Our Castle’s Retrospective 2016

Caption. Allan, add more details.

With less banners hung than ever before, has Our Castle’s Strength been exhausted? (Pictured: the ruins of 15th Century Lordscairnie Castle in Moonzie, Fife.)

The Story

In my 2015 retrospective I said that I wasn’t going to promise to write more in 2016 than in 2015. It seems I have made good on that…err, non-promise, because I’ve barely written anything in 2016. I’ve only put digits to keyboard a total of six times in the past twelve months. That’s not exactly…productive. More on why later. What matters right now is that we have just enough posts to rank my top five most-viewed posts of 2016! 

Top Five Most-Viewed Posts of 2016

In ascending order…

5 – Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Swindle

A short post signposting a crowdfunding campaign to create Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Swindle – a no holds barred, feature length documentary exploring the failures and deception behind the social housing crisis. (The crowdfunding has now ended, raising over £11,000.) You can follow the film’s progress at Dispossession’s Facebook Page.

4 – #UKHousingFast 2016 – Beyond Fasting

2016 was a rough year for many; this post was written shortly after the terrible assassination of Joe Cox MP, so it lacks my usual facetiousness (see below) and concentrates on the virtues remembered by the annual #UKHousingFast event. You don’t need to be Muslim – or, indeed, religious in any sense –  to take a moment to be thankful for what you have and reaffirm your focus toward kindness and empathy. As we approach an uncertain future in 2o17, we would do well to revisit those lessons now.

As always, you can find out more about #UKHousingFast here.

3 – Nuts & Bolts #11 – Brandon’s Bits

Nearly all my posts suffer from a degree of facetiousness – it is in my nature to not take things seriously (enough). However, my Nuts & Bolts series embraces this predilection for ribaldry rather than hiding it in the footnotes. The only Nuts & Bolts entry in 2016, Brandon’s Bits pokes fun at the claim that then-Housing Minister had 16 million bit (i.e. pieces) of data to justify decisions taken in the Housing and Planning Bill. As of yet, I don’t think anyone has seen any of this rumoured evidence. Brandon Lewis’ bits have passed into legend.

2 – Sally Forth

2016 was a year of great changes. Politically, we have seen tremendous shifts in the status quo which, regardless of your own preferences, undeniably bring great risk. Another great risk taken this year was by myself – as Sally Forth explains, I quit my ‘safe’ (i) ‘9-to-5’ housing job to follow my passion and become a full-time professional actor (and writer, and director, and fight choreographer…etc.). I’m still involved with housing, working as part of the CIH West Midlands Regional Board to develop an activities plan for regional members and co-hosting the CIH Midlands Awards evening with Heart FM personality Ed James, so I haven’t abandoned the sector entirely. More importantly, I’ve been able to keep up with my mortgage payments by playing make-believe. Long may that continue.

1 – Housing Day 2016 – For Whom Does The Hashtag Trend?

My most-viewed post of 2016 (ii) is a cynical rant against #HousingDay 2016. Well, not against the day itself; there’s a lot of good the housing sector and it deserves to be highlighted and appreciated (iii). I do have a problem with social media being the only battleground, and with ‘Twitter-reach’ (what even is this?!) being the sought-after metric. Listen – the people you need to convince about the worth of (social) housing are not on Twitter. Digital ‘comms heroes’ might be the heroes the sector wants, but they’re not the heroes the sector needs.

Special mention has to go, for the second year running, to my 2014 post Housing Day 2014 – An Appreciative Inquiry, which with 96 views in 2016 is my second most-viewed post this year despite having been published in November 2014! I would like to credit my stellar writing and astute analysis…but the success of this piece is more likely to involve online search engine algorithms and students researching the principle of ‘appreciative inquiry’.

Thanks, Google!

Wooden Spoon

(Pictured: Jean Monet on his Hobby Horse, by Claude Monet)

This hobby horse comes with STABLE-isers…get it? Stable, as in where you keep hor…aw, c’mon – it’s clever! LAUGH! (Pictured: Jean Monet on his Hobby Horse, by Claude Monet)

In this six horse race one post had to be revealed as the hobby horse, limping over the finishing line in an affront to expected equine excellence. This year’s simulacrum steed goes to Vox Vulgaria, my part-rant, part-appeal for members of the Houses of Parliament to conduct themselves with a modicum of decorum. The post ranked low in this year’s stats – either people are fans of unruly political behaviour, or people are not fans of Latin puns referencing the 16th Century Grammarian’s War. Given the events of 2016, I presume the former is true…because everyone loves Latin puns just as much as me, right?


Empty Castle?

I had intended to write more in 2016. Several times I drafted out a…err, draft for a blog on WordPress, only for my momentum to stall or the moment to pass, at least in the popular conscious. I don’t write quickly; I am no good at reacting to ‘breaking news’ in the sector because by the time I’ve managed to wrap my head around what’s going on every other blogger and their dog (who also blogs, although to a distinctly more quadrupedal demographic) has already delivered an astute, insightful, clever, and impactful analysis. Meanwhile, I’m spending blogging time getting distracted by a Google image search for hobby horses and subsequent ad-hoc research into Monet paintings.

It has taken me a long time to write this post, and this is just a throwaway article at the end of the year with the majority of content already available since I’m just recapping what I’ve already written. What hope, then?!

It may be that my shift into full-time acting has pulled my focus from housing; that is understandable if so. But it also offers a new way of approaching blogging…

Conclusion – Jongleurs & Troubadours

“Rocks in my path? I keep them all. With them I shall build my castle.”
Nemo Nox

I have advocated previously – on this blog and at housing events – about the need for the housing sector to leverage performance arts to better tell housing stories, and it’s time to start applying that principle to this blog. My niche when it comes to blogging about housing isn’t meticulous attention to detail, furious statistical analysis, rapid policy appraisement, or financial cogitation – it’s my connection to the world of performance arts.

I’ve swapped my suit-and-tie for a makeup bag and jester’s cap (iv), and that affords me a unique perspective. Our Castle’s Strength need not just be that of noble knights and impressive proclamations; it is also of jongleurs and troubadours, and in 2017 I’m resolving to use this blog to spotlight those works of song, dance, film, theatre, and storytelling that find a connection with the housing sector. (All with a dash of facetious commentary, of course!)

There are more banners to hang, friends. Expect bells and whistles!

* * * * *

Neil Jackson, also known by his stage name of Neil Jacks, is an award-winning actor, writer, director, and fight choreographer represented by Inspired Actors. He is also a chartered member of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIHCM) and a dedicated martial artist, with over a decade of training, coaching, and competitive fighting experience.

You can find out more about Neil – both as an actor and as a freelance housing professional – on the About: The Author page.

References & Footnotes

(i) I don’t think there are any ‘safe’ jobs anymore, and housing jobs for local authorities are increasingly unstable due to a range of (cost-cutting) factors. Indeed, I have argued that in 5-10 years local authorities will no longer deliver any direct services, becoming mere arms-length management/procurement teams that outsource all traditional council functions to private concerns. Ah, but that is a blog for a different time…

(ii) I am wary of using the term ‘most-read – clicking a link does not mean you read what appears on the proceeding page, as anyone who has checked the ‘I agree to the above terms and conditions’ box while installing computer software can attest.

(iii) This is why I am not necessarily opposed to housing award events / evenings / ceremonies, and I’m not just saying that because I’ve co-hosted one! But, again; a blog for another time…

(iv) A proverbial cap, you understand. At least, most of the time…


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