No barrier to entry

So, looks like I’ve missed a lot since I went away to get married. Here’s a one of the more interesting Blackheath bits:

853blog had a great post criticising the weakness of local media in the SE, and Greenwich Time specifically. Also raises some very good points about the cost of entry into local societies, such as The Blackheath Society and The Westcombe Society. Whilst these groups have reasonably low membership fees (Blackheath’s is £15 per year – can’t find any record of Westcombe’s), it effectively acts as a barrier to entry for all local residents.

In some respects there are comparisons to be made between local papers and local residents societies. Both began in a similar time in history, when distribution and organisation of information was expensive, and had variable costs depending upon the number of users. The changes needed for the press to adapt to the information age have been endlessly written about, but maybe the same is true of local societies? There could be a case for making them entirely free – most of the infrastructure costs that they used to rely on are now available online next to nothing.

I don’t understand why they don’t open up their historical archives for everyone, not just subscribers, or a few people in a small room to admire. The Blackheath Society has a spectacular collection of historical photos, that should be made available to all. In this era, to restrict them to analogue only copies is backward at best, and runs the risk of alienating younger potential volunteers getting involved.

12 Comments

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12 responses to “No barrier to entry

  1. methers

    The Westcombe Society is £4/year, £6 for family membership, £2 for seniors and unemployed. Not a very high barrier to entry, although they are very strict about their geographical limits.

  2. Rubyeva

    Dear Blackheath Bugle

    Congratulations on getting married first.

    I am a member of the Blackheath Society, so may be my response is biased. The Blackheath Society runs an office with a paid employee; in addition to that there is a core team of members who are putting in hundreds of hours of work each year. The meagre membership cost of £15 per year plus income from investments just about covers its expenses. I honestly cannot believe that this cost deters many of Blackheath residents – general apathy is more the underlying reason.

    If somebody finds the money to digitalise all the photos, I’d be surprised if the Blackheath Society would not welcome this with open arms. What is the basis of your accusation that the Society is “restricting” the photos to analogue?

    • Blackheathen

      If you’ve got lots of nice old pictures of Blackheath, why not raise some money by selling them as Christmas cards? I love Blackheath but anyone I’ve met from the Society is in it for reasons of snobbery. One member came up to me recently and said he thought Selwyn Court should be blown up. I tried to defend the fact it was a wonderful example of between the wars architecture, brought realism to the area etc but gave up.

      Further, I want to see the horses trotting around Greenwich Park (which I’ve been able to see from my window from childhood) so am disinclined to fraternise with anyone who misguidedly can’t see the excitement and wonder of all that. Ten to one it’ll be the people from the Blackheath Society who muscle in on the best seats for the dressage in any event once they click that it’s an upper class thing to do.

      • Anonymous

        Errrr…you mean like the Christmas cards and postcards that the Society has been producing for decades from old photographs?
        I’m curious about these masses of members that are “in it for reasons of snobbery” – whatever that means. I was under the impression that the majority join because it works hard to protect the area from intrusive development, rowdy drinkers and council neglect.
        As for Selwyn Court “bringing realism to the area”, I think I would have preferred to make do with a little unreality. It’s an eyesore.

  3. Anonymous

    Where do you get these strange ideas?
    “Most of the infrastructure costs that they used to rely on are now available online next to nothing. ”

    The Blackheath Society has to support an office and part-time administrator. Information on what council and other bodies are doing “on our behalf” also needs to be dug out – often by visiting planning offices. If you can recommend free and comprehensive online sources, I’m sure the unpaid volunteers would welcome the chance to spend a few evenings at home.
    One thing you can find online is a summary of income and expenditure, as the accounts are filed every year with the Charity Commission.
    As for “freeing” the picture archive, who would file, store, check copyright and arrange sales? You could, of course, volunteer to digitise them. For free, of course.

  4. No barrier, really?

    sorry, I don’t know.

    Is that better or worse? God knows.

    • Blackheathen

      I understand, and apologise if I’m wrong, that it was the Blackheath Society who put a stop to people being able to drink on the heath outside the Hare and Billett. I live right near there and used to love the atmosphere of people enjoying themselves. Thanks a bunch.

      As to your postcards, I seem to remember seeing a sad little display in a glass cabinet at the station but one, of rooftops, looked like Coronation Street.

      • Anonymous

        Glad you enjoyed crowds of numpties revelling on the Heath and leaving it strewn with glasses. Your neighbours didn’t, and it was they who campaigned for the ban, calling for support from the Society.
        As for the postcards, I suppose it is a much too hard to ask at the Society office behind the station – or even to find out what the group actually does.

  5. Blackheathen

    I bought a house near the Hare and Billett so I could be on the heath and enjoy the activities that go on there from my window and also by walking across to join in. Were I someone averse to people enjoying a sunset drink on a summer’s evening outside the pub I maybe would have bought a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere.

    I am an original Blackheathen. Born here, educated here and am so incensed by all the self-conscious do the right thing mob I feel like painting my house, on the heath, yellow and purple just to upset the Society.

  6. Blackheathen

    I’ve never found that much rubbish on the heath. Just because people may not live in a 4 storey house on the heath doesn’t mean they’re unable to behave themselves. Didn’t mean to be not nice. I do, though, believe in freedom of expression. I’m not too keen on the Society. My life has been frustrated in particular by closure of the roads across the heath for a start. Pointless. People who weren’t local rarely used them. Please go and live in Godstone or Westerham or somewhere if you want us to be boring. Otherwise, please embrace the fact we border on Lewisham and real people.

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