Farnborough Airshow 2014

21/07/2014

Red Arrows MINIs from Barons

What an amazing show! Over $201BN of business for civil airliners and engines was made during the show. Key manufacturers displayed their products, both on the ground and in the air.

Organisations like the air cadets, disabled flying organisations, historic and preservation societies, even the Bloodhound SSC team were there amongst many others.

For Farnborough, the airport is the lifeblood of the town, and the airshow brings a huge amount of additional business, not just in the week of the show, but local hotels accommodating contractors and business people for six months before, too. Without the airport, Farnborough would be just another vanilla town, like many others in the UK.

Local restaurants and other businesses have a boom time during the show.

Over 100,000 trade visitors attended during the first five days, with the same number expected over the weekend, being the public days. The public visit, with children allowed in free, local people given a “buy one, get one free” ticket offer, and many exhibitors encouraging the engineers of tomorrow with all kinds of attractions. Meet the Red Arrows, sit in an F-35, build rocket powered cars…

A nice touch from Breitling, apart from their wing walker displays and the beautiful Super Constellation was their lounge, just flash your watch and get entry to a little bit of peace and quiet in the show with complimentary drinks and air conditioning, too with a nice viewing platform.

The Red Arrows were stunning as usual, the A380 never fails to impress and the Boeing Dreamliner is probably the most stunning airliner in the skies today.

How the F-18 can do the acrobatics it does is incredible and the Eurofighter Typhoon is great, but not really a match visually for the American plane. No doubt the F-35 when it does finally arrive will trump them both!

The media are well catered for, with the usual WiFi, press information and so on, and a well elevated viewing platform – but as usual a bit manic up there!

Local car dealer Barons also hosted an event on the Thursday, half-way through the show and showed off their nine Red Arrows liveried cars.

Passes

Passes

Many people watch from outside the event, seeing much of the displays, but missing out on the action inside the airfield perimeter.

Something for everyone, and the weather was good too.

A full gallery from the event is available to view at my main web site.


Is There No Demand For Another Music Venue In Farnborough?

06/12/2013

In Farnborough a local pub, the Tumbledown Dick was closed almost six years ago and lies derelict. It has been bought by McDonald’s and will now become a drive-thru(sic) restaurant. Since it closed, another pub opened around the corner. The old pub was the subject of much local attention, but now things seem to have become a lot quieter in the town.

The campaign group, Friends Of The Tumbledown Dick, apparently secured funding to re-open the pub as a music venue and community centre in the event that McDonald’s pulled out and the building came up for sale. But now, the silence is deafening, and I am wondering if there actually is the demand for such a venue in Farnborough at all? Is there an interest in moving that funding to a different location, or was there never really any motivation for a live music venue?

Since the refurbishment of the Swan pub just down the road, there is live music there. Agincourt up the road in Camberley caters for the more ‘hard core’ music fans and there are many other pubs local to Farnborough that host open mic nights and live music. Even the Village Hotel that opened since the Tumbledown itself closed is now hosting live music.

There are plenty of potential venues with the police station coming up for sale soon, and a vacated car showroom just down the road that is for sale (I fear this will actually become a Tescos Local, or another drive-through, it’s a prime location).  Both of these sites could also be re-developed, plus there are also units in the town centre that could be used – potentially attractive as the cinema opens and we get new restaurants, too. Plus, the cinema may be able to host live music?

For more formal events like concerts, recitals etc., Princes Hall in Aldershot is there, with plenty of spare capacity.

David Clifford, a local councillor, has tried to move this forward, but just seems to get mostly vitriolic comments, as if those commenting don’t appreciate any help.

So, could Farnborough even sustain another venue, with the existing competition? Anything that might open for business clearly has to make a profit, and it’s not the responsibility of the council to open such a venue. I’m not sure the demand is really there, anyway.


What’s Best For Farnborough?

22/03/2013

121028_D6E7514

On the Farnborough Road, this pub lies derelict. What has come to a head over the past couple of weeks are the possible scenarios for the fate of the building.

1) It is turned into a McDonald’s – indications of the chain’s intentions have already been made public.

2) A campaign is running to save the building and restore it to use as a pub, but this is contingent on defeating the McDonald’s planning application, and then raising money to buy, refurbish and operate the pub again.

I would prefer option 2 with a pub over option 1 any day, but there is extreme risk here that if the required funds are not found, then the pub simply lies derelict for another five years or more.

I have published figures that show the magnitude of the sums required, certainly anywhere between £1M to £2.5M is likely to be needed to purchase the site and refurbish it to a usable condition and modern standards.

If the pub was already in operation, it would be a simpler matter. The big risk is that planning is thwarted, and Farnborough is simply left with a derelict building – an embarassing, empty eyesore – for years to come.


Opening A New Pub?

10/03/2013
The Tumble Down Dick Public House, closed since 2008

The Tumble Down Dick Public House, closed since 2008

In our local town (Farnborough, Hampshire), a pub lies closed and ignored, almost derelict due to receiving no maintenance in the almost five years since it closed. Weeds grow from the window boxes which once had colourful displays and holes in the roof have been crudely patched, but the owners clearly have no interest in offering this building for new accommodation, the site is valuable land space in the centre of Farnborough, clearly visible from the main road.

Why did it close? Well, the details are sketchy, but a health inspection forced a temporary closure, and the current tenants promised a refurbishment programme, but this never happened. One would think that if the pub was making good money, then the investment would be a no-brainer, but it seems that the opportunity was taken to close down and cease trading.

It was not just a pub, but a much-loved music venue, staging live bands and a place for up and coming new talent to perform, something that Farnborough is missing now.

So what for the future? Well, McDonald’s are showing interest in the site, first of all previewing one of their ‘pre-fabricated’ boxes and a drive-thru restaurant (I use the term ‘restaurant’ loosely – I’m not a fan). Under pressure from local residents, a new scheme has been shown that retains the facade of the building, but still gives the hamburger chain what they want – an outlet for their so called food. Planning applications have still to be received. I suspect they may simply put the original plan in first as this is the most efficient, brand recognisable and cheapest solution for them.

What grounds could planning be rejected on? Very few, it seems. Simply rejecting on the grounds that Farnborough has enough fast food outlets is unlikely to work – or even legal and would likely fail on appeal anyway, involving the local council, Rushmoor, in legal costs. A listing for the building (it is quite old, and has historical connections) would work, but to be fair, the links are tenuous, a small part of the building is alleged to date to the 1700s, but this has been re-roofed and rendered many times, and is a very small part of the overall site, most of which was built in the 1800s. An application to English Heritage has failed already. Rushmoor really have very few grounds to reject planning on.

There is the ‘Pub Protection Policy’ – a forthcoming Government scheme, but not in place in Rushmoor. This could be rushed through, but it seems that this would cost money that someone would have to fund up front.

The best ploy would seem to be to convince MacDonald’s to withdraw their interest in the first place. Demonstrations have been held, even a march to another local restaurant, but these are unlikely to sway the corporate behemoth even a little. Money speaks louder than a few people with banners.

ttdd_121028_7482If they do withdraw – and we are getting lower down the list of possibilities here – what then? A thing called an “Asset Of Community Value” has been put in place by the local council. This gives local residents the opportunity to bid for the pub by delaying a new sale of the site for six months (that’s if the current deal falls through). Even a compulsory purchase could then be made by Rushmoor, which would save the residents trying to re-open the pub money (but would be supported by local tax payers).

If nothing happens, or residents can’t raise the money, then the building will remain there, sitting derelict and an eyesore and an embarrassment as many local people already feel it is. The whole process would then start again, with other suitors bidding for the building, the site value potentially devalued from the £1.6M that McDonald’s are already offering.

If a purchase by the community was successful, then the work of re-furbishing the site and building would commence. Estimates are in the region of £1M to bring the building up to modern standards and of a usable quality.

I have calculated some proposed figures of what the business would need to turn over, and figures in the region of £17K per week seem appropriate. Interestingly, since I calculated these figures it has come to light that a similar sized pub just up the road turned over £16K in 2009 (after the Tumble Down had closed), so these figures seem reasonable, but still ambitious. The potential debt burden of loans and investor funds (who would expect dividends) are major for the profitability of such a business and lead one to question if it was viable at all. There is competition from this pub down the road, a new Wetherspoons that has opened since the Tumble Down closed, and a new Beefeater is proposed next door too, so competition has increased dramatically. Given the budget and cash flow figures I have calculated simply opening as a business is not viable, it would take a very brave or foolish investor to get involved.

There are apparently grants available for communities to re-open such venues, maybe it could open as a community centre of some sort (without a pub), but again, then it would be largely funded by the local council and taxpayer – a council struggling to keep their community charges down in difficult times when Government funding is becoming more restricted.ttdd_121028_7514

Community groups have yet to explain how they could re-open this as a venue or where the funding would come from.

It’s difficult to see how this building can become viable commercially, or if local community funding can save it, given the cost to refurbish it is potentially more than creating a new building altogether.

It would be a shame to lose this piece of Farnborough history, true, but the reality is difficult and harsh. The options are limited and very dependent upon events. I do hope, whatever happens, that the building isn’t just left as it is for another five years.

EDIT 11th March – Since I posted this, I have received a number of agitated messages from members of the Community Interest Company “The Friends Of The Tumble Down Dick” (apologies if the name is wrong), they tell me that there are many inaccuracies in this blog entry, and that correct information is at their FAQs, including their proposals for bringing the site back into use, so for completeness, I link to it here.


So much for free speech…

07/03/2013

In November last year, I got involved with a campaign to save a local pub from demolition and replacement by a two-storey McDonald’s Drive Thru.

November's Demonstration

November’s Demonstration

The campaign’s main pages are on Facebook and their own web page. I’ve taken photographsand produced videos to assist with the campaign.

I offered to host their website without charge (I have the domains http://www.ttdd.co.uk and http://www.tumbly.co.uk), but this was declined.

Over Christmas, I got involved with their ‘business team’ to try and establish a business plan to re-open the building as a pub and music venue and established a potential break-even scenario, with cash flow forecasts and investment plans. I spent time getting business management advice, and fed this back to the group. This is where it started to go wrong.

I needed to ask questions about potential grants, investment schemes, financing models etc., but was continually told “this is in hand” – without any details. Frustrating for both sides. In the end, I was told that some aspects were not “fucking important”. Developing a business plan without information is quite tricky.

Some background on me – in 1992 three of us started a self-financed business which we grew and eventually sold in 2004 after getting turnover up to £8M p.a. Part of that process involved understanding what’s needed to make a successful business, so I felt I had something to contribute here, especially as much of the campaign group consisted of musicians, music enthusiasts, and by their own admission, not a lot of business skills.

After some abuse, I left the ‘business team’ – the group did find someone else who is continuing this work, proving the maxim that no-one is indispensable.

I was still involved in their main Facebook group and would comment on processes – with an upcoming planning application, and little material objection that can be raised, I felt that something else would be needed. An English Heritage listing for the building looks unlikely, so something called a ‘Pub Protection Plan” seems to me (and a local councillor), a main hope to save the building.

Objections on the grounds of not wanting a takeaway are unlikely to carry any favour with the council, after all – there is extensive evidence that McDonald’s have had detailed conversations with the local council about road access, local amenity etc., why would they do that without reasonable expectation of success?

So, the Pub Protection Plan appears to be a good way of stopping McDonald’s in their tracks, but this idea has been rejected due to the potential costs. In addition, I received abusive messages from members of the group accusing me of capitalist intentions, amongst others.

I am happy to speak my opinion, I’m not one to keep quiet. But, I was once told the phrase “no-one gets in trouble for keeping their head down and saying nothing”. Maybe it’s better to say nothing then?

But, I won’t stay somewhere where you are abused for your opinion with un-substantiated accusations that are irrelevant. Maybe I’m too old and intolerant now, but I do believe that life is too short.

What these people don’t seem to understand is that making a profit is essential for any business, be it McDonald’s or a local pub and music venue. A music venue will not operate on grants alone. Holding a few music lessons won’t save the building. It has to make money – in fact, as we all do.

Maybe some of those criticising me have a mentality of living on state benefits, but the money even for them to live comes from someone, somewhere, making money.

So, after the abuse, I’ve left the group. This was a closed group, and even my comments in the public group have now been deleted and I’m blocked from posting there again.

Maybe what killed it was my suggestion that supporters put their hands in their pockets to support the Pub Protection Plan and invest in the Community Interest Company that has been created.

Maybe they don’t like people who talk of the reality? Reality isn’t always nice, the facts have to be faced, otherwise once McDonald’s put in their planning application, it’s far more likely to be an inevitability than a possibility.

While I don’t want a McDonald’s in my town, simply getting a petition and demonstrating, won’t actually sway the planners – they have to work to guidelines. McDonald’s might step away, but profits speak louder to them than upsetting a few musicians.

As an example, here is a rough financial business plan with cash flow. Even starting at £17K/week turnover, the business struggles to remain cash flow positive (and this is based on getting the building for free!).

If the campaigners are serious, investment and putting money where their mouths are will be needed.


The Farnborough GTG, 5th March 2011

06/03/2011

The 5th of March saw photographers meet for a day taking photographs and generally exchanging ideas and anecdotes about all things photography.

First, they met at the Rushmoor Cafe in North Camp for a hearty breakfast on the chilly Saturday morning. Simon Taylor of Phooto.co.uk welcomed most of the photographers there, with people travelling from places such as central London, Southampton and even from Tubingen near Stuttgart in Germany.

German photographer Chris Marquardt produces a weekly podcast called “Tips From The Top Floor” along with an online forum to support the show. This forum is a community in itself and was responsible for a large number of the people attending.

Members of Aldershot & Farnham & Farnborough Camera Club also attended, swelling the numbers to nineteen.

After breakfast, the group moved to the FAST Museum on the Farnborough Road, where the museum manager Brian Luff and the other volunteers there welcomed the group, explaining many aspects of the exhibits and even giving some special access to the visitors to allow them the best opportunity for some unusual images. Aspects of the museum’s history, the large model aircraft display, history of the Spitfire, Hurricane and other details such as navigation systems were explained. A large attraction was of course the full-size replica of the Cody Flyer which those attending were able to ask detailed questions about, even down to details such as the spokes in the wheels used and the knots of the tension lines that support the aircraft!

Special interest was given to the darkroom at the museum, especially as Chris Marquardt was unusual in the group, being the only one to have solely film cameras, three of them, 35mm and medium format.

Cockpit of the Harrier

Vintage Road Signs from Farnborough

Photographing one of the exhibits

After the museum the group moved onto the Airship Hangar at the north of the airfield for the opportunity  to get some abstract and unusual shots. Before that, they took a small break at the Village Hotel to get a warming coffee. The airship hangar is a large structure, constructed without the skin that it would have had in use, but creates a stunning landmark in the Farnborough skyline.

A short time there, then the group moved on again to Farnborough Rugby Club for some light lunch before the main event of the day, the Farnborough First Team in league action against Southampton.

Simon got everyone in the group to pose between the posts for a “Rugby Team” style image for everyone to remember the day by.

Gary Allcock, Farnborough’s coach even welcomed the guests, suggesting some of the possible action to get pictures of. The guests even had a special mention in the match day programme from Club Chairman, Robin Moses. The Farnborough News photographer, Chris Whiteoak, even turned up, so the match would have a total of twenty photographers to cover the game!

Click image for full size or to download

Many were to find out what regular sports photographers such as Chris Whiteoak and Simon Taylor put up with. Poor light conditions that make high speed photography challenging, together with the added challenge of judging where the action will occur along with the bitter cold!

After a shaky start, Farnborough picked up in the second half and beat Southampton quite convincingly.

Everyone retired after the game to the bar, and rounded off the day with a curry at the Gurkha Palace, opposite the FAST museum where the day started in earnest.

Links to pictures :

Chris Matthews

Alan Ager

Brian Jones

Simon Taylor – GTG picturesRugby Pictures

Chris Marquardt – these images all on film