Personal Highlights from our EHN conference

So which were your highlights at Thursday’s annual conference?  Of course it’ll depend on which workshops you attended, but what a great choice and which to attend?

These were my personal highlights and ‘awards’.   

Funny moments award – Always goes to Nick P-G.  Especially his ‘crowd-funding’ moments for David Gibbens’ leaving present IN FRONT OF David himself – hilarious!  And his surreal introduction to Brighid Carey from Action on Empty Homes, you couldn’t make it up.

Memorable Professional presentation award – Very positive introduction to the Property Guardian Providers Association (PGPA) by Simon and Graham, great to finally have a body regulating standards for the property guardian industry.

Great partnership approach award - Action on Empty Homes (AOEH).  So great to hear both Brighid Carey and Will McMahon from Action on Empty Homes talking so positively and passionately about their approach.  It was so refreshing to hear Will ask us empty home practitioners what we thought AOEH and government could do to help bring more empty homes back into use.  Much better to have ‘joined –up’ thinking between the two main empty homes organisations to achieve a common goal.

Professional AND entertaining presentation award - three winners -

David Galvin from Blackpool Housing company – what an enthusiastic and experienced professional with bags of experience.  Particularly loved the photos in David’s powerpoint. He’s doing some amazing work to gradually improve Blackpool’s housing stock.

Fiona Anthony from nplaw – Especially using Pip the floppy bunny to demonstrate GDPR – who knew it could be so very interesting.  We were so wrong to think this would be a dry session, because it certainly wasn’t and could easily have lasted longer judging by all the questions during her presentation.

Francis Burton’s Building an Empty Property Service – should really have been sub-titled ‘everything you ever needed to know about becoming a successful empty homes officer’.

An excellent presentation, I don’t think he left anything out, plus fab powerpoint photos to demonstrate his points (reminded me a bit of Dave Stott’s Rasputin photo he used to include in his enforcement presentations).

And the media award goes to Tony Mousdale from Liverpool, who gave a very good account of the £1 homes scheme which was covered by a Channel 4 series.  It seems like every  programme editor has a ‘story’ they want to tell and will stretch things to fit the story, as Tony found out.  I felt that he came over as a really experienced and fair person who did his best at all times.

And finally to a couple of the award-winners on the day – Extra well-done to Sue Li for her two awards.  And Lorna Frost deservedly won hers for managing to keep bouncing back despite so many problems with an extremely challenging owner, and winning out in the end.  The other winners were also worthy of their awards.

So I think I can safely say that David Gibbens’ last conference which he arranged was so successful that he can go out on a ‘high’.

And I really enjoyed catching up with my long-time colleagues, now friends, and meeting some new ones too.

P.S.  Thanks again to Will from Action on Empty Homes for joining me in blogging on the EHN.  Anyone else fancy a go, just write down your thoughts, it only takes a minute – Frances Schieber??

Best wishes from the Lakes,

Lynne Leach, Empty Homes Officer, South Lakeland District Council


Come again next year. Book Early & Book Legit. Please don’t use touts.

Empty Homes Officers are often odd-balls in their home Councils, so it was comforting for a collection a hundred odd, sorry 100-odd empty homes types to meet at our Birmingham Conference. At this gig, we have safety in numbers, a bit like the Jockey sketch on 'Big Train'. It is the friendliest conference I've ever been involved in. I am biased.

We come together to be enlightened, entertained and enthused. I hope everyone there got at least two of those, because ‘two out of three ain't bad’. You managed to clock most of my naff musical references this year but no one batted an eyelid with this horrendously contrived line, “Normal rules do not apply when taking direct action against this kind of owner’s empty and unsafe building”. Name that band?

A word on David Gibbens. So, it was his last Conference as organiser and the boy done good again. I won’t bang on about what he does so well, but will pick nits instead…

  1. First thing on Conference day, he can’t help but fidget with everything. His urge to meddle with the seating plan is demonic. This year, David fiddled with the chairs even though they were laid out as he had requested them. He is so consumed with his “soft-furnishing refresh ritual” that if you try asking him something, he just goes like Martin Goodman from ‘Friday Night Dinners’. With clothes on.
  2. The roving mic does not rove when David has it. He does the talking. To be fair, he’s very good at it. In his book ‘Bounce’, Matthew Syed examines talent and success. He asserts that it is 10,000 of purposeful practice and not innate talent alone that create success.  I think David practises.  
  3. From Conference dawn till dusk, he keeps asking me, “but how are you feeling about chairing today?” Is he being considerate? Or is he dropping hints that I’ve compered for too long?

Three cheers for our award winners. Between you, you showcased the extent of talents we have. Compassion. Project management. Loosening institutional constipation. And the art of persuasion.

Thank you to our speakers, exhibitors and of course all our sponsors, especially Carson Millican. Thank-you also to Claire Hope for gig administration; Frances “Queen of” Sheiber for doing the merch bags; and Andrew Lavender for running stuff on the day. To the lighting crew, sound technicians, caterers, physios, roadies and for those about to rock, we salute you.

David is not retiring from all EHN roles, just the Conference. But given the fickleness of fate, I’m treating this as our chance to appreciate him as our own sky-scraper of the empty homes cityscape. If you think the David Gibbens Slush Fund is a good cause, please email me at 

Finally, a long-bearded and lanky empty home owner stood at the front door of his house called “Bag End” yesterday, took out his pipe and told me, “You shall not pass!” Amazing.

Nick P-G
Reading BC

An eclectic 'summing up' of the day as always, thanks Nick


Lynne Leach