One Love

I was, as they say, feelin the love at our party last Wednesday. I am slightly amazed that we’ve been doing this website for two years and that it has become so successful. I don’t usually do soppy, but I blush at the compliments we received and am really touched by the emails we get from people saying how much they like the website / newsletter / videos / events we put on.

Photograph – Jon Perry

The Chiswick Calendar came about because I was at a loose end, having left BBC news after 30 years. My business partner Nick Raikes had just finished a gap year working on a local website before going to university. So between us we reckoned we had the skills to set up a website and decided that we wanted to do something that is a celebration of life in Chiswick, a features website with lots of lovely pictures and videos which would complement the existing excellent news website we have in W4. We snuck it online with some nice pictures of Chiswick taken by my neighbour Marianne and a page per day showing what’s on, in what I believe is known as a ‘soft launch’, ie. nobody knew it was there for a while, which was good because it gave us a chance to iron out some of the kinks.

We now have about 2,000 people who look at it each month, 2,500 subscribers to the weekly newsletter and nearly 3,000 followers on Twitter. The website has a different home page picture of Chiswick each day. We now have about 20 people who give us their photographs to use, and we welcome them from anyone, but special mention goes to Jon Perry, who’s given us his photos almost from the start. The website has a calendar of events for the next six months, with one page showing the headline events for the whole year and a separate page for each day of the year with everything from the Magical Lantern Festival at Chiswick House to yoga classes and local history walks. Our Youtube channel has hundreds of videos on it now and we have the club card with some 50 businesses offering deals and discounts to our subscribers. We also put on our own events. We’ve done several political discussions, chaired by old mates of mine from the BBC Sarah Montague and Julian Worricker and an evening In Conversation with Wayne Sleep in the Tabard theatre, which I conducted myself. We’ve done book discussions and a gin tasting night and last October got together with three other businesses in Chiswick to run the Chiswick Talks Business event.

One of the great things about doing The Chiswick Calendar is the partnerships we’ve formed, among them with Artists at Home, who hold their open studio weekend in June, Super Saturday of Sport in July, and Arts Ed, the internationally renowned musical theatre school. Thanks to Joanna Brendon, Kirsten Lonsdale and Jane Harrison from those three organisations respectively, for their friendship and support and for standing up and saying lovely things about us: that our promotion and videos help hugely in publicising their events and in Art Ed’s case, offering discounted courses to club card holders enables them to fill their weekend and summer classes. People come from all over the country to take part in their courses and then look at The Chiswick Calendar website to see what else they could do in Chiswick and how else they could use their card. Thanks also to Ruth Cadbury MP for encouraging businesses to join the club card scheme and to John D Wood who are continuing their sponsorship for another year. And of course to Torin Douglas who provides us with endless copy and video making opportunities through the Bedford Park Festival and the Chiswick Book Festival.

Thanks to the Mississippi Swamp Dogs, a great New Orleans jazz band who I can thoroughly recommend for parties of any kind for their musicianship and ability to make people get up and dance.