Saturday, 21 September 2019

The Edge of Destruction

"I think this is one of the great moral challenges of the 21st Century, perhaps the greatest moral challenge", he says. "If we are not acting, we are endangering everyone who is alive now and also future generations." (Prof Peter Singer of Princeton University, on Climate Change)

The Edge of Destruction

Time is running out. A word is spoken.
The tipping point, the end of days.
The young girl tells of a world broken
And soon too late: humanity pays

The cloud was bursting over Spain
Flash floods, buildings torn apart
The sky weeps with torrential rain
This planet has a broken heart

In Amazon forests, a blazing fire
Dante’s Inferno: a glimpse of hell
Unchecked, consequences dire
Listen to warnings: this we tell

The Edge of Destruction: like a broken spring
A warning cloister bell begins to ring

Friday, 20 September 2019

Fort Regent in the 1970s - Part 7

I managed to get hold of this brochure which was printed in 1977. It is both sad and amazing when you see everything the Fort had to offer. Over the next month, I shall be posting extracts from this brochure which shows the incredible diversity of Fort Regent, and an optimism that has been sadly lost along with most of the features described in this brochure.

Fort Regent in the 1970s - Part 7

Fort Regent boasts Jersey's most luxurious and sophisticated restaurant and discotheque.

It's called Bonaparte's, and the Island's leading show-biz columnist has described it as being "elegantly comfortable, plushly intimate, a gourmet's delight, a disco fan's paradise". That particular writer also went on to compare Bonaparte's with a film set!

Bonaparte's, with its Napoleonic atmosphere totally pervading the dim and lushly furnished interior, is a five room complex dedicated to your pleasure. It has been fitted out at a cost of more than £150,000. The a la carte restaurant is separated from the area set aside for dancing and has a deliberately limited menu - (the proprietors refuse to have anything to do with frozen food and insist on serving only fresh) - and a comprehensive and carefully selected wine list.

Diners, of course, have access to the disco or they can use the relatively quieter reception bar.

The discotheque itself contains some of the world's most advanced audio equipment and that means you'll be listening to some of the best sound you'll hear anywhere.

By the way, the disco is also open to non-diners, when an entrance charge is made but, and this is the important part, it is essential if dining that you book beforehand and if dancing only that you get there early to avoid the disappointment of finding the premises full. Such is the popularity of Bonaparte's among local people that reservations have become the order of the day.

How are you on a pair of skis? Pretty good, even if you say so yourself? A beginner, nursery-slopes-style? Never tried it? Whatever your answer you can, during your sunny, summer, stay in Jersey, take your first, unsteady, winter-sports steps, or even brush up on your more advanced ski technique. The slopes of Fort Regent include the Mogulslope Skiing Trainer.

It's an entirely new concept in instruction and training for both beginners and experienced skiers and it works, quite simply, on the principle of the endless belt. The moving slope gives you a realistic simulation of snow conditions - perfect if you want to learn the basic swing and equally perfect for experienced skiers who want to loosen up and improve their "wedeln".

Its pretty good, too, for anyone who just wants a bit of fun! Can you fall? Too right you can. Can you hurt yourself? No! Apart, that is from the odd bump or bruise. You see, in the event of a fall the belt stops immediately.

So now you know what to do. Catch the cable cars to the peaks of Fort Regent.

The transformation of Fort Regent was planned with the underlying thought that there must always be enough places for refreshment. So whether you want a leisurely lunch, a quick snack, just a coffee, or a pub lunch complete with a foaming pint of beer, then we have a wide choice of venues to cater for your requirements. Places where you will meet and make friends.

For instance, right next door to the Go-Skate rink you'll find the Piazza - that's a restaurant with something for everyone – with waitresses attending to the slowly-sipping solitary coffee drinker and also to the full-scale meal eater. The meal eater will probably try one of those American-style, big beefy burgers, full of choice, juicy, meat, and then move on to one of the Piazza's renowned ice-cream delights accompanied, perhaps, by a glass of wine.

Close at hand is our very own fully licensed public house, with its Victoriana bar and separate lounge for parents with children. It's where you'll find award-winning Jersey beer, at Jersey's special prices.

Mind your head! The beer here is strong.

Nearer the swimming pool you'll find the newly decorated and luxuriously furnished Springboard Coffee House and the Hi-Dive Bar, both at the bikini-crowded pool. Have a drink in the elegant Hi-Dive lounge, or try the food at the Coffee House. Your host and hostess, Alfredo and Margaret, produce a varying dish of the day of unvarying high quality.

And, of course, there's the Carronade, built especially for anyone who wants a simple meal served swiftly and courteously plus, possibly, a glass or two of nourishment, and with some occasional music to keep you company and help stimulate your taste buds.

By the way, those stubby little cannons apparently guarding the restaurant are what the Carronade is actually named after. Once upon a time the Fort's main armaments(quite accurate and deadly) they were built by the still existing Carron Company of Falkirk in Scotland.

Remember those picnic spots we told you about on the page concerning walks through the gardens and the aviaries? Well, if you should fancy the idea of a picnic once you get to Fort Regent but you haven't brought with you any suitable snacks or food, we can help you. All you need to do is to find our special picnic kiosk - it's just by the top cable car station and, hey presto, it's picnic time, sit in the sun and munch time, alfresco lunch time.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Two Riots: 1769 and 1847

I give both sources below.

1769: From Alban E Ragg's "Popular History of Jersey":

On subject of wheat rents, a riot of September 28th, 1769, took place. From very early times up to this period these had always been paid "in kind," i.e., in actual wheat, a mode allowable and useful in a small community and when very little money was in circulation, but which had become oppressive and obsolete in its working ; the fact of the matter being that the quantity of wheat then grown upon the Island was not sufficient to pay one twentieth part of the rents that had been created.

Under these circumstances, as can very easily be conceived, a man might have to pay, for instance, 50 per cent. more for the purchase of the actual grain than would have sufficed for the payment of his rents in cash. This matter in the first instance was modified by paying in coin on an average value of wheat; though here again stepped in the difficulty that the holders of wheat rents, having an interest in the matter, naturally did their best to keep the average value at a high price ; those that had to pay as naturally trying to lower its average value.

The whole difficulty was, however, at last solved by an Act of the States, confirmed on April 26th, 1797, and to come into force the following Michaelmas, to the effect that such rents were to be estimated at a fixed rate, which law—the only effective measure that resulted from all the agitation of 1790 and that period —is still followed.

Towards the close of the century the excitement for reform gradually died out, or rather it seems to, have received its death blow at the hands of its greatest advocate, for an astonishing change came over the mind of its leader, J. Dumaresq, Esq., who was afterwards elevated to the office of Lieut.-Bailiff and was knighted. As a member of the States he seems to have tried his best to extend the powers of the people, as Lieut.-Bailiff to deprive the people of a portion of their powers; and as a member of the States, too, he seems to have been the popular leader of all friends of liberal views, whilst as Lieut.-Bailiff he turned into the strongest opponent.

One or two more items concerning the events of this period may here be added.

Until the year 1795, the Lieut.-Bailiffs have always been elected from the bench of Jurats—this being considered an absolute rule, though it was broken that year, an a precedent created for other procedure. The Court refused to swear in Thos. Pipon, Esq., as Lieut.-Bailiff' when appointed by Lord Carteret, because he was not a Jurat. His Majesty in Council nevertheless confirmed the appointment on the 17th of June, 1795.

But though the outcome of all this political disquietude so far as concerned the alteration of the law by any Act of States, was confined to the reform in connection with the wheat rents, the effects of it did not remain there, for the Imperial Government, without, as it would appear, either the co-operation or sanction of the States, and for the prevention in future of much useless work of the like kind stepped in and enacted sundry regulations on its own account.

For instance, it was at this period the Order was enacted that the meeting of the States was not to be adjourned without the consent of the President, and that when so adjourned it was to complete the matter under discussion before proceeding to other things; that the Bailiff was and should thereafter be bound to convene a meeting of the States when called on to do so by the Lieutenant-Governor and the Jurats.

On June 2nd, 1786, came a Order allowing the States to fine absent members, and on the same date came one declaring that the States could not pass Acts for raising money without the previous assent of the Crown.

1847: from Norman Le Brocq's Jersey Looks forward

"On Monday morning, very early, St. Helier, usually so calm and busy, was thrown into alarm by the news that all workers had downed tools and that everything pointed to a serious . uprising. This was borne out by the reports of the determination and violent character of those who seemed to be he workers' leaders. The news, which at first was hardly believed, although on Sunday a rumour had circulated that an uprising was planned for Monday, soon acquired a positive nature. The Constable was seen making for the Royal Square accompanied by his four Centeniers. This place was assumed to be the rallying point of the troublemakers.

" Soon all the police of St. Helier were gathered around their chiefs; but at half-past six the Square was still empty, although already a band of three or four hundred persons was abroad, compelling all workers to leave their work."

So opened the report of the activities of May 17, 1847, as summarised by one of the local newspapers. This uprising was the climax of, a series of riots by the town workers and the Gorey oyster fishers over a period of twenty-five years. The year 1822 had seen the first -popular rising in Jersey over the high price of foodstuffs. That year was notable for the fight made -and won-by the Island States Assembly, backed and urged on by the populace, against the imposition on the island of the British Government's Corn Laws.

In spite of the fact that this battle for the free importation of corn into the island was won, the price of corn rose sharply in the years that followed. In 1828, after another easily quelled riot, the States passed a law forbidding the export of any type of grain. This eased the position somewhat, but did not bring bread prices back to a reasonable figure as compared with the local workers' poor wage.

During the years 1821-1851, the population of the island almost exactly doubled. This large increase was partly due to an influx of English workers employed on the extension of St. Helier's harbours, the building of St. Catherine's pier and other large constructions.

This infiltration of English workers with their more militant outlook woke the Jersey worker to the fact of his extreme misery. They tended to settle here after the work that brought them was finished and they were well to the fore in fighting for better conditions.

The immediate cause of the May uprising is shown by the events of the five months preceding it. In January, 1847, the shipwrights and carpenters employed in the shipbuilding yards left their work, complaining of the high price of foodstuffs. They took possession of several loads of potatoes which were being shipped for export. The Jersey and Guernsey News complains that on this occasion "the police looked on, and allowed this to be done. Not one of the rioters was seized or punished. "

On the 1st of February the States decided to open a bakery to sell bread to the working poor at 2d. per Ib. The market price of bread at this time was 2 ½ d. per lb. By the beginning the market price of bread had gone up to 3 ½ d. per lb, while the States ;bread had advanced to 2 ½ d.

On May 15 the Constable of St. Helier made a statement to the press that " as the Committee of the States would shortly discontinue selling bread at a cheap rate, a meeting of the constituents of St. Helier would be held on Wednesday, May 19, to open subscriptions for the relief of the working class," and concluded by saying: "that it was a fact which should not be
concealed that a great number of workmen had been compelled to put their effects in pledge to supply the wants of their families, and that their resources were entirely exhausted."

The excuse made for stopping the supply of cheap bread was that work was now plentiful-at 12/6 per week-which fact was disputed by at least one of the local newspapers. This statement of the Constable's reported in L'Impartial de Jersey, Le Constitutionel and Le Chronique de Jersey, caused a feeling of unrest amongst the town workers on the Sunday. It would seem by the magnitude of the rising on the following day that plans were made then for the morrow.

The townsfolk went to bed that Sunday night wondering if there was anything in the many rumours circulating concerning approaching trouble.

The workers employed in the building of St. Aubin's Road arrived at their place of work as usual at 5 o'clock that Monday morning; but instead of proceeding to their normal work they gathered together to the number of about 150 and discussed their plans. They sent a delegation to ask for an increase in pay. This was refused. It was then decided to march to First Tower and call on the carpenters and other workers at Deslande's building yard to come out and join them. This went off according to plan.

The next step was to march townwards about 200 strong. Along the Esplanade carne this ragged army calling upon all workers to join them. They turned up Hill Street, gathering force all the way, and here were joined by a group working at the laying of a main drain. Not attempting yet to force their way into the Square, they continued their march down Roseville Street to the shipbuilding and other yards at Havre des Pas. By this time there were over 400 in their ranks. They proceeded to call out all the workers in these yards. Some came willingly, others were reluctant. Threats and arguments were used to bring the Clarke, Valpy and Allix employees out.

Havre des Pas now being at a standstill, the recruiting march was continued, as far as the North Pier. Here extension to the harbour was in progress. At first the men remained loyal to the foremen in charge; but after a battle with stones the majority of these men, too, joined in the uprising.

Next carte the turn of the men repairing the ships " Peggy " and " Hebe," These men were persuaded by their -bosses to remain at work; but after one of the foremen had been. downed with a stone, these men went over to support the side of the uprising.

At Ennis' foundry, the marchers found everything locked and bolted against them. After a vain attempt to break in to release the workers cooped tip there and some window smashing, this place was left for a march to Henry and de Garis' sail-making factory. Here all the men refused to strike and the marchers drew off, leaving them to it.

By half past eleven the repair-men on the ships " Ringmahon Castle " and " Speedy 'Packet " had joined them, and the crowd was now well over 700 strong, apart from parties sent about to call out other workers.

About noon it was decided to march on the Royal Square. Well over 1,000 strong, they entered the Square, led by Jean Picot, journeyman-shoemaker. As he entered the Square, shouting " Rush in, my boys," he was seized by the police. He was immediately hauled before the Court, which was then in session, and in spite of several efforts to rush the Court building and rescue him, he was tried and sentenced to eight days' solitary confinement.

George Sargent, a seaman, was arrested for leading an attempt to rush the Court building steps and capture the Constable, while in a state of intoxication.

Then went up shouts of "To Le Quesne's mill! " "To the Town Mill". And a band of over a thousand streamed out towards the north of the town. Centenier Le Bailly made for the mill with part of the police force, while the Constable and the rest of the police stayed to hold the remaining crowd from the Court buildings.

Le Bailly entreated the crowd to go away and leave the mill intact;-but with shouts of " Break in' -a large band went round to the back entrance. Using hammers and pick-axes they attempted to break open the door, but it was not until they brought up an improvised battering-ram that they burst it open. Flocking into the mill, they opened the main door. Then in rushed as many as could. Bags of flour and grain were carried and thrown into the yard. One man, Elias Selous, was observed to fill his mouth with flour and shout: "That's how hungry I am. I haven't eaten for two days."

Two wagons were loaded with grain and flour and many men gathered as much as they could carry.

By this time the Governor had called out the island garrison and placed it at the disposal of the Constable. About one o'clock the Riot Act was read in the Square by the Procureur General, and the troops were ordered to co-operate with the police in clearing the Square. Another part of the garrison, the 81st Foot Regiment, :was ordered to proceed to the Town Mill. At Robin Hood Corner they met the outposts of the rebels and a short engagement followed, the workers using clubs and stones. The two flour-wagons were captured by the troops and the crowd was dispersed. By 2.30 p.m. the Square also was cleared and many arrests had been made. Sentries were left and the main body of the troops was sent round the town to clear the public houses and order them to be shut.

The crowd had swarmed back to the Square by four o'clock; but though they collected there and paraded the town all the evening, the initial impetus was over and there were no more clashes with the authorities. Police and special constables patrolled the town all night.

At five next morning it was found that a large number of the workers were going back to work. The remainder merely walked about and made no violent move.

At seven-thirty the Constable issued the following proclamation:

"To the Working Class,

All workers are commanded to return to their work immediately. Measures are, being taken to assure the distribution of bread to the working class at a reasonable price and to guard against all scarcity of essential foodstuffs.

"A public assembly. will be held in the near future to open a subscription for poor relief; but all aid will be refused to those who do not immediately return to work and severe measures will be taken against them.

"Imprisonment with hard labour or banishment for five years is the penalty ordered in our Riot Act for all those who take part in riotous gatherings and who do not disperse when ordered to do so by the police."

"If necessary, the military will be called out to reinforce the police.
"The deserving poor will receive help; but all those who take part in any uprising will he severely punished.

Pierre Le Sueur, Constable of St. Helier. May 18, 1847."

At three o'clock Tuesday afternoon it was reported that the Mont Mado quarrymen were marching on the town. The Constable hurriedly called out the troops and accompanied them up to Mont-a-l'Abbe. Here they met the quarrymen and demanded of them their business. The reply was a demand for bread to be made available at 2d. per pound (the existing market price being 3d. per pound). The Constable told them to go home and he would do something for them. After the Procureur General had read the Riot Act, the quarrymen were ordered to disperse; which, in face of superior force, they did.

During these two days an appeal had been made for citizens to enrol as special constables, and in all 114 rallied to the call. They were used as auxiliary police patrols and distinguished by white armbands. However, these " specials " saw little activity, for by Tuesday night calm had settled over the island once again.

Over the whole period no one had been killed, though there were a number of injuries on both sides.

What were the results of this uprising?

On Monday, in the midst of the turmoil, a meeting of the States Food Committee was convened and issued the following statement :

The year 1847, the 17th day of May.-The Committee having assembled in Order to deliberate on the distribution at a reduced price of. bread, baked for the States, which is now sold to the working class at 2 ½ d. per pound, conformably to the decision of the Committee on April the 27 last; considering the reduced rate of wages and salaries, as well as the increased price of provisions, as also the number of persons who suffer in consequence of the famine and the dearness of articles of food in general, has resolved to adopt immediate means, in order to reduce in a few days the price of bread to 2d. per pound, The Committee has at the same time decided, if necessary, to take measures insuring for the provisioning of the island. The Committee has also decided to instruct the Constables of the parishes who have not yet increased the allowance to out-door poor to come to an understanding with the churchwardens, in order to give an immediate increase, proportionate to the wants of the present time, and this extraordinary relief.
Charles de Ste. Croix, Greffier."

On the Wednesday, the Constable of St Helier held a public meeting to set up a fund for extra poor relief. It was suggested that soup, meat, sugar be distributed cheaply besides bread. Subscriptions were called for on the spot and £211 were collected as a start to the fund.

Such was the scare that the uprising caused in the hearts of the authorities and the well-to-do. The workers had asked for a rise in pay or the resumption of bread sold at 2d per pound. The latter was granted by the States Food Committee in spite of their previous statement that the issue of cheap bread would be discontinued. And further, the rates of poor relief were increased throughout the island and a public fund was set up to relieve distress.

This was the first victory of the Jersey working class. By a united show of strength they gained their ends. At what cost? A few were injured in the fighting and 27 were brought up for trial. One, John Picot, the shoemaker, was tried on the spot and sentenced to eight days' solitary confinement, as we have seen. George Sargent was released with a caution.

Of the other 25, Thomas Cundy, William Holland, Thomas Connor, Thomas Anthony, Frederick Pyke, Stephen Wilkins, Jean Le Gresley, John Dunn, Elias Selous, George Minton, Joseph Baker, George Carter, Thomas Mouldoun, and Richard Tucker were charged with "forming part of an illegal assemblage of persons, and for having caused a tumult in divers parts of St. Helier, and having thus committed a breach of the peace; and also having wilfully and maliciously broken open a certain mill situated on the Trinity Road, belonging to Messrs. wheat P. Le Quesne; as also having taken by force a quantity and flour from the said mill, with any intention of robbery; or having aided or abetted in the same.

Denis Daly, John Gernan, Pierre Voisin, Charles Le Breton George Laing, Benjamin Brown, Thomas Gillam, Philip Gallichan, Richard Blacker and Henry Dell, were charged with having been participators in the tumult; for having insulted the police while in the execution of their duty; and for having attempted to rescue some prisoners when arrested by the police."

John Merrifield was charged "with having participated in the tumult and for having since his arrest threatened on his liberation to murder the person who took him up."

Sentences of varying terms of imprisonment or banishment up to five years' banishment were inflicted on these men. And so finishes this page in the history of the Jersey working class.

A sequel, however, can be seen to this day. In the Broad Street cab rank there is an obelisk erected to Pierre Le Sueur, the Constable of St. Helier, the man who put down the disturbances, erected by his grateful parishioners in memory of his exertions!

Saturday, 14 September 2019


An Autumnal mood poem for the season, using a rondelle as the form.


It was a dying back, those Autumn days
Leaves falling softly, dry and brown
The Green Knight wears a golden crown
Sunsetting earlier, with pink hued rays

Now cider drinking, and harvest praise
Sing, drink, dance: a puritan’s frown
It was a dying back, those Autumn days
Leaves falling softly, dry and brown

Walking the forest track, olden ways
The dryad wearing her golden gown
Time to let go, with one final gaze
On the cusp of Winter, counting down
It was a dying back, those Autumn days

Friday, 13 September 2019

Fort Regent in the 1970s - Part 6

I managed to get hold of this brochure which was printed in 1977. It is both sad and amazing when you see everything the Fort had to offer. Over the next month, I shall be posting extracts from this brochure which shows the incredible diversity of Fort Regent, and an optimism that has been sadly lost along with most of the features described in this brochure.

Fort Regent in the 1970s - Part 6

Feel like taking it easier? Then why not try the astroglide? Only be sure you don't take it too fast the first time round ... you might suddenly find yourself emulating an astronaut.

Don't forget that we keep going right through the evening so if you want to relish the fun of a funfair after dark then were ready and waiting for you.

Of course, we've got lots of things just for the youngsters. You see, the whole concept of Fort Regent had children very much in mind. And so one complete section of the Fort's facilities has been set aside for them.

Ask your Mum if she minds you having a go on the helter skelter. When she says "yes" just climb to the top, sit on the slide and down you go. And not only down but round and round, as well.

While we're on the subject of sliding - how about the giant snake chute? Now, that really is a giant slide. That spotted superserpent stands perpetually poised in a pouncing pose but don't be scared of him - he's very tame and very friendly. He actually likes the younger ones to climb the stairs up along his back, enter the slide high above the ground, and then swoosh down through his throat to emerge from between his gaping jaws into the sunshine. Now, that's just got to be the greatest thrill-slide you'll ever experience.

Sounds just like a wonderland, doesn't it?

Did we say wonderland? We mean Wonderland - the Alice variety. Have you ever considered capering with the ever-scurrying White Rabbit or contemplated dancing alongside that awful Queen of Hearts? Have you ever thought of bouncing the light fantastic with the tea-partying Mad Hatter or the Portly Tweedledum or even the sad little, sleepy little, timid little dormouse?

If you've ever thought of doing any of these things, you can here at Fort Regent. It's Wonderland, alright, a gigantic 40 feet diameter, inflated, leap-around, fall-down-on, bounce- right-up-again, playground.

All your favourite characters from Alice are here on this dreamworld airbed just waiting for youngsters to bounce along with them. No need to climb through any looking-glasses, nor yet to fall slowly down rabbit holes. This is going to be the very important date you won't be late for. All you have to do is to catch the cable car from Snow Hill and ask for a return trip to Alice in Fort Regentland.

Time for a sort of rest. Get behind the wheel of one of our veteran cars for a soothing drive. Demonstrate to all those watching grown- ups how good your driving ability would be if only you were ever given the chance. By the way, these aren't fantasy machines, these are scaled-down vehicles from way back when.

Before you begin to burn up more of your holiday-extra energy have fun on the roundabouts. When you get off, don't forget to ask your Dad all about centrifugal force.

Close at hand is an absolutely real-life log cabin. Yes sir. It's the genuine article, direct from the faraway forests of the Rocky Mountains. It's your own hideaway home that your imagination can set in Indian Territory or in the snows of the Yukon during gold rush time or in the frightening Florida Everglades. Maybe you'll want it to be the home of the Three Bears or even the house of a nasty, chisel-chinned, wart-nosed old witch. Whatever or wherever you decide it is, the cabin is all yours to play with and to play in. Have fun.

Have fun swinging on a car tyre. Have fun clambering over and around the climbing frames. Wiggle through the tyre, hang from the topmost hold of the frame.

And remember when you're doing all these things the chances are that your father wouldn't be able to do any of them.

But after all, it is your adventure playground. Your very own. So don't let him try.

Perhaps you could let your father join you in the Amusement Arcade then you could persuade him to part with a few coins.

You'll find that this is one of the most up-to-date you'll have seen for a long time. No tired woe-begone, pinball machines here. If there is a pinball machine you can be sure it's fit only for pinball wizards. You'll find machines to shoot on, to play football on, to pit your skill against, to demonstrate your delicate touch with. Automatic excitement. Mechanical magic. Chromium-plated compulsive entertainers. You'll have a marvellous time at the Fort Regent funfair.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

The Digital Future is bright

The Digital Future is bright

Back in April 2016, I wrote on my blog:

The new CEO of Digital Jersey spoke to the Chamber of Commerce at their monthly lunch yesterday, and, having listed to him, I’m more optimistic about Jersey and the digital economy that I was a few months ago.

Tony Moretta was speaking on “Why we need a digital Jersey?” at the Radisson hotel. He found that there is no shortage of ideas, good innovative, creative thinking about IT, but the challenge was in the “follow through”. The ideas were there, but Jersey was slow to embrace change, and often the implementation just did not happen.

Digital Jersey was not just about the organisation of that name, but also about improving matters across the whole island .

Last night I attended the official opening of the new Digital Hub and official launch of the Digital Academy, and it was amazing to see the progress made, and how the implementation was happening.

The hub itself has been extensively revamped from a rather old tired building that looked as if it had been converted from a 1960s office block into a modern, state of the art building.

Tony Moretta, CEO of Digital Jersey, began with a brief talk, accompanied by slides on a pull down screen, and these notes which follow are taken from that presentation.

Any mistakes in transcription from my notes are due solely to me 

There are now six meeting rooms named after “tech titans”, digital pioneers who’ve blazed a trail and shaped all our lives thanks to their genius.

These can be booked online via the Digital Jersey team or via the digital panels on the door, which tell you if the room is busy, and for how long, and at what days and times. The rooms have been named after important figures in the history of computing, so it comes as no great surprise to learn that one has been named after the great Alan Turing. Bill Gates, not surprisingly has a room named after him, as does Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web. 

Three of the other meeting rooms are named after women – Margaret Hamilton who worked at NASA in the Apollo programme, and can be considered to have been one of the first people to use the term “software engineer” to describe her work, and Hedy Lamarr, probably best known to the public as an actress, and yet who was also an innovative inventor who received the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award and was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. And there is also a room named after Professor Dame Wendy Hall, who is a leading figure in the UK today on the development of AI technologies, including on the discussions around AI and ethics.

From 12 desks, which increased to 26 desks, there are now 70 permanent desks (for start-ups), as well as more "hot desk space", so the hub is also well equipped as a place for local start-up business to begin as they start to develop ideas.

The Digital Skills Strategy encompasses a Digital Skills Partnership, linking schools with finance and with Highlands, and is developing skills from Jersey youngsters now and for the future.

Only 18 months ago this structure was being set up, but now it is ready to take off, thanks to funding from the government. This is important because it addresses skills shortages, and a developing digital industry for Jersey’s future. 

Rory Steel has taken on the mantle of Head of Digital Jersey Academy. He is a passionate advocator of tech in education, a Google Certified Trainer and Innovator, and an Apple Distinguished Educator that runs the only Channel Island Apple Regional Training Centre. With a background in maths teaching and IT curriculum, he is well placed to take the lead. 

Many companies have been supportive of the Digital Jersey Project, and also Tony Moretta thanked the politicians who gave stalwart support before and after the election, and secured the necessary funding for Digital Jersey’s future.

Lastly he gave thanks to the Chairman, Frank Walker, who regretted not being able to attend, but who had been extremely supportive of Digital Jersey. 

Senator Lyndon Farnham, who spoke next, said that Digital Jersey was so important to the future of the Island, and not just the economy but also improving the lives of ordinary people.

Funding had been obtained - a significant increase - so that the new Digital Academy could go ahead and there would be benefits in schools, business skills, AI, and all kinds of opportunities. In this respect, 5G was to be embraced, as it puts Jersey on the map, and Digital Jersey can harness that technology in its development of home grown talent on Island.

Monday, 9 September 2019

Brexit Fatigue

“We are totally exhausted listening to Brexit and I think in general the country is very worried about what is going to happen”

In the second series of the excellent 1980s sitcom “Colin’s Sandwich”, starring Mel Smith as Colin Watkins, Colin's dad is dying, in hospital, and takes a long time to die - whilst being unconscious throughout, just hanging on.

This frustration of this hopeless situation is perfectly illustrated by Colin walking up to the hospital bed and thinking to himself "Die Dad! Just die! Kick the bucket, skidaddle, clear off, before they get their hands on you!". He castigates himself for this, just before his mother exclaims "For God's sake, why doesn't he just die!".

That's a symptom of stress and fatigue, and that's what we have now with Brexit.

Sam Knight in “The New Yorker” sums up the situation with Brexit as “Brexit Fatigue”, and Boris Johnson as tapping into the zeitgeist on this:

“The British public, Johnson believes, is sick of the country’s agonizing departure from the European Union and want it over with, deal or no deal. Hang the consequences. Come what may. Do or die. Done. Kaput.”. Crashing out of the E.U.—or at least seeming crazy enough to do it—is a keystone of Johnson’s negotiating strategy with Brussels.”

And people I’ve spoken to – even those who said they didn’t want to leave without a deal, have been worn down by the incessant wrangling over three years. Brexit has become like watching a father hang on and take a long time to die. People just want it to be over. Brexit fatigue has worn down any other strategies.

But that is very dangerous indeed. We have no idea what will come. It could be like driving a car off a cliff. It will certainly be uncharted territory. And people don’t think there will be consequences, or if there are, they think they will be mild.

After all, who can forget “Project Fear”, the term used to denigrate “Remainers” in the Referendum? But if you are going to leave without a deal, you need to plan for that, to be prepared, to have contingency plans.

The Yellowhammer report was a leaked document outlining some of the consequences. It has been kept strictly under wraps because the government doesn’t want people to learn about the consequences until it is too late.

When a doctor who had worked on the medical fall-out of a no-deal Brexit spoke factually about it – and looking at the consequences was in fact a task he had been given by the Government – he was mocked and vilified by Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House in the Government. Rees-Mogg has since apologised, but it should never have happened.if the Government had been up front about what they might expect.

They are caught in a trap of their own making. To get businesses and people to plan as best they can for Brexit, they need to show what the consequences will be if they do not, and what must be done to mitigate the problems which will arise. But to do that is to awaken fear of those consequences, and that they don’t want to do.

But unless you plan for what will happen until you renegotiate deals (and from a position of weakness), it would be foolish to go ahead. It is like getting onto a large ship without sufficient lifeboats. And we all know what happened to that one. You may not need the lifeboats after all. But there could be icebergs ahead, hidden just out of sight.

Because “No Deal” is not the end, it’s only the beginning, and instead of being able to get on with other matters, if you think time will be consumed with trying to get deals now is time consuming, costly and tiring, it will be nothing as to the time afterwards when we do actually have to get a deal to keep trading on better than WTO terms.

Maybe Boris should take a leaf out of the Gospel of Luke:

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’”

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.”

Or suppose someone wants a "No Deal" Brexit, wouldn't he estimate the cost of that decision before going ahead with it? Wouldn't he check how much harder it might be to secure deals with the EU after the event?