Our Castle’s Retrospective 2014

Our castle's strength will laugh a siege to scorn! As 2015 fast approaches, what articles have sallied forth from Our Castle's Strength?

Our castle’s strength will laugh a siege to scorn! As 2015 fast approaches, which posts have triumphantly sallied forth from Our Castle’s Strength in 2014…and which posts have hid behind the ramparts?

The Story

Stop the bandwagon – I want to get on!

It’s that time of year when everyone who has a blog does a retrospective piece, a look back at the past year to see what has worked, what hasn’t, and what is to come…and why not?! Retrospection is good in its place, so long as it informs rather than replaces action, and I’m interested to dig into my stats page and see what has gained traction over 2014 – if you’re new to the blog, maybe you’ll find it interesting to have a look back through the ‘archive’ (such as it is…) and pick up on a post or idea you missed.

With that being said, let’s delve into our castle and see what 2014 had to offer.

Top 5 – Most Viewed

To the victor, the views! Here, in descending order, are the five most viewed posts on Our Castle’s Strength in 2014:

  1. Housing 2014 – A Short & Tweet Review

My most viewed post of the year was a review of the CIH’s Housing 2014 event via the medium of Twitter, proving that much can be gleaned by following the right social media…and establishing the Our Castle’s Strength tradition of being gazumped to a blog idea by another savvier commentator!

  1. Babies, Bathwater, and the Bedroom Tax

In my one-year review of the reduction of spare room subsidy policy – sorry, bedroom tax – I detail the many problems – operational, legal, and ethical – with the policy. Following recent tribunals and debates, there does not appear to be much hope left to stop the policy reaching its two-year anniversary in 2015. For shame.

  1. SHOUT – Beyond the Noise

My reaction to Affordable, Flourishing, Fair – A Manifesto to Save and Extend Social Rented Housing gave everyone a lot to SHOUT about; as well as being the third most viewed post on Our Castle’s Strength, it also attracted the most comments for a post in 2014. As the campaign rolls into 2015, and various policies (such as right-to-buy) continue to erode social housing stock, there is still plenty to SHOUT about.

  1. The Soul of Liberty

In a year when I became a member of the CIH’s West Midlands regional board, it is apropos that my commentary regarding diversity on housing association boards should be well-visited. In 2015 the CIH will gain a new chief executive in Ms Terrie Alafat who will replace the outgoing Grainia Long – when it comes to women in senior roles, it’s hard to deny that the CIH sets a high standard.

  1. Twit-Forks and Censorship – A Clinton Cards Christmas Special

The recent Twitter-storm about that Clinton Christmas card provided much fodder for the UK housing sector and its commentators alike. My call for a reasoned response to this and other gaffs against social housing is a message that I would like the sector to take as a resolution moving into 2015 – we will not win support through “frothing, foam-flecked fanaticism”.

Bottom 5 – Least Viewed

For every Harvey Dent there is a Two-Face. Well, I mean, Harvey Dent is Two-Face…and in Frank Miller’s graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns the distinction has eroded to the point where…you know what, never mind.

In ascending order (that is, starting with the least least viewed…erm, wait – that doesn’t clarify things at all…) are my five least viewed posts from 2014:

A new development in Cumbria prompted an oft-times heavy post-modern sociological argument in how communities develop not by shared interests but by hostile labelling of the other. Community – still the most controversial C-word.

The report Material Advantage: A study of the cost of materials supply inefficiency in social housing repairs and maintenance in Great Britain by Travis Perkins Group didn’t get much of a reaction from the UK housing sector when released earlier this year…and neither did my review and analysis.

I saw a scaffolding company that used a pun in their advertising…and that’s it, really. I’m not surprised a quick post based around a double entendre is third from bottom. Heh heh…bottom.

Maybe my allusions to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner were too opaque, but an early blog on the how the housing crisis is one of affordability as well as supply had a weary time, only just avoiding the position of least viewed post of 2014. By my long grey beard!

This was a guest blog for #UKHousingFast 2014, and was first and primarily featured on the UK Housing Fast website, where my personal reflection on the event sits with many other contributions from the sector. If it was read at all, it was read there rather than here – and quite right, too! If you haven’t read the other blogs from that day of solidarity and reflection, do so.

Nuts & Bolts – A 2015 Resolution

I had intended Nuts & Bolts to be a semi-occasional feature of Our Castle’s Strength; shorter blogs that would take a lighter look at housing stories.

It was light, all right – I only published two such blogs!

I intend to rectify this moving into 2015, specifically by following the lead of the first Nuts & Bolts post and basing them around satirical cartoons. Believe it or not, I’ve had a lot of ideas for Nuts & Bolts over 2014, but they’ve mostly been visual in nature. Now I am in possession of a personal scanner, and am resolved to comment on housing stories via scathing ink-based effigies as well as wandering prose.

My artistic contributions will, more than likely, be exclusively in the medium of biro.

Conclusion

So there we are: the five most viewed posts, the five least viewed posts, and a resolution to provide attempts at UK housing-based satirical cartoons. Not bad for a 2014 retrospective!

I’m glad I started a housing blog in 2014. It was something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and, views from external visitors aside, writing for the blog not only scratches my writing itch – as you have probably gathered, I have a predilection for verbosity – but has provided the impetus to expand my housing knowledge beyond the more technical aspects of asset management and maintenance where my experience lies. Writing blogs is a great way to stay on top of housing news, policies, politics, etc. – if you don’t write one at the moment, I’d encourage you to give it a try!

Thanks for any and all support you’ve given in 2014 – if anyone has any suggestions for the blog in 2015 please let me know! You can get in touch in the comments below, or on Twitter and/or LinkedIn – check out the About the Author page for more information.

Heading into 2015, I’ll leave you with the coat of arms of my current city of residence, Birmingham – Forward!

Coat of Arms - Birmingham

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