It’s Snowest Hampstead!

The Beast from the East Arrived. West Hampstead got photographing.

It all kicked off on Monday with the first flakes of snow.

And we woke on Wednesday to this…

The cemetery looked splendid too…

But the snow had a downside. 🙁

There were a few snowmen, sorry, snowpersons ( this one was only 20cm high)

And still it kept on snowing…

Down on the Kilburn High Road they were wrapping up warm.

More snow on the way. Wrap up warm for your Kilburn High Road commute this morning.

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Health Town had a special winter offer…

And was there frozen ham on the menu at the newly opened Ham?

And the ever arty Kitchentablenw6 spotted this.

Snow tyres #tricycle #snow #shadow #london #night

A post shared by @ kitchentablenw6 on

And we will leave the final word to this optimistic snow graffiti artist.

Council tax is going up by 4.99% and here’s why

Last night Camden accepted the recommendation that council tax bills will rise, a decision that will be ratified at full Council on the 26th. For the second year running, it will rise by 4.99%, an increase comprised of a 2.99% council-tax increase and an ‘Adult Social Care’ precept of 2%’. Average Camden band D council tax was £1,417 in 2017/18, which will rise by £70 to £1,487 this coming year, if the increase is approved on the 26th.

Before everyone jumps up and down and starts grumbling about the 1.99% council tax rise, remember that inflation was 2.7% over 2017. Also, almost every council in the country is doing exactly the same, so Camden is no exception. Up until this year, 4.99% was the maximum rise in tax allowed before a referendum had to be held. That number is rising to 5.99%, so let’s see next year.

Council tax accounts for 12% of total council spending (£101 million of total spending of £824 million). Retained business rates account for £89.3 million, fees and rents bring in £166.5 million (of which council tenants contribute ~£120 million directly or via benefits), and the remaining £466.6 million comes from central government.

*note these are for 2017/18 but 2018/19 is roughly the same, although there has been some reduction in the central government grant.

Government funding comprises money for statutory responsibilities, such as schools, adult care, and housing. This statutory funding has been squeezed in recent years, but not cut dramatically. What has been cut dramatically is the portion for discrectionary services. In 2010, this totalled £241 million, but it has fallen every year since and in 2018/19 it will be £119 million – basically half.

Former council finance chief Theo Blackwell argued that Camden faced the seventh highest cut in the country. Despite the cuts, he also said that “resident satisfaction with how Camden spends money is at an all-time high, and gone up by 20% in last 4 years”.

Camden has coped with budget cuts by making savings. Most visibly for most residents, it moved waste collections from weekly to fortnightly, which saved £5 million per year. This has become something of a political football. The Conservatives say they would reverse the change while Labour claims it’s the result of the cut in the central government block grant. Surely, whichever side of the political divide you sit on, we can all agree that the council should spend money as efficiently as possible?

As we get further into the savings programs, the easy savings have all been made and there is concern that some of the harder savings might not be realised, which would lead to Camden’s deficit rising. As the chart below shows, a growing share of savings fall into the “maybe” and “uncertain” to be realised categories.

These are the expected savings with the probability they will be realised; green = fairly certain, amber = maybe, red = uncertain. And they will have to find further savings on top of these.

Slicing the pie

Where does the council spend all this money? Every year it produces a finely sliced pie chart that breaks it down. The biggest area of spending is education (about 25% of the total), which is spent according to government rules. The block grant for education has been cut by 3% a year for the past few years. In 2018/19 it will rise by 0.5% (still a cut in real terms, given inflation is 2.7%).

*note these are for 2017/18 but 2018/19 are roughly the same, although there have been some reductions.

There were a couple of sizeable one-off items in the 2018/19 housing expenditure. The evacuation of Chalcots estate in the aftermath of the Grenfell fire led to emergency housing costs of £17.5 million and the cost of replacing the cladding was another £31 million. The council is asking central government to bear at least some of the cost but will have to find the extra money from its reserves.

Another change to the balance sheet stems from the changes to housing benefit and universal credit. So far only a small number of people have been switched over to universal credit but as has been widely reported, the process has not been smooth and has led to an increase in rent arrears. As more recipients get switched over, Camden expects these arrears to rise.

Meanwhile, central government is mandating a 1% rent reduction per year, until 2020/21. From then on they will increase again by 1% (though, depending on inflation, this is likely to still result in less income in real terms).

Adult social care makes up a large part of Camden’s expenditure. The last few years have coincided with a real-terms squeeze on the NHS budget and a rise in the number of older people, particularly of the very old. Between 2013 and 2023, the number of people aged 90+ is projected to increase by 50%. This is why central government has allowed councils to add a ring-fenced 3% precept for adult social care.

Still, Camden has been able to set a balanced budget for this year, assuming frozen block grant, there are budget deficits forecast for 2020/21 (of £36 million ) and beyond. Plus some of the expected savings are looking uncertain (as in RAG – red/amber/green graph above).

“More rough than ready”

Since Theo Blackwell departed to be Sadiq Khan’s digital tsar, Fortune Green councillor Richard Olszewski has taken over as cabinet member responsible for Finance. Richard said that the medium-term financial strategy Camden established in 2014 has helped it mitigate the impact of the cuts. It has also focused on ‘outcomes-based budgeting’ to help it spend money more effectively. Finally, the council also digitised many services, such as parking permits, making them work better (and cheaper).

“Council tax was brought in 1990 after the Poll Tax and was rough and ready but by 2018 its now more rough than ready”. The simple truth is that, broadly speaking, Londoners massively underpay council tax relative to the rest of the country as banding has not kept up with the stratospheric growth in house prices in the capital. But re-banding would be political suicide for the Tories who would hurt their home counties base and for Labour who’d alienate their urban voters.

Richard recognises that locals should be more involved in setting Council tax. “It would help if there was a more obvious link between council tax and council services, but people did get involved back in 2014 when we were consulting on budget cuts.”. He also argues that over the past few years, “we have been in an almost permanent election cycle”, and therefore there’s real-time feedback on the doorstep. “Yes, at first they criticise us, but then they recognise we have to make cuts, but end by saying we could do better!”

Richard says that there will need to be a further round of cuts, though won’t yet be drawn on specifics. Camden is dominated by Labour councillors, and the local party tries to plan its budget in line with Labour motivations with a focus on tackling inequality and spending more on early years provision.

Camden Conservatives’ finance spokesperson is Swiss Cottage councillor Don Williams. He argues that the Conservatives would try to be more efficient. He points out that Westminster (population 220,000) has 1,700 employees, while Camden (population 246,000) has 3,968. He also suggested ways of raising more revenue, such as through advertising, which now brings in £5 million a year.

Every year, the Conservatives produce an alternative budget that goes into more detail about how they would save money. Pages 7-11 of this document set out their ideas (for 2017). Note that the Conservatives accept the need for the 3% precept, so even under the Tories your bills would rise, but they would freeze the council tax component. In the end, last year their proposal would have led to a £21 annual saving over the actual rise in band D council tax, which doesn’t seem like a radically different vision.


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.

Camden ‘criminalises’ West Hampstead dog owners

There have been rumours that Camden was changing the rules on taking dogs into the cemetery, a popular walking spot for local dog-owners, but there had been nothing concrete. So WHL thought it would ‘doggedly’ investigate the issue.

‘Criminal’ activity taking place in the cemetery… dogs being walked (the image is deliberately blurry)

It appears that a change was indeed added to a piece of legislation introduced last February – a PSPO. This stands for a Public Spaces Protection Order and was introduced because of “complaints relating to the fear and intimidation caused when dogs are not controlled or misused by their owners. Such lack of control can result in attacks on other animals and, even though rare, attacks on humans can occur”.

We weren’t aware that this was such problem with this in the cemetery. Rather the cemetery is a popular place for West Hampstead dog owners to take their (pretty well mannered) dogs for a short stroll. Most do take their dogs off the lead, but they keep them under control, as their dogs potter beside them.

WHL was there this Sunday mid-morning and in the space of ten minutes spotted 6 or 7 dogs being walked, most off the lead. When we spoke to their owners, they were aware that it was a cemetery and responded accordingly; putting the dog on the lead if someone was tending a grave, picking up after their dog and keeping them under control. But they were also wanted somewhere they could walk their dog and especially for those without a car there were few other options.

The PSPO replaces Dog Control Orders which were introduced in 2007, they superceded the existing bylaws that previously required dogs to be on leads in the cemetery. Camden says this was unpopular and cause for concern for the Friends of Hampstead Cemetery and ward councillors at the time. Again, this is news to the ward councillors.

It was also suggested that “this would prevent the distress experienced by people visiting graves. It would also make it easier for Officers to issue fixed penalty notices (FPNs) for dog fouling”. Camden Parks department reported that it had “many reports and complaints about dog fouling and dogs running over graves in recent years”.

This was news to the Friends of Hampstead Cemetery which said that there had been a complaint every now and then, but not many. And local Councillor Lorna Russell said that she hadn’t received a single complaint about dogs not being on leads in the cemetery, so the issue wasn’t on her radar. Cllr Rea a former councillor responsible refused in the past to include a clause to let all dogs be in leads in parks, which it is what her officers had then recommended. This just wasn’t realistic.

As for dog-fouling we are not aware of any FPNs actually being issued. Instead, the Friends of Hampstead Cemetery agreed that in recent years dog owners have become much more responsible about picking up any faeces ‘deposited’ by their dogs.

The Friends said that the main area of concern was that at the back of the cemetery, where some dog owners would play fetch by throwing balls for their pets, but a simple ‘no ball games’ sign would have been enough. It also seems to have grown as there are a few ‘professional’ dogwalkers who should know better.

The majority of the visitors to the cemetery are dog walkers so rather than alienate them it would seem far more productive to positively engage with them, as they act as the eyes and ears to report problems, rather than alienate them as Camden have done.

Camden Parks department also claims that the legislation was introduced following ‘consultation’ but again no-one seems to have been aware of it. Cllr Rea and Russell weren’t actively informed until after the legislation was in place, but even then it still isn’t clear.

The other problem with the new approach is that there is ‘no enforcement’. Camden simply doesn’t have the resources – and given that Camden is having to make savings to the budget it’s is difficult to see them getting them. WHL thinks that given the pros and cons of the matter, it was probably better to let sleeping dogs lie.

Narcissus Road seeks Play Street status as Camden works on open space provision

Stop for a minute. Close your eyes and think about your memories of playing as a child.

More likely than not, it was outdoors or in your local park. Yet children today are evermore glued to their iPhones, iPads or TV screens and if they do ‘play’, they are driven to a play date at someone’s house. How do we get children outdoors and playing again? In a bid to do this, Camden Council is operating a scheme called Play Streets and is also improving local parks.

Play Streets is a scheme by which a local road is closed to traffic for a period of time, with Camden-supplied signage and residents acting as marshals to ensure compliance. You can find more details here.

This year, residents of Narcissus Road are planning to join the Play Streets scheme. Initially, the plan is to close the road for one Sunday afternoon a month. Officers from Camden have visited the road and identified the section from Glenbrook to Pandora Road as suitable.

The next step is that residents need to get agreement from 70% of the street, then they will be good to go for this year.

Menelik vs. Asmara finals last summer image:Daniel Leon

The scheme is not new to West Hampstead. For the last two years, residents of Menelik Road have been running a play street on the last Sunday of the month from March to October. Julia Marcuson, who has organised it, said that apart from the delays in getting it started, which were frustrating, “it’s been very successful”.

Other than the play streets, Camden is also responsible for our local parks and is just finishing a renovation of the Iverson Road open space. This has suffered from inevitable delays but given that it’s been cold and wintry, this hasn’t caused to much trouble. There was consultation on the changes, but we will have to see how much more use the space will get this summer after more than £100,000-worth of renovations.

The same is true of the Sumatra Road open space, which also has been renovated. It was only a few years ago that it had £50,000 spent on it under a Labour government initiative to encourage more outdoor play. Although without much consultation, anecdotal evidence suggests that usage hasn’t increased that much (real data is impossible to come by, unfortunately) and it seems a shame to rip out all the equipment that wasn’t installed that long ago.

Down at Kilburn Grange, the adventure playground, which was only installed in 2010 – at a cost of £950,000 – was shut after six years. Camden current masterplan for the Grange involves tearing it down completely and building another one elsewhere in the park.

There are a couple of other local spaces that been improved recently: Mill Lane open space and Fortune Green. The Mill Lane space was improved as part of the rebuilding of Emmanuel School. It seems like a missed opportunity. It required some fairly extensive remedial works and Camden Parks department have said never again to large sand pits – which are popular with the local cats.

Fortune Green has been probably the most successful local parks improvement. This was led by a friends group [disclosure: I’m the chair], set up because of the poor state of the green. The friends weren’t overly ambitious and made it an aim to increase the simple open space for kids to run around, cycle, play football and just enjoy. Which they do. It has led to a significant increase in use of the space by all ages, including children. Especially the younger ones who use the ever popular playground at all times of the year.

The theme linking these initiatives is the degree of involvement of local parents in making things happen, getting involved and providing input and getting the best outcomes. Making play happen, it appears, requires some effort.

Classical concert kicks off the new year at the Sherriff Centre

Church, post office, play venue and … concert hall. The multi-faceted Sherriff Centre added another string to its bow on Friday with the first of a series of classical music concerts, which had got some advance coverage on Radio 3.

The driving force behind them is a local resident (and pianist) Yehuda Inbar who approached centre manager Jane Edwards with the idea last year. It’s one thing to have the idea, but quite another to make it happen and Yehuda admitted he was ‘quite stressed’ as the first concert was about to begin. However, stress levels dropped when it became clear that all the tickets had been sold and there was a good audience ready for the concert to start.

Mark Padmore recital at the Sherriff Centre, including audience in the comfy sofas!

The concert, a recital of Lieder (songs) by well-known tenor Mark Padmore accompanied by Andrew West on piano. And not just any piano it was a Bechstein grand piano, brought in specially for the concert (thanks to the support of Bechstein).

The atmosphere was informal, somewhere between a private recital and regular concert. Mark was quite relaxed and admitted that singing recitals can be ‘hard work’ for the audience. So, to help guide us he gave some background to the works and explained it was loosely based on a Greek theme. He also suggested referring to the text and translations to help follow the music.

The first section was some of Schumann’s songs based on poems on Greek themes by German greats such as Goethe and Schiller. This was followed by Britten’s ‘Hoelderlin’ fragments (Hoelderlin being another German poet).

After the interval when the audience was able to refortify itself with wine, Andrew suggested we ‘lie down on the comfy sofas’ for the most challenging part of the concert; Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s ‘Songs from the same Earth. In fact, like all the works that evening Mark sang them excellently. This was no surprise, particularly for the Birtwistle songs, as they had been written especially for Mark and he had premiered them (accompanied by Andrew) at the Aldeburgh Festival in 2013. They have since played them several times since (and now in West Hampstead).

And next Wednesday they will be playing them and the other works again, in the Cologne Philharmonic Hall no less!

Mark ended by saying he ‘loved performing here, as it was a wonderful way to listen to music’. It achieved the aim of hearing top musicians in a relaxed atmosphere. If you missed it there will be more chances as the concerts continue monthly; next up is the Heath Quartet and in April there will a jazz concert. Also playing later in the series is Yehuda himself, who is an excellent pianist himself we have heard.

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!

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.

Hallelujah! Local carol singer raises £100,000 over 40 years

One of the best things about Christmas is the carol singing. It get’s you into the spirit of Christmas and those singing are raising money for good causes, a reminder of the true spirit of Christmas.

Well done Tessa Henderson (not in the picture as she was taking it) and her friends. Merry Christmas.

Every Christmas since 1977, West Hampstead resident Tessa Henderson has been organising her friends to go carol singing. They have had a pitch at Waterloo Underground ticket concourse for two evenings in the run-up to Christmas. I write ‘they’ because she couldn’t have done it without the support of friends and family, but she is very much the driving force behind it.

Tessa says “It’s all down to the tireless energy of the singers and collectors who come year after year.  I just do a bit of organising. It’s an amazing feeling to raise that kind of money just from opening your mouth”.

These aren’t just any carol singers. Tessa has been singing all her life and has recruited friends from renowned amateur and professional choirs, including over the years, a few who were members of the ROH and ENO chorus. It is hard work singing for more than two hours non-stop, in a chilly underground station, but it is also great fun and rewarding to be part of such an incredible fundraising effort.

Over the 40 years, they have raised money mainly for Save the Children, although in the early years they also raised some money for Shelter, Oxfam and Marie Curie. Thalea Turowski of Save the Children says “Huge congratulations to Tessa Henderson and the Waterloo carollers on their 40th anniversary! The incredible amount of over £100,000 raised during that time makes it possible for Save the Children to help children in the UK and around the world when they need us the most – thank you so much for your amazing support!”

In the first year, they raised £268.30 setting off on a journey, which, 40 years later, would see her reach the grand total of £100,160. To help reach that, in lieu of presents for her recent birthday she asked for donations to Save the Children, and this year she has set up a 40th anniversary Just Giving page.

The carol that gets the best response? Ding Dong Merrily on High! (Click on the link to hear them in action).

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.

Where to buy a Christmas tree in West Hampstead

Thinking about buying your Christmas tree? Don’t know where in West Hampstead? Let us help you.

First of all, what variety? The traditional tree was the Norway Spruce, it has a nice scent but drops its prickly needles quite quickly. Over the past few years, this has been superceded by non-drop varieties, such as the Nordmann Fir, Fraser Fir and Lodge Pole Pine. The Nordman Fir is now the best selling variety, has softer needles, but less scent. The Fraser Fir is popular in America, is a bit narrower in shape, and has a nice fragrance. Another American variety, the Lodge Pole Pine was apparently used by Indians for the central pole for their teepees because of the straightness of the tree, it retains its needles.

There are a number of different places in West Hampstead to get your Christmas tree.

The Mill Lane Gardening Project

For those of that don’t know, this project is run by the Camden Society and offers training and employment to adults with learning disabilities. The money it raises from selling Christmas trees is an important source of money to support the charity.

They can arrange delivery at a small cost.

Gardening trainees Stephen, Singh, Tony, and Steven show off Mill Lane Garden Centre’s bumper crop of newly-delivered Christmas trees.

Pines and Needles

These are the new kids on the block. The company hastaken some space on Fortune Green, and is paying Camden Council for the privilege. It created a bit of rumpus as quite a few locals have been surprised that Camden would offer space to local competition to the popular Mill Lane Gardening project.

Pines and Needles started in 1995, right down the road in Maida Vale, by a couple of brothers Sam & Josh Lyle, who as teenagers brought a truck-load of Christmas trees from their family farm in Scotland. They now sell Christmas trees from 27 sites across London. Last year their customers included Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, which may or may not be a selling point to West Hampstead customers.

They are, however, trying to be good neighbours (or competitors) to the Mill Lane Garden Project and will make an unspecified donation in the New Year.

Pines and Needles are a ‘full-service’ Christmas Tree seller, which means that – for a cost – they will deliver, decorate, and remove the tree (at various price tiers). Go premium and you could end up spending more than £600 on your Christmas tree!

George the grocer and West Hampstead Fruit and Veg

Trees are also available at our fruit and veg sellers on Mill Lane and West End Lane, not such a wide selection as the others but still they offer another option.  And for those of you down south of the stations they usually sell Christmas trees outside the Sherriff Centre.

And what can you do with your trees in the New Year….?

There will be two local Christmas tree reycling points; one on Kilburn Grange at Messina Avenue and the other up at the bottom of Fortune Green.


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.

Twelve things to do in West Hampstead in November

So what’s happening in West Hampstead this month? Lots of course!

Starting at the more serious end of things on Friday 10th (not the 11th) it is the Armistice Day service at the war memorial in the Cemetery.

Fancy a film? it is the Jewish Film festival coming up from the 9th – 26th. Quite a few films being screened at JW3.

Talking of film, on saturday 11th the community association are showing ‘Remains of the Day’ starring local actress Emma Thompson but written by local(ish) recently Nobel-prize winning author Kazuo Ishiguro (he lives in Golders Green).

Also the 11th there is what looks like a nice piano concert, Climate Keys, in St. Cuthbert’s Church Hall linked to the Bonn Climate (COP) conference.

Keeping things at an elevated level our friends and West End Lane books are putting on a book talk with Tom Cox – a 21st Century Yokel – on Friday 17th.

A couple of days later on Monday 20th Locally Sourced at the new venue of the Alliance have Pauline Prior Pitt (poet) and Luke Barlow, jazz pianist.

The Camden Arts Centre continues it’s reputation of showing established if slightly under the radar artists. At the moment they have Natalie du Pasquier with ‘Open Rooms’. She was part of the Memphis group in the 80s and talks about the exhibition in this video. Also on show is a smaller exhibition by Christian Nyampeta (a former artist in residence).

If all this is getting a bit heavy… how about something a bit lighter?

Sadly the Good Ship comedy has sailed over to a new venue, but it’s not far just a short trip on the Overground to upstairs at the Colonel Fawcett in Camden Road. Still on Monday nights.

Or closer to home the London Improv on the Finchley Road has a few things on offer. On friday 10th it has the Ultimate Improve Friday with the Inflatables (improv comedy) AND Musicbox (improv comedy musical). Of Tony Slattery is back with Slattery Night Fever (err nest on on Monday 6th), but back on Saturday 18th and 25th. He has some old stalwarts of the Improv scene joining him.

Feeling entrepeneurial…? From 4pm to 9pm on Thursday 16th at ESCP (the European business school at 527 Finchley Road) are holding an event to celebrate the 3rd edition of the Jean-Baptiste Say Entrepreneurship Festival. Who is he? Jean-Baptiste Say, not only one of the founders of ESCP Europe but also the person who coined the term entrepreneur! an investor or potential customer (or just plain curious) just pop by.

Feeling energetic…? On Saturday 18th at Studio Society (up by Fortune Green) there is a spinathon to raise money for Action for Families who provide mental health support to those affected by the Grenfell disaster. It is SIX back to back 45 minute spin classes (from 10:30am to 4:30pm). Team places are all booked but there will be riding slots so if interested just email (details on the link).

Or if you are feeling a bit braver… a week later there is a mid-winter swim over at Hampstead Lido on Saturday 25th. It is raising money for Crisis the homeless charity.

And a definite date for your diary… Thursday 30th Whampdrinks at the Gallery.

Christmas is coming …

There are some really special presents on offer at the Village Haberdashery who have organised Makers Markets – every Sunday until the 17th of December they have two visiting makers selling their wares. And they also have some Christmas classes coming up.

Another date for your diary is Kingsgate Workshop’s Winter Fair on Friday 24th (evening) plus Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th (afternoons). They’ve got music too! It’s not quite as big as the summer opening but there are some great designer-maker present to buy.

And finally, just slipping into next month, on Saturday 2nd December, it’s the West Hampstead Christmas market on West End Green with some more hand-made present buying opportunities – and carol singers too!

(Also in December is the next FoWHL event – an evening with Sir Derek Jacobi. But alas – blink as you missed it – it is booked out already).

Rubbish problems improving, but there’s still a long way to go

Raindrops on snowdrops and warm swollen mittens, etc. etc. may have been some of Julie Andrews favourite things but rubbish and recycling, street litter and fly-tipping are some of West Hampstead’s least favourite.

When the Neighbourhood Development Forum was drawing up its plans a few years ago, the issue of rubbish generally came up as having a significant impact on the quality of life for locals, but it falls outside the scope of the NDF as it is not strictly a planning issue.

Then, as you all know, in April this year the council introduced a new rubbish and recycling collection contract with Veolia. Not surprisingly there were what the responsible councillor, Meric Apak, optimistically called ‘teething issues’. In reality there was a massive spike in complaints. True, these have subsided but there continues to be a constant stream of tweets and photos of fly-tipped waste in the area, and not all from Conservative activists out to make political capital from the issue.

Against this backdrop, local amenity group WHAT held a meeting about rubbish and recycling earlier in the year before the contract was introduced. In July and August it followed up with a survey, mainly of their members (but also WHL readers) on how the new contract was working. It may not be the most representative slice of the local population, but nevertheless it still gives a sense of where we stand.

WHAT summarised the survey findings and held another public meeting last week to present the results to both Camden and Veolia. The meeting was pleasingly well attended – this is clearly still a hot local issue – though if everyone who vociferously complains on Twitter had turned up the room would barely have had capacity.

West Hampstead giving Camden and Veolia a grilling

In summary, the issues raised in the report based on the survey are:

  • Overall there is a willingness to recycle
  • Fly-tipping and the state of the local streets was an issue
  • Fly-tipping hot spots
  • Bins being left on streets is a problem, who puts them back?
  • Garden waste collection was a bit unclear
  • More detailed info on what can and can’t be recycled
  • A lot of the problems are focused on houses divided into flats
  • Why don’t the Veolia team report back problems?
  • Attaching notices to ‘contaminated’ recycling bins
  • More enforcement

Richard Bradbury, who is responsible for the contract responded on behalf of Camden, backed up by Chris Burrows from Veolia. There has been a 10% improvement in recycling (by tonnage), but that only takes Camden from near the bottom of table to a bit below average. Richard reminded us that not all of Camden has switched to fortnightly collections as much of the south of the borough continues to get weekly collections.

Camden pays £40/tonne less for recycled waste than for landfill; perhaps they should make more of this to encourage those who gripe about costs generally to do their part to reduce Camden’s spending here so it can be reallocated elsewhere.

Chris from Veolia pointed out that they collect from 1,500 properties a day in the area, and now have on-board technology to start feeding back problem collections. He is already aware of many of these problems and the plan is to approach problem households in the Autumn.

The early problems with getting the right bins to the right people seem to have largely been cleared up, and anecdotal evidence suggests that the online ordering system works fairly well.

Garden waste collections can be shared but only from one address. Their systems can’t cope with changing addresses. This is for up to three bags per week.

Richard agreed that engagement with estate agents was a good idea in order to pass on the most up-to-date information to new residents, especially tenants. There are already plans to contact landlords registered with Camden (though of course this is only a small fraction of them). Local litter hound Agnes pointed out that Camden did have control over Council owned properties and some leeway over Housing Association ones, which is where a large number of the problems are (as these properties are divided into flats).

Richard Bradbury from Camden on the spot.

As for West End Lane (and KHR, Fortune Green Road and Mill Lane) all of which have flats above shops, both the businesses and flats are supposed to have time-banded collections. This means rubbish should be left outside at very specific times and is collected much more frequently. It’s true that for some people those times are not practical, and thus the problem of dumped rubbish can seem worse than it really is. Generally on West End Lane the system works quite well – but there is little evidence of recycling on these streets (recognisable by the use of clear bags).

Next came discussion on the vexing question of where people should leave bins on collection day, and where they should be returned. If the bins are within one metre of your gate, the original leaflets stated that ‘all containers will be returned to where you placed them for collection.’ However, this is not happening. Cllr Flick Rea cited an example of a neighbour who actually built a bin store for their two bins adjacent to the street and they are still not being returned.

Indeed, some bins seem to be permanently left on the street. There is a property on Hillfield Road, which since April 1st has permanently left the bins on the street. Less than half the bin capacity is used so there is no need for any bins to be left on the street. Yet in six months of weekly recycling collection and fortnightly regular collection, plus weekly visits by the street sweepers no action had been taken.

Next we heard from a woman who is not only a local resident but also a landlord of an HMO (House for Multiple Occupation as opposed to separate flats). She expressed extreme frustration at problems with collection saying there had been times when rubbish hadn’t been collected for weeks, and at being allocated bins that were too big for the space.

The Clean Camden App for reporting fly-tipping was also mentioned. If you don’t use it already then it’s worth installing but although it deals with the issue it doesn’t tackle the underlying problem of flytipping in the first place. There are now six enforcement officers spread across the borough, who between tham have issued 50 fixed penalty notices in the past two weeks.

It seemed that both Camden and Veolia were surprised at the extent of the problems and the barrage of questions from what was a largely pro-recycling and mild-mannered audience. Local elections are six months away, and there were five sitting councillors in the room. If, somehow, they had yet to appreciate the scale of the problem they left the meeting in no doubt that there is much work still to be done before anyone can consider the new arrangement a true success.

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.

‘The Art of Failing’, the West Hampstead way

Local author Tony McGowan’s new book ‘The Art of Failing‘ is described by the publisher as ‘A laugh-out-loud chronicle of one man’s daily failures and disappointments, set in West Hampstead‘.

He has a book reading coming up at West End Lane Books on Thursday this week, so we popped by for a cup of herbal tea to have a chat. Tony couldn’t actually find a herbal tea bag, so the following events took place over a cup of hot water with a measly slice of lemon.

The book is in diary format and according to his agent was ‘not an obvious book to publish’ as it is a series of Facebook musings turned into a book, but published it was, with a book launch last week at Daunt books in Marylebone.

'Don't cry for me, West Hampstead. The truth is I never left you.'

‘Don’t cry for me, West Hampstead. The truth is I never left you.’ Pic: at the book launch at Daunt’s Books

How did it come about?

“Well, my personal writing style is observation and a touch surreal so I needed some space, but I was interested in writing something over social media. As Twitter is only 140 characters, Facebook seemed the natural choice. Quite early on I realised that the ‘likes’ (which became quite addictive) offered a feedback loop on what was popular so it helped shape things. So the musings on cricket, for example, had to go!”

The book appears to be a diary or journal, but a lot of what happens seems bizarre and extraordinary. How much of it is true?

“All of it to some extent, much is as true as I could make it, there is a kernel of truth in all of it.

For example, take the dwarf doppelgänger called “Heimlich” who I encountered one evening when I was out walking the dog. Suddenly I heard this panting and pounding sounds behind me. I turned around and there he was. I stared at him, he stared at me, but then ran off. When I got home I told my wife and kids about him and they said ‘nah’, but I occasionally saw him after that and yet they continued to think he was figment of my literary imagination. This ties into another strand of the book about my marriage being under strain by increasing weirdness during that period. When that was over I was out with my wife and daughter and we ran into Heimlich; we all saw him. So they realised he did exist and yes they agreed he did even look a bit like me, just smaller.

My approach is to look at the world in a different way, even at mundane events, so even something usual becomes a new thing”.

For a book that is supposed to be funny, some parts are quite sad/poignant. Does the sadness undermine the humour?

“Part of the narrative is the disintegration of my character and my isolation from my family – it’s exaggerated of course, but it came after a successful period and things felt a bit flat, my career seemed to be heading downhill. Yet the comedy comes from that – it has an edge. However, the reviews and feedback I have had tended to see only the humour. As writer (or artist) you create what you can and put it out there, you can’t control how others react”.

Your family appears in the book. How do they feel about that? Especially the fearsome Mrs McGowan*…

“The kids are fine with it, they drift in and out of the text. My wife Rebecca plays a more central role so that was trickier. She can appear hard and cruel but is also rather beautiful so that was OK. I’ve discovered that way round is fine for people I write about, but not vice-versa”.

(* I was at university with Mrs McG and we nearly went out, except she turned me down. How different history could have been.)

What else have you written?

“I written a number of books for teenagers. The ‘Donut Diaries’ is a comic trilogy set in the north of England where I grew up.  The other books are all stand alone novels; ‘Hellbent’ about a teenager who dies and goes to hell – it’s a comedy, ‘Jack Tumor’ about a boy who discovers he has a brain tumour and keeps hearing voices. It’s inspired by Henry IV with the tumour playing the role of Falstaff. I’ve also written ‘The Knife That Killed Me’, which tackled teenage knife crime and was made into a film”.

In some ways the book is a love song to West Hampstead.  What are you favourite things about the area?

“What are my little stations of the cross? Well there’s Hampstead cemetery, the best open space in the area. It has everything; wilderness, history and a sense of poignancy of the graves. Each one is a story.

I’m also a big fan of the charity shops as a collector of first editions I’ve found a couple over time. Socially, a recent find is Tannin and Oak. Plus a long standing favourite where you often find me and Mrs McG having lunch is the Wet Fish Cafe. I used to go a lot to the Czech (and Slovak) Club but that’s tailed off.  And of course there is Lately’s.”



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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.

Things to do in West Hampstead on Sunday 17th September!

Our top ten things to do lists are proving popular but new things are coming in all the time.  In fact there is so much happening in and around West Hampstead next weekend we felt it was worth a mini-article of it’s own!

If it is architecture you are after it is Open House weekend. Your chance to visit great architecture across London. Locally there is the chance to go inside a couple of flats on the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate.  But there is so much else to explore – search the site for yourselves.  Or if you are planning to ‘do’ Open House they have a useful app. Last year there were 250,000 visits!

The Rowley Way Estate (aka Alexandra and Ainsworth) the final flourish of brutalist housing. Image: Open Buildings

The Rowley Way Estate (aka Alexandra and Ainsworth) the final flourish of brutalist housing. Image: Open Buildings

Looking for something sporty?  Well arm-chair sporty.  It’s (West) Hampstead Cricket Clubs annual celebrity match , organised by actor and cricket fanatic Jim Carter. Gates open at 12:45 with the match starting at 1:30 (ends around 6pm). Be bowled over by Emma Thompson’s performance – she is bowling the first ball.

Look for something literary? It’s the Ham & High Literary Festival at JW3 . There is a whole host of things from the 14th to the 18th but the main day is Sunday 17th.  We’d like to her Claire Tomalin talk about her autobiography. But there is much else on.

And even the littler literary residents of West Hampstead don’t get left out! Local author (yes, another one..) Jeff Norton is launching kid’s picture book Stomp School at WELBooks at 4pm. If you want to go though please let WELBooks know.  If you ain’t on the list you ain’t gettin’ in.

Looking for something arty? It’s the final weekend of the Daniel Richter exhibition at the Camden Arts Centre.  If you haven’t seen it and you like contemporary painting it’s a must.  (And welcome to Martin Clark, who took over running the centre from Jenni Lomax, who stepped down after 25 years). Or a bit closer to home Hannah Lees is turning ‘Existence into it’s Opposite’ down at the Kingsgate Workshops Project Space.

Something a bit more ‘left field’ and further afield; Selfridges is running an art project/charity shop  by American artist Miranda July. It’s running to October 21st so not hurry but we think it sounds cool.

And finally, over the ‘other’ NW6 it’s Queen’s Park day.  I know, I know it’s the ‘other’ side of the KHR but still we like Queen’s Park and it’s always a great day.

It’s a pint at the next Whampgather if anyone manages to fit these all it (with photographic proof) – all on one day in Whampstead.



Top Ten Things to do in West Hampstead in September

How many of our top tips for August did you manage?  Highlight was Random International and Wayne McGregor at the Roundhouse.  Coming up this month…

0. (Starting with an August event, this week on the 31st it’s Jazz @ the Kingsgate Centre)

1. It snuck in at number 11 in the things to do in August, as it was really September, but now September is here it’s here on the list. It’s the FT Weekend Festival on Sat 2nd at Kenwood House, with many FT journalists and guest speakers.

2. Also next weekend is the opening of the latest exhibition at the Kingsgate Project Space.  The artist is Hannah Lees and the title is ‘The Turning of Existence Into Its Opposite‘ . Opening is on Fri 1st, exhibition then on for September. These events are a bit cutting edge but worth a look.

3. And in the tail end of summer (West) Hampstead Beach is in its final week at JW3.  Open Air Theatre is still on with Jesus Christ Superstar having another good run.

4. A whole bunch of WELbooks events to keep us entertained:

You are not too cool for cats are you?  If you are not then WELbooks have the event for you! On Thurs 7th Chris Difford (he of Squeeze fame) is doing a book reading on – and bringing his guitar (contact WELBooks to book a place)

(and you heard it here first but in October Graham Gouldman of 10cc is coming to the Library – he too is bringing his guitar!)

5. It’s back to WELbooks on the 21st to hear Local author Tony McGowan talk about his book ‘The Art of Failing’ with plenty of observations about West Hampstead.  We hope it’s a success.

And is if that wasn’t enough Our friends at WELbooks are also having a lock-in on the 28th – 20% of all stock and booze too.  If you failed to get a copy on the 21st its another  opportunity to buy a copy of ‘The Art of Failing’ by local author Tony McGowan or indeed signed copies of ‘How Not To Be A Boy’ by some guy called Robert Webb.

Dude, it's Flick and Ted's Excellent Adventure

Dude, it’s Flick and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

6. On Wed 13th Library writer-in-residence and local councillor (and ex-actress dontcha know) Flick Rea will be doing another evening of poetry at the Library.

7. On the Mon 18th Locally Sourced are back with at evening of songs (Amanda MacLean) and poetry (Steven Watts). It takes place at the usual venue, La Brioche.

8. Fancy a barn dance (in a church)? Well, you are in luck. It’s the next CAWH event on Sat 23rd. These attract an older  but enthusiastic crowd and are by all accounts good fun.

9.  Thurs 28th is National Poetry Day so keep an eye out for something which will, well, bring some poetry to your commute.

10. With Immigration much in the news The Tricycle are putting on a timely show on the 28th/29th September ‘An Evening with an Immigrant



An Insight into: Ted Booth

Who is Ted Booth you are asking?  This month’s Insight is a bit different. Instead of interviewing a local business owner, WHL sat down to have a chat with Ted Booth, who is the current writer-in-residence for the Friends of West Hampstead Library. Ted’s a very cool guy but wouldn’t consider himself as such – he’s far too modest for that. He is retired and his last job was lecturer in creative writing in the art faculty at Middlesex University. He said it was ‘terrific fun’ as he was working with art students on writing; they would discuss diaries, poetry, short stories, postcards and occasionally lyrics.

Ted’s been writer-in-residence at the library since June 2016. He was suppose to finish his stint in June this year, but was asked to stay on until September because as Friends’ chair Simon Inglis, put it – we are looking for ‘someone younger’. Ted will end his stint with another evening of poems with Cllr Flick Rea in September. I really enjoyed the last one, so watch out for that. And if you can’ t wait you can also read his blog here.

Ted at his desk

Ted at his desk

Before his library post, Ted was artist-in-residence for the Friends of Fortune Green (2013/14), where he started writing a poem for National Poetry Day, on a different theme each year. Last year, the FoFG gave away more than 500 copies of this poem to passing commuters (and you can also see the poems of other years on the FOFG website). Look out for this year’s poem, which will be published on September 28th. Ted really does bring a touch of poetry to West Hampstead.

What brought you to West Hampstead?

“Simple, my wife Janet’s work brought us here as she started the Mulberry House school. We moved from Leytonstone. People used to say ‘where’s that?’ but now it’s a bit more on the map.”

What is your earliest memory of the area?

“It was seeing this house. The estate agents showed us three houses, a couple on Burrard Road and this one. I soon as I stepped through the door, I thought “wow'”.”

Just a small part of Ted's poetry collection

Just a small part of Ted’s poetry collection

How has West Hampstead changed?

“I’ve noticed the rapid turnover of retailers on West End Lane and here up at Fortune Green.  There’s hardly anything left that was here when we arrived. Although the wonderful West End Lane Books had just opened then and that is still here.” Ted and I discussed a nearby corner shop which has been in turn a wine merchants, wooden flooring shop, motorbike showroom and now a skiwear shop and also the long-standing scuba shop in Child’s Hill. London is certainly full of odd shops we agreed.

What’s for lunch?

Ted surprised me. “I’m very fond  of Café Plus”. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s the greasy spoon café on Mill Lane, near Tiffin Tin.  “I also like the Bridge Café opposite the Overground station”.  He says Café Plus offer quick cheap and tasty food, “It’s always very welcoming and run by immigrants making a living.”

Otherwise – and Ted has many facets – he likes the Nigel Slater mid-week dinner which he cooks for himself and Janet.

Describe West Hampstead in three words

Happy, peaceful and enjoyable


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).


New recycling regime continues to have ‘teething problems’

Back in April, we ran a story on problems with the new waste contract and identified a number of issues: fly-tipping, difficulties reaching the helpline, nappy collections and problems getting the new bins. Some of these have been resolved but by no means all.

When the new scheme was introduced we were promised that there would be “flexiblity to the meet the needs of West Hampstead”, an “education campaign from Camden and Veolia” and “pro-activity in targetting the problem areas”. To no-one’s great surprise, the reality has turned out to be quite different.

The residents of West Hampstead (or West Dumpstead as a local wit has relabelled it) continue to have numerous concerns about the rubbish situation. One recent example was outside Feng Sushi – a particular black spot. Literally.

Thanks to some campaigning by local Conservative activists Feng Sushi (at least we presume it was them) were shamed into action. The question is why can’t Camden get a jet-wash out elsewhere on West End Lane? It’s not rocket science.

The owners of Hana are at their wits end about missed waste collections.

But it not just West End Lane, Mill Lane has been a problem too and is in fact worse as it doesn’t get the regular collections of West End Lane.


Of the residential streets, Fordwych Road is a typical example of the sort of problems we see in West Hampstead. As Camden/Veolia seemed incapable of doing anything about it, residents were forced to record the problems and take action. They arranged walkabouts directly with Camden officers to come up with solutions for the worst spots.

Yet despite that, FOUR months after the introduction there is often uncollected rubbish and new black bins still have not been delivered, apparently because Camden have run out.

Others have had similar, but different, problems with extra green bins delivered that they don’t want and can’t get rid off. As for delivery of those garden waste bags the levels of incomptentence – is pretty impressive…

There was one visit by smiling Councillors Apak and Rosenberg – and a rare appearance by Cllr Yarde. (You would never guess that Cllr Rosenberg worked in PR :).

But once the cameras were gone, it was the same old problems.

The (Labour) Council seem unresponsive to constructive criticism partly because quite a few tweets about it come from Conservative activists, who after all, the opposition. Yet the Conservatives don’t seem that keen on actually sorting out the problems as it could be seen to be politically opportune to keep the issue live until next year’s local elections.

The Conservatives want to restore fortnightly collections. Yet is that really necessary? Apart from the problems identified (and there are many), fortnightly collections have in large part worked. It’s hard to believe that it wasn’t that long ago we had bi-weekly collections!

There are plenty of other residents of West Hampstead who are tweeting about the issue and problems (WHL gets a constant stream of emails about it). And local amenity group WHAT, is running a review of the recycling situation.

During the election campaign our MP Tulip Siddiq revealed that she had a private meeting with Cllr Meric Apak, due to her constituents’ (and her) concerns about it.

Camden Council has introduced the ‘Clean Camden’ App. It’s useful, however, it has no facility for reporting problems with the new contract (e.g. bins left on street). It does have a facility for reporting fly-tipping but it would be reassuring to hear that someone has actually been prosecuted for it and whether the app is actually useful for Camden?

A particular bugbear across the area is those flats and houses that leave their bin permanently on the pavement. We were assured by Camden when the contract was introduced that this would not be permitted. Not only is it unsightly, but it a hazard for parents pushing buggies and for those with impaired vision. Camden has street cleaning teams on every street at least once a week (not to mention parking attendants and dare we say it, councillors). Is it not possible for them to report problems?

The only real answer is the good old street-by-street walkabouts with Camden officers and councillors in and around West Hampstead to look at the problems and come up with solutions. Quite why this hasn’t happened before is a bit of a mystery. If local residents have any issues, keep tweeting us and/or email ">. Any fly-tipping hot-spots, any bins left permanently on the pavement? Other issues? We can pass them on to WHAT who are compiling a report to present to Camden.

WHL will report back in the autumn – let’s see if there is finally an improvement to West Dumpstead.

A newcomer’s view of the Jester Festival

The Jester Festival is such a central part of the West Hampstead year – and of the last 45 years – that it’s bit difficult to get an unbiased perspective. So this year WHL asked Irene, as newcomer to the area to take a fresh look. This is what she found…

I moved to the neighbourhood a year and a half ago, running away from the tourists of Camden Market and a hellish Northern/Central line commute. Having lived in four different countries during the previous six years, I had been longing to put down roots somewhere that felt like home. West Hampstead turned out to be that place and the Jester Festival represents everything I love about West Hampstead.

All the fun of the fair, Jester 2017 style

All the fun of the fair, Jester 2017 style

As I got to know and love the neighbourhood – my leafy street, the village atmosphere, the shops and cafés – I decided to find out more about the community by getting to know my neighbours and working to protect our little slice of London. The Jester Festival was the perfect opportunity to do so.

The sun was shining as I and a friend from south London approached Fortune Green on Sunday; before I could see it I could hear jazz in the distance. We arrived to find stalls lining the paths, kids running around, families enjoying their picnics and even couples dancing to the rhythm and blues. It was the perfect village fête, London-style, everyone seemed to be having a great time and in every stall there were friendly faces happy to chat; from local businesses trying to attract new customers to the neighbours’ associations gathering support.

Stand-out attraction, literally, was the climbing wall, a big hit among the younger ones. They didn’t seem to mind one bit when they slipped and were left swinging from their ropes. The political party stalls were pleasantly low-key and more focused on having fun than in campaigning. Especially popular was Labour’s raffle – the children jumped for joy every time they managed to win a box of chocolates.

My favorite stall ? Herbal Haven – I loved getting lost in a hundred colours and aromas, and bought as many plants as I could carry to replenish my small balcony garden.

Fabulous Foliage at Herbal Haven

Fabulous Foliage at Herbal Haven

As part of my WHL research I talked to a wide variety of residents, and everyone was equally welcoming. They told me how they enjoyed the unique family atmosphere of the festival, how many activities there were for the kids and how they enjoyed the fact that all their neighbours were there. Volunteers went on about what a fantastic opportunity the festival was to give back to the community, and the vendors mentioned that it didn’t even feel like work. I only heard one complaint – there weren’t enough toilets for everyone.

There was also time to learn more about some local hot topics. The Neighbourhood Development Forum (NDF), a local voluntary organisation that works to influence planners and developers when making planning decisions in the area, explained its concerns about overcrowding at West Hampstead tube station and with the current development proposals on Gondar Gardens reservoir. These worries seemed to be shared by many of the neighbours, as they were collecting a lot of signatures.

Ravenous after all that chatting, we struggled to agree on what to eat. There was Indian, Greek, and French on offer – everything seemed equally delicious. Decisions, decisions. Finally, we went for the galettes (savoury buckwheat crêpes), gone in 60 seconds. After that it was off to the Lib Dems stall to try their famed cakes. They didn’t disappoint – the lemon drizzle and the fruity chocolate brownie, which we were told were the most popular, were absolutely mouth-watering (and waistline-busting).

Overall impression? With that galette on the grass, the smooth jazz in the air and the children running around felt very similar to happiness. And my friend, who had come from Stockwell to spend the day with me? She decided that she wanted to move to West Hampstead.

Freshly resurfaced Black Path is positively gleaming in the June sunshine

It may have taken many months, community clear ups (instigated by West Hampstead Life), and a number of meetings and site visits, but regular users of The Black Path, which links West End Lane and Broomsleigh/Ravenshaw Streets, can’t fail to have noticed the transformation that’s come about in the last few weeks with less foliage and now a brand new (and appropriately black) path.

Firstly, at the end of May, Network Rail sent a team bearing very big chainsaws down the path to finally deal with the extensive overgrowth both on their (ie the railway) side and on the fences belonging to the houses on the south side of Sumatra Road. The difference is huge – no more ducking to get under those tree branches! – but Network Rail have been clear this level of drastic clearance is a one-off from them.

Black Path: before and after. Image from Penny Leichti

Black Path: before and after. Somewhat lighter! Image appropriately enough from Penny Leichti

It will take a while for things to grow back of course, but householders on Sumatra Road should be aware that Camden is issuing notices to owners who don’t properly maintain their boundaries, which includes keeping overgrown plants in check, so if you live along that side of the road and your garden backs onto the path, it would be advisable to keep an eye on the other side of your fence. (This also applies to landlords who let their properties – if you earn money from rent you are also responsible for ensuring the properties, gardens and hedges are maintained).

But the real challenge for local campaigners was to get the council to find the budget to have the whole path resurfaced. It was in a bad condition, with only a small section near the Thameslink station having been repaired in recent memory, and cracks and holes along almost the rest of the 500 metre stretch, as anyone who has ever tried to push a buggy, drag a suitcase, scoot or cycle along it will attest. Through persistent lobbying from local councillors, notably Fortune Green’s Richard Oszlewski, budget was found, Camden’s Street Works team stepped in and resurfacing work started earlier this month.

The works were completed on Monday 19th, and the transformation is complete. With 90% of the path resurfaced, it’s now a smoothly tarmacked joy to use, all but unrecognisable from the unloved, overgrown and potholed state of a year ago.

The group of local residents involved includes actor Julia Deakin, who has been pushing for improvements ever since she had to be treated in hospital following an accident on the path three years ago. She’s delighted they have finally been achieved, but warns: “it’s crucial that the path is properly and regularly maintained, and not allowed to fall back into disrepair”.

Future concerns aside, there’s much to celebrate in a safer and more user-friendly environment for the numerous commuters and school children who use the path every day.

Ed: This is an excellent example of what can be done when local residents, councillors, council officers and others get together to sort out a problem.  So West Hampstead – what is bugging you?  Any suggestions to (but don’t email if you aren’t prepared to do some of the work to solve it).

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.

Couscous the new potato salad

Couscous – the new potato salad

And a short walk away from Hillfield, neighbours Gondar Gardens and Agamemnon, 65 of them, sat down under four massive gazebos (on a very hot day) for their lunch. Their secret weapon was magician, Tom Grubb, who kept the (admittedly by this stage slightly boozy) residents bamboozled.

Tom the Magician bamboozled the boozy residents of Gondar

Tom the Magician bamboozled the boozy residents of Gondar Gardens (although some were on the water!)

Chairman David Yass said “There was a very nice community feel – one of my neighbours said to me I’ve lived here 30 years and met someone who lives across the street who I had never talked to before – isn’t that wonderful.” WHL can’t really put it any better than that.

Cinema on Fortune Green – Arrival in West Hampstead


This Saturday, the Friends of Fortune Green is putting on its first screening of the summer. The film will be Arrival it’s a science-fiction movie from last year that got generally pretty good reviews. it will make you think and feel, but I don’t want to give too much away.

Due to popular demand, the screening will be cycle-powered. So, West Hampstead we need your leg power. There will be a couple of kid-suitable bikes for the younger audience members. But not too young as it’s a PG-13.


As we’re almost at the longest day, and it needs to be dark for anyone to see the screen, the film will start at about 9.15pm. However, as those of you who’ve been to previous Films on Fortune Green will know, you need to get there early to bag a good spot.

It is an obvious bring-a-picnic event but Fortune Green offers other options; the Green Room is offering a hotdog, tortillas and popcorn special (best to pre-order), Nautilus has fish n’ chips (obvs) or if it’s a curry you’re after there is Bombay Nights. Whatever you chose, please take your rubbish home with you and keep the Green clean!

This weekend is also the Big Lunch/Jo Cox Great Get Together, so the aim is not only to show a great movie but to bring West Hampstead together at what continues to be a febrile time. Come along, meet your neighbours, celebrate your neighbourhood.

How much does it cost? It’s free; but… this screening is more expensive than the last couple. It’s costing more than £2,000 (including £100 to Camden for use of the park). A good part of this cost is sponsored by local estate agent Benham & Reeves (thank you) but the Friends are having to dip into their reserves so – if you can afford a donation it will allow them to put on future films (and if you don’t they can’t)!

There is a second summer screening planned for August 12th. As it is during the summer holidays it will be more kid-friendly (and will start earlier), though the exact film is to be decided.

Opera Up Close and Personal at ENO on Broadhurst Gardens

Over on Broadhurst Gardens the English National Opera (ENO) has launched its ENO Studio Live programme. This involves performances in the former Decca studios, made famous by recordings by the likes of David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, the Rolling Stones and others. For a reminder of what the building is like from the inside we went back stage last year.

But now you get a chance to go backstage too as part of the ENO Studio Live programme, which will be showcasing rising talent in the British opera scene. The productions are performed in English and are fully staged. The idea was conceived by Daniel Kramer, the ENO’s Artistic Director, who felt that the opportunity to open up the famous studios for audiences to see the work of up-and-coming directors was just too good to be missed.

The Day After rehearsal

The Day After rehearsal

These days the studios are primarily used as rehearsal rooms and business administration offices by the ENO. It is relatively rare for the building to be open to the public so this new programme offers the chance to attend intimate opera performances in a place of historical importance to the music industry. With a capacity of just 200 the audience will be much closer to the performers than they would most likely be at a more traditional opera venue.

The directors of the two productions are both in their 20s. Matthew Monaghan, director of Trial by Jury, told West Hampstead Life that ENO Studio Live is a great way to support the next generation of directors by giving them the opportunity to have their own shows, working with full choruses and celebrated performers. He also stated that the shows will be performed in a very special space where operas are rehearsed and where talent is developed.

The Day After rehersal

The Day After rehersal (Richard Peirson, James Henshaw, and Nicholas Ansdell- Evans)

The first production is the UK premier of The Day After, a new opera by Jonathan Dove which based on the Greek mythological story of Phaeton. The opera is directed by Jamie Manton and is conducted by James Henshaw with a full chorus and stage productions. This is showing on 26, 27, 30 and 31 May at 7.30pm

This is followed by Trial by Jury on 3, 6 June at 7pm, 5 June at 7pm and 8.30pm. This production is a comic opera by Gilbert and Sullivan satirising the pomposity of the law. This opera originally ran in the 1870s but has been updated for modern times including a satirical take on celebrity culture. Trial by Jury is directed by Matthew Monaghan and is conducted by Martin Fitzpatrick.

Tickets for ENO Studio Live are £25, with a buy-both discount of 20% available online and from the box office. For further details visit the ENO website at or call the box office on 020 78459300.


Fordwych Residents and Green Gym improve the area, and you can join them.

One of the many things that make West Hampstead a great place to live is the number of local groups and associations that take an interest in the area and give people the chance to volunteer – as well as play their part in improving the community. Such groups are always looking for new members to help out and to replace those who move on. This coming Saturday, 20th May, three local groups are putting on an event that gives people the chance to go along, find out more – and get involved.

Fordwych RA and Garden Friends NW2

Fordwych RA and Garden Friends NW2

For a number of years, the Fordwych Residents Association (FRA) has, as part of its work to represent the area, organised social events to bring residents together. Following on from the success of its Green Fair last year, it is again working with the Garden Friends NW2 group to put on the Fordwych Spring Fair – on Saturday 20th May, 10am-1pm at St Cuthbert’s Church and gardens, 59 Fordwych Road.

All are welcome to come along – for tea and cake; to buy plants; and to find out more about our groups and how you can get involved.

A little further up the road the West Hampstead Green Gym is also holding an event at the same time at the recently created Minster Road Nature Reserve. There will be information about its work and how people can volunteer. Previously this was part of the  Camden Green Gym but West Hampstead Green Gym is splitting off and setting up on its own. The group will be working weekly, on a rotating basis, in the Minster Road Natural Reserve, the Westbere Copse and the Mill Lane Open Space. The Camden Green Gym will continue its monthly visits to Hampstead Cemetery.


Green gym - we are ready for lift off!

Green gym – we are ready for lift off!

The Fordwych RA has a track record over the past 40 years in representing people living on Fordwych Road and adjoining streets. It takes up issues such as traffic, planning, rubbish, crime, the environment and local developments – and works with our councillors, Camden Council and others to make this part of the West Hampstead area a better place. We have regular meetings and are active online. We’re looking for new members and people willing to contribute a small amount of time to assist in the running of the group. You can get in touch and find out more:

Twitter: @FordwychRA

The Garden Friends NW2 group has done amazing work to plant the tree pits on Fordwych Road, which have had an incredibly positive affect on our local area. Where once people dumped mattresses and other household waste, beautiful flowers now bloom! Volunteers working with the group have also created a community garden in the grounds of St Cuthbert’s Church. The group has regular weekly sessions and is keen for more people to be involved:

Twitter: @GFriendsNW2

So do come along on Saturday 20th for a cup of tea, to meet your neighbours – and to find out more…

James Earl is (outgoing) chair of the Fordwych Residents Association

The real reason Father Andrew resigned

Last Sunday Father Andrew announced that he was retiring as priest of St. Mary’s with All Souls, Kilburn and St. James, West Hampstead. The story was picked up by the Sunday Times, Independent and Guardian.

You can even hear it in his own words on Radio 4’s Sunday programme (skip to 7:23).

Father Andrew and his husband Stephen

Father Andrew and his husband Stephen

As Stephen, Father Andrew’s husband tweeted, although they gave fair accounts of the situation, they didn’t quite capture the exact reason.

Father Andrew arrived at St. James nearly 20 years ago in November 2017, became priest in charge in April 1998 and was appointed vicar in 2001. For any of us this quite a long time to be one place. At around this time he first met his partner, Stephen.

Since his arrival in NW6 the law relating to same sex partnerships has changed with, first civil partnerships in December 2005, and same-sex marriage in Mar 2014. He married Stephen in June 2014.

Last year, post-Brexit, Stephen lost his job but luckily found a new one as head of digital for the Co-op, however, based in Manchester. For any couple juggling two careers living apart for a short period is manageable, but not sustainable long term. Time had come to make a decision.

“In the normal course of things I would look for a job in the (Manchester) area,” Father Andew said. “But I am on a blacklist. I can’t carry on being a priest because the institutional homophobia of the church makes it impossible”.

In a letter to parishioners, he explained: “When we married I was told that if I left here then an active ministry officially in the Church of England would be over, and that is likely to be the case.” He said the current leadership, “whilst willing to allow me to continue here, is unwilling to license me to a ministry elsewhere”.

Father Andrew Cain and Sherriff Centre project manager Jane Edwards (photo via @churchnw6)

Father Andrew Cain and Sherriff Centre project manager Jane Edwards (photo via @churchnw6)

For most of us in West Hampstead Father Andrew is best known for his work converting St. James Church into the Sheriff Centre.  This encompasses the Post office, Hullabaloo soft play for kids and the Sanctuary Cafe (which was again listed on TimeOut’s list of top coffee shops in North London). And it is still a Church on Sundays. Little known fact; as well as being vicar he is also the official postmaster.

Although he will leave as priest in July, it could take from six months to a year to appoint a new vicar.  So Father Andrew will continue to be involved with centre, which is set up independent from the church, at least until the new vicar is settled in.

Father Andrew said that he will miss living in West Hampstead, which has been his home for such a long time, plus he will miss it being a couple of degrees warmer here down South. Being a priest informs every aspect of his job and life so leaving West Hampstead will meaning carving out a whole new role for himself in a new community. But he is looking forward to getting his weekends back, being able to enjoy a good brunch and having a lie-in on Sundays.

We love leafy West Hampstead, let’s keep it that way.

Recently the Mayor’s office published this map of all the street trees in London – colour coded. This dendrophile’s wet dream covers all of London but if you put your postcode in the top-right corner then you can zoom in on West Hampstead.

From City Hall's tree map of London

From City Hall’s tree map of London

By unclicking certain dots you can see what West Hampstead would look like without, for example, its Plane trees. This could really happen as all London’s magnificent Plane trees (e.g along the Embankment) are coming to the end of their lives.

Leafy West Hampstead

Leafy West Hampstead

To find out more about trees in West Hampstead WHL spoke to Riccardo Arnone, Camden’s tree officer for this part of the borough (area 2 to be exact).  For each area the Tree Department has a three-year programme of inspection and replacement; our next one is due in 2018/19. He deals with trees on streets, on council estates and in parks, but not those on private land.

Did you know that if you see a diseased, dying or dead tree you can report it to Camden via the trees section website. And if you really care about trees, you can help water the newly planted ones. We are having another very dry spell but the watering contract hasn’t started yet so any young trees around are getting very thirsty. It costs about £100 to plant each tree, but for Riccardo it’s not just about the money but also about the loss of something living. “It’s a shame to lose a tree”.

It’s a bit too early to be 100% sure of the underlying reason, but Camden’s Tree Department is having to adjust its tree stock due to the impact of changes in the climate. There are new pests and diseases, such as the Oak Processionary moth as monitored on Fortune Green back in 2015, and longer dry periods such as we are experiencing now. That, plus managing subsidence risk, means Camden is planting smaller varieties such as Amalanchier. Although this is a fine tree (with delicious berries) it isn’t a true replacement for the trees we are losing as it doesn’t provide much shade on a hot summer’s day.

They look fine now, but long term the Plane trees are too close together.

They look fine now, but these Plane trees are too close together.

West Hampstead has also lost a number of established trees to recent redevelopments, and despite promises at the time they don’t seem to have been replaced. Yes, there new trees outside the Ballymore development in West Hampstead Square, indeed they are Plane trees. Great, given the prospect of many of the older ones reaching the end of their lives, except… they are planted too close to each other. Sigh.

If you like our trees, and they are what makes makes West Hampstead nice and green, then look out for the tree walk the Friends of Fortune Green have lined up for the autumn. The last one they organised was a few years ago and more than 60 residents joined – the highest number Camden had ever had for a tree walk. In the meantime here’s a reminder of one of the area’s greatest trees.

Image via Louise O'Keefe

Image via Louise O’Keefe

Tree of freedom marks one year of Nazanin’s imprisonment

One year ago, today, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was just a hassled mum trying to get to the airport with a toddler. It was the end of a two week trip to Tehran to visit her parents for Nowruz (Persian New Year). However, instead of returning to her normal life back here in West Hampstead, she was arrested at the airport by the Revolutionary Guard, had her passport seized and has spent the past year in prison separated from Gabriella, her daughter in Tehran and Richard, her husband in London.

After she was detained at the airport she was held in a prison in Kerman province, 1000 miles south of Tehran, including at least 46 days in solitary confinement. On 14 August she faced a secret trial and was convicted of being “one of the chief members of networks of adversary institutions, who — with the direction and support of foreign media and espionage services — has committed her criminal acts over the past few years”. She was sentenced for five years in prison and transferred to Tehran’s Evin jail. She appealed, but her sentence was confirmed in January.

At the time of her appeal the Kerman branch of the Revolutionary guard apparently added two extra charges; that her husband was spy (he isn’t, he is an accountant) and that she acted as head of recruitment for the BBC Farsi service. In fact she worked as a project assistant for BBC Media Action. She now works for the charitable arm of the Thompson-Reuters Foundation, which doesn’t operate in Iran (good interview with Monique Ville, the head on of the Thompson-Reuters Foundation on Radio 4 Today programme – link below).

Richard Ratcliffe adding another card for his wife to the tree on Fortune Green Photograph: Gareth Fuller PA

Richard Ratcliffe adding another card for his wife to the tree on Fortune Green Photograph: Gareth Fuller PA

To mark one year since the arrest, Richard, family and supporters organised an event in Fortune Green, her local park. On a beautiful Spring day. As well as marking one year imprisonment, this weekend had special resonance in Iran. Saturday was the 12th day after Nowruz when prisoners can have their sentences commuted. One prisoner was released on bail  on Saturday, but sadly not Nazanin.

The event involved tying ribbons round a tree on the Green with cards attached. On each card was the answer to the question – what would you do if you had one extra day of freedom? Some of the cards were read out; from Nazanin herself, from the families of other prisoners, from former prisoners, from family and others. It was very moving. You can’t miss the tree as it is festooned with ribbons and cards, which will stay up until Easter.

Reading out some of the answers to the question 'What would you do with a day of freedom?'

Reading out some of the answers to the question ‘What would you do with a day of freedom?’

Nazanin’s wish reads “My fondest dream has always been to arrive at our home. You ask me if I want to have a cup of tea, then make me one. I just sit back and watch you two play. This is the image I had most when in solitary confinement. How I wish I could watch you both dance in the middle of our sitting room to the Michael Jackson music – like when Gabriella was only tiny.”

One local, Maria Feeney, spoke of how she as been moved to start a ‘bale of peace’, some cloth she was given to her by the Village Haberdashery, with the idea that she will place it in local businesses for people to write or sew on “to raise our voices and bring the story back”. It is a apt artistic project as Nazinin loved finding fabrics for her daughter Gabriella. Expect to see it around West Hampstead, and when finished she hopes to exhibit it in Tehran.

After the readings some of the younger supporters went off with Richard to help the Friends of Fortune Green plant some day lillies for Nazanin, ready for her and Gabriella’s return. The event ended with Father Jonathan from Emmanuel Church, who came up after the Sunday service, to add a few words.


The event garnered good press coverage, it was on BBC London news last night, as well as Sky news and on the Radio 4 Today programme (scroll to 2:36).  Richard also appeared this morning on Good Morning Britain and the Victoria Derbyshire show. It appeared in the Guardian, the Times, the Telegraph and is in the solidly supportively Ham & High this week. Watch out also for something on CNN, as chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, fellow British-Iranian, is doing a story on it.

When asked how he felt it went, Richard replied “I was really touched by the support. The longer we go on campaigning the more difficult it is to make it real, but what could be more real than being in our local park, where Nazanin came with Gabriella.  It is what she wants to come back to”.

Tulip as been active in her support of the cause, joining Richard last year in handing in a 50,000 signature petition to Downing Street. She and the family have been in contact with junior Foreign office minister, Tobias Ellwood, but so far Boris Johnson has refused to meet them. The Telegraph reported Amnesty International was criticising Boris for lack of action on the case.

If you haven’t already done so, you can sign the petition – it is just shy of 900,000 signatures.  This is also a good way to follow the campaign as Richard posts updates there, or for the twitterate among you, follow the campaign @freenazanin.

WHAT about the new recycling regime?

At local amenity group WHAT’s AGM last week, the thorny topic of rubbish was the theme. Following the departure of WHAT’s founder and long-time chair, Virigina Berridge, this was the first blooding of new co-chairs John Saynor and Mary Tucker.

John opened the presentation by saying that most attendees were keen recyclers (hopefully true). Therefore, is Camden’s main challenge to persuade those who don’t or won’t recycle to do a better job? Particularly in West Hampstead with a high turnover of renters.

Richard Bradbury, Camden’s head of recycling, gave a fast, well-rehearsed presentation with many slides. He emphasised that 85% of the contents of a Camden bin could be recycled, yet residents only manage 25%, which is pretty feeble whatever your political persuasion.

Richard proposed a outcome-focused plan to make the new rubbish contract a success: increased recycling, less fly-tipping, less contamination of recycling bins/better technology, educating the public, and flexible responses to specific problems. He handed out an update on what can be recycled.

Camden's latest recycling info

Camden’s latest recycling info

Then came a lively and productive Q&A session. From which we found out some of the details. We’ll get a leaflet telling us our fortnightly area dates for a whole year. People with babies need to pre-book extra nappy collections. We can now recycle black food trays. Shredded paper is acceptable, even though its fibres have been broken down. And there will be one-off collections for textiles and batteries (as well as large items), to be ordered via the website.

You can recycle so much that it goes onto two pages!

You can recycle so much that it goes onto two pages!

Technology to the rescue! There’ll be an app from which you can take photos of any problems and send to them to Veolia, the contractor. Vans will also have CCTV to check accuracy of collections with the footage saved for 3 months and to spot fly-tipping hotspots. The fly tipping penalty will be a fixed charge of £200 if Camden can actually get the right evidence. The whole thing sounded a bit “shop your neighbour”, though everyone at the meeting was too polite to say so – and maybe some neighbours deserve to be shopped?

The representatives from Veolia were surprised by all the exceptions residents raised. For instance, they could only say they’d ‘look at ways to contain the waste’ in response to Solent Road’s bag-ripping foxes. If you can’t get your recycling – or any – bin on or next to your pavement you’ll have to ring up and ask for an ‘assisted service’. This will presumably mean Veolia would exeed its allotted 15.6 seconds per property – which translates as “one step in”. If you currently have green or brown wheelie bins you’ll have to get stickers if you want to use your bins.

Green/garden waste will be collected weekly, but it’s £75 for a year or £60 for the nine months from spring to autumn. These collections (three sacks a week) can be shared with neighbours, but only if you pre-register. Pensioners will get a discount, though the details are still being decided.

Still ‘no’ to soft plastics like dry cleaners’ coverings and junk mail wrappers. Caddy liners? ‘They don’t last a fortnight. Change them weekly.’ Light bulbs won’t be collected. Rats? ’Keep your receptacle clean.’ (And ‘No comment’ to query about new commercial rubbish collectors springing up across Camden.)

It’s strange to think that it was only a few years ago that we were getting bi-weekly rubbish collections, and soon we will have only fortnightly. West Hampstead already has a rubbish problem, with regular fly tipping, although time banded collections on West End have improved things. We will have to see how things change with the new contract from – and you couldn’t make this up – 1st April.

Full house for Downton star’s romp through an illustrious career

Jim Carter. Photo by Eugene Regis

Jim Carter. Photo by Eugene Regis

Local actor Jim Carter, best known for playing Carson the butler in Downton Abbey, broke all records at West Hampstead Library on Wednesday night by drawing the biggest crowd for a Friends of West Hampstead Library event since Stephen Fry in 2001. The “house full” notice went up at 7.30pm, just as the event started.

The evening, hosted by FoWHL Chair Simon Inglis, began with Jim playing a guessing game with the audience based on key elements of his acting career. With typical generosity he handed a bottle of champagne to the winner.

With Simon as a foil, the two of them made a fine comedy turn as Jim embarked on a riot of anecdotes, starting with his story of how he abandoned a university degree in English for a career in street theatre in Brighton. One early performance for kids, he recalled, was interrupted by an invasion of Mods and Rockers. Punch and Judy ended up in the sea while Jim, dressed head-to-toe as a thistle, ended up being chased along the beach by a psychopath in a leather jacket. An unusual seaside memory.

He then took us on a tour of America. His first visit was to enrol with a circus school. He then returned with the legendary Ken Campbell and his surreal roadshow. All he needed at that time, he said, was a rucksack and a pub. Then it was back for the National Theatre’s triumphant run of Guys and Dolls and a meeting with fellow actor, Imelda Staunton. They married a year or so later.

Clearly Jim is a proud resident of West Hampstead, with a long record of community and charitable work. He spoke with particular pride of his six years as president of Hampstead Cricket Club in Lymington Road – especially the setting up of a women’s team – also of the fundraising evenings he is putting on at, and for, the Tricycle Theatre. (Note, Jim’s event with Maggie Smith and Judi Dench is sold out, but there are still tickets available for Danny Boyle on March 26).

A packed house. Photo by Eugene Regis

A packed house. Photo by Eugene Regis

Finally, as no doubt many in the packed audience were hoping for (one fan had reportedly come over from Germany especially for the evening), the conversation arrived at Downton Abbey. Jim entertained us all with stories of life upstairs and downstairs (for the actors as much as the characters), and a recollection of George Clooney’s visit to the set. Apparently after he kissed Maggie Smith’s outstretched hand she affected a theatrical swoon and fell off her settee. Asked if a Downton movie is on the cards, he revealed that the actors were all in favour – they had all enjoyed working together – but that the script would have to be good.

The evening was an hour of theatre, full of nostalgic generosity and Falstaffian humour. It’s a long way from his roots in Harrogate to West Hampstead, but Jim Carter took us with him every step of the way. And to cap it all, Simon was able to announce at the conclusion that Jim had kindly consented to follow in Stephen Fry’s footsteps by becoming a patron of the Friends group.

The author is FoWHL writer in residence

An Insight into: Achillea Flowers

Our last Insight focused on one man with two businesses. This time we’re talking to two women who run one business: Kate Rader and Clare Emburey who run Achillea, the florist on Mill Lane.

What brought you to West Hampstead?

Clare: We actually met at the tomato stall at Queen’s Park market. Kate, who has known me since I was a child, asked me if I loved my job (as a florist), I did but was ready for a change. “Great”, said Kate, “That’s the answer I was looking for. Let’s open a business and we’ll just have fun; if we feel like it one day we can dress up like geishas!”

The next step was to meet for a coffee on Mill Lane; we looked at a couple of sites, but none was quite right. Walking back, we passed this corner shop which I said looked ‘sick’. Kate had no idea I meant cool.

The builder saw us and asked if we were looking for a shop. He invited us in to take a look and when we said we wanted to open a florist he told us his wife was one! He gave us the number of the landlord, who we called immediately and we agreed on the spot to rent the shop.

Within one week it had gone from concept to actually renting a shop for the business.

Kate: People said Mill Lane is a difficult street and it won’t last. I had no idea what I was doing, but it was all very serendipitous.

Clare: It’s a good idea we didn’t have time to stop and and think, but I’m really glad we did it. Never did the dressing up as a geisha, although we did do halloween costumes one year.

Clare and Kate outside their serendipitous shop, Achillea.

Clare and Kate outside their serendipitous shop, Achillea.

What is your first/fondest memory of the area?

Kate: The glass shop opposite us, run by Derek. I’ve been using it for 35 years, plus the framers next door.

Clare: I just loved that I could be myself – and of course the first time I met my fiancé at the Kitchen Table. Now we are getting married – a Mill Lane marriage, that’s a first!

At this time of year some eye-popping colour to brighten your day. Perfect.

At this time of year some eye-popping colour to brighten your day. Perfect.

What’s surprised you most about how West Hampstead had changed?

Kate: It used to have really useful things, but that’s gone, although I don’t really use West End Lane much. Here on Mill Lane you can still get useful things: your keys cut, physiotherapy if you need it, or yoga at Curled Leaf.

Clare: I don’t feel it has changed that much – West Hampstead is a great place that is quite settled, rather than a cool place full of egos.

What’s for lunch?

Either the Kitchen Table or Curled Leaf, although we have had some quite enjoyable nights at the Alliance for our Christmas dinners.

Describe West Hampstead in three words?

Better than Hampstead

Keep your kids safe from dental damage during sport

Hamsptead Orthodontic_mouthguard

Kids are in their element when playing sport. Running around with their teammates, safety is often an afterthought in the excitement of a live game. Parents have to be especially vigilant when their kids are playing contact sports, and though children’s orthodontics may not be at the front of many parents’ minds, thinking about it before it’s too late could save you a lot of stress and money in the long run!

Research into children’s orthodontics and contact sports has shown that orthodontic protection from a young age in budding sports stars can prevent much bigger, and much more expensive problems as they get older.

Common problems
Sports-related oral injuries can vary from the not-so-serious to the run-to-the-dentist-now sort of serious, and when it comes to contact sports, the odds of the latter increase dramatically if the appropriate protection hasn’t been taken.

Broken teeth, dislocated teeth, tears and punctures inside the mouth are the most common injuries dentists and orthodontists see in children who play contact sports. These are all relatively simple to remedy but if left unseen they can cause long-term problems for your little ones.

The Irish Health Repository conducted extensive research into the use of mouthguards and dental injuries in sports across school children, and delivered some interesting data: 10% of parents had children who had experienced a sports-related injury in the previous year, and 52% of those injuries were teeth-related. Of all the children who took part in the survey, only 22% actively made sure to wear mouth protection while playing their given sport.

Not only does this show a lax approach to safety in children’s sport, but it has more serious ramifications: if children’s oral injuries are left unchecked, they can develop into speech impediments and cosmetic problems that create body-image and confidence problems later on in life.

The solution to these problems is incredibly simple. Mouthguards are a sports person’s best friend, keeping his or her teeth unbroken and smile bright throughout their time on the field. We’ve all seen the famous boxers, rugby and hockey players with their wonky teeth and gappy smiles, and while these features may endear them to us even more than their sporting prowess, you can bet it has given them some confidence problems in the past.

Mouthguards seem simple, but they need to be expertly measured and designed to fit your mouth; this is especially important in children, since their mouths are still developing. By visiting a reputable orthodontist, you will be able to get world-class advice on oral safety in your given sport, and would be measured and examined for your mouthguard fitting.

Hamsptead Orthodontic_mouthguard_2

Mouthguards are made from a rubber-like material which is designed to fit your exact mouth shape and bite. It serves to protect your teeth from impact, exterior damage and stops your teeth from puncturing your tongue or cheeks when active. All in all, it is a simple piece of kit that prevents serious problems later in life, and is incredibly important for young budding sports stars.

If mouthguards are so important, why do only 22% of children wear them when active? Ultimately it’s down to you, the parent, to make sure your child is as protected as possible when out on the sports field. If kids don’t put their safety first then it leaves the parent to make sure the shin pads are on, headgear is tight and the mouthguard is in.

The older you get, the more expensive orthodontic treatment becomes, so it is paramount to educate your children on the benefits of sports safety and oral health. And with mouthguards coming in a range of fun and colourful designs, there is sure to be one that catches your kid’s eye and allows them to leave their orthodontic worries out of the game.

Are your kids budding sports stars? Drop into Hampstead Orthodontic Practice in North London for a mouthguard fitting and more professional information on how to keep your child’s oral health on top form during sports season.

Sponsored post

Will the Fawley Road leak ever be stopped?

If you live on, or walk or drive down Fawley Road then you won’t have failed to notice the leak that’s been spewing water down the street for the past week. It’s not the only one – Achilles Road and West End Lane also have leaks – harking back to the time a few years ago when West Hampstead leaks seemed to be a weekly occurrence.

One man has been on a personal crusade with Thames Water to try and get this one fixed. Here is his story.

Warning: contains a lot of images of water flowing over tarmac.

Vintage Porsche crashes into Lena’s cafe: Two injured

Shortly before 3pm on Friday afternoon, a vintage Porsche veered off West End Lane, mounted the pavement and crashed into Lena’s cafe trapping a female customer. The customer, Abigail Cinnamon, was sitting outside with a friend, Jessica Klein. The two 20-year-olds don’t live in the area but had decided to meet up for a ‘quiet coffee’ and chose West Hampstead.

They were sitting outside the cafe when all of sudden Jess, who was sitting facing down West End Lane saw a Green Porsche racing towards them and screamed. Abi, who was facing away from the on-coming car had a split second to register before it crashed into her, throwing her though the plate glass window.

“The next thing I knew I was underneath the glass, in a foetal position. It took a while for the firemen to arrive to get the glass off me. I didn’t feel any pain, however, as the adrenalin had kicked in”. The police and fireman arrived quite quickly but it took time for them to work out how to remove the sheet of glass and release Abi.

Once she was released she was taken to St. Mary’s hospital, as the hospital has a specialised trauma unit and a crew of 11 or 12 were waiting for her. She has two broken bones in her leg, which require an operation. Her friend, Jess, was less seriously injured suffering three fractured ribs and some scratches.

Police and ambulance on the scene of the accident. Photo: Cllr Phil Rosenberg

Police and ambulance on the scene of the accident. Photo: Cllr Phil Rosenberg

The driver was shaken by the accident but was unscathed. It is not entirely clear how the accident happened with some witness reports saying the car swerved to avoid a pedestrian. Violet Ceniceros, who had been sitting in Lena’s just five minutes earlier, was waiting by the bus stop by Sainsbury’s when the accident happened. She reported, that “the car turned left [from Dennington Park Road] on West End Lane from the junction and started speeding then went out of control and crashed into the café”.

A policeman on site explained that the 1967 Porsche was rear-wheel driven and probably ‘kangarooed’ (juddered) on acceleration causing the driver to lose control and for the car to veer across the road.

Councillor Phil Rosenberg who was holding a surgery next door in the Library was one of the first on the scene.  A nearby business owner who heard the crash thought it was a terrorist attack and sought cover at the back of the shop.

Porsche 3

West End Lane was initially closed, but after an hour was reopened to traffic.  The crash scene was still cordoned off with a lone policeman on the scene. He was waiting for the owner to arrange for his insurers to tow the car away.

The dramatic pictures and the novelty of the vintage Porsche have led to the story making both the BBC news and Saturday’s Times.

Venue hire options in West Hampstead (more than you think)

Got a kids’ party to host? Want to run a kindergarten, teach a yoga class or hold a meeting? These all require venues – but where are the rooms and halls to hire in West Hampstead?

Emmanuel Church and the Sheriff Centre are particularly keen to hear from those wanting to start a regular community oriented group. The Hub is also looking to work with partners.

Prices given are indicative – many venues reduce the price for community and regular users.

How big a room do you need? If square metres don’t mean a lot to you, then here’s a guide: a 35m2 room at Emmanuel Church will fit 15-16 for a meeting round a table, or ~25 in rows of seats (“theatre style”) for an AGM or presentation. For a yoga class, the 65m2 hall at Lymington Road can fit 15 (comfortably) to 24 (bit tight). For larger meetings, a rule of thumb is 1m2 per person sitting and 0.5m2 standing, so Kingsgate’s 87m2 main hall can roughly fit 100 seated and 200 standing.

Emmanuel Church
The newest kid on the block is one of the older buildings! As we reported last July, the newly refurbed Emmanuel Church has five spaces on offer: a small meeting room (16m2), three larger rooms (30-35m2 each) and rear nave space (not a near-rave space) that’s 100m2. And it has a small kitchen too.

Cost: £10 per hour for the smaller room; £20-£25 for the larger ones; £35ph for the rear nave space and £40ph to hire the whole church.

Contact: 020 7435 1911

St. Cuthbert’s Church

In a bit of empire building St. Cuthbert’s now falls under the aegis of Emmanuel and has a room for hire.  It’s a hall that holds about 40 people, only really available on Saturday afternoons but that’s OK as it is mainly used for kid’s parties.  It has access to a kitchen and toilets.

Cost: £50 per hour


The Sherriff Centre
This trendy venue with a nice atmosphere has a couple of options: the Lady Chapel, which is used for classes and meetings during the day, is £15 per hour and £25 in the evening, though it can be a bit noisy at certain times of day.

For children’s parties (ages 1-8), there’s the popular Hullabaloo play area. Exclusive use is possible on Saturdays 10-12pm, 12.30-2.30pm, and 3-5pm. You can also hire the whole space in the evenings for bigger/bespoke events. The cost will depend on the precise details.

Cost: Non-exclusive use is £275 and exclusive £360. Sundays is £385 for exclusive use only as the building is closed to the public.

Contact: / 020 7625 1184

St. James’s Church hall, Sherriff Road
Right next door to the Sherriff Centre is St. James Church. The hall is 90m2 plus a stage space and it has not one, but two kitchens. A small niche one and a full-sized one too. And outdoor space, useful in summer.

Cost: £40 per hour, but negotiable for regular/community users.

Contact: 020 7372 6441 (Beryl)

St. James Church Hall - they pretty much all look the same!

St. James Church Hall – they pretty much all look the same!

St. Luke’ Church hall, Kidderpore Avenue
It’s the other side of the Finchley Road so not technically West Hampstead, although its parish extends across to Fortune Green. Anyway it has a church hall available for hire that can hold 60 people

Cost: £20 per hour or £150 for children’s parties (3 hours), plus the bonus of a bouncy castle for hire.

St. Andrew’s United Reform Church  Hall

Also on the other side of the Finchley Road, but at the bottom of Frognal at the junction with the Finchley Road, so practically West Hampstead.  It has a larger hall and two smaller rooms available for hire at limited times during weekdays. The larger one is available for children’s parties on Saturday afternoons.

Cost: £30 an hour for children’s parties

Contact: Sara Meadows on 020 7794 9516

02 Centre
Part of the O2 centre’s obligations under planning consent is that it has community rooms available for hire. It has two spaces, The Art Gallery and The Venue.

The Art Gallery is 40m2 and suitable for small meetings and events.

Cost: £35+vat per hour or £140+vat per day.

The Venue is 200m2 (and has a mirror down one wall) and is suitable for larger events and training sessions. Alas, The Venue no longer accepts bookings for parties (wonder what happened there…)

Cost: £65+vat per hour Mon to Thurs, and £80+vat at weekends. (set up time is charged at £24+vat per hour). Regular events (classes) pay about half the hourly charge.

Contact: 020 7794 7716

JW3 has a wide range of options, although they are a little pricier than others. The facilities are still very new though, and there’s a great café on site. There are “breakout rooms”, a demonstration kitchen, a 60-seat cinema, a dance studio, the piazza and a hall that can seat up to 270 theatre style, or 180 banqueting style. The rate for all rooms varies according to whether it’s a charity, corporate or private event

Cost: the charity rate starts at £36 per hour for room hire – full and half-day rates are also available.

Contact: More details here.

Hampstead Synagogue, Dennington Park Road
Familiar to some as the venue for the Area Forums, the upper hall is a large space that can seat up to 220 people. The Synagogue can also provide tea and coffee, tables and a projector and screen etc. for an additional fee. There’s also a smaller lower hall that seats 60.

The rooms are less glossy than some of the others, though there are plans for redevelopment (these are at a very early stage though!)

Cost: £60 per hour during the week and £70 Friday and Saturday irrespective of which room you choose.
Contact: / 020 7435 1518

West Hampstead Library
Often used for public meetings and talks, the library can seat up to 70 people, and allows some standing room in a flexible 90m2 space.

Cost: £25 per hour for community use and a rather pricey £100/hour for commercial use. AV facilities are available for an additional cost.

Contact: Camden’s events service or 020 7974 5633

Emmanuel School
The recently built school hall is a biggish modern space (about 180m2) suitable for public meetings (such as the council hustings we held there in 2014!) and children’s parties.

Cost: £40 per hour (£50 per hour including kitchenette). AV equipment is extra.


Fortune Green Playcentre
The playcentre is a popular, if slightly shabby, venue for younger children’s parties with the advantage of outdoor space for play (in summer).

Cost: £40 per hour with a three-hour minimum booking.


The Hub
If you are looking for something in South Hampstead, there is the Hub on Fairhazel Gardens It’s run as a mental health well-being centre, with a very helpful and clear website, and offer six tree-named rooms for rent. Like Emmanuel and The Sherriff Centre, The Hub is keen to work with other local groups.

Cost: Oak £35ph for 30-50 seated/60-70 standing; Beech and Elm £25ph for 10-15; Willow – a specialist computer room at £25pn for 5-10; Ash and Maple £15ph for 2-3, suitable as a therapy rooms.

Contact: 0207 278 4437

The Curled Leaf

The increasingly popular vegetarian Curled Leaf Cafe on Mill Lane has a basement room.  If you are planning a giant’s convention then the ceiling is a bit low (but not that low) so as a venue for kids parties it’s fine.  It even has direct access to a small garden.  For parties they can obviously help with the catering – another bonus.

It is not just a party venue, it can also be used for yoga classes.  And if you are looking for a massage/treatment room they have one of those upstairs that they occasionally let out.

Cost: The basement room is a reasonable £25/hour

Contact: 020 7794 6296


As the name suggests the rooms they offer are health oriented.  There is a large (60m2) exercise space complete with mirror down one side (used by ballet classes)

The Rooms Above

(How I missed this one in the original listing I don’t know).  The Rooms Above have six rooms – three larger and three smaller ones.  In their own words “the rooms are used for rehearsal groups, personal trainers, life coaches, healing arts therapists (pilates and yoga), singing, dance, music and much much more!”

Cost: The larger rooms are £20 to £25 per hour and the smaller ones £15 to £18.

Contact: via their very comprehensive website 

The Community Centres

Lymington Road Residents Association Hall
This is a fairly simple 65m2 room with a small kitchen. It gets quite booked up, especially at evenings and weekends. It’s used in the evenings for yoga and karate

Cost: £20 per hour.


Sidings Hall
Sidings (off Maygrove Road) has a number of rooms and halls (and a kitchen) for rent, although they are fairly busy so availablity is limited

Contact: 020 7625 6260,

West Hampstead Community Centre
There’s a small hall (about 50m2) for rent that has just been renovated but is fairly booked up (especially in the evenings) as it is used for a wide range of classes.

Cost: £20 for classes, more for one-off events.

Contact , 020 7794 3729

Kingsgate Community Centre

Kingsgate has a number of rooms to hire, including a large hall with stage (£60 per hour for 200 seated/100 standing), a small hall with kitchen (£29 for 100/50), an art room (£30 for 15) and two meeting rooms (£23 for 12). After a big rent increase by the Council, Kingsgate has reviewed hire rates – the rates quoted are for private hire, though it has a sliding schedule for community/regular users.

….And finally, there is possibly one more room on the way as plans for 156 West End Lane include a 65m2 community room. So there you are – updated – it’s now twenty possible venues in West Hampstead, with more than – updated –  50  separate possible rooms for hire.

That’s it!

If I’ve missed any – and I’m sure I have – please let me know. We haven’t covered party venues – i.e., pubs – in this post. We’ll be looking at that next.

Fortnightly waste collections for West Hampstead

At last night’s public Area Action Group meeting in West Hampstead, the council gave plenty of stats on Camden’s waste and recycling. But the numbers that will have stuck in most people’s minds were “once” and “every two weeks”, as councillor Meric Apak confirmed what we reported in August; namely that much (though not all) of West Hampstead will move to fortnightly residual waste collections from April 1st. No joke.

Recycling and food waste will still be collected weekly, and this is a clear attempt by Camden to both save money and boost dwindling recycling rates. On top of that, residents who want green waste collection will have to pay £75/year.

Although the turnout last night was down on previous meetings (perhaps due to the tube strike),  there was still a useful and lively discussion though there seemed little chance of the council and unenthused residents – at least those present – finding common ground.

The facts are stark: Camden deals with 46,000 tonnes of domestic residual waste a year but only 26% of waste is recycled – a proportion that’s actually fallen over time. Yet Camden’s estimate is that 85% of household waste is recyclable.

To prove a point, earlier in the day, Richard Bradbury, head of Camden’s Environmental Services, had collected 17 bags of domestic waste from West Hampstead properties. He didn’t go so far as to bring them with him to the meeting, but he had sorted these 17 bags into 5 bags of recyclable material, 4 bags of food waste and just 3 of residual waste. Five bags fewer in total, and only three of the 17 should have been heading to landfill (an 82% recycling rate).

In 2011/12, Camden residents recycled 33% of their waste, so why has this fallen to just 26% today (about the same level as in 2004), especially after the new green wheelie bin regime was introduced in 2012 to make recycling easier? Camden’s target for 2020 is 40%, but to reach this, the council is relying on an awful lot of stick and not much carrot. Camden is not alone – just over half of London boroughs have seen a decline in recycling rates over recent years.

The hope is that fortnightly collections will encourage people to recycle more as recycling will still be collected once a week. We shall see if that happens. Importantly, not all streets will move to fortnightly collections – only existing kerbside collections are affected. The maps below will help most people, but for precise details, contractor Veolia has a very useful and clear search function so you can see how you’ll be affected.


In West Hampstead and Fortune Green, some streets will still keep weekly collections. This is usually related to housing density and availability of space for bins. On the commercial strip of West End Lane, rubbish will still be collected daily, with residents being given enough bags for up to two collections a week.


All the streets in South Hampstead will move to fortnightly collections.


Commercial rubbish is collected daily on West End Lane - though it's not always left correctly. Photo @Superfast72

Commercial rubbish is collected daily on West End Lane – though it’s not always left correctly. Photo @Superfast72

Alongside the change to fortnighly collections, there will be (yet another) crackdown on fly-tipping with more investigation. The council clears 2,000 tonnes of fly-tipped waste a year (of which surely at least 1,990 tonnes comes from West Hampstead). The bin men won’t take black bags that don’t fit into your bin (in fact they’ll photograph them for evidence so when you ring up to complain they’ll tell you you exceeded your allowance), and apparently there’ll be a lot of ‘education’.

Fortune Green councillor Flick Rea wondered what will happen when Christmas comes around, or a birthday party, or someone moving, all of which generate extra waste. Residents will also receive new black bins.

There are a tonne of caveats and other minor changes. For example, there’ll be a free weekly nappy collection service available to households with children under the age of 2 1/2 who wear nappies. Read all about them on Camden’s website.

Egregious fly tipping on Mill Lane from August 2016. Photo @damawa42

Egregious fly tipping on Mill Lane from August 2016. Photo @damawa42

Questions from the public included whether Camden would be checking our waste (Camden wearily said “no” several times) and under what legislation we are required to recycle, the answer appeared to be none, though frankly – economics aside – it shouldn’t take legislation to get people to want to help minimize landfill. Some residents also pointed out that if Camden wanted to increase recycling it would help if it made it easier. There is also a contradiction between Camden’s policy of reducing car ownership and car use and the regular refrain of ‘you can take it to the Regis Road recycling centre’, when anyone enquires about recycling something slightly out of the ordinary… like a toaster.

What are your thoughts on this? Good incentive? Unworkable? Open to abuse? Time for people to take some responsibility for the environment? Let us know in the comments.

Get fit in 2017: The West Hampstead gym guide


It’s that time of year again; time to start thinking about undoing some of the damage from treating ourselves a little too much over the festive season. For all those times we said, ‘Oh go on then, it’s Christmas after all!’ Now your clothes are a little uncomfortable and you seem to have grown a couple of extra chins in those family photos.

But it’s a new year and you’re ready to get back into shape. There will be times it will hurt and you’ll wondering why you’re doing this to yourself. I’ve already been there and reminded myself, “Because mince pies.”

Where to go and what to do? Here’s our guide to the area’s best options for getting fit and healthy this year.

Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre (

At around £55 a month, the Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre is a really great value-for-money choice. It boasts a huge pool that’s sectioned into lanes for different abilities, plenty of equipment and a great choice of classes, which actually run at convenient times. It’s also set beautifully, with huge floor to ceiling windows, plenty of natural light, trees and a huge water fountain, which I find helps to really motivate me. You can also see down over the pool from one of the studios and most of the equipment has built-in TVs so you can watch your favorite shows at the same time.

The downside is that actually getting onto a class it really difficult as they are so popular! Despite being able to book easily on the app or website, you need to be ready to book your place within the first hour of the slots becoming available each week or you’ll lose out! Occasionally you can manage to get a last-minute class if there are cancellations, and beware, you are charged if you don’t show up!

Being a public leisure centre, Swiss Cottage can get extremely busy with large groups of kids clubs, but that does mean it offers so much more if you have children or big groups, with choices including a climbing wall, basketball court, squash rooms and more (at additional costs.)

It also offers a flexible, monthly rolling contract, so it’s worth trying out before deciding whether to commit. For all you New Years Resolutioners, Swiss Cottage is offering a January deal of no joining fee and two months free if you pay for 10 months up front.

The Gym (

If you’re looking for great value, all the machines you need, and you can motivate yourself to go to the gym without needing an inspiring setting then this is the gym for you. At £21.99 a month (plus a £20 joining fee) this no-frills gym may be the right compromise. It’s also open 24 hours with automated signing in systems, which is great for all you night owls and extremely early birds! It also offers a few limited classes.

HIIT Gym (

These unique classes mean business! Perfect if you feel like you’ve plateaued going to the gym on your own or if you need extra motivation to see results. And with these classes you will see results. They are pricey (though we’ve got a WHL-exclusive offer below) but effective.

The HIIT gym is a group class-based workout. The instructors are great, and with varied workouts that can work on strength, fat burning and stamina it never gets boring. HIIT stands for high intensity interval training, which is designed to help you keep burning fat even after the workout.

There is a downside to it not being a traditional gym in that there is not really the option if you ever did just fancy a workout at your own pace. However, if you arrive a little earlier to a class you could jump on the treadmill if you really wanted to.

A word of warning: personally I have to be at full energy to be able to take part in these classes. They are very high impact, no matter what your fitness level. So working out here can be a little ‘all or nothing.’ However, you won’t be bullied into doing that final burpie or shamed for not increasing the incline to 15 on the treadmill. It’s really important to listen to your own body if you feel it is too much.

The classes can also get extremely crowded at the most popular times (which gets a little worrying when people are swinging weights around). Some people might also feel that the showering facilities are quite limited given the cost, and often I feel I’d rather freshen up at home.

Prices vary according to membership, but if you want the most flexibility then classes are around £20 for pay-as-you-go. However, HIIT is offering a 10% pay-as-you-go discount for West Hampstead Life readers with the discount code: 10january. It’s valid until January 31st. HIIT also offers a one-week free trial, so you can try before you buy.

Virgin Active (

Virgin Active at the O2 Centre is one of the pricier options, but boasts a jacuzzi by the pool, decent equipment and great classes. It also offers spa treatments, which are very good. I’m not sure the price difference vs the Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre just up the road is worth it, considering you get almost the same facilities and services. However you do get to avoid the children’s clubs and the service and quality is always great with Virgin. It does offer corporate discounts for many employers so be sure to check at work, as some of the discounts are quite substantial. For this month only it is offering a 12-month contract with no joining fee and a personal training package that works out to £99 a month. It is also offering a flexible rolling month-by-month membership at £106 a month with a £30 joining fee.

You don’t have to go to a gym

Primrose Hill offers exercise without the sweaty floors!

Primrose Hill offers exercise without the sweaty floors!

ParkRun (
Every Saturday, this 5k run across the beautiful Hampstead Heath is a completely free, fun and friendly social project. What could be better than getting some fresh air with with your neighbors and volunteers in this national heritage site we are lucky to have on our doorsteps.

The run starts at 9am – what a way to start your weekend! You do have to register and bring a printed copy of the barcode you’re given, which lets you keep track of your progress and time. However you are encouraged to go at your own pace.

ruNW6 (
An even more social running group that sprung up from West Hampstead Life readers also meets every Saturday. Starting from West End Green, the group tends to head out for a 30-45 minute run with a variety of routes, including the stunning Golder’s Hill park before returning to West End Lane. No runner is left behind! There’s more about this group here.

Public fitness parks: Primrose Hill, Kilburn Grange and Swiss Cottage
Another way to keep fit is to run over to the beautiful nearby Primrose Hill, where there is a substantial outdoor fitness park. The ‘trim trail’ consists of pull-up bars, parallel bars, rings, low bars, sit-up benches and more. Once you’ve had a good work out you could even reward yourself with a very short stroll over to London Zoo where you can often catch a cheeky glimpse of a giraffe!

There are also free outdoor fitness equipment facilities at Kilburn Grange Park and outside Swiss Cottage Library. These are great if you love the outdoors and don’t want to get caught up in gym membership commitments. Personal trainers also use these with clients.

With all these options you should be in tip-top shape for next year’s mince pie blowout!

Network Rail brings clarity to Black Path

Industrial strength machinery brought in to tackle Black Path

Industrial strength machinery brought in to tackle Black Path. Photo via Richard Olszewski

Months of recent community work and lobbying came to some fruition on Tuesday 20th with a site visit to the Black Path and meeting with local residents by representatives from Network Rail, the British Transport Police, Camden Council and the West Hampstead Safer Neighbourhood Team.

They were joined by two very welcome maintenance workers from Network Rail, who were armed with machinery more suited to the task of cutting back years’ worth of overgrown vegetation than that with which we came to the WHL-organised community clean-up day back in September. As a result regular users of the path will notice a huge improvement in some of the most obstructed stretches.

David Rose, from Network Rail’s East Midlands team and Tim Ramskill, who works on crime prevention for the BTP, came to discuss safety and maintenance issues on the path. In the wake of a small number of attacks on the path in the last few weeks, Jim Craig and Simon Bishop from the SNT were on hand, as was Fortune Green councillor Richard Olszewski – who himself uses the path regularly.

Personal security and the vexed question of overhanging vegetation were top of the agenda of course, but discussion points also included safety issues around the tarmac surface, walls and lighting, as well as ownership and responsibility for the path itself.

L-R, Network Rail's David Rose, local resident Julia Deakin, Cllr Richard Olszweski, Simon Bishop and Jim Craig from West Hampstead SNT discuss safety and maintenance on the Black Path.

L-R, Network Rail’s David Rose, local resident Julia Deakin, Cllr Richard Olszweski, Simon Bishop and Jim Craig from West Hampstead SNT discuss safety and maintenance on the Black Path.

Mr Rose was able to confirm that Network Rail owns all the land from the railway line up to – but not including – the walls and fences that border the backs of gardens along Sumatra Road, which belong to the respective property freeholders. However the path itself (not including fences on either side) is leased to Camden, so the council is responsible for the surface, lighting and security. He also raised the question of what might happen if or when government policy forces Network Rail to sell off the land in the future; an unknown quantity obviously, but a potential concern if the path were to fall into private hands and be taken out of public ownership.

The SNT told us that it is currently advising people not to use the path for the time being whilst their investigation into the recent attacks is is ongoing. If you do choose to continue using it, the police recommend carrying a personal alarm. All at the meeting agreed that installation of CCTV would be hugely helpful, but cost and logistical issues may make this unfeasible: the path is 500 meters long and would have to be cabled all the way, even before accounting for the expense of upkeep.

Whilst some of the worst of the overhanging tree growth was cleared by the Network Rail team and their chainsaws, many of the most obtrusive plants are impossible to deal with effectively from the path and would need to be tackled by their owners from within Sumatra Road gardens. By coincidence, later that same day, detective work on the part of a particularly diligent local campaigner revealed that the freeholder of one of the worst-offending gardens is a West Hampstead businessman. Residents are now urging Camden to issue an enforcement notice to the freeholder in order to oblige him to maintain his garden and repair its damaged fence, which intrudes onto the pathway.

It was a productive meeting that ended with a real sense that all the stakeholders were engaged with the problems faced on the path as well as other local Network Rail-owned properties, such as Billy Fury Way, and that solutions could be found for some of the most pressing issues. With vegetation cleared, sightlines would be improved along the whole length of the Black Path, giving better visibility both to pedestrians and cyclists – and fewer places in which to hide. There will be further challenges along the way, as budgets continue to be slashed both at Network Rail and Camden, but the willingness at least is clearly there.

Meanwhile, if you live on that side of Sumatra Road: please, find some time over the holidays to get down the end of your garden with a large pair of shears

West Hampstead set to lose two loos?

Camden Council is looking to save £260,000 on public toilets. To do this it proposed closing toilet facilities at West End Green in West Hampstead, as well as those at Pond Square, Highgate and South End Green. As people protested that they might be caught short, the council asked local businesses if they would be prepared to allow the public to use their toilets.

Across Camden, 12 businesses have stepped forward, including Nando’s in West Hampstead, the Tricycle Theatre on Kilburn High Road, Streets Coffee (a new café on the Finchley Road) and the Abbey Community Centre.

Alan Hindson, manager of West Hampstead’s Nando’s confirmed the branch’s participation. He was aware of the scheme from his time managing the Kilburn restaurant, so was prepared when Camden asked about West Hampstead.  He knows how inconvenient it can be when you are caught short when out shopping and said that people are already coming in with no problems, although the restaurant will monitor uptake over the next few months.

Camden is paying businesses £750 a year, which Alan felt will cover the costs. To indicate which businesses are taking part, Camden will also be supplying stickers, but there is nothing up at the moment.

West End Green's pay as you go and underground toilets - set to close?

West End Green’s pay as you go and underground toilets – set to close?

The closure of the loos at West End Lane would be a particular problem for the 139 bus drivers who wait there. Although Nando’s does offer an alternative, it is not open 24 hours, so what bus drivers are supposed to do outside those hours is not clear.

Camden’s press office said that the council is “working on keeping all currently attended toilets open” but given that it is also trying to save £260,000 it looks like closure of the West End Lane toilets is one step closer.

An Insight into: The Sherriff Centre

The Sherriff Centre, which opened in 2014, has settled in well and is now one of the most popular features of the area – especially with parents.  It was, and still is, a church, but after some extensive internal modernisation it now offers a host of community facilities: a post office and shop, a café with lots of comfortable seating and Hullabaloo (the kids soft play area, and the reason why it is so popular with parents – and perhaps less popular with people looking for a quiet coffee!).

As I waited to talk to Jane Edwards, the manager, it was particularly busy with long queues for the post office counter, the café was full and kids were enjoying the soft play. Plus lots of Christmas lights. All in all a great atmosphere.

Jane, the sheriff (i.e the manager) of the Sherriff Centre

Jane, the sheriff (i.e the manager) of the Sherriff Centre

What brought you to West Hampstead?

I first came to West Hampstead in the mid-90s and rented a flat with my then boyfriend (now husband). We loved the flat and area so much that we begged the landlady to stay and offered to decorate the flat and look after the garden to keep the rent affordable! Eventually, we moved to West London but we always said if we could ever afford it we would move back to the area.

And we did move back, about 12 years ago; first to Sumatra Road, and then up to Gondar Gardens, where we are now. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

What is your first memory of the area?

I loved the feel of West End Lane. Especially the area round West End Green and the fire station, which my parents call ‘Trumpton’! Even though you are in London it doesn’t feel like you are in London.

What has surprised you most about how West Hampstead has changed?

It has fewer independent shops, although that is perhaps inevitable. I loved the record shop and Dizar the gift shop. And instead of Atlanta we now have all the supermarkets and soon an M&S food shop. But nothing has surprised me, everything changes.

One of the things we try to do at the Sherriff Centre is strike the right balance between keeping it community-oriented and being commercial; we are a social enterprise/business. We innovate with things like the quiz and would like to try supper clubs as well as other ideas for events, especially as the building really comes into its own at night.

The shop stock - a good source of presents and cards.

The shop stock – a good source of presents and cards.

People still come in and pray and light a candle outside of ‘church’ hours and others notice when the colour of the cloth on the altar changes and ask why. So we still have the link to it being a church.  Yes it has changed but it is still an inspiring place, quite calming with a history.

What’s for lunch?

Something from the café, most probably their daily dish (lasagne is a particular favorite), unless they have sold out that is.

And I do go out too! As I live locally I go out to local places at the weekend. So for a weekend lunch? I miss La Brocca, we always used to go there for weekend brunch. Currently, I like the Black Lion and also the Alliance for their Sunday roasts but I like to try new places too.

Describe West Hampstead in three words?

Unique, vibrant and community







West Hampstead Christmas survival guide

With just over two weeks to go, it’s beginning to look a LOT like Christmas in West Hampstead. Here’s our seasonal guide to what’s going on around the neighbourhood in the next couple of weeks, including December 25th, and information about practical stuff too.

It's beginning to look, well a bit, like Christmas

It’s beginning to look, well a bit, like Christmas

Still need to get a Christmas tree? They’re on sale outside The Sherriff Centre, on the corner of Sherriff Road and West End Lane, and if you’re at the other end of town, you can find a good selection of trees at The Mill Lane Garden Centre.

This Saturday it’s the West Hampstead Christmas market with a good selection of stalls with gift ideas as well as food and drink.  There are also a range of activities to keep the kids amused and as if that wasn’t enough there will be carol singers at 2pm.

There are of course a number of local shopping options for the perfect Christmas present – see our gift guide for ideas.

Ho, ho, ho - it's the Christmas market

Ho, ho, ho – it’s the Christmas market (image: WH Christmas market)

If your party schedule isn’t busy enough already, here are a few local invites. Top of the list – obvs – the West Hampstead Life Christmas drinks will be on December 14th at the Gallery, details in separate email. Or if you fancy a bit of a bop, there will be a festive Mod & Soul party at the Railway on the 17th (live music and DJ), a Christmas party at The Black Lion on the 23rd (DJ from 9pm) and an ‘Old Year’s Party’ on Friday 30th also at The Black Lion.

If it’s comedy you are after as well regular Monday nights at The Good Ship, there is a new comedy evening on Sunday 18th organised by local resident Abigail Burdess, at the North London Tavern (normally last Sunday of the month). Promising a Christmas cracker of comedy cabaret (click to book tickets).

Santa is taking time out of his busy schedule to make a visit to West Hampstead. He is finding time to drop in to The Village Haberdashery on Friday 16th. There are a few spots left and it’s free, but please book ahead.  They are also organising a couple of kids activities; on Monday 19th it’s making Christmas ornaments and on Tuesday 20th it’s a gift wrapping workshop (both cost £5).

Got your turkey yet?  If not, you can get it at the Hampstead Butcher and Providore on West End Lane, last orders by Tuesday 20th, but if you want a posh bronze turkey the earlier the better (i.e. early next week).  Or you could order it from the Fosse Meadows Farm at the farmers market, they have geese too if you want to go traditional English, again advice is to order early.

As for Christmas Day itself, is anywhere going to be open? There will of course be church services: Emmanuel, St Luke’s, St. James and St. Mary’s  are all holding Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve as well as services on the 25th.

What are the eating out options?  There has been a bit of change on the Christmas day options as Guglee and Toomai, which have been open in the past are closed. However, for a more traditional offering The Black Lion , The Alice House and The Railway are all open with Christmas day lunches on offer, but must be pre-booked. 

The Black Lion dressed up for Christmas

The Black Lion dressed up for Christmas

Likewise the Christmas Day drinking scene has more options than in the past as the The Railway, The Alice House and The Black Lion will all be open from midday to late afternoon.

Or if you are looking for something more active – apart from a walk on the Heath – there is the outdoor icerink at JW3 which is open on Christmas day.

Onto more prosaic, but just as essential things. Rubbish collections will, if I understand Camden’s site correctly be one day later than normal – see Camden’s revised collection schedule here.

What about parking? Christmas falls on Sunday, so there is substitute holiday on Tuesday 27th, plus Boxing day on Monday 26th. New Year’s Eve also falls on a Sunday and New Year’s day on a Monday, which is a public holiday. Parking restrictions don’t apply on public holidays.

The main supermarkets – Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose – are all closed on Christmas Day, and both Waitrose branches (West End Lane and Finchley Road) are also closed on Boxing Day.

If you need an emergency item on the 25th, Nisa Local (on the corner of West End Lane and Broadhurst Gardens) will be open, as will Western Food & Wine opposite. Or up on Mill Lane Londis will be open in the morning, closed for lunch and then open again late afternoon.  None of these convenience stores stock whole turkeys though.

For medical matters if it’s a pharmacy you need, IPSA the newish pharmacy on the Finchley Road has late opening hours and is open on Boxing day and New Years day, 11:30 to 20:00.  It also has a private doctor’s service.  Local GP practices are closed on the 25th and 26th, but if you need urgent medical help you can dial the NHS 111 service, or of course 999 in an emergency.

If you need to travel during the festive period, be aware that tube and train services tend to wind down earlier than normal on Christmas Eve. There is no public transport on Christmas Day, and there will be a limited service and engineering works to contend with during the rest of the period – see here for TfL’s festive travel updates from December 21st to January 4th.  Thameslink services will also not run on the 25th or 26th, but otherwise over holiday period are running services, albeit somewhat reduced.

Twelve things to do in West Hampstead before Christmas

With Christmas less than a month away (eeek!),  time to let you know about twelve events in West Hampstead in the first half of December, to get you into that Christmas mood. To be followed by a Christmas survival guide as we get closer to the day.

1. Kingsgate Studio’s Winter Show 2016 (Thu, 1st Dec to Sun 4th – see below for times)

If you like artists or designer-makers and you haven’t been to Kingsgate, you’re in for a treat. Even if you have been it’s worth a return visit.

The Winter Show is a chance to pick up some interesting artwork or ceramics which will make a very special Christmas present. Where is it, you ask? Down on Kingsgate Road.

Image: Kingsgate centre

Image: Kingsgate centre

2.  Christmas Art Workshop @ the Sherriff  Centre – Fri 2nd Dec 3.30pm

Sherriff Centre will be holding a kid’s Christmas Art workshop (4 years and up). Tickets £4.50 in advance from Hullabaloo.

3. West Hampstead Fire Station open day – Sat 3rd Dec 12-6pm

OK, not that Christmassy (except it is red like Father Christmas). The open day is a must for all those kids who want to follow in Fireman Sam footsteps, plus an appearance from a life-sized playmobil fireman.  Celebrating 150 years of the London Fire Brigade, don’t you know.

4. Beckford School Christmas Fair Sat 3rd 2-4pm

On the same afternoon along Mill Lane it’s the Beckford School Christmas fair. Come and support your local school.

Three floors of fun for all the family, including lots of games, Santa’s storytelling, live auction, food and drink stalls. Plus Street Dance Stars, the junior and senior choirs and the Beckford African Drummers.

The school has been tweeting furiously about all the donations from local business for its raffle (think we will need to win a prize from Insight Opticians to read the tiny print on this flyer). Basically, it says lots of great prizes from local businesses.


5. JW3 open air skating rink (opening on Sat 3rd Dec )


Almost the Rockefeller Centre…   Image: JW3

West Hampstead has its own ice rink! And as an added bonus it’s also open on Christmas day. A novel way to work off the Christmas lunch calories.

It’s also a good opportunity to explore JW3 if you haven’t been. It has a great café, Zest, and a cinema too.

The ice rink is even recommended by Londonist as the best value peak time (i.e. evening and weekends) skating rink in London.


6. West End Lane Books – One day Winter Sale Thu 8th Dec (9am-9pm)

Harrods? Forget it? Hamleys? Meh! The real harbinger of the festive season is the advent of West End Lane Books’ one-day Winter Sale. The shop will be offering its customary exemplary range of books, new and classic, plus seasonal stationery, diaries, calendars etc at 20% off…and this includes an extensive selection of signed books! There will be seasonal nibbles throughout the day and the hard stuff will be coming out after 6pm. All free. Gratis gift wrap available on all purchases over £30 and tonnes of Whamp bonhomie and literary banter to boot.

7. The West Hampstead Christmas market – Sat, 10th Dec 10am-4pm

Ho ho ho - it's nearly that time of year again. Image: Xmas Market

Ho ho ho – it’s nearly that time of year again. Image: Xmas Market

It’s the 7th Annual Christmas market, held on West End Green. There will be a range of stalls selling Christmas gifts and decorations, including local businesses such as Monsters of Art, Achillea Flowers and the Camden Society. The organisers have upped the craft element; we are intrigued by leather goods from the Friday club and Japanese knitwear from Fukushima knit. Edible treats will also be available – The Kitchen Table and Welsh teacakes are among the cake stalls.

It’s not all about shopping however – there are fun, free activities for kids in the neighbouring Emmanuel Church. There will be music, dance and storytelling as well as plenty of Christmas crafts including flower making and ‘up-cycled’ Christmas baubles.

Not forgetting carol singing on the Green at 2pm!

8. Emmanuel School Christmas fair – Sat, 10th Dec 2-5pm

Come and support another local school. On the afternoon of the West Hampstead Christmas fair on West End Green, and practically next door, Emmanuel School is holding its own fair (inside the warm school)!

As if there is isn’t enough sweet stuff at this time of year, Emmanuel is having a bake-off. As well as the usual tombola, raffles and mulled wine.

Top draw looks like Santa’s grotto – kids you can let him know what you want for Christmas (but you better have been good).


9. Fortune Green Choir Christmas charity concert – Mon, 12th Dec 7.30-9pm

A relaxed concert with a Christmas touch held in the newly refurbished Emmanuel Church. The choir is singing Broadway tunes, traditional choral pieces and of course carols. Cantereas, the choir within the choir, will be singing a couple of pieces and there will also be carols for the audience too.

Mince pies and mulled wine after the concert.  Festive spirit guaranteed.

Suggested donation £4, as they are raising money for the De Capo foundation, a local charity that encourages music education from toddlers to teens.

Hark! the herald angels sing ...

Hark! the herald angels sing …

10. Wishing you a FoWHL Christmas – Monday, 12th Dec 7.30-9pm

It’s the Friends of West Hampstead Library (FoWHL) AGM, but to lighten the doom and gloom of staff and budget cuts there will be some festive readings by the FoWHL players – how many other libraries friends group have their own acting troupe?



11. Panto at the Sherriff Centre – 16th Dec.

A first this year – panto in West Hampstead, but a travelling not local production – so no chance to see the Linda Snell or Eddie Grundy of West Hampstead. Alas, it has proved extremely popular and it sold out already.  Bah humbug!

12.  Festive Mod and Soul Party at the Railway– 17th Dec 8pm-midnight

Live band Serious Chord Squad playing The Who, The Jam, The Small Faces plus classic Mod & Soul tunes. Soul DJ set to party til late. Free entry.

And finally, looking for a Christmas tree?

They’re on sale outside the Sherriff Centre on the corner of Sherriff Road and West End Lane, and if you’re at the other end of town, you can find a good selection of trees at the Mill Lane Garden Centre.

Kilburn butcher who saved two lives

West Hampstead Life is less local than you might think. One of our Australian readers, Barry York has been in touch to ask if we could help find any descendants of George Ross Huckstepp.

Apart from having a great surname, Mr Huckstepp was a butcher in Kilburn in the 1940s and 50s. He lived at 2e Dyne Road. He also saved Barry’s life.

Barry’s mother Olive did not have a happy marriage. She married in 1947 but by 1952, when Barry was just a baby, she had reached a depth of depression that made her suicidal.

Mother and son. Image credit: B. York

Mother and son. Image credit: B. York

Forty years later, Olive told Barry how, when he was a baby, she took him with her to a bus stop opposite the local butcher’s shop (in Dyne Road/the Kilburn High Road) and stood there waiting for the bus; not to catch the bus, but to jump under it. With him. What saved her life, and Barry’s, was the kindness of the butcher, Mr. Huckstepp, who knew her as a customer. On seeing her standing there in a distressed state, he read the situation, and quickly came out of the shop.

As his mother recalled “He saved me from killing you and suiciding myself. He came out and said ‘What is the matter?’ and he said ‘You go for a walk, a short walk. Then come back and I’ll give you two ounces of liver’. The thought of that was in my mind and I thought ‘Oh, liver, how lovely, two ounces off my ration book’. I went back and he gave me a good talking to and he said ‘You go back home and you cook that liver’.”

She returned home, cooked the liver as instructed and shortly afterwards emigrated with her family to Australia. “It’s funny how life can turn out” pondered Barry. He’s trying to track down more information about the kind butcher. All he knows is that George Huckstepp was born in Kilburn in September 1900 and died in 1967 at ‘Plovers’, Sandhurst, Hawkhurst, Kent. He and his wife, Kathleen, retired from the butcher’s shop around 1960.

Does anyone remember him? Are any of his descendants out there? Apparently George Huckstepp had a son and a daughter. Barry would like to thank them for saving his life. If you do have any information please email Barry.

Remembering West Hampstead soldiers who died in WW1

Earlier this year, on the anniversairy of the battle of the Somme, our local historians alerted us to the London War Memorial. This is an online database of the thousands of Londoners who died in WW1. On Armistice Day, we thought it would be a good opportunity to remember the 1,000 men of Kilburn and West Hampstead who died in WW1.

War Memorial in Hampstead Cemetery

War Memorial in Hampstead Cemetery

Of those listed online, only 81 had identifiable local addresses, many in Kilburn. You can find out a bit more about them by going onto the database and searching using name or location. We thought it would help bring it closer to home to see the street, name and age of the soldiers when they died.

The amount of information on each soldier varies considerably, but for those who were known to have died in specific batttles, more detail is given. For example, Victor Hough who lived at 74 (or 4) Linstead Street (or Road) was a private in the 2nd East Surrry (2nd batallaion, East Surrey regiment) died on 27th April 1915 in the battle for St. Julien.

Spurred on by the success of their gas attack on 22nd April, the Germans struck again, two days later on the northern sector of the Ypres salient at St. Julien.  Once more they used chlorine gas and despite a resolute defence the British and Canadians were pushed back and St Julien was lost.”

On 25th April the main German attack fell on the spur between the main Ypres ridge and a stream called the Strombeek, where 2nd East Surrey and 3rd Royal Fusiliers were in the line. It started at 5am with an artillery bombardment. Shrapnel swept the bare slopes for 4 hours after which came gas and high explosive. At 1pm, from trenches only 70 yards away the German attacked the right of 2nd East Surrey, on a ¼ mile stretch between the top of the ridge and the railway cutting.  They broke in at several places but elsewhere they were either captured or driven off.  In the centre of the line a company of 8th Middlesex moved up in support but the Germans remained in occupation of 60 yards of breastworks on the left where all the officers had been killed.  Two attempts to dislodge them (at midnight and at 8.30am on the 26th April) failed despite the help of two companies of 2nd Shropshire Light Infantry.  To prevent further German progress a trench was dug round three sides of the captured line. 2nd East Surrey suffered over 200 casualties on these two days. On 27th April 2nd East Surrey again tried to expel the enemy from the positions they had captured two days earlier but to no avail other than the deaths of another 14 men”.  Victor Hough, of West Hampstead, was one of the 14 who died.

For nearly 2 weeks the fighting continued on this front. The Germans persisted with their attacks, the British fought desperate rear guard actions and launched many counter attacks but gradually they were pushed further and further back. Eventually, during the night of 3rd & 4th May the British forces were withdrawn from their forward positions and took up a new defensive line closer to Ypres”.

He is remembered at St. James Church here in West Hampstead and also at the Menin Gate in Ypres. He was 24 years old.

The full list of soldiers with identifiable addresses is below:

Around Mill Lane

Arthur HARRIS (33), 93 Broomsleigh St
Charles KING (20), 85 Broomsleigh St.
Harry OTTAWAY (34), 13 Sumatra Road
Gustave REESEG (31), 47 Solent Road
Harold BARNES (20), 1 Midland Cottages, Mill Lane
Alfred BALLAM (37), 4 Lithos Road

Towards Kilburn

Thomas CAHILL (19), 2 Dynham Road
Herbert PEACH (20), 47 Dynham Road
Oswald HYDE (27), 33 Gascony Ave
Victor HOUGH (24), 4 Linstead Road * (died at battle of Ypres)
John DUCKETT (19), 44 Messina Ave * (died at battle of Loos)
Henry DICKERSON (24), 17 Iverson Road
Richard WINTLE (40), 113 Iverson Road
Thomas INCE (-), 8 Loveridge Mews
Arthur CORNELL (40), 11 Lowfield Road
Henry SELF (26), 6 Lowfield Road
Albert FELTON (31), 17 Lowfield Road
Arthur GREEN (19), 24 Lowfield Road
Alexander HARROLD (21), 8 Medley Road *(died at battle of the Somme)
William MORLEY (19), 101 Priory Park Road
James COUGHTREY (19), 6 West End Lane

South Hampstead

Robert MONTIER (19), 5 Fairhazel Gardens
Alfred PRUCKEL (25), 119 Belsize Road
John ROWE (20), 106 Belsize Road

Refurbished Emmanuel Church gives homeless a warm welcome

Just in time for the cold weather, the refurbished Emmanuel Church is helping some of Camden’s homeless. It has joined a project offering overnight accommodation and a warm meal, once a week.

From the outside it doesn’t look like much has changed at Emmanuel, but inside the refurbishment is pretty much finished. It now has four new rooms available for the community and larger space for events and projects.

One of the new projects offered by the church is overnight accommodation, a hot meal and a shower to up to 16 homeless people from Camden on Tuesday nights from now until Christmas. It is being run by Camden Churches winter night shelter , which offers it over the coldest winter months from November to March. Each night, one of fourteen churches across the borough offer the service. The project also offers support and advice to help get its users off the streets and into permanent accommodation.

Church offers shelter for the night. Bedding is stored away between sessions.

Church offers shelter for the night. Bedding is stored away between sessions.

The project started in winter 2005 and, thanks to its refurbishment (which includes a kitchen and shower), this year Emmanuel has been able to join. The first session was on Tuesday and the meal was cooked by West Hampstead’s very own generous chef, Jennie Vincent from the Kitchen Table. She cooked a vegetarian curry, which was very nice according to Father Jonathan! Jennie even managed to persuade her suppliers to donate ingredients.

New kitchen at Emmanuel Church

New kitchen at Emmanuel Church

Father Jonathan said that “it went really well. We’ve spent all this money doing up the church, and really want to make sure we give back to the community”. The project is organised by full time caseworkers, together with the support of local volunteers. It you would like to help just contact Emmanuel Church.

To officially open the new rooms, Emmanuel is holding a ceremony on Thursday 17th November at 2pm. The Bishop of London will be there, along with the Mayor of Camden and our local MP, Tulip Siddiq. You are welcome to attend (but it would be helpful if you could let Emmanuel Church know).

Rejoicing in Amy Werner’s rehabilitation

Almost exactly four years ago there was a tragic accident on West End Lane. A Mercedes driver in his 80s careered off the road and onto the pavement near Dynham Road. Desreen Brooks was killed as her husband managed to push their toddler son out of the way. American student Amy Werner, off to meet friends in Camden, was extremely seriously injured.

The incident shook everyone in West Hampstead. It happened on a Saturday evening, there were lots of people around. The random nature of who was affected, and the severity of the crash led to a heartfelt outpouring of support for those involved.

Amy was taken to St Mary’s and her parents – Rich and Regina – flew out from their small town of Dover in Vermont to be with her. They would spend a month by her bed as Amy underwent major operations. Lots of West Hampstead Life readers wanted to know how they could help and as a result I was in regular contact with Rich. Nicky and I went to visit them and Amy. Even knowing what her condition was, it was a shock to see her in the ward, lying there in an induced coma. I couldn’t really comprehend what it must be like for her parents.

Amy eventually flew home to the US, where her extensive treatment and rehabilitation has continued. We wrote a follow-up article. I stayed in touch with Regina via Facebook for a couple of years, actively at first, then more just checking in once in a while and eventually glancing at posts. I could see Amy was doing ok. After what seemed an age – in fact two years after the incident – the driver was sentenced to 18 months in prison (later reduced to 12) for killing Desreen Brooks, though acquitted of GBH against Amy due to a lack of concrete evidence.

Then last week Regina popped up on Facebook, saying that she and Amy were going to be in London this week for a slew of medical appointments, and that Amy would love to meet me properly.

“You look a lot better than when I last saw you”, was my predictable opening gambit as this lively and articulate 27-year-old came down the steps of their Bayswater accommodation.

Amy, Regina, Amy’s aunt Cathy and I spent a very pleasant evening in Notting Hill. I didn’t know what to expect from Amy. I knew that she’d lost the sight in one eye, but wasn’t sure whether any other effects would still be visible. They were not. She’s clearly itching to get back to the life she had planned when she first moved here – just a matter of weeks before the accident. I’m not sure her mother is so keen to let her daughter quite so far out of her sight again, but Amy’s irrepressible personality would be hard to contain for long I suspect.

Four years on, both Amy and her parents remain very grateful for the warmth, support and generosity that the whole West Hampstead community showed them. I’m sure you will all want to send Amy the very best wishes …. and maybe we’ll see her again in London before too long.

Amy and I finally get to meet properly

Amy and I finally get to meet properly

Rainbow reappears over West Hampstead

Thanks to the help of the fire brigade St James Sherriff Road once again had it’s LGBT rainbow and trans flags fluttering in the West Hampstead breeze this afternoon.  Although it was a brigade from Wembley not West Hampstead that lend a ladder.

The flags had been stolen a couple of weeks ago by two young men seen on CCTV footage.  However, Father Andrew wasn’t going to be bullied and was determined to get them back up.  As he posted on Facebook ‘No surrender’.

Flags flying again

Flags flying again

Tulip was there to show her support, as were a number of local councillors. But only Tulip fulfilled her childhood fantasy of being fireman – something for Azalea’s bedtime story.

Fireman Tulip

Fireman Tulip

Dive into the delights of West Hampstead events

What I love about Whamp events is the brilliant people I have met. Yet without these events, I would have quite happily walked past them on West End Lane!

Of course, I also like the easy exchanges about the streets and roads we live on, recommendations on the best places to go in the area and how long we’ve been living in this mutually-agreed-upon wonderful neighbourhood. Not to mention walking home at the end of the evening with no requirement for public transport. An evening sans social-commute! Bliss! These are enjoyable and indeed essential pieces of the Whamp Life puzzle.

Summer evening drinks at The Black Lion

Summer evening drinks at The Black Lion

However, it is the lasting impression of local characters that leave me bubbling with enthusiasm after every event I’ve organised. From fresh-starters to long-time Whampers; from witty writers to astute city goers; from the famous West End, to West End Lane business owners. Every person has a different story about how they came to be in West Hampstead, yet steadfastly I’ve found them to be friendly, interesting and interested in the world around them. Turning up to an event in the hope of meeting your neighbours is a good filter to find sociable, open people and that seems especially true here. This is what makes West Hampstead Life so special.

Few drinks at One Sixty before heading out for a dinner

Few drinks at One Sixty before heading out for a dinner

What’s the story?
I have my own little personal history of how I came to run the Whamp events. I find myself re-telling the tale when I meet new faces at these socials and the inevitable curiosity about how this unique community came to exist in London. Firstly, I always emphasise that I only running the events! There’s a small team of people who do a fabulous job of the website, emails, reviews and twitter (usually I don’t contribute to the news!).

Secondly, I am not the pioneer! I am continuing the years of work by Jonathan and his supporters who established this concept. I’ve always been a big fan of meeting people in person, so I’m delighted to be carrying it on with his guidance. I will save the rest of the story of how I got involved for face-to-face telling, otherwise you’ll be missing out on the requisite animated hand gestures. All I will say is that it involves a willing bunch of West Hampstead ladies (and one lovely one in particular), a few too many Pimms & Lemonade and a narrow escape from the doomed Lower Ground Bar!

What kind of events?
Whether it’s a sit-down WhampDinner or a more relaxed WhampSocial, we like to mix it up. Since relaunching the events in June this year, we’ve done a Friday night curry at gorgeous Guglee, book-ended by drinks at One Sixty and the Railway; an evening with a steady flow of lovely people round a table or two at the Black Lion; followed by a splendid turnout of old timers and newcomers that found their way to us through the Czech bar, into the beer garden and onto plastic chairs.

Twenty four locals enjoy dinner at Guglee

Twenty four locals enjoy dinner at Guglee

Most recently, a lively bunch met for tasty Vietnamese at Pham House, with a few drinks next door at The Gallery. Next we plan to try the soon-to-open Thunderbird bar on West End Lane.

If all this sounds like its for you, read more about the practicalities (tldr: sign up to the mailing list)

All you need is an email address and a NW6 postcode (or NW2 or 3 if we’re feeling generous), then the Whamp world is your oyster. Throw your name in the hat and maybe yours will be the next Whamp story. If you do, I think you’re highly likely to have an entertaining evening. Because we’ll be somewhere lovely in West Hampstead, happy to meet someone new, surrounded by more people with the same outlook. Long may Whamp Events continue. Come! We’ll make it so.

Explore behind closed doors with Open House

Coming up this Saturday and Sunday is Open House 2016 . Open House, which started in 1992, is a not-for-profit organisation that promotes public awareness and appreciation of the capital’s building design and architecture.

Image: Open House

Image: Open House

But with hundreds of sites to see across London, what to visit? It pays to invest a bit of time in research and planning. There’s the website, a guidebook and an app.  For most, it’s just a question of visiting one or two places; diehards who want visit as much as possible tend to focus on a particular part of London (even using a bike to cycle from one place to the next).

To avoid frustrating waits, check opening hours, whether there are tours (could involve a bit of a wait to join) or whether you need to pre-book.

Without travelling too far from West Hampstead, what can you see? Camden actually has plenty of options, with an array of housing commissioned by Sidney Cook, the borough architect from 1965 to 1973. Locally, there is the Grade II listed Alexandra Road Estate, which will have tours of flats (Sat). Or visit another local icon (Sat & Sun), the grade 1 listed Isokon building.

Image: Open House

Isokon Building.  Image: Open House

A tiny bit further afield in neighbouring Barnet, Open House presents an excuse to visit Hampstead Garden Suburb and the Grade 1 listed Free Church and St. Judes on the Hill, both designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. There are walking tours of the suburb plus self-guided tours.

However, one of the best things about Open House is the opportunity to visit more modern houses. Locally in Hampstead are 44 Willoughby Rd (Sat & Sun), Elizabeth Mews in Belsize Park (Sun) and Kebony House (Sat).

Not too far away, in Queens Park, is Studio McLeod (Sat) – behind a non-descript shopfront at 320 Kilburn Lane is an architects studio/stylish family home with a not-to-be-missed sliding staircase hiding a motorcycle.

If you’re feeling much more adventurous, why not explore further afield and see something completely different? Take the Overground to Hackney or head south of the river to see some of the most interesting contemporary architecture being built in London.

Of course there are a whole host of historic and commercial building to see as well.  We will leave you with a link to the Open House Listings, and let us know what you’ve enjoyed visiting.

Things already look brighter on the Black Path

A fortnight ago WHL asked, How can you help lighten the Black Path?, ending with an invitation to come and help start sorting it out. Those of you who use the Black Path will have seen the difference, for the rest of you, here’s what happened next.

A group of West Hampstead residents, fed up with having to duck under overgrown foliage every time they used the Black Path, turned out on Bank Holiday Monday with secateurs, shears and loppers in hand to tackle the problem. They started at the worst section, a proliferation of ivy towards the Thameslink station. After two hours of hard labour we turned this:

Before ...

Before …

into this:

... after!

… after!

Aside from the satisfaction of sorting out a local problem, highlighting the issue has generated other benefits. Former councillor John Bryant got in touch to say that the path is in fact the joint responsibility of Camden Council and Network Rail, and that they tackled the issue a few years ago. It seems that the institutional memory had been lost. Someone from Network Rail also got in contact to offer help reaching the right person.

Many hands did indeed make light work

Many hands did indeed make light work

While we were working, many passers-by were delighted this was being sorted out, and in fact most helped too. Each was asked if they wouldn’t mind carrying a bag (or two) of green waste to the collection point at the Bloomsleigh Street end. They did, and by the end there was 43 bags of the stuff!

43 bags full, sir.

43 bags full, sir. Image: Penny Liechti

There is still more to be done, so a second sessions is planned for September to tackledthose overhanging shrubs. If you want to join us please email .

How can you help brighten the Black Path?

Every morning, and every evening, hundreds of West Hampstead commuters use the Black Path that runs along the railway line to get to or from the stations.  But at several points along the path they need to either dodge mounds of ivy or duck beneath tunnels of over-grown shrubs. During the summer this is annoying but, as winter draws in, the overgrown foliage makes parts of the path dark and unsafe. So unsafe that one user ended up in hospital after damaging his eye.

The Black (Eye) Path was cleaned up in a blitz a few years ago but has since deteriorated. So why does nobody do anything to get it sorted again… and that includes all those commuters?

Duck! Image: Caroline (who is tall and has to duck as well)

Duck! Image: Caroline (who is tall and had to duck as well)

The big challenge is that nobody seems to be ‘responsible’.  It is, as I was once told, S.E.P. (Somebody Else’s Problem). The path itself is not a council-maintained path, it’s on Network Rail land and some of the foliage is also on Network Rail land, so no doubt that Network Rail bears some responsibility. But the biggest cause of the problem is foliage over-growing from gardens of houses on Sumatra Road (and it is often difficult to work out which ones).

Council officers are, if not pro-active, then at least willing to help, even in times of tight budgets. The path is kept fairly well swept (around the growing mounds of ivy)! But the council has employees (and councillors) who could report these larger problems and come up with solutions.

West Hampstead also has local civic groups such as WHAT or the NDF, but they have limited resources and are focused more on lobbying and policy than getting their hands dirty. It’s certainly not clear what role they should play.

Rubbish behind the fence is also a problem image: Shelley

Rubbish behind the fence, on Network Rail land, is also a problem. Image: Shelley

The Black Path seems to be a Grey Area, where the role of the individual, the council, and the state in the form of Network Rail is still unclear. What are our rights and what are our responsibilities? Where do the council’s responsibilities end? And what happens then? There seems to be no clear answer.

One of the main issues that arose during the NDF consultations was the poor state of local streets and dumped rubbish – so it is an issue high on resident’s list of concerns. How to do something about it? Should residents abdicate all responsibility even when it is they (collectively) that do the dumping, or let their trees overgrow? Whatever your political persuasion, having a decent, pleasant local environment (where people care) is surely something everyone agrees on?

Tunnel of shrubs - time to do something about it?  And throw some light on the Black Path

Tunnel of shrubs – time to do something about it? And throw some light on the Black Path

In the meantime it’s getting darker earlier. So rather than talk about it more, isn’t it time to do something? If you are one of those commuters who is constantly ducking under trees, or even if you just live locally and care about this kind of thing, then please email and join us on Bank holiday monday from 2pm in the afternoon to help clear up the Black Path. Even if you can’t make that date (and it is a bank holiday weekend) then still drop us an email, as there will probably be another date in September.

The very nature of nature means that this can’t be a one-time thing. And yes, of course, also speak to local councillors about finding some longer-term solutions and liaising with Network Rail.  Plus this has taken on an added degree of urgency in the light of the attempted sexual assault on Billy Fury Way last week.

Will fortnightly rubbish collection make us cleaner and greener?

It’s the middle of the summer holidays and Camden Council has announced (controversial) changes to waste collection. It’s yet another change after several over the past few years (e.g. switching from multi-stream to single stream recycling). But despite all these changes recent performance in terms of recycling has been poor.

In 2005 Camden beat the target of 25%, achieving… 25.2%! Woo hoo. Ten years later by 2015 this had crept up to… 26.3%, still well short of the 2020 target of 50%. That target is, however, an EU target so perhaps we should expect revised targets at some stage? However, at the current rate of improvement, 1% per decade, Camden is on course to reach the 50% target by 2255!

Changes to waste collection and recycling?

Changes to waste collection and recycling?

Camden ranks 333rd out of 352 councils across the country and 25th out of 32 among London councils for recycling. The councils at the top recycle 65% or more of their waste and even in London the best manage more than 40% (Ealing: 40.1%, Harrow: 45% and Bexley with an impressive 54%). At least Camden is doing better than Newham and Lewisham, both on 17%.

To up recycling rates – and to save money – Camden is proposing that ‘some households’ will switch to fortnightly rubbish collections of ‘residual’ waste. It is yet to specify which households this will affect, though it is understood that the south of the borough will still have weekly collections. Houses that have the space will be given a black wheelie bin and those that don’t will be given branded sacks. The Council will maintain weekly collections of food waste and dry recyclables across the borough. The theory is that this will encourage more recycling.

For those locals with gardens, Camden is introducing a charge (or tax as the local Tories have labelled it) for collecting garden waste: £60 for a nine-month ‘service’ and £75 for a 12-month ‘service’. It seems odd to discriminate against green waste; people are doing the right thing, flats and houses with gardens could well be in higher council tax bands already, and charging to dispose of green waste is likely to lead to more people simply disposing of the waste in the black bags (this will apparently be penalised, but it’s hard to see how). It could even lead to more gardens being paved over – not exactly part of the Green agenda.

Residents can take garden waste free of charge to Regis Road in Kentish Town or Hornsey Street (in Islington) but neither are local to West Hampstead and more car journeys is hardly environmentally friendly either.

Fortnightly collection of residual waste - a glimpse of the future

Fortnightly collection of residual waste – a glimpse of the future

Moving to fortnightly collections of general waste could lead to more fly-tipping – it’s certainly unlikely to lead to less. Fly-tipping and the poor state of our streets is already a serious problem in West Hampstead and was the number one issue raised in research for the NDP. There is a petition about the changes, but it has only had a few people sign it so far.

As the recent improvements to rubbish collection on West End Lane have shown, some parts of Camden Council are making progress and are effective at keeping the area cleaner. But if the challenge is to raise recycling levels and make Camden a greener, cleaner borough, it’s hard to see how these changes will achieve that.

Hallelujah! West Hampstead is getting new community space

What do with church buildings in 2016? The buildings, many Victorian, are too big for today’s congregations and an increasingly diverse and secular London. A couple of years ago St. James Church, just south of the tube station, was converted into the Sherriff Centre.

Fr Jonathan and our Local MP Tulip Siddiq

Fr Jonathan, Tulip Siddiq and Emmanuel Church

But what you might not know is that redevelopment is underway at Emmanuel Church off West End Green at the heart of West Hampstead. This will add five different rooms/spaces available for community use. Father Jonathan Kester explains, “A number of local community organisations including the Community Association of West Hampstead have indicated that they will use the new space in the church for some of their activities and this will greatly increase what they can do. We will also be able to do more of the outreach work that is such a vital part of the life of the church. The rooms will make it possible for us to participate more fully in the Camden Churches Winter Night Shelter, for example, and to continue our partnership with Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous, the Fortune Green Choir and a number of other artistic, musical and cultural activities”.

The first suggestions to add community space to Emmanuel Church were raised in 1921, so it’s only taken 95 years for it to happen (and we thought Camden Council was slow). Redevelopment was triggered by the fact that the floor needed stablising and replacing, which created the opportunity to rethink the space.

New two story rooms, with same on the other side and community space in between.

New two-storey rooms, with the same on the other side and community space in between.

The project is making better use of the space in the side-aisles. Before the redevelopment there was one plasterboard community room on the right hand side of the nave (the bottom part of what you see in the picture). This has been replaced by a brick structure (as required by the Victorian Society in keeping with listed status) with another community room in the space on top. The same is duplicated (out of picture) on the other side. And between the two sides will be a space suitable for larger community meetings. All this is situated in roughly the back third of the church, the front part will remain as a church.

The total cost is around £650,000 (plus VAT) paid for by largely by Emmanuel Church with contributions from the local community and a £50,000 section 106 contribution. Although there is still some money to raise to finish off the project. If you would like to contribute to the funding or find out about using the rooms, please contact . It is expected to open for business in mid-October. Hallelujah!

The sun shines on the Jester Festival (mostly)

Once again West Hampstead pulled off its successful local festival, the Jester Festival on Fortune Green. It started the same year that Britain joined Europe, so this year was the 44th. It was an eclectic mix of funfair, live music and stalls from a host of local groups.

All takes all sorts to make a Jester festival

All takes all sorts to make a Jester festival

If you wanted a glimpse of what Remain Britain looks like, then the Jester festival is in its own small way a good example. In some ways a typical British fete with balloons, cakes and jam for sale and a noisy traditional fun fair; but in other ways different. For example, the wide cross-section of locals and the most popular food choices – Greek filo pies (delicious), Indian curries and French crepes. However, not much sign of an out-of-touch West Hampstead elite; rather it was all, reassuringly, down to earth.

The local political party stalls, energised by recent activity, had a host of new faces. Local MP Tulip Siddiq visited the Festival on Saturday and promptly won in the Labour Party raffle, but any hint of it being anything other than free and fair were swiftly denied. The Lib Dems again boosted their coffers by selling sold more cakes and biscuits than one thought humanly possible. The Tories, bouyed by a long planned but well timed visit from Theresa May last week, were out in force.

All the fun of the fair

All the fun of the fair

The Jester remains a family-focused festival. Along with the funfair there were a whole host of other sponsored (i.e. free) activities for children; ranging from the spell-binding story telling tent, to the popular climbing wall and the entertaining circus school. Not forgetting the obligatory face painting. Additions this year were the mini-Olympics organised by Aston from Sidings Community Centre and trampolines at the fun fair, both went down a storm.

For adults, the Jester puts on a surprisingly good line up of music. Varying from the local Fortune Green choir via Jazz and Cajun, to Big Joe Lewis and his Blues band. Alas Saturday’s main band, local rockers Mr Meaner, were welcomed by a rain shower at the start of their performance and the audience melted. However, the shower didn’t last long, the sun returned, and they played with gusto. Overall the weather, which had threatened to be pretty mixed, turned out better than forecast – much to the relief of Jester organisers.

The view from the stage

The view from the stage

Other local groups at the Festival included the Neighbourhood Development Forum and – a safe distance away – Stop the Blocks. Lots of interest at both stalls, where the hot topic was redevelopment of 156 West End Lane.

The popular Jester Tester quizzes sold out, all 300 of them, boosting the coffers of the Friends of Fortune Green. Local community centres Sidings and WHCA were there, explaining their activities. WHAT, the local amenity group that has been at Jester pretty much since the beginning, was also present. Other groups included Hampstead School, promoting the school to potential parents and the WI, promoting its talks, workshops and social events.

All in all, West Hampstead’s social capital was given a useful boost at a confusing time nationally; and thousands of locals spent a pleasant couple of hours at a fun festival in our neighbourhood, meeting friends, supporting local groups and eating cake.

What have you missed since June 13th?

This past fortnight has been dominated by the European elephant in the room, the referendum. Overall, Camden voted 74% in favour of remain . Observers at the count put Fortune Green and West Hampstead wards slightly above this at about 75-80% each in line with our own unscientific poll. Highgate ward appeared to be most in favour of remain at around 85%. Exact results by ward weren’t disclosed because the 20,000 postal votes were allocated in chunks but not on a ward basis, so observation is the closest we will get.

A local political reverberation of the fallout as Cllr Andrew Marshall, former leader of Conservative Group on Camden Council and staunch remainer, announces he won’t be standing for re-election in 2018.

West Hampstead featured heavily in the media on the morning of the vote itself with our Photo of the Week below making appearances in the Mail Online and Telegraph among others. West Hampstead also got a (not entirely positive) name check on Channel 4 News the night before (ff to ~5’40”)

West Hampstead Square has been renamed Heritage Square. Is this Camden’s doing? (why wasn’t there a referendum?).

Early morning queues to vote. Photo via @EugeneRegis

Early morning queues to vote. Photo via @EugeneRegis

Plans are out for the redevelopment of 156 West End Lane (a.k.a Travis Perkins building). Apparently not much change from the original plans. There will be a special NDF meeting at the Library on Friday 1st to discuss.

The redevelopment of the Overground is due to start soon, but is going to take some time.  And as luck with have it, there is a talk at the Library by Iain Sinclair on 4th of July on his new book about his observational one day walk round the stations of the London Overground (aka the Ginger Line).

The Jubilee Line’s night tube service is due to start September 2nd.

Camden has started time-banded rubbish collections on West End Lane and Fortune Green in an attempt to keep the streets cleaner. It’s early days, but seems to be working.

Lower Ground Bar, which was temporarily closed after a street brawl is now apparently permanantly closed. Turns out it was operating without a licence.

The new delivery-only Pizza Express on West End Lane is to become a Firezza – a pizza joint owned by the same company.

What is happening at N’Fes? Looks closed, but turns out it is just being refurbed. Will be a cocktail bar with live music on Fridays and Saturdays, apparently.

The first Whampdinner for a while was a big hit. Guglee hosted 26 of us before a few hardy souls braved the torrential rain for a follow-on drink at The Railway. The Gallery’s basement flooded apparently. If you want to know about the next whampdinner join the mailing list.

It’s been two weeks since the Big Lunch weekend. Here’s what you missed.

JW3 continues to put on a run of interesting events (more on those later). One that caught our eye is the Einstein festival starting on Tuesday. Will it be good? We think so, but it’s all relative.

And in case you haven’t heard, next weekend (Sat 2nd and Sun 3rd July) is the annual Jester Festival on Fortune Green. It started in 1973, the same year Britain joined the EU (or EEC as was then). Mostly stuff for kids (lots of it free) but other activities too; a fitness competition, some good live music and plenty of cake buying opportunities.

Kingsgate Road turns out to have a tenuous connection to the KKK.

Filming took place in Kilburn for the BBC’s adaptation of local author Zadie Smith’s NW.

One local gives his view on how to rent your flat without turning to one of West Hampstead’s many many estate agents.

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Big Lunch proves a big deal

It was national Big Lunch weekend recently, and there were a number held in upper West Hampstead (aka Fortune Green): Ravenshaw Street, Gondar Gardens, Ingham Road and Achilles Road. How did they turn out?

Decisions, decisions...

Decisions, decisions…

Ingham resident Susie Steiner, reported that “the great British weather wasn’t being very co-operative, especially early on, so the Ingham Road Big Lunch, scheduled for Fortune Green, turned out to be a wet lunch and Ingham Road residents repaired indoors for their get together. There was a brilliant turn-out, nevertheless, lots of food, toddlers and free-flowing fizz. Much credit to the organisational skills of Hannah Borthwick, who provided the Ingham pavlova”.

Said Pavlova. Photo via Susie Steiner

Said Pavlova. Photo via Susie Steiner


Spellbinding! Photo via David Yass

Starting slightly later, Gondar and Agamemnon Residents Association avoided the early rain and were able to stay outdoors. What kept them so well entertained on an overcast but fortunately dry Sunday afternoon in June?

“Aside from the usual Big Lunch necessities (home-cooked food brought to share, the opportunity to play football, cricket and mini-tennis in the middle of the road), the rabbit that GARA pulled out of the hat was… Tom the spellbinding magician who wowed children of all ages with his wonderful tricks” said Chair of GARA, David Yass.

Down at Ravenshaw Street “it was a great success despite the rain!” said organiser Georgina Thorburn, “we probably had 60-100 people coming and going throughout the afternoon. We also had a West Hampstead fire service bring one of their engines for the kids to view, mounted police offices (on horses) and an ice cream truck. There was also free face painting, arts and crafts for the kids and a raffle, which raised over £100 for Great Ormond Street hospital”.

Over in Achilles Road there were a whole host of activities over the day; “We had a fire engine and police horse visits, a Strike Pads demo, Zumba class, table tennis, kids’ doughnut-on-a-string eating challenge, face painting, bouncy slide, water balloon and spoon race (OK that one didn’t work too well!) but the subsequent water balloon fight was fun”, according to organiser Cecilia Yee.

Zumba on Achilles Road. Photo via Cecilia Yee

Zumba on Achilles Road. Photo via Cecilia Yee

Something that united them all was the delicious food that people brought to share. Nothing like a street party to bring out the great British Baker in all of us. Although, Gino’s Tiramisu on Achilles Road, took the biscuit so to speak, but as it would take a Zumba class to work off the calories, it was fortunate that Achilles Road had organised one.

Food glorious food! photo via Achilles Road

Food glorious food! Photo via Achilles Road team

Our local councillors Flick Rea, Lorna Russell as well as local MP Tulip Siddiq popped along, Tulip bringing baby Azalea. Also in a nice touch local touch, Achilles Road ran a fund-raising raffle on the day to raise money for new football goals at the nearby Fortune Green play centre. Ravenshaw also had a raffle, which raised £100 for Great Ormond Street hospital.

Final word to Janet Pedder, who helped organise the event on Achilles Road, but which applies to all of them. “It was just so fabulous to have the road free of cars and for the kids to be able to run, scoot and cycle the length of it with no fear or safety concerns. And we all met neighbours who we hadn’t made contact with before. It was such a happy and relaxed atmosphere”.

A really rubbish article

West Hampstead street rubbish

No, not a slipping of standards, but an article on something dear to your hearts: rubbish on West End Lane. The amount of rubbish on our busy commercial streets was an issue raised repeatedly at Neighbourhood Development Forum meeting, but fell outside its scope. And the saga of the Sainsbury’s bin, remember that?, also captured the strength of local feelings. In a bid to clean up West Hampstead, Camden Council is introducing time-banded collections on the commercial parts of West End Lane and Fortune Green Road (but not Mill Lane, yet).

From the 6th June, commercial and residential waste can be put out only at certain times and will be collected shortly after. Twice a day on West End Lane and three times day on Fortune Green Road. Camden has told businesses and residents this is happening and has liaised with private contractors about it. The hope is that this education campaign, and the fact that it is their own best interests, will persuade businesses and residents to get in the habit of disposing of their waste correctly. Camden is taking a zero-tolerance approach and will issue fixed penalty notices to offenders but really hope that this is not necessary.

Time-banded collections are used elsewhere across the borough (Camden High Street, Kentish Town Road, Hampstead) to manage the problem of litter on busy commercial/retail areas, which are also residential areas (particularly with flats above shops). It seems to work elsewhere, so we are hopeful that introducing it on West End Lane and Fortune Green Road will improve the litter and fly tipping situation.

Blackburn Road has its own  problems. Will Camden extend the scheme?

Blackburn Road has its own problems. Will Camden extend the scheme?

The cause of the rubbish problem on our main streets is two fold, firstly commercial waste, which is generated by local shops and businesses. This can be collected by a number of contractors, not just Camden Council, which has little control over when other licensed waste collection companies collect their waste. So it could be there all day. It is also possible that some businesses are trying to avoid paying for waste collection and are just dumping their waste. That said you would think there was a fairly strong incentive for businesses, as they would presumably prefer their customers didn’t have to wade across mountains of trash – it is not really conducive to a pleasant retail environment.

Second problem, flats above shops generally lack any outside bin to store waste until a regular weekly collection (unlike those who live in purely residential streets). Residents therefore tend to leave tied-up supermarket bags of rubbish at random times of the day, seven days a week. These bags also seem to contain a large proportion of potentially and easily recyclable waste (bottles, can and plastic) which if recycled at, for example, the West End Green recycling centre, would reduced the amount of rubbish. Camden recycles 26% of its waste (by which of course I mean our waste) which is well short of the target of 40% by 2020. The North West London Waste authority NWLA, of which Camden is part, has an even higher target of 50% by 2020.

Here’s hoping for a cleaner and greener West Hampstead Life.

Veolia truck

What have you missed since May 30th?

It seems Ballymore and its building contractors for West Hampstead Square, O’Hare & McGovern, have parted company. Further delays to the completion are surely inevitable with industry insiders suggesting the end of 2016 – more than a year late. We asked Ballymore for a comment, but no-one returned our calls.

In other West Hampstead Square news, the collection of retail units are being collectively marketed to prospective buyers of the space as “Heritage Lane”. The tenant line up is: Marks & Spencer Food, an M&S Café, Provenance Village Butcher, Village Haberdashery, and an unconfirmed estate agent.

A BMW flipped over on Fortune Green Road in the early hours of Saturday at the same place as two other recent accidents. The driver apparently passed both drink and drug tests but claimed he was travelling slowly.

Fortune Green Road residents still wondering how this happens. Photo via John Mennis

Fortune Green Road residents still wondering how this happens. Photo via John Mennis

The EU referendum came to West Hampstead at a hustings held at the Sherriff Centre. The discussion was polite, but did anyone change their mind?

Talking of Europe coming together… Where can you watch the football in West Hampstead?

Your flute is too loud! Excuse me, what now?

In the last newsletter we wondered what was happening at much missed La Brocca, which has lain empty for nine months. Then, last week, signs of action. Renovations have started. A coincidence? We think not.

The lease at The Kitchen Table is up for sale. Locals will hope something similar replaces it – Mill Lane needs a community hub. The café was also broken into this week.

Tom’s Diner is back… Our prawn-guzzling gourmand went to Broadhurst Gardens’ newest restaurant, Pham House.

The Friends of Fortune Green pulled off another successful outdoor film screening. More than 250 locals turned out to watch Brooklyn. The next screening is Inside-Out on August 20th.

The Tricycle Theatre is undergoing a major overhaul that will see it close for a year (cinema stays open). The key question though: should the carpet stay or go? We ran a Twitter poll.

The redevelopment of the Overground is due to start soon… and it’s going to take two years!

Plans for the redevelopment of 156 West End Lane (a.k.a Travis Perkins building) are still “coming soon” (they were supposed to be out last week). Further afield, at 317 Finchley Road there are plans to turn the former pub into a part-7 part-10 storey building.

Three celebrations of note:
1) A party in Hyde Park, near the Iranian Embassy, to celebrate West Hampstead resident Gabriella’s Ratcliffe’s second birthday. Gabriella couldn’t be there as her passport has been seized and she is trapped in Iran being looked after by her grandparents while her mother, Nazarin, is being held without charge.
2) A string of “Big Lunches” were held on Sunday around the neighbourhood. Look out for photos next week.
3) Abbey community centre celebrated its 40th anniversary.

Paddy Power was refused planning permission to open a betting shop on the Kilburn High Road, but a new baker, Wenzels, has opened.

Several of you have asked about the WHL Forum. As we explained (though appreciate you don’t all read absolutely every word we write!), we decided to close it: underused and expensive for us to run. We have the data and will find a way to make sure the useful stuff isn’t lost.

If you’ve wondered about this poster on Belsize Road, local BBC newshound Jon Kelly has done some digging. Despite his sleuthing, he still couldn’t really clarify everything.

Camden is starting time-banded rubbish collections on West End Lane and Fortune Green in an attempt to keep the streets cleaner. More on this later in the week.

Kids interested in coding? There’s a camp coming to the area [sponsored post].

A female cyclist was injured on the Finchley Road on Thursday afternoon near the junction with Heath Drive. Thankfully the injuries were not life threatening.

Cupid calling: we’re trying to find a very specific West Hampstead firefighter.

Congratulations to local writer Renee Knight for being shortlisted on the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year for her first book, Disclaimer (a former Sunday Times fiction charttopper). Congratulations also to local film maker Jessica Benhamou who won a £20,000 grant from Cointreau for her film Juliet Remembered. Finally, in a trio of culture related stories we discovered that Anabelle Lwin, ex-Bow Wow Wow singer, was scouted in a West Hampstead dry cleaners.

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Tricycle’s theatre to close for a year in multi-million pound revamp

Last Thursday, the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn held an open day to show off its plans for the “Tricycle transformed“. We learned that the Tricycle really will be transformed. The theatre will close on July 2nd, at the end of the current show (The Invisible Hand), and will remain closed “for about a year”. Fear not, film fans, the cinema will remain open.

Better sightlines and more seats as "scaffolding" style replaced. Image via Chapman Waterworth

Better sightlines and more seats as “scaffolding” style replaced. Image via Chapman Waterworth

The project has two main goals. The first is to open up the entrance on the Kilburn High Road and completely renovate the theatre. To make it easier to understand — a quick history lesson. The Tricycle Theatre was originally the Foresters Hall, but was acquired by Brent Council in 1980 as a permanent home for the Wakefield Tricycle Touring Theatre Company (so that’s why it’s called the Tricycle). Recently Brent/the theatre also acquired a long lease on the Order of Foresters shop, next door to the current entrance. The plan is to put a café there and so make the Kilburn High Road entrance much more prominent.

The second, and arguably more significant change, is the complete transformation of the theatre. Out goes the 1980s scaffolding seating arrangement, down goes the floor level to allow step free access for disabled theatre-goers (and the number of wheelchair places will rise from two to up to eight), and up goes the number of seats overall, by 50 to 290, with improved sightlines. Not to mention there will be more, and better, loos. Plus, the stage will be enlarged and the original Order of Foresters hall proscenium arch will be more visible.

Overall my impression was it had been well thought through and it will tie the theatre and cinema sides of the Tricycle together. The one controversial issue that arose during the discussions: whether or not to keep the Tricycle carpet. Locals were keen on keeping it, the architects less so … We’re running a poll on Twitter to see what you think.

Should it stay or should it go?

Should it stay or should it go?

All this work doesn’t come cheap, but the Tricycle’s fundraisers have already got an impressive £5.5 million (£2.5 million from the Arts Council and the rest from trusts and donors). They still have a further £750,000 to raise; if you have some spare cash in search of a good cause there are ways to support the project on the website, such as dropping a grand to name a seat.

Film on Fortune Green: Easy right?

Photo via Eugene Regis

Photo via Eugene Regis

Watching a film is a great communal experience. Watching that film outdoors surrounded by your friends and neighbours is even better. But it doesn’t happen by accident. As well as taking on the role of editor of West Hampstead Life, I’m also involved with the Friends of Fortune Green (FoFG). This is the fifth year of FoFG’s outdoor film screenings, so here’s a behind-the-scenes peak at putting on the outdoor film screening of Brooklyn this Saturday (June 4th) at 9pm (doors ‘open’ around 7pm).

First decision: what film? This is the judgement of Paris. Whatever we choose some are happy, others not. But be aware, dear reader, there are several factors that limit the films we can choose. We can only start screening at sundown, which at this time of year it is c. 9pm. If the screening has to end by about 10.30pm that means the film can be about 90 minutes long. This first screening starts later (sundown in August is 8pm), so it is aimed at an older audience, but it still needs to be suitable. For example, I’d forgotten the language in the Blues Brothers (our September 2013 offering) was, well, rather blue. It prompted Javi (aged 8) to comment with a smile the next day, “it was a bit rude”. Recently we realised that  films are available for public screening more quickly than when we started back in 2012. You, the people, seem to like recent movies, as we get bigger audiences so more recent films are to the fore. Hence, Brooklyn

Photo via Eugene Regis

Photo via Eugene Regis

However, it’s not just a question of ‘putting on a DVD’. To show a film legally we need a public screening licence, which costs c. £300. We also need to hire equipment, a decent projector, a good sound system and a big enough screen. It’s not cheap, but working with the more community-minded suppliers the hire cost is c. £400. If we get the popular cycle-cinema guys back for the August screening (not promising) that will cost a bit more.

Get there early to get a good view! Photo via Peter Coles

Get there early to get a good view! Photo via Peter Coles

On top of that, we have to pay Camden £100 for putting on an event on the Green. Yes really. In all fairness it does take officer time to monitor events taking place in parks across Camden (and they are seeking to raise revenue). They also need to review our health and safety form – we have to submit one of those too. As well as that, we have to apply to Camden for a TENS (temporary events licence). It’s a cumbersome seven page on-line form to fill in. So in total around £800 to put each screening, which is why we are really grateful to the local businesses that sponsor them. Thank you Benham & Reeves! (FoFG do ask for donations at screenings, as this adds to the pot should the day come when we can’t get a sponsor and we have to self-fund and also to help fund other activities and events).

So that’s everything? Not quite. We have to publicise the films! This involves leafleting the houses in the surrounding streets with 500+ flyers , time-consuming but not too bad if you do with someone else, as well as putting up posters and sending out e-flyers. Leaflet, e-flyer and posters all need drafting and copying. On the film night we have to set up the (heavy) equipment, steward the event and at the end pack the equipment up again – in the dark. The stuff on the night is the bit most people see but it’s just final one of many steps.

Finally, not forgetting the great British weather. From about ten days in advance we keep a beady eye on the long range forecasts with anxiety levels rising and falling along with the barometer as we get closer to the date and the forecast changes. Latest update – anxiety levels have fallen since this morning’s forecast for Saturday night is OK! Might be a spot of rain early evening but on the whole it’s good and warm(ish). Phew. See you at Brooklyn in West Hampstead.

So there you are: how to put on a outdoor film screening. Not quite as simple it appears, but worth the effort.  It’s not just me, it’s a joint FOFG committee effort but if you would like to help at this or future screenings don’t be shy, speak to a steward on Saturday.

Welcome back to West Hampstead Life

What have you missed since August 2015?

Obvious. The West Hampstead Life newsletter and website. Yes, it’s been nine months since Jonathan sent out the last newsletter and there has been a West Hampstead Life-sized hole ever since. I kept up a low-key correspondence with Jonathan during this time as I felt strongly that there must be something that could be done. Perserverence has paid off. West Hampstead Life is back and I’m delighted to be its new editor.

It’s early days with the relaunch (and bear with me for the inevitable teething troubles). Some things will change, but we will keep the best bits of West Hampstead Life. Initially, we will make the newsletter fortnightly, not weekly, to allow us to rebuild things gradually.

Me, I’ve lived in West Hampstead for 18 years and over this time a lot has changed, but whatever makes West Hampstead, West Hampstead and first drew me to it, has remained. It was something Jonathan sensed when he started this project now seven years ago. Partly it was about disseminating local news but he quickly found that it unearthed a local community which responded to the more social side of West Hampstead Life. We want to keep that too.

Much as I feel part of West Hampstead I know that I don’t know everything and I certainly can’t write about everything. We are therefore very actively looking for people to help contribute. Please drop me an e-mail if you’re interested.

Living in London is great but at times it can be stressful, lonely and frustrating. So the experts recommend we take a mindful approach and live in the ‘now’, in the moment. Fine, but as well as living in the ‘now’ shouldn’t we live in the ‘here’? Which to me is about knowing what’s going on locally, knowing your neighbours, supporting your local shops and caring about the local environment. I want West Hampstead Life to continue to be part of making that happen and to be part of making West Hampstead a better place, please join me. Mark

A word from the publisher

Yes, hello, it’s me. You don’t get rid of me that easily. It’s been a slightly painful process trying to resurrect WHL, so I’m delighted that we’ve emerged with such an enthusiastic new editor.

Some of you have asked if I’m moving back. I’m not. But I am retaining ownership of the site and will be the publisher of WHL, which basically means I’ll be selling the ads and helping Mark where I can. Mark will be the editor, and we couldn’t have found someone more closely intertwined with the area. Mark is one of the few people under 60 who knows more about West Hampstead than I do. He’s a long-term resident and very involved in existing community groups while not being a political activist, so WHL’s broad impartiality remains.

We’re very pleased to have many advertisers already lined up. They recognise both the unrivalled exposure that WHL brings for local businesses and the broader benefit to West Hampstead in supporting West Hampstead Life, which quite literally can’t function without making some money. Particular thanks to Dutch & Dutch, which has committed to be a long-term advertiser, thereby enabling this relaunch. It shouldn’t need saying, but I’ll say it anyway: advertisers have no say in editorial coverage unless they have written a sponsored article, which is always described as such.

I shall continue to run the @WHampstead twitter account, Mark will take the @WHampsteadLife account, and we’re (slowly) going to up our presence on Facebook and Instagram.

FINALLY, as Mark hinted above, the broad idea that a local community shouldn’t just be virtual lives on. Expect more pub get togethers and whampdinners in restaurants (plus cultural stuff too – Ed). Say it quietly, but there might be something on June 17th, though you’ll only hear about that if you’re on the mailing list. Jonathan

Good Night, and Good Luck

More than six years ago I tweeted about a hairdresser on Broadhurst Gardens (long gone). It was a bit of an experiment in using Twitter for local news. Would there be enough stuff to talk about? Was Twitter really going to take off? Most pertinently, were people in West Hampstead interested in getting local news this way?

Fast forward to 2015 and we all know the answers to all those questions. It became apparent very quickly that not only was there more than enough stuff to talk about, but actually Twitter was far too restrictive. West Hampstead Life was born with a thrilling opening post on the results of the 2009 European elections.

But West Hampstead Life and the WHampstead twitter account were always about more than just disseminating news. Six years ago, despite having lived in West Hampstead for a long time, I didn’t know anyone here. So the second idea was to see if I could unearth (or infiltrate) the local community. Turns out that Twitter was a great place to get to know locals virtually, but it also enabled the offline meetings, dinners, parties, and general socialising that makes West Hampstead Life stand out from the now crowded world of hyperlocal websites.

Why the reminiscing? Having built this all up – with enormous help and support from dozens of people – it’s time for a change.

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine

Many of you will know – either from me, or through the high-speed grapevine – that I’ve moved out of London. You’ve probably noticed a drop-off in website content, and those of you who read the newsletter will know we’ve taken a break.

Trust me, it’s not because I’ve fallen out of love with West Hampstead. It’s far more clichéd than that. Nicky and I are expecting a baby and we wanted more space. We immediately hit the property market brick wall. To get a nice larger place in West Hampstead was not feasible, and we didn’t fancy moving “a bit further away”. Instead, we moved to Warwickshire.

I know one or two of you who knew felt that I should have announced this immediately, though the majority seemed to understand that it was still possible to publish local news without being in situ all the time; and that I was hoping there could be a seamless handover of the website. Unfortunately, sorting that out is taking a bit longer than I’d hoped (negotiations are progressing, but if you’re interested in buying a successful hyperlocal, I’m still open to offers).

Anyway, six years feels about right. The site first took off with coverage of the 2010 general election, so it was great to be able to repeat the process for this year’s vote – and this time to chair my own hustings. In fact, over six years, we’ve reported on the riots, eaten more Sunday lunches in one day than medical advice would ever permit, analysed every major development from Ballymore to 156 West End Lane and befriended a tonne of amazing people along the way.

There have been humbling moments – such as meeting the parents of Amy Werner, the American student so badly injured in the December 2013 car crash. There have been daunting moments, like interviewing Glenda Jackson. And there have been ridiculous moments, like talking to Paul Ross on BBC London radio about mystery cucumbers. All those moments have added up to this being one of the most fun and engaging periods of my life.

While we sort out a transition, the website will tick over. Expect it to focus more on the features and reviews though. For news, I suggest you head over to the Forum where I’ll post stuff as and when I can, and you can write your own stories. We’ll continue to update the calendar too, so do keep checking that.

The newsletter will go on ice. It has been one of the most popular features of West Hampstead Life. For about the last four years, I’ve published it 50 weeks a year and I can’t deny that getting my Sunday nights back is amazing. Keep signed up though – until we manage the handover we may send out the occasional newsflash e-mail and update everyone on events.

Twitter – I can’t abandon Twitter. It’s where it all began. My @WHampstead account will remain fairly active, much as it has been over the past few weeks. Whoever takes over the site will have the @WHampsteadLife account to play with, but the original @WHampstead account is too personal to me for me to give it up and I fully expect people will carry on sharing news and asking questions for quite some time. Maybe don’t expect quite as rapid a response as you may have become used to. And no, I don’t know why the police helicopter is overhead.

Come together

The most fun aspect of West Hampstead Life has always been the get-togethers. The first whampgather was late 2009. Sixteen of us met in the Alice House (Stephen Fry couldn’t make it) and I was dead nervous. The last few have seen almost 200 people turn up (and I was still a bit nervous).

Dinners, books, films, barbecues, comedy nights, picnics, drinks, and even the occasional bit of dancing… the events have been the glue of West Hampstead Life. They’ve already spawned two weddings, many flatmates, and I’m fairly sure more than a few hook-ups; but also a rich network of people who know they can walk down West End Lane and bump into someone they know. I’ve never bought into the “village feel” of West Hampstead, but I do buy into the idea of a community and that’s what West Hampstead is.

And you don’t need me to keep those connections. The great news is that the events will continue. There’s already been a whampdinner and an NW6 Film Club night since I left and the next whampsocial and whampbooks are in September.

There may never be another whampgather – perhaps that’s one event that’s run its course; but at least the local businesses can breathe a sigh of relief that I won’t be bugging them for raffle prizes any more.

So long and thanks for all the fish

By whatever metric you choose, West Hampstead Life is one of the country’s most successful hyperlocal sites despite only ever being a sideline and – for most of its life – having been run pretty much single-handedly by me. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t immensely proud of that. But it’s only because local people keep reading, tweeting, replying and e-mailing (constantly, constantly e-mailing) that it’s thrived.

It would be impossible to thank all the people who’ve helped me along the way. There are literally hundreds of you and it’s a dangerous game to start naming names! I would, however, like to mention that handful of people who got it from the very beginning; the people who were supportive from the start and who still are in different ways. Some have left the hood, some are still there, all were instrumental in getting project #whamp off the ground, whether they realised it or not. They know who they are. Thank you.

Once I have an update on the site, I’ll let you all know. I’m still around from time to time – had that second #whamp wedding to attend this weekend, for example – and I’ll try and swing by a whampsocial or a whampdinner (if my name gets pulled out of the hat) whenever possible.

In the meantime my friends, it’s been a pleasure.

Is West Hampstead library at risk?

West Hampstead Library is a vital community asset, sitting in the heart of West Hampstead.

It is about so much more than books. As well as lending books, it serves as a space for community groups, hosts IT facilities for those who do not have them at home, and has various other classes and activities for people of all ages. During elections it serves as a polling station. It is also an attractive building with a good presence on the West End Lane high street. Public libraries are among the last indoor spaces in West Hampstead – or indeed anywhere – where you can sit for free.

However, its future may be in jeopardy – and together with my fellow local councillors – we’re asking for the help of local residents to keep it open.

Because of central government cuts, which are halving Camden’s budget over eight years, Camden needs to cut £800,000 from its library services and it has not ruled out closures.

This coming Wednesday, a 12-week consultation will start on the future of Camden’s libraries. The council has specifically mentioned West Hampstead among the libraries that might be considered for closure.

A lot rests on the response to the consultation. If the public response is a big ‘no’ to closures, it will help them to discount that option.

Of coursse, in light of the current financial pressures, the council needs to look at creative ways to make savings and modernise the service. I don’t think enough work has been done to look at partnerships with local groups – or bringing in other services to share costs and make the library an even better community hub. Closure should not be an option.

The West Hampstead councillors have started a petition against closure, to give an early show of the strength of feeling. If you want to, you can sign it here. Within a couple of days, it has already got more than 200 signatures.

Some of the comments are really quite moving. They show just how much this place means to local people. We need to show the council the strength of local feeling on this and we call on all residents to help.

The campaign already has its own Twitter handle, @SaveWHamLibrary and a hashtag, #SaveWHampLibrary which interested people can follow for updates. (The missing ‘p’ in the handle is due to Twitter’s tight character restrictions.)
As councillors, we are calling on residents to fill out the consultation from Wednesday and urge Camden not to close West Hampstead library.

Netherwood Street: Residents take rubbish into their own hands

If you’ve ever had cause to walk from West End Lane to Kilburn High Road via Sherriff Road, you will have been on Netherwood Street. You probably hurried by trying not to notice the unsightly dump between the pavement and the railway line. All manner of refuse, including builders waste and evidence of rough sleeping, combine to give this otherwise pleasant area a distinctly grotty feel.

WHGARA, the local residents association for that part of West Hampstead, has decided to reclaim this abandoned council-owned site, and turn it into a small park.

Cllr Phil Rosenberg, who ran a very informal consultation on rubbish hotspots in the area via West Hampstead Life, took Cllr Sally Gimson, who’s responsible for such things in Camden, on a walkabout to see the worst offending places – including Netherwood Street.

Phil Rosenberg: "being knee deep in muck is the best thing I've been able to do"

Phil Rosenberg: “being knee deep in muck is the best thing I’ve been able to do”

Camden was able to bring WHGARA together with local charity, Camden Green Gym, and national campaign CleanUpUK to make a difference to the area. The three groups joined volunteers from the Webheath estate, and the two councillors to clear the site earlier this month. Working for three hours, the 20+ volunteers moved heavy debris including mattresses and discarded builders’ material, and more than 50 bags of flytipped waste.

Netherwood St Group Photo

WHGARA secretary Brigid Shaughnessy said, “It was a real success. The community really rallied behind it and we are hopeful that it can be restored as a creative new green space for residents”.

Netherwood Street clean-up before...

Netherwood Street clean-up before…

... and after

… and after

Once the space is cleared of waste, campaigners hope to turn the plot in to a micro-park, and the possibility of new allotments is being discussed. Ms Shaughnessy paid tribute to the “sustained and positive support” of the councillors, which had helped get the clean-up off the ground.

Netherwood St Litter Pick

Phil Rosenberg said, “It sounds strange to say it, but being knee-deep in muck is the best thing I have been able to do since becoming a local councillor. It just shows that when the community, council and local charities come together, we can achieve amazing things.”

The campaigners are hoping to do another round on the weekend of May 9th/10th, which we’ll publicise on these pages – do get involved in what’s a great community initiative. However, Camden has a long way to go to win over residents who are dissatisified with the rubbish on our streets (especially the Kilburn High Road end of Netherwood) and the performance of contractors. This feels like a step in the right direction, though hopefully not every initiative will require residents to become quite so closely acquainted with the problem they want solved!

Show your support for The Naz & Matt Foundation Walk

The death of Dr Naz Mahmood last year shocked the West Hampstead community, and as the details emerged around his death, that shock and sadness only grew deeper. On Saturday, Naz’s partner, Matthew Ogston, begins a 130 mile walk in his memory at the cemetery on Fortune Green Road and everyone in West Hampstead is invited to see him off. Matt’s aim is to raise awareness of the issues that ultimately led to Naz passing away, and to raise money to help set up the support networks that could help prevent the same situation happening again.

Naz died after he came out to his family, who rejected his sexuality. There is no better explanation of the story than the extremely moving article in The Guardian last month. It was a piece that took months to write as Matt, who still lives in West Hampstead, struggled to begin to come to terms with what happened. I urge you to read it.

Matt has now set up the Naz & Matt Foundation, a charity that aims to raise awareness of the devastating impact of homophobia within communities that are heavily influenced by religion; specifically he hopes that its work may prevent another young person feeling that the only way forward is to take their own life. Matt writes:

To raise awareness of these issues and to help fund a range of special projects and initiatives with the aim of changing attitudes and increasing acceptance of gay, lesbian and trans young people born into religious families, and to offer support to LGBTQI individuals affected by the issue, I will doing a 130 mile sponsored journey, mostly walked, from London to Birmingham.

“The Journey to Find Acceptance” will be spread over eight days, starting on the 18th of April. I will be joined by friends on the journey, and I am inviting members of the public to join with me to walk part of the route, to help me ‘carry a message of love and acceptance along the way’.

Many of you will have heard or read about Matt asking our parliamentary candidates what they would do to stop religiously-driven homophobia at the recent hustings. It was an emotional moment that cut through talk of mansion tax and public services and reminded us all of what it is to be human; to love and to be loved.

You can be a part of this, and show your support for Matt and this cause.

The walk starts at Hampstead Cemetery on Fortune Green Road, where a bench in memory of Naz was recently installed. Matt wants as many people as possible to turn up (“dress fabulous”). The throng will assemble from 10am and the walk itself begins at 11. By all means join in the walk, but even if you can just turn up to send Matt on his way that would be a huge boost for him.

Over the years that I’ve been running West Hampstead Life, I’m always amazed at how our community rallies around people who need us at the most challenging times of their lives, whoever they are and whatever they need. We saw it after the terrible accident on West End Lane a couple of years ago, lets see it again on Saturday.

Disco Soup: Tackling food waste through, er, dance

Disco Soup, according to local organiser Thomas Fassnacht, is a “global movement tackling food waste with free festive culinary events.” Sounds bizarre, but it’s actually a innovative way to get people both thinking about and acting on what is becoming a major global issue. And now you can get invoved in West Hampstead.

According to Thomas, a third of the food produced in England goes to waste. Disco Soup tries to do something about this. The idea is that markets and supermarkets give fruit and vegetables that would otherwise be discarded. This could be due to superficial imperfections, a wrong order, or wrong best before dates.

Disco Soup participants, armed with some chopping boards and peelers, then prep the food, which cooks then turn into lovely dishes. Musicians and DJ keep the beats going during the chopping, and then continue the entertainment after dinner.

Disco Soup London 1

London’s Disco Soup in January. Photo: Thomas Fassnacht

Disco Soup London 2

Photo: Thomas Fassnacht

The 6th London Disco Soup will be held at 6pm on Monday April 13th, at the Mazenod Social Club on Mazenod Avenue. Everyone’s welcome, and the organisers ask that you bring your own peeler and chopping board if possible.

Find out more via Facebook and this Time Out article.

Whampdinner: The Movie!

Ever wondered what West Hampstead Life events are really like? Or maybe you’ve already been to a few and want to relive those heady evenings?

Either way, now’s your chance. We teamed up with talented amateur filmmaker – and West Hampstead local – Helen Carrie, who has put together this brilliant short film of the last whampdinner, held a couple of weeks ago at Mamako.

As you can see, mouthwatering food and scintillating chat with new local friends were the order of the day, as 25 of us took over the restaurant for a fun evening getting to know our West Hampstead neighbours. Helen’s really captured the friendly, relaxed vibe of the evening so if you’ve always wondered whether these events are for you, check it out for a good flavour of what to expect!

If you do fancy coming along to future events, get yourself on the mailing list, if you aren’t already, for advance notice of dinners and other one-off meetups.

Locals dig deep to push Alliance fundraiser over target

The organisers of the campaign to raise funds to send the body of Natalia Czekaj back to her mother in Poland would like to express their gratitude to locals for giving generously to the cause. In total, they raised £8,400, which means that they can also help Natalia’s mother cover the funeral costs as well.

Dear Friends of The Alliance, Mill Lane, West Hampstead,

The sudden and tragic loss of Natalia has revealed that we are blessed with a local community full of kindness and generosity. The fund, originally set up to repatriate Natalia’s body to her mother in Poland, has been swollen by your goodwill to such an extent that we can hopefully now cover the funeral expenses as well.

Of course, we cannot ease the emotional suffering that sudden bereavement brings, but we have shown a devastated family that we care about their loss, and that Natalia was a loved and appreciated member of our community.

The funeral has been arranged for Saturday 31st January so it is our intention to close the fund on Friday 30th January.

Please accept our sincere thanks for your generosity and kindness; on behalf of Natalia’s family and the staff of The Alliance.


Have your say: WHL Forum is up and running

West Hampstead Life Forum header

Heaven knows the people of West Hampstead have opinions. You hear them expressed loudly at every local meeting, anyone with a local twitter timeline will be drowning in them, and they fill the WHL inbox.

But not everyone can attend (or enjoys) those meetings; Twitter is a noisy place littered with sunset photos and hashtags, and my inbox can’t take much more! Time for a place where locals can debate and discuss both great matters of import and the banalities of modern life in a civilized fashion.

Welcome to the West Hampstead Life Forum.

To participate in the Forum, you have to sign up. It’s a small hurdle to jump over but helps to create a genuine virtual community rather than a room where people pop their heads in, shout an obscenity, and disappear back into a hole.

How to register

Go to the Forum homepage and click on Create Account. This is top left on a desktop and accessed via the three vertical line drop-down menu on a mobile.

WHL Forum Create Account


WHL Forum Create Account mobile

Fill in the usual questions. You don’t have to use your real name, though we’d prefer it if you did.
Answer the very easy security question to prove you’re a real person (hint: both a single word and two words will work, capitalisation irrelevant)

In the bottom right of your browser, a message pops up telling you to confirm your e-mail address. Don’t click the “resend again” button until you’ve gone to check your mail and confirmed. The mail may be in your Junk or Promotions folder but it’s from West Hampstead Life.

WHL Forum confirmation

Once you’ve clicked on the link in your e-mail to confirm you’ll be taken back to the Forum page with a thank you message and after a few seconds you’ll be taken to the main page

How to use the Forum

It’s pretty simple. The main page lists the categories we have at the moment with a brief description.
WHL Forum Screenshot 1

Clean mobile design

Clean mobile design

Clicking on any category title takes you to the discussions or threads in that category, and then click on any thread title to read the latest posts.

The first time (and only the first time) you click on a discussion, you get a summary of the rules. You may not get this on a mobile. The rules are simple:

1) no commercial advertising. Anything that the moderators deem to be advertising will be removed and membership will be revoked for persistent offenders.
2) if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face or in a crowded room, don’t say it here. Robust debate is absolutely fine, insults, or language that is deliberately used to cause offence are not. We trust you to use your judgement, but we will happily use ours if need be. Anyone publishing anything potentially libellous will of course be removed immediately and that user blocked until we have investigated.

Close that pop-up and you can read/reply etc. with all the usual formatting you’re used to.

To reply, hover your mouse over the comment and “Reply” pops up at the bottom of the comment; click to reply. On a phone, just tap the comment to get the same option. Or just fill in the text box below to add a comment to the thread.

To simly like a comment, hovering over/tapping also brings up a heart icon you can click on.

If you want to start a brand new discussion, then click “Start a New Discussion” (we’re tricksy like that), or on a mobile click the three vertical dots top right to get the drop-down menu.

WHL Forum Screenshot New Discussion mobile

Make sure you assign the comment to the right category and away you go.

There are some other bells and whistles, but that’s the basics. If you write something you want to change, you have about 10 minutes after posting when an “edit” option appears.

If you want to get e-mail notifications when someone replies to your comment, go to Preferences, which are under “You / Edit Profile / Set Preferences”.

Play around with it – leave comments, start threads, lets see how it goes. Any problems, drop us a mail .

Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but we will be monitoring them closely and anything we believe violates our very simple rules will be removed without warning.

Let us know your thoughts on the forum… on the forum.

Alliance fundraising appeal to help Natalia Czekaj’s mother

On January 6th, Natalia Czekaj was found dead at her home in Harrow. Natalia worked behind the bar at The Alliance pub on Mill Lane where she was much loved. A 34-year-old man has been charged with her murder.


Locals are raising funds to help Natalia’s mother repatriate her daughter’s body to Poland, which she otherwise cannot afford. In a tragic coincidence, Natalia’s father, who was a policeman, was apparently also killed when she was young.

Michael Keating, landlord at The Alliance, is collecting money behind the bar, but a bank account has also been set up so people can contribute directly:
Account name: Natalia Fund
Account no. 63772314
Sort code: 20-74-63

Donations can be made online, or in person at any Barclays Bank. Barclays will transfer the money to Poland free of charge, and any other admin costs will be covered by the campaign’s organisers.

West Hampstead Life understands that some £600 has been raised already, but the target is £3,000.

One of the campaign’s organisers said “Let’s show Natalia’s family that we, as a community, sympathise with their tragic loss and stand beside them in their time of need. She was brave enough to try to make a life in our city and we should be generous enough to send her home with dignity.”

It would take only small contributions from all our readers to reach this target, and I can’t begin to imagine the emotions Natalia’s mother is feeling right now having lost her daughter in such a manner, and being unable to bring her home.

If you feel able to help, please do make a donation.

The 2015 West Hampstead & Kilburn gym guide

The 2017 version of the West Hampstead gym guide is now available.

New Year, new fitness regime? It may be a cliché, but the statistics bear out that January is the most popular time to join a gym. If you want to make sure you’re not part of the other cliché – giving up in February – then make sure you choose the right gym for your budget, lifestyle and fitness needs. Here’s the third annual West Hampstead Life gym guide to help you.

The biggest change from last year is that Gloves Boxing Club, on Broadhurst Gardens, closed in March. It’s been replaced by HIIT Gym, which took over the premises and opened in October.

Luxury (£££)

Virgin Active, O2 Centre Swiss Cottage


Spacious and well-equipped, with multiple fitness studios and a pool, this is more health club than gym, which is reflected in the membership cost. I can imagine just going for a dip in the pool followed by a spell in the sauna or steam room, and a rest in the café afterwards. Mmm. Not that I’m recommending this as a viable fitness regime, of course.

NB There’s also a Virgin Active in Cricklewood, for those based that side of West Hampstead.

Prices have gone up a little from last year’s rates, and this year there’s no “get the rest of January free” joining offer. Both memberships include access to the gym, classes in the studio, pool and sauna.

  • Full Flexi Monthly (rolling monthly contract): £102/mth + £30 joining fee
  • Minimum 12-month contract membership: £95/mth  + no joining fee

Movers and Shapers, 148 West End Lane, West Hampstead
Positioned as an alternative to a conventional gym, Movers and Shapers offers 30-minute intensive classes in small groups using Power Plate machines, and they have also recently added a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) studio with TRX suspension equipment. Free trials are available if you want to find out more. Read about my experience at Movers and Shapers here.

  • Course of 10 classes: £149 (limited offer; classes valid for 3 months)
  • Course of 20 classes: £259 (limited offer; classes valid for 6 months)
  • Full Monthly membership – £125/mth (access to unlimited classes at any time)
  • Off Peak Monthly membership – £99/mth (access to unlimited classes at off-peak hours: 12pm-5pm Mon-Fri, and all day Sat and Sun)

No joining or admin fees; includes initial and ongoing health consultations.

CrossFit Evolving, 50-52 Kilburn High Road (under HSBC bank)
CrossFit is a fitness philosophy that began in the US and has now spread to hundreds of CrossFit gyms (or “boxes”) across the world. It claims to help you work on all aspects of fitness through tailored workouts using a wide variety of different exercises. It’s not cheap, but if you’re looking for a serious training regimen, this may be the club for you. There are free taster sessions on Wednesday evenings if you want to see what you’re getting yourself into!

  • Full, peak-hours membership: £170/mth
  • Off-peak membership: £140/mth (Off-peak hours: 8am-6pm; after 8pm)
  • Single, off-peak WOD (workout of the day) session: £15

Mid-range (££)

Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre, Adelaide Road, Swiss Cottage
A Camden-run sports centre with plenty of equipment – I visited on a Saturday afternoon and thought it was busy but didn’t notice queues for any machines. There are lots of classes too, though the popular ones get very booked up. The standard membership covers access to gym, classes and pool. There’s also a climbing wall, sports hall and squash courts, for all of which sessions can be paid for separately. See the full price list of memberships, concessionary rates and pay-as-you-go prices on the Better website.

  • Standard monthly membership, with access to gym, pool and classes: £54/mth (£55/mth from February)
  • Premium monthly membership, as above + access to sauna, steam room, and other gyms and spas in the network: £77.50/mth

There’s also a joining fee of £35, though it was unclear from my phone enquiry whether this could be waived or not: “Yesterday we charged it, today we didn’t”… so it’s probably best to drop in to the centre and negotiate in person.

Bannatyne’s, Marriot Maida Vale, 4 Greville Road (just off Kilburn High Road)
This is quite a good-value choice if you’re after a gym membership that includes extras like a sauna and swimming pool. There’s also a fitness studio, and classes are included in all memberships.

  • 12-month minimum contract – Off-peak (Mon-Fri 6.30am-4pm): £29.99/mth
  • 12-month minimum contract – Peak (valid any time): £39.99/mth
  • Flexible contract (on a rolling monthly basis, with 30 days to cancel) – Off-peak (Mon-Fri 6.30am-4pm): £36.99/mth
  • Flexible contract (on a rolling monthly basis, with 30 days to cancel) – Peak (valid any time): £47.99/mth

On top of this, there’s a £25 one-off joining fee (though apparently they’ll give you a goody bag and possibly some sessions with a personal trainer “to soften the blow”) and if you want to use the gym towels, add £6 to the monthly membership fee.

HIIT Gym, 198a Broadhurst Gardens, West Hampstead

The recently-opened HIIT Gym is located in Gloves’ old premises, a cool industrial-style building that was originally the ticket office of the Metropolitan Railway. The gym’s instructors lead small classes in HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts, mixing it up with a variety of different techniques and equipment. There’s also the option to monitor your progress with  a heart-rate monitor belt (available from the gym at £50). There are three levels of membership available, all on a rolling monthly basis with no contract. Free one-week trials are available if you want to try before you buy.

  • Primary: £39 for 4 sessions a month 
  • Standard: £49 for 8 sessions a month
  • Champion: £69 for unlimited sessions a month

My Fitness Boutique, West Heath Yard, 174 Mill Lane, West Hampstead
My Fitness Boutique, up by West End Green, offers some 50 classes a week including Zumba, spinning, yoga and circuits. All are pay-as-you-go, so if you like trying out different classes without having to commit to a contract, this is a good choice. Prices haven’t gone up since last year.

Example prices (from website):

  • Introductory 5-class package (intro offer only): £25
  • Single class: £12
  • 30-day pack (unlimited classes): £75
  • 90-day pack: (unlimited classes) £165

Budget (£)

The Gym Group, Unit D2, 41 Fortune Green Road, West Hampstead
No-frills budget gym open 24/7 with card entry. There’s no need to sign up to a minimum contract.

  • £20.99/mth (+ £20 joining fee)

Fit4Less, 34a-36 Kilburn High Road
Another gym with functional workout equipment and none of the luxury extras. As well as free weights and cardio machines, there’s TRX equipment and kettlebells. Personal training is available too.

  • Anytime gym membership: £22.99/mth + £29.99 admin fee
  • Anytime gym membership + locker hire: £32.99/mth + £29.99 admin fee

Outdoor gyms: Kilburn Grange Park, Swiss Cottage, Maygrove Peace Park

I must admit I haven’t tried these, but they look like a great idea. According to Camden’s website, they are “suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels”, so give them a go next time you’re out for a run! Best of all, they’re free!

Kebab shops and Question Time: Tweet of the Year winner

The votes are in and have been independently counted and verified. Which means I looked at them.

With a staggering 42 percent of the vote, we had a runaway winner for Tweet of the Year. Congratulations Freddie Gavita.

You know you're in West Hampstead when

We had a tie for second place, both with 11 percent of votes. Well done Shirley Cooney and Daniel Walker.

Freddie joins the Hall of Fame:

WHL will be catching up with Freddie to give him his (very local) prize as soon as possible. Congratulations to everyone who made the shortlist.

16 glorious West Hampstead sunrises and sunsets

As the sun sets on 2014, we thought you might like a little reminder of some of the best sunrise and sunset photos taken and tweeted this year.

West Hampstead sunset

James Taylor, March

West Hampstead sunrise

Michael Sheehan, March


@SteveWhamp, April

West Hampstead sunset

@RicksterLondon, May

West Hampstead sunset

Michael Hadwin, July

West Hampstead sunset

Joanna Miller Betts, July

West Hampstead sunset

Steven Tart, September

West Hampstead sunset

Daniel Walker, September

West Hampstead sunset

Morten Schultz, September

West Hampstead sunset

James Taylor, September

West Hampstead sunset

Matt Beveridge, September

West Hampstead sunset

Sean Patterson, October

West Hampstead sunset

@okeely, October

West Hampstead sunrise

Michael Sheehan, November

West Hampstead sunrise

Michael Sheehan, December

West Hampstead sunrise

@RicksterLondon, December

Vote now for Tweet of the Year

It’s as much a part of the Christmas holidays as being left hanging under the mistletoe or getting the gristly bit of the turkey… the West Hampstead Life Tweet of the Year competition is back for 2014. Who will join the roll of honour that stretches back to Jon Kelly, Heather Wilson, and Corinne Gladstone?

First up – the tweets, read them all, then vote at the end. They are served in chronological order. Voting closes on Sunday at 10pm.

And now the vote

Air ambulance lands in NW6 twice in an hour

Thankfully we rarely see the London Air Ambulance hovering over West Hampstead, but this lunchtime the red helicopter landed first on Fortune Green, and then about an hour later in Kilburn Grange Park.

The red helicopter was back within the hour and looked as if it was trying to find a landing spot in Kilburn. It eventually set down in Kilburn Grange park and shortly afterwards a Kilburn resident tweeted a photo of ambulance crews.

Although one person had tweeted that there had been a stabbling, which was then picked up by a couple of other people, the cause of the commotion has not been confirmed. But here’s what Donks80 saw:

Later in the evening, the police were still in attendance:

Give local foster kids a gift this Christmas

The O2 centre and Camden council are collaborating again to encourage shoppers to give a small present for one of 129 children who are in foster care in the local area this year. Last year, the scheme distributed more than 100 presents.

Homebase has donated a “Gift Tree”, whichi is standing proudly on the upper level of the O2 centre. The tree is decorated with gift tags that have the name and age of a local foster child. Choose a gift tag and then buy a present – pretty simple, and with Tiger and Waterstones both on hand, there’s really no excuse. Gifts can be dropped off at the centre management offices (easy to find) and will be distributed in time for Christmas Day.

Jason King, who runs the O2 Centre said, “We hope the ‘Gift Tree’ will help bring some Christmas magic to more children and young people within our local community, many of whom will have had a tough year. As shoppers are picking up gifts and stocking fillers for their friends and families, we hope that many of them will also be inspired to pick up one extra gift that will make a big difference to a child in foster care.”

129 children and young people are currently in foster care within Camden for a wide variety of reasons. Some may have been affected by an illness in the family, others have suffered abuse or neglect, or a breakdown in family relations, while others have come to the UK unaccompanied from abroad.

West Hampstead O2 Centre gift tree

West Hampstead Christmas survival guide

With just two weeks to go, it’s beginning to look a LOT like Christmas in West Hampstead. Here’s our seasonal guide to what’s going on around the neighbourhood in the next couple of weeks, including December 25th.


Christmas trees and wreaths outside St James’ Church

Still need to get a Christmas tree? They’re on sale outside The Sherriff Centre, on the corner of Sherriff Road and West End Lane, and if you’re at the other end of town, you can find a good selection of trees at The Mill Lane Garden Centre.

In other shopping news, there are many places locally to buy last-minute presents – see our gift guide for ideas. If you’re sad you missed last weekend’s Christmas Market, put a date in your diary to go to The Sherriff Centre this Saturday, December 13th – there will be several stalls selling crafts, scarves, bags, jewellery, and other ideal gifts. West Hampstead Food & Flea market is also open from 4pm-8pm Wednesday-Friday with craft stalls and edible treats.

The West Hampstead Life Christmas drinks will be on December 18th – we’ll be getting some dinner from the Christmas Food & Flea market before heading to The Gallery for drinks. More details coming up soon.

If you can’t imagine Christmas without a seasonal sing-song, check out our guide to local carol services and concerts.

Santa is taking time out of his busy schedule to make a couple of visits to West Hampstead. He’ll be putting in an appearance at Paramount’s grotto from December 16th-18th. He’s also finding time to drop in to The Village Haberdashery on the 22nd. Both of these events are free, but please book ahead.

Another fun activity for kids is The Village Haberdashery’s Christmas ornament making workshop on December 23rd. There is a materials fee of £5 per person.

The Community Association for West Hampstead (CAWH) is putting on some free activities for children at West Hampstead Library. There’s a storytelling session on Saturday 13th, a Christmas decoration making workshop on Friday 19th, and a gift-wrapping session on Saturday 20th. Check the calendar on CAWH’s website for details and times.

There’s no panto on in the area, but The Tricycle as usual has a family show, which this year is Lionboy. There’s more seasonal family entertainment at JW3 as part of their Chanukah programme, with Lemony Snicket’s The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming.

As for Christmas Day itself, is anywhere going to be open? There will of course be church services: St James’ and St Mary’s are both holding a Midnight Mass as well as services on the 25th. Emmanuel Church also has a guide to its Christmas services online. St Luke’s, on the Fortune Green side of West Hampstead, is holding a Midnight Communion from 11pm on Christmas Eve, and an 11am Christmas Day service for all the family.

What are the eating out options? Mill Lane Bistro and The Alice House are both open with special Christmas menus. Guglee and Toomai will also be open from 4pm to 10.30pm for dine-in, home delivery and collection.

The Christmas Day drinking scene is going to be pretty quiet I’m afraid – The Alliance, The Black Lion, The Gallery and La Brocca are all closed, so The Alice House looks like your only option.

Onto more prosaic, but just as essential things. Rubbish collections will be rescheduled if your normal collection day is Thursday or Friday – see Camden’s revised schedule here.

What about parking? Camden has confirmed that bank holiday enforcement will apply on the 25th and 26th – here’s a reminder of the parking restrictions that do not apply on public holidays.

The main supermarkets – Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose – are all closed on Christmas Day, and both Waitrose branches (West End Lane and Finchley Road) are also closed on Boxing Day. If you need an emergency item on the 25th, Nisa Local (on the corner of West End Lane and Broadhurst Gardens) will be open, as will Western Food & Wine opposite. Neither of these convenience stores stock whole turkeys though.

If it’s a pharmacy you need, the Christmas opening times rota for the area has not been fixed yet. Contact details for local pharmacies can be found here.

Local GP practices are closed on the 25th and 26th, but if you need urgent medical help you can dial the NHS 111 service, or of course 999 in an emergency.

If you need to travel during the festive period, be aware that tube and train services tend to wind down earlier than normal on Christmas Eve. There is no public transport on Christmas Day, and there will be a limited service and engineering works to contend with during the rest of the period – see here for TfL’s festive travel updates from December 21st to January 4th.

Thameslink services will also not run on the 25th or 26th, and engineering works will affect services between December 27th and January 2nd.

Festive fun and freebies at West Hampstead Christmas Market

The West Hampstead Christmas Market takes place tomorrow, December 6th, between 10am and 4pm on West End Green.

Images from

Images from

There will be a range of stalls selling Christmas gifts and decorations, including local businesses such as Monsters of Art, The Village Haberdashery and Achillea Flowers. Edible treats will also be available – The Kitchen Table and Bake-a-boo are among the cake stalls.

It’s not all about shopping however – there are fun, free activities for kids in the neighbouring Emmanuel Church. There are music, dance and storytelling activities as well as plenty of Christmas crafts including balloon modelling and snowglobe-making.

Look out for these festive freebies around West End Lane and Mill Lane, too:

  • Hot mulled wine from Alexander’s estate agents
  • Free mince pie at The Black Lion – Say ‘Christmas Market’ at the bar
  • Tastings of two festive wines and cheeses at The Hampstead Butcher & Providore
  • Father Christmas courtesy of Chelsea Square Partnership, at their office (11am – 1pm)
  • Hot chicken soup tasters on West End Green, courtesy of David’s Deli, plus a discount on soup and bread when you eat at David’s Deli (12pm – 3pm)
  • Falafel tasters on West End Green courtesy of Chicken Schnitzel & More (12pm-3pm)
  • Mince pies and hot mulled wine at Passionate About Vintage, plus a 10% discount on everything in the shop (1pm-6pm)

Local promotions on West End Lane and Mill Lane

  • The Alliance, Mill Lane: Free glass of wine with Christmas menu 1st-24th December
  • Bengal Spice: 20% discount on 6th and 7th December
  • Crystalise Salon: 20% discount all services 6th-13th December
  • La Brocca: 50% off mulled wine on the day
  • The Eye Cube: 20% discount on everything
  • Headmasters: 10% discount on all treatments
  • Insight Optician: 10% off glasses 1st-31st December
  • Mill Lane Bistro: Free glass of house wine with a meal 6th and 7th December
  • Peppercorns: 10% discount on all food

Check out the full list of happenings at the West Hampstead Christmas Market website.

Replacement trees planted on Fortune Green

Newly-planted limes opposite mature trees on the main avenue

Newly-planted limes face mature trees on the main avenue

If you’re a regular visitor to Fortune Green, you might have noticed the green has lost a few trees over the past months, some due to storm damage, some due to disease.

lime_tree_label2Yesterday, Camden contractors replaced some of the missing trees.

New lime trees have been planted along the main path heading towards the cemetery where several young trees have died.

Spring-flowering white cherry trees (Prunus Serrula) have been planted in the bed alongside Alfred Court to replace the diseased whitebeams. Over a period of time the plan is to replace all the whitebeams with cherries.

A Liquidambar tree has been planted in the bed opposite the Fortune Green Road entrance to replace the sycamore that was badly damaged in the St Jude’s storm.

The Friends of Fortune Green said “We look forward to watching them grow.” Keep an eye out next time you’re on the green and see if you can spot the new specimens.

If you’re interested in being involved with the upkeep of Fortune Green Open Space, keep an eye on the Friends of Fortune Green Events page – they’re always looking for volunteers.


Brent to the rescue for public firework displays

Wondering where to go to watch fireworks on Bonfire Night?



Your only local option for a big free display is Brent Council’s show at Roundwood Park on 5th November. This is a big display and is always very popular and busy. If you’re planning to take children, there’s a children’s display earlier in the evening at 7pm, which is less noisy than the main one, which kicks off an hour later. There’s also a funfair and food stalls. From West Hampstead, take the Jubilee line to Dollis Hill or Willesden Green and then walk or take the 226 bus to the park entrance.

A couple of other local-ish displays (thanks to the commenters below for telling us about them!) will be held at Queen’s Park Gardens from 6pm on 5th November, and the Alexandra and Ainsworth estate on the 9th. The former is not to be confused with the larger Queen’s Park; the nearest station is Kensal Green.

The Alexandra and Ainsworth estate, just off Abbey Road, will be a great setting for a fireworks show on Sunday 9th November, and is open to all, including non-residents.

There are no big public displays in the borough of Camden; in fact police will be cracking down on anyone caught lighting fireworks or Chinese lanterns.

Alexandra Palace is holding a fireworks display on Saturday night, but the problems that blighted last year’s event clearly haven’t affected ticket sales this year – it’s already completely sold out.

If you’re up for travelling further afield, Londonist has a good round-up of fireworks displays around the city.

Tricycle escapes damage from Kilburn fire

A fire broke out in a kitchen on the upper level of the Brondesbury Medical Centre on Kilburn High Road last night, meaning customers at the neighbouring Tricycle Cinema had to be evacuated.

Last night's scene on Kilburn High Road - photo from Twitter by @bartnowak79

Last night’s scene on Kilburn High Road – photo from Twitter by @bartnowak79

The theatre performance had ended for the evening; however around 400 cinemagoers were in the building for a screening of Gone Girl when fire crews arrived at around 9.40pm. London Fire Brigade confirmed on their website that the fire was under control by 11.10pm. They managed to contain it to the kitchen where it started, so the only damage to the public area was to one TV screen, and some smoke damage to the adjoining areas.

Staff at the Tricycle box office today confirmed that the theatre and cinema complex was unaffected by the fire, with no smoke or water damage.

However, the doctors’ surgery was closed, with notices on the door advising patients of alternative medical services.

The door to the Brondesbury Medical Centre this morning

The door to the Brondesbury Medical Centre this morning

Middlesex star opens relocated Mill Lane pharmacy

Former Middlesex and England cricketer John Emburey came to West Hampstead to cut the blue ribbon at a Mill Lane business this morning.

Aqua Pharmacy moved from its former premises at 102 Mill Lane to number 59 a few months ago, causing some controversy at the time. No. 59 used to be home to upholstery business Escott’s.

Business owner and cricket fan Sanjay Patel invited the former Test bowler to the pharmacy’s official opening today. Emburey has a vested interest in boosting Mill Lane’s appeal; his daughter Clare owns popular Mill Lane florist Achillea Flowers.

After the ribbon was cut, Emburey stayed to chat to customers and staff, even signing a cricket bat for a starstruck young fan.

Pharmacy owner Sanjay Patel with John Emburey

Aqua Pharmacy owner Sanjay Patel with John Emburey

John Emburey cuts the ribbon

John Emburey cuts the ribbon


Scooter showroom fails to comply in bike parking row

Residents in Fortune Green have become increasingly unhappy with motorcycle showroom Capital City on Fortune Green Road, and have persuaded Camden to take action. Capital City has, however, failed to comply.

According to locals, who are reluctant to be named after what they claim have been some altercations with the showroom owners, the business continues to break numerous rules: parking motorcycles for sale on the pavement and road and thereby making it hard for pedestrians to pass (especially those with pushchairs or in wheelchairs), trading at unauthorised times, and causing noise disturbance.

The business is, they point out, also unauthorised to place vehicles on its own forecourt, as the premises is classified for A1 retail use, not a motorcycle showroom. Nearby neighbours complain that the parked vehicles can at times occupy up to five parking spaces in an area where parking is already limited, and that they are being disturbed by the noise and fumes of cycle repairs being carried out.

Camden’s planning department has issued two enforcement notices, the first of which was issued in March and concerns a timber structure erected to the rear of the building used as a garage, for which Capital City has no planning permission. Elizabeth Beaumont, Appeals and Enforcement Team Manager at Camden, confirmed in an email that “The enforcement notice for the rear extension was not complied with and prosecution procedures have begun.”

The second enforcement notice deals with the various breaches of planning controls. Capital City was given the choice to either cease using the unit as a motorcycle showroom, or to cease storing bikes on the forecourt, cease causing disturbance with repairs and only open for trading during designated hours and days. It had to either appeal or comply with the notice by October 4th, but Elizabeth Beaumont confirmed that this, too, had received no reaction: “A visit yesterday [Oct 7th] confirmed the notice had not been complied with and we are now commencing with prosecution procedures for this matter as well.”

This was also verified by a local resident who photographed the shop the day compliance was required. It clearly shows bikes parked outside.

Motorcycles on the forecourt and road

Motorcycles on the forecourt and road

Open for Sunday trading against regulations

Open for Sunday trading against regulations – note the ‘OPEN 7 DAYS’ sign

The same resident also alleges that Capital City has been using the road outside its premises and that of its neighbour, Nautilus, to park its motorcycles for sale, contravening the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 which prevents more than two motor vehicles from being sold outside on a public highway within 500m of each other.

West Hampstead Life spoke to Capital City about these alleged breaches of the planning regulations and asked if it planned to comply. Nick, one of the business’s owners, claimed not to have received the enforcement notice concerning the planning breaches, but said that he was in discussions with Camden’s planning department about making alterations to the wooden garage structure. He was unhappy to have received “abusive letters from people” and been “shouted at” whilst “trying to adhere to the rules”.

He said he was aware of the rule preventing vehicles to be advertised for sale on the road, but that motorcycles parked on the street were in fact “customers’ bikes brought in for repair”, and were legally parked on a stretch of the road which is available for public parking after 12pm, not residents’ parking bays.

This is countered by a photograph taken by another neighbour, who also claims Capital City had two cars for sale outside its showroom.


It now seems that the only end to this situation is if Camden successfully manage to prosecute the business. Residents meanwhile are increasingly frustrated by Capital City’s unwillingness to change its behaviour, and by the slow-moving processes of the planning department – the issue was first flagged to Camden at least 12 months ago.

Local filmmaker sheds light on Great Train Robbery mystery

Simon Howley, a West Hampstead film maker, has spent two years producing a new documentary about the Great Train Robbery.

A Tale of Two Thieves features interview footage with one of the last surviving gang members, Douglas Gordon Goody, now 85 years old and living in Spain. He reminisces about the notorious 1963 robbery that shocked the nation. More than £2.6 million was stolen (the equivalent of almost £50 million today), and the train driver was badly beaten.

Simon, who has lived in West Hampstead for 20 years, travelled regularly to Spain during the production of the film to meet Goody and gradually built up a relationship with him. It wasn’t the original plan. “We set out to make a TV series about a rock legend, which never happened, but through our meeting with his management team we were introduced to Gordon Goody.”

Film producer Simon Howley (right) with Douglas Gordon Goody

Film producer Simon Howley (right) with Douglas Gordon Goody

Through meetings with Goody, the truth behind another kind of legend was uncovered – the identity of the man known only as “The Ulsterman”, the insider who passed vital information to the rest of the gang that enabled them to carry out the robbery. Goody broke a 50-year silence to name The Ulsterman as postal worker Patrick McKenna. The film production team hired a private detective to track down and identify the man in an attempt to piece together the missing elements of the story. It turned out McKenna had died some years earlier.

Simon says he and his team were not initially drawn to the project, thinking that the Great Train Robbery had been covered so many times that it was “old hat”; but upon meeting Goody “we realised that there was actually lots of life left in the story and a very strong new angle – first naming and then finding the mysterious insider.”

The film’s UK release was last Friday. No local screenings are slated as yet, but the documentary is available to buy on DVD from Amazon, or look out for it when it airs on TV in the new year.


West End Lane Acts on Sunday October 12th

Next Sunday, a new West Hampstead event is taking place on West End Green. West End Lane Acts is the brainchild of newish resident Julia Testa.

Her aim is to get people meeting and talking over a range of events on the Green, and to encourage locals to support West End Lane businesses, with whom she’s negotiated various offers.

Expect to see the posters springing around the area this week. As part of the build up, Julia was offering face painting for kids at the market today.

The kids activities on the green next Sunday include face painting, acting classes and “Games with Antidote” (more details here). For adults, there’s mindful meditation, movemement training, zumba/salsa classes, those Games with Antidote again, and massages. All the events are free (although donations are requested for the massage), and you’ll be able to sign up on the Facebook page.

There are various offers from Oddbins, Art4Fun, Toomai, Health Town, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Peppercorns, Pizza Amante, and La Brocca. Julia’s hoping to sign up other local businesses this week.

Fingers crossed for good weather.

You can find out more on the Tumblr page, Facebook page, and Twitter account.


Robin Williams’ impromptu gig at The Railway in West Hampstead

Robin Williams

To add to the current wave of global misery, Robin Williams was found dead yesterday morning, suspected of committing suicide after well-known bouts of depression. Deepest sympathy to his family and friends.

The story I was told shortly after I moved into leafy West Hampstead was that Robin Williams occasionally visited da hood because he was mates with the owners of The Railway pub in West End Lane, back when it was a much respected, if somewhat down-at-heel, venue. The Railway sits a few yards from the tube station and next door to the English National Opera rehearsal studios in Broadhurst Gardens which previously housed the Decca recording studio where, famously, the Beatles failed their audition in 1962, and where the great John Mayall albums with Eric Clapton and Peter Green were recorded.

In those days, West Hampstead was mostly students in bedsits and artists who couldn’t afford Islington or proper Hampstead. It wasn’t called “East Kilburn” for nothing. Great parties, though.

Anyhow, apparently Robin was visiting his mates when he was overcome by the urge to do an impromptu set. Like a bird that has to sing, he got up and did loads, presumably secure with a relatively small no-pressure audience that loved him.

No pix, no video, just happy memories of a very lucky audience. We need a blue plaque.

Reader Lisa Minot was at the gig.

He turned up at the end of the weekly Comedy Club that was held in the back room (and we were very loyal regulars, went every week) – he had asked to impro to a UK audience before a Princes’ Trust concert. When the normal comedy acts finished, a guy came on and just said: ‘Some American guy wants to try some new material, if you stay, we’ll keep the bar open’

Easy choice and when Robin walked out on stage, our first thought was: ‘Hey, that’s the guy from Mork and Mindy’

He then proceeded to perform, non-stop, for nearly two hours, seemingly without any material, just improvising and interacting with the very small audience of mainly students. It was utterly brilliant and even now, nearly 26 years on, I can remember knowing that night was special.

A few months or year later, Good Morning Vietnam came out and the rest is history.

RIP Robin Williams — one of the funniest and saddest guys ever.

[Ed: This is an updated version of a post that first appeared on Anna’s blog here.]

Tricycle Theatre rejects Jewish film festival over Israeli embassy sponsorship

The Tricycle, Kilburn’s highly regarded theatre and cinema, has found itself embroiled in controversy this evening after announcing that it will no longer be part of the UK Jewish Film Festival.

The cinema was due to screen films at the festival, which takes place in November.

In a statement, the artistic director of the theatre, Indhu Rubasingham said

The Tricycle has always welcomed the Festival and wants it to go ahead. We have proudly hosted the UK Jewish Film Festival for many years. However, given the situation in Israel and Gaza, we do not believe that the festival should accept funding from any party to the current conflict. For that reason, we asked the UK Jewish Film Festival to reconsider its sponsorship by the Israeli Embassy. We also offered to replace that funding with money from our own resources. The Tricycle serves many communities and celebrates different cultures and through difficult, emotional times must aim for a place of political neutrality.

We regret that, following discussions, the chair of the UKJFF told us that he wished to withdraw the festival from the Tricycle.

To be clear, at this moment, the Tricycle would not accept sponsorship from any government agency involved in the conflict. We hope to find a way to work with the UK Jewish Film Festival to allow the festival to go ahead at the Tricycle as it has done so successfully for the past 8 years.

The theatre has, unsurprisingly given the strength of feeling on this emotive topic, come in for a fair amount of criticism for its decision, with many pointing out that other festivals it holds receive funding from governments that some people would consider parties to conflicts. The statement above does specify that it is the specific conflict in Gaza that it is objecting to, but that will be of little comfort to those who feel its actions are politicising the arts.

Judy Ironside, executive director of the UK Jewish Film Festival, said

The Tricycle Theatre have shown themselves unwilling to work with what is clearly an apolitical cultural festival is tremendously disappointing. They have chosen a boycott over meaningful engagement – to the great detriment of this celebration of Jewish culture, which is of course intrinsically connected to the state of Israel.

We pride ourselves on showing a diverse programme of films, which present a comprehensive view of international Jewish life and Israeli films are of course an important part of that.

We have always sought to convey a wide perspective on the conflicts in the Middle East and initiate open dialogue with our audiences and guest speakers; and the Israeli Embassy have always supported us in this. The Tricycle have refused to take this into account in their decision.

On social media, accusations have also come of anti-Semitism from some critics, which given the Tricycle’s long-standing association with the festival seems a spurious argument, but there’s no doubt that the decision will rankle for a long time within the Jewish community.

Today should have been a day for celebration for the Tricycle as its Youth Theare project The Kilburn Passion returns to the stage.

Balcony fall kills West Hampstead doctor who ran local Face Clinic

On Wednesday evening, locals were shocked as Dr Nazim Mahmood lay on the pavement outside Barclays Bank at the corner of West End Lane and Fawley Road having fallen from the balcony of his top floor apartment above.

Depsite the best efforts of ambulance crews, Dr Mahmood, 34, was pronounced dead at the scene by a doctor from the London Air Ambulance. Police came under fire for being unable to find a tent to put around the body, which was instead covered in a blanket and lay there for some hours before being removed as commuters walked past during the late evening rush hour.

Dr Mahmood – known to locals as Dr Nas – had opened a new branch of his Face Clinic business last August at Health Town, the relatively new West End Lane shop a few yards down the road that both sells health-related products as well as offering treatments from a variety of practictioners.

He and his partner, Matthew Ogston, and only moved to West Hampstead a few months ago and the clinic in Health Town was their third after branches in Soho and Harley Street.

Although the cause of death has not been determined, police are treating it as non-suspicious. Local osteopath Ben Posen, who also operates out of Health Town tweeted earlier today, “Very sad to return to work and discover that the man who died on West End Lane was Dr Nas. He was a lovely man.”

Nazim Mahmood

[CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said that the the West Hampstead clinic was yet to open. This was wrong, and West Hampstead Life apologises for the mistake]

Glenda Jackson opens West Hampstead’s new post office

It may have technically opened a couple of weeks ago, but today was the official opening of the post office in St James’s church on Sherriff Road. A large crowd turned out, some primarily there for the soft play area, some for the grand opening. Hampstead & Kilburn MP Glenda Jackson cut the ribbon with some good old-fashioned scissors, having failed with the novelty scissors she was given first.

2014-08-01 11.15.00

Camden relents on BBQs in local parks


Ever thought it’d be nice to have a summer barbecue on Fortune Green? Up to now, it’s been strictly prohibited – not just on Fortune Green but in all of Camden’s parks.

Not any more! From July 21st, you can now get your grill on in Fortune Green, West End Green, Kilburn Grange Park and any other parks run by Camden (this means Hampstead Heath, Regents Park and Primrose Hill are still sausage-free zones).

Cllr Sally Gimson, Camden’s cabinet member for sustainability and environment, has ruled that portable barbecues can be used for a trial period of one year. Disposable barbecues are still banned as are gas barbecues, but there are plenty of eligible barbecues on the market (there’s a mini Bodum one currently for sale at habitat in the O2 centre).

Obviously, Camden expects people to be responsible and no doubt the Friends of Fortune Green – and local residents generally – will be hoping that impromptu hot food picnics don’t lead to more litter in parks. In the meantime, the next Film on Fortune Green is August 30th. I like my steaks rare please.

Support your local charity by partying on Camden Beach

Photo credit: Stuart Leech

Photo credit: Stuart Leech

Just a hop, skip and jump away from West Hampstead this August you’ll discover the Roundhouse’s Camden Beach. Think 900 square meters of the finest sand, rooftop gardens, beach huts and deck chairs… if you can’t get to the beach, the beach is coming to you.

If you fancy being the first to dig your toes into the sand then why not head to the Camden Beach Opening Party on Friday 25 July and enjoy an unforgettable night all whilst supporting your local charity?

The Roundhouse has played host to music legends such as Paul Weller, Prince and Elton John. What fewer people know is that the Roundhouse is a charity that improves the lives of over 3,000 young people each year by providing space, mentoring, equipment, projects and performance opportunities to unlock their creative potential. 45% of these young people are from the local area, and 60% of these young people are facing a social and economic disadvantage.

“I was working in a chip shop four days a week with no clear idea on how to access jobs within the music industry or how to turn my passion for music into a career. I’m now working as a Promotions Manager for a record label – if it wasn’t for the support of the Roundhouse this wouldn’t have been possible.” BoDee

The Roundhouse is hosting this party to raise vital funds so they can continue to provide life-changing opportunities for people like BoDee. The evening will feature DJ sets from Roundhouse Ambassadors Eliza Doolittle and Lliana Bird, performances from Roundhouse Emerging Artists, and a whole host of surprises on the night. Tickets start from £55 and include drinks, food, entertainment and access to the after party: so grab some friends, book now and feel good while you party this summer.

Camden Beach poster

Sponsored post

Kilburn Festival cancelled


The Kilburn Festival, an annual event in Kilburn Grange Park, has been cancelled less than a month before it was due to take place on July 13th.

Some 10,000 people typically attend the family-friendly day, which comprises stalls, street food, live music and lots of kid-friendly activities.

The trustees say that they “do not have sufficient funds to put on a safe and quality festival this summer, but are hoping to plan events later in the year, and to be able to deliver a summer festival in 2015.”

West Hampstead Life understands that it is a lack of funding from Brent Council that has led to this situation. The local elections meant that Brent changed its dates on funding decisions and simply wasn’t able to make a decision in time over the Kilburn Festival funding. Other Brent-sponsored events have apparently also suffered as a result.

Maggie and Frankie: How Homeshare lends a helping hand

Imagine not seeing another soul for a month and having to lose independence as you get older. This was the situation facing local resident Maggie.

Maggie and Frankie

Maggie and Frankie

“I was very anxious about the future. I really valued my independence, but it was getting harder for me to cope all on my own after recently losing my husband. All I needed was companionship at night and a helping hand at home”

Maggie is far from alone. The sad reality is that more than 400,000 older people in the UK have an unmet need for companionship and help with practical household activities. The charity Crossroads Care CNL provides a simple solution called “Homeshare”.

In recent months Age UK reported that 17% of older people have less than once weekly contact with family, friends and neighbours with 11% having less than monthly contact and about 410,000 older people in the UK have a need for help with practical household activities that isn’t being met through council services.

Sarah Wallace, Head of Services at Crossroads Care CNL describes Homeshare as “a simple affordable service that matches people who feel vulnerable or isolated, and who need help and companionship around the home with people looking for accommodation (Homesharers) who are willing to help.”

The charity carefully selects homesharers who can help with things like cleaning, cooking, laundry and shopping, as well as providing friendship and security. For the safety of the older people, Homeshare carries out DBS and reference checks and works towards finding a person that matches the personality and lifestyle of the householder.

“There is an impending care crisis as the economic climate puts pressure on both council budgets and the income of individuals. We believe our Homeshare programme is part of the solution, as it helps older people remain at home, it supports social workers and at the same time it helps younger generations to find affordable accommodation in London” added Sarah.

Homeshare is part of a national network that supports and promotes the potential of the Homeshare programme. The scheme helps older people stay part of their community, enjoying their own home and their retirement. The Homeshare scheme also helps an older person to build a new supportive relationship safely. Once that’s in place; it makes daily tasks a little easier and helps older people keep their independence”.

In West Hampstead, Maggie now has Frankie. Frankie is originally from York but moved to London in 2013 to work at an arts charity. “I decided to homeshare because I love having input in someone’s life and at the same time I save on traditional London rents,” she explained. “Crossroads Care CNL have been good and matched us up perfectly. It’s important for the family to know that her relatives have someone at home that is keeping an eye, it is reassuring”

Maggie and Frankie live very close to the tube and overground in West Hampstead. The location is ideal for Frankie to go to work and when she comes back, she cooks for Maggie and they watch television together.

Frankie goes back to York one weekend a month and liaises with the family for someone to stay over at Maggie’s when she is gone.

What can you win? Whampgather raffle prizes announced

It’s Whampgather XIII tonight, celebrating the fifth anniversary of @WHampstead on twitter and thus the start of the whole #whamp community project.

As always at whampgather, we’re raising money for The Winch. The Winch is a long-standing youth charity based in Swiss Cottage that works with young people all over Camden in a variety of ways. For some it’s an after-school club, for others it’s a critical support in their challenging lives. Previous whampgathers have funded drama programmes for the kids, and we’ve contributed to upgrading IT equipment among many other things. It’s a charity I personally believe in and think is very worthy of our support.

Thanks, therefore, to all the businesses that generously donate prizes to Whampgather raffles. Once again we have great prizes from the following companies:

West End Lane Books
Mill Lane Bistro
Yi Dao Clinic
The Gallery
Look New Dry Cleaners
One Sixty
Feng Sushi
The Wet Fish Café
and our star prize tonight:
The 7-course tasting menu at Michelin starred restaurant L’Autre Pied

A huge thank you to all those businesses and to all of you coming tonight. Raffle tickets are £1.50 each or five for a fiver. You’ll be able to buy them at the cloakroom (back of the bar near the kitchen), and from our roving raffle ticket sellers. The draw is usually around 10.15pm. If you have to leave early, then I suggest you write your name/contact details on the back of your tickets and give them to a friend or to one of us for safekeeping as otherwise you won’t be able to win!

See you tonight at The Gallery from 7.30pm!

New post office takes shape in St James’ Church

It’s not been an easy process to jump through all the loopholes to move West Hampstead’s main post office into St James’ Church on Sherriff Road, but now it’s full steam ahead inside the cavernous building. West Hampstead Life went in to see how it’s shaping up.

The Sherriff Centre, as it will be known, will house not just the post office, but also a shop selling cards and stationery, a café, and a soft play area. And a church.

The post office itself takes up a relatively small part of the nave of the church, which is currently covered in rigging, tools and a makeshift kitchen for the builders. It will be a three-counter post office at the back of the church nearest the doors. Right now, the builders are installing a ramp for wheelchair access and the doors themselves will become glass sliding doors.

The doors will become glass sliding doors with a ramp leading up to them

The doors will become glass sliding doors with a ramp leading up to them

The post office frame is already in place at the back of the church

The post office frame is already in place at the back of the church

The south aisle is currently being laid for underfloor heating, but will be the café.

Underfloor heating being laid for the café in the south aisle

Underfloor heating being laid for the café in the south aisle

The north aisle, in a relatively new part of the scheme, will be an extensive soft play area called Hullabaloo. Parents will pay for their kids to have timed sessions inside and the plans sound impressive, with helter skelter slides and an upper floor lookout. One thing the interior of the church doesn’t lack is height!

St James Church Sherriff Centre impression

The middle of the nave will be where the shop is. Jane Edwards, Programme Manager of the Sherriff Centre, explains that they hope the whole space can be as flexible as possible with the potential for pop-up markets and one-off events.

Looking from the north aisle (where the play area will be) back to the shop and post office area

Looking from the north aisle (where the play area will be) back to the shop and post office area

The pews for the congregation now go only a short distance back from the altar, and will be used only on Sundays. There is, however, the Lady Chapel, which will be soundproofed and available for private prayer when the building is open.

The boxes roughly mark the last row of pews for church services

The boxes roughly mark the last row of pews for church services

The most striking thing about the building this lunchtime was how cold it was. It will be an (expensive) challenge to heat it so that it’s comfortable to sit and have a coffee while the kids hurl themselves around in the play area. All four parts of the operation – post office, shop, café and play area – need to be profitable as the profits will be ploughed back into the charity that’s been set up to benefit from the idea. The charity will work on issues such as debt advice and family counselling, primarily via outreach rather than being based in the building.

The Sherriff Centre hopes to open in the summer. It was originally meant to have opened by now, but legal wranglings held it up at the end of 2013. Jane Edwards is understandably reluctant to put a fixed date on it but there is some pressure to get the post office operational as soon as possible so the owner of the existing post office on West End Lane can close.

St James Church Sherriff Centre work