed her music examination, the teachers and children were granted a day’s holiday and often visited the Queen at Windsor Castle.

It was during one of these visits, in August 1880, that news came from abroad: the Queen wrote ‘Saw poor Victoria Davis, my black godchild, who learnt this morning of the death of her dear mother. The poor child was dreadfully upset & distressed…her father has failed in business, which aggravated her poor mother’s illness’. Sarah had died at the age of 37 in Madeira 1880, of tuberculosis. She had asked to be buried at sea, like her rescuer Captain Forbes; instead, she was buried in Funchal, Madeira.

The Bevendean Road Neighbourhood

Did you know the Bevendean neighbourhood can be traced back to the last millenium? The Domesday Book of 1086 recorded the manor of Bevendean, ‘Beofa’s valley’, to be worth £6 and held by one Walter from William de Warrenne.

It was eventually divided between two estates, Lower and Upper Bevendean, which were acquired by the corporation in November 1913 and January 1940 respectively; the whole Bevendean area was annexed by the county borough from Falmer parish on April 1 1928.

Lower Bevendean Farm was originally accessed from Bear Rd by a trackway now known as Bevendean Rd and had an 18th-century farmhouse, but the buildings were later demolished to provide the open space now known as Farm Green between Auckland Drive and Bevendean School. However, Upper Bevendean Farm survives, and has a late 19th-century farmhouse approached from Warren Avenue, Woodingdean.

The first development of the Lower Bevendean estate came in the early 1930s, when the corporation extended its housing from South Moulsecoomb up the valley onto Bevendean land: thus 85-123 and 110-120 The Avenue (eastwards from the cross roads at the western end of Manton Rd), plus Lower Bevendean Avenue, Upper Bevendean Avenue and Manton Rd, are now a part of Bevendean.

At about the same time, the Widdicombe Way/Bevendean Crescent area was developed privately and was also known as part of the Bevendean estate, but it is now normally counted as part of the Moulsecoomb district. With a pressing need for new homes in the post-war period, the greater part of the Bevendean housing estate was rapidly developed higher up the valley from 1948 by the corporation, which named the roads after English castles.

Bevendean Barn, at the corner of Auckland Drive and Heath Hill Avenue, was used as a chapel for the estate from 1953, but was replaced in 1963 by the Church of the Holy Nativity, a Modern-style building in brick, mottled knapped-flint and cobbles by Richard Melhuish.

The Hyde Business Park was developed from 1955; the first factory was Elizabeth English shoes, followed by Hibberd Furniture, Brighton Sheet Metal Works, Redifon and Canada Dry; current businesses include Big Box Storage and West Instruments. Bevendean is a relatively deprived ward within the city — more than three quarters of its population are on a low income — and has been the recipient of Neighbourhood Renewal funding. It has a relatively high percentage of residents living in council accommodation — 24% — while 13% live in housing association homes.