Thursday, 26 March 2009

Starlight Academy get a visit from Andrew Gilligan

The Starlight Music Academy are a Kennington-based organisation offering music and dance training to young people in the area.

As Dave Hill reported earlier this month, they had been due to lose their premises, but were given a last minute reprieve by the LDA.

Unfortunately for them they also have connections with Lee Jasper and Brixton Base. This has not gone unnoticed by Andrew Gilligan:

From: Orin Alexander [LDA]
Sent: 26 March 2009 09:42
To: Rebecca Arnold [GLA]
Subject: Offley Works - Evening Standard Article

Dear Rebecca,

Further to our letter to the Assembly on the subject of Offley Works, I wish to inform you that Andrew Gilligan has advised of his intention to write an article in today's edition of the Evening Standard which is critical of the LDA's decision to offer an extension of the lease to Starlight Music Academy. Apart from linking the organisation to Lee Jasper, it appears that his article will be based on his enquiries which suggest that Starlight Music Academy is "not doing anything". He implies that that there are more deserving organisations around who could benefit from such premises...

For some reason Andrew's article about Starlight "not doing anything" has failed to appear in today's edition.

Perhaps he has some final facts to check, or perhaps he's looking for some positive accounts of their work to add to the piece.

Or perhaps it has something to do with this account by the Director of Starlight themselves:

----- Original Message -----
From: Shanice Duffus
To: Starlight 
Sent: Thu Mar 26 12:02:46 2009
Subject: Fw: Surprise visitor to SMA yesterday


Guess who visited Starlight Music Academy yesterday?

Andrew Gilligan!!

Remember The Evening Standard journalist and reporter who was at the centre of bringing down Ken Livingston and Lee Jasper using accusations against Brixton Base to the benefit of Boris Johnson’s mayoral election campaign. Yes!!!

He arrived at SMA around 6:30 pm, our singing classes were taking place in the Starlight Performance Hall and dancers in the Academy Hall were beginning to assemble for their dance rehearsal class.

Andrew joined me in the SMA office which I pointed out we had built 2 years ago from an empty shell. I was already in the company of two of our trustees and an SMA media volunteer talking SMA business when he arrived.

All our attention then diverted towards Andrew and we all spent the next two hours or so answering his countless questions and us piling loads of evidence of the works we were engaged in doing in support of young people.

Firstly he wanted to know how many young people used SMA on a weekly basis as he claimed he was outside the Offley building last Wednesday (19th March 09) and he only saw two people come in the building, “one with a Black leather Jacket”.

I said he must have been at the wrong building because we had around 30 people in an SMA meeting and around 12 students in a vocal class. He insisted he only saw two and asked again how many people visit SMA per week I estimated around 100, again he disputed this so, to resolve the matter, I took him to the security desk, requested the signing in sheets for the past week and gave it to Andrew to count.

Andrew proceeded to count the entries but ONLY those who had specifically recorded their visit or business as SMA related. When I pointed out that some of the drama and dance students who had entered ‘dance’ or ‘drama’ and not SMA were also users of SMA services he refused to count them. This limited count that he insisted on proceeding with totalled 277 (two hundred and seventy seven) SMA visits within one week.

Almost three times my original modest estimate. Most people would have been astounded at the throughput but he still remained unconvinced of our popularity and our true legitimacy. This led to one of our trustees openly questioning his motives and attitude. He claimed to have checked with Lambeth, The Oval House and Raw Materials and none of them had heard of us.

We nevertheless showed him we were more than willing to provide him with any info he wanted. He pleased for a quite office but we said no. If we have to put up with this every evening to keep young people off the streets then he could put up with it for one evening.

With Andrew in tow in his investigative unconvinced mode and tone, we proceeded back to the office, through the Academy Hall, noisy with around 15 dancers beginning their rehearsal session and walked by through the Starlight Performance Hall, which was buzzing with the voices of around 15 singers who were enjoying their signing lesson. We then turned in to the SMA office.

He asked about our funding, we explained we get very little funding but do what we can with the little we get and explained that volunteers do most of the work. One of our trustees pointed out she has been volunteering with the organisation for over 8 years and has never even claimed entitlement towards petrol costs.

We took Andrew to see the lovely new studio recently refurbished and kitted with new equipment. He looked but felt it was too hard to admit it looked nice.

Back in the office, with Gilligan still dissatisfied, he asked to see our accounts. We showed him our 08/09 meticulous computerised accounting system with individual entries then went to our locked cupboard filled with files and pulled out our 07/08 audited accounts. He looked through them, made notes as we said he couldn’t take them away as we needed them for our files.

He enquired in to how we vetted out tutors, we showed him two large files filled with tutor and volunteer CVs, reference request letters, references received and where appropriate CRB certificates. He saw signed SMA Tutor Expectations documents, Principle and Values statements for tutors, thus demonstrating SMA had a history of having effective and robust checking systems in place and documents to ensure a safe and user friendly environment is created for young people.

He said whose our most eminent tutor, we called in Isaiah Raymond who happened to conducting the vocal class. Andrew asked Isaiah to tell him a bit about himself.

Isaiah explained he was the founder member of Raymond & Co. former MOBO award winners and winners of the GMTV gospel awards competition. He told of his successful album and the works he does in support of young people at SMA.

After Isaiah left the room Andrew switched to enquire about our relationship with Lee Jasper who had apparently been championing our organisation last week at a police consultative meeting. We told him that Lee was a friend of the organisation and that if it were not for Lee Jasper SMA would still be out on the streets with no where to run its services from.

He asked why we had defended Brixton Base in a letter last year to the Evening Standard. We said as far as were concerned, 1) Innocent until proven guilty and 2) It was a political campaign.

He insisted Brixton Base were guilty of offences, we asked if any charges had been brought to date and he said “no” but a house had been seized. We said we were not defending Brixton Base if they are guilty but know of many cases in our community where young people in particular had had cases wrongly brought against them and had even been charged to then be cleared of wrong doing. We left that discussion.

We asked him why the hostile and unfriendly attitude? He said, “There are groups around here who are not happy that we are in this building for free and they have to pay. ”

We told him that unlike most other organisations around providing services for young people we do not have any full time staff, get hardly any funding but if we were to get some money we would gladly pay for our keep.

We asked him what his concluding views were of our organisation. He said, well at first he thought it was a bit of a scam but realises its not. But, he said, he was still concerned that not no one has heard of us and that we want a 99-year lease on the building as well as requesting a meeting with Boris.

We asked him to convey our best wishes to Boris, and that he (Andrew) was welcome to come back and visit us at anytime.

He left SMA and took advantage of a quick look around at some of the other parts of the building that he had spent the past year writing about but had not seen the inside of.

It was around 9 pm when Andrew left to the deafening ringing of young people enjoying their singing and dance rehearsal class at SMA.

We wait to read what his views were of his visit to Starlight Music Academy.

-----Message Ends-----

Don't worry Shanice. I'm sure Andrew's fair and balanced account of your work will appear in the Evening Standard any time soon.



22 comments:

Anonymous said...

A huge well done Shanice Duffus

It must have been difficult to remain even-handed in the face of the usual Kennite blend of cynicism and innuendo.

Interesting once again that Gilly was clearly irritated by their muddying of his opinion-infested waters with their entirely unfair use of facts!

niff said...

Did he just turn up to working premises unannounced and expect 2.5 hours undivided attention from the person in charge (plus whoever they happen to be with)? Is that normal for a journalist?

I'm asking because I honestly don't know, but it seems rather self-important not to at least call ahead...

Political Animal said...

That has got to be the most enjoyable email I've ever read. A rather dull day just got a let better... Well done Ms Duffus, and thanks for posting it, Troll.

AdamB said...

No problem Animal. Happy to help.

Tom said...

What's rather wonderful about this, apart from ringing very true about what life is really like in the voluntary sector, is that people understand that you can spike Gilligan's guns - he now *can't* publish an attack piece even if he wants to.

It would be nice if he put the same effort into tangible scandals like Boris enabling BNP propaganda by lying about St. George's Day.

Anonymous said...

He won't do that because it doesn't involve either

a) Someone he doesn't like personally, or

b) giving himself an opportunity to try to resurrect a tired (and dramatically over-written) old story he won awards for (but that increasingly looks set to come back and bite him on the arse)

Sadly for his attempt at b) on this occasion he has encountered people of intelligence and good character who aren't intimidated by his bizarre bullying tactics.

Shame on you Gilligan - Wonder just how much creeping self doubt was emerging as it became obvious to you that your opinion of this project was entirely without a factual basis and indeed was in fact an insulting misrepresentation of people who have more character in their little fingers than you have in your entire being?

Sorry stupid question - In Gilligan World there's only one opinion capable of being right.

Carry on Andrew - Your next big cock up is getting closer by the day.

prj45 said...

Who does he think he is, some sort of one man government?

Seriosuly, in the words of a stunning lady on a bicycle who got cut up by a car the other day, right in front of me, "Wot a WANKAH!".

Rog T said...

Excellent post. I run a music studio so I know a bit about this. I could walk into somewhere and know within 5 seconds if it worked. The questions Gilligan asked are ridiculous. The police are banned from going on "trawler" missions. It's a shame the same rules don't apply here.

Just in case Gilligan is reading this, here's a few clues. If there are a lot of people in the building who seem to know what they are doing, it ain't a scam. There are plenty of fat cat bankers who could do with two hour's of Gilligan's razor like inquisition, so why is he wasting his time here? What a complete saddo

Anonymous said...

It might be well worth Starlight sending a copy of that email to the Editor of the Standard with a covering note which reads something like - "In case of copy being submitted slagging us off please read this before publishing"

It might also be worth a call or three to the three bodies that apparently denied all knowledge of them to find out what was asked - and what answer was given.

It might certainly also be worth asking the question of the new Editor whether he approves of this form of 'reporting' - hectoring people in their places of work, effectively repeatedly calling them liars and frauds - all of course without any notice or appointment - Damn it that would give them the time to get rid of the evidence!!!

The bit about Gilligan deciding who should (and should not) be counted from the signing in sheet is yet another clear example of his disgraceful one-sided style - desperate to find any crumb of support for his own agenda and rejecting any level of evidence presented to the contrary.

Let's just remember for a (terrifying) moment that this is the "Investigative Reporter of the Year"

I'd laugh out loud if it wasn't so sickening.

Gilligan you are a disgrace to the journalistic profession

Rob said...

Suggest Gilligan be known as BLJ (black leather jacket) from now on.

Alex said...

Gilligan appears to have mistaken himself for the Gestapo.

Alex said...

Also, can it be that Mr Serious Investigative Reporter doesn't know that charities' accounts are available on the Internet?

AdamB said...

I don't think it's a charity, just a voluntary organisation supported by the LDA.

Helen said...

It's not a registered charity, no.

I'd deduce that Gilligan's a fan of Stalin, by his tactics.

Lee Jasper said...

I find t completely disgusting that a small, black voluntary sector organisation should be subject to such naked press intimidation largely because of their association with me. SMA does great work and I for one am deeply sorry that they have had to endure a forced interview with Gilligan. I have today, for what its worth written a formal complaint to the editor of the Standard whom I see as allowing Gilligan to continue his as yet unsubstantiated campaign against me. I am saddened that yet another black organisations have had to suffer in this way. I do intend to press home my complaints about this matter to the Standard. Gilligan is becoming increasing desperate to find some means of salvaging his journalistic integrity, such that it is, by 'standing up 'his original stories printed throughout last years Mayoral elections.

Lee Jasper

Tom said...

Lee - surely it's better to ask innocently when Gilligan, who obviously can't have gone away with anything other than a good impression of SMA, is going to write up his visit, particularly if there were expenses involved. These are, after all, lean times at the Standardm, and I'm sure they can't afford to have their star correspondents gallivanting all over London with no end product?

Alternatively, perhaps they might like to consider sending a proper journalist to cover how a small amount of public money and interest from the LDA can make a big difference at the grass roots? I'm sure Boris would approve.

Adam - do you fancy writing it up? Might be your way in to replacing Gilligan, eh?

Anonymous said...

If a voluntary organization, making a valuable contribution on behalf of local people, is caught in the middle of a lot of politically-motivated mudslinging, then I think we should condemn that.

Much overlooked in all of this however, is the shockingly weak management at the LDA. If they'd done their job right, any rot in the system would have been sniffed out and dealt with properly, long before the Evening Standard weighed in with its allegations.

I don't see much coverage or discussion of the District Auditors' findings around here.

-AOE

Anonymous said...

AOE,

So what were these auditor's findings then?

The *completely unbiased* Conservative member-staffed "forensic audit" didn't find much wrong when they looked at it. There have been no charges by the police. So the allegations of corrupt practices seem unfounded - and the reason Gilligan is still desperately sniffing around is because this fact is somewhat embarrassing for him (though I think he is being a little harsh on himself - Ken was booted out and Boris got in partly as a result of his evidence-light smear campaign - job done surely?).

I suspect management of the LDA is better than in other RDAs across the country thanks to the democratic accountability that the Mayor brings to it. I haven't seen any studies into the impact of the work to be able to make an informed judgement on whether it does a good or bad job of allocating the money it gets to the right people.

If you are determined to find examples of bad management, you could in any organisation you care to look at. Even ones run by Conservatives. One example in the news at the moment would be the decisions to pump millions of pounds into Icelandic banks when it was obvious they were about to collapse http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/public_sector/article5979594.ece

If you had an investigation into any organisation over the cause of several months you are bound to find examples where management could be better - especially if it is operated by someone who does not care about the facts too much, can only see things in black and white, is ideologically bound to the notion that the public sector is definitionally bad and wasteful, and who is determined to find something wrong.

Slightly off-topic, but I wonder if Associated Newspapers are going to receive their reward for their prolonged campaign of smear and unbiased reporting - anyone know when this is up for renewal. Worth keeping a close eye on http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=1&storycode=43258&c=1

infinitylies said...

I don't really like use the vernacular for things like this, but all i cant think is

"he's such an arse"

Bette Noir said...

(I tried to post this in response at the Evening Standard. Let's see if it gets past their "moderation".)

OK, Andrew doesn't like this arts centre, but I'm confused by the other side's account which seems to contradict what looks like a hatchet job.

First Paula Murray on Dunblane, now Gilligan. What is it with journos and young people?

----- Original Message -----
From: Shanice Duffus
To: Starlight
Sent: Thu Mar 26 12:02:46 2009
Subject: Fw: Surprise visitor to SMA yesterday


Guess who visited Starlight Music Academy yesterday?

Andrew Gilligan!!

Remember The Evening Standard journalist and reporter who was at the centre of bringing down Ken Livingston and Lee Jasper using accusations against Brixton Base to the benefit of Boris Johnson’s mayoral election campaign. Yes!!!

He arrived at SMA around 6:30 pm, our singing classes were taking place in the Starlight Performance Hall and dancers in the Academy Hall were beginning to assemble for their dance rehearsal class.

Andrew joined me in the SMA office which I pointed out we had built 2 years ago from an empty shell. I was already in the company of two of our trustees and an SMA media volunteer talking SMA business when he arrived.

All our attention then diverted towards Andrew and we all spent the next two hours or so answering his countless questions and us piling loads of evidence of the works we were engaged in doing in support of young people.


Continues at:
http://torytroll.blogspot.com/2009/03/visit-from-andrew-gilligan.html

Anonymous said...

At Boris Question Time in York Hall their were two protests - One outside (fight the flights) and one inside (starlight)
Now both Fight The Flights and Starlight have been attacked with an efort to smear them - Fight The Flights by Roger Evans and now Starlight by Andrew Gilliganivich (Troll has now reported on both).
Coincidence?

Anonymous said...

"I suspect management of the LDA is better than in other RDAs across the country"

As Dee Doocey said on the Politics Show last week: "I certainly think the new management is much much better than the previous management, but, you know, to be fair anything has got to be better than the previous management which was absolutely dire."

My point was, had it not been, the Standard would have had no bone to chew on. Allegations are easy to bat away when you have a well-managed team.

Relevant reading here and here and elsewhere...

---Rgds, Appealing of Ealing