Our Castle’s Retrospective 2015

What banners have hung most proudly from the ramparts of Our Castle's Strength in 2015...and which post is languishing in the rarely-viewed dungeon?

As the year comes to a close, which banners have hung most proudly from the ramparts of Our Castle’s Strength in 2015…and which post is languishing in the barely-viewed dungeon?

The Story

Another year, another ‘look back at the year’ blog post!

Statistics suggest Our Castle’s Strength has improved its reach substantially in 2015, amassing 2759 views (as of 30/12/2015) compared to the 1128 views it picked up in 2014 – a 145% increase in viewership! This despite the number of blog posts…err, posted (!) this year dropping from 25 to 19 (not including this retrospective).

Quality over quantity, perhaps? Maybe we should take a look at the top five most-viewed posts of 2015 to see? Segue!

Top Five Most-Viewed Posts of 2015

In ascending order…

5 – Shock as Landlord MP Exploits Position as MP to Block Further Landlord Regulation

…we start with a man whose speeches just won’t end… Tory MP Philip Davies is earning a reputation as a professional filibuster, and the instance this short satire picked up on was not the first time Mr Davies had ‘talked out’ legislation that might have otherwise benefited private rented sector tenants; as an, ahem, accidental landlord of the private rented sector himself, I suspect it won’t be the last time either.

4 – Unpicking the Unconference: A Review of Housing Camp North West

The ‘unconference’ is quickly gaining a reputation as the way to engage housing professionals; the North West CIH regional board have already held a second such event since the one I attended and later reviewed in March. Housing Camp North West was my first ‘unconference’ experience, and further confirmed what years of performing improvised comedy has taught me: you don’t need a lot of structure to get a lot of results.

3 – The Great Housing Giveaway

The idea to simply give away council housing is ideology-driven absurdity but, as is the modus operandi of government recently, ridiculous proposals are made so that they can be withdrawn in favour of slightly less ludicrous proposals, which are then touted as appeasements or a ‘backing down’ so that campaign groups maintain a (erroneous) sense of power.

It might be this cynical view affords too much strategic intelligence to a government that could just be prone to bouts of raw idiocy – regardless, the idea is terrible and, in hindsight, sets the tone for the government’s attitude toward council housing quite clearly.

2 – (No) Lifetime Guarantee – In Defence of Scrapping Lifetime Tenancies

My most recent blog of 2015 (barring this retrospective, of course…) is also perhaps my most controversial. As the majority of #ukhousing commentators denounced plans to scrap lifetime tenancies as another ideological assault on social housing, I found myself in the contrarian position of…well…not really having an issue with the proposal.

Comments on Twitter almost universally referred to this piece as “thoughtful”; in contrast to the tone my most-viewed post of 2015…

1Et tu, Nat Fed?

…which was an angry reaction to what is now referred to infamously as The Deal, whereby the NHF agreed – pending a vote among its members (which was later successful…apparently…if you turn the lights down, put on dark shades, and don’t read into the voting statistics too closely…) – to extend the right-to-buy ‘voluntarily’ (cough cough…) to housing associations. All it would cost them was a knife in the backs of local authorities.

The extension has since been in the Housing and Planning Bill (wait, I thought it was voluntary?), right-to-buy pilots have now begun at five housing associations, and one housing association has quit the NHF over how The Deal went down. The repercussions of this event – perhaps, the biggest housing event of 2015? – will be felt for years to come.

Back, Down, and Sally Forth

These, then, are my top five most viewed posts of 2015. Well, the top five posts written in 2015. Special mention has to go to my 2014 post “Housing Day 2014 – An Appreciative Inquiry” which despite being written for #housingday 2014 (as the title suggests…) has still managed to pull in 871 views in 2015 – just over double the number of views of “Et Tu, Nat Fed?”!

What goes up must come down, though, so let’s briefly move to the opposite end of the viewing spectrum and award the wooden spoon for least viewed blog post of 2015 to “Nuts & Bolts #9 – Zaragoza Our Trampoline”. This short piece, featuring obscure references to trigonometry and an autonomous Spanish community, suffers from a lack of self-penned artwork that other Nuts & Bolts entries benefit from…which is presumably the reason for its comparative poor performance. 😉

Our Castle’s Strength has also sallied forth in 2015 – “The Devil in the Detail” is an opinion article I wrote exclusively for 24dash.com, wherein I mercilessly impugn apologists of the aforementioned NHF right-to-buy deal. It was a pleasant surprise to be asked by the good folk at 24dash.com to write a blog for them; it was case of being in the right mood at the right time – the right-to-buy deal had me riled up – and I am grateful for the opportunity to have my work published on that site. Maybe, if I’m similarly stirred by something else in the future, they’ll let me unleash my amateurish musings again…

Conclusion

Speaking of being stirred (as opposed to shaken, I suppose)…

I’ve written less in 2015 than 2014. Partly this is because I’ve been busy a lot of the year doing my professional actor thing across the country (click here to read my online acting profile and latest credits!), but mostly because I haven’t felt like writing. If you’re aiming to be a professional writer, of course, motivation should have nothing to do with it – like exercise or brushing your teeth, you schedule time each day to just do it, and over time good things happen. But I’m not trying to be a professional writer. I don’t write quickly enough to do that – when housing news hits the social media fan other commentators have invariably already pulled amazing, articulate, insightful articles out their rabbit-filled hats while I’m still musing over a high level summary. And that’s fine. It’s not a race or a competition. Like the About: The Blog section here says: I’m just hanging out some banners.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is I’m not going to promise to write more in 2016 than in 2015. I’m not going to stick rigidly to a schedule, or pursue a certain number of views, or anything like that. I’ll write when I feel like writing. Sometimes I feel like spending a weekend drafting out a long, detailed response to government proposals; other times I just want to write a bit of facetious housing satire. It’s all good.

(Well, the quality of my writing varies, but you get the idea!)

2015 has been a big year for housing, and I can’t see that 2016 will be any different. Are you ready for the next twelve months?

Man the ramparts – New Year incoming!

References

Association quits NHF over RTB deal, Inside Housing, Online: http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/association-quits-nhf-over-rtb-deal/7013108.article, Available: December 2015

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