Farewell West Hampstead

We’re sad to announce that West Hampstead Life is stopping the presses.

After nine years, it’s had a really good run, but Tuesday’s “What have you missed…” will be the last post on the site and the final newsletter is going out as soon as I hit “publish” on this post.

As you know, for the past couple of years, Mark has been doing the bulk of the writing for West Hampstead Life but he is now moving from West Hampstead to West Potsdam in Berlin.

This has happily coincided with my own decision that, having moved out of the area three years ago (almost to the day), I’ve been devoting too much time to West Hampstead and there are other projects I want to pursue.

I did the big sentimental “good bye” last time, so I’m not going to do it again. I do however want to say a huge thank you to Mark. He stepped in when it looked as if WHL might meet a premature end, and his commitment and enthusiasm since then have been exemplary. He’s got a few words he wants to say too:

I’m not very good at goodbyes. Like many of you, I was an avid reader so when it came to end in August 2015, I felt there was a WHL-sized hole in West Hampstead. After a few months, with some trepidation, I asked Jonathan if I could help. Thanks to his gentle guidance I think I did a pretty good job. I’ve rarely done anything that has had such consistent and positive feedback. I think you know this already, but I can’t tell you want a cool guy Jonathan is; it’s been a pleasure to work with him. No bust ups. Ever.

There is something about life in West Hampstead that both Jonathan and I appreciated, and many of you do too. West Hampstead Life has tried – and I hope succeeded – in making it just a little bit better. It’s been a privilege to take over the West Hampstead Life mantle for the past two years.

Thanks Mark – kind words. Very simply, without Mark there wouldn’t have been a WHL for the past two years.

If you’re interested, we’ll be at Bobby Fitzpatrick’s on Thursday (April 5th) for a farewell drinks party. Do come along – everyone is welcome.

A few answers to the obvious questions:
Are you closing the website completely?
The website will remain up. Sometime soon it’ll go offline for about a week while I simplify the design and turn it into an archive. There’s nine years of content on WHL and I think it would be a shame if it vanished. But I’m afraid there’ll be no new content.

Why aren’t you selling it?
I was talking to someone who I thought would have been an excellent new owner, but unfortunately he too is thinking of leaving the area. I’m not looking for anyone else to take it on – my experience from a couple of years ago suggests that although there’s lots of interest, when the reality of the time commitment sinks in, it’s no longer viable for most people.

What about the mailing list?
We will keep the mailing list for the next three months, on the offchance that someone makes me an offer I can’t refuse. However, if anyone does want to use it then you will be given the chance to opt in to anything new (in accordance with the new EU data protection laws). After three months, we’ll delete the list completely.

And Twitter/Facebook etc?
Good question… my @WHampstead twitter account will remain. Those of you who’ve been around a while will have noticed that I tweet a lot less than I used to! Expect to see an even greater proportion of RTs vs. original tweets. As for the other channels, I’ll play it by ear.

What about socials?
There’s still an appetite for whampsocials, but they’ll be promoted via social media rather than the mailing list – keep your eyes peeled on Twitter/Facebook etc.

And that, my friends, is the end.

18 ways you know West Hampstead is in your blood

Living in West Hampstead brings its unique challenges, opportunities and emotions. One minute you’re all This place is awesome and the next it’s more Why aren’t there any useful shops?

There are the ups and downs of West End Lane.

You might bag the last table for brunch at the Wet Fish Café.

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But then you pop into Tesco on your way home from work and get stuck in the queue.

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And is that another estate agent that’s just opened?

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Bill Nighy holds the door open for you at the bookshop and you play it cool.

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But then you see Emma Thompson browsing at the farmers’ market and you try to just keep walking.

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We all know West Hampstead’s brilliantly connected.

You can get anywhere in London in half an hour.

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Until you get to the tube station.

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The Thameslink is a godsend

Until there’s a change of platform announcement.

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Or you find you’re on the fast train to St Albans.

We all know that West Hampstead is an expensive place to live – but even locals can be shocked.

At the price of a one-bed flat in West Hampstead Square.

At the price of a coffee and croissant in Gail’s.

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Still, it’s a small price to pay to live in this fantastic part of London.

On one side there’s the Heath…

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… on the other side there’s Kilburn.

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(I’m kidding – I love Kilburn).

There’s an undeniable community spirit in the area. People look out for each other.

Tweets about missing cats trigger an almost visceral reaction.

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Though (pet peeve) for some reason, tweets about a missing child get this response.

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And we bring you all this excitement via West Hampstead Life.

We may be writing the newsletter when it’s 10pm on Sunday night already.

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But it’s worth it when you tell us that when you wake up to find it in your inbox on Monday morning you’re all…

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You know you wouldn’t want it any other way

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Is West Hampstead due an £8 million Liddell Road windfall?

Liddell Road – a school, some office space and apartments. It was a controversial scheme when it went through planning a few years ago, with Camden acting as developer and approver. There was much talk of how the numbers added up and why there was to be virtually no affordable housing. Three years on, some of those numbers have changed – so could this mean West Hampstead is about to get a whole whack of cash?

Let us take you back to the mid 2010s. Liddell Road was a council-owned piece of land used as a light industrial estate. The council wanted to use half the site to build a school – specifically an extension to Kingsgate School – and it would pay for this largely by selling off the other half of the site for housing and office space.

Revised Liddell Road plan with 14-storey tower block (reduced to nine storeys)

The plan was for a four-form entry lower school (up to 7-year-olds) that would ultimately house up to 360 children who would then move on to Kingsgate’s main buildings over in Kilburn. The council claimed the school would cost £13.4 million.

To pay for it, Camden argued it needed to sell land with planning permission to build a nine-storey tower block plus some mansion blocks. In total, there would be 100 flats, of which just four would be “affordable”, and 3,500 m2 of office space. This would cover the cost of the school and generate an additional £1.9 million for the education department. The school was also eligible for £6.7 million of central government funding. Camden took this money but excluded it from its calculations on how to pay for the school.

In March 2015, the council’s own planning committee agreed two separate yet inseparable planning applications: one for the school and one for the development to fund it.

For reasons that were never made clear, the two sites were built separately. First the school, where construction has finished and which opened in September 2017. Next, the residential and commercial buildings where construction hasn’t even started. This second part of the site is due to be sold to an external developer this spring. When work eventually starts it will obviously cause considerable disruption and potential danger from construction traffic to children at the school. Not to mention the additional inconvenience to local residents from yet more construction. It’s hard to understand why both developments were not built simultaneously.

At the time, the Neighbourhood Development Forum and West Hampstead Life did some number crunching and argued that the development would generate a much larger surplus (or “profit” as a normal person would call it) than Camden was suggesting.

The residential and office space was supposed to generate £15.4 million (£13.4m for the cost of the school + the £1.96m surplus). This seemed low. Experts that the NDF consulted valued the land £10 million higher, which would lead to a £11.96m surplus.

From speculation to cold hard cash
It turned out that building the school was more expensive than first thought. Quite a lot more expensive. The cost rose by 38% from £13.4 million to £18.6 million when the construction contract was finally given. Camden’s press office told us that “£13.4m was the estimate quoted in the December 2013 cabinet paper,” but then argued that in the period 2014-2016, “the proposals were developed in detail while at the same time construction costs rose significantly for the industry as a whole and in Camden, resulting in this increase in cost.” It seems a very large jump in costs in two years, and it was not put on the table at the planning committee in March 2015 when the scheme was approved on the basis of the £13.4 million number.

It is still not clear whether the £6.7 million central government grant for building the school actually went towards building the school – even though it would have more than offset this £5 million increase in costs.

Was such a big school needed in the first place. Demographic modelling showed a lack of primary school places, but the four-form school opened last year with only three forms and this year’s entry will also be only three-form. Camden’s response: “The unexpected national drop in births in 2013 has had a considerable impact in Camden, and other authorities. Surrounding authorities have found themselves in a similar situation, reducing pupil admission numbers to temporarily address the falling reception numbers.” It’s true that the birth rate did fall in 2013 quite dramatically, but this was public knowledge in 2014, so again why was it not made clear in March 2015 when the decision came before the planning committee. Could the school have been slightly smaller and therefore cheaper?

Whatever the rights and wrongs of predicting school places, a school that cost £18.5 million would not be paid for by the £15.4 million raised from the homes and office development. It seemed the development had lurched from profit to loss? .

Fast forward to spring 2018 and Camden is finally planning to sell the land and has pencilled in the amount it expects to get. Turns out, surprise surprise, that it should sell the land for more than £15.4 million. It’s even going to be more than the NDF’s estimate of £25.4 million. Camden has pencilled in a net £26.8 million expected capital receipt. More than enough to cover the £18.5 million for the school, and the £1.9 million surplus (all assuming that £6.7 million was spirited away elsewhere). We are now looking at an £8.3 million surplus.

Camden’s press office again: “The original estimate of £15.3m was made back in 2012 as part of the business case for the redevelopment. Since 2012, land values in Camden have increased and more detailed work has been undertaken on the development which has resulted in this higher valuation. (This increased valuation is still very much open to market fluctuations).”

However, when the NDF made estimates using March 2015 valuations it estimated a sale value of £25.4 million which is much closer to the current valuation. Why was Camden using a 2012 valuation for a 2015 planning decision? Camden redacted all the numbers in its viability report due to ‘commercial considerations’ (this is the report used to justify the level of affordable housing) but the discrepancy in the public numbers and the final valuations suggests that decisions were made by the planning committee using out-of-date information.

Let us reflect that the argument for virtually no affordable housing at Liddell Road was that there wasn’t enough money and that the school itself was a public sector investment. Now the profit from the development looks like it’s risen from £1.96 million to £8.3 million. Does this mean more affordable housing is a possibility? The council does not rule this out, which is encouraging, though no chickens should be counted. How much of the money will pay for other improvements in the area, which are sorely needed as the population of West Hampstead continues to grow rapidly.

Camden’s rather vague answer to where the money will go is that “the extra money goes to support our continuing Community Investment Programme”. However, it accepts that “depending on the level of offers, additional affordable housing may be a point of negotiation with the shortlisted developers. Increasing the affordable housing numbers may result in a reduction in capital receipts so this can only be done if the overall programme remains viable.”

In fact, the Camden planning officer’s report in March 2015 was rather more specific. It states that “If the profit/surplus is more than £3m, this should be spent on an off-site contribution to affordable housing. This will be set out in the S106 agreement”.

Has this been set out? The other Section 106 payments (that’s money developers have to contribute to the local area to help offset the impact of their schemes) in the Liddell Road project were extremely low for a development of this size, only £47,000 and £30,000 for Maygrove Peace Park and local community facilities respectively. There was nothing more broadly for the larger growth area. It would seem that it’s time to revisit this.

Once again, the issues around this development are ones of transparency as much as of intent. As we wrote at the time, although it was a controversial development that led to a loss of jobs and useful local services, many people in the area were still broadly in favour of the school and accepted that some housing was needed to pay for it.

But when the development cost and possible income change so much from initial estimates – and in some cases these numbers could have been adjusted before the planning committee approved the project – we are left in the dark again.

When will Camden acknowledge that locals feel they have a right to a clearer understanding of how the calculations are made on affordable housing, of where exactly money in the “Community Investment Programme” will be spent locally, and on where that £6.7 million central government grant went that was specifically tied to the Kingsgate expansion.

Featured photo credit: Sue on Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

What have you missed since March 19th?

After a quiet spell, the phone snatchers were back, with at least four incidents on Friday night.

Tom, our resident gourmand (glutton?) paid a visit to newcomer Ham. How did he find it?

Tila Studio on Fortune Green was broken into this week, as was Glass Art on Mill Lane.

So sad to hear @Tilastudio in @WHampstead got broken into two days ago. Thieves stole cash and equipment. So much damage caused. It’s appalling. Pic (and text): Joe Sayegh

The luxury retirement home planning application for Gondar Gardens is going to appeal. Number of luxury self-contained retirement flats = 82, number of affordable homes = 0 “we can’t afford to provide any”

In more popular planning news, West End Lane Books will be getting its jacuzzi and spa extension. Or maybe just more space for books.

A West Hampstead café or restaurant in a prime location is up for sale. Speculation is rife as to which one it is…. Answers on a postcard, please.

This week local author Susie Steiner revealed her likes and dislikes about West Hampstead. “Pants and socks, people, pants and socks.”

A crack house was closed in Fortune Green Ward.

Local estate agents John’s & Co wrote a (sponsored) post about how the local market diverges from national trends (though that crack house story above might just send prices plunging!)

The most popular single journey destinations from West Hampstead tube station were revealed. Bond Street beat Canary Wharf to the top spot.

Brent Council is undertaking a ‘have your say’ on specific town centre areas within Brent, including the Kilburn High Road. Now’s your chance to make your voice heard.

TFL is consulting on ‘modernising’ the Overground, which in plain English means there might not be a ticket office in the new West Hampstead station.

Meanwhile, on the buses, after C11 services were cut earlier this year, there is now talk of reducing the 328 service too.

The clothing bin saga continues. The company that owns them has come forward but apparently, it has been dissolved…

Want to know what the space where the Paramount building is, looked like in days gone by?

Coming up this week

It’s Easter!

Fri 30th (Good Friday)- 7:30pm Poetry and the Sacred at the Sheriff Centre

And beyond…

Fri 6th April – 7:30pm Jazz pianist Omar Klein at the Sherriff Centre. Bio here and tickets here.

Tues 10th April – John Lloyd in conversation at West Hampstead Library on the current state of Journalism, Fake news.

Tues 10th April – Lucy Mangan in conversation at West End Lane Books

Tues 17th April – Elizabeth Day in conversation with Susie Steiner about her book ‘The Party’ at West End Lane books.

Thurs 26th April – Susie Steiner in conversation with Detective Inspector Graham Macmillan at West End Lane Books.

Sat 28th April – 7pm performance of Handel’s Messiah at UCS. Tickets here.

Tweet of the week

What have you missed since March 12th?

The post office in the Sherriff Centre was burgled. Apparently, the burglars tried first on Monday evening, but were disturbed by a cleaner. They came back at 9.30pm, but were disturbed by the alarm before trying again in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

We all know how the leopard got its spots, but how did David’s Deli get its name?  We learned how in our Insight with Ellias the owner.

There was another moped enabled mobile phone snatch near Kilburn tube, but this one had an unexpected ending. (In case you don’t know Ashley was on Made in Chelsea).

Fortune Green seems very confused, Which season are we in? asked Scotty

The Chalcots Estate in Swiss Cottage has been in the news again (it was evacuated in the wake of the Grenfell fire). The council now wants to replace the windows for £30 million, on top of the £50 million it’s already spent on post-Grenfell improvements. Not to mention the millions it cost to install the original defective cladding. Residents haven’t ruled out running their own candidate in the local elections.

Another week, another Tory typo…(at least we hope it was), apparently they are campaigning for ‘reduced air quality

Clothing bank update: they have been given one month to be removed. There is more to this story than we first thought. Were these clothing banks ones that were first stolen?

West Hampstead bakery Roni’s suffered what appeared to be a premeditated attack at its Belsize Park operation. And there was a second attack.

Phil Nicol has been missing for over two weeks, he’s from Peckham but was last seen at the O2 Centre on March 3rd. He then boarded a 13 bus and got off at Fortune Green Road. He has not been seen since. Do you recognise him?

WHAT again proved at their AGM that they punch above their weight in getting things done round here. Holding Thames Water, TFL and Camden to account on road closures and diversion. Others may tweet the tweet, WHAT actually does stuff. Plus TFL confirmed they are undertaking a feasibility study over access to the tube station.

There was another burglary on Iverson Road. Watch out as there was a similar one on Mapesbury Road using a diversion tactic. Fireworks.

There was a moving performance of ‘Finding Mummy: Nazanin’s story’ at JW3.

The owner of these these (very cute dogs) has been located.

Coming up
Mon 19th – Locally Sourced at the Alliance, looks like an excellent evening

Wed 21st – it’s the ENO community choir concert at the Sherriff Centre. It’s free, but ticket here.

And this week why not try the cinema at JW3

Tweet of the week

What have you missed since March 5th?

Oh no! Water leak season has started again. A series of leaks affected a wide area and many houses were left without water.

Damas Gardens, Kilburn’s Syrian restaurant, was fined £1,000 by Camden for fly tipping on the Kilburn High Road.

It’s less that two months until local elections, but the Conservatives are apparently asking you to vote for a question mark. Just a typo we were told. The missing candidate is actually Sedef Akademir.

“Can’t possibly carry all that guv…” Photo via Ian Cohen

Our historians reported on a real life ‘Death in Paradise’. Actor and sometime West Hampstead resident, George Rose was murdered in the Caribbean in the 1980s.

It was gridlock on West End Lane due to two sets of temporary traffic lights. The theme of local campaign group WHAT’s AGM next week is appropriately: Roadblocks and Diversions!

There are at least two huge metal ‘clothes banks’ in West Hampstead that are not charity boxes and appear to have been illegally placed there some time ago. They’re at least half a tonne each. Did no-one at the council spot this?

We have a good samaritan among us. A mystery man paid for the groceries of an older man at Sainsbury’s who had come out without any money. The older chap’s wife is very thankful.

Do you recognise this flowery handbag? It has an empty purse inside. It was dumped outside someone’s house but we are trying to reunite it with its owner. Or do you recognise an abandoned hold-all, which contained a quantity of cash, and was left outside the tube station.

There was a burglary on Iverson Road. Police advice is to make sure doors and windows are locked but maybe time for a webcam?

Local resident, engineer and writer, Roma Agrawal, appeared on Any Questions. Go Roma!

The Priory Tavern on Belsize Road has changed hands.

And while we are down that end of the KHR, here’s a trip down memory lane.

This Wednesday sees the next Sheriff Concert series. The moving force behind them, pianist Yehuda Inbar (we’ve heard he’s good) and violinist Timothy Redout, are playing ‘the Romantic Influence’ (you know – Schubert, Schumman, Brahms and beyond)

It is coming up for TWO years since Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was put in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. To mark this, and to mark her second Mother’s Day in jail, there are a series of events coming up: a performance of ‘Looking for Mummy’ at JW3 (if you haven’t seen it is very moving), a comedy fundraiser hosted by Shappi Korsandi (sadly sold out), paint a pebble for Mother’s day and an event on Fortune Green.

Good Luck to Jess Curtis, a West Hampstead teenager, who is off trekking to Everest base camp. She’s raising money for a charity that helped her brother, James, who was born profoundly deaf but now able to hear. You can support her here.

Coming up this week
Tues 13th – 6:30 to 8:30 Cycle maintenance workshop @ Sidings
Wed 14th – 7:30 WHAT AGM @ West Hampstead Library
Wed 14th – 7:30 Concert at Sheriff Centre
Fri 16th – 6:30 Private view of Kingsgate Workshops exhibition. Machiavellian Mary.
Sat 17th – 7:30 at JW3 ‘Looking for Mummy‘ Nazanin’s story.
Sat 17th – 7:30 to 9:30 Emmanuel Church. It’s Barn dance time again!
Sun 18th – Coffee concert at St. Cuthbert’s church.

What have you missed since February 26th?

It was cold, and quite snowy. In case you didn’t notice. Some locals took it in their stride, and many (very many) of you whipped out your cameras.

As previewed last week, Ham opened (sorry Ham, we really can’t be bothered to keep inserting the line over the a). The cold weather threw up some challenges that probably weren’t in the business plan!

There has been a huge jump in fly-tipping reports. Locally, Camden is getting round to enforcing the no-bins-on-street rule it promised when the new contract was introduced a year ago.

Flowers in the snow via @ingamells

Lately may have closed, but former owner Gordon Stevenson is still around and he talked to us about his 38 years at the helm of West Hampstead’s favourite club.

Kilburn Ironworks (whose owners are taking over Lately) is itself now for sale – offers around £1 million.

It’s Mother’s Day next Sunday. What better gift than something from your ‘hood.

The council tax increase we reported last week was approved, though Labour slightly wrong-footed the Tories by finding an extra £540,000 for extra policing, (or it could be said by adopting a Tory proposal).

The Mayor got interested in the West London Orbital Rail scheme, which would end at West Hampstead. What! more commuters? There was, however, no mention of how the £250 million scheme would be funded.

Those of you on Twitter may remember a recent plan to get a board games night up and running. Good news – it starts this week.

London-wide estate agent Dexters, which recently acquired Martin & Wright’s office in West Hampstead, has acquired north London agency Benham & Reeves, including B&R’s office near the tube station in West Hampstead.

Walkies! The Wag Club, the doggie daycare place that opened on Mill Lane a year ago is on the move. It’s moving to larger premises: the former scuba shop in Child’s Hill.

West Hampstead actresses Emma Thompson and Imelda Staunton held a Q&A at the Tricycle. Thompson revealed that Nanny McPhee might become a musical and shared the experience she drew on for her performance in Love, Actually.

Coming up

It’s quite an arty week
Wed 7th and Thurs 8th – 19:00 to 21:00 The Art Room is holding a pop-up exhibition of fashion illustrator Jo Bird RSVP
Thurs 8th – Local artist Alketa Xhifa Mripa will have her installation up in Kings Cross outside St. Martins
And why not pop in to the Camden Arts Centre to see the Giorgio Griffa exhibition?

Tues 13th – 6:30 to 8:30 Cycle maintenance workshop @ Sidings
Fri 16th – Opening of Kingsgate Workshops exhibition. Machiavellian Mary.
Sat 17th – 7:30 to 9:30 Emmanuel Church. It’s Barn dance time again! Yee-haw.
Sun 18th – Coffee concert at St. Cuthbert’s church.

Tweet of the week

An Insight on Lately: Gordon Stevenson tells all

Regular readers will know that West Hampstead nightclub Lately has closed after almost 40 years. We met up with owner Gordon Stevenson.

What brought you to West Hampstead?
“Buying Lately, that’s what! I opened it 38 years ago after I was offered the club by a friend. Previously it was a called Vincent’s but had been empty for about 18 months and he was offering it for sale. I knew him because those days I had been supplying him his drink, and I bought it from him.

When I looking for a name, I was late arriving back from somewhere and my friend said why don’t you call your new late night venue Lately”.

It’s been enjoyable running it all these years, with lots of good days and I have made lots of friends.”

Gordon was far to discreet to drop any celebrity names, but he did say that being close to the Central School of Speech & Drama has led to quite a few young actors becoming regulars, and many have gone on to be household names.

Gordon of Lately out in daylight!

What is your first/fondest memory of the area?
“That’s going back 38 years. In those days it was more a like a village, with independent and small shops, rather than Costa, Starbucks or Tesco.

I remember Nick who used to run the hardware shop (called the Funny Little Hardware Shop), with his mother helping out on Wednesdays and his ex-wife helping out too. And also Western Food Store, which has just closed, which used to be a greengrocers which I liked.

Not sure it’s the fondest memory but certainly memorable – I remember David Martin’s escape and arrest as his girlfriend’s flat was above Lately.” [We wrote about this a couple of years ago]

What has surprised you about how West Hampstead has changed?
“I suppose the biggest difference is that that local people seem to have disappeared and new (more international) people have moved in. But that’s true of the whole of London.”

At this point, I asked Gordon whether he’d ever had any problems with drugs, which are often a part of London nightlife (and previously caused licensing issues for Lower Ground Bar). A steely look crossed his previously affable face as he said that he never allowed it at Lately; “What people do is their own business” but he made it clear what side of the fence he was on and “any potential dealers knew not to cross it”

What’s for lunch?
Given that his life revolved around late-night hospitality, Gordon said he rarely went out for lunch. When pushed, he said he liked the Banana Tree.

West Hampstead in three words?
“No man’s land.” These three words need some explanation! “West Hampstead is such a diverse area, sandwiched between the different worlds of the Kilburn High Road and the Finchley Road/Hampstead, so it’s a place in between, but it’s own place where all are welcome (as they were at Lately).”

So what is the latest on Lately? As we reported, the team behind Kilburn Ironworks have taken over the lease and it will become a bar called Heads & Tails. It will keep the late licence (so probably the dancing will continue, but we will have to wait and see). Gordon is really happy about them taking over the licence.

To end, Gordon wanted to say a big thank you to West Hampstead for its support over the last 38 years.

Brunch at Hām; was it Hamtastic?

It’s always exciting when a new business opens in West Hampstead and recently there seems to have been a shift up-market, with the arrival of Gail’s, M&S and Lola’s. The latest business to open is the new restaurant Hām, with a soft launch this weekend offering brunch at lunch and dinner in the evening. Our resident food critic Tom will be going for dinner in March so watch out for that, but I went for brunch this weekend.

And who better to go with than Jennie and Tom, formerly of that West Hampstead stalwart, the Kitchen Table. They know a thing or two about brunch. So, I rocked up at Hām on Sunday to meet them and a couple of friends.

The decor is very ‘now’. In a good way.

The first thing you notice about the place is that has undergone a serious renovation, the new Hām is very ‘now’, from the tone of the walls and furniture, to the shape of the lights, but in a good way. It was full of friends and family of the owners and there was a nice buzz to the atmosphere.

The chefs working in the kitchen are visible, although the clever use of mirrors not only brings more light to the back of the room it makes the kitchen seem to float in a different plane.

The chef, Matt Osborne (an Aussie) was formerly at the Ledbury (amongst other venues). The food is creeping into fine dining territory for brunch and I expect for dinner. I ordered the Hām breakfast (£13) a full English but with a twist: added avocado and kasundi (it’s oven dried tomato paste with a kick of chilli). It was good, a chef-cooked full English with the quality ingredients shining through. For me (and Tom who also ordered it), quality or not, we would have appreciated an extra rasher of bacon.

The Ham breakfast

Jody ordered avocado on toast with goats cheese (and kasundi), but not enough goats cheese in her opinion. Jennie went for the mushrooms (and Doddington cheese) on toast, which looked delicious, and she also sensibly ordered some crumpets with honey, ricotta and pear to share. It was brunch after all, which should be a relaxed sharing type meal, so I ordered them as well. And they were a nice sweet complement to my full, but fine, English.

Those crumpets (freshly baked) with honey, pear and ricotta.

Tom, Jody and I wondered if the sourdough toast was a bit difficult to cut, but we were put in our place by Jennie who thought that it was the crunch of the crust was what made it.

For drinks the menu offered green (apple, celery, spinach) and red (apple, carrot and beetroot) juices plus fine teas and coffee which met the high standard of the ex-Kitchen Tablers (and coffee drinkers) around the table.

While chatting to Rose and David, the new owners, Jennie advised ‘listen to Twitter and Instagram’ because West Hampstead will let you know how it feels. And if this tweet is anything to go by, Hām is off to a positive start. I’d agree – I had an enjoyable and importantly delicious brunch. Hām is a step up the fine dining and price ladder from other local options, but as we have seen with the arrival of Gail’s and then Lola’s if you offer a quality atmosphere and food, people will come – and pay.

Once it fully opens on 28th it will offer brunch and a set lunch menu, with à la carte in the evenings.

What have you missed since February 12th?

Kaboom! A house partially-collapsed on Sumatra Road. It had been empty for over 10 years and had been in some planning limbo. In a sign of quite how crazy property prices are it was labelled as being on ‘millionaire’s row’ by the Daily Mail. Ironically, it was just around the corner from the humble house where Alfred Northcliffe lived, who founded the … Daily Mail.

Talking of Ham… sorry, Hām, our newest restaurant is opening on February 28th. For a taste of what to expect, the Caterer met the chef – formerly from The Ledbury. The Eater was awaiting the opening too. And they are looking for staff.

An 18 year-old-man was stabbed in Compayne Gardens

The gap formerly known as house on Sumatra Road. Pic: Chris Simpson

Out of the mouth of babes… A West Hampstead six-year-old has started a campaign against plastic waste. She’s right, let’s join her.

The Friends of West Hampstead Library had its AGM this week. There was a very good turnout, ‘ with cake’ (are the two related)? Cllr Simpson said future library closures would be “over his dead body”. It does look like there may be volunteers working at the library at some stage though.

The Ham & High, which has been going for 150 years, is closing its offices on the Finchley Road and relocating to Barking. It will keep a couple of ‘hot desks’ in the area. Former reporters were sad at the news.

Another local restaurant, Wet Fish Cafe, celebrated its fifteenth birthday this week. Congratulations.

Alas, not so fortunate for Tiffin Tin on Mill Lane. They were broken into this weekend.

St. James and St Mary’s churches are still looking for a new vicar. Any suggestions?

Stanley Rosenthal, who had lived in West Hampstead all his life (indeed in the same house), passed away at 94. His memories of fellow school children turning up with no shoes in the 1930s turned him into a life-long Liberal supporter (an anecdote he recounted to me, although the newsletter got the party wrong. Apologies.)

Our historians looked back to the punk-era in West Hampstead, and an artist who helped them.

A freight ’super-hub’ was approved, just off the Cricklewood Broadway, by Barnet Council as the Conservatives hold a one-seat majority on the planning committee. It is not actually in Camden (its about 500 metres to the north) but local Fortune Green councillor, Lorna Russell, who fears the impact on our area, addressed their planning meeting. There were hundreds of letters opposed and three in favour. This gives a bit of a background about what it will be.

JW3 wants to put a large ad space on the apartment blocks it owns on Finchley Road.

Local resident Gio Spinella (a councillor the other side of the Finchley Road in Frognal) was elected Conservative leader in Camden, taking over from Claire-Louise Leyland. Turns out he had to leave Sicily because of the Mafia.

Coming up this week

Mon 19th – Locally Sourced ‘An Evening with Virginia Woolf’ at the Alliance

Mon 19th – an Evening with Mick Herron and his latest book, London Rules, at WEL Books

Mon 19th – Tricycle fundraiser Jim Carter + Kenneth Branagh and Derek Jacobi. Tickets here.

Wed 21st – Greg Wise reading from his sister, Clare’s book on her experience of cancer,@WEL Books

Fri 23rd – Sherriff Concert series, Heath Quartet. Tickets here.

Sun 25th – Join the Friends of Fortune Green for the big cut-down (of perennials). Help make West Hampstead more beautiful.

Sun 25th – Tricycle fundraiser Jim Carter + Emma Thompson and Imelda Staunton (last few tickets left)

Mon 26th – NDF AGM at the Library.

Tweet of the week

WE WON THE ZONE 2 world cup! (It was a hypothetical knock out league of zone 2 tube stations). West Hampstead beat Maida Vale in the final. More details here.

House collapses on Sumatra Road

At midday on a quiet Monday, Sumatra Road was shaken (literally) when the walls collapsed on a house undergoing renovation. At the time of the collapse, first tweeted by Chris Simpson, there were builders in the house, 163 Sumatra Road, but they saw ‘the writing on the wall’ when large cracks appeared and were able to get out in time.

Firefighters were quickly on the scene, confirmed that there was no-one injured and evacuated neighbours as a precaution. The Fire Brigade posted more photos of the house, including an excavator, which was working in the basement.

The house had been empty for over a decade. It was sold in 2006 by a family that had lived there since 1947. It was up for auction a couple of times over that period, while the owner/developer was seeking planning permission for conversion into flats, most recently in 2015 for 4 flats (2 x 1 bed and 2 x 2 bed) as well as the conversion of the basement. The developers went to appeal over their 2015 application, but this was turned down (although the actual reasons were unclear). Camden didn’t object to the conversion but wanted to make it car-free and ensure payment of financial obligations.

The story has been widely picked up; by the Mail Online, the Independent, the BBC, the Standard as well as the local press. The Mail Online’s story took the biscuit though as it described it as a “Terraced house in millionaires’ row where homes cost £1.5m collapses“. Sumatra Road is nice enough, but it’s not exactly millionaires row.

What have you missed since February 5th?

There are more details of the scammer we warned about last week, including her photo which has now been released by the police. She struck again on Walm Lane this weekend.

The chemist by West End Green had eight tins of baby formula stolen this week – the suspect had stolen four tins the previous week and came back again, but this time the shelves were empty. Other chemists and Waitrose are having the same problem.

We ate at the Clock Cafe. Did it strike a chord?

Another accident on Mill Lane, time for some traffic calming? Pic: Russ Denton

There was the sound of gunfire in Kilburn on Thursday night.

On Sunday morning a 28-year-old man and a 43-year-old woman were arrested in Kilburn as suspects for a murder of a 55-year-old woman in Fellows Road, Belsize Park on Friday.

There was a warning about cars being broken into on Gascony Avenue, Smyrna Road and Westbere Road. Follow the usual advice – don’t leave anything of value visible.

This week we met local engineer Roma Agrawal who published her debut book. She is passionate at explaining the wonder of engineering, and gave a good restaurant tip, in our latest insight.

It’s been 100 years since some women got the vote. What were they doing in our area?

And still fighting for women’s rights 100 years later, local artist (and owner of Curled Leaf) Alketa Xhafa-Mripa is installing her piece ‘Thinking of you’ in Kings Cross on March 8th. It involves hundreds of women’s dresses and if you want to donate you can drop one off at the Curled Leaf, or any Lush store by March 1st.

A masseur based in West Hampstead was in court accused of assaulting three clients.

Tory council candidate Maria Higson has switched from West Hampstead to Hampstead, following Hamish Hunter pulling out as a candidate for Hampstead.

It’s the Friends of West Hampstead Library’s AGM this week on the 15th. ‘Past Tense, Future Perfect?’
And to get in the mood this is the latest post from their writer in residence. It’s a nice read.

And talking of literary matters, our friends at West End Lane Books have requested planning permission for an extension.

Coming up

Tues 13th Nick Coleman on ‘Voices, How A Great Singer Can Change Your Life’ at WEL Books

Tues 13th – 6:30 to 8:30 NEW cycle maintenance workshop at Sidings Community Centre

Thurs 15th FOWHL AGM at, errr, West Hampstead Library…!

Sun 18th: 2-4pm. Photographic workshop on Fortune Green. Sign up here

And beyond…

Mon 19th – Locally Sourced ‘An Evening with Virginia Woolf’ at the Alliance

Mon 19th – an Evening with Mick Herron and his latest book, London Rules, at WEL Books

Mon 19th – Tricycle fundraiser Jim Carter + Kenneth Branagh and Derek Jacobi. Tickets here.

Wed 21st – Greg Wise reading from his sister, Clare’s book on her experience of cancer,@WEL Books

Fri 23rd – Sherriff Concert series, Heath Quartet. Tickets here.

Sun 25th – Join the Friends of Fortune Green for the big cut-down (of perennials). Help make West Hampstead more beautiful.

Sun 25th – Tricycle fundraiser Jim Carter + Emma Thompson and Imelda Staunton (last few tickets left)

Tweet of the week

We thought this (below) was really clever.

Clock Cafe; fresh face, familiar food

You will have noticed that where Lena’s Café was we now have a fresh face on the high street, but something seems familiar about Clock Café.

With the same set up of deli-style food served hot or cold, Clock Café has the same chef and management as Lena’s but has been given a much needed facelift (after a Porsche crashed through the window)!

Mixed salads on offer at the Clock Cafe

Though it doesn’t quite boast the same ambiance as some of the restaurants, pubs and cafés we have on West End Lane, Clock Café offers some variety, a low key and reasonably priced option, whether you’re eating in or taking away. I’d imagine this wil be a popular spot for those working in the area looking for a quick bite on their lunch break.

You’re spoilt for choice with the food options.  I highly recommend the baked cauliflower – bursting full of flavour, the greens and chicken in tomato sauce. It was extremely tasty; I’d go so far as to say delicious. The aubergine was quite salty, in fact, I dread to think how much salt went in a lot of the menu items. However, if you choose well you may end up with a fairly healthy, hearty meal. It’s a great grab and go or quick sit in place.

And more salads!

Those who were fans of Lena’s would be pleased to know that Clock Café hasn’t lost it’s ‘marketplace in the Mediterranean or Middle East’ feel, with vast trays of baklava and assorted nuts on offer (the nuts are new by the way).

And it does food to go.

Prices are cheaper if you take your food to go, choices include boxes filled to the brim with your own choice of main food items and salads, sandwiches, wraps and a soup of the day. They also have a nice selection of drinks, including coffee (of course).

It’s nice to have you back in the neighborhood, Clock Café.

What have you missed since January 29th?

The application to build 82 retirement flats on the former Gondar Gardens reservoir site was refused by Camden Planning. The Mayor’s office also refused the application particularly over the lack of any affordable housing.

There is a scammer about – watch out. She will claim to be a neighbour and ask for £20. (The story also contains a summary of how to contact your local Safer Neighbourhood team).

How’s the Overground redevelopment progressing?

Not a sunset, but a sunrise as seen, early, by WHL (on our Instagram).

The Sherriff Centre – and some local mums and a dad (hello Richard!) made an appearance on the One Show in a story on ‘baby brain’. It’s on iPlayer – the segment starts at 3’30”

West Hampstead dog walkers continued their (ever so polite) fight with Camden Council over the cemetery. Camden backed down slightly and said as long as dogs were kept under control then people are welcome to walk them there. It appeared one part of the council had not been talking to another.

Camden signed up to new air quality targets by 2030, which means it will be getting even tougher on cars. Will it improve West End Lane and the Maygrove/Iverson situation?

South Hampstead School is hosting a performance of Looking for Mummy: Nazanin’s story on 9th Feb for 160 sixth formers and will be live-streamed to more schools.

Western Food & Wine, the convenience store at the corner of Sherriff Road is being forced to close after 20 years after the landlord apparently hiked the rent.

It was the last day of the Kilburn Ironworks.

Camden replaced the memorial bench to the popular Kilburn café owner, Huseyin Gulbudak, who was stabbed to death by his son. Someone stole the first bench back in July.

Coming up

Ooh! Ooh! there are a couple of seats still available for the Tricycle fundraising evening with Jim Carter interviewing Emma Thompson and Imelda Staunton on 25th Feb. Buy now while stocks last.

(And there are also still tickets for the event on Mon 19th Feb with Kenneth Branagh and Derek Jacobi).

Mon 5th – Fitness for older men @CAWH 12:30 – 1:30pm

Fri 9th – Ultimate Improv Friday is back!

Sun 11th – 3pm Patrick Hemmerle at St. Cuthberts playing the rest of Bach’s well tempered Klavier (he’s good!)

And beyond

Tues 13th 7:30pm – Nick Coleman book talk  @WELBooks – How a Great Singer can change your Life

Thurs 15th 7:30 pm Friends of West Hampstead Library AGM.  Their 20th!

Mon 19th 7:30pm Locally Sourced @ the Alliance; An evening with Virginia Woolf (not actually her of course)

Tweet of the week

It was #Groundhogday this week and that is exactly what it feels like for this local who is trying to get the Christmas trees removed from West End Green.

What have you missed since January 22nd?

A gruesome lead story this week. A decapitated fox’s head was found in a West Hampstead garden on Friday morning. According to SNARL, an independent group helping the police with the notorious M25 cat killer, this looks like it could be a related incident. Pet owners, keep an eye on your cats.

Tom went to try the new vegan buffet offered by Mon Way, was it his way or the highway?

Camden is ‘criminalising’ West Hampstead dog walkers. We ‘doggedly’ investigated this issue and think they should have let sleeping dogs lie.

Fortune Green as photographed by FoFG’s new artist in residence Peter Coles.

Local business Ink Media (publishers of the rather good EasyJet magazine among others) is looking to float on the stock market for £70 million. The company is based in the commercial space at the bottom of the Blackburn Road student accommodation. [paywall]

In a surprise move Claire-Louise Leyland is standing down as leader of the Camden Conservatives and as a Belsize councillor at the May elections.

Cllr Phil Rosenberg has a twin brother, Bill. Who knew?

This guy has been going to the Swiss Cottage Odeon. Every week. Since 1945.

Into dance and house vinyl? there’s a ton at Cancer Research – and more to come. A (sometimes) DJ is having a clear out.

All we want for Christmas is for… last year’s Christmas trees to be gone! It’s a month after Christmas day and they were still there.

It’s nearly Valentine’s day – one local couple celebrated in a rather different way!

As we announced last week, Lately is closing (the owners of Kilburn Ironworks aren’t commenting yet on their plans to take it over). We’re interested to hear your memories of West Hampstead’s favourite nightclub… if you can remember any of them. Drop us a mail <>

Coming up.
Hotly tipped for Oscar success, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri is on at the Tricycle Cinema, while JW3 is showing Churchill biopic Darkest Hour

Tom does it Mon Way

The arrival of Mon Way Bistro on Mill Lane seems to have caused a bit of a stir (especially the soups!), and somehow captured the imagination of a broad range of diners. It’s often very busy, sometimes with customers having to wait to get a table, and inside it’s relaxed yet buzzing, with diners really enjoying themselves.

Specialising in vegetarian, and often completely vegan food, and presented via an ‘all you can eat’ buffet (something that always appeals to me!), I was curious to see whether the eating experience would live up to their tantalising photos on Twitter and Facebook.

Chatting with owner Andrea and one of her chefs, Mihaela, it became apparent very quickly that this is an operation run with real enthusiasm and commitment. The food is excellent. Enticing salads, reminiscent of those at the charming Clock Café on West End Lane (previously Lena II), with key items such as aubergine; pasta dishes, grains (yes, this is NW6, there’s quinoa!), couscous with raisins etc. – there’s plenty of choice, and everything is prepared with care, vegetables cooked well, sauces and dressings well-seasoned. I ate ton of food, then promptly marched back to the buffet for seconds.

Now desserts must be tricky to do from a vegan perspective; without eggs they can be a little dense, however I actually quite like this quality, and the unctuous feel it gives to brownies and things. Indeed, brownies were present, and delicious, but I was also intrigued by emerald cakes (or whatever they were called) which feature spinach. These were delightful, and very moreish, I think due to being well-balanced with not too much sugar.

This style of food is becoming more and more popular. It only takes a quick Google to learn of all sorts of people endorsing it – including professional rugby players, who clearly need a pretty solid helping of protein and nutrients.

For me, it’s grub of which you can enjoy generous quantities, and still feel great afterwards. Fantastic after a workout, or just as a healthy alternative for any occasion. And that feeling of healthy empowerment then makes it all the more justifiable to enjoy a huge curry and a bottle or two of red wine in the evening (not that those are unhealthy, of course).

Dry January? F**k that. But eating at Mon Way every day for a month? – I could do that, happily.

Ed – Mon Way is now offering the vegan buffet during the week as well as at weekends. It was £6, and will be rising to £9 (still very reasonable).

What have you missed since Jan 15th?

One of Kilburn’s nicer bars, Kilburn Ironworks, which opened in 2014, is closing in early February. On Twitter, the owners have hinted that they might have another local operation starting soon….

… West Hampstead institution Lately is shutting up shop. The nightclub has been a fixture of West End Lane for as long as most of us can remember (and we can’t remember much after too many late nights there). A planning application has gone in for a large-scale revamp of the venue, turning it into a bar. Who’s behind it? A bit of digging into the planning app seems to suggest that it’s the owner of… Kilburn Ironworks

Kilburn had a visitor from the Falkland Islands. Twitter was all aflutter. What was it? How did it get to NW6? Turned out it was a striated caracara (a Falkland’s falcon or Johnny Rook to the locals), and it had escaped from London Zoo.

A striated caracara a long way from the Falkland Islands… spotted by tashry18

Do West Hampstead kids have enough opportunities to play outdoors in our neighbourhood? Not at this time of year maybe, but with summer on the distant horizon we investigated the latest Play Street initiative from Narcissus Road (and took a look at parks too).

The Mayor has announced a further thirteen tube stations that will get step-free access. Once again West Hampstead is not among them. But there may be some light at the end of the tunnel as TfL has agreed to conduct a feasibility study into a lift.

The Tricycle has three job openings, so looks likes the theatre is gearing up to open up again. Hurrah! (Any budding producers out there…)

Jeweller Dinny Hall has lived in West Hampstead for more than 30 years, and this is what she likes about it.

A sushi place has opened up fairly recently on Broadhurst Gardens (near La Mer). Sushi Tokoro is tiny but is getting some good reviews especially for it’s (good value) set lunches.

Last week’s news about the food hygiene ratings contained a link to a rather out of date list of local restaurant scores. Apologies to those restaurants whose scores have since improved. The latest scores are here: and there’s also a new twitter bot tracking changes in NW6 scores.

Is Camden Council due for a £1 million windfall?

Love board games? One local is trying to set up a regular meetup. I imagine it will have the monopoly in the area.

Or if drumming is more your thing, another local is trying to set up a drumming circle.

Coming up

Thurs 25th – 12-1pm West Hampstead SNT will be a JW3
Sun 28th – 3pm At St. Cuthbert’s Church, Patrick Hemmerle playing ‘the Well Tempered Klavier’

Raising the roof on the student housing block

The new owner of the student housing block on Blackburn Road, has put in a planning application to add 41 additional rooms (studios) to the block buy adding extra floors on top.

Blackburn Road student housing ‘as is’

The development already has 347 units and has already been given planning permission to add an extension to the internal courtyard and a new outdoor canopy to the front.

The new application is to add extra floors to the existing building(s).  Each of the constituent blocks will get additional floors. The one facing Blackburn Road will get a single storey mansard roof, the one on the corner will get a two-storey extension, the one in the middle will get one floor and the tallest will stay the same height but will have its lead roofing replaced by brick fascia to match the others.

Blackburn Road student housing ‘after’.

From an aesthetic point of view, the new design seems to bring the building more in keeping with West Hampstead Square. Unusually, the planning application explicitly criticises the ‘ugly’ lead roof – the “top single storey and a 2-storey zinc appear just dropped on the roof”. Clearly Camden didn’t feel it was too ugly first time around. One can argue the visual merits of mixed materials vs. homogeneity.

Proposal as seen from the O2 carpark.

The developers have presented the plans to the NDF (Neighbourhood Development Forum).  The NDF is quite relaxed about the extra storeys and indeed at their public meeting someone opined that the existing building was of’incredibly poor design’. Apparently, the council feels the same way as ‘the council continue to recognise the opportunity to improve the appearance of the existing building’.

The extra height will cast shadow on what could be the best location for a green space as and when the O2 car park is redeveloped, so decisions made now could influence future plans – more evidence for the need for some joined-up thinking/masterplanning.

The NDF did say that as a quid-pro-quo for development it would like to see improved landscaping at ground level. The developers have made some sensible suggestions. However, when the scheme was originally built there were improvements to the passage at the side of the building. Sadly these improvements were not maintained and the area  soon looked unkempt again. If there is no maintenance plan for the new planting, the same thing will happen again. Agreements to landscape need to come with a commitment or obligation to keep any new landscapes areas in good condition, or funding so the council can do it.

New landscaping plans, but who will maintain it?

The developers are also proposing improvements to the end section of Billy Fury Way (from West End Lane to the corner of the building). Billy Fury Way has been a problem now for some time that the council and Network Rail seem unable to resolve. No progress is being made, nor are any of the options being costed or considered on a value-for-money basis, which is surprising in an era of budget constraints.

The original landscaping in front of the building is also to be replaced having not been successful (or maintained). Planting Birches (a woodland tree) in a baking hot pavement was done by someone who didn’t know what they were doing.

Despite concerns about the impact on the area, the students don’t seem to cause anti-social behaviour (their parents are paying over £10,000 p.a. per room). Also, although it took a while, all the commercial space is now let, so overall it’s a benefit to the area. It’s just a bit odd that it is being redeveloped so soon and partly on grounds of poor design. You can add comments on the application up to the 23 January.

 

No step closer to step-free access for West Hampstead tube station

Many local organisations have been pushing for step-free access to West Hampstead tube station over the past few years – even if opinion diverges on what the solution should be. It was therefore disappointing, as local residents association WHGARA pointed out recently, that West Hampstead was not included in the recent batch of stations to benefit from the Mayor’s £200 million fund for improvements.

At the end of 2017, TfL announced that “the next stations to benefit from step-free access will be Amersham, Buckhurst Hill, Cockfosters, Mill Hill East, Osterley and South Woodford.”

Collectively, these six stations have 15.5 million journeys each year (Mill Hill East has only 1.3 million journeys, the fewest on the Northern Line). West Hampstead station has 11 million journeys!

When we totted up the numbers last year, the three West Hampstead stations combined have nearly 20 million journeys a year and that’s up from 16 million in 2014.

Over the past five years we have had step-free access installed at the Thameslink station, and it is being fitted as part of the redevelopment of the Overground station. The Overground lifts were partly funded by £1.8 million from the Department for Transport’s Access for All fund.

Hope remains for the tube station. Georgia Gould, the leader of Camden Council, added her support when she came up to West Hampstead in her ‘tour de Camden’ to talk to local groups, and local tube staff have been tweeting about the issue and being more pro-active (thanks to new area staff) as they too can see it’s a sensible move. They deal with customers on a day-to-day basis (not just at West Hampstead but at other stations too) so have a sense of what needs doing.

“We are asked all the time to assist passengers,” said one member of staff. “Of course we’re happy to do it, but it takes us away from other work – and this is a station that is never not busy”.

Unsurprisingly, the issue comes down to money. TfL has said that it can cost up to £1 million to install a lift and the budget for a station refurbishment is about £10 million. At West Hampstead, a new lift and entrance is estimated to cost substantially more: £15 – £16 million, due to the engineering constraints of having the station on the bridge.

The Neighbourhood Development Forum has drawn up proposals for a ‘new’ station on the other side of the road. This would keep all the pedestrian flow between the stations on the same side of West End Lane, but has been costed at £25 million.

A cheaper option, suggested by station staff who know the layout of the station, is that a lift shaft could be installed where the now-defunct gent’s toilets were. Because West Hampstead is a single platform station, only one lift is needed. In response to a question from staff, TfL said it is minded to have a more comprehensive scheme that includes a lift and expanded access, as it expects further growth in passenger numbers once improvements to Thameslink are fully operational. However, it indicated it would be looking at doing a feasibility study.

The problems at West Hampstead are lack of step-free access and congestion at the entrance (improved by the recent addition of the extra gate). The platform itself is nice and wide and platform over-crowding is not a problem. If a lift could be installed in the gent’s loos would it be possible to take back space from one or other of the shops adjacent to the entrance to create more space and reduce overcrowding?

What is the best solution? It’s not obvious, but solving these problems rarely is. As the NDF put it “all ideas should be considered, but we are not in a position to judge on the feasibility of schemes”. It seems like it is time for TfL to come to a public meeting and explain its thinking.

The best new fitness classes in West Hampstead

New Year, new round-up of West Hampstead’s fitness and gym options (would you believe, this is our most popular article year in, year out). Most of you will already know about the main local gyms to help you shed those post-Christmas pounds (or kilos): Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre, Virgin Active at the O2 and the Gym up by Fortune Green.

However, West Hampstead is getting a reputation as the place for specialised fitness classes. Classes such as HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) and similar interval-based training classes have proven an effective way to get fit and into shape. The festive period inevitably leads not just to a more generous girth, but also a sluggish feeling, so having an instructor telling you exactly what to do is a sure fire way to get a work out that works.

We have reviewed three very different local fitness boutiques in the area to find out which class is best for you and we have some West Hampstead Life exclusive discounts below.

Studio Society

The Studio Society boasts live and fully immersive, interactive classes with virtual instructors. You can do mountain climbers and feel like you’re on top of a skyscraper in Manhattan or take the shivanasa yoga pose feeling like you’re amongst the temples of Bali.

The instructor is video linked and you can see their posture from three different angles, so you do see their side profiles too, and with digitally inserted overlays you get a bit of extra instruction on which areas of your body you are targeting. Of course, unlike a live class, you can’t ask the instructor a question or have them spot you if you need an extra pointer, however, the instructions are quite intricate and detailed.

You may wonder whether there’s much difference between this and taking a class at home on YouTube. Being in a group environment is actually quite motivating and Studio Society has chosen to run these classes with specialised high-quality instructors. However, if you really need a real person to get you going, then there are “live” classes too.

There are a wide variety of classes (both virtual and live), including a range of HIIT sessions, in bursts of 30 or 45 minutes, sculpting, strength and conditioning as well as pilates, yoga and even mindfulness and meditation. There is also a spinning room, with a variety of scenes on the screen – with a motivational instructor getting you to sweat to the max.

Studio Society has proven very popular since opening last summer, which can mean some quite big classes in its two huge studios and a fully packed spinning room.

The facilities are excellent and feel new. There are plenty of showers and toilets, a big changing area and lots of lockers.

It’s a short walk away (right next to the Gym actually) up by Fortune Green. Its classes start early in the morning, carry on throughout the day and finish in the evening.

There’s no contract, and £26.95 a month gives you unlimited classes. There’s a January offer of no joining fee and a 50% discount on your first month’s subscription with the promo code Jan1

Great for: Value, variety of classes and excellent facilities
Less great: Distance from the station, large classes, a little less personal
January offers: £26.95 a month for unlimited classes no joining fee and 50% discount on your first month’s subscription with the promo code Jan1

The HIIT Gym

Intense, varied, fun and impactful all come to mind when it comes to the HIIT gym. HIIT is fast paced, high energy and gets results.

Although intense, I would say these classes are suitable for all levels. They are really motivating, as the instructor talks you through every minute and the exercises change so you’re never doing anything long enough to hate it. You can tailor the exercises to your level somewhat, for example by choosing heavier weights, and sometimes the instructor gives you modifications. Included in the classes are intervals on the treadmill and rowing machines, so you get to incorporate cardio into your workout.

Although the classes always follow the same format, they always feel different and never boring.

Class sizes are around 20 max which is about right, and there is just the one class every hour. I’ve very rarely had any problems getting into a class, and there are plenty of classes outside working hours. It is also conveniently tucked away on Broadhurst Gardens, only a quick hop around the corner from all the stations in West Hampstead.

The facilities are quite limited, this is more of a walk in – walk out place but you can shower if you need to.

HIIT gym is a little more expensive at £45 a month for 4 classes a month, £65 for 8 classes month or £99 a month for unlimited classes. They also offer pay-as-you-go classes and transformation packages.

HIIT gym has given us West Hampstead Life exclusive offers:

Great for: High energy, effective classes, 1-minute walk from West Hampstead station
Less great: Limited facilities, fairly big classes at peak times so less personal attention
January offers: No joining fee plus West Hampstead Life discounts (see above).

The Tone Room

New kid on the block (on Mill Lane actually), The Tone Room offers intense and specialised workouts to get you to your strength and toning goals. With tiny classes of no more than six people, trainer Sanjay offers an experience tailored to your needs, and also offers nutritional and postural expertise. It’s as good as having a personal trainer.

The Tone Room is the next level up from a HIIT class, with less room to ‘get away with it’ if, like me, those burpees tend to slow you down! There is plenty of adaptation, however, if you need modifications to suit your fitness and strength levels. If you’re feeling like you’ve plateaued with bigger classes and want to take your workout seriously, the Tone Room can help you get to where you want to be.

Sanjay has done a great job building this boutique and intimate fitness space, and his passion for health and transformation really shows.

Facilities are limited with no showers and limited changing space, however, there is room to leave your things and it feels like a safe space.

The Tone Room is offering £10 for your first class and £45 for three classes. However, if you register for your first £10 class and mention this article, you can get a West Hampstead Life exclusive offer of three classes for £35

Standard prices are: single class £25, 10 classes £175, 20 classes £280, 50 classes £600, yearly £1,500, monthly unlimited £150

Great for: Personalised attention to get you to your fitness goals
Less great: No shower facilities and limited changing facilities, a little far from West Hampstead Stations
January offers: Exclusive West Hampstead Life offer (see above).

Good luck!

It was 56 years ago today, Decca said the Beatles couldn’t play

On a very cold New Year’s Day in 1962 the Beatles arrived in West Hampstead for their audition at Decca Studios.

The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein had several record shops in Liverpool and had a meeting with the marketing people at Decca. They told Dick Rowe – Decca’s A&R (Artists and Repertoire) manager – about The Beatles and he sent his assistant Mike Smith to Liverpool to see them at The Cavern on 13 December 1961. Smith was very impressed by the audience reaction and an audition was arranged in London for 1st January 1962.

Back in 1962, New Year’s Day wasn’t a public holiday but Dick Rowe was away, and it was left to Mike Smith to organise the session. Brian Epstein travelled to London by train, but John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and drummer Pete Best, had to drive down the previous day in a van with their equipment. The freezing weather, with fog and snow, meant the journey took ten hours instead of the usual five. After getting lost, The Beatles finally arrived at the Royal Hotel in Woburn Place around 10pm on New Year’s Eve. Pete Best (who was replaced by Ringo Starr later that year) recalled what happened:

“Brian Epstein had read the riot act to us before we went down to London. You know, be good little boys, you mustn’t be out after 10 o’clock. And there we were with everyone else in the middle of Trafalgar Square as drunk as skunks. We were late getting to the Decca Studios the next day. Brian was there before us. He was livid and tore a strip off us left, right and centre. John said, Brian shut up, we are here for the audition’. (From: Love Me Do; the Beatles ‘62, TV documentary 2012).

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The boys arrived at the Broadhurst Gardens studio at 11 o’clock and were not at their best after a long journey and a night of heavy drinking. Mike Smith was more than hour late himself, having been held up by the snow, and Epstein was very annoyed. They briefly met Tony Meehan who went into the producer’s box. He had grown up in West Hampstead and been the drummer with Cliff Richard and the Shadows before working as an assistant producer at Decca. The Beatles started to set up their equipment but the Decca engineers asked them to use the studio amplifiers as the group’s were in poor condition.

Over the next few hours The Beatles played 15 songs, mostly cover versions; only three were Lennon and McCartney originals (Like Dreamers Do, Hello Little Girl and Love Of The Loved). Epstein had persuaded them to do a set that he thought would show their range of ability, including Besame Mucho, The Sheik Of Araby, Money and Till There Was You. Lennon and McCartney later said they had wanted to include more rock numbers. Epstein thought the audition had gone well and he treated the boys to a meal at a restaurant in Swiss Cottage recommended by Mike Smith.

Mike Smith at Decca

Later that same afternoon, Brian Poole and the Tremeloes auditioned at Decca. After the auditions Mike Smith wanted to sign both groups but Dick Rowe said they could only take one and told Smith to choose. He went with the Tremeloes because their audition was better than The Beatles’ and he thought it would be easier to work with a Dagenham band than a Liverpool-based group. Smith lived nearby in Barking.

The Tremeloes at Decca

After numerous phone calls, Epstein was invited to lunch with Dick Rowe and the head of marketing on the 6 February. He was told that Decca had decided not to sign The Beatles. In his autobiography Epstein said he couldn’t believe his ears.

“You must be out of your tiny little minds! These boys are going to explode. I am completely confident that one day they will be bigger than Elvis Presley!”

He said that Rowe told him:

“Not to mince words, Mr Epstein, we don’t like your boys’ sound. Groups of guitars are on the way out …. Your boys are never going to get off the ground. We know what we’re talking about. You really should stick to selling recordings in Liverpool.” (From: Brian Epstein, A Cellarful of Noise London: Souvenir, 1964).

Dick Rowe strongly denied that he said this, and believes that Epstein was so annoyed that the Beatles had been turned down that he made it up. But the story stuck and Rowe went down in history as ‘the man who turned down the Beatles’. But this is unfair because it was Mike Smith who made the decision. And he wasn’t alone; as Rolling Stones manager Andrew Oldham pointed out in his autobiography, “Everybody turned them down. Columbia, Oriole, Philips and Pye turned the Beatles down, based on what they heard from the Decca session”.

Epstein left the Decca meeting with the tapes of the audition. He stayed in London for a few days and on 8 February he met Bob Boast, the manager of the large HMV record shop in Oxford Street. They knew each other from a seminar in Hamburg and got on well. Boast was not very impressed with the recording tapes in Decca boxes and suggested that Epstein go upstairs where there was a studio that could make copies onto disk. He thought these would look better when Epstein approached the other record companies. The disk-cutter Jim Foy was impressed by the fact that Lennon and McCartney had composed three tracks, as it was unusual at this time for a band to write their own material. Foy told EMI’s head of publishing Sid Coleman who arranged a meeting with George Martin, who was then the head of A&R at Parlophone, part of EMI.

You can listen to 10 tracks from the Decca session for yourself in the video at the top of the article.

Most critics agree that it’s hard to appreciate the Beatles’ potential from this material. They didn’t perform well nor did their unique talent emerge. The original tapes were recently sold at auction to a Japanese collector for £35,000.

You can hear Mike Smith, Pete Best and Brian Poole talking about their memories of the audition after 40 years:

Epstein met George Martin on 13 February 1962. Martin was not particularly impressed by the Decca sessions demo either, but he admired the confidence Epstein had in the Beatles and he was struck by the freshness of the three original compositions. In May, Martin told Epstein that he wanted to sign the group and the deal was done on 4 June, two days before their audition at Abbey Road. The band recorded their first hit, Love Me Do, there in September. It was released on 5 October and reached number 17 in the charts. Their second single, Please Please Me, was released on 11 January 1963 and reached number 1 in the NME and Melody Maker charts.

Liked the Rolling Stones
Although Decca did not sign the Beatles, it did get the Rolling Stones. On 10 May 1963, Dick Rowe and George Harrison were judges at a local talent competition at the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool. George told Dick Rowe about a band he had seen who were very good. Dick returned to London and saw the Rolling Stones at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond where they had a residency. Four days later he signed them to Decca. Their first single was Chuck Berry’s Come On, which was re-recorded at Decca Studios and released on 7 June. It reached number 21 in the charts. Shrewdly, manager Andrew Oldham wanted to retain the performing rights of the music and he produced most of the Stones’ other records at independent studios and then leased them to Decca.

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Despite being lumbered with the tag of the man who turned down The Beatles, Dick Rowe in fact had a long and successful time at Decca. He went on to sign The Animals, The Moody Blues, The Zombies, Them (with Van Morrison), The Small Faces, Lulu and Tom Jones among many others. He died from diabetes in June 1986 at his home in Greenwich.

A rich history
What of the studio itself?

The building in Broadhurst Gardens was built around 1884 as a workshop and then converted into West Hampstead Town Hall. Despite its name, this was not a public building but a private venue that could be rented for weddings and concerts.

In 1928, it became the recording studio of the Crystalate Record Company. During the depression of the 1930s, small independent record companies struggled to survive. Decca and EMI bought most of them and became great rivals. EMI opened its Abbey Road studios in November 1931, and in 1937, Crystalate was acquired by Decca which moved all its recording to Broadhurst Gardens. Thousands of records were made here by Decca until the company left in 1981. As well as many classical records, these included sessions by David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Tom Jones, Lulu, Van Morrison, The Moody Blues, and Eric Clapton with John Mayall.

In its final form there were three main studios at Decca:
Studio 1: straight ahead as you entered the building, with the control room upstairs above the studios. This was used for many pop records.
Studio 2: a smaller room, was downstairs and was the main rock & roll and blues studio.
Studio 3: was opened in 1962 at the back of the building, and was large enough to take a full orchestra. Bing Crosby made one of his last albums, Feels Good, Feels Right, here in August 1976.

In 1974, The Moody Blues did a deal with Decca and took over Studio 1 as their Threshold Studios. They had made their previous albums at Decca and they recorded Long Distance Voyager at Threshold.

In 1980, Sir Edward Lewis, who created Decca in 1929, died. The company was sold to Polygram, and is now part of the Universal Music Group. The building on Broadhurst Gardens is now Lilian Baylis House, used by the English National Opera who took it over in November 1981.

Back in October 2017, I was asked by a Dutch radio station to give them a tour of the old Decca studios – it was also filmed and you can watch it here (the first bit is in Dutch, but the rest is all in English)

What have you missed in 2017?

Hope you are all having a peaceful and relaxing holiday. We’ll kick off with the news over the past ten days, and then we thought we’d do a quick “news review” of the year.

A local carol singer raised over £100,000 over the past 40 years. Hallelujah!

A new restaurant is recruiting already. Could ‘HAM’ be where Brioche was?

The Iverson Road Space didn’t reopen by Christmas as planned, but should reopen in January.

Although the plague of moped thefts has eased, there have been a couple recently: outside the tube station and another outside Waitrose. So this is still an issue. It only takes a second to loose your phone.

It’s the final week for consultation on the pedestrianisation of part of Oxford Street. The 139 would be one of just two buses that would continue to pass along the street.

The Fortune Green Safer Neighbourhood Team cracked down on rogue landlords in West Hampstead, with Sun journalists in tow.

A gang of (pretty hapless) burglars who smashed their way into Banana Tree back in May (and five other premises) were sentenced to jail.

YEAR IN REVIEW

The year started with a bang in January when a green Porsche smashed into Lena’s Café.

Work began in earnest on the Overground station upgrade. It’s running a little behind schedule, but not too much. Passenger numbers passing though the three West Hampstead stations topped 20 million for the first time.

Planning continued to dominate as a local issue, with the controversial redevelopment of 156 WEL approved in February. Travis Perkins is still trying to get the decision reversed or delayed in the courts but is running out of options. The Ballymore flats at West Hampstead Square FINALLY welcomed their first occupants in late January, eighteen months late. And the most recent scheme for Gondar Gardens came up for consultation.

There was a new recycling regime! Introduced on April 1st it didn’t exactly run smoothly. Even six months later there were still issues.

And on that note we took a walk up West End Lane. Like the one we took down the Kilburn High Road.

Christmas trees can be recycled too… all the details are here: Please don’t dump them on the street, like someone from West Hampsted Square appeared to do on Boxing Day!?

and the winner for the first fly tipped Christmas tree of the season is …. as spotted by @ciano_ire (in fact it was beaten by this one – dumped a week before Christmas!)

There were a number of coming and goings ; M&S opened in FebruaryLadudu closed in March and Rosa’s opened on the same site. Lola’s Bakery joined the West End Lane cafés, while on Mill Lane, the Kitchen Table closed to be replaced by the MillHouse.

Father Andrew stepped down from St. James Church (a.k.a. the Sheriff Centre) in May (but remains the postmaster for the time being).

In June there was (another) general election. At the start of campaigning, the polls and bookies tipped the Tories to win Hampstead & Kilburn from Labour, but in the end Tulip won with a margin of over 15,000

Also in June, with worries about terrorist incidents in many people’s minds, West End Lane was closed off with concern about a chemical smell.

There was a very visible rise in moped-enabled crime in the area particularly in the latter half of the year with a spate of mobile phone thefts; and two guys were arrested when their moped was cornered by police after a man was stabbed to death after an attempted robbery of his phone in Maida Vale. There have been other arrests and things have improved, but it is still an issue.

It was our 300th newsletter in October!

Finally, after more than 600 days in prison, things are looking more positive for West Hampstead resident Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (Freudian typo corrected). Richard, her husband has kept her name in the news. There was a tying of ribbons round a tree on Fortune Green at Easter to mark one year in prison, and a march in November. She celebrated her birthday on Boxing Day and may be eligible for early release next month.

Coming up

There is a very interesting (monthly) concert series starting at the Sheriff Centre, sponsored by Bechstein pianos.

First one on Friday January 5th is a recital by tenor Mark Padmore accompanied by Andrew West on Piano. The following wednesday they are playing the same concert – in the Cologne Philharmonic Hall!

Tweet of the week

The campaign for a lift at West Hampstead Station received some (very local) support…

West Hampstead Christmas survival guide

Christmas day is nearly upon us, so just in the (St) Nick of time, here are a few helpful tips to make everything go smoothly.

St. Lukes Church’s stained glass

When are the local church services?

At Emmanuel Church things kick off with carols on West End Green at 4pm on Saturday 23rd, followed by mulled wine in the Church. Christmas Eve has regular services in the morning, with a 6pm children’s crib service and at 11pm a midnight mass. On Christmas day there is an ‘all-age’ eucharist at 10am, where children are invited to bring an unopened present to open during the service.

At St.Lukes in Kidderpore Avenue, technically not in West Hampstead although the parish covers the top part, they are offering carols round the tree at 3pm on Sunday, a midnight mass at 11pm and a morning eucharist on Christmas day at 11am.

unfortunately, St. James (on Sheriff Road) and St. Mary’s All Souls haven’t got their details available at the moment.

What time are the pubs open?

The Black Lion is open on Christmas Eve from 10am to 11pm, on Christmas Day from 12pm to 5pm (drinks only, unless you have booked lunch (£55 and needs to be pre-booked)), on Boxing Day from 12pm to 11pm.

The Railway is open Christmas Eve from 11am to 11pm, on Christmas Day from 12pm to 5pm (drinks only, unless you have booked lunch (£49.99 and needs to be pre-booked)), on Boxing Day from 11pm to 11pm .

The Alice House is open too and has slightly longer hours as it is open Christmas Eve from 9:30am to 12:30am, on Christmas Day from 12pm to 6pm (drinks only, unless you have booked lunch which needs to be pre-booked)), on Boxing day from 10am to 1am.

When will my rubbish be collected?

For Christmas week, rubbish collections will be two days later than normal, and for New Year’s week one day later. You can check for yourself, here.

How can I recycle my Christmas tree?

The Council iw providing a free recycling service for Christmas trees from 2nd January to the 12th. There will be the usual collection points at the bottom of Fortune Green and the Messina Avenue end of Kilburn Grange Park.

Can I expect any disruption to travel?

In an nutshell, yes quite a lot. All services at closed on Christmas Day with a reduced service on Boxing Day. But to complicate matters further there are quite a few disruptions to service beyond that.

Thameslink has engineering works over the Christmas break. Services will be shutting down from 8pm on the 24th, there will be no service on Monday 25th AND Tuesday 26th (nor any Gatwick Express for those of you trying to get to Gatwick) but there will be a limited bus service to Gatwick.

Aside from Christmas and Boxing Day disruption there will be no cross London services on Thameslink either, as trains will be terminating at St. Pancras from the 23rd December to the 1st January. However, from St. Pancras you can get the tube to London Bridge and connect to Thameslink services south from there.

London Overground is also undergoing engineering works and there will be no service from Highbury and Islington to Dalston Junction (until Sat 30th), nor any service between Camden Road and Stratford (also until the 30th) There will be a bus replacement service but you might want to consider other routes.

What will be open…?

Apart from the churches and the pubs, the ice rink at JW3 will be open, even on Christmas Day… a different way to work off the Christmas dinner, some tickets are still available for Christmas Day but please book in advance.

A walk up West End Lane

Following our recent walk down the Kilburn High Road, we took a similar walk up West End Lane. Joining us was John Saynor, chair of WHAT (West Hampstead Amenity and Transport), which takes a keen interest in these matters too.

We didn’t really focus on the litter situation, because – dare I say it – it seems a bit better, although we aren’t counting our chickens, or the discarded fried chicken containers.  Instead, we focused on the street clutter and particularly the A-boards that can obstruct pavements.

Without getting too technical (and with apologies for those who read the KHR piece), I’m going to introduce the word ‘curtilage’ at this point. This means the space between your property and the public highway, but which is still your land. Within reason you can do what want – deck it, put up an A-board or set out goods for sale.

However, if any of these activities take place on the public footpath then people have the right to be miffed. In fact it’s a planning infringement that must be rectified. A well maintained high street keeps the pavement clear and makes sure that it is wide enough for pedestrians (including those with buggies, or in wheelchairs) to pass in opposite directions. There are London planning standards for this – the pedestrian comfort guidance, which recommends a minimum of 3 metres width for a busy pedestrian pavement like West End Lane.

Of course shop-owners put their A-boards out to try to grab some extra custom, a manager might change and not realise the rules (implicit or explicit) or a contractor will put out warning signs and leave them, so there needs to be regular vigilance to ensure that pavements don’t get overrun with signage or other commercial undertakings.

However, the situation is not always clear-cut. At some points the pavement is narrow and any obstruction is a potential hazard, at others it is wide and it’s not such a problem. The width of the curtilage also varies, so at some points, a shopkeeper can put out an A-board but in others, where there is no curtilage they can’t, which can seem ‘unfair’.

With all this in mind, we started our walk by the stations. For years, locals have been campaigning to ensure that the pavements around and between the stations are widened and kept clutter free to ensure easy (and safe) movement of pedestrians. There have been improvements over recent years, but the recent attempt by a phonebox company to install some phone boxes here would have undone all the hard work. Thankfully Camden turned the application down. The situation will also be improved when the Overground station is finished as it will be set much further back, removing a dangerous pinch point on the pavement.

Outside the tube station, we spotted these freebie newspaper containers. They don’t look great and cause a certain amount of disruption to pedestrians in a busy section.  In the past, they have been removed, but they seem to be creeping back. Who is responsible for sorting this out? WHAT takes an interest in these matters, but is it anyone’s responsibility to report infringements? Is it the role of the Neighbourhood Development Forum? What about the thousands of local commuters who walk past daily, or the local councillors, or street cleaners or community police officers?

We asked the local councillors about this and Cllr Lorna Russell replied that the Council do rely on members of the public to flag issues as they can’t have eyes and ears everywhere. However, many people don’t know what needs reporting and even if they do, don’t know how best to report it. Likewise, the councillors themselves report things – they are avid users of the Clean Camden app.

Sometimes an issue can be dealt with by having a quiet word. Other times official action is needed and the council has to take charge.

Here is a good example. This redundant sign (from the Overground crane works) was left there throughout the week even on the very narrowest sections of pavement. A quick call to the Overground building works team got agreement to store them during the week. Success! It’s since reappeared 🙁 and now sits off to one side.

Next up we cross the road to Banana Tree. The restaurant has just lost an appeal and will have to remove its decking. The pavement is not terribly narrow here, so some will judge this a little harsh. However, the restaurant’s A-board does narrow the pavement further.  As a rule of thumb, you’re not going to get an A-board and decking on your curtilage, you have to pick one. And it’s not clear where Banana Tree’s curtilage is, if it has it at all.

Some of you will remember that this time last year the Alice House had a similar issue with their decking. It was a bit different though, as it was clear it was on their curtilage and the issue was more about the height of the decking.

Further up West End Lane, there was a particularly egregious example of a creeping A-boards by Bobby Fitzpatrick, right in the middle of the pavement! Naughty.  You can see how Bobby’s has put chairs and tables out on their curtilage, just as its predecessor La Brocca did, but that A-board is as cheeky as a 1970s comedy.

On the other side of West End Lane, Cedar restaurant too has decked out its curtilage but sometimes puts an A-board out too.

And right at the top of West End Lane, Schnitzel has three A-boards including one which narrows the zebra crossing.

Back down West End Lane, Lola’s is a recent arrival and it has started putting out an A-board too – sometimes partly on the pavement. Even though it has a relatively wide curtilage, it still had to apply for planning permission to put out tables and chairs, but again it’s the A-board that causes the most disruption, particularly because the public pavement is relatively narrow and busy.

There is good news here though, as a quiet word with one of the managers led to the compromise of putting the board as close to the planter as possible, which makes a significant difference.

It’s not all bad news. Here’s an A-board nearly placed on a premise’s curtilage. Gold star to West End Lane Books!

Outside the library we looked at the planting and seating.  It’s sad that this has been neglected since being installed a couple of years ago. Again there is a question of who is responsible for maintaining it.  It was originally installed when the Lib-Dem/Conservatives coalition gave areas the ability to choose projects they wanted, and this was one. Indeed it was very popular in this NDF survey. So it’s shame it’s been neglected.

We also noticed that some of the bus stops and seats were very grubby with an accumulation of dirt that a good jet wash would deal with. If it hasn’t been done by early March, then maybe it’s something for the Great British Spring Clean on March 2-4, 2018.

All in all, things weren’t bad (and better than the Kilburn High Road). But there is still room for improvement, though it remains unclear who is responsible for reporting the problems that do exist.

20 exciting and unusual Christmas presents from West Hampstead

Andy Williams might have sung ‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year’, but for most of us it’s the rack-our-brains-for-a-present time of the year. If that describes you here are some present ideas from just down the road.

First stop, Seasons the Cookshop, it’s a small independent kitchen store with a really nice range of stock. Popular this Christmas is a very chic set of cheese knives (£17.99), a set of Peugeot salt and pepper grinders (£39.99 normally £31 each) and the ever-stylish Le Creuset mugs (£15). They are also good for stocking fillers for the foodie in your life.

Chic cheese knives (£17.99 with stand, £13.99 without), salt n’ pepper (£39.99) and Le Creuset mug (£15)

Sticking with the food, why not order your whole Christmas dinner?! Crocker’s Folly (the pub in Lisson Grove), which we grant you is a bit outside West Hampstead, is offering Christmas in a hamper – they will cook and deliver a £8kg turkey (enough for 16) a choice of sides, plus mince pies all for £120.

Another local food options is some homemade jams and chutneys from The Well Preserved jam company. They are offering special Christmas packaging and will be at the farmer’s market on Saturday 23rd. Particular favourites of mine include the orange and whiskey, lemon, gin and tonic, and chilli jam but they have a wide selection to suit all tastes.

Crochet your own tie (£11), or toy (£25), mini cross stitch kits (around £10)

New on the block (well new and expanded) is the Village Haberdashery. If you haven’t been up yet (it’s above M&S) do pop up and take a look.

For present ideas, I liked the crochet your own tie kit (£11) – it requires no previous experience and only takes 5 hours (full disclosure, not only did I end up buying one for myself but when I showed it to my most stylish friend, she promptly put it on the list for her son). Other ideas included mini-cross stitch kits (around £10), a crochet your own toy (£25) and an all-the-rage-on Instagram mini wall-hanging set (£14.95 for the kit and £14.95 for the wool).

They also offer a variety of classes and workshops (£45 to £95, more for multi-day courses). And not just sewing (although they do have those too – including with Charlotte Newland (winner of the Great British Sewing Bee)). Other workshops include modern calligraphy and lino printing. How about offering a workshop place as a present?

If you would rather try something different then how about a pottery taster course with Freya Bramble-Carter? She was a contestant on this year’s Great Pottery Throw Down and has a studio (actually she shares it with her father) in the Kingsgate Workshops. They offer Saturday afternoon taster courses (£45), Sunday morning taster courses for teens (£30), and adult four-week pottery courses (£150).

Or what about a luxury sleeping bag from West Hampstead based Sleeping Beauties? They come in a range of boho – but tasteful- patterns and each one (singles £64.99) includes not only a matching pillowcase but also (matching) eyeshade. How chic! And for Christmas, they are introducing a double sleeping bag (£139.99). Orders can be collected from the Village Haberdashery to make life simple. How did you survive at Latitude without one?

Persons Unknown, How Not To Be A Boy, The Art of Failing, & Cats of West Hampstead. (Not shown Little Me).

Being a literary crowd, books are always a popular choice and so what’s on the shelves at West End Lane Books? Of course, any book is available – with a smile, but we thought of these four West Hampstead options; Robert Webb’s ‘How Not To Be A Boy’ (signed copies in again this week), Susie Steiner’s ‘Person’s Unknown’, Anthony McGowan’s ‘The Art of Failing’ and for cat-lovers (or dogs) ‘The Cats of West Hampstead’ and if I could squeeze in another one, ‘Little Me’ by Matt Lucas.

Another popular local choice for presents is Achillea on Mill Lane, which is offering some stunning door wreaths at the moment (£35 to £65) and table ornaments. However, from time to time they also offer workshops (£100) – they next one is in March, just before Mother’s day, on ‘dressing the Spring table’ and includes making a Spring centrepiece. Christmas and Mother’s Day present in one. Result!

Finally, not to forget the Sheriff Centre which has a good selection of kids presents and stocking fillers.  So there you are, plenty of present ideas all in West Hampstead, both objects and also ‘experiences’. Merry Christmas!

Luxury retirement development ‘can’t afford’ to pay for affordable housing

West Hampstead is facing yet another large-scale property development. It’s the third proposal to redevelop the site at the former Gondar Gardens reservoir. The history of the previous proposals have been well documented on these pages, but what really caught our eye about this one was that it offers no affordable housing either on-site or as a payment for development elsewhere. Previous schemes have offered about 35% affordable housing. The developers claim that as a care-home they are not legally obliged – but even if they were, according to their sums they couldn’t afford it!

A quick recap

There have been three planning applications for this site over the past eight years. Gondar Gardens is designated a site of importance for nature conservation (it has Camden’s only population of slow worms). Developer Linden Homes’ first scheme proposed 16 houses built low in the cavity of the old reservoir (the ‘pit’  or ‘Teletubbies’ scheme) with an off-site affordable housing contribution of £6.8 million. The second proposal was to build along the frontage of Gondar Gardens (the ‘frontage’ scheme’), which was turned down as the design wasn’t good enough. A revised frontage scheme was submitted for 28 flats, or which 10 were affordable plus a small additional off-site contribution. This scheme was approved on appeal and thus we all expected that Linden Homes would build this scheme and that would be that.

There’s a new developer on the scene

Instead, Linden Homes sold the site to a new developer, LifeCare Residences (LCR). LCR, which started in New Zealand, builds what it terms “exceptional retirement communities”. Here in the UK, it has one in Hampshire and another in Battersea. In West Hampstead, it’s proposing to build Persephone Gardens. Classicists will know that Persephone is the Queen of the Underworld. Odd choice of reference for a retirement village.

For Gondar Gardens, LCR proposes 82 self-care retirement apartments with a total residential floor space of 7,662m2. The flats include 7 one-bedroom, 62 two-bedroom and 13 three-bedroom flats.  The total floor space of the whole development is 14,088m2 – almost double the floor space of the previous two schemes combined. Both of the previous schemes included about 35% affordable housing, although Camden’s (rarely achieved) target is 50%.

If this new scheme followed its predecessors, one would expect at least 30-40 affordable flats. But the plans show that none at all are proposed – nor is there any off-site contribution.

LCR is, however, building extra facilities for the residents on site because it is a retirement home, including a 15-bed nursing home. But it also plans ‘communal’ facilities – and what facilities: a lounge, a library, a restaurant and bar, and a café, an indoor exercise and rehabilitation pool, a gym. Wow! That’s a lot, you’re thinking. There is more: a hair salon, treatment rooms (of course), the sun lounge and, oh yes, a cinema. And of course a whole host of back-of-house areas for the staff.

The chauffeur-driven cars on site have already raised a few eyebrows. The development will be car-free, so LCR is planning to have chauffer-driven BMW i3s, like at its Battersea site, at the beck and call of residents, and for those who want to be ferried around in more comfort, a couple of Audi A8s too.

Are you beginning to notice something all the residents have in common?

If this all sounds rather luxurious, that it is the intention. Comparing the flat sizes to Mayor of London’s recommended size for new developments, LCR’s are generously proportioned. The flats are substantially bigger than the recommended size for flats in the London plan; e.g. the one-beds are 69m2 vs a recommended 50m2; the two-bed and three bedroom flats similarly generous.

The architects Robin Partington stated in the Design and Access statement: LCR’s brief requires the apartments to be larger than national space standards. Residents are typically downsizing from big family homes, and although there are only 1-2 people living in each apartment, space is appreciated to maintain their way of life and house their belongings“.

Finally, a non-white face in the promo images – he’s a waiter!

The luxury nature of the development is reflected also in the viability statement: “In the assessment of market values, which have been provided by Savills we understand that the specification of the common parts and apartments will be of a very high quality and reflective of the luxury retirement living that the scheme will deliver.

Why no affordable housing?

The first argument is a bit technical and has to do with use classes. LCR states that the flats should be designated as class C2 (hospital or nursing home) rather than C3 (housing). It’s understandable that the 15-bed nursing home would be C2, but the 82 flats? One common way to determine if a property is C2 or C3, is the ‘front door test’. If residents have their own lockable front door, then the flats should be C3, and it seems that would be the case here in these generous flats. To get around this definition, LCR will offer a couple of hours of assistance per week, whether the residents want it or not.

This approach has been tried before. Another retirement home developer, Pegasus Life, tried the same idea for the equally luxurious Hampstead Green Place on Rowland Hill in Hampstead. It argued the housing was C2 (offering 1.5 hours of care a week) but lost the argument and the 60 flats are being built as C3.

The other argument used by LCR is the standard plea of poverty – or at least too low a profit margin.

Linden Homes bought the site from Thames Water for £3 million, and those proposals allowed for £6.8 million to affordable housing in the first scheme and 10 affordable flats in the second. Linden Homes sold the site to LCR for £11 million according to the Land Registry records.

What does the viability statement say?

*Warning it’s going to get a bit complicated here, but bear with us, it’s important*

LCR commissioned property consultancy Rapleys to write a viability report to submit with the planning application. It’s hard to follow as it’s redacted, but it is possible to make some educated guesses as to what the numbers might add up to on a development of this scale, with the help of industry insiders.

To reach its conclusion, Rapleys had to calculate the “residual land value”, which is Gross Development Value (basically “revenue from the sale of flats”) minus costs, planning contributions, and profit (typically assessed at around 20%). This is then compared to an appropriate benchmark value to assess the viability of affordable housing contributions.

Let’s do the sums.

First, the gross development value. To calculate this, we need to know how much private flats like these would be worth? We have a  good benchmark with the high-end West Hampstead Square development, which also has some amenities (though nothing in the league of the proposal from LCR). Gondar Gardens is further from the stations, which makes it cheaper, but also not between two train lines. On balance it’s easy to argue Gondar Gardens would sell for more than West Hampstead Square, but WH Square will be a good benchmark. On this basis (looking at recent resales), a 69m2 one-bed flat in Gondar Gardens would be £825,000, a two-bed 90m2 flat £995,000, and a three-bed flat a cool £1.35 million.

(Interestingly, in nearby Hampstead, Pegasus Life is marketing two posh retirement schemes although with fewer amenities. Nevertheless, at one of these schemes, the cheapest two-bed flat is on for £2.95 million, so we may we wildly underestimating Gondar Gardens).

Sticking with the Ballymore equivalents, the sale of the flats would generate approximately £85 million. The fifteen extra care beds have a market value, like all care-home beds, of about £295,000 each, so are valued at £4.5 million. Adding the two together gives a total gross development value of £89 million.

Now we need to look at the costs of development. Rapleys don’t disclose the construction costs but based on this nearby scheme (which is equally modern, but a bit less posh), we estimate construction costs for a development like LCR’s would be about £2,500/m2 for the 14,088m2. This is perhaps the number with the most margin for error in our calculations given that just under half of the development is taken up with all those facilities. However, LCR is effectively arguing that building all these extra luxury facilities means it won’t have any money to build affordable housing.  By comparison, a normal housing development would have 10-15% of ancillary space (corridors, communal areas etc).

In total, we estimate build costs of around £35 million. Add to that a 5% contingency (£1.75 million), professional fees at 10% of costs (£3.5 million) and marketing fees – 2% of GDV to sell the flats (£1.6 million).

Then there are community infrastructure levy (CIL) costs (this is the money that developers pay local councils and City Hall to help offset the additional public sector costs incurred by having more people and development in the area). Normally CIL is calculated on the increase in residential floor space, as this is the driver of any additional strain on local resources. For Gondar Gardens, LCR is arguing that the increase in area is 9,242m2, not 14,088m2, using the empty and derelict reservoir space of 4,866m2 as the “existing use”. There is a clear change of use, so it’s not clear why LCR does not using the full 14,088m2 to calculate their contribution.

Under its proposal, Camden would receive a CIL contribution of £2,310,500 and City Hall would take £462,100 (if the full development area was used, there would be an additional £2 million of combined CIL due).

Revenue minus costs, therefore, is calculated as £89 million less build costs of £35 million, a contingency of £1.75 million, marketing fees of £1.6 million, professional fees of £3.5 million and a total CIL of £2.75 million. That gives a gross profit of £44.m million. The accepted 20% profit margin of the GDV is £17.7 million, which leaves a residual land value of £26.7 million. The numbers are obviously not exact but our industry insiders agree this is a good ballpark figure.

This residual land value basically translates to “extra profit”, which means that it’s where contributions to affordable housing would come from. Recall, that based on a much smaller scheme, Linden Homes was offering a contribution of more than £6 million. If LCR was to make a contribution then using the calculations from the Pegasus schemes in Hampstead (for which Rapleys also produced the viability report) it would deliver a £10.6 million contribution.

Yet below is their redacted claim that they can’t afford any affordable housing contribution.

Our estimate of the residual land value of £26.7 million is considerably more than the £11 million LCR paid for the site. Even if we deduct an affordable housing contribution of £10 million (which, LCR claims it can’t afford), that would still leave a residual value of £16.7 million – still more than the cost of buying the site. Even if our building costs are wrong, they would have to be substantial underestimations to soak up all this residual value. It is therefore hard to understand how no affordable housing contribution at all is deemed viable. Perhaps the expected sale value of the flats is far lower than comparable schemes.

LCR/Rapleys instructed Carter Jonas to carry out an independent valuation of the site to form the benchmark value. They don’t disclose this, but obviously it would be interesting to know how it compares to the £11 million that LCR paid for the site (bear in mind also, that the site comes with planning permission for the revised frontage scheme and its £6.8 million affordable housing contribution).

LCR told us that that have commissioned a further independent assessment of the assessment and were in discussion with Camden’s appointed surveyor, but had no further comment.

Conclusion

This proposal illustrates a significant flaw in the planning system that gives an advantage to developers of luxury retirement schemes. First, such developers are incentivised to claim such schemes are care home and not housing, even if they pass the front door test. Then, the more luxurious they make it and the more ancillary facilities they offer (and have to pay for), the more they can avoid making any affordable housing contribution.

This analysis has also been an interesting insight into the Alice-in-Wonderland economics of viability reporting. It’s important stuff, but too often developers deploy smoke and mirrors around the planning department and unless at least some members of the public understand what is going on developers get away with it. Why, for example, should so many of the figures be redacted? We had the same situation with Liddell Road, which was publicly owned land and being used partly for a public amenity.

Part of this is due to the merry-go-round of a developer buying a site and getting planning permission for one scheme and then selling it on to another, ratching up the base value. One reason for the planning system is to capture some of the financial gain when land is redesignated for another use. Yet it appears developers can drive a chauffer-drive BMWi3 though that objective.

Baby boomers lucky enough to have bought their houses in the 1970s and 80s and have made huge windfall gains. They now get sell them and move into luxury retirement flats that avoid the requirement to build affordable housing. A competing developer that was building ordinary flats for young people and young hard-working families would have to build affordable housing. Sorry, Generation Rent, it’s heads you lose, tails they win.

Twelve things to do in West Hampstead in December

There’s always a (snow) flurry of things to do in December, the challenge is fitting them all in between the socialising and recovering from socialising that seems to define the final few weeks of the year.

We don’t have to credit Tim Mossholder for the image, but we would like to. Seasons greetings Tim!

On Saturday 9th, from 7.30-9.30 pm is the Hampstead Chorus Autumn concert with Gabriel Faure’s Requiem, Francis Poulenc’s Gloria and The Heavens and the Heart by James Francis Brown. They sing at UCS and you can get tickets here.

For something a little lighter, on Thursday 14th at 7.30 pm in Emmanuel Church – and with some audience participation – the Fortune Green choir is holding its concert with a guest appearance from Cantereas (a vocal ensemble based in West Hampstead). It should be a really nice concert, and it is raising money for the Mayor of Camden’s chosen charity – C4WS, the homeless charity that operates out of Emmanuel Church. The Mayor will be attending. The suggested donation is £5 (with mulled wine and mince pies afterwards).

If you’re after something a bit more serious, then on Saturday 16th, the Hampstead Chamber Choir is celebrating a European Christmas, also in Emmanuel Church. Audience participation in the carols here too. Tickets are £12.

Something for the younger residents?

On Saturday 9th at the Community Centre is a holiday gifts workshop. Make a present for granny, she will love it! And who knows your kid might even make it into the John Lewis ad next year…

Then on Wedensday 14th, the ever-popular Sherriff Centre Panto is back. Oh, no it isn’t. Oh, yes it… save me from this please. But it is already fully booked – oh no it isn… yes, yes it is. This year it is Sleeping Beauty.

For the even younger residents, there is a not-very-Christmassy-but-who-cares Baby Broadway concert on Saturday 16th at 11 am in Emmanuel Church. You can get tickets here.

Something a bit more entertaining?

On Monday 11th at West End Lane Books, Nina Stibbe will read from “An Almost Perfect Christmas”. It’s at 7.30 pm and free, but is also a chance to pick up a copy of the book (and pay for it too, obvs). Looks like quite a nice stocking filler/Christmassy present. (Please reserve a place).

The JW3 Icerink opened again on the 3rd and will be open until Sunday, January 7th. It’s closed on Sabbaths but will be open on the 25th and 26th December so something to do on Christmas day or Boxing day to work off the calories. And oddly, it’s sponsored by a … firm of accountants!

On Monday 18th at the Alliance, it’s the Christmas offering from Locally Sourced with actress Annette Badland and an anthology of seasonal delights. She’s a familiar face on TV (and voice on radio – she’s  Hazel on the Archers!) Also appearing will be pianist Kat Gillham and baritone Phil Wilcox, so expect some Christmas melodies. This could be a lot of fun.

With the closure of the Good Ship, things comedic do seem a little thin on the ground in the ‘hood, however, something new(ish) on the radar is the London Improv theatre. They have what looks like some really good events coming up. Starting with… “God, the Untold Story” , on December 5th, 6th and 7th.

I liked the look of the Glenda J collective on Friday 15th, but it’s… you guessed it, sold out.

Also on the bill is Slattery Night Fever on Saturdays December 16th and 23rd. Booking recommended to see one of the original Whose Line is it Anyway greats.

Indeed, there is a whole host of other events including Improv Friday with a double bill of the Inflatables/Music Box. Last time I went, a group of mates sitting next to me had been to celebrate a friend’s birthday and these seem like go-with-a-couple-of-mates kind of things to do.

Finally, it’s not very Christmassy but the current Camden Arts Centre exhibitions are worth seeing both Natalie du Pasquier and Christian Nyampeta. A nice destination for an afternoon walk, and there is a rather good café too!

So there you are good dozen suggestions of things to do this month. We’ll cover the Christmas services separately.

An Insight into: Mill Lane Barbers

Among the ebb and flow of businesses on Mill Lane there are a couple of constants; Mill Lane Barbers is one of them. To get the view from the barber’s chair, WHL popped in to as Prod, the owner, was preparing for the day. Prod’s family is Greek-Cypriot by origin, although he was born and grew up in north London. His full name is Prodromos Prodromou, which sounds exotic to Anglo-Saxon ears, until you realise that the English equivilent would be John Johnson.

Always a cheery welcome at the Mill Lane Barbers.

Before setting up his own business Prod was a freelance barber. Fifteen years ago, yes it’s been that long since it first opened, Prod decided to open his own barbershop on Mill Lane. Over time he’s been joined in his team by Vas and George.

What brought you to West Hampstead?
“To be honest it was my wife, or more correctly at the time girlfriend. She was living in Brondesbury Park and we would come over here for dinner or a coffee. I just liked the feel of the area, it was a good, busy area.

So when I was thinking of opening my own barbershop it was the obvious choice. I was (and still am) living in Finchley which was saturated with barbers. Here in West Hampstead, although there were quite a few hairdressers, there were fewer barbering options so I thought it would be good place to open up.

My aim was to make it a simple, but good quality gent’s barbers. I didn’t want to be on West End Lane, the rents were too high and it wasn’t necessary, so I settled on Mill Lane and am glad I did.”

What was your first memory of the area?
“My first memories are what drew me here –  that, even though West Hampstead is so close to the city,  it had (and has) a strong local community where people know each other.

As for places, I have fond memories of Upstairs Downstairs cafe, which was a favourite haunt of my wife. It’s on the corner where Firezza Pizza is now.”

What has surprise you the most about how West Hampstead has changed?
“Many of the independents, the smaller more interesting businesses, have gone and the big boys have arrived.

Every spare bit of space has been developed. I remember the old pub and shops up by Fortune Green, which is now Alfred Court. Likewise all the developments down by the station mean West Hampstead is even more densely populated. This also means more barbers and coffee shops, but more potential clients too – we are still doing OK.”

An action-packed day at MLB

What’s for lunch?
“Normally, I bring in something from home. Otherwise of course I miss the Kitchen Table, where I would sometimes get some lunch. However, I like our new neighbours at the Mill Café. They even open at 8am for breakfast, which is earlier than the Kitchen Table, so I pop in every now and then. Actually, the food is really good, it’s really worth a visit.”

Describe West Hampstead in three words?
Busy, developing and affluent

Anything else to add?
“Well, my main bugbear is the rubbish! (Ed – why am I not surprised). It’s not easy running a business on Mill Lane and it doesn’t help to have mounds of rubbish along the road. I’ll often mutter to myself or tweet about it. But I’ve tailed off a bit recently as it gets boring, and maybe things are also slightly better. Still some way to go though.”

Nazanin calls from prison during rally on West End Green

West End Green was packed on Saturday as the community turned out to support a rally and march calling for the release of  local mum Nazanin Zagahari-Ratcliffe. The rally was organised by Pramstead Facebook users group, to deliver this letter, which has now had over 10,000 signatures calling for Nazanin’s release. It was arranged for the 25th November, one month before Christmas, in the hope that she will be back in time to celebrate it with daughter Gabriella and husband Richard.

Great turnout to support freedom for Nazanin

The prime movers behind it were Pramstead members Kirstie, Charlotte and Caroline. As Kirstie put it “it’s important that I don’t actually know Nazanin, but she is a mum and I am a mum, so I can’t imagine what Nazanin is going through”.

Supporters, young and old, were out in force

There was a great turnout for the event. Among the people turning out was local actor Emma Thompson, who defied doctors orders to be there. Indeed, as she had pneumonia, her speech was relayed by her husband Greg Wise. Another mum who spoke was local MP Tulip Siddiq, there along with husband Chris and (toddler) Azalea. Tulip has been a strong supporter of Richard’s campaign for justice, pressing Boris Johnson to act.

Emma speaking via Greg

Finally, Nazanin’s husband Richard spoke passionately, emotionally, yet calmly about how profoundly moved he was to see such widespread support from the community for Nazanin’s release. Then Richard, Emma and Tulip led the crowd in a quick rendition of Nazanin and Gabriella’s favorite song – “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands!”

“If you are happy and you know it clap your hands”

There was a large contingent of press there covering the event; BBC news, The Ham & HighLBC, the Guardian, the Daily Mailthe Sunday TimesSky News and even Sky News Arabia.

A large press presence

Incredibly Nazanin was able to call from prison during the rally to speak to Richard and Tulip. She echoed Richard in saying how  grateful she was for everyone’s support; she really hopes to be home for Christmas (and is preparing Gabriella, just in case) and according to Tulip, when back she and Gabriella will take a long planned trip to Peppa Pig Land! You can hear the call here.

Also there were friends and colleagues from the Thomson Reuters Foundation, including chief executive Monique Villa who said how fantastic it was to have such a great turnout for the event.

What do we want? Freedom for Nazanin. When do we want it? Now!

During the morning, at Nazanin’s express wish there was a collection for the victims of the recent Iranian earthquake as Nazanin had helped out in the aftermath of previous earthquake. The group all went into Emmanuel Church for some tea and cake, and shortly afterwards, fortified by the cake, hundreds set off on the the march down West End Lane to deliver the letter to the Islamic Centre in Maida Vale.

Marchers setting off down West End Lane

Nazanin spent her 600th day in prison on Thursday this past week and has another court hearing scheduled for 10th December. Let’s hope that today’s rally helps maintain the momentum for her release. The next planned event is 5:30pm on Tues 5th December when Richard and supporters will gather outside 10 Downing Street to sing carols. Please come and join him.

Mt Rushmore

From Kilburn to Mount Rushmore: The story of Gutzon Borglum

Mt Rushmore

Mount Rushmore: Photo by Brian Sandoval on Unsplash

It’s Thanksgiving in America, so what better time to dig into the link between Kilburn and the man behind one of the most iconic landmarks in the US.

American artist and sculptor Gutzon Borglum lived and worked at Harlestone Villa in Mortimer Road, Kilburn from about 1897 to 1902. The property was later renumbered as 6 Mortimer Place but was damaged in 1944 by the V1 flying bomb which destroyed North Hall, the house next door. Both buildings were demolished and today the site is covered by Halliwell House on the Kilburn Gate estate.

While at Harlestone Villa, Borglum painted murals for private homes but he is best known as the sculptor who produced the giant heads of US presidents carved into the summit of Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

Gutzon Borglum in 1919

Born in a frontier town in Idaho in 1867, Borglum was of Danish extraction. His father was a Mormon with two wives who were sisters. Borglum ran away from home to study art in California, and at the Julien Academy and the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris where he was influenced by Rodin.

He arrived in London in 1896 and rented a studio in West Kensington before moving to Kilburn. Although gaining recognition as an artist he was not earning a lot of money. He said, “I have had the disturbing pleasure of being called Master by the French critics and some Americans, yet at the moment I cannot spend sixpence without wondering where the next one will come from.”

In 1901, the daughter of a Californian friend came to stay at Harlestone Villa. Her name was Isadora Duncan and at a party she danced for Borglum on the villa’s large lawn, scattering rose petals behind her.

Borglum received a commission for twelve painted panels to be installed in the Midland Railway Company’s new hotel in Manchester. The fee was five thousand guineas (today worth about £550,000). In 1903 he supervised installation of the panels which were made in America. They depicted scenes from ‘A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream’ and the court of King Arthur.

Returning to America, Borglum became a very successful sculptor. His politics were crude; he was anti-immigrant and a racist. He criticised other artists and even called for the destruction of a public statue. Borglum courted the press and they loved him. In 1915 he put his reputation on the line and promised to make a huge monument to Southern Confederacy at Stone Mountain in Georgia. His patrons, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, did not have sufficient funds so he mortgaged his 500-acre estate in Connecticut. But after ten years he had completed less than a tenth of the carving and was fired by the Stone Mountain Association, accused of wasteful expenditure and having an ungovernable temper. The Association claimed ownership of his models and put out a warrant for Borglum’s arrest. He destroyed the models and became a fugitive, deeply in debt and publicly humiliated.

Doane Robinson, a South Dakota historian, had read about the large numbers of people travelling to Georgia just to watch Borglum at work. He believed that a mountain carving could put the little known South Dakota on the map. He wrote to Borglum suggesting a project in the Black Hills, perhaps carvings of the western explorers Lewis and Clark, Buffalo Bill and Chief Red Cloud. Borglum replied that national heroes would be better and it should be the Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt (a personal friend of Borglum). But the attempt to raise $50,000 as seed money from the public only realised $5,000. The project became a joke. One paper said, “Borglum is about to destroy another mountain, thank God it is in South Dakota where no one will ever see it.”

President Calvin Coolidge was persuaded to spend a summer holiday in South Dakota and this helped raise the total to $42,000. Coolidge pledged the government would provide additional funds. In 1929, Borglum began work with only about a tenth of the money he needed. He didn’t even know if the project was feasible as it was 500 feet to the top of Mount Rushmore and the weather in winter would make work impossible. Using jack hammers and dynamite Borglum thought the figures would take four years to complete. But money ran out and work slowed down.

In 1931 the Rushmore Association was in debt with little chance of raising any further funds during the Depression. Worse was to follow, after a severe drought created the Dustbowl. People left the state in droves and work stopped completely in 1932. Borglum and Senator Peter Norbeck persuaded influential contacts to obtain federal funds from the National Park Service and work recommenced after a year’s delay. Borglum’s 21 year old son Lincoln, who was very popular with the 400 workmen, was the site supervisor when his father was away.

In March 1941, just as he was completing the sculptures, Gutzon Borglum died suddenly from complications after surgery. He was 73. Congress stopped all funding as the United States joined the Second Wolrd War that December but Borglum’s son Lincoln finished the project, which had taken 14 years and involved removing half a million tons of granite to form the four 60-feet high figures.

Here is a film showing Gutzon Borglum working on the mountain:

New Sunday food market in O2 car park

At 10am this Sunday, West Hampstead welcomes a new food market. The imaginatively named 255 Finchley Road Market is in the O2 car park (some old hands may remember when the Swiss Cottage farmers market was there on Wednesdays, before our own Saturday market had started).

Land Securities, owners of the O2, approached the Food Commission, which already runs the successful Brook Green Market and Kitchen about setting something up. The market will be at the Sainsbury’s end of the car park (on the ‘bus stop’ side) but you won’t be able to miss it – there will be more than 20 stalls, including:

  • Astons Organic Bakery
  • Dee’s Pies
  • Popina Bakery (a familiar face from the Saturday market)
  • Mini Crops (oh so trendy micro greens, sadly not at micro prices)
  • Wild Country Organics (another familiar face from our Saturday market)
  • Woodlands Jersey Beef (beef from Hampshire’s Meon valley)
  • Picks Organic Farm (for those other meats)
  • The Mushroom Table (biodynamic mushrooms – for the biodynamic man – or woman, in your life)

For you homesick Europeans there are a range of European stalls (buy now, before Brexit tariffs)

  • La Contrada (Italian cheese and hams)
  • L’Ami Jac (French wines selected by a Scotsman)
  • Montadito (Spanish foods)
  • The Olive Bar (anti-Brexit, antipasti from across Europe)
  • Nonya Secrets (from further afield, Malay/Singaporean sauces)
  • Quickes Cheese (cloth-bound cheddar)
  • Pep and Lekker (vegan and gluten-free soups)

If you are bit peckish on the day they will have a few stalls selling food to eat then and there:

  • Ede and Bibe (Italian street food)
  • Fruiliamo (Northern Italian street food – mainly vegan/gluten free)
  • The Three Little Pigs (BBQ’d meats in pitta wraps)
  • Rocks (Shellfish cooked on charcoal)
  • Picks Organic Meats (yes the same ones as above, they also sell hot sausages etc)

Looks like quite an interesting selection. And if all that isn’t enough, as at their Brook Green market there will be events such as gin week, butchery workshops, and cheese & wine demos.

London Farmer’s Markets had its own plans for a Sunday market but that planning application has since been withdrawn, so 255 Finchley Road has well and truly stolen a march on them. The new market may well attract a slightly different crowd from the Iverson Road Saturday market, not least the thousands of extra visitors to the O2 centre/Homebase and residents living up and down the Finchley Road. The market will be open 10am to 3pm on Sundays.

What have you missed since November 6th?

Moped snatches of mobile phones continue to be a problem. One poor woman had her phone snatched outside Wickes on West End Lane.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s ongoing imprisonment in Tehran hit the headlines this week. In a gaffe, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said she was ‘training journalists’, which was seized on by the Iranian authorities as confirmation she was spying. He apologised and may be going to Tehran along with Richard, Nazanin’s husband.  Michael Gove is coming under fire on the issue.

Richard is also very concerned about his wife’s mental and physical health, with recent discoveries of lumps in her breast.

Another West Hampstead sunset thanks to StevieJLowy

A West Hampstead mum, suffering from cancer, was overwhelmed by a crowdfunding drive to raise money for childcare costs for her twins. It’s reached £8,000 with a target of £10,000. You can donate here.

Bienvenue Maison de la Vie (new cafe on the KHR).

Gung Ho, the chinese restaurant, is being reduced in size, apparently part of it will become an architect’s office.

We have heard that Salt House on Abbey Road has been sold to property developers.

A planning application has gone in to redevelop the Gondar Gardens reservoir (the fourth or fifth…) into luxury retirement flats (with an in-house chauffeur service). More on this next week.

There are moves afoot to rename the Minster Road Nature Reserve after Jane Evans who did so much to get it set up.

Anyone seen this earring?

Dexter the cat was found!

Gay West Hampstead 1. Joe Orton lived on West End Lane with Kenneth Halliwell (and for much longer than he lived in Islington)

Gay West Hampstead 2. Keith Vaughan artist, lived on Lyncroft Gardens. His photos are the subject of an exhibtion.

Paddington 2 opened to applause all round (think the Friends of Fortune Green has its movie for next August sorted!). The voice of Aunt Lucy is West Hampstead’s own Imelda Staunton.

Happy 100th birthday to West Hampstead resident Norah. She recalls back in the 1930s, West End Lane had ‘three butchers, a dairy and a haberdashery’. No change then – we still do: Brinkworth Dairy and the butchers at the farmers’ market + two permanent butchers and .. the Village Haberdashery).

What have you missed since 30th October?

The police say things are improving on phone snatches, (‘down by a quarter in the last three months’) and they recovered these two mopeds (along with drugs). They also thwarted this attempted phone snatch and caught this robbery suspect .

But… there have been a few more phone snatches this week – including from the partner of former leader of Camden Council. Apparently, it is not the first time it has happened outside the back of Sainsburys in the O2. Be vigilant.

Other phones were snatched outside Little Waitrose and in a new twist someone had their headphones snatched

Those famous West Hampstead skies were back this week. This one spotted by KateGleeson1

There’s still a long way to go before everyone’s going to be satisfied by the new rubbish and recycling contract (hint: communication is critical, as the comment below the article makes clear).

Remember, remember that there’s lots to do in November. Here are 12 things to get you started. With a couple of extras for good measure.

Monday was not a good day for transport… there was a crash by the Overground station (it was a BMW) and one on the Kilburn High road too!

And over on the Thameslink morning travel were disrupted by TWO broken down trains, one at Farringdon (which took over an hour to sort out). There was further disruption on Tuesday and Wednesday … and Friday. Sigh.

A man reported being raped after being followed from Finchley Road Tube station.

Boris Johnson condemned Iran for detaining West Hampstead mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. The petition calling for her release has reached more than a million signatures. Yes, more than 1 million. Have you signed yet?

And in coffee shop news this one is up for rent and there is a new French one opening on the Kilburn High Road. Oh-la-la.

What have you missed since October 23rd?

A local resident was scammed at Barclay’s cashpoint. Don’t let it happen to you.

Phone thefts are still an issue and the West Hampstead SNT was handing out this advice.

A woman’s body was found by Menelik Road. Her death was not being treated as suspicious

Who does this leave this apparently never ending supply? wondered Mandira Bhimjiyani? (and WHL too).

WHAT held its public meeting on rubbish and recycling. We know it is an issue dear to your hearts but seems that while lots of you can tweet the tweet, coming to a public meeting was a bit too much of a commitment … Still, it was a good turnout and those that were there, although sympathetic to recycling and terribly polite, gave Camden and Veolia a thorough grilling. More details next week.

A couple of events for Halloweentreats (and maybe face-painting) on offer by Fortune Green or how about decorating a chocolate skull? (cost involved)

The Good Ship closed, but fortunately, its popular comedy club has sailed over the Colonel Fawcett in Camden.

Georgia Gould the new leader of Camden Council has been out and about in sunny West Hampstead.

West Hampstead resident (and Countdown champ) James Slater has been selected to stand as a Labour candidate for Hampstead ward, and at 19 he’s the youngest candidate.

Work began on La Brioche – apparently it’s going to have a brunch focus during the day and then become a restaurant at night. So nothing at all like its next-door neighbour The Wet Fish Café then.

Someone ‘clocked’ that at long last Lena’s Cafe 2 is reopening under a new name… Salad and coffee apparently.

It was a Whampdinner – they really are great fun. If you want a fun night out, with good food and meet some cool new people, sign up. If you don’t, then don’t. (next Whampevent is a Whampdrinks on the 30th Nov).

Newest arrivals on Fortune Green… a plumbers merchants and ….an(other) estate agent.

A teenager (16) was convicted of the shooting of Yasir Beshira last December in Kilburn. A 21 year-old accomplice from West Hampstead was also convicted of the murder. Another defendent was found guilty of manslaughter.

More about the man stabbed in that terrible phone theft incident in Little Venice his alleged killers were arrested in West Hampstead.

It was the Community Associations quiz night in Emmanuel Church.

As if we don’t already have enough trainlines, there is a suggestion that HS2 runs via … West Hampstead!

Ever wondered what it was like to be an older person using local buses?

Mill Lane was resurfaced and for a few brief moments was truly ‘car-free’.

The Friends of Library put on an EXCELLENT evening with Graham Gouldman.

Property madness 1. Wanna buy an ex-council house? It’s only £1.2 million. better hurry though. it’s under offer…

Property madness 2. This guy spotted an empty house in West Hampstead. And it earned him £10k! Though apparently it wasn’t actually empty and now the tenants are being asked to leave.

Property (not madness) LSE have digitised Booth’s map of London poverty. West Hampstead is on the edge, it was mostly ‘Middle class. Well-to-do’, ‘Fairly comfortable. Good ordinary earnings’ with some ‘Mixed. Some comfortable others poor’. No change really.

Camden is submitting a bid to be the London Borough of Culture at the end of November. Now is your chance to have a say.

WHL went to Amnesty UK’s performance of ‘Looking for Mummy’; the dramatisation of West Hampstead resident Nazanin Zaghari-Ratclilffe’s imprisonment. It was an excellent and moving portrayal of complex issue.

And another (younger) West Hampstead resident received a letter. So what you wonder? Well, it was from Paddington Bear!

Coming up this week

After a bumper week last week – as you can see from the newsletter, a bit quieter this week.  But keep and eye out for ’10 things to do in November ‘.

Tues 31st Oct – Halloween! (see above)

Wed 1st Nov. – Mark Forsyth on a “Short History of Drunkeness at WEL books. Might include glass of wine (geddit).

Good Ship Comedy sets sail for new home in Camden

Sad times on Monday night in Kilburn as the Good Ship hosted its final Monday-night comedy gig. The Good Ship closes this weekend after changes to its licence has made it unprofitable and forced owner John McCooke to sell.

Monday night comedy was a core part of the formative years  of the West Hampstead community initiative I began in 2009. Thus it seemed fitting for a few of us to return on Monday to say farewell. It was a busy night. A great line up kicked off by Matt Winning (if you don’t know him – go see him), with local favourite Jay Foreman on the bill as well as one-time hosts Jonny & the Baptists. Angela Barnes will go down in comedy history as the woman who closed the final night – and she did a storming set.

Angela Barnes headlines the last night of Monday night comedy

The Good Ship always had a special place in my West Hampstead heart. For a couple of years around 2011/2012, a constantly evolving group of locals – initially loosely coordinated by me, but increasingly just turning up because they’d know someone there – would head along for an evening of (mostly) high-quality comedy hosted then by the irrepressible Juliet Stephens.

The Good Ship was a different sort of comedy night: low-key, friendly, light on the heckling, rich on the applause – and it even had a weekly raffle, free with your ticket entry. It attracted a mixed crowd. At just £4, it was well within the reach of most, so students from the Central School of Speech & Drama in Swiss Cottage were always well represented. But there were also some older people for whom it was clearly a friendly escape.

There were characters like Freddy, who some of you will remember from his stints as our doorman at whampgathers; there were running jokes about Fisk (look it up) and the bag of shit from the poundshop. But newcomers were always warmly welcomed and even the quieter nights were good fun, while the buzzy nights could be a pounding success with laughs reverberating around the pit. It was an integral part of creating a community.

Jay Foreman with his astonishing tube station song

Comedians themselves liked The Good Ship. It was a safe space to try out some new material – on one of my very first visits there Ed Byrne popped in to do 5 minutes – and the Edinburgh preview shows were a ridiculously good value way to see top stand-ups deliver full shows for a fraction of the price you’d pay once they reached Scotland.

Juliet finally moved on and after a few different interim hosts, her place at the helm was confidently taken by Ben Van der Velde, who has masterfully steered the Good Ship Comedy for the past few years. Ben has rebuilt the momentum of the club and kept that friendly vibe. Wonderful news therefore, that even as we mourn the end of the Good Ship, the comedy night will continue from November 6th at a new venue. The Colonel Fawcett pub in Camden will host; the name will remain (hopefully in perpetuity – no-one wants to see “Unfawced Laughter”) and (eek) the price will go up. By £1. Details and tickets here.

It’s going to be a a challenge to rebuild in a new venue, so do go along and support it if you can. The pub is really close to Camden Road overground station, so it’s really no big deal to get there from West Hampstead or Kilburn. The line-ups are just as good but any comedy night is really only as good as its audiences. The Good Ship’s always had one of the best. Long may it sail.

Police “taken by surprise” by explosion in phone thefts

There was a good turnout at last night’s public meeting on moped-crime. It’s a hot topic that didn’t need any extra emphasis, but even as the meeting was taking place another moped-based phone snatch was happening taking place outside Finchley Road tube station.

Good turnout and good discussion – it’s a serious issue.

The first speaker, Judy Thomson, is a public safety officer from Camden, who spoke about how the council is trying to tackle the problem at its source by working with disaffected young people in the borough, although with fewer resources than they would like. This involves work on estates, working with the local police and sometimes involves CCTV camera. I had the impression that CCTV was rather cumbersome and limited given the scale of the problem.

Cllr Flick Rea asked about the ‘broken windows theory’, which suggests that something relatively minor like a rise in litter leads to low-level anti-social behavior which then leads to worse. Judy agreed and replied that they absolutely challenge unacceptable behaviour, for example, fly-tipping.

The second speaker was Inspector Richard Berns, who is in charge of neighbourhood policing in Camden. He’s only been in the post for six weeks, as has he has just transferred from Hammersmith and Fulham, before that he was at Harrow Road after seven years in Hackney. However, he knows West Hampstead well as apparently he had a paperround here 25 years ago!

He was refreshingly frank and said that that the problem had “exploded” and that the growth “has taken us a bit by surprise”. Worryingly, more thefts are getting violent – as the arrests earlier this week in Broomsleigh St following the fatal stabbing in Little Venice confirm.

Moped-enabled crime is a problem throughout central London, but Camden (with 4,147 incidents) and Islington (with 3,587 incidents) are the worst affected boroughs though – whatever our perception – the robberies are very much concentrated in the south of the borough. Earlier this year, Camden and Islington forces merged and given the scale of the problem, extra resources are being put behind the issue, with an additional two dedicated two officers bring the team (‘Operation Attrition’) up to thirty. Of course it is at the fore-front of every officer’s mind at the moment. Despite the rise in crime, we can still expect further cuts in police numbers, although Inspector Berns said “these would be due to natural wastage”.

One audience member asked if road checks would help contain the issue but Inspector Berns was skeptical, suggesting that the criminals would simply avoid them and drive away. The mopeds they use are stolen and are seen as being practically disposable by the criminals. Once they are stolen any identifying marks are filed down and number plates removed. Look out for mopeds with no number plates then.

There was some cynicism in the audience about whether it was even worth calling the police to report crime. One audience member, Simon Benson, was recently mugged, had his wallet stolen and – thanks to his driving licence (and address) being in his wallet, had his car stolen too. The police response was to close the file just 53 minutes after he reported the crime. Inspector Berns agreed this was very poor service, “It was just not good enough”.

Inspector Berns was frank and honest about the scale of the problem.

Berns also confessed that calling 101 – the non-emergency number – is “not very good at the moment” and he was unaware that it is not a free call (it costs 15p per call, the money goes to the telecom companies, not the government). He said that he thinks some crimes don’t get reported as members of the public give up. Another way of reporting low-level stuff was to tweet @Metcc, the Met’s contact centre (8am-10pm).

He dismissed the myth that the police are not allowed to chase suspects, although he clarified that it does depend on the severity of the crime. The stabbing this week was met with a heavy and successful response. He was also asked whether crimes were actually investigated or not and bluntly said, “If they solvable then we will, if not solvable we won’t”.

iPhone users are most at risk from theft – they account for two-thirds of stolen phones, and the problem could get worse with the iPhone X as this will retail for more than £1,000. Even with anti-theft technology the screen alone will be worth £400 so a stolen phone could be used for parts. There is however, no typical profile of a theft victim.

How can you protect yourself?
An obvious simple step is to listen out for the sound of mopeds approaching, they make a distinctive sound. If you see someone standing outside a station looking at their phone, remind them of the risk. Avoid using your phone in public as you walk along and could be vulnerable, and make sure your phone is backed up and secured.

Cllr Russell – herself a recent victim of a break-in – questioned Inspector Berns on local crime figures, which show an apparent year-on-year rise of 38% in Fortune Green and 28% in West Hampstead. Inspector Burns said this was inline with his figures that showed crime figures in Camden and Islington were up 28%, with a national increase of 13%. Nor are these just petty crimes, serious crime is also on the up – and Berns pointed out that for most of his career crime has fallen, so this is new territory for many in the police.

Odd then, perhaps, that the Safer Neighbourhood office on West End Lane will close, as the lease will not be renewed in 2019. But the teams will apparently be moving into West Hampstead police station on Fortune Green Road.

The evening ended with a good point from WHAT chair Mary Tucker, who reflected that TfL is removing ‘countdown’ displays from bus stops as people are now encouraged to check the times on their phones. In public, by the road. Just as we’re telling people to keep their phones hidden. This chimed with an earlier observation that the police and local authorities are looking at putting in bollards and street furniture on estates and alleyways to act as an obstruction, despite having just taken it away to ‘de-clutter’ the streetscape.

Inspector Berns confirmed that crime is on the rise. It is still, as Cllr Olszewski pointed out, relatively low but in our local area we have gone quickly from below the London average to being the average (and the average is rising). Last night was a well organised and well-chaired meeting. It was good to have councillors, the police, local residents all in one room because it is only by working together that we can tackle this. Inspector Berns was refreshingly honest and frank, and perhaps more importantly, came across as competent. He too was pleased with how the meeting went. Let us hope that some increased vigilance from locals and continued work by the police can bring this mini crime wave to an abrupt end.

Two arrested in moped incident on Broomsleigh Street

Residents of Broomsleigh Street were woken in the middle of the night by the sound of police helicopters and cars in action. The police were chasing two suspects on a moped who had been involved in a mobile snatch earlier in the night, that had involved a stabbing. The suspects were 17 and 18 years old.

Man being arrested at the incident last night. Picture: @leocodron

Shortly before midnight a 28-year-old man was stabbed and killed as he resisted when attackers tried to snatch his iPhone outside his flat in Little Venice. It is believed the two incidents are related.

The suspects were cornered at the Black Path entrance on Broomsleigh Street and arrested. Sniffer dogs and forensic teams searched the area at night, looking under cars for evidence. This morning Broomsleigh street was still closed off as a crime scene, with a moped still on site. The moped was later taken away with officers from the Pulsar unit expected this lunchtime for further investigation in the search for traces of blood.

Police officers on at the scene commented that moped thefts are a big problem at the moment with up to 30 incidents a night in Camden alone. On Thursday 19th there will be a public meeting to discuss moped related crime and advice on how to stay safe, taking place in the Synagogue Hall.

New chocolate shop opens on Broadhurst Gardens

Zyla is a new chocolate shop on Broadhurst Gardens, selling humankind’s greatest invention – all things chocolate! You can get your hands on individuals truffles, gift boxes, drinking chocolate, marshmallows and candies fruit dipped in chocolate – and the list goes on.

The products are sourced from premium Belgian chocolatiers, and the owner and the shop’s namesake – Zoe Yi Ly’s own hand-made chocolates will soon be available.

Hungry?

These chocs are really special for that extra fancy gift or treat, you can make up your own gift boxes or buy them in little bags by weight. I recommend the white chocolate gianduja praline and the Bailey’s truffle. The dark chocolate mousse ganache also hits the spot.

March of the chocolates!

A nice little addition to West Hampstead. We have been spoilt for choice lately with the addition of some great new bakeries and cafes, but Zyla’s artisan chocolate shop has made it just that little bit sweeter.

Cocoa Bijoux, where are you?
Of course many of you will remember that the site on Broadhurst Gardens was previously Cocao Bijoux. Although it is hard work running a shop, when we spoke to Stuart earlier this year, Stuart was thinking about moving further up Broadhurst Gardens to a larger unit, but in the end the unit was too large and as the lease was coming up for renewal he decided to go back to his previous job as a chocolate distributor for his day job.

He is keeping it as an online-only operation. He’s still got a loyal West Hampstead customer base and says he is trading well that way. In a special arrangement for his loyal, local customers he will leave orders at the whisky and cigar shop next door – with no delivery charge.

What have you missed since October 2nd?

A former lettings agent was sentenced to 30 months for theft from several properties including some in West Hampstead. He continue to posed as one to borrow keys from other firms.

The spate of mobile phones and bags snatching continues in the area.

There will be an area forum on the 19th focusing on this ongoing problem.

We popped into Curled Leaf on Mill Lane to get an insight. It’s a good vegetarian option for the area run by Luli and Alketa, she is also an artist, who has just done a TED talk.

Glorious West Hampstead sunset this evening as seen by @MarkSpivey

Save West End Lane 1. There have been four different planning applications to install phone boxes up and down the narrow pavements of West End Lane; on the incredibly busy pavements outside West Hampstead Square, at the junction of Iverson Road and West End Lane, in front of Waitrose and up by West End Green. They seem primarily a vehicle for advertising. No thanks. Local organisations WHAT and the NDF strongly object.

Save West End Lane 2. The Kebab shop opposite the overground has changed hands and installed a garish sign. It hasn’t got planning permission and the Council are taking enforcement action.

What is it about Mill Lane? As well as the Insight with Curled Leaf, we also popped into the Alliance – to meet Hélène Clément who works behind the bar. She has just published her first book. London book launch next week in South Ken. Oh la la.

Staying on Mill Lane we also talked to Lora Verner an artist and photographer who took up art again at the nearby West Hampstead Community Centre. Earlier in her career she had taken photos of Biba, which are now in the V&A. (The photos are in the article, worth a look)

Following the architect of the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate winning the RIBA gold medal there was this analysis. If you care about housing in London, or just housing it’s worth a read.

There will be fewer C11s ‘to match demand’.

It was the Tory Party conference where the Camden Tories pondered their fate in face of the onslaught of Labour in London.

The planning committee approved redevelopment of Holy Trinity Church on the Finchley Road to be replaced by the Lighthouse. If they can raise £11m to build it that is.

La Brioche closed for good. Roger and the team will be missed.

Are you confused by the checkout queues at Waitrose…? It seems many are.

Tweet of the week

It was Bookshop day this week, so someone paid a visit to West End Lane Books…

An Insight into: Curled Leaf

Curled Leaf is a café on Mill Lane that has a cool, quirky, health-conscious vibe. It’s run by Alketa Xhafa-Mripa and her husband Luli Mripa and is very much a joint effort. Alketa has lived in the area for 20 years, arriving in 1997 to study art at St. Martins. When the Kosovan war broke out in 1998 she applied for asylum and ended up putting down roots in London.

As well as running the café , doing yoga classes plus being a wife and mother, Alketa is also a practising artist. Recent works include creating ‘Traces project’, recognising the 20,000 women who were raped in the Kosovan war and very recently ‘Refugees Welcome’, which deals with the current refugee crisis. And if that wasn’t enough, she’s just done a TED talk in Tirana.

Luli runs the café with Alketa and practises acupuncture in an on-site treatment room. He arrived in London when he displaced by the earlier Bosnian war in 1991. He was studying in Italy when the war broke out as was called up for the draft, but was advised by his parents and friends not to return and ended up in London.

Curled Leaf specialises in teas, particularly herbal teas as Luli is a herbalist, and offers a staggering 52 different types. For the first couple of years, the café didn’t serve coffee, preferring the ‘ceremony of tea’ but eventually gave in to  customer demand. It also serves healthy seasonal vegetarian food and delicious, if not quite so healthy, cakes.

The arty (and veggie) Curled Leaf on Mill Lane

What first brought you to West Hampstead?
“Luck really,” said Alketa. “Although I had lived around north-west London since I arrived, living in Kilburn, and on the Finchley Road. I was looking for somewhere to open a café and saw this place on Mill Lane”. Luli ended up in north-west London when he arrived, just down the road in Maida Vale, but it was Alketa who brought him to West Hampstead.

What’s your first memory of the area?
“I remember it as being a really nice area with small cafés and boutiques plus the charity shops. I liked it and hope that it will stay like that”, said Alketa. Luli’s answer is shorter: “La Brocca.  I remember fondly the live music there.”

What’s surprised you most about how West Hampstead has changed?
“It seems that the area has changed quite quickly, ” said Luli. “It always had those little places, which you thought would survive for longer, but they are gone.” Alketa is more wistful. “I’m not really happy to see lots of change as it loses that vibe and energy and sense of community, where people know each other and help each other. Being a mum myself, I feel West Hampstead is particularly a place where mums are welcome and I would hate to lose that”.

Feeling hungry?

What’s for lunch?
“Here it’s a variety of things! We do seasonal vegetarian dishes. The house speciality is grilled aubergine, or we are offering quinoa with courgette. Also popular is our special corn and spelt bread with spinach. If we go somewhere else, then eggs benedict at the Wet Fish is a favorite or a vegetarian Pad Thai from Banana Tree.”

West Hampstead in three words?
Beautiful, sense-of-community, mums-welcome (yes , Alketa rather stretches the definition of three words).

What have you missed since September 25th?

As part of National Poetry Day on Thursday, local poet Ted Booth wrote a poem about freedom dedicated to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. The West Hampstead mum was denied parole from her Iranian jail this week. Her husband Richard read the poem outside the Iranian embassy and 1,000 copies were given out in West Hampstead.

Tom’s been out and about, eating Italian at Nona in Fairhazel Gardens. How did he find it?

Make a note – Mill Lane will be resurfaced (and closed in sections) from Sat 21st Oct to Sat 28th.

And here are the top twelve things to do in (and around West Hampstead) in October.

Putting your litter in the bin is anything but #despicable in West Hampstead. Image: Marianne Jones

The police are appealing for witnesses to the hold up at the Sherriff Centre, apparently the perpertators were three men dressed in black on mopeds.

The police have also been warning of phones being snatched by moped thieves by the tube station. Be aware. [Ed – reports of another mobile being stolen at the Thameslink last night].

Transport news 1. Following the Underground, is the Overground station ticket office set to close?

Transport news 2. Another train link for West Hampstead! Looks like the Green light for new/upgraded passenger line ‘the West London Orbital’ from West Hampstead to Old Oak Common (future Crossrail hub). More passengers for the the interchange…

Politics (Lib Dem) – former local councillor Nancy Jirira spoke at the Lib Dem conference on how minority ethnic groups are unaware of Lib-Dem policies. Or indeed the Lib Dems.

Politics (Lab) – Tulip continues to battle against a hard Brexit.

There was a very good piece on understanding the World Transformed (i.e. Momentum).

And some cross-party consensus … on chocolate biscuits!

This week saw a (sad) farewell to Paul Perkins who ran the Winch youth centre for nine years (previously there had been seven directors in as many years). The Winch provides after-school clubs and activities for young people. It is a charity WHL has long supported.

Architectural award news 1. Neave Brown architect of the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate won the RIBA Gold medal (highest award for architecture)

Architectural award news 2. Emmanuel Church was nominated for the best church renovation.

And sticking to the architectural theme there was this rather cool historical map of NW London, showing West Hampstead (or West End as was then) in …. 1790!

West Hampstead resident Ben Corrigan appeared earlier this season on Dragon’s Den with as part of a team of three pitching Pouch (an online voucher wallet). The dragons liked the pitch as all five made offers.

Tweet of the week

Worth a click to read the comments.

Twelve Things to do in West Hampstead in October

First up, West Hampstead is a good place to live. But like most (and WHL would argue all) good places it only gets that way if YOU get involved keeping it that way…

1st. This month is the Area Forum* on the 19th, presumably in the Synagogue Hall. High on the agenda will be public safety. And rubbish. *The Area Forum is your chance to speak to councillors about local issues and they mostly have guest speakers.

2. And at the end of the month the Friends of Fortune Green will have their last activity session of the year on Sunday 29th – bulb planting.

If it is music you are after

3. Suitably for third on the list on October 3rd it’s the last of the Troubadour sessions at the Railway. Live music by singer song-writers hosted and featuring Peter Conway.

4. Or if you are down in Kilburn there is an open-mic night (organised by the same guy I think) every Monday at the Sir Colin Campbell.

5. Or (our top tip) thanks to our friends at the Friends of West Hampstead Library on Tuesday 24th October there will be an evening with Graham Gouldman (ex-10cc, Wax etc), writer of songs from ‘No Milk Today’ to “I’m not in Love”. Kids – look him up! He will probably bring along his guitar. Tickets via Eventbrite.

Fancy a laugh?

6. On Sun 8th Upfront Comedy will be starting a monthly session at the Tricycle.

7. But it’s a very bitter sweet session at the Good Ship on the 23rd – it will be their last COMEDY night. (Plus before that there are comedy sessions on the 2nd, 9th and 16th)

On the Art front…

8. There is a new exhibition opening at the Kingsgate Project Space. Seems a bit perplexing again but it makes sense when you go along, learn a bit and concentrate. Opening on Friday 6th Oct 6-9pm. And it seriously ups your cool factor.

9. At the Hampstead Art School (just over the other side of the Finchley Road) they are exhibiting art works by the homeless (until Oct 13th). While you are there it’s worth checking out the courses coming up, in particularly some fun ones over half-term.

The Community Centre the Photography Group are having an exhibition from 6pm on Sat 7th Oct on Broomsleigh Street.

10. The Camden Arts Centre had their new exhibitions opening, Natalie du Pasquier and Christian Nympheta the first under their new director.

And finally, the Community Association are organising a quiz in Emmanuel Church

It’s National Poetry Day!

Today is National Poetry Day and the theme this year is freedom. Ted Booth, the just-stepping-down writer in residence at the library has written the following poem to bring some poetry to our West Hampstead lives.

You may be lucky enough to be handed a copy as you cross Fortune Green or pass the library (they are handing out 1,000 copies)! If not, here it is. First, as written (the form is important) but in case that is too small to read on your phone, additionally below that fully written out.

West Hampstead, enjoy National Poetry Day.

Carpe Diem

The boys have been led
into a corridor,
long walls hung with photos.
Alumni, class after class,
year after year.
So what have they all
got in common,
asks the teacher.
Rich, famous, successful,
hazard the boys.
No, says the teacher,
they are all dead.
So this is the lesson boys,

carpe diem (1)

Carpe diem, an exhortation
given great poignancy
by the fate
of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Held in an Iranian jail,
she and her fellow prisoners
have written down
their hopes and fantasies
for the first, longed for
day of freedom.
Their notelets hang beribboned
from a tree on Fortune Green. (2)
They dream of tomorrow
to keep the energy for today.

For us the fortunate ones
who are not incarcerated,
nor staring at a ceiling
from a hospital bed,
nor staring across
a care home lounge,
tomorrow is our next,
first day of freedom,
to choose our coffee,
shut the front door
and cross the green
and go to our chosen work,
which is not, dear Phillip (3)
a toad which
squats upon our back.

In the evening
we will return
to re-cross the Green
and open the front door,
having seized another day
of freedom.

Ted Booth

(1) Robin Williams – Dead Poets Society

(2) www.freenazanin.com

(3) Phillip Larkin -‘ Toads’

The poem refers to Nazanin Ratcliffe, the West Hampstead wife and mother who is not able to enjoy her freedom. Inspired by the poem her husband Richard in front of the Iranian Embassy will be reading it, along with other poems written on the theme by Nazanin and her fellow prisoners.

The bard of Fortune Green, Ted Booth, is former artist in residence of the Friends of Fortune Green and  just stepping down as writer in residence of Friends of West Hampstead Library. A friend indeed. Thank you, Ted.

Getting down and dirty on Kilburn High Road

Amid all the grumbling about filth on West End Lane, it’s always worth casting an eye elsewhere to see whether we can learn from others. Or to put our own woes into perspective. Recently, there have been some despairing tweets about the clutter, litter and, general grime on Kilburn High Road (this includes responses from one of the local councillors). We went to take a closer look down the Camden side of the road.

We started up by the railway bridge near the junction with Maygrove Road. And it didn’t take long to see the first of many (illegal) A-boards. At this point I’m going to introduce the word “curtilage“. This means the defined area of a property’s land. Within your curtilage you can do what you want (within reason) – build a deck, put out goods or an A-board etc.. Beyond is the public highway and you cannot do what you want, whether it’s within reason or not.

If the public highway is narrow then it is particularly important to keep it clear for pedestrian flow, buggies, wheelchairs and so on. It is the council’s responsibility to enforce that it is kept clear.

A-board

Further down, more A-boards appearing and furniture for sale.

More A-boards

It gets worse along the really narrow stretch of pavement from 334 to 328 ; although most of the businesses have built out on their curtilage they then obstruct the remaining narrow pavement with A-boards and allow their chairs to spill off their land (and bins too). Adding to the confusion of where responsibility lies, this stretch is actually part of West Hampstead ward, not Kilburn.

Clutter

And they've even pinned an ad to the tree...

There is even an ad pinned to the tree…

A bit further on we come to the Hilal Food Centre.  It’s a popular store – I shop there too – but it still has to obey the same planning rules as everyone else. It has ‘allegedly’ spread way over it’s curtilage and keeps creeping forward across the public highway. Their gain at our loss.

Hilal2Next up is popular pizza joint Quartieri, which had tested the limit by putting out chairs on the pavement and an A-board. However, it was slapped down pretty quickly and with a reputation to keep has been playing by rules since then.

The Black Lion has been around for longer than most businesses on the High Road. It has a nice outdoor space at the side – on its own curtilage – but has recently started putting out chairs and tables on the public pavement. Without planning permission, apparently. The pavement here is wide enough to take it, but it still needs permission guys.

BlackLion

Next up, another pub. The Sir Colin Campbell has tables outside too, but – and here’s the important bit – these are on its own curtilage. And the A-boards are on it too. Cheers to the SCC for being a responsible business.

ColinCampbell

I have spared you yet more photos of fly tipping thus far – there was certainly plenty of it, but at this point we reached a particularly egregious case, some of which appeared to have come from the other side of the road. Why did the fly-tipper cross the road? Because enforcement is tougher on the Brent side.

Cllr John Duffy, a Labour Councillor in Brent, ensures that fly-tipping (and planning breaches) are dealt with and followed up. This doesn’t seem to happen as effectively on the Camden side of the road, although the local councillors tweet the tweet!

Fly-tip

Credit where it’s due

Camden can however take credit for the physical state of the pavements and for the state of the road. Any cycling readers will know that the northern end of Kilburn High Road is in a terrible state, with potholes big enough to cause an accident. But once you pass Quex Road, the surface improves and it’s fine from then on. The reason: in an effort to do some of that famed joined-up thinking, Camden is responsible for the road on the lower section below Willesden Lane and Brent for the upper section.  Camden has met its responsibilities, while the potholes suggest Brent has not.

Pothole number one (of many)

Pothole number one (of many)

And pothole number two.

And pothole number two.

The road surface is vastly better south of Quex Road

The road surface is vastly better south of Quex Road

There is a noticeable difference in the pavements too. On what I understand is the part Brent is responsible for, but in ‘Camden’, there clearly potential trip hazards. WHL checked with Camden on this as it sounds a bit odd and even they weren’t sure.

Clearly a trip hazard. Damages in case of injury would be a lot more than 10p!

Clearly a trip hazard. Damages in case of injury would be a lot more than 10p!

Kilburn High Road marks the boundary between Camden and Kilburn (with Westminster and Barnet also getting involved at the southern and northern ends) and somewhere that’s on the periphery for all councils is always likely to struggle to get the attention of borough heartlands. There are added complications that even within one borough, the road passes through multiple wards, but that shouldn’t have an impact on enforcement.

Aside from aesthetics, why should this be of such a concern? For a start there’s the ‘broken windows‘ theory (general deterioration leads to bigger problems), and certainly the deterioration of our streets has coincided with a rise in crime. And as if that wasn’t enough, living in a cleaner more pleasant environment is less stressful, which given that Camden has some of the highest rates of mental illness across the country – with almost 50,000 adults in Camden experiencing anxiety and depression (20% higher than national levels), would be one more reason to strive for cleaner streets and a decent public realm.

Finally, WHL has been getting flak from local Labour activists about the number of tweets on the state of our local streets (don’t worry we get flack from the Tories too, about different issues – so we must be doing something right). They have said we should mention the Clean Camden App, and this we are happy to do. Just done it. WHL is a regular user but there are some things it can’t do (e.g. report those broken flagstones, or bins left on the pavement). Nor have we heard from Camden about how effective it is. In a nutshell – to paraphrase a former Prime Minister; we need to not only be tough on grime, but tough on the causes of grime.

What have you missed since Sept 4th?

Sad news from the Kilburn High Road. The Good Ship, the popular music and comedy venue, is closing at the end of October. It’s been a victim of changes to licensing hours, which we reported on earlier.

Kingsgate Primary School – Lower School opened this week. It is supposed to have a traffic management plan to minimise traffic but the first couple of days didn’t exactly go according to plan. Local residents were not happy, they were already at breaking point before the school opened.  The Councillors and school then stepped in with CPZ enforcement and things improved – until it rained (which is does in winter). And the school is only 3/4 full. And the flats and office space isn’t built yet. And one parent hasn’t quite got this ‘travel plan’ concept…

After our recent story on the apparent rise in crime in West Hampstead, particularly Fortune Green, one of the Fortune Green councillors was burgled!

West Hampstead. This happened to Cllr Russell - don't let it happen to you. Follow crime prevention advice.

West Hampstead. This happened to Fortune Green Cllr Lorna Russell – don’t let it happen to you. Follow crime prevention advice.

Tannin & Oak was broken into as well.  And in this tweet there is report of yet another burglary.  Time for some action by the Police and the Council.

Tree down on West End Lane. Vandalism?

Labour choses candidates for West Hampstead Fortune Green this Monday and Tuesday.  With Phil Rosenberg and James Yarde standing down and Angela Pober becoming an independent it will be three new candidates on the slate in West Hampstead at least.

Local MP Tulip was held up re-entering the country because her daughter’s passport has her husband’s name on it. So she is campaigning to have BOTH parents names  in a child’s passport.  And secondly, we reliably hear from our sources  @nurseryworld that she is to chair the APPG on childcare and early years.

Down at the National Theatre another local, Imelda Staunton, has just opened in ‘Follies’.  5* reviews enter stage right ‘it’s jaw-droppingly good’.

Meanwhile, over at Hampstead Cricket Club Jim Carter is organising a celebrity cricket match next Sunday (17th).

Musician Chris Difford (look him up kids) did a talk at West End Lane books this week.  It was packed to the rafters.  After a very entertaining talk, the guitar came out and he sang a couple of songs including ‘Up the Junction’. It truly was cool for cats.

They always said Guglee curries were hot, but it appears they might have been too hot – there was a fire above their Finchley Road branch.

The Afghan restaurant Ariana II made an appearance on ‘A Cuckoo’s Calling’.

Seems like people are getting into the ‘swing’ of the new bar on Mill Lane.

It’s Mitzvah day coming up in November (Jewish Volunteering day) and this year they will be including visiting residents of Sidney Corob House  in West Hampstead.

And in the same week WHL was also asked by the Abbey community centre for caring residents to visit elderly residents in Whampstead.

Coming up this week (and beyond)

There is a whole bunch of stuff happening on Sunday which warranted a separate round-up article even!

Tues 12th –  NDF meeting
Wed 13th – Flick n’ Ted’s excellent adventure in Poetry and Prose
Thus 14th to Mon 18th – Ham & High Literary Festival @ JW3
Sat 16th + Sun 17th – Open House
Sun 17th – WHCC celebrity cricket match (starts 1:30pm)
Mon 18th – Locally Sourced is back @LaBrioche with a singer and a poet
Sat 23rd – it’s a Barn Dance @Emanuel Church

Tweet of the week

Things seem a bit gloomy recently ….

What have you missed since August 28th?

‘How Not To Be A Boy’ was published. Author and West Hampstead resident Robert Webb was out promoting it on R4 in Woman’s Hour and Channel 4 news this week, it was also R4’s book of the week (see below). You can pick up a signed copy at our friends @WELBooks (while stocks last).

It was the fire station’s open day and the young (and some not so young) residents of West Hampstead turned out in force. Earlier the week some grateful residents dropped off a homemade chocolate cake at the fire station to say thank you.

Rubbish continues to vex us. This week there was this on West End Lane, this off West End Lane, this on Netherwood road, and this on Quex Road. Come on Camden – get a grip. But let’s not just whinge – do something. Write to with any issues, fly-tip hotspots, bins left on streets.

PoTW 293

The Evening Standard called West Hampstead ‘A sought-after swan that was formerly an ugly duckling’. The cheek of it! It is well connected (true) but  apparently there is a lack of green space (Kilburn Grange? West End Green? and of course… Fortune Green?)

They were promoting flats for £134k in Ballymore (aka West Hampstead Square). Seemed rather cheap for West Hampstead, reading the small print this is for just a quarter of a flat.

And more dissing of West Hampstead, this time by the FT! They did an ‘at home with FT’ interview with England fast bowler and West Hampstead resident, Steven Finn; but they relocated him to Hampstead. Sigh. [Paywall]

Cat was lost (twice even?). Cat was found. Cat and owner reunited. West Hampstead comes to the rescue again.

Oh no! Our little Waitrose is closing for a week – mainly to get the flooring replaced. No easy task as the store will be completely emptied for the work and stock sent to other stores.

The Black Lion is also closing five days for its refurb! But reopening at 6pm on the 8th with a relaunch party. (So, no pressure on the builders then…:-)

And there’s more… The Iverson Road open space will be closed and redeveloped this Autumn. WHL was skeptical there had been enough consultation but MILAM locals say otherwise. Still, at £100,000+ it’s a bit pricey.

This Wednesday is the first day at school for the new pupils of the Kingsgate infants school expansion, which opens this week at the Liddell Road site. Good luck kids!

An incident outside the NLT on KHR. Cavendish Road closed.

WHL goes a little bit Hello magazine as it’s been wedding bells. Congratulations to Claire from @Achilleaflowers, who married a former Kitchen Table barrista. Love on Mill Lane! And also to the newly-wed @carlabradman. Read all about her wedding here.

WHL went to see the latest opening at Kingsgate Project Space. Interesting and some talks coming up in the month long exhibition. If you want to up your coolness you could do worse than exploring this (and buying a very reasonably price print).

The football season is starting. WHFC is looking for new players more details on the link.

Tweet of the week

This week it’s not a tweet but book of the week, Radio 4’s book of the week … ‘How Not To Be A Boy’. Quick load episodes before they roll off (then have 28 days to listen).

Crime on the rise in West Hampstead

Is crime in West Hampstead on the rise, or are we just made more aware of it through social media? And through the rare but higher-profile crimes such as moped-based thefts or the recent acid attack. WHL met up with Sergeant Mark Townsend to discuss.

Certainly there is a sense that our relatively quiet part of north-west London has seen more crime of late, but do the statistics back that up? And what are the police doing about it?

Crime stats are available from the College of Policing website and are broken down by wards: Fortune Green, West Hampstead, plus parts of Swiss Cottage and Kilburn that make up ‘West Hampstead’. The numbers are a couple of months behind with the most recent figures being for June. Given that crime levels are generally relatively low, increases can be seasonal or statistically not significant, however, the data does suggest a rise in crime.

monthly Reported crime

As you can see from the chart, across the previous few months, monthly crime levels are actually fairly stable, with the exception of Kilburn, where crime is somewhat higher overall. However if you compare it with the same period last year it’s clearer that the trend is upwards. There is an average rise of 15% for the wards and a startling 50% jump in Fortune Green, confirming anecdotal (or tweetendotal) evidence that crime is on the up.

Crime 2016 vs 2017

Crime in Fortune Green up by 50%

Of course it’s important to know what types of crime are causing the increase. In Fortune Green, it’s largely a rise in burglaries and thefts from cars. From April to Jun 2016 (2Q) there were 31 burglaries in Fortune Green, but that had nearly doubled to 55 in 2017. Likewise from April to June  2016 there were 43 theft from cars, but in 2017 that rose to 78.

Fortune Green ward; breakdown of crimes

Fortune Green ward; breakdown of crimes

Here is a breakdown of which crimes make up the total. It is important to point out that West Hampstead is still relatively safe, but not as safe as it was. It is now about average for London, although still safer than Camden overall.

FG ward's relative position in the crime tables.

FG ward’s relative position in the crime tables.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These monthly stats are important because they alert the police to any hot spots and allow the Safer Neighbourhoods ward panels to decide crime priorities. Its is really important that you let the police know if you are victim of crime.

How can the police make our neighbourhood safer?

Sgt Mark Townsend has been at West Hampstead for two years and in the force for 13 years. He is in charge of three Safer Neighbourhood teams: Fortune Green, West Hampstead and Kilburn. Although the teams are separate, they do support for each other and coordinate on problems at the ward boundaries. West Hampstead and Fortune Green have two PCs each and one PCSO. Kilburn, with its higher crime rate, has four PCs and one PCSO. Alongside the Safer Neighbourhoods Teams there are response teams (these are the officers who respond to and investigate crimes) based at Kentish Town police station.

There are more changes in the pipeline as earlier this year Camden’s force merged with Islington. This merger is one of two pilots in London – the other is a merger of three east London boroughs. The aim is to turn what thirty London borough forces into 16 policing areas. Therefore further mergers are on the cards as are cuts to police numbers. Numbers are down already. In March 2010, there were 33,367 full-time officers in London. This had fallen to 31,782 in by March 2016 (both numbers include long-term absentees, currently about 1,000 officers).

With burglary and theft from cars on the rise, residents can play their part in making it harder for criminals. Sgt Townsend said that one of his biggest problems is people being lax with their own security. Car doors should always be locked (and anything valuable hidden out of sight), and mopeds should have a disk lock and be secured to the ground. All the oft-repeated advice about securing lower-ground floor flats and being careful not to leave communal doors open or letting in random people to communal flats without checking naturally apply too.

How to report a crime

If you are the victim of a crime, what’s the correct procedure? If it is urgent, call 999, but for less urgent matters call 101, which can take a minute or two to connect. If you are not sure on the level of urgency, Sgt Townsend said call 999 and they will direct your call as appropriate

If anyone wants to report something suspicious they can also call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 – or do it anonymously online, though this means you’ll have no follow up and the police can’t ask for more details. You can also report it directly the Safer Neighbourhoods teams where they can follow up.

Nevertheless, it is important to report a crime, and today the best way to do this is online, although there can be an urge to talk to a real person straight away. Four out of five crimes can now be reported online, even car collisions. The reasons to report all crime, apart from having it investigated, is that it then gets included in those crime stats, which themselves shape the police force’s priorities. Those priorities are updated on the police college site, and the Metropolitan Police pages for each ward’s Safer Neighbourhood Teams (Fortune Green , West Hampstead and Kilburn).

The Met’s site is still in beta, and could be more user-friendly, for example with photos of team members, which would make it more personable, though there are other attempts to modernise the service and make policing more visible. Kilburn Safer Neighbourhood team got smartphones about a year ago and have been tweeting more and more actively . Initially, Sgt Townsend said the team was unsure about this, but they have grown more comfortable with the idea and now eagerly report their successes and ward rounds. There are also Twitter account for Fortune Green and West Hampstead, but they are less achieve and specific than Kilburn, but with time should be more informative.

Safer Neighbourhood Panels

The crime stats are supposed to help the police together with the Safer Neighbourhood Panels (SNP)  decide what the crime priorities are for the area. Recently this has been drifting due to a change in personnel, however, earlier this year local activist Miles Seaman has taken over.  He has been working at reactivating the SNP by ensuring the the meetings are more regular and issues are raised in an orderly fashion. Confusingly, the police also ask for input about which crime priorities on the Safer Neighbourhoods website, but with only 4 votes last month it’s not very democratic.

What next?

So crime indeed has been on the rise in the area.  The question is what to do now?  Firstly, Sgt Townsend says please take personal responsibility, it is astonishing that the number of thefts that take place from unlocked cars. Given that we are facing continued cuts in police numbers this is all the more important. The Safer Neighbourhood Team numbers are safe.  For the moment.  But WHL thinks the police can also do their bit – they have been very slow to take up social media and their websites are – to say the least – clunky. A lot of local policing is know the faces of the bobbies (or PCSOs) on the beat but all we have are grey boxes, nor are their links to the email addresses or a phone number to contact the teams.

The Safer Neighbourhoods panel should hopefully be more pro-active under new chairmanship. Likewise we also haven’t seen much activity from our local councillors (or indeed from the local opposition), but we are happy to be corrected on this.

There is concern about releasing CCTV footage when crimes are committed. WHL has his wallet stolen in Costa coffee (doing an interview about crime, how’s that for irony) but Costa refused to release the footage even though the thief was caught on camera. Sgt Townsend thinks it is time to take a more sensible approach because the police don’t have the resources to follow up.

One example over the past year of everyone pulling together (including WHL) was on improving the Black Path and Billy Fury Way. Both paths had become overgrown and felt unsafe, this resulted in a few incidents. Last August WHL and a number of locals turned out to start cutting it back  and this galvanised Network Rail into action, thanks to help of the Police and local councillors. The overgrown foliage has been cut back, the lighting is improved, the path resurfaced and, that bit at least, is now a safer part of the neighbourhood.

And finally, here is some simple crime prevention advice from the Safer Neighbourhoods Team.  Stay safe West Hampstead.

Crime prevention

Top Ten things to do in (and around) West Hampstead in August

One of joys of living in London is the wide variety of events (from high to low culture) but how often do you miss them? Yet somehow summer seems more complete if you have one or two of these experiences under your belt to bring some lasting memories. Oh the summer of ’69, the boys of summer, summertime etc.  So here is WHL’s top ten for August 2017!

(And if you are wondering about the order they get further and further away from NW6 (but stay within NW London)).

1. An outdoor film screening? They are on all over London but very locally the Friends of Fortune Green put them on right on our doorstep. Next up ‘Toy Story‘ on Saturday August 12th, which starts at sundown (8:30pm ish). It’s FREE but donations appreciated.

2. The following weekend, on Saturday 19th August. 12 – 7pm. The Friends of Kilburn Grange are organising the Kilburn Grange Festival, it’s less polished than the Jester but it has a raffish charm and a more urban vibe.

3. Which way to the beach? No need to go further than JW3 and the Hampstead Beach – it’s free and there until the 2nd September Sunday to Friday.

Thursday nights have 2-1 cocktails from 5 – 8pm and music; 10th is 60s beach vibes (round, round get around), 17th is 80s pop, 24th is accoustic classics and on the 31st they are going out Jamaican style with reggae rhythms. A private party on the 24th means it won’t be open and they won’t be open on the 31st either.  Sod’s law – forecast for the 24th is quite good and for the 31st as well.  Oh well, there is always the Roundhouse…

Hampstead Beach - actually, West Hampstead Beach! Image: JW3

Hampstead Beach – actually, (ahem) West Hampstead Beach! Image: JW3

A little further afield there are two other beaches; a hip one at the Roundhouse and a family friendly one at Brent Cross .

4. Is it art you are after? On our doorstep there is the Camden Arts Centre currently showing is Daniel Richter  and Jennifer Tee . Both these exhibitions are showing until mid-September with late night opening on Wednesdays. CAC is always (well mostly) worth a visit.

Rather smaller scale is the Kingsgate Project Space. Currently they are showing CATS, its very small with only two works but they are good. Worth a wonder and something for both adults and young kids to enjoy (perhaps on their way to nearby Kilburn Grange). Two works is often enough for the attention span of young kids! The show is open Thursday to Saturday 12 – 6pm and ends on 19 Aug.

5. Music on the cards? The Kingsgate centre (opposite the Kingsgate workshops/project space) are running their monthly Jazz sessions, next up August 31st

Want something more rocky? then on Fridays there is house band at One Bourbon ‘the sound of NW6’ no less. Or it’s the Kilburn Ironworks 3rd birthday coming up on bank holiday weekend (25th and 26th Aug)… there is lots on offer including a resident DJ from 9pm.

For a slightly different vibe (e.g. 70’s original vinyl) Bobby F has a resident DJ on Fridays and Saturdays.

6. You’re having a laugh?  It’s no joke – there is quite a lot of comedy right here in NW6.  Near Finchley Road tube station is the London Improv Theatre which for most of August is taken up by the Camden Fringe.

Reliably good with loads of Edinburgh previews is Good Ship Comedy on Monday nights.  Previews over now and normal service has been resumed. A little further up KHR at the NLT on the last Sunday of the month (but not sure if it will be on Bank Holiday Sunday) is Abigail’s Party, emceed by local Abigail Burdess. I think she will be up in Edinburgh, but her show got a ringing endorsement from this local.

7. A really nice hot summer’s day just isn’t complete without a dip in an outdoor pool. NW London’s favorite is the Hampstead ponds.  Probably one to hold off for a really hot day.  We had them earlier in the summer, so hopefully they will be back… Or there is the Parliament Hill Lido.  And if the water is a bit chilly then a short ride on the Overgound is the (heated) 50m London Fields Lido.

8. Summer just isn’t summer without outdoor theatre.  If you haven’t been, do visit the Globe theatre (OK, OK it isn’t in NW London…) It’s only £5 for a groundling (standing) ticket but top tip (especially if going with others) is to get one cheap seat as well, so you can sit down from time to time, although standing for the whole performance is fine.   Closer to home is …

The Open Air theatre.  (Re) opening next week is a return visit of last summer’s sold out Jesus Christ Superstar.  It opens on August 11th and runs until 23rd Sept.

They also have comedy nights and outdoor film screenings, including Close Encounters of the Third Kind (tickets from £16.50 vs free for Toy Story on Fortune Green, just saying).

What's the Buzz? It's the sold out Jesus Christ Superstar back! Image: Open Air Theatre

What’s the Buzz? It’s the sold out Jesus Christ Superstar back! Image: Open Air Theatre

9.  Before the show (or on any nice day) why not have a picnic in Regent’s Park (actually the Regent’s Park).  You can visit the Queen Mary’s Rose garden, the hidden (St. John’s) garden, the Italian garden or, top tip for this summer, the Frieze sculpture park  until the autumn.  Normally it is installed with the show in October and stays for a few weeks after, this year they have installed it running up to the show.

10. Sticking with cutting edge then Random International’s show at the Roundhouse looks like being worth a visit.  They are working with regular collaborator Wayne McGregor on +-Human. They worked together on Rain Room at the Barbican two years ago, which was excellent.

It’s £5 for the installation alone and £15 (Fridays and Saturdays) for the associated dance performance. The show runs for two weeks from the 11th to the 26th of August.

If any of you manage to do all 10 of these – with photographic proof – then it’s a free pint from WHL at the next Whampgather – and a very memorable summer for you!

( 11. Finally slipping in at number 11 (because it is actually on 2nd September, taking place at Kenwood) is the FT Weekend Festival . I know, I know most of you read the Guardian (and WHL, obvs) but there are also some FT readers in West Hampstead. Actually, it has  a really wide and varied list of participants. Would even appeal to Guardian readers.  It’s £75 a ticket, so not cheap, but another interesting event on our doorstep).

 

A grand old time at the Petite Corée?

Last week I was searching for somewhere to eat as we were going out with friends, venue to be decided. I delved into the stashed away pile of reviews and recommendations looking for somewhere suitable with interesting food, a nice atmosphere and not too expensive. Among the reviews I found a Sunday Times ‘cheap eats’ supplement, which recommended West Hampstead’s own Le Petit Corée. So I thought, why schlep all the way across London when this is on our doorstep.

WHL had reviewed the Petite Corée previously and gave it the thumbs up.  How would it fare on a repeat visit?

The Petite Corée offers a fusion of European and Korean food, so a pretty suitable choice for our friends Tim (German) and his new girlfriend Katrina (Asian-American). After a quick glance at the menu we decided on the  sharing route and for starters ordered ceviche, soft-shell crab and truffle burrata. Jae, the chef, worked in one of London’s top kitchens and it showed – the starters were all hits. Visually, a particular highlight was the ceviche which was a beautiful as a Tom Aiken’s salad; a Jackson Pollock on a plate. Sometimes truffle on a menu is just a way of cashing it, but not here as it was the right note of truffle to an excellent fresh creamy burrata. And finally soft-shell crab – a favourite of mine but which I don’t often see on the menu in London.

It's thumbs up - as the clean plates show - for the Petite Coree

It’s thumbs up – as the clean plates show – for the Petite Coree

For mains we went for skate wing, octopus and firm favourite pork belly with a couple of extra sides (including kim-chi, of course). Again the three main course dishes were excellent, the skate perfectly flash-fried and the pork-belly slow-cooked. Not only were we eating local but from locally sourced ingredients as the skate was supplied by Broadhurst Garden fishmonger La Mer and the chocolates (on offer for dessert) from its erstwhile neighbour Cocoa Bijoux. The wine was a Chenin Blanc, a nice alternative to the usual Sauvignon/Pinot Grigio and – as behavioural economics predict – our choice was the second cheapest on the good but, not too long, wine list.

Dessert choices were raspberry Etton mess (sic), tiramisu and miso brownies. As I prefer chocolatey desserts my vote went for the brownie and tiramisu but Katrina and Tim’s preference was the Eton mess.

Some nice touches in both the decor and the desserts

Some nice touches in both the decor and the desserts

The Petite Corée has a quirkyness about it – from the name and logo to the decor – and spelling of Etton mess, but there is nothing quirky about the cooking. It’s fusion yes, but not quirky. Jae, the chef, trained at some of the best London kitchens and he has brought this back to West Hampstead. Lucky us.

It was listed as being a cheap eat (well for the Sunday Times at least) but that undersells the cooking. Rather it’s like when you book a good value Ford as a rental car on holiday and find you’ve been upgraded to a BMW. The excellent cooking was matched by a relaxed but efficient service making our evening at The Petite Corée a success – we had a grand old time.

The Petite Corée

a: 98 West End Lane, NW6 2LU

t: 020 7624 9209

e:

 

What have you missed since July 17th?

A section of Finchley Road was closed after a suspicious package was reported. It turned out that it “wasn’t a viable device”. Does that mean it wasn’t suspicious, or that it was but was just not viable?

New bakery Lola’s took some flak for having a disabled toilet that was up some stairs, but apparently a ramp is available on demand.

The local Safer Neighbourhood Team issued this warning.

Shocking scenes in West Hampstead this week... We don't feel able to publish the full image!

Shocking scenes in West Hampstead this week… We don’t feel able to publish the full image! via @Scandisgirl.

Tom gave his verdict on Kilburn’s Quartieri, following the recent whampdinner.

The Kitchen Table had its final farewell, and now everything’s coming up Mill House!

Some residents of the Chalcots estate, who were evacuated in the wake of the Grenfell fire, have started to be moved back in.

Maygrove & Iverson Road residents continue to push for some respite from their parking woes and met with officers from Camden. One for all of you in parking zone CA-Q.

Brioche has put in for a refurb as it is due for an upgrade (the biggest change: bi-fold doors)

Tulip Siddiq MP continues to fight for the release of West Hampstead resident Nazanin Zachary-Ratcliffe and arranged a debate in Westminster Hall about Nazanin’s plight and that of other imprisioned dual nationality Britons.

Tulip also held a reception to say thank you all the voluntary groups in H&K.

The West Hampstead Women’s Centre won the Queen’s award for voluntary service.

The Kilburn Grange festival had to be postponed after the bad weather. It will now take place on August 19th.

Daniel Raven-Ellison passed though West Hampstead this week on his #bigwalkroundlondon. Who is he? He’s the guy driving the National Park City initiative with our growth area it’s a particularly interesting concept for West Hampstead (just a shame he didn’t stop to find out more).

A vehicle was abandoned in Kilburn. Upside down.

Fortune Green councillor Flick Rea sat for a portrait masterclass at Hampstead School of Art. It turned out to be a revealing experience.

Local comedian Matt Green gave an insight into his West Hampstead life.

An old street sign appeared by Barclays .

One local captured some of the dramatic storm earlier this week.

Tweet of the week

Tom’s talking Italian at Quartieri

The latest Whampdinner took us down the KHR and (via the ever-splendid Black Lion) into Quartieri, to see what all the fuss was about regarding apparently authentic Italian pizzas…

It’s cheery inside, smart but laid-back, with one wall housing a remarkable array of herbs and chilis, quite a sight, and wonderful to know they’re going straight into the dishes.

Quartieri herb garden

Browsing the menu in advance I immediately got the impression these were ‘serious’ pizzas, as many appeared simple, without too many toppings, and no additional ones (though there were some less-standard choices available, and a special, a lemon-based one which sounded intriguing).

My table quickly devoured a charcuterie board, and looking across the room I noted an elegantly presented salad indicating care and attention. This seemed to have what looked like crisps placed on top; Mark noted several comments on these, in some cases accompanied by quirky Italian terminologies for fried this or that, but I think we’re all in agreement that yes, those were crisps!

Quartieri charctuerie

The bruschetta was good, as was the gnocchi (we tried some as a bonus starter) – somehow light yet rich, with a tantalising softness to it and just a little ‘edge’ as well. For both these dishes, I’d have liked a touch more salt, but then I’ve probably mashed my tastebuds due to decades of, well, getting mashed.

Quartieri Bruschetta

Quartieri gnocchi

I selected the Puttanesca pizza. With simple pizzas there’s nowhere to hide, so there has to be seasoning and taste; and indeed this was delicious, with strong flavours and satisfying dough. For sure, it had a touch of class and confidence to it, which I think is is what we were hoping for with this type of venture.

I was puzzled by all the toppings being in the centre (from the menu: Agerola fior di latte, slow food capers, and Caiazza black olives from Selanova), and although I admired the intention of these dark, intense olives being unpitted, this did inevitably mean it wasn’t easy to get a taste of everything in one bite. More puzzling was the omission of the stated Casa Marazzo organic tomatoes, especially as the whole menu sings-out “tomatoes!” throughout. The bonus addition of basil added a nice dimension though. Whatever, I’d happily have been back to try other options at 8am for breakfast given the opportunity. (Well perhaps 10am).

Quartieri pizza puttanesca

Service, via the friendly but professional Luka, was efficient, and we enjoyed a chat with the effusive founder, Tony, who seemed to be an exact 50-50 Italian / English mix. Us simpletons were amused and confused in equal measure initially, when Tony read menu options in vibrant Italian before sounding like a Kilburn pub landlord moments later.

We tried two reds: Aglianico Quartieri 17 – “savoury, meaty notes and plum fruit characterise this dry house red” – indeed it was dry, quite a refreshing wine to start off with, then Piedirosso Pompeiano 20 – “a medium bodied red with hints of strawberry on the nose and strawberry & blackcurrant on the palette” – a similar lightness (12.5% ABV) but with rather more to it, to match up against the grub.

A note about the chili oil – it was excellent. That sort of heat which creeps up, transpiring to be far more complex and indeed spicier than expected. Now, I tried to stitch-up poor old Goetz on my table, by assuming a nonchalant manner and suggesting “put tons of it on, it’s very mild” – however, as Goetz already knows I’m an idiot, he saw through my devious plan immediately – dismissing it with a chuckle and a bite of his calzone. Doh!

High quality pizzas, then lounging about in The Black Lion a couple of doors down – sounds like a sensible Kilburn-based evening, does it not? Welcome, Quartieri – we look forward to next time.

What have you missed since July 10th?

The Kitchen Table as we know it, bows out after 10 years.

The rubbish situation continues to drive West Hampstead crazy. It’s nearly three months now and the local councillors, not just the Labour ones, say ‘it’s settling down’. Really? Yet…they did finally start taking some action on a particular black spot (this is what it normally looks like) , but appear ignore many others. Hidden in plain sight. Then there are the missed collections and @fengsushi isn’t making itself popular.

There have been a rash of crimes in the area recently; a mugging on West End Lane, an attempted burglary on Sheriff Road , an actual one by Fortune Green, several windows smashed on West End Lane shops, and a burglary and car windows smashed as well. Take extra care, and if you are victim of a crime please report it to the police so they can get a true picture of the situation.

Falling masonry on Fawley Road brings the fire brigade out. Image via @jemimahknight

Falling masonry on Fawley Road brings the fire brigade out. Image via @jemimahknight

Our historians tracked down a missing cinema on Kilburn High Road.

And in a twist of fate there is a(n other) large-scale planning application for that same site.

Swiss Cottage’s Tory council candidate for next year’s local election, Calvin Robinson, appeared as the poster boy for a Government teaching campaign and then railed against left-wing brainwashing in schools.

More detailed analysis of ward by ward voting in GE2017 shows how strongly marginal wards like West Hampstead, Fortune Green, and even neighbouring Tory wards voted Labour.

Local MP Tulip Siddiq has arranged a debate in Parliament this week on British prisoners in Iran, including West Hampstead mum Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Remember the lost tortoise last week. Apparently it was not one, but two different tortoises. Both found and back home. But maybe they were trying to meet each other? A tortoise tryst thwarted?

Some good property news, of sorts, Kilburn offers the best choice of rental properties in London.

In a sponsored post, the Studio Society updates us on its gym which is opening very soon on Fortune Green Road.

Tweet of the week

The Kitchen Table bows out after 10 years on Mill Lane

It's Jennie from the Block (Mill Lane that is)

The Kitchen Table is changing hands. It had been up for sale for a while, and the owners Jennie Vincent and Tom Leslie found a buyer a few months ago (after an earlier offer fell through). However, it has taken a long time to finally dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s (or teas).

The Kitchen Table has a special place in many of our hearts – and stomachs. It is the ‘Central Perk’ of West Hampstead. In fact, Jennie revealed that a customer had told her recently that when she moved to West Hampstead she was not happy at all but one day she wandered into the Kitchen Table and from then on she felt at home. That customer is not alone. The Kitchen Table has been an important ingredient in the West Hampstead mix for the past ten years – it is one of those independent businesses that give the area character and which so many locals love to boast about (even if not all of them actually patronise these businesses).

To see how Jennie feels about it, here is her farewell blog post. Warning – hankies at the ready.

However, running such a people intensive business is HARD work. There is rarely day off, with the added stresses of running a small business. But through it all, Jennie, Tom and the team have kept on smiling, baking cakes, making coffee, scrambling the best eggs in the ‘hood (and crisping the second-best bacon butties in the country, as we now know), and we, the people of West Hampstead, kept on returning. At least one customer, who used to live in Kilburn (or Queen’s Park borders as she called it) but has now moved to the other side of the Heath, still comes back to the Kitchen Table for a regular brunch.

After a decade of hard work, therefore, Jennie and Tom have decide to explore new avenues. Neither of them are yet quite sure what those avenues are, but they are not short of possibilities. Jennie is thinking about staying in catering, but with a business that requires less of a commitment than running a café six days a week. Tom, who used to work for Cycle Surgery, thinks that something bicycle-related might be on the cards. Whatever they choose, I know that West Hampstead wishes them all the best.

Who will stepping into their shoes? A chap called Amir, what his plans are we don’t know, but WHL wishes him well.

So… people of Whampstead, this will be Jennie and Tom’s final Saturday, it’s the last chance for those famous brunches. Tuesday 18th will be the final day of trading and, as Jennie and Tom are incredibly grateful to their loyal customers, the KT will stay open after normal closing time for a farewell drink. If you want to pop by, please do.

What have you missed since July 3rd?

How many?? We crunched the numbers on entry/exit figures for West Hampstead’s three stations. Tbh even we were surprised.

It was the Jester Festival last weekend, that much you know. But to get an unbiased view on it, we asked a newcomer to the area to pay a visit.

There was a Whampdinner at Quartieri (the new pizza place on the KHR). Good food, good company and good limoncello. (If you’ve not been to one before, do subscribe to the newsletter and invites – they are a really fun night out in the ‘hood, and it’s  and always nice to meet fellow whampers who are even more interesting after a glass or two of wine).

Tortoise lost. Sad face. Tortoise found! Smiles all round. Pics and general good samaritan from Jemima Knight and Weary cynic (yes really).

Tortoise lost. Sad face. Tortoise found! Smiles all round. Pics and general good samaritanness from Jemima Knight and Weary cynic (she has a good heart after all! 🙂

(astonishingly 17 other people claimed it as ‘their’ missing tortoise)!

And Coco (cat) was missing, but has been found.

Now that we have reunited tortoise and owner. And Coco and her owner. Anyone recognise this ginger cat?

Hello Lola. After a soft opening over the past few days, Lola’s bakery opens on Tuesday Thursday the 13th.

Latte Lassi is moving in where Cocoa Bijoux was (and Cocoa Bijoux is moving further up Broadhurst, apparently)

Genius club is taking over the Movers and Shakers spot. To sell games and toys.

Monsters of Art is opening a new tattoo shop off Oxford Street.  But fear not, it’s keeping the one on Mill Lane.

It was Pride weekend – and there is an appeal for information and memories of the gay scene at the Lower Ground Bar. It had a gay scene?

I know I said no more election news, but while the overall election turnout in the UK was 68.7%, and in London it was over 70%, but in West Hampstead it was the highest in Camden at over 80%.

Remember Woods & Woods? It was the pine furniture shop where Tesco is now. Damien Pullen, the owner and familiar face in the area, has died suddenly.

Comments are officially closed on the farmers’ market expansion but experience suggests that it’s still worth commenting if you have not already. You can do so here.

West Hampstead local Harriet Dart played in the women’s doubles (or ‘dubs’) at Wimbledon. She was not successful this year but who knows what the future will bring.

Help to buy isn’t really helping in Camden; in the last financial year only 13 loans were issues in the borough! And none would have been much help buying this house in West Hampstead- it’s on the market for £4 million.

Tweet of the week

West Hampstead passengers top 20 million a year

As long-suffering commuters in (and through) West Hampstead are aware, it’s feels ever more crowded at our stations – especially the tube station. But do the numbers back up that perception? We crunched the numbers, and we were surprised at the results.

Passenger flows at West Hampstead’s three stations – the Underground, the Overground and Thameslink – are measured separately, but Oyster card data allows reasonably accurate tracking of people changing trains as well as those who enter and exit here and don’t change.

To better understand how tube passenger numbers have grown, we compared West Hampstead to neighbouring Kilburn, Finchley Road, and Swiss Cottage stations. Passenger numbers at these stations have been essentially flat over the past 10 years, but at West Hampstead they are up 50% from 7.5 million to 11 million entries/exits p.a. (a whopping 3.5 million extra passengers a year).

West Hampstead passenger numbers surge from 2010 onwards

West Hampstead passenger numbers surge from 2010 onwards

The growth spurt began in 2010, but what has driven it? Part of the rise is due to development here, which looks set to increase with more recent development in and around the stations. Just 100 additional residents commuting to work 48 weeks a year is 48,000 additional journeys. However, the real driver has been, the upgrade of and the extra passengers on, the Thameslink and especially the Overground.

Thameslink use has risen steadily from 2.2 million to 3.7 million over the past ten years, but it is the Overground that has seen the real growth. In 2006, there were 1.9 million entry/exits in 2006, dipping to just over 1 million with disruption of construction. This year, that is expected to surpass 5 million.

Longer trains and a more integrated network have pushed Overground numbers up

Longer trains and a more integrated network have pushed Overground numbers up

Add them all together and total passenger entry/exits for the three stations have risen from 10.7 million in 2007 to 19.6 million in 2016 (and should be more than 20 million by 2017). That’s a doubling in ten years.  That includes an increasing number of interchanges – the data here is not perfect, but we estimate there were about 250,000 in 2007, last year it was more than 1.5 million. West Hampstead it doesn’t  just feel more crowded – it really is!

Woo-hoo a new gate at the tube station. Actually it's a real improvement. What next?

Woo-hoo, an extra gate at the tube station. A real improvement. What next?

To cope with this growth, TFL is upgrading the Overground to expand the platforms and add step-free access. At the tube station it has  added and an extra gate – which will help when it’s finally working. But this is unlikely to be the silver bullet that solves the overcrowding, although it’s a sensible step in the right direction

Another major issue we face is the lack of step-free access at the tube station. Thameslink has it, and the new Overground station will have it. The tube station is the last piece of that particular puzzle. Last week TFL announced six stations were getting funding for step free access from a £200 million pot, but depressingly, this didn’t include West Hampstead.  One of those stations is Mill Hill East station, the least-used station on the Northern Line (with 1.3 Million entry/exits p.a.).  Doesn’t quite compute.

Expansion of the Farmers’ market; too much too soon?

London Farmers’ Markets has applied to Camden Council to expand the operating hours of the market that currently pops up on Iverson Road every Saturday. The existing market is popular, so this initially seems like a good idea and LFM has made it very easy for locals to show their support. However, residents who’ve looked at the smallprint have some reservations, and it is far from clear whether the demand is actually there.

We love the farmer's market, but is expansion from 4 to a potential 82 hours a week too much, too soon?

We love the farmer’s market, but is expansion from 4 to a potential 82 hours a week too much, too soon?

For years, the residents of West Hampstead clamoured for a farmers’ market, and their wish came true five years ago. Pretty much from the word go it’s been a success, as our Insight into: Brinkworth Dairy explained.

To build on this success, London Farmers’ Markets – the company that puts on not just the West Hampstead market, but most of the major once-a-week markets around the capital, including Queens Park’s Sunday market – has put in a planning application to expand the hours of operation. On Saturday, the market would potentially run until 8pm, rather than 2pm as it is now. There could be a Sunday market from 10am to 5pm and on Mondays to Fridays it is asking for permission to trade from 7am to 8pm. Add it all up and it’s a potential expansion from 4 to 82 hours a week.

Local residents in Maygrove and Iverson Road, who already are under severe parking ‘stress’ are obviously concerned about the impact on parking, and there are also concerns about rush-hour passenger and traffic flows.

Nor does it seem that the traders themselves are unanimously in favour. Many of the regular stallholders have to drive a couple of hours to get here, which would mean 5am starts (or earlier) if they were to be opening for busines at 7am (not allowing for setup time). Once they finish and pack up there’s another two hour drive home – or more in the afternoon traffic. If the Saturday market didn’t close until 8pm they wouldn’t be home until 11pm, having got up at 5am. And then get up the next day at 5am for the next farmers market? All seems rather implausible.

Other locals have raised concerns about the impact on our local greengrocers, butchers and cafés? Businesses at the farmer’s market don’t have to pay the high rent or rates that businesses with premises have to face, so would this amount to unfair competition.

Postcode survey of farmers' market users source: LFM

Postcode survey of farmers’ market users. Source: LFM

LFM says that the mid-week market would be a different animal to the weekend market. There would be fewer stalls and more food outlets. But this has been tried before, admittedly not by LFM, and was not a great success given the lack of footfall. As we all know, West Hampstead is a busy interchange so there are morning and evening rush hours but not much in-between. Traders who were involved with that market thought that, if at all, just running it on Thursday and Friday night might be a better option.

It does rather feel as if LFM is attempting to get permission for as many hours as it possibly can, and will then work out when it will actually choose to trade, with the flexibility to adjust based on demand and the seasons. The idea of more than 80 hours of trading every week is surely unrealistic.

Even those with reservations – locals and traders – think that an expansion of the hours of trading is worth exploring -perhaps a market on Sunday with similar hours to Saturday but a slightly different focus. During the week perhaps one evening to test the market. In essence let’s not kill the farmer’s market goose that lays the organic golden egg.

Planners at Camden Council are reviewing the application and have acknowledged support for it. However, they are also considering the impact on neighbourhood amenity, local traffic and highway safety plus implications for the viability of the town centre. If you want to comment, you have until the 6th of July and can do so here.

Great Get Together Weekend – Jo Cox would have been proud of West Hampstead

It was a hot weekend in West Hampstead but with the ‘Big Lunch/ Jo Cox Great Get Together there was some really cool stuff going on. On Saturday night it was cycle-powered outdoor cinema and on Sunday a number of Big Lunches in the ‘hood.

By popular demand the first outdoor screening of the summer, organised by the Friends of Fortune Green, was back to cycle-power. The film was ‘Arrival’, which overall proved a popular choice although the audience of over 325 either loved it (“it was best film I’ve seen in ages”) or didn’t (“what was that all about?”); but even those who didn’t quite get the film enjoyed that fantastic atmosphere. Normally, by the end of the film it’s sweaters and blankets but not this time as it was still 23 degrees at 11pm.

Outdoor film - a cool thing to do on a hot night.

Outdoor film – a cool thing to do on a hot night.

Before the film started MC Simon Inglis thanked FOFG for putting it on and electric pedals for the system, and wished a speedy recovery to Councillor Flick Rea, in the audience with her arm still in sling. He also asked for donations to help fund the film, and the audience responded generously giving £925; so next up the kids-friendly film on August 12th (date for your diaries).

After the late-night film screening it was a gentle start for the Big Lunches on Sunday. Down in the Iverson Road Space, Monica Regli from MILAM reported that “It was sweltering hot so we had to keep moving the tables but we had a really good turnout. She heaped praise on member Carlotta Fiocchi-Sassoon the main organiser, although “everyone chipped in (and a special thank you to Sidings)” Monica was especially pleased that there was a great community spirit, “you could hear everyone networking and swapping information. Just what the country needs right now – a really positive effect.”

Mingling on Iverson at the MILAM lunch.

Mingling on Iverson at the MILAM lunch.

Up in Fortune Green ward it was take your pick. Probably the award for best village fete atmosphere was the Ravenshaw event on Glastonbury Street – although with a street name like that you can’t but help have a great atmosphere. It was a really well planned , but their secret weapon was their paddling pools! Popular on a hot day with the kids … and eyed enviously by the adults.  Their raffle raised a tidy sum for a local charity and #Grenfelltower.

Jimmy the juggler kept the kids entertained

Jimmy the juggler kept the kids entertained

A short walk away Hillfield Residents Association had about 75 adults and kids turn for their Big Lunch. Co-organiser Sandie Evans said “I’ve met the nicest people – and how did I NOT know Neil and Amanda – they live practically opposite and we’ve both lived on the Street for over 15 years”! Hillfield’s secret weapon was resident Jimmy who just happened to be juggler and kept the kids entertained for hours, although thankfully for him given a brief break by the arrival of police horses.

Everyone loves a police horse!

Everyone loves a police horse!

For the cultural historians among you that old buffet staple potato salad is out (there was none), pasta salad came in second place but the winner by far was couscous salad – there was enough to resurface the M1. Hillfield’s raffle was for #troysmission, the West Hampstead toddler with cerebral palsy whose mum is seeking to raise £50,000 for a potentially life changing operation for him.