Cliftonville in Kent has many of the ingredients to become an east Kent hub for the creative industries, particularly design and small tech start ups, if only those in power embrace the area. (10mins read).

Cliftonville, home to a previous art intervention of mine, feels like the forgotten sibling of east Kent that will grow up to surprise everyone and become a lavish success story.

The area has seen an influx of new wealthier residents bringing much needed disposable income, investment and improvements to buildings across the town, yet it’s clear that social challenges remain.


L to R: 1. Before – Site of Moonbow Margate intervention in a derelict cafe on Clifton Rise, 2. Six weeks later as local people from far and wide began to engage.

In 2011, I ran my first long term art intervention, Moonbow Margate in Cliftonville, following the impact on the local community of the newly opened Turner Contemporary gallery along the road. Classified then as one of Britain’s most deprived areas, Cliftonville had a terrible reputation across Kent as being criminal, dirty and many other things. Although there were certainly issues, there was also a warm and welcoming community, a large number of established artists and many interesting people. The town still had numerous grand buildings, although many were in need of major renovation. It was where I met artist Clare Patterson owner of Brook, my home for this journey and presently in need of some attention at the local garage.

New Businesses

Despite a forecast of a heatwave, the town was overcast, windy and chilly, meaning reduced footfall and highlighting the need for businesses not to be reliant on day-trippers to survive.

L to R: 1. Cliftonville seafront towards Broadstairs, 2. Seafront towards Margate, 3. Northdown Road

A number of new shops and cafes have appeared, many catering for the new incomers while most of the old businesses, some of which had been in Cliftonville’s Northdown road for generations, have closed. Northdown road was already in steep decline in 2011 so arrival of new independent businesses is timely. Margate Caves project is finally coming to fruition after years of campaigning and fundraising. A number of small design and art studios have also set up and there are several new galleries opening in Margate old town, a short walk away. Houses dotted across the area have had makeovers, providing work for local trades and economic injection into the area’s numerous retro furniture shops. Whether these makeovers are commercial ventures or individuals’ setting up home is difficult to discern.

L to R: 1. New Margate Caves Building, 2. View of Northdown Road from Grain Cafe, 3. House makeover

Social Issues

The atmosphere is not threatening and there is no begging to speak of despite clear signs of homelessness. With weeds growing between the curb stones, uncared for buildings and rubbish strewn across side streets and along the curb the place has an unloved feel. The dysfunctional Thanet District Council (TDC) has always had a difficult relationship with Cliftonville as far back as I can recall.

Despite some improvement in the built fabric of Cliftonville, poverty and associated issues remain stark. The streets and alleys were rancid in some places in 2011 and then saw a gradual improvement on each visit, particularly in regards dog pooh. Although not as bad now as in 2011, the rubbish and general lack of care for the environment has returned. People sitting in small huddles drinking cheap beer remains. Drugs, alcohol, poor diets and cigarettes dominate as one walks around; across all social classes and ages.

Discarded Diamond

Back in 2011, my belief was that if any part Thanet was to become a buzzing hub area with thriving new businesses focused on tech and media it would be Cliftonville. This belief remains, but there has to be more crossover between the newcomers, long term residents and those struggling. This may be happening but it is hard to judge. Although there are some first rate assets in the public realm, they are generally poorly maintained with little shelter from the biting north wind. Prices in some of the new cafes are London prices plus, which will exclude a large portion of the incumbent community where average wages are close to minimum. Renting or buying a property has probably seen prices double in a decade.

Rapid Transit and Internet

Besides cleaning, there are two distinct issues with Cliftonville that can be reasonable overcome in my view. One is the continuing poor wifi and internet services and the other is public transport.

With 5G around the corner I will just assume that this will be solved very soon. Cliftonville needs a tram or some other form of light Rapid Transit system. Unlike difficulties found in other localities, converting the wide seafront roadway from Margate railway station towards Broadstairs should be fairly straightforward.  Thoughtfully constructed, it could be later extended towards Birchington opening up a large expanse of building and investment opportunities.

With seaside towns all along the Kent coast obsessed with nostalgia, and Margate in particular, maybe it could be time to look to old technologies like the electric trolley bus built by Richard Garrett & Sons? See Electric Vehicles blog post.

Short Film commissioned by Richard Garrett and Sons for potential customers of their single and double-decker electric trolley buses, produced near the end of the 1920s. (The Long Shop Museum website) [1]

Turner Effect

Turner Contemporary has put Margate on the map and brought new people with much needed disposable income to Cliftonville. There is far more confidence around than when the gallery opened in 2011, and is a good illustration how targeted public investment can lift an area. Yet the change remains slow going and the risks of the newcomers with cash drying up remains possible. Other towns, for example Herne Bay further along the coast is slowly beginning to show signs of change and quality of housing appears more appealing with lower price tags.

Large Scale Investment

Although by no means certain, Cliftonville has the most potential in Thanet at becoming a kind of hub that could attract serious large-scale private investment. Becoming a specialist zone for the creative industries would be the most likely positioning. With cafes, restaurants, bars and galleries now established, there is possibility that an large advertising, design or media house could set up a design studio operation in a place like Cliftonville? With margins struggling with downward pressure, salaries for designers and post-production talent are feeling the squeeze. By relocating to an area with a pool of talent, lower rents and large bright housing with gardens, open spaces and vibrant nightlife could mitigate some of the downside of lower salaries?

Post movie production is also an area of potential due to the amount of people who work/worked in the industry and live in the area.


I would love to see Cliftonville and the people who have lived there for years thrive and prosper; yet this might not happen unless TDC, and possibly the people across Thanet change attitude towards the area. Whitstable, Hastings and even places as far away as Ipswich* are all vying for the businesses being driven out of London by spiralling rents and costs, so nothing can be taken for granted.

COMMENT: Please feel free to comment below, even if totally disagree, this is a safe space for conversation and sharing views.

John M


If you are enjoying this Haphazard journey and would like to donate, then just click below. This is presently a self-funded project. Thanks, John M


* See Ipswich post for more on this rapidly changing town

  1. The Long Shop Museum website, Garrett’s Electric Trolley Buses, online { }


As with other seaside towns in Kent, there is potential for Herne Bay to reinvent itself as a forward-looking dynamic, economically vibrant town, yet nostalgia for a faded golden period stifles speedier progress and regeneration.

Herne Bay is a seaside town on the south side of the Thames estuary. Like many similar seaside towns in Kent, its heyday was back in the Victorian and Edwardian periods, and alongside these other towns, there is a reluctance to move on from those heady days of the past.

Town Centre

Herne Bay has been prone to flooding so the Hotchpotch, disorganised urban fabric might be due to incidents rather than town planners. On leaving the uncared for train station, visitors exit on to an uninviting car park and suburban street. The walk to the beachfront is via a well maintained park and shabby streets. As a new visitor it was difficult to know which way to go and no sense of way finding on the seafront. A very British idea of building carparks on seafronts ruins the views. Besides a Turkish restaurant, the food options are Fish and Chips, ice cream or variation of pastries or sandwiches with chips.

Some of the streets in the town centre have been pedestrianised, and a number of small independent and interesting businesses and cafes can be found. Food variety improves, with occasional tempting offer except none of the eateries seem to serve or even stay open after 3pm!

Further along there is beautiful coastline and more considered architecture and planning of paths and roads. Around 300 beach huts run toward the Yacht club and Hampton Pier on one side of town and open coastline the opposite direction, houses are high up and away from the sea.

L to R: 1. Beach Huts, 2. View towards Herne Bay from Hampton Pier/Yacht Club, 3. Remains of original pier, once longest in Britain

Overcoming Nostalgia

The King’s Hall and the pier both have hub potential.

Like other seaside piers, Herne Bay’s suffers from lack of clear identity. Being a Tuesday afternoon only a handful of the small business huts were open yet there was enough to sense that this could be a cool place most of the year round. A well-designed pub-bar, Beer on the Pier, is owned by a local brewer and is very appealing. Ellie, who was running the bar, provided a sober and informative outline of the town, it’s issues and it’s positives. A safe place, jobs for younger people are not easy to come by and the biting wind is the worst weather for trade. “People will brave the rain but the wind is a killer”. The four years she has been living in Herne Bay there has been steady improvement, “more understated development than seen in Margate” (Ellie, Beer on the Pier). A good quality new stage has been erected for the summer season, yet the pier closes most days by 6pm!

The King’s Hall is stuck somewhere in 1980, catering for tribute acts and old rockers.

Every board and notice has some harking back in a nostalgic tone to a previous period rather than sharing that time with the present. Notices with references to guns and war seem almost an obsession across the town with little else being celebrated.

Hub Potential

Walking around Herne Bay it is easy to see there are pockets of potential and possibility to curve out an individual identity for the town that could differentiates it from better known neighbours of Whitstable and Margate. With property prices substantially lower, a fast train to London, wide streets and many open spaces, the ingredients are there. A hangover from the Victorian boom means there are many under utilised beautiful building providing opportunity to develop new commercial initiatives.

Beer on the Pier, Herne Bay Pier

Better thought through urban planning could quickly transform the town with much less money than other areas would require. With some big thinking and confidence, Herne Bay just needs to bring its assets from the past into the present and prepare them for a brighter future. As a day visitor, it seems pretty simple ask?

COMMENT: Please feel free to comment below, even if totally disagree, this is a safe space for conversation and sharing views.


If you are enjoying this Haphazard journey and would like to donate, then just click below. This is presently a self-funded project. Thanks, John M


John M

Images: John McKiernan


More than a century before Elon Musk released Tesla’s first car, a small factory in Suffolk was already producing a range of electric vehicles and transforming factory production methods.  

Yet being ahead of the curve was not enough to save the company from decline, as the combustion engine became the preferred standard over cleaner electric powered vehicles. 

Richard Garrett and Sons were at the forefront of electric vehicle development; their ‘first foray into the market was with a 3½ ton battery-powered vehicle, intended for local deliveries’ (Wikipedia). How different the world might be today if the company had won through with their electric vehicles?

Short Film commissioned by Richard Garrett and Sons for potential customers of their single and double-decker electric trolley buses, produced near the end of the 1920s. (The Long Shop Museum website) [1]

The Long Shop Museum

The Long Shop is a lovingly restored museum sitting at the heart of Leiston, a small Suffolk town with 6,000 residents. Housed on the former Richard Garrett and Sons factory site, the museum charts the company’s history of innovation and odd inventions while illustrating some of the difficulties when a business is too far ahead of the curve.

Images: 1 The Long Shop building, 2. Production assembly line building, 3, Assembly line skylight

Early Production Line Assembly

Believed to have developed one the World’s first production assembly lines, Richard Garrett & Sons manufactured agricultural machinery, steam engines and trolleybuses from 1782 until 1932, when the company was acquired. The factory eventually closed in 1981 with 577 job loses (source, museum volunteer). The first half of the 19th century was the company’s golden period, with rapid growth, generous profits and reaching a global market.


The museum exhibits many of the ingenious ways Richard Garrett and Sons were willing to adapt to changing needs, tastes and innovations. Over the course of 160 years they made everything from tractors to fire hose nozzles. Sometimes the company was late to the party, with the market already carved up, whereas in good periods they were among global leaders. The story provides a good illustration of the wider factors when developing successful business ideas.

L to R: 1. Tractor wheel tracks, 2. World War Two air raid warning klaxon

Riding The Wave

For a business idea to become reality, a new product to succeed, and a company to grow and survive, requires some favourable factors. In its early decades, Richard Garrett and Sons benefited hugely from Britain leading an industrial revolution. Downstream suppliers were inventing breakthrough methods and machines that the company could apply and use in their own production. Upstream there was increasing demand from clients for steam engines, locomotives and heavy machinery. It was perfect conditions for any business.

Later, the electric vehicle foray damaged the company, as oil interests teamed up with diesel and petrol vehicle manufacturers to monopolise transportation. The company was on the right side of history, as we are seeing today, electric should have been the way to go, but global forces went against them, and subsequently killed off the business.

Breaking With Convention

Conventions exist when those involved in creating a policy, technology or method agree to general terms of use and adopting certain ways of working before eventual codification leads to a standard. This standard then becomes the convention or norm. Standards have speeded human progress, however, they have also close down further innovation, competition and, as I argue on Standardising Life, create political crisis.

L to R: 1. Princess Marina steam engine, 2. Original Steam Roller, 3. Work spanners, 4. Early steam vehicle, 5. Long Shop clock and window

Resistant Places

Richard Garrett and Sons contributed to creating standards yet they were also real innovators, and prepared to take risks and challenge convention. As with other entrepreneurs, challenging convention was not limited to business; it also seems the family were at the forefront of social change and produced several of the most remarkable women of the age: Agnes Garrett, the first woman to set up an interior design company, Millicent Garrett Fawcett, a prominent suffragist and her mother Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Britain’s first female doctor, whom I write more about here.

The town of Leiston gave me a sense of resistance to convention. The museum was restored by a local group, who fought hard to stop a developer turning it all into flats, a triumph in delivering such an interesting and informative place to visit. The town is full of signs resisting a range of things which local people disagree, see Leiston and Sizewell. Despite it small population, if you spend a day in Leiston you know you have been there, it stands out and makes a mark.


In relation to creating an Innovation Hub, The Long Shop Museum is a good reminder of the many broader considerations required to grow a commercial idea, and serves as a warning that being ahead of the curve does not always mean a successful business.

Other related blog posts include Leiston and Sizewell, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Innovation Hub and Standardising Life.


If you are enjoying this Haphazard journey then please think of donating, this is presently a self-funded project. Thanks, John M


John M

Images of exhibits at The Long Shop Museum | John McKiernan

  1. The Long Shop Museum website, Garrett’s Electric Trolley Buses, online { }


Are radical and determined people attracted to towns where there are already radical and determined people or do people become radical and determined by living in a radical and determined town?

Travelled to Leiston in Suffolk to visit a museum and find out more about a pioneering doctor. On arriving, I discover a town that belies its conservative surroundings and has been, and probably still is, a pretty radical hub.

The road sign on entering Leiston has the byline A Fairtrade Town, which immediately warmed me to the place. It was once a thriving industrial hub, with the Garrett factory employing several hundred people before it closed in 1981, ‘with a full order book’ after being acquired by ‘an asset stripper’, according to a local man speaking to me. The Sizewell nuclear power plant is a few miles away besides a long sandy beach and now provides the majority of local employment along with the associated service companies and agriculture.

The town is quaint in places. The broad age range of people on the streets, from young boys riding their bikes to those of retirement age, all appearing relaxed. There is a fine selection of shops, including a good vegetarian cafe, Simply Delicious, where an excellent lunch was a reasonable £4.50.

My attraction to Leiston was The Long Shop Museum and to find out more about Suffolk’s industrial base and the life of Elizabeth Garrett, the country’s first registered female doctor. Beside the museum, the beautiful surrounding countryside, beaches and the power station are the main visitor attractions.

What was striking on driving and walking around the town was the amount of posters protesting against various schemes; from ‘No Wind Farm’ to ‘No Sizewell Worker Accommodation’. Researching a little deeper Leiston has a bit of a reputation for resisting convention. As well as Elizabeth Garrett and the campaign to create the museum, Leiston is also “famous as the home of the Summerhill School, founded by A.S. Neill in the 1920s as the first major “free school” – referring to freedom in education.” (Wikipedia)

Clockwise. 1. The Long Shop building, 2. Sizewell nuclear power plant, 3. Early warning system against bombing during World War Two, and 4. Restored Leiston Film Theatre | John McKiernan

Like Minds Form Hubs

Namby (Not In My Back Yard) is a label often placed on groups who resist change by those seeking to profit in some form from that change. The town does not have a Namby feel, see Leiston and Sizewell, instead it has an independently minded, considerate atmosphere, where people chew over options before deciding to agree or oppose. This is purely conjecture on my part.

There are plenty of examples around the town where the local people have made the town what it is today. This led me to question whether radical determination I felt is what attracts people who are radical and determined or whether by living in the town people become radical and determined?

Associated post, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson.

Associated post, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Leiston and Sizewell


If you are enjoying this Haphazard journey then please think of donating, this is presently a self-funded project. Thanks, John M


John M

Images: John McKiernan


Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (9 June 1836 – 17 December 1917) was the first woman to qualify in Britain as a doctor and surgeon. Using her career as a case study, this post poses the question whether a strong support network is the only way overt discrimination can be overcome?

While randomly searching for innovative people living in Norfolk and Suffolk I came across Elizabeth Garrett, which in turn took me to The Long Shop Museum in Leiston. My interest was how she became the first registered female doctor in Britain at a time when most women were not even taught to read.

Determination and Tenacity

There is no denying the determination of the young Elizabeth to follow her dream and succeed, and her achievements are vast, see Wikipedia. Not wishing to take anything away from those achievements, this post picks up on some of the support mechanisms that were in place for her, and to begin the conversation of how important these support mechanisms are for people seeking to break down barriers.

Early Years

A supportive father who believed his daughters should be educated was essential. Yet equally important was his reasonable wealth and being able to afford a governess and sending the young child to a quality school. Her tenacious personality raises the question how Elizabeth would have directed her energy and keenness to learn if there were no avenues to formal education?

Family Connections

Elizabeth was fortunate to be part of an industrial family that was growing in wealth. Not only good at business and engineering, the Garrett family were inventors and willing to take punts on ideas, many examples of which can be found in The Long Shop Museum. Her parents were initially appalled by her wish to become a doctor but soon threw their wholehearted support behind her. When The Society of Apothecaries refused her membership, her father threatened them with a lawsuit, providing a foretaste of the legal debates that would eventual lead to a number of anti-discrimination Parliamentary Acts more than a century later.

Without such family support and connections, would it have been close to impossible for a young woman during that period to break down so many doors?

Equality Fight

Once the initial doors of institutional resistance were ajar, Elizabeth pushed on hard and blazed a trail that eventually led to wholesale change in attitudes. When she became the first female Mayor of Aldeburgh, it would have been laughable that Britain could have a woman Prime Minister within 100 years!

Looking back, we see the achievements, but at the time it must have been hard, with many a dark night and desire to give up – to stop fighting? The personal toll was probably cushioned slightly by having financial wealth behind her yet it remains incredible her determination never wilted. She clearly passed on this spirit to her children; one being imprisoned for her suffrage activities. It is harder to tell the impact she had on those immediately around her. Did she create resentment and enemies or inspire? Probably both! As I discuss in my post on Leiston and Sizewell, whole areas can become pockets of resistance and progress, although distinguishing the exact nature of how such places form is more complicated.

Elizabeth Garrett is a prime example of paradigm shift that can take place in a single lifetime; how entrenched views and institutional resistance can be overcome. Small actions make dents over time until things change, see Trim-Tabs. Gillian Harwood’s guest post, Creating A Successful Hub, provides a more recent account of the issues women have faced starting a business over the last few decades.

Although things are certainly easier for women in the UK on many levels, it does not mean equality has been achieved. Many forms of discrimination remain prevalent throughout society, further stoked by the Brexit debacle.

Supportive Spaces & Places

One of the challenges in this age of Snapchat, convenience and the quarter earnings report, is slowing down people’s expectations for results. It is important for those with an idea to carry on, regardless of the barriers, discriminatory or otherwise as it’s not possible remove discrimination or bias overnight – but it is diminishing.

To create a successful hub, where ideas can develop and flourish requires the space to be undemanding in regards results. It needs to provide support on numerous levels, whether formally through programmes or informally, through peer-to-peer mentorship. The hub needs to be able to, in part at least, be a little like the Garrett family.

John M


If you are enjoying this Haphazard journey then please think of donating, this is presently a self-funded project.


Images from The Long Shop Museum by John McKiernan


Great Yarmouth is a large seaside town on the Norfolk coast and home to numerous beautiful historic buildings and with open and potentially picturesque waterfronts. Some grand vision thinking could see this town quickly become a thriving location and major attraction.

This visit was seriously curtailed by a flat battery on route leaving only a few hours to look around before needing to move on.

First Impressions

Coming over the Haven Bridge in fading sunshine the immediate impression was of a grand town, with beautiful buildings lining a wide boulevard-esque road running parallel to the River Yare.

Parked up behind the impressive Town Hall and taking to foot, the narrow roads and alleys give an intriguing sense of what could be around the corner before suddenly being confronted by Regent’s Road. Similar to too many other British high streets, the town centre is a mess of poor architecture, terrible layout, badly maintained paving and a lack of love.

At the far end, the wide clean empty sandy beach surrounds a short pier with a host of very British kind of shows, three with ‘Stars who are dead”, as one wit quipped on Instagram. After a plate of possibly the worst chips I have ever tasted I returned to Brook and moved her to one of the numerous bland car parks that blight the centre of town and set off again on a wider arc. While walking my mood lightened as I began to see rich potential.

Artistic Quarter

The buildings running both sides of the river have Creative Quarter written all over them. Some stunning architecture on one side, practical large warehouses on the other with plenty of space for mooring boats. This could be a buzzing area instead of the occasional lost tourist and constant traffic I encountered. There are at least four museums and numerous buildings of significant interest, all grand and only some in need of serious investment.

Vauxhall Bridge

Walking along the river towards the train station, there seems very little wrong with any of the buildings and it is easy to imagine how thriving the river part of town could become with just a little more TLC.

After a longer walk than expected I reach the fabulous Vauxhall Bridge, which a local group has managed to save and partly restore. The train station is the other side and is a terminus for Norwich trains. I enquired whether the trains once ran over the bridge and was told this was a long time ago, when there was a line through many of the Suffolk and Norfolk coastal towns. I have subsequently found out there were once two stations in Great Yarmouth!

Village Feeling

Back over the bridge and a short walk I reached Northgate Street and the attractive St Nicholas Parish Church. Despite the very wide and well-maintained roads with a massive Aldi supermarket, the area retains a village feel, with some wonderful architecture and occasional places of interest. Anne Sewell, author of Black Beauty was born in a local house.

Grand Vision

Great Yarmouth just needs a grand vision and some enthusiasm.** With a relatively small amount of funding the town could become a buzzy thriving place. The largest single investment would be to move the train station over the river nearer the town centre/Town Hall, using Vauxhall Bridge. Developing artist studio spaces with accommodation on both sides of the river would swiftly bring to life the alleys and footfall for the museums and other places of interest. A subtle night lighting programme for buildings of interest will give the town a year-round feel. Utilising the vast empty space by the quayside for high quality food and drink markets may drive up the standards of the food offering throughout the town, which appeared generally poor.


There is already a large concentration of professions in Great Yarmouth, with numerous small law practices and accountancy firms, which offer a readymade audience with disposable income. Where there are lawyers and accountants there are usually other related financial and legal professionals, providing tantalising opportunity in becoming a regional finance and legal hub.

Potential Spaces

I did not see much new building construction going on, what I did see was not what the town requires. The high street area needs to reduce its retail offering, some of the streets could or should return to housing to concentrate the footfall. Although the beach areas seem well maintained they is a lack of tempting food or retail offering. The wind turbine exhibition building is unsightly, blighting the beachfront, although the actual displays looked interesting and involving. The pier entertainment is steeped in the 1980s and will struggle to attract new, younger audiences, and unlikely to appeal to the professionals working in the town. Refocusing the offer would raise the overall profile of the town and provide a driver in attracting visitors from Norwich and surrounds, crucial for a year-round economy.

It was good to see the old M&S store being used as an exhibition space by Original Projects, a local arts organisation. There are numerous empty spaces that could be brought back into temporary use and attractive to a host of different users. Training in professional services and new technologies could be a viable use. The park area is attractive, well maintained and inviting, a real local asset.


Great Yarmouth was clearly prosperous in the past, and is not out of time to become a great place again. There are plenty of assets to build upon and from this short visit, there seems enough population and business density to develop a thriving river front and quayside creative quarter. Moving the railway station closer to the centre or installing a tram line is essential, which would in effect also reduce traffic blight. Another, longer visit is probably required.

John M

**NOTE: I understand there is a masterplan for the town, which I have not viewed at time of writing so my conclusions may coincide with the council vision.

Photos and Videos | John McKiernan

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The world of paid work is changing dramatically and at a speed unprecedented since the outbreak of World War One; it is one of the biggest challenges facing society.

Diminishing Job Security

For the average young person today, the idea of a life-long career working for a single employer is unrealistic, which will seem a pretty daunting prospect for those approaching or collecting their pension.

The industrial age allowed workers to have stable employment throughout their lives, and offered opportunity to build a Life-Style.  In recent times the pattern of having a single employer for an entire career has rapidly diminished. Technology, changing consumer habits, concentration of capital, employee expectations are just some of the contributing factors to a world where paid employment with benefits is shrinking.  On into the future, only a small fraction of the population will find lifetime employment with a single employer.  Even if a person does manage not to physically move job, mergers and acquisition will likely bring change of work and conditions. 

Outdated Employment Model

In the UK, thinking and strategic planning around the place of work remains stuck in an industrial age mindset with a ‘systems and process’ perspective. Employment legislation still favours the employer and/or shareholder over the individual worker and financial reward being seen as the only real measure of value.  Employee happiness and the wider environmental impact from the activities of the organisation remain a secondary consideration despite the increasing importance of positive social impact. As with the political system, clear strains have emerged within the workplace.

“With research suggesting that employee disengagement costs the UK economy £340bn annually, bad leadership is eroding UK productivity […] Management strategies must evolve to meet the demands of employees if organisations are to retain staff.” – Happiness at work improves but nearly half of UK employees will look for new jobs in 2018, (Independent)

Future Employment Models

During the Haphazard journey and within the Innovation Hub I will be seeking to understand what the world of work will look like over the coming decades. The blog post Haphazard Self offers an insight into the risks if swaths of working age people drift away from purposeful work. Will the lure of material goods and wealth be enough of a Life Plan to keep a person seeking paid employment for 40+ years of their life?

John M

Little, Stephen. (Jan2018), Happiness at work improves but nearly half of UK employees will look for new jobs in 2018, Independent, online {}


Disclaimer, I am an unabashed Remainer in regards Brexit.  Although I accept the EU has many failings the world needs to be coming together not sowing division.  

Britain is in the midst of a huge crisis of self-identity. An illusionary image of the past has smashed head on into the reality of a present day Britain, which feels a need to redefine itself in a globalised world.

Conservative Values vs. Reality

A large number of pensioners and middle aged Britons hang on to a notion they are living in a powerful nation leading the world, amplified through a soft lens of empire and great military victories against tyrants. There is a misplaced belief that the British have some unique resilience that no other people possess.

Younger generations on the other hand inhabit an all-together different world of social media, instant information and ease of travel, bringing a broader perspective. The melding of cultures and ideas is making the concept of the Nation State less important, with global factors like the environment and poverty taking greater priority alongside technological change.

Not all older people believe that Britain was once some idyll in a world of madness, just as not all young people believe in an open, transparent world where individuals can be who they wish to be, yet Brexit Britain’s generational differences are fairly stark.

Nigel Farage, along with Trump and other populist leaders have tapped into these differences and brought them to the surface; and the results are not pleasant.  

Cultural Revolution?

The revolution that the West is presently undergoing appears different to the counterculture of the 1960s, mainly because the old levers of control are so less powerful than they once were.  During the 60s turmoil, information and knowledge seeped through society more slowly, providing time for institutions to reluctantly adapt.  The student communes and Vietnam protest were radical, and posed real risk to different nation states, particularly in France, and should not to be belied, yet power over the people was not only vested in pillars of government alone.  Mass employers, unions and, to a lesser or greater extent, the rise of mass cultural icons (e.g. celebrities and popular arts) and consumer products, all distracted or exerted new forms of power.  Only in hindsight will it be possible to compare this period with those of the past, all else is conjecture and personal viewpoint.  

This project is seeking to understand just a small part of this present period we find ourselves, and what novel ideas will emerge from it.


Top image represents the rock and hard place where the Malthouse Compromise staked its position, an ill-conceived attempt by Conservative MPs to hold their party together. Lower image is the logo of mobile phone app Snapchat, which can be seen to capture in 10seconds our instantly disposable culture.

John M

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Haphazard Business journey is a self funded project. For more visit Donation page.


Feature Image: Brook | John McKiernan


An art intervention is an intensive creative response in a public space, normally over an extended period, exploring a theme, object or crisis.  

Often political in nature, interventions use abstract art and performance as a form of public engagement to research and better understand the subject of interest.

Platform-7 Events

Since 2008, through the moniker of Platform-7, I have been curating large-scale art interventions exploring how people reach their view on conflict, war, displacement, regeneration, technology, environment and the economy.  

For Haphazard Business, I will call on this research and learning to try and unpick the Haphazard journey of taking an idea and making it real. 

Safe Space

Platform-7 interventions worked because people felt comfortable enough not to feel they were being attacked for their viewpoint or lack of understanding.  

Haphazard Business will apply the same methods and rules to this website, where the majority of the intervention will play-out. 

Provocations are to stimulate thought, consideration and discussion.  I will moderate all comments and guest posts, although I do not expect to agree with all what is written.  Accepted comments and guest posts should not be treated as endorsements.  

This website is intended to develop a better understanding of how ideas come about and why some become real and others disappear. 

The longer term goal is to create a Innovation Hub, maybe in an old shopping centre, and apply the learning from this project and all previous interventions. 

I hope you will contribute, John

Image: Up The Line (2009) | Photo Lisa Testori


Life’s a funny business…  Some people attempt to have it all planned out by setting goals, while others find arranging even the next day difficult, and for some, just living can be somewhat Haphazard.

From a societal viewpoint, those who plan are normally portrayed as smart, sensible, intelligent, while those who struggle to plan can find they are labelled Chaotic, all-over-the-place, Random.   

Haphazard Business

Businesses can also find themselves with such labels.   

People who join young Fin-Tech companies, having spent careers in established firms, particularly in fields of manufacturing, engineering and pharmaceutical, can be heard complaining of the Chaos and lack of direction many of these start-ups suffer.  Yet history of commerce is littered with tales, and occasionally public inquiries, into large reputable companies having Haphazard policies, systems and processes eventually leading to the demise of the firm – or not!   


Separating the people from the business or business from the people is never straightforward.  Both survive through daily Routines; encompassed through the policies and processes within a company, and values and principles of the employees. 

It is where these routines overlap that tension can be found, and when not managed well, leads to clashes, stress and disruption.  

When companies or employees become too ridged they run the risk of stagnation, and when too loose the Chance of catastrophic error increases. Both scenarios often lead to eventual failure.

Auditing Haphazardness

Even within the driest of business processes, that of hallowed auditing, Haphazard methods are used to try to balance out bias risk.  To create a dynamic and successful organisation requires employees to excel and really put their soul into the business, knowing it adds to a vibrant personal life for themselves and their family.  As with auditing being all about achieving a perfect balance, so the same should be applied when running any kind of corporation.

Haphazard Index

Seeking out companies and employees who have found such a balance between life and work, how it has been achieved and maintained, and why others are not following the same process will all be explored throughout the project. 

Creating a Haphazard Index (Hi) is one of the project goals, a way for organisations and individuals to weigh the pros and cons of Haphazard methods.

John M

Connected blog posts, Haphazard Life Plan, Haphazrd Routine, Haphazard Index, Auditing Haphazardness and Glossery.

Image: Escalator Going Down | John McKiernan