Friends, Whampers, Countrymen – let’s have some beers

A lot seems to be changing in West Hampstead right now. The demolition of the parade of shops between the tube and the Overground and a sudden rash of shop closures and new openings has highlighted that no urban area stands still.

Do you think things are changing for the better or is this the inevitable decline of the neighbourhood?

What do you love about West Hampstead? The access to transport, the “village feel” (whatever that means), the independent cafés, the red brick architecture?

What don’t you like? The lack of affordable property? The scruffy area around the stations? The lack of modern architecture? The pretence that it’s a village, when it’s really just a London suburb?

What if I told you that not only could you have some say about how these issues play out in the area over the next few years, but you could do so without having to sit in a draughty community centre hall while people twice your age witter on about the good ol’ days and dig up the same pet peeves they’ve been banging on about for years.*

Welcome to #whampforum.

The Roman forum in Verulamium (a few stops up the Thameslink line)

It’s not a digital platform for moans and groans it’s a real physical event. But I promise you that it won’t be long-winded, it won’t be boring and (within reason) your views will be reflected in some of the plans for West Hampstead’s future. And no, you don’t have to wear togas.

It’s next Tuesday evening – the 21st at The Alice House on West End Lane. I’ve booked out The Den downstairs from 7.45pm and the bar down there will be open for 15-20 minutes so you can get a drink easily. The forum itself kicks off at 8pm and I’m going to spend five (ok, maybe seven) minutes setting out how it’s going to work, explaining a little bit about where we are with West Hampstead development, and what it is and is not possible (or at least realistic) to change or influence and how that happens. All that in seven minutes. There might be a map on a screen.

Then I’m going to hand the floor over to you. Ask questions, make statements, give your views on what you love and hate about West Hamsptead. It doesn’t need to be a coherent policy idea, it might just be something you feel passionately about. Be warned, I’m not going to be all nice and Dimbleby about it; if you start waffling on then expect to be cut short. I’m not standing for election to anything so I don’t need to be nice to you 🙂

We’ll try and frame it around a few big topics:

  • buildings and architecture
  • housing
  • local businesses (including shops)
  • amenities and infrastructure (including transport).

This open floor session is going to last 45 minutes. If there’s a consensus to stay a bit longer then we can – but the whole thing won’t go on longer than an hour in total so we’ll definitely be done by 9pm. People who want to stay longer in the pub for a far more informal chat over drinks are, of course, very welcome.

To help me answer your questions and to discuss the topics I’m bringing along James Earl from the West Hampstead Neighbourhood Development Forum, Flick Rea, councillor for Fortune Green ward who knows more about the area than anyone, and Lauren “LollyGee” Geisler, who understands planning regulation better than I do, and has better hair.

There’s no upper (or lower) age limit on attending, though I’m going to be blunt: this is targeted more at the under-40s than the over-40s. If any of the usual suspects apart from Flick and James turn up (you know who you are), then don’t expect to get much airtime unless you’ve got a helpful perspective on someone else’s comment – your views are generally well known and have already been incorporated into the thinking about the area. This is more about listening to the silent majority of young(er) people who may be less materially invested in the area because they may not own property, but whose voices very much need to be heard (not least over the fact that many can’t afford to own property here).

If you are in the over-40s camp but are put off “community meetings” for the same reason lots of other people are, then you too are very welcome to join in. I don’t want to be ageist, but I am definitely trying to reach a particular (large) segment of the local population. Other organisations are better placed to reach other groups.

That’s it. Whampforum. Tuesday May 21st, from 7.45pm at The Alice House (downstairs). If cold village halls aren’t for you but you do actually care a bit about West Hampstead then come along. At the very least, it would be great to meet you and you’ve only got 45 minutes to lose.

*Before I get accused of all sorts of prejudices, there are of course people of all ages who make extremely sensible and pertinent points at these meetings,but sometimes – and I think most attendees would agree – such sessions descend into talking shops with a lot of hot air and very little forward movement.

  • JKD

    SO impressed that you are doing this… and I hope it goes well. But I wouldn't write off community meetings – simply change the facilitators!

    • haha – the facilitators often do their best, but it's hard to find the mute button with some people!

  • Anonymous

    why are you discouraging people over 40 from going and speaking out? I bet there are far more over 40's in WH than under. And a lot of them would have lived there longer and would understand the situation a lot better.

    • Because this is an attempt to reach out to the area’s young(er) population, who – from what they tell me – often find these sort of meetings either difficult to get to (early evening starts), immensely tedious, or – yes – assume a level of knowledge they may not have.

      However, I’m afraid you bet wrong. There are in fact almost exactly twice as many people in the area who are under 40 (22,200) as over 40 (11,600) according to the 2011 census. Even taking just the 20-40 age bracket, the over-40s are still outnumbered by 5,000.

      It is also a slice of the population with different needs/perspectives/insights that are no less valid than those of the older population, but are rarely heard. These people are the future of the area. I don’t think tenure of residency gives people a greater right to have a say in what goes on than people who’ve lived here just a year or two. Nor do age and tenure necessarily match up either – I know people born and brought up here who are in their 30s and people in their 50s who moved here in the past year or two. Which of them understands the challenges better?

      One might also argue that those younger people who have not lived here a long time will only “understand the situation a lot better” if they’re given some information about it and can appreciate what can and can’t be done.

      I stated very clearly that people over 40 are very welcome to attend, I’m just trying to engage with people who are interested in the area but don’t feel that other sorts of community events are necessarily for them.

      If you’ve been to other meetings tackling these topics then you will have had an opportunity to speak out; if not, why not come along on Tuesday and give us your thoughts?

    • Another great initiative Jonathan. Even as someone slightly above the suggested age limit, I too find the local meetings are often just somewhere for the older residents to RANT at anyone and everyone. Politeness and consideration seem to go out of the window and locals seem to think it is a chance to bash anyone who dares put their head above the parapet to suggest something “interesting” or different.

      I hope this meeting gets the support and audience it deserves – though it may be difficult it is valuable.

  • Anonymous

    I just don't think age should come into it at all. As you have pointed out in your response young people have been put off past events for various reasons, therefore surely by emphasising the age thing you are risking older people coming along. It should never be about age.
    Most of these 20-40 people are probably not intending to live in WH for very long. Either renting or flatsharing

    • Perhaps these people would like to live in West Hampstead for longer but find the lack of reasonably priced housing makes it impossible. That alone is an interesting point.

      I’m not trying to segregate, I’m trying to hold an event that will have more appeal to a segment of the population than many similar events do. If this is a way to get their voice heard then i’m willing to take the risk. It’s an experiment.

      At the last Area Action Group where I (barely in the under 40 category) was one of the youngest people there, there was a strongly voiced opinion by some (much) older people that we needed to engage with the young population to hear what they thought. This is an attempt to do that. Maybe it won’t work, in which case I won’t do it again 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Well it is definitely worth trying! I hope lots of people do attend.
    I would, but I can't do public speaking. My worse nightmare!

    • There will be other opportunities to have your say in a less public format! Look out for other (non age-related) events over the next two months for just such occasions (not necessarily run by me!)

  • Well, perhaps I will try to come, although I am over 60…and I won't be moving out of the area until they carry me out feet first!!

  • Just looking at the estate agents' ads – wondering if any of the flats in Sherriff Road was the one I used to live in during the 1980s!!

  • Anonymous

    I see this is attracting predictable comments that the views of people renting are worth diddly squat to their local community. So should only posh boys whose parents have funded their housing deposits/purchase prices be allowed to speak?

  • Anonymous

    To Anonymous ranting on about the target age group – STFU! There's nothing wrong with wanting views from a 20-40 age group. Just as there wouldn't be anything wrong with wanting views from a 40-60 age group, or a 5-10 age group, or from people who ride bicycles etc. Stop your PC crap.

    • Anonymous

      And saying something like is enough to put people going to the event at all. really clever aren't you?

  • Anonymous

    Hey West Hampsteadites,

    We’re just acquiring the site of the old Love Food, we will be along tomorrow night for you to tell us what you would like and so we can flex our offering to you guys.

    We will be opening a new, independent cafe & restaurant. We are really excited, and we love West Hampstead (we know WH well, having lived in south hampstead, mill lane and in the areas for years). We can’t wait to be part of the community again.

    We really hope you’ll input tomorrow night – we are all ears! So come armed with your wish list!


  • Anonymous

    to 'Anonymous 2' I wasn't actually ranting, just raising a valid point. Seeing as the only point you can make is something about what I said, I suggest you butt out. Idiot! I'm not PC and never have been. I have lived in WH for the last 26 years so I am allowed to raise a point without having someone tell me to 'shut the fuck up'. By the way if you are going to say it why

  • Anonymous

    …and this is BEFORE they've had a few drinks!!!
    Des Brittain.

    • haha – that's made my afternoon 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Im really sorry i couldnt make it! what were the outcomes? is there a process for inputing info/ideas?

    Nadia @mish3adel

    • I'll be writing a piece about the evening v.soon and that will include how else it's possible to engage