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.