Heavy police presence at Lymington Road eviction protest

Police broke up an eviction protest on Thursday afternoon in Lymington Road at which fourteen arrests were made.

Eviction Protest poster

Photo via Alexander Blake-Pink

According to protestors, the evicted tenant, whose name is given only as Mark, had been ordered by the landlord to vacate the room he was renting at 1 Lymington Road after it had been ruled too small to live in by a council inspector.

Supporters of the tenant claim that he has mental health issues, did not want to leave the property and had nowhere else to go. He was apparently taken to Camden Housing Services.

Members of the Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group (KUWG) linked arms around the property and erected a banner above the front door.

There was a heavy police presence, with around 40 officers on the scene plus an ambulance, which according to the KUWG’s website had been called after the “heavy-handed” arrest of one of the campaigners.


However, a police spokesperson described their actions as a “proportionate response”.

For a bit more detail, background and some more photos and videos:
Scoop It
Kate Belgrave

“I had an absolutely brilliant time.” Get the scoop on Whampsocial


What’s the person on the right doing?

Last Wednesday, around 30 people crammed into Frida’s, the downstairs bar at Mamacita, for the first of a new regular meetup event: Whampsocial. A specially-created menu of delicious cocktails (only £5!) and filled tacos served in glazed roof tiles (amazing) were the accompaniment to some lively chat amongst local people keen to meet and mingle with their West Hampstead neighbours.

But don’t take our word for it; here’s the verdict from a few of the people who were there, kicking off with the night’s charming and welcoming organiser,


It was a really great night – the atmosphere in Frida’s, with its low ceiling and dimmed lighting, was perfect for it. A great mix of the usual faces and a few newbies, along with some delicious cocktails, was the perfect combination for interesting conversation and lots of laughter. Still trying to mull over which is my favourite Mamacita cocktail… Close call between the Hemingway daiquiri and the Elderflower and cranberry sangria! (Or maybe the Mamacita spritz?! Decisions, decisions…)


WHampSocial 1.0 was everything it promised to be – casual, mingly, and boozey. It was great to see that right from the start people were bold enough to come alone, jumping right into the conversation. It was excellent fun to catch up with old and new local Twitterers alike, with a good mix of regulars and newcomers, with everybody fitting in nicely. The venue was great, nice and cosy with friendly staff. I stuck to the beers, trying all three proper ones (obviously skipped the Pacifico), having already nailed the cocktail menu on previous occasions. Two decent pale ales were a bit overpriced, but a good strong stout (6%!) got numerous encores, definitely contributing to painful, but worth it, morning after.


As a whampevent regular I expected to meet friendly, liked minded people…and I did….but I especially enjoyed this smaller informal event because it was even easier to chat. The delicious Frida’s cocktails probably had something to do with it!

Luke and Dana

It was our first time attending a Whampevent so, fashionably late, we wandered down the stairs of Mamacita with a little trepidation. The bar was buzzing with a good sized crowd of friendly faced, cocktail drinking locals and while we scanned the drinks menu we were greeted with smiles and hellos. Within minutes we were introduced to a nearby group and made to feel very welcome. The night, like all good nights do, seemed to fly by in no time at all and the details of exactly what happened are a little hazy. But I do remember: – Sampling most of the drinks on the special cocktail menu – Talking about the amorous couple in the corner – A detailed review of, and set of scenario based recommendations, for a local weekend Brunch


I had an absolutely brilliant time at Whampsocial. I was a little concerned as I was arriving late and on my own, but people are so friendly and welcoming that this was soon forgotten and I really enjoyed the evening. The atmosphere and cocktails were both excellent and I’m looking forward to the next one!


I was quite a late arrival so headed downstairs worried I might find myself alone. Or, worse, only Norm and Cliff propping up the bar (whamp youngsters, look it up). Nothing of the sort: the room was still packed, very friendly and Frida’s worked well as a venue. All in all, Whampsocial looks like a great new addition to the West Hampstead calendar.


I really enjoyed the evening, I met very nice people (not so surprising only nice people live in West Hampstead 😉 )


I loved the relaxed-yet-funky atmosphere in Frida’s Bar – the decor is fun but not too obtrusive, the cocktails are original twists on old classics and really rather good, and the company was, of course, second to none.

The food was full of flavour, filling and modestly priced. I spent £10 on two shots of tacos (a Whampsocial special offer) which fully sated my large appetite. The chicken and chorizo ( I think this is what they were – my memory is slightly hazy) was succulent and juicy with a memorable taste, while the pork and apple had a wonderful balanced flavour.


What a lovely atmosphere at last night’s Whampsocial, it was great to catch up with some familiar faces and to meet some lovely new locals. We had some great banter about the rugby, as a Welsh lass I came in for quite a ribbing. They had pulled out all the stops at the cosy Frida’s Bar, with a tailor-made ‘mates rates’ cocktail menu, which certainly helped to get the conversation flowing! By the end of the night I was feeling the effects of the delicious blood orange cosmopolitans and it seems I have agreed to organise a night out at Lately’s. Oh dear.


Broadhurst Gardens fire: 15 flats evacuated

[updated March 20th 11 am]

Fire crews rescued six people from 140 Broadhurst Gardens in the early hours of this morning after a fire broke out on the ground floor. Another woman jumped from a first floor window, against the advice of firefighters, and broke her leg.

At around 3am Tuesday, residents were woken by the smoke alarm. Five fire engines were quickly on the scene from West Hampstead and Paddington fire stations. Keith Vardy, one of the residents, said, “We assumed it was the fusebox because the fire started by the front door.” Later, residents understood that it seemed that something had been set alight and put through the letter box although the fire brigade is saying the cause is still under investigation. The fire caused damage to the ground floor.

Fire crews rescued a woman and two men from a first floor window using a ladder and three men were rescued from inside the property. It took an hour and a half to get the fire under control.

The property is a converted house with 15 flats. Residents say that 14 of the 15 flats are currently occupied though the other tenants were not in last night. This morning, the six tenants are still outside the property having been there since 3am. They are not sure where they will be put up tonight and are now waiting for Camden to find them emergency accommodation. The woman who jumped was taken to hospital.

Firefighter Keith Malecki, who was at the scene, said “The building was very smoky when we arrived, but we were able to quickly get in to rescue the people. They were woken up by their smoke alarms going off, which meant they could call the Brigade as soon as they were aware of the fire. The smoke alarms saved their lives.”

Depsite minimal damage to the outside, the ground floor is badly damaged

Depsite minimal damage to the outside, the ground floor is badly damaged

David Strain, Keith Vardy, Graziano Siciliano

Rescued:: (l-r) David Strain, Keith Vardy, Graziano Siciliano

CORRECTION: In the original version of this article, we stated that the residents were council tenants with a private landlord. This was incorrect. The residents are not council tenants.

Hole new approach to litter

Camden council, clearly stumped by how to solve the continuing problem of litter in our streets, appears to have decided to combine its tree-removal program with an increase in the number of bins. Tree stump bin

Maybe this Broadhurst Gardens “bin” is the solution to this:

New event: #Whampsocial – March 12th

Whampgather is an all-out party, and Whampdinner is so popular it can be hard to get a place (we know, we’re sorry). It made sense to start something in between – a more informal mid-week meetup, open to everyone. The result: Whampsocial.


This is a casual affair on Wednesday evenings (might occasionally be Tuesdays, to keep you on your toes) that gives you a chance to meet some locals and indulge in some beverages and food to help you get through the rest of the week. The first two are March 12th and March 26th.

Mamacita on West End Lane has kindly agreed to host us in its atmospheric basement bar ‘Frida’s’. There will be drinks and food offers that won’t break the bank:

  • £5 tacos, the perfect bite to have with a round of drinks;
  • bottles of wine for £15 or £3.50 by the glass;
  • selected cocktails for £5;
  • and even carafes of cocktails to share – the perfect excuse to make some new friends!

In case you were reading too fast, that’s carafes of cocktails. Exactly.

If you’re feeling adventurous (and don’t have too early a start the following day), there’s also an epic selection of tequilas available!

Whampsocial will happen every 2-3 weeks, from 7pm until around 11 (or later, for those who want to brave heading across the road to Lower Ground Bar…). We’ll be advertising it via Twitter using the hashtag #whampsocial and on the calendar on the website.

It won’t be ticketed (unless it turns out to be excessively popular!), but please let us know via Twitter whether you’ll be coming so we have an idea of numbers. If you’re not on Twitter, just leave a comment on the relevant event page on the calendar.

We’re a friendly bunch, so don’t worry about coming along on your own – there’ll always be someone to chat to. We’ve all been whampevent virgins at some point! Pop in for a couple, or stick around for the whole night. Either way, we hope you’ll make some new friends and have a great laugh. See you at the bar…

Rosie (@PuddingsAndWine) & Jonathan (@WHampstead)

Expectant parents bond over balls of wool

As a regular reader of West Hampstead Life, I’ve become a big fan of it. And one of the things I find most interesting and impressive is its ability to bring people together, in person.

The legendary whampgathers are so popular they sell out within hours. But these ‘not geeky, not cliquey’ nights out aren’t just testament to the website, they’re a great example of how people really want to hang out with their neighbours, and feel part of a community. We may be told that social networking is taking over our social lives, but here in West Hampstead, old school face-to-face interaction is winning out.

My company, Bump and Baby Club, provides antenatal classes, and I’ve noticed it’s with this community spirit that people come to us. Life events don’t often get much bigger than having a baby, and expectant parents, especially women, want their neighbours with them as they embark on the journey.


I am always looking for new and interesting ways to bring together local parents-to-be, so recently jumped at the chance to team up with the unique and wonderful Village Haberdashery on Mill Lane, to offer a special event exclusively for pregnant ladies. In March we’ll be holding a morning of knitting for beginners (and all levels), where everyone will learn to make, and leave with, an extremely cute baby hat for their little one. (Full details below).


Over the coming year I plan to introduce events for new parents – nights out, weaning workshops and baby massage classes, so watch this space!

Meanwhile, here’s to the future of real-life socialising with our neighbours, group hangovers, group sleep deprivation, our babies becoming buddies, and many good times ahead!

Event: Knit a Baby Hat
Experienced knitting teacher, pattern designer and mum, Camilla Miller, will teach beginners how to knit by making an adorable roll-brim baby hat. Learn all the knitting basics, including how to cast on and off, how to knit in the round and how to decrease.
Venue: The Village Haberdashery, 47 Mill Lane, NW6 1NB
Date and time: Saturday 22nd March, 10am-1pm
Price: £50 (£40 if you’ve taken or signed up to Bump and Baby Club’s antenatal course)
Book here: http://www.thevillagehaberdashery.co.uk/classes-and-workshops/knit-a-baby-hat-for-mums-to-be

No previous knitting experience necessary. Yarn and knitting needles provided. Receive a 10% discount on any purchases you make in the shop on the day.

For information on West Hampstead antenatal classes, please see www.bumpandbabyclub.com

Sponsored post

Love defined by Emmanuel School pupils

What is love?

This has occupied many great minds through the ages, from Stendhal to, erm, Haddaway. It even topped the list of Google searches a couple of years ago.

Now, pupils at Emmanuel School in West Hampstead have tackled the question, and published a book of their thoughts on the subject. Definitions vary, but range from “Love is kissing and smiling and hugging” (by Conor L, 7) to Rohan’s thoughtful “Love is something that makes you remember people that have passed away”.


Called 31 Ways To Define Love, it’s the work of the Topaz class at Emmanuel, all of whom are aged 6 or 7.

what is love extract

The idea for the book came from Sarah Trueman, whose son Arthur is in the class. As the school has expanded in recent years, it needs more books for its growing library, and Sarah hit upon the idea of creating a book with the children as a perfect way to raise extra funds.

Along the way, the children have learned what is involved in the process of writing, illustrating and publishing a book, and  also had a lot of fun. Sarah spent a day with the class and found the children enthusiastic about the project and “lovely to work with”.

Sarah praised her son’s class teacher Miss Willis, as well as Emmanuel headteacher Miss Fitzsimmons, who she described as “super-engaged with the process” and extremely encouraging of the children’s creativity and literacy.

The book is available for £2.99 from West End Lane Books, and all proceeds will go to the Emmanuel School Big Read Quest. The bookshop is open until 7pm tonight, so this could be the ideal extra Valentine’s gift to pick up on your way home.

Whamp feels like chicken tonight

Rumours surfaced on Twitter this morning of strange goings-on outside West Hampstead library.

“What’s up at the library on WEL? Film crew loitering. Multiple cameras. Road sweeper involved” (@CAMarks1)

Then a man in a chicken suit appeared.

Photograph by Charles Marks

Photograph by Charles Marks

It sounded like more than the latest Nando’s stunt, so I went to investigate.

I caught up with the film crew and digital marketing agency IMO at the Alice House where they’d based themselves for the day. Understandably, they didn’t want to reveal too many details about the video at this stage, but have promised to share it with us when it goes live. What they did tell us was that it’s an online video for a bathroom company called Bristan.

I can also reveal that the giant chicken was actually a nice man called Andy in a big furry suit, taking a well-earned break between takes and being quizzed by curious passers-by.

chicken unmasked

What has all this got to do with taps and bathroom suites? Watch this space…

West Hampstead’s free public WiFi switched on

It’s been a while coming – we first reported this back in 2012 and again in 2013 – but West Hampstead now has free WiFi, having miraculously shot to the front of Camden’s queue. We were originally slated to be in “phase 3”, but we join parts of Bloomsbury, Holborn, and Kilburn in being first in line. Clearly the council recognises that we all need to tweet all the time!

WHL didn’t spend too long in the murky drizzle of dusk testing the full reach of the new service, but the connection was very weak by West End Green and much stronger by the first 139 bus stop heading south.

The WiFi infrastructure, powered by Arqiva, is apparently attached to lampposts, though it’s not immediately obvious where and we didn’t see any “Access point” signs, but nor did we hunt high and low for them.

My phone picked up the “_Camden_WiFi” network, which gives 30 minutes free access before you have to shell out £5 for the rest of the day or £30 for the month.


It’s hard to imagine that many people will pay for this in West Hampstead with most cafés offering some sort of free WiFi service already (Camden’s network appeared well down my list of options), but it’s good to have and if does stretch to West End Green then it might encourage people to sit outside and tap away on their tablets.

Of course the rise of 4G networks also means that short burst uses of WiFi for phones is less necessary, but 4G coverage isn’t that reliable yet.

In the enthusiastic press release that accompanied this launch, Cllr Theo Blackwell, cabinet member of finance, and digital champion for the borough (my words, not the press release’s), said:

“The completion of this first stage marks a major step in enhancing the borough’s digital services and making Camden the best connected place in the country.

By rolling-out a free Wi-Fi network, we’ll be able to ensure residents, businesses and visitors have access to the best mobile network experience available while at the same time addressing network congestion and coverage issues.

It will also help boost the borough’s economy by encouraging more visitors to Camden with event and travel information readily available as well ensuring, where possible, local companies are used for the installation and maintenance of the network.”

Lorry damages Travis Perkins building

Photographers captured the moment a lorry crashed into the side of the Travis Perkins building at 156 West End Lane today. The vehicle brought down brickwork and masonry from the corner of the building, surprising the Wickes showroom staff inside.

TravisPerkins damage

Dan Hirai, who works on Maygrove Road, was walking back from lunch at Nando’s at around 1.10pm when he saw the lorry coming up the hill and turning right into the Travis Perkins site. The cab of the lorry made the turning without incident, but then Dan describes hearing “a massive crunch” as the lorry’s container made contact with the building. He then saw material from the wall falling onto the ground.

“I thought he was going to reverse, but he just carried on.”

A Lymington Road resident also described his disbelief after the initial impact. “The driver didn’t get out, but reversed half a metre and tried again, hitting the building again, and then did the same. It took three or four attempts to get through, doing more damage each time.”






The whole endeavour took a few minutes to unfold.

Lorry damages 156 West End Lane

The offending lorry (Photo via Dan Hirai)

The Travis Perkins site has never been among the area’s most popular or aesthetically pleasing – it is slated for redevelopment over the next five years. It didn’t take long for commentators on Twitter to express their feelings on this latest development:

Tweets from the beat: West Hampstead Sergeant joins Twitter

The police seem to have an uneasy relationship with Twitter. While accounts such as @MPSInTheSky attract legions of followers and brilliantly balance updates on activity with behind-the-scenes insights, the borough level accounts are a bit more hit and miss. Brent’s account is fairly active, for example, but Camden seems to have chosen to tread a much more cautious path.

Here in West Hampstead, we had an early adopter in the brilliant @WHLocalPlod with her Juliet Bravo avatar (cultural reference for the grown-ups there), but this was always an unofficial account, even though it was run with the utmost professionalism and integrity. Once she left the Met, there was a gap to be filled.

A year later and Sgt. Ian Hutton, the new(ish) Safer Neighbourhood Sergeant for West Hampstead & Fortune Green, today announced his official Twitter account: MPS_WHampstdSgt. He is one of a growing number of Safer Neighbourhood officers on Twitter – all with sanctioned accounts.

Sgt Ian Hutton

Sgt Ian Hutton

Getting on Twitter makes a lot of sense from the police’s point of view. It’s a good way of rapidly interacting with the public, especially with so many amplifier accounts out there who can ensure that public information news is disseminated quickly.

Of course, all police accounts emphasise that they are not to be used to report crime. This is pretty much common sense. In an emergency, call 999; if it’s not an emergecy, dial 101.

West Hampstead Life wishes Sgt Hutton the best of luck with his account. These are testing times for the police, but engaging with the public using the very channels that the public uses itself can only be a good thing. Inevitably they’ll cop some flak, and it’s always easier to abuse someone from the safety of an anonymous account than it is face-to-face. Nevertheless, if we want the police to be more accountable and approachable, getting them using Twitter is a good thing in my book.

I hope that the MPS Camden account itself is able to step up and deliver the same sort of service. As I write, at 10.20pm on January 9th, the account hasn’t tweeted since January 2nd.

Learn a new skill at Sidings

This Wednesday, January 8th, is enrolment day at Sidings Community Centre.


The Camden-funded centre runs a variety of courses for adults, ranging from computer skills to healthy meal planning. Want to brush up on basic maths? Or get a beginner’s guide to using Photoshop? There are some fantastic free courses available whether you want to explore a new career path, gain confidence using a computer, or just have fun.

Some courses also have a free crèche, so no need to worry about childcare.

To find out more, click on the flyer above, visit the Sidings website or give the centre a ring on 020 7625 6260.

Camden also runs classes at other venues throughout the borough, including West Hampstead and Kilburn Libraries. Visit its Adult Community Learning page to download a full list.

Angela Griffin’s “edgy” West Hampstead

Actress and local resident Angela Griffin was interviewed for the Metro’s “My London” feature, published last Friday. Asked where she would set the denouement of her (hypothetical) novel, the one-time Coronation Street star singled out West Hampstead as somewhere with “a little bit of edge”.


Her location of choice: Hampstead Cemetery in Fortune Green. It’s certainly an atmospheric location and has already got my mind racing with possible lurid soap-style plots and intrigue.

We may be edgy, but I do like a happy ending – epitomised here by Angela’s tweet to @WHampstead on the matter:

Tweet of the Year: We have a winner

Congratulations to Corinne Gladstone and Nicky Coleman, who can now add the letters TOTY and POTY to their signatures.

Quiet in the back row.

Here are the top 10 tweets of the year in descending order of greatness, as voted for by you. Corinne’s won comfortably in the end, with a whopping 29% of the vote ahead of Amy’s on 21%.

Onto the photos

Nicky’s photo of Camden’s parking enforcement car itself parked outside a marked bay, came from behind to win by an absolute canter, garnering more than 100 votes – more than a third of the total. It was a close-run thing between pre-race favourite, the Dylan’s pigeon, and the early frontrunner of the Tartan army.

Here are the top 10 photos:

Sun setting at the end of my street!



I’ll be contacting Corinne and Nicky to arrange for them to collect their prizes, although it’s really the accolade that’s the true trophy!

Thanks to everyone who voted and to all of you for keeping Twitter a fun place to hang out. Let see who’ll be the first Tweet of the Week in this weekend’s newsletter.

Recycle your Christmas tree in West Hampstead

The magical, twinkling glow of the Christmas tree can become an unbelievably depressing sight in the cold light of January once all the presents are unwrapped and pine needles are littering the carpet.

Step outside your house after Twelfth Night, and chances are the pavements will also be strewn with festive detritus, as already spotted by these locals:

How and where can you dispose of your Christmas tree responsibly? Just take it to one of Camden’s recycling drop-off points (full list here) between now and 16th January.

There are two in NW6: one on Fortune Green, and one at Kilburn Grange Park (Messina Avenue). There’s also a drop-off point on Netherhall Gardens if you’re the Finchley Road side of West Hampstead. On estates there might be a drop-off point too – check with the estate manager.

For one Fortune Green resident, Christmas tree ennui must have kicked in early, as captured in this snap by @photografter

Here's one I threw away earlier

Here’s one I threw away earlier

According to Camden’s website, Christmas trees will be recycled into paper, packaging and compost. A much more fitting end than carpeting the #whamp pavements.

Tweet of the Year: Your chance to vote

It’s that time folks… Forget the Oscars, the Grammys, BAFTAs, Bookers, Pulitzers and Nobels. There is only one award worth winning in West Hampstead – Tweet of the Year.

This year we have two categories: Tweet of the Year and Photo of the Year. All entries are anonymous – I’ll reveal all the nominees’ names after the results are in. There are prizes for the winners.

Voting ends on New Year’s Eve at 5pm. I’m going to trust you all to play nicely – I don’t want to have to bring in UN inspectors to oversee this!

Photo of the Year is a slightly trickier affair. I’ll show you all the photos and then there’s a poll at the end to vote for the one you like most. OK, not that trickier.

Cafe Bon gone

Cafe Bon gone

There's a lot of tartan at WHampstead this evening. Good banter. #EngvSco

There’s a lot of tartan at WHampstead this evening. Good banter. #EngvSco

Just posted a photo at West Hampstead

Just posted a photo at West Hampstead

#whampsunset Mill Lane 5.34pm, putting the west into west hampstead

#whampsunset Mill Lane 5.34pm, putting the west into west hampstead

Went to Dylan's to complain about ants in my son's donut and saw that they had bigger issues with animals.

Went to Dylan’s to complain about ants in my son’s donut and saw that they had bigger issues with animals.

The photocopier at my local Post Office really knows how to tell it like it is

The photocopier at my local Post Office really knows how to tell it like it is

Possibly worst example of fly tipping at Minster Rd recycling. I complained, council cleared but it goes on.

Possibly worst example of fly tipping at Minster Rd recycling. I complained, council cleared but it goes on.

Sky writer sunset

Sky writer sunset

Parking enforcement leading by example as usual

Parking enforcement leading by example as usual

Sun setting at the end of my street!

Sun setting at the end of my street!

Party in the New Year in West Hampstead

By popular demand, here’s a round-up of New Year’s Eve events in West Hampstead (and a couple in Kilburn). Whether your idea of a good night involves karaoke, fancy dress, or a three-course dinner, there’s a party for you.

The Gallery, 190 Broadhurst Gardens
There’s an ‘80s-themed party at The Gallery, with fancy dress encouraged – prizes for the best outfits! Open until 3am. £10 entry, book in advance to avoid disappointment.

The Railway, 100 West End Lane
Fancy a traditional New Year sing-song? The Railway is celebrating with a karaoke night, and is open until 1am. Free entry, just turn up.

La Brocca, 273 West End Lane
Fancy dress is welcome, and the theme is “famous film stars”. They promise to be “open very late”. Free entry.

The Alice House, 283-285 West End Lane
The Alice House is also embracing fancy dress – the theme here is “Après-ski”, so a good opportunity to dust off those Christmas jumpers for another outing. Advance tickets, including a drink, are £10. Tickets on the door £15. VIP packages available – check with the venue.

Mill Lane Bistro, 77 Mill Lane
If your idea of seeing in the new year in style is in candlelit surroundings with dinner and drinks, look no further than Mill Lane Bistro. Details and full menu here: http://www.milllanebistro.com/events. Three courses, £40

The Black Lion, 295-297 West End Lane
The Black Lion is mirrorballing The Gallery: there’ll be a DJ from 9pm playing 80s tunes and 80s dress is encouraged. It’s £5 before 9pm, £8 after. They say tickets are selling fast so it’s a good idea to book in advance. Open till 3am.

The Alliance, 40-42 Mill Lane
A party with a DJ from 9pm. Open till late. Free entry (“probably – it usually is” said the woman who answered the phone).

The Good Ship, 289 Kilburn High Road
The Good Ship is open until 4am and promises “a raucous party”. Check out full details. £10.

Priory Tavern, 250 Belsize Road
DJ (Sid Trotter) 10pm-3am; free entry, “bubbles on offer, a variety of shots and table snacks for all”. Full details.

There you have it. If none of these appeal… then you’re a tough customer. But the Jubilee Line is open late with free travel between 23:45 and 04:30 so London is your oyster (card).

How will you be celebrating the start of 2014?

Ho Ho Ho – Aldred Road’s festive spirit

by Simon Inglis

Whampers on the Fortune Green side of town will be aware that the coming of Christmas means only one thing.

Lighting up time in Aldred Road.

Children coo. Taxi drivers make detours. Cholmley Gardens bathes in reflected glory.

But how has this happened?

‘The short answer’, writes an Aldred Road resident, ‘is that about fifteen years ago one of the residents, an actress with the voice and command of Miss Jean Brodie and a brilliant sense of fun suggested some of us put up lights – white only, nothing showy (blinking Santas verboten) – and none of us dared say no. Especially as it was a good excuse for a street party.

As the years went by more people in the street signed up, and so here we are, nearly a full strip, some curly, some straight, some even slightly coloured (we became more relaxed about that sort of thing once B&Q started doing special offers).

Some of the newer residents have said that the Christmas lights were one reason why they chose to move here.

Estate Agents please note.

We’re on until January 6th.

Coach trips welcome.

Ding-dong merrily in whamp

Quick round-up for you of local Christmas carols:

Saturday 14th
Friends of Kilburn Grange 2-4pm, in Kilburn Grange Park by the Adventure Playground

Sunday 15th
St James’ Church, Sherriff Road, 4.30pm
St Luke’s Church, Kidderpore Avenue, 6pm

Tuesday 17th
Emmanuel Church, West End Green, 7.30pm

Wednesday 18th
Hampstead Cemetery, Carols by Candlelight 5pm and 6.30pm

Sunday 22nd
La Brocca, brass band and carols for charity

If anyone knows of other services, or has links for these ones, please let me know in the comments and I’ll add them.

Kilburn gets festive

This Saturday, it’s Kilburn’s turn for Christmas fun. The Kilburn Square festivities run from 3.30pm-5pm, and there’ll be carol singing and the switching on of the Christmas lights. It’s all happening outside WH Smiths on Kilburn High Road.

According to the organisers, this year there’ll be a special tree where everyone can place their own wish for Kilburn.

Business Assocation finds new momentum

Tomorrow evening, the West Hampstead Business Association holds its reLaunch event. An early disclaimer: West Hampstead Life is involved in the WHBA and has been helping the existing committee think through this revamp.

Why now? ¦ Launch event ¦ Aims ¦ Should I join? ¦ Cost ¦ More info

The WHBA was set up in 2011 with support from Cllr Gillian Risso-Gill, and was involved in bringing the farmers’ market to the neighbourhood and in the initial negotiations to relocate the post office into the Sherriff Centre in St James’ Church. But momentum had waned.

Why reLaunch now?
It won’t have escaped your notice that West Hampstead is going through some major changes in terms of residential developments, with more on the horizon.

The WHBA wants to harness the drive and enthusiasm of local businesses to ensure that the local economy captures these benefits, while ensuring we have a mixed, vibrant business environment. It is not pro-independent shops and anti-chains, nor is it fixated on West End Lane.

These are tough times for all businesses, and the WHBA will also seek to help local businesses by sharing ideas, looking at ways to lower costs, and finding innovative solutions in order to keep them competitive.

There are a wide range of issues that concern businesses – some local: rents, parking, dirty streets; some larger in scale: the threat from online shopping, business rates, getting to grips with new payment technologies and social media… there are many more.

With all these factors in play, the WHBA decided to revamp and relaunch in order to get the drive and enthusiasm back. The committee is:

  • André Millodot from The Wet Fish Café
  • David Matthews from Dutch & Dutch
  • Reuben Miller from Alexanders
  • Jennie Vincent from The Kitchen Table
Launch event – take two
Boris Johnson turning up a couple of weeks ago was a surprise – he had been invited to the launch event, but more in hope than expectation. With just three days’ notice of his sudden visit, it wasn’t possible to bring the whole launch event forward, so a mail went out to the original WHBA mailing list and a good crowd turned out to hear the Mayor talk about what City Hall could do to support West Hampstead businesses.

The proper reLaunch event is Wednesday December 11th. If you’re a local business and you didn’t get an invite, then please mail , or just turn up.

It starts at 6pm downstairs at The Gallery on Broadhurst Gardens (I believe there’s mulled wine available). At around 6.45pm we have a guest speaker. Leo Hollis, author of Cities Are Good For You, will speak for 15 minutes about the link between high streets and communities. Leo’s a local too, so he’ll be able to bring a West Hampstead angle to his talk. The WHBA committee will also explain in a bit more detail what the association hopes to achieve and the benefits of joining up.

What will the WHBA actually do?
At the heart of the revamp is the idea that the WHBA shouldn’t become a talking shop, but should deliver tangible results. Campaigns will therefore be limited but specific, and combine some short-term easy wins, and some longer term issues. The committee is extremely open to (i.e., “wants”) ideas and contributions from members.

First up, there’s a push to raise the profile of West Hampstead as a place to do business – and there are several strands to this, such as making a promotional video, getting a better Wikipedia entry for West Hampstead, and boosting the PR activity. In the longer term, Camden is consulting on parking issues a lot at the moment, and this is a challenge given that residents and businesses have very different needs.

To debate all these issues and to collect the thoughts of the whole business community, the WHBA is going online with a forum and a monthly e-mail newsletter, both for paid members only. The forum is the place to raise concerns, share ideas, solve problems and build consensus. The newsletter will capture each month’s hot topics, bring a round-up of local business news, and share wider trends. I’ll be writing the newsletter, and I can honestly say I think it’s worth the membership fee alone!

Should I join?
If you’re a business based in, or operating in West Hampstead, then yes. The WHBA will welcome freelancers to supermarkets, mechanics to property developers. If improving the business environment matters to you, then you should join in. It will help locals share ideas about how to run their businesses more efficiently and competitively, as well as making more visible changes to the area. So even if you don’t have customer-facing premises, the WHBA can offer significant benefits. Come to the reLaunch event and find out more!

The committee believes that professionalisation of the WHBA is vital, which does incur some admin cost. However, most of the subscription fees will be ploughed into campaigns. There may be specific initiatives where the WHBA needs to raise more money – for example beautifying the street or getting better Christmas trees for next year! It will, of course, extract money from other sources where possible, but we all know how tight public sector funding is.

The cost
The cost to join is based on the size of your business, and if you join before December 31st, then you get a whopping 50% discount.

Membership is valid for 12 months.

  • Freelancer £25 (£50 from Jan 1st)
  • Single shopfront £75 (£150 from Jan 1st)
  • Double shopfront £125 (£250 from Jan 1st)
  • Multiple £200 (£400 from Jan 1st)

As well as your money, what the association really needs is your commitment. Not every issue the WHBA tackles will benefit every business equally, but a collective effort to support the local business community will undoubtedly be for the good of the local economy.

Where can I find out more?
If you can’t make it to the reLaunch event, then do contact the WHBA and someone will get back to you. It’s also on Twitter @WhampBiz, or just go to the website, where you can also sign up.In the meantime, download the flyer that’s been handed out, or read it below. If you’d like to join, then fill it in and hand it in to any of the committee or scan and e-mail back. Someone will then contact you regarding payment.

Naturally, as one of the people behind this revamp, I’m excited by the possibilities it offers. From simple stuff like better Christmas trees on West End Lane, to thornier issues like retaining a good mix of job types, I believe that a healthy local economy and a healthy community go hand-in-hand. Don’t grouch from the sidelines, West Hampstead is changing and the WHBA is changing with it. Be part of it.

West Hampstead buildings on award shortlist

Emmanuel School is by far the most controversial local building to be shortlisted in the Camden Design Awards. This council sponsored celebration of high quality design seeks to reward schemes that:

  • are inclusive, sustainable and fit for purpose
  • demonstrate high quality in design, materials and construction
  • respond sensitively to their context and reinforce a sense of place
  • enrich the lives of those who live and work in and around them.

There are eight categories of which five have local entries including the Thameslink station. The inclusion of Emmanuel School’s new building will raise a few eyebrows though. The school has come in for criticism from locals for its choice of grey rather than red brick. Not only is it shortlisted in the Camden Community Designs category, but it’s also got into the People’s Choice award shortlist. I suspect it won’t win.

Category: Don’t Move – Improve
Best householder conversion, alteration or extension – large or small
Canfield Gardens
Scenario Architecture

An analysis of our client’s patterns of use exposed and astonishing fact: 90% of the owners time was spent in only 10% of the available space- the dark lower ground floor dining area. The new design is based on a bold architectural decision of opening and thus losing floor area on the ground floor. The previously unused living areas of the ground floor are now connected in a unified space, providing designated and interconnected zones for the different everyday activities and allowing all available space to be used.

The design scheme makes it possible to provide adequate ambient and direct natural light to all, previously dark, living spaces making them attractive for the allocated activities. A feature wall at the lower ground floor was designed to provide spatial continuity between kitchen dining and living areas. It consists of an entrance space, with shoe storage, a sitting/ gathering space and a fireplace with integrated sitting area. On the bedroom level a bespoke en-suite bathroom combines digital production techniques with traditional manually applied finish. The form was CNC cut and assembled on site. It was then finished with an application of traditional Moroccan plaster achieving a single surface element.


More detail: 1; 2; 3; 4

Category: Designing for Growth
Best non-residential scheme – new or improved
West Hampstead Thameslink Station
Landolt + Brown

West Hampstead Thameslink Station has seen major changes through both the Thameslink Programme and the Access for All Programme with longer platforms to accommodate 12 car trains, a new passenger footbridge giving step-free access to each platform, and reducing the major pinchpoint created by the old footbridge and entrance/ exit.

The station also benefitted from a brand new ticket office on the opposite side of the station to the old cramped facility incorporating a new gateline, automatic ticket machines and a small retail unit and giving passengers fully covered access to the platforms.

The railway embankment leading to the new station was built-up to widen the pavement from 1.5m to 12m. Incorporating the existing lime trees into this new public space and allowing the station to be seen from West End Lane, were also central to the new station design. The glazed brick wall, designed to reflect the changing colours of the lime trees above, brightens the approach to the station and draws people towards it. The space has become a wellused local meeting place and the venue for West Hampstead’s weekly farmer’s market, as well as giving some relief to the narrow and congested pedestrian environment along West End Lane.


Category: Breathing Spaces
Best new or upgraded street, park, garden, cemetery, play area etc.
Kilburn Grange Park playcentre and adventure playground
Erect Architecture

The site of the Kilburn Grange Park adventure playground is the remainder of a Victorian Arboretum within an existing park. Its theme is playing in and around trees.

The playcentre provides internal as well as covered external play space. It is also a short breaks centre for special educational needs children facilitating overnight stays. The building is a timber frame, timber clad building. Its undulating biodiversity roof is a natural extension of the landscape, which dominates the scheme. Large roof overhangs frame the landscape. The timber structure is exposed. The main internal play space is a “tree room” dominated by a tree column from which the primary structure branches off. Natural light filters between the beams to create an atmosphere of being under a tree canopy.

The playpark consists of new topographies, landscapes and site-specific climbing structures. Different scales, speeds, uses, types of inhabitation and play as well as materialities and moods are carefully arranged. Children can experience different seasons or even just hours of the day.

The dense adventure structure plays with the characters of the trees. It tells tree stories. The structure is complex with small-scale spaces of varied materials. A series of recycled doors quotes domesticity but also allows for routes through to perpetually change and spaces to expand and contract. Different degrees of secrecy oppose vantage points into the park.

These spaces of different qualities create a rich experience and invite the imagination.


Renovation of Fortune Green
Friends of Fortune Green with Penny Brenan and BBUK

We think the scheme should be entered for a design award because we have significantly improved Fortune Green, for a pretty low budget. We have updated what was a very tired open space and intergrated with the surrounding area in a modern, design concious but also more ecological way. We have also worked with the Parks Department and are, perhaps, coming up with a new model of how to improve other areas and parks in the borough. On top of all that we think the scheme is looking good and we would be pleased to be recognised by Camden with a design award, either for improving the park and also for the community involvement – or both!


Category: Camden Community Designs
Scheme which has had the most positive impact on the local community
Emmanuel School

The existing Emmanuel Church of England Primary School was operating out of cramped Victorian buildings and temporary classrooms. The decision to expand to 1FE meant acquiring a new site across the road and the construction of a new school building to house years 2–6.

The project being submitted for the Camden Design Awards is the initial new build phase. The project includes the new building and associated play learning facilities. The Public Open Space immediately behind the school was also given an overhaul as part of the project, with new play equipment and landscaping, led by bid landscape working with Hawkins\Brown.

The early years unit will remain in the existing buildings, which are currently being refurbished as phase 2 of the works, and is due to complete shortly.

The architecture of the new Emmanuel School building was shaped by the community that surrounds it. The multiple constraints and influences of a sensitive conservation area, a confined urban site, an ambitious client and an enthusiastic user group have resulted in the design of a state of the art learning environment for the young children in the area.

The school is stacked vertically with teaching spaces located above the partially buried school hall. The playground includes a vibrant amphitheatre, multi-use games area and three external play decks, all of which maximise the potential of a very compact, sloping site on a residential street. The school was designed from the inside – out with generous windows playfully arranged to frame views of the surrounding area, and create light and airy classrooms for the children.

The building services have been designed to create a sustainable, and energy efficient environment. The roofline is articulated by four natural ventilation chimneys, which provide fresh air to the classrooms but prevent traffic noise from disrupting lessons. A ground source heat pump provides the heating and cooling for the building, and solar panels on the metal roof help to reduce the carbon footprint.


More images: 1

Category: People’s Choice
Shortlisted from 10 entries across all other categories
Emmanuel School
See above

Category: Quality for Life
New or improved, private or social – includes housing-led schemes
No local entries

Category: Enhancing Context
New or refurbished building which best enhances a conservation area and/or listed building
No local entries

Category: The Heritage Award
Rewarding exemplar schemes of alteration, conversion, refurbishment, or simply the sensitive repair, of historic buildings and sites.
No local entries

Go Gaga over Emmanuel’s Christmas Fair

After this weekend’s excitement of the West Hampstead Christmas market and the Beckford School winter fair, next weekend it’s the turn of Mill Lane’s Emmanuel School.

The school’s Christmas fair runs from 2-5pm on Saturday December 7th. Alongside the usual primary school Christmas fair excitement, everyone gets a raffle ticket on entry and prizes include “a celebrity sold-out music event with Lady Gaga”.

I’m not entirely sure what that means, or whether it’s the sort of thing impressionable young minds ought to be over-exposed to. Still, better than Miley Cyrus I guess.

Do go along if you can and support the school – the Beckford event was a huge success, and I’m sure Emmanuel’s will be too.

November 30th: Beckford’s Winter Fair

Next Saturday, Beckford School in Dornfell Street holds its Winter Fair from 2-4pm.

I’m told that this year’s promises to be bigger and better than ever. There’s a Santa’s grotto, craft stalls, football skills workshops, face painting, loads of games, great prizes to be won in the raffle and silent auction, and plenty of festive food and drink. Sounds like lots for everyone! The school choir will also be singing carols, so along with the Christmas Market on the same day, West Hampstead is sure to be full of festive cheer. Entry is free and everyone is welcome!

Firemen “got everyone out” of West End Lane blaze

Around 10.15 last night, a fire broke out in a house near the corner of West End Lane and Messina Avenue, right by the northbound Woodchurch Road bus stop.

Photo via Simon Ashman

The property has had scaffolding up for a while.

photo via Laura Douglas

According to one local, who spoke to the fire crew after the fire was out, everyone inside the building got out safely.

@WHampstead I spoke to the firemen as they were packing up. Apparently they got everyone out & all were.ok. Big thanks to the crews.
— dali_llama (@dali_llama) November 23, 2013

Photo via Anthony Roberts

This morning, the damage is clearly visible, although is perhaps not as bad as the first images might have suggested. The fire appears to have been contained to the one building, and the clean-up and repair operation is already underway.


There’s no news yet on the cause of the fire.

Connecting parents-to-be at JW3

by Alex Kohansky

I have never appreciated my local community more than during the few months following the birth of my first baby. At a time when it’s a struggle to leave the house, and often the biggest adventure of the day is a walk down the road, it really matters where you live, and who lives near you.

My husband and I had met eight other couples at antenatal classes – we all lived locally, our babies arrived within a few weeks of each other and, as our worlds were completely changing, we connected.

While this support network was invaluable (as well as a lot of fun), we were pretty much all in agreement about the shortcomings of the antenatal course we had taken. We felt we weren’t well prepared for all the different possibilities of labour and birth or how to look after a newborn, and some of us thought we hadn’t learnt anything that we didn’t already know. And it wasn’t just us; we all knew people who’d had similar experiences with other antenatal courses.

So last year I decided to go on a mission to create a course with content as valuable as the friendships made. I hunted down the most popular antenatal experts in North London and we put together classes that gave people the information they really needed in a non-judgemental, unbiased and engaging way, without forgetting one of the main reasons they choose to attend – to meet other people.

We started running our course in Highgate and Muswell Hill and are now very excited to be expanding to my home-turf, West Hampstead, as we’ve been chosen by JW3 to provide their signature antenatal course.

Unlike most other antenatal courses, ours includes baby first aid training. We also include an indulgent afternoon tea for the girls (on a date after the course has finished), a beer for the boys (while the girls are learning about breastfeeding), and a reunion once all the babies have joined the party!

In addition, women signed up to our antenatal course receive free monthly pregnancy yoga classes with West Hampstead’s number one pregnancy yoga instructor, Bec Minor.

This Sunday we’ll be at JW3’s Baby Fair (24th November, 10am-4pm). So if you’re interested in what we do, have a look out for Bump and Baby Club and come and say hi! Otherwise, you can find us at bumpandbabyclub.com.

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Fountain floods Fairhazel Gardens

Local ward councillor Don Williams tweeted a spectacular photo this afternoon of a burst main on Fairhazel Gardens. This has, unsurprisingly, affected the water supply of surrounding streets. Lets hope Thames Water is quick on the case before Fairhazel starts to attract the tourists in search of West Hampstead’s own Old Faithful!

Water is already running down to the junction with Compayne Gardens.

Doris Lessing and West Hampstead – The New Café

by Keith Moffitt

Many words will be written over the next few days about Nobel prize-winning and West Hampstead-dwelling Doris Lessing, but I’d like to mention a short story of hers with a very strong West Hampstead connection.

“The New Café” is one of the short stories in the collection “London Observed”, published in 1992 – for more on the collection see: http://www.dorislessing.org/london.html.

The story was set in what was at the time the first of the new waves of cafés in West End Lane. Hard to imagine now, but around 25 years ago the arrival of Dominique’s café in West End Lane marked the start of a new era and was greeted with great excitement.

The West End Lane Dominique’s, an Iranian family business, closed several years ago and was replaced by J’s, which in turn has transmuted into Bella Luna. But Dominique’s lives on not only in Doris Lessing’s short story, where the café becomes Stephanie’s and the Iranians turn into Greeks, but also in its sister café on South End Green. And of course in the memories of those of us who were living in West Hampstead when “The New Café” was the place to go.

This article first appeared on West Hampstead Spotlight.

Related articles: Doris Lesing on heraing she’s won the Nobel Prize

A year after the crash

November 10, 2012. A 23 year-old American postgrad student at the University of Westminster is planning her evening out in Camden Town. It’s her first semester but already the small-town girl from Vermont has embraced big city living and has an eclectic bunch of friends.

In south London, a young couple and their two-year old son are looking forward to catching up with close friends north of the river.

Just after 8.30pm that Saturday night, Amy Werner, Ben Dutton, Desreen Brooks and Jackson Brooks-Dutton’s lives coincide with a truly dreadful accident. As Amy walks up West End Lane to get to Camden, and Ben, Desreen and Jackson leave their friends’ house, the driver of a Mercedes heading south down West End Lane loses control of his car.

The car heads straight towards the family. Ben’s quick reactions save his son, whom he pushes out of the way. He himself manages to jump over a wall, but Desreen is hit. It appears the car’s momentum isn’t slowed sufficently by careering into a brick wall and it continues, hitting Amy.

It’s a busy Saturday evening, there are plenty of people around who rush to help. Amazingly there are some doctors passing, who immediately try and save Desreen. The ambulance arrives incredibly quickly. It looks very bad. Desreen Brooks is pronounced dead at the scene. Amy is still alive but fighting for her life. The driver – an 83-year-old man – has to be cut from his car by the fire brigade. He is arrested, but later released without charge. The cause of the crash has still not been identified.

Desreen Brooks

The events of that Saturday night will be forever seared into the minds of the people involved. In the four years I’ve been writing West Hampstead Life, no event has sparked the collective consciousness of the local community as this tragedy. Messages of support and condolence poured in. Offers of practical help too. There was a sense that this could have happened to any of us – just walking up West End Lane on a Saturday evening.

Nothing good came out of that night. What did emerge was a reminder that people’s immediate reaction to an event like this is to come together; to do whatever they can.

It didn’t take long for the story to escalate from the pages of a local website to the local papers to the nationals. The story naturally focused heavily on Desreen – and her husband found himself doing interviews and giving soundbites; but – as when I spoke to him – this wasn’t the husband of Desreen speaking, this was the PR professional who was in total shock and was falling back on his work skills. His grief would find another far more productive outlet in the weeks and months to come.

In the Royal Free – and then St Mary’s hospital – Amy was still critical. The police tracked down and rang her parents in Dover, Vermont. It’s a small town. The kind of place where people have a couple of different jobs. The fire chief is also a detective sergeant, and runs his own property business, for example. He also happens to be Rich Werner, Amy’s Dad. It was her mum, Regina, who took the call – they thought it was a hoax at first. Why would Interpol be calling them?

Flying long-haul is uncomfortable and tedious at the best of times. I simply cannot imagine how dreadful that flight from Boston to Heathrow must have beeen for the Werners. When they got to the hospital, Amy was still alive but she had already undergone major surgery. It would be the first of many operations.

As the days passed, Amy’s condition stabilised. In no sense was she out of the woods, but the prognosis improved. There began to be talk of when she might transfer back to a hospital in the US.

I met Rich and Regina, and Amy, at St Mary’s. They had been so touched by all the support from locals who had offered them accommodation, food, and whatever support they could give. In the end, they just wanted to be as near to the hospital as they could be, so stayed in their Paddington guesthouse. I was braced for Amy to look dreadful. She was in an induced coma and I’d understood her injuries were severe. In fact, she looked remarkably well despite the fractures to her pelvis, right leg, right arm, and face as well as serioius internal injuries. Taking her parents out for dinner seemed a ridiculously banal thing to do, but who wouldn’t want a break from hospital food!

Amy did fly back to the US – it took a bit longer than her parents had hoped to get the all clear, but soon they were able to make it back. It’s been a long rehabilitation for Amy. She has lost some of the sight in one eye and has undergone substantial therapy. Today, her family is having a gathering to celebrate her progress on the slow road to recovery.

Back in London, Ben Brooks-Dutton (he changed his name after the accident) began writing about his experiences of grief in a blog. Life as a Widower has become a totemic website helping people coming to terms with their own grief – especially the untimely death of loved ones who die young. It seems to act as a cathartic device for Ben too, with posts varying from the frank to the poetic to those he writes in the guise of his son.

One year after the accident he has written:

Today is the first anniversary of Desreen’s death and contemplating what to write has troubled me more than anything else I’ve published this year. The temptation to say nothing at all has been strong… The fact that 365 days have passed since my wife was killed is of no more significance to me than if she’d died 364 or 366 days ago. It doesn’t make her any more dead than she was yesterday and nor will it make me feel any more alive tomorrow. Of course this weekend has made me retrace painful memories and intensified my grief, but making it to the end of year one has not suddenly created the turning point that I might once have expected – that I might once have been led to believe it would.

A year is an arbitary amount of time, on which we place strange importance. Today is – as Ben notes in his own post – also Remembrance Sunday. While West Hampstead chugs along with a new craft market and protests about trees, it’s worth taking a moment to remember the accident of a year ago – celebrate with the Werners and commemorate with Ben and Jackson.

Fly-tipping crackdown, but what about the bins?

Whether it’s due to all the local twitter and website activity, or whether our councillors have managed to put the squeeze on Camden, we finally have some action from the council on the fly-tipping blight. But what about the problems being caused by the normal rubbish and recycling collection (or lack of it)?

Here’s what the council says about “Clean Camden”, its new campaign:

We’re taking a tough approach to those people who continue to litter, dump their waste or do not clear up after their dog.

We know that you find littering, dog fouling and fly-tipping disgusting and anti-social.

Through our Clean Camden campaign we want to change this bad behaviour through education and enforcement. We need you to help by being our eyes and ears and reporting issues to us so that we can crack down on these filthy enviro-crimes.

Ignoring the crime against language that is the phrase “filthy enviro-crimes”, lets think this through.

Some have already dismissed the scheme as Camden passing the buck onto residents, expecting us to be on constant alert for someone carrying a mattress down Mill Lane, or surreptitiously dumping bags of construction waste on Minster Road. Oddly enough, quite a lot of these activities seem to happen under cover of darkness – almost as if the perpetrators didn’t want to be seen? I know, right?

@camdentalking @WHampstead So basically you’re just asking for us to grass people up, which we’re already doing. You need to be proactive!
— Daniel W (@damawa42) November 4, 2013

It’s not unreasonable to ask for some cooperation from Joe Whamper; we understand the budget constraints (even if Labour’s political opponents argue the council has its priorities wrong) and enforcement teams can’t be everywhere.

However, realistically, catching the big offenders is going to take more targeted action. Is that more expensive? Yes. That’s why it has to be targeted. But we all know where the stuff is being dumped; and as dumping is illegal and comes with a fine, there’s even some way to recoup some of the cash – sort of how parking enforcement works.

The Camden Clean website continues:

Our education and enforcement team are patrolling at hotspot areas and will catch and fine those offenders who:

  • drop litter
  • don’t clear up their dog’s mess
  • dump rubbish on our streets

We are also getting tough on businesses who don’t pay to dispose of their business waste properly

I’m not clear what the education element is here – yes, maybe there are some people who don’t realise they shouldn’t put a mattress out in the street, but the biggest “fithy enviro-crimes” [shudder] are committed by people who surely know all too well what they’re doing. Less education, more enforcement please.

The fine for littering and for not clearing up after your dog is £80. The maximum fine for fly-tipping is a slightly staggering £50,000, though as I reported, Camden very rarely prosecutes.

If you do happen to see someone furtively leaving an armchair lying around or, as Camden puts it, “if you spot a place or person that is undermining our attempts to rid the borough of dog fouling, littering or fly-tipping”, then you can ring 020 7974 4444 (that’s the standard Camden contact number) or report them online.

Camden’s also going to be “calling on residents to take part in and organise clean up events.” I think many people will be telling Camden into which bin they can stick their clean-up events.

Business waste
Residents may not be aware that businesses have to make separate arrangements for waste collection – their business rates don’t cover this in the way that council tax does for domestic waste.

Instead they have to make their own arrangements (and pay for them) with registered waste collection companies.They must also “stop waste escaping from [their] control, by storing it safely and securely.” There have certainly been examples of waste around West Hampstead that is clearly business waste – either from construction projects or restaurants. The latter should be reasonably easy to identify (and they are unlikely to dump it outside their own premises).

Larger items that do not form part of business’s day-to-day waste can be collected by the council for a charge.

But what about Veolia?
While the Clean Camden campaign is a small step in the right direction for countering littering and fly-tipping, there is another problem. At least in this part of the borough, the rubbish and recycling collection is far from perfect and this is creating problems too. When the bin men don’t collect the rubbish and bins or bags are left on the street, it’s both unsightly and unhygenic, but also gives the impression that this is acceptable behaviour.

@camdentalking, is this the way our streets should look after rubbish collection? pic.twitter.com/jp6y5KP38p
— Nicole Dunn (@_nicoledunn_) November 6, 2013

@camdentalking rubbish pile up on Hemstal Rd NW6. Been here for 3days & ignored by bin men this am!!!! #whamp pic.twitter.com/g2A0C4pnq7
— TAGC_85 (@TAGC_85) November 4, 2013

Sick of the bloody bin men they make more mess all this council tax for nothing @camdentalking @WHampstead pic.twitter.com/EUFC4uz48W
— Mr Blue™ (@allyrangers) November 3, 2013

Solving the area’s rubbish problem needs both action on the fly-tipping and action on Veolia (the contractor) to improve performance. I can imagine this is happening behind the scenes, but I think locals would like to hear a bit more about that – including what sort of penalties Camden can impose on Veolia if it misses targets (surely it has targets?).

Here’s what Camden cabinet member Phil Jones said about Veolia in response to queries by WHAT:

The introduction of the wheelie bins combined with changed collection days and new recycling arrangements (co-mingled recycling) impacted negatively on the service. Complaints rose significantly, as anticipated, in line with experience in other boroughs, as the Veolia staff didn’t know the rounds and were dealing with a new system. This should now have settled down. I can tell you that we are on track to make our anticipated financial savings and are already seeing increased levels of recycling.

Aside from the fact that it really shouldn’t take more than a couple of weeks to get familiar with new rounds, this doesn’t address the problems that locals are reporting every week about missed collections, or simply missed bins.

@WHampstead doesn’t explain why my recycling bin has only been emptied three times in the last six weeks though #sloppy
— Richard Milestone (@richardmileston) November 2, 2013

Worryingly, fly-tipping actually includes putting out a bag of rubbish when it’s not a refuse collection day. So, if you put your bin out and it’s not collected and you’re away, you may find yourself accused of fly-tipping!

To find out more about Camden’s new crack-down, come to the Area Action Group meeting next Wednesday when one of the street environment officers will be explaning more – and probably copping some flak.

Fireworks back with a bang at Ally Pally

After a three year hiatus, the biggest fireworks in north London are back. Alexandra Palace will once again host a spectacular display this Saturday November 2nd.

Bonfire Night isn’t the same without a really good firework display and now West Hampstead residents can go to Ally Pally on the Saturday and Roundwood Park in Brent on November 5th itself.

Local dentists Perfect Smile is proudly sponsoring the Alexandra Palace Firework display in what is the venue’s 150th anniversary. The display should be amazing.

The firework festival opens at 2pm on the 2nd November, and the fireworks have been orchestrated by Star Fireworks, recently crowned 2013 British Firework Champions. There’s also a family funfair, a buzzing street food village, a German beer festival and special ice skating sessions.

The German beer festival will be open to ticket holders from 2pm on a first-come first-served basis. There’ll be premium German beers, traditional food, Bavarian waitress service and live entertainment including Oompah Bands, a DJ and Oasis tribute band Noasis who presumably will play Champagne Supernova!

So, enjoy the views of London whilst watching the fireworks to a music and light show. The whole event is free for children under 10; older children and adults will need to get tickets at http://www.backwithabang.com/.

Of course, as it’s half term, we encourage all our patients with children to book their child in for their regular check ups.

The Muswell Hill & West Hampstead Perfect Smile team.

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Hey Jude, you weren’t too bad

After days of bleak warnings from the Met Office, clearly determined to exorcise the ghosts of 1987, all of London was braced for a big storm in the early hours of Monday.

The night before was very quiet

Weather in West Hampstead currently eerily calm; if only there was a handy saying to describe such circumstances…
— James Coatsworth (@j_coatsworth) October 27, 2013

Like many people I woke up to strong wind and some lashing rain around 5am. I was up before 7 (stupid early morning conference calls), and although it was definitely very windy out there was no sign of the sort of debris on the street that would have followed the 80mph winds of the forecast.

via @freyathefriday

As locals prepared for a commute already hindered thanks to both London Overground and First Capital Connect preemptively cancelling all services, the first reports began to trickle in of trees down and minor damage. Overall, it seems that we escaped relatively lightly – Belsize Park, Primrose Hill, and Swiss Cottage all seemed to be worse off than West Hampstead.

That’s not to say that the storm of St Jude passed without any incident:

via Tetramesh

One thing was clear – this was no weather for an untethered gazebo (‘cos we’re all leaving them lying around).

via Tetramesh

Although the tube lines had started off running a full service, the heaviest winds came after the first trains. One by one, almost every line fell victim to obstructions on the tracks on their outer reaches.

Piccadilly Line via TfL
Tree on First Capital Connect power line, via @FirstCC

Trees were falling closer to home too. On the Lymington estate, Blake Connolly got lucky when this tree fell away from his flat rather than towards it. Amazingly, it didn’t do any major damage to the other building.

via Blake Connolly

It turned out to be a good thing tree surgeons were on standby, as this casualty on Loveridge Road would find out.

via Christine

There were no reports on the contentious trees on the Ballymore building site at West Hampstead Square. Conspiracy theorists would have been all over any sudden “blown over” trees!

Camden must have done a good job on Sunday to try and hoover up all the rubbish that has been strewn over the area in recent weeks. I only saw one photo of litter debris tossed around by the wind – and to be honest, given recent events, the wind could have been an innocent party here.

via Eugene Regis

The only business on West End Lane that took a beating was the Bridge Cafe. Plenty of you spotted and snapped the collapsed sign.

via Adam Phillips
via Meg Hart
via Eugene Regis

Fortune Green was the worst hit area of West Hampstead. Susan Smith almost got hit by a falling branch as she stopped to capture the fallen foliage by Alfred Court.

via Susan Smith
via Craig Blackhurst

Further down Fortune Green Road a tree had fallen into the road.

via Emma-Jane Tritton

Local councillor Keith Moffitt went to investigate and was promptly caught in a hailstorm.

via Keith Moffitt

The cemetery, at the top of Fortune Green Road, has been closed all day after falling trees blocked the entrance.

via James Taylor

At the opposite end of West Hampstead, Abbey Road was partially blocked by another downed tree.

via Anne Moutadjer

via Deborah Blausten

It wasn’t just roads that were affected of coure. The Black Path required some negotiation.

via Penny Liechti

By this stage, later risers were wondering what the fuss was all about with blue skies overhead. Twitter split into the “OMG a tree is down” camp, and the “This storm is rubbish” camp. The latter group perhaps not realising that a more dramatic storm would probably mean more damage not just to trees and walls and cars, but to people and their homes.

Kilburn didn’t escape unscathed of course. This tree came down in Birchington Road.

via Simon Ashman

There was a limbo exercise on Langtry Road

via Kieran

And Aldi on the Kilburn High Road needs to reasssess how it fixes its signage.

via Kilburn Herald

Two of the most impressive felled trees in the area were over in NW3

King Henry’s Road in #swisscottage a bit of a no-go… #whampstorm #ukstorm London pic.twitter.com/p8pTy6vMiJ
— Kate (@LuluLovesLondon) October 28, 2013

Massive tree toppled across Croft Way. Have alerted Camden emergency services. #stjudestorm pic.twitter.com/CHYjXzUw6Q
— Giovanni Spinella (@GioSpinella) October 28, 2013

By the end of the day, most of the damage had been assessed and it didn’t seem too horrendous.

Neighbour’s fence has been blown down. *awaits tweet from neighbour saying my fence has blown down*
— Andy P (@andypeters10) October 28, 2013

There’s still no Overground or Thameslink as of Monday night. But, the good people of West Hampstead will soldier on – whatever tragedies befall them:

Housemate left kitchen window open (idiot!) and the wind has blown my cafetiere onto the floor & smashed it #ukstorm #firstworldproblems
— Davies (@daviesinthecity) October 28, 2013

Some 12 hours after the sun rose over a windswept whamp, we were treated to a much calmer but no less dramatic sunset.

via James Taylor

West Hampstead’s rubbish

Over the past few months, rubbish has been the overriding issue in West Hampstead. First, there were teething problems with Camden’s new recycling and rubbish collection system.

@camdentalking just watched your bin lorry ignore some rubbish! Picked up some bags but not rest. No wonder @WHampstead reports bin problems
— Daniel W (@damawa42) August 27, 2013

Some problems remain with this, but the situation does seem to have improved. Not that everyone likes the new arrangement:

1 photo; 3 houses; 9 recycling bins – 5 in one garden! Unsightly. Glad I stuck with the boxes and bags. #WHampRubbish pic.twitter.com/8fbyZ1h2QP
— Steve (@SteveWHamp) August 2, 2013

The problem now – and what a problem – is fly-tipping. Camden has signs around the area threatening prosecution, but those seem to be idle threats and the problem’s getting worse.

Here’s what Minster Road’s recycling area is supposed to look like (taken 11am October 8th)

Photo via Richard Olszewski

Here’s what it’s looked like recently

Photo via Richard Olszewski

Photo via @mgscott

Photo via Richard Olszewski

This sort of “industrial-scale” waste is completely unacceptable. This looks like house clearance and builders’ waste material that they should be paying to have taken away, or drive to their nearest dump.

One might argue that at least this waste is being left by a recycling centre, and therefore it’s more likely that Camden will come along and collect it. There’s no such provision on Blackburn Road, however:

Photo via Bernadette Dear

Netherwood Street in Kilburn also suffers from business waste problems – this is nothing new, the day Kilburn flooded last summer, I took this photo on Netherwood Street.

Here’s a more recent picture:

Photo via Mr Wolf

Lib Dem council candidate James King has recently blogged about the problems in Kilburn ward. There’s one crucial paragraph:

Yet when a resident asked how many fines or prosecutions have been taken forward by Camden Council under the Environment Protection Act 1990 (as featured in the sorry ‘No Dumping’ sign), in Kilburn ward over the last few years, he was told ZERO.

One of the knock-on effects of the large-scale fly-tipping is that people… locals… start to think it’s acceptable to leave single items outside.

@Richard4FG @EugeneRegis @WHampstead yeah, leave it there, the council(-taxpayer) will dump it for you sir. Frognal pic.twitter.com/HVsppSmyV4
— John Mennis (@JfmJm) September 10, 2013

just dump it there – the council taxpayer @camdentalking will take it away. Saves you the bother #whampflytipping pic.twitter.com/UiUenGhEch
— John Mennis (@JfmJm) September 22, 2013

Very public convenience, Maygrove Road #westhampstead pic.twitter.com/n6TzDucRvQ
— Patrick (@rosanowski) October 10, 2013

The Guardian recently published an article and accompanying map of fly-tipping at the council level. Camden fared fairly badly placing 11th on the list of total incidents per 1,000 people, and 12th on the overall total (Newham and Southwark fare much worse). More interesting than the map is the data on actions taken. Nationwide, only 0.5% of incidents result in prosecutions, despite the fact that the success rate of those prosecutions is 99%.

Flick Rea, Fortune Green councillor, has written about the problem too. She concludes:

There are probably no easy answers – maybe the refuse people don’t care or they’re trying to do too much in too short a time, maybe they aren’t properly supervised either by their own bosses or by officers in Camden who are supposed to monitor the contract. Also it seems lots of people just don’t care where they leave their rubbish – smelly old mattresses, broken chairs etc. Whatever the reasons – our streets are definitely a mess!

There is though, she suggests, a light at the end of the rubbish-strewn tunnel:

Camden’s Street Environment Services have been re-organised, recruited new staff and hope that when they are all in place, things will improve and our streets will get to look a bit cleaner.

Lets hope so. Like all councils, Camden is strapped for cash at the moment, and street cleaning/refuse collections are often in the firing line for cuts. We should be thankful that we haven’t been reduced to fortnightly collections. Nevertheless, when there are so many flagrant fly-tipping abuses, it seems that a concerted effort to prosecute would help clear up the problem (and pay for itself in fines).

Meanwhile, if it’s all getting too much for you – never fear, Boris is here. The golden-haired mayor recently helpfully suggested we should all pitch in.

Problems with litter in your area? Try our free @CapitalCleanup kits http://t.co/rtknB6CARD @TeamLDN @projectdirt @GroundworkLON @McDonalds
— Boris Johnson (@MayorofLondon) September 27, 2013

I’m all for a bit of community involvement in clearing up after ourselves, but I don’t think I can lug 20 bags of building material off to the tip thanks all the same Boris.

Iverson Road in 1940

This morning I was sent a scan of an unfinished drawing of Iverson Road. It was found in the Kilburn High Road offices of MP Moran – the plumbing supplies merchant – and on the back it reads “18th March 1940. Unfinished due to police interference.”

This was of course less than a year into the war, but before the first bomb fell in the area (that happened in August 1940).

The viewpoint is from west of the railway bridge looking back towards West Hampstead. The land to the left where the truck is parked is MP Moran’s West Hampstead yard, which may explain why the drawing found its way into the company’s Kilburn High Road office.

If anyone knows any more about this, or can shed light on the signature bottom-right, do please let me know. I shall try and pop out tomorrow and take a photo of what the site looks like today – or you can look at the Google Street View image.

JW3 Cinema

JW3 cinema: comfortable and eclectic

As keen readers of this website, you will have of course know about JW3, the brand spanking new Jewish community centre that has opened on the corner of Finchley Road and Lymington Road. But had you caught up yet with the fact that it has its very own cinema? Clearly, I had to investigate.

The JW3 centre officially opened late last month, and cost a reported £50m. It is aiming to become a cultural hub for north-west London and beyond. The facilities are impressive: a large hall with the capacity to hold concerts, theatre shows, weddings and bar mitzvahs and a kosher restaurant. They also include a 60-seat screening room which hosts both recent cinema releases as well as Jewish film festivals.

Keen to check out the centre, we went to see Woody Allen’s latest, Blue Jasmine, last Saturday night. The experience was excellent, akin to a private screening room (think great comfort and relaxed atmosphere). We booked ahead (advisable) and our seats were unreserved, so my advice would be to get there early. Tickets were priced at £12 (equivalent to the multiplex and notably cheaper than the Everyman), and there are no pre-film trailers or advertisements.

If you are thinking of heading down and, based on my experience, you really should, it’s worth noting that the JW3 cinema will offer an eclectic programme. It won’t necessarily screen the latest blockbusters so check its website as well as the NxNW6 film listings on these pages to check out what’s on when. There are regular slots for “Golden Oldies”, family films, and all manner of other film delights, such as the Misogynists Film Club (don’t worry, it’s “a feminist celebration of the terrible portrayal of women in cinema”), and even some Israeli TV.

With six cinemas all within walking distance of West End Lane [Ed: you walk faster than most people!], we were already spoiled for choice. With the addition of this new jewel, we now have an embarrassment of riches. Let me know what you think.

A bike ride around Camden’s borders

Cycling correspondent @Cycle_Whamp clipped in his shoes and checked out a Camden SkyRide. Do with comments or suggestions for bike-related articles.

Since 2009, Sky has been active in sponsoring British cycling. This culminated with Bradley Wiggins’ and Chris Froome’s back-to-back victories in the Tour de France. Yet, professional cycling is a world away from cycling as a mode of transport here in Sky’s home country.

As part of its marketing strategy, Sky therefore took over sponsorship of the old London Freewheel, a mass participation event in central London, and SkyRides was born. Then the Olympics happened with a subsequent mini cycling boom, which resulted in Ride London.

The popularity and practicality of SkyRides means that they have metamorphosed from one central London event into a series of local rides. Last Sunday, I went on a ride around the borders of the borough of Camden. There were about 10 of us, and three Team Leaders. There was also organised first aid and, with a small group, the leaders rode at the front and back of the group.

It was more a gentle spin than a stage of the Tour, and open to anyone who signed up. The aim was to show that everyone can do it, and that cycling is not about lycra and carbon fibre bikes.

We met up at Kenwood House before riding into Highgate and descending through Dartmouth Park to Kings Cross, Clerkenwell, Covent Garden, Tottenham Court Road and Regents Park. We stopped here for a break before returning via St John’s Wood, Maida Vale, Kilburn, West Hampstead – of course – and a climb back to Hampstead Heath. It total we covered about 18 miles in about 3.5 hours with a break.

For me, the highlight was Kings Cross, an area changing rapidly at the moment and seemingly rising up. Talking to the other riders, the most challenging parts of the ride were Covent Garden (pedestrians) and the Kilburn High Road. The High Road is not designed for cyclists and for such a busy road, it is very narrow.

All-in-all, it was a pretty enjoyable event. With autumn already upon us, the season for SkyRides is over but more are planned for next year. I will definitely be going on more local rides, and hopefully more whampers can come along too. After all, the more people take up cycling, the more pressure there is on councils to invest in better cycling infrastructure.

If you would like to find a ride near you, register at www.goskyride.com. Click here for a map of the route, and look at the profile below!

Bench for elderly attracts litter and noise

You’d think a bench would be an uncontroversial object. Just a few pieces of wood, not getting in anyone’s way. Doing its bench thing.

You’d be wrong, so terribly terribly wrong.

KOVE, which stands for Kilburn Older Voices Exchange, together with WHAT (West Hampstead Amenities & Transport), managed to get Camden to install a bench on the corner of Hemstal Road and West End Lane. Those of you who live in the frozen northern wastelands of Fortune Green may not even know where that is. Hemstal is the first turning to Kilburn after you leave the shops of West End Lane heading south. It also has, somewhat bafflingly, one of those Legible London signs.

That’s quite the jaunty perch

Anyway, I was sent a press release by KOVE telling me about this bench.

“After consulting members of the community, the site was chosen to help give people a rest from walking the steep incline.

Mrs Dawda, a local resident, said, “I often feel breathless walking up Hemstal Road and so a chance to have a rest is very good. In fine weather, I can also just sit to have a read and chat to new people. It is a great improvement to the area.””

Mel Wright, KOVE coordinator explained, “This bench is part of our ongoing campaign for community seating in Kilburn and West Hampstead. We carried out a survey a little while back about what older people needed to help improve the quality of their lives. One of the main priorities was somewhere to sit and rest whilst going out. People with chronic health conditions and disabilities are sometimes marooned at home unless they can be assured of a sit down when they go out to do shoping or visits. This new seat is a valuable community resource to be enjoyed by everyone and we hope that like all the other benches it will be treated with respect.”

A noble aim Mel, a noble aim. Just seems there’s been one small problem, and local residents association WHGARA (I do apologise for all the acronyms in this article) has been quick to pounce on it.

Camden contacted local councillors and neighbourhood police teams before the bench was put in place and ‘no significant issues were raised at the time’, but it seems the council didn’t speak to residents of St James’ Mansions. That’s the building behind the bench. They are now complaining of long evenings of nuisance and noise and days of litter.

Graffiti (from a satisfied diner?)
Photo via WHGARA

It turns out that there used to be a bench roughly in the same place, but it was removed some years ago because of similar problems.

WHGARA is categorical in its condemnation of the whole sorry affair:

The bench is in the wrong place and attracting the wrong users. Elderly people have not been seen sitting on this bench – builders on their lunchbreak, yes! Drinkers and drunks and people fast asleep in the evening, yes! The council have neglected to supply any litter bins and all the cans, pizza and takeaway boxes and fish and chip wrappers end up on the gardens behind the bench in St James’ Mansions front gardens.

One might argue that you can’t really legislate for who uses a public bench, unless you want to stick one of those “priority seat” stickers from the tube on it. If a builder wants to sit down and have a sandwich at lunchtime, then I think that’s fair enough. A litter bin would be sensible though.

The problems in the evening are slightly more challenging, though one wonders whether, as the occasional patrol car drives up West End Lane, an officer could wind the window down and have a quiet word with any rowdy bench-abusers. Whether the graffiti is related to the bench is hard to prove from a photo, but either way, it seems a shame to have to rip up the bench.

RNIB pub quiz at The Black Lion

The Royal National Institute for the Blind’s (RNIB) campaign to promote reading, Read For RNIB Day, is having its biggest nationwide event on 11th October. As part of this campaign, some local residents are taking over the normal Black Lion pub quiz on Sunday 13 October to raise money for RNIB.

The popular Sunday night quiz at the West Hampstead pub will still be hosted by the pub’s usual quizmaster Gareth, with special literary themed questions and exciting prizes thrown in too. Come along, join in, and test your knowledge!

The Black Lion will be donating all the quiz entry money to RNIB and local estate agent Paramount has offered to match whatever the pub raises.

As the usual cash prize will go to charity, other prizes for teams have been generously donated from local businesses. These will be announced during the evening but we can reveal they include signed copies of books, a brewery tour, vouchers for local restaurants and some food and wine goodies.

Local resident Brie has organised the event with Carla, from Paramount. As a literary agent, Brie is naturally an evangelist for reading, and the Read for RNIB Day caught her attention when she discovered that only 7% of books are available for those who can’t read print. Discussing the RNIB campaign with Carla, they decided they would do something fun to raise money and highlight the campaign more broadly.

To learn more about the RNIB’s work and its campaigns head to the Read for RNIB website.

Sunday 13 October 2013, 7.30pm-9.00pm

The Black Lion, 292 West End Lane, West Hampstead

Event details here.

Water: A Fortune Green poem

Today is National Poetry Day. You may not know that Fortune Green has an official poet. Ted Booth is the artist in residence for 2013-14, and has already written a couple of poems, which you can read here, including one about the film screening of Back to the Future.

Today’s poem is inspired by Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “water, water, everywhere” from The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. Given the forecast for this afternoon, it is apposite.


It  rains
It  rains
Up  above  us  on  the  Heath
levels  in  the  ponds  rise  alarmingly
It  rains
It  rains
Under  The  Green  is  a  fleet  river
it  speeds  downhill
to  the  Fire  Station  and  Pizza  Express  
It  rains
It  rains
The  water  pours
over  the  grass
along  the  paths
flooding  the  roads
pooling  into  unlucky  basements
ankle  deep  in  sodden  gardens
It  rains
It  rains
It  rains
It  pours
Over the page
The  flag  stones  are  awash
at  the  mouth  of  The  Green
the  stone  fountain
after  weeks  of  temperance
drinks  its  fill
and  vomits,  startling
the  doused  pigeons  into  flight
It  rains
It  goes  on  raining
Water,  water,  everywhere.

About Ted Booth
Ted was born in 1938 and educated at the London School of Economics. He is a retired lecturer in creative writing at Middlesex University. A part time poet, Ted has published two volumes; Rough Draft (1998) and Fair Copy (2010) and is anthologised in Football: Pure Poetry, Vols. 1 and 2 alongside Seamus Heaney, Roger McGough and Adrian Mitchell. Ted has lived in West Hampstead for over twenty years.

Whampevent: It’s funny because it’s true

STOP PRESS: If you’re coming tonight – be there by 7pm or you probably won’t get in

If you didn’t know that Kilburn’s Good Ship runs a Monday night comedy club then you have had your head in the sand for the past few years. Now you can find out and meet some lovely locals at this last minute whampevent.

It’s a no-brainer this. The club gets great acts, and tickets are dirt cheap. I mean stupidly cheap. It’s five pounds on the door. Five pounds! There’s even a small discount for booking ahead. Yes, you can get to see three or four good comedians for less than five pounds. There’s even a raffle where you can win the notorious Bag of Shit from the Pound Shop

This Monday (September 30th), the headline act is Andy Zaltzman. If you don’t know him, well you probably should. Aside from being a big sports fan, he’s an affable political comedian who’s worked with John Oliver (Jon Stewart’s sidekick on the Daily Show) and has written for Bremner, Bird and Fortune.

Time Out said, “The best political comedian in the business, Zaltzman lets loose a veritable torrent of jokes, facts, observations, very short stories, silly remarks and inspired asides… Zaltzman is breathtakingly good.”

I saw him at The Good Ship last year, and he was excellent.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I thought we’d organise a fairly impromptu whamp drinks & comedy night on Monday.

This is all very simple. You need to either buy a ticket online (there aren’t a lot of these left), or just turn up on the night. The bar is expecting a sell-out, so you need to be there before 7.30 by 7pm to guarantee getting in. I’ll be there from just before 7pm and we’ve got a table reserved, so there’s a focal point, but we’ll just be hanging out in the bar. Look for PJ Harvey, we shall be beneath her.

Come along, meet some friendly locals, enjoy some great comedy. The support acts are Paul Myrehaug, Andrew West and Andrew Watts.

See you there!

Zadie Smith’s NW: Opportunities knocked

Kilburn, Willesden, Harlesden. London’s north-west neighbourhoods pulse through this triptych of interconnected tales. Their council estates and streets are the building blocks and threads of a narrative that sweeps its way through ideas of opportunity, identity and class.

Zadie Smith’s affection for the area, her area (at least before she moved to New York), is clear. Her characters never escape it, whether they want to or not and irrespective of the rare foray into central London. Readers, especially those living locally, may choose to revel in the fecundity, though for many of the young professionals who now call NW home, it may be easier to observe this multicultural landscape dispassionately; just as it’s possible to spend time on Kilburn High Road yet never engage with anyone meaningfully.

“A local tip: the bus stop outside Kilburn’s Poundland is the site of many of the more engaging conversations to be heard in the city of London.”

Gazing down on NW from such a height would be a disservice to Smith’s abilities. The crowning glory of this book is its dialogue, internal or conversational (and the two often merge). Rich in vernacular and alert to linguistic trends (“It was the year everyone was saying that such and such a person was ‘their rock'”), the conversations peppered across the pages are those you hear on the streets.

Yet, for all the local detail, and the acute, native understanding of lives lived here, the setting ends up a backdrop when it feels as if Smith wanted it to be a character in its own right. Her prose doesn’t help here: the conflict between self-aware changes of pace, style and form, and the natural ebbs and flows she creates in dialogue left me tripping up; forcing me to stand back from the story rather than fall into it as if into the arms of a lively Kilburn pub.

NW has had some lofty accolades heaped on it, but it certainly hasn’t grabbed everyone. It has some gorgeous vignettes but is never the sum of its parts. It has interesting things to say about opportunity and aspiration, but fell short of making me think new thoughts, which I feel any great novel should do. It has some entertaining and insightful characters, but they are often the co-stars rather than the protagonists. Ultimately, it feels more like a book set at a precise time rather than one set in a particular place.

In a final, unsettling, move, it ends abruptly.

Zadie Smith
Penguin, 2012

Unleash your inner writer in the Hothouse

Arty West Hampstead just got even artier. Legendary award-winning author and journalist Charles Shaar Murray brings his HOTHOUSE PROJECT: JOURNALISM AS CRAFT AND ART writing course to Emmanuel Church on West End Green NW6 this month.

Even in leafy West Hampstead, not everybody wants to write — but everybody who does want to write wants to write better. You know who you are: writers, editors, beginners, veterans wanting to raise their game, bloggers and the mildly curious. You want your writing to be sharper, smoother, wittier, clearer, crisper, more evocative, more accurate, more expressive, more entertaining, more professional … just better.

Now help is so close that locals can virtually roll out of bed — pausing only to grab shoes and laptop — and into the snappiest and most stimulating writing course in town.

Charles Shaar Murray’s course commences Thursday evenings, September 26 for eight weeks, bringing you face-to-face with ‘the rock writers’ rock writer‘, ‘the original gunslinger’, ‘The Johnny Cash of rock journalism’ and ‘the Yoda of music writing’, whose four decades at the forefront of British cultural journalism earned him admirers like Danny Boyle, Tony Visconti, Wilko Johnson and Joe Strummer.

The Hothouse Project covers virtually every aspect of journalism, focusing on the craft necessary to create it efficiently and the artistic sensibility needed to do it beautifully.

And if all else fails, just ask him about memorable encounters with the likes of Bob Marley, Keith Richards, David Bowie or Miles Davis.

“I can’t guarantee,” CSM says, “to make you a great writer, or a wealthy one. What I CAN guarantee is to make a better writer than you were when you arrived.”

The Hothouse Project
‘Journalism as Craft and Art writing course’
Emmanuel Church, Lyncroft Gardens, NW6 1JU
7-9pm, Thursdays 26 September – 14 November
T: 07961 144905

Sponsored post

Sabrina Moss murder: One week on

This morning a large crowd gathered on Kilburn High Road to pay their respects to Sabrina Moss. Miss Moss who was celebrating her 24th birthday last Friday night, was shot at around 4.15 on Saturday morning outside Woody Grill and died later in hospital. Friends and family, wearing t-shirts with Sabrina’s photo on them, appealed for witnesses to come forward.

A crowd gathers on Kilburn High Road. Photo via @joepike

Sabrina’s family made a heartwrenching statement yesterday. Her sister Christina, unable to fight back the tears, said,

Sabrina was a wonderful mother, partner, daughter and sister. We miss her everyday and we would love to have her back. Only the week before she was taken away she moved into a new house with her partner and son and sadly they can’t go back. She was very caring and would do anything for those she loved and cared about.

Sabrina was very fun loving and she had great plans for the future. She wanted to have a career in youth work and wanted to help those who didn’t think they had a future.

Police have also released this video of Sabrina, taken during her birthday celebrations.

Only a week earlier, Sabrina and her four-year-old son had moved in with her partner Aaron. Her sister said,

Her son was her world and he has been left without a mummy. She will not be there for his first day at school, his first school play and his first girlfriend! But he will know that mummy loved him very much. I urge anyone to come forward with any information no matter how big or small it is. We can’t get her back but we can tell her son that the right thing has been done.

(Watch the full statement here.)

Police continue to appeal for witnesses. DCI Andy Partridge said,

We know for a fact there were people in the street on Messina Avenue when the incident took place. In particular there were two people loitering in Messina Avenue, and we know people walked past them and paid attention to them, so if they can come forward and give us information that may help up progress this investigation.

(See DCI Partridge’s full statement here.)

Anyone with any information – whether or not they think it’s important – is urged to contact the incident room on 0208 358 0300, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Sabrina Moss’s friend, Sabrina Gachette, was also shot in the incident and remains in hospital. Two men also suffered gunshot wounds, and turned up at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington. Both were arrested last week, but both have been released without charge. Meanwhile, 22-year-old Martell Warren is due to appear at the Old Bailey on Tuesday, charged with one count of murder, three counts of attempted murder and two firearms offences.

Related stories:
Sabrina Moss: Man arrested at St Pancras, last updated August 29th
Sabrina Moss: Arrested men also shot, last updated August 28th
Kilburn High Road double shootinglast updated August 25th

West Hampstead Square: All trees to be axed

West Hampstead Square, the Ballymore development on West End Lane, is still in the site clearance phase. The trees on the site will be removed very soon, but at least one group of residents wonders whether such drastic measures are necessary.

Removing the trees was all part of the original planning application, so it’s not like people weren’t warned. However, with a focus on building heights and overall design, less attention was probably paid to the fate of the trees.

This overlay shows a section of the site. The grey dots are the trees that will be removed and underneath you can see the foliage that forms part of the raised gardens for each block and trees along the access road. Click to see the full site image.

There are 32 trees on the site, according to the tree survey that was carried out two years ago. All were rated category “C”. This means that they are deemed to be of low quality or value.

Here’s the map of all the trees from the survey. Click for the large version. The trees that some locals think could be spared the axe are those to the north on the Overground railway border, which form a screen, and those at the far west of the site, which the survey suggests do not need to be removed

Looking west: taller trees to the left could be retained.
These are G1-T5 (see below)

It is of course hard to dispute the experts’ view without some experts of your own. However, it is worth looking at the detail of the text (although it does appear to be confusingly contradictory) [my emphasis].

Considering the trees collectively, they form something of an intermittent visual screen between the railways and the site, but due to the proximity of the trees to the railway lines and to walls and fences, their safe useful life expectancy is unlikely to be great – for the most part less than 20 years.

It may be possible to retain a small number of trees such as G1, G2, T3, G4 and T5. G4 has the potential to grow significantly larger as do many of the other sycamores. Coupled with their poor form they are best removed and replaced with more modest landscaping proposals, consistent with the shape and size of the site.

In line with the proposed scheme plan (Appendix A), this assessment suggests that all trees other than G1-T5 will need to be removed; whilst theoretically some further tree retention could be attempted the benefits arising from such tree retention are considered to be small in relation to the costs and difficulties arising.

The main message seems to be “remove everything”, with all but five trees needing to be removed and those five “best removed”. Those five trees are all at the very far end of the site, so would have no impact on the screen from Iverson Road.

There’s been a strong “green spaces” lobby at most local planning-related meetings over the past couple of years. The placeshaping document published by Camden last year says: “Existing green ‘chains’ and habitat corridors along the railway tracks and existing sites of nature conservation…  are highly valued by residents and need to be protected and enhanced.”

Not a lot of protection going on here.

Sycamore trees on southern boundary as of June 2012
(from Google StreetView)

The document also says,

The railway embankments are important parts of the green chains and biodiversity corridors in this area particularly due to the number of railway lines that pass through this area. It is important to ensure that these are protected and enhanced, particularly where developments are proposed alongside the railways.

The Council are also seeking to encourage partners, such as Network Rail, to ensure these lands are actively managed to ensure they help support the biodiversity of the area as a whole and work together to improve the missing green habitat link

WHGARA, the residents association for the area south of the site, has contacted Camden to see whether a stay of execution might be granted so that not all the trees are lost. After all, it points out, although the new development will have some green space (see map below, click for large version), the vast majority of this will not be of much benefit to non-residents, or even visible to them.

 Camden’s response:

This part of the railway embankment does not form part of the railway corridor open space or nature conservation designation.

There will be a number of trees planted as part of the redevelopment proposals and a number of other biodiversity enhancements such as living roofs and new landscaping. The overall balance of tree and other planting was considered and accepted … as part of the planning permission.

To me that reads like a “we’re not even going to look into this” answer, and I suppose the argument is that this was all in the public domain first time around and was passed so what’s the point.

Aerial view before demolition began (via GoogleMaps)

This leaves the tree defenders with one (not tree lined) avenue left – appeal directly to Ballymore to retain those five trees that its own survey said have the “potential to grow significantly” and do not need to be removed. Failing that, at least Ballymore will know that locals will be carefully matching up the trees that are eventually planted with those that appear on the map to make sure there’s no shortfall.

Full overlay of existing trees and proposed new trees

Ride 100 miles for The Winch

Local cycling enthusiast Eugene has had a great idea that will get you fit and raise money for The Winch. Let me hand over so he can tell you all about it.

The weekend before last, I took part in the Ride London sportive – a 100 mile ride on most of the Olympic road race course. Now, if you’re quick, you can enter the ballot for next year’s event. We’re trying to get a Team Whamp together to raise money for local youth charity, The Winch.

[Ed: after helping put together not one but two league-winning football teams, I think a cycling team is the obvious next step for my career in sports management].

What with the who now?
At the beginning of the year, Boris Johnson and Cycling Commissioner Andrew Gilligan announced Ride London – a two-day festival of cycling in the capital. This consisted of

  • A festival in Green Park, a freecycle for 50,000 people followed by a cycling grand prix featuring Britain’s Olympic women’s cyclists on Saturday 3rd August
  • A 100-mile sportive on closed roads open to both individual and charity teams on the Sunday that included some of the tough Surrey hills from the Olympics
  • A 140 mile cycle race for professional cyclists on the same course as the sportive but with three loops of Leith Hill

I was lucky to get a place on the sportive as late as May by riding for Help the Hospices, a charity that works to help local hospices raise money to fund their operations.

Eugene leans into the corner

I was far from a professional cyclist. I had cycled to school and university but then came a time I drove far more than I cycled. Once I moved to West Hampstead I realised London is a smaller city than I thought and I started commuting on a 13-mile round trip to work thinking that would be quicker than the tube during the Olympics. That was my Olympic legacy; a short experiment becoming a first choice commute. I did not renew my annual travel card.

I signed up. Then I got a place in the ballot. “What have I done?” I thought. After all, 100 miles is a big psychological barrier and my longest round trip had been 25 miles. I also had to do it in 9 hours, including stops and using a heavy mountain bike. I trained and put slick tyres on.

I changed my commute to take in more Hampstead hills (Swains Lane, Highgate West Hill) and did long rides on Saturdays. Sometimes I’d use parts of the route. You do need to put in some training if you want to make the recovery easier. Unfortunately, that also meant cutting back on certain foods and alcohol, before giving them up entirely in the month before. No-one said this kind of glory comes easy.

The peloton
If you win a place in the ballot, you are told in February, which gives you enough time to train. A month before you get confirmation of your time. There were 15,000 cyclists in this year’s event, so we started in waves from 6am to 8am.

I confess I panicked when I read that slower cyclists would be diverted onto shorter courses or taken off the course if we did not reach certain points at certain times. This was so they wouldn’t interfere with the professionals. There were Tour de France stage winners in this race – including Peter Sagan, the winner for the past two years of the green jersey for most consistent finisher.

My start time was 7.40am, and I had to get to the Olympic Park an hour earlier. I’m sure Chris Froome doesn’t have to endure this. The course goes down the A12 before turning onto the Limehouse Link. Cue cyclists of all shapes, sizes and ability, shouting “WOOHOO!” echoing off the tunnel.

We passed Tower Bridge, Embankment, Northumberland Avenue, Trafalgar Square and St. James. Once past Piccadilly, it was smooth riding to Chiswick Bridge. Although we were able to use both sides of the road, we tended to keep to the left out of habit. After Richmond Park, we went through to Hampton Court. This was the first hub where you could get your bike looked at and refuel. There were three such hubs and multiple drinks stations with food.

The first major hill was Newlands Corner – I was keeing up a reasonable pace and worrying less about being pulled off the race by the “broom wagon”, which sweeps up the stragglers. The Surrey locals were out in force cheering us on; Union Jacks were everywhere and people had tables offering cyclists drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic).

I reached Leith Hill – the one we feared. Yes, the hill is steep, you have to grind out a low gear and climb patiently. There was no shame in getting off and pushing (though I didn’t). The descent was scary through the trees but there were so many bikes that people took care.

Finally, we got to Box Hill, which still had some of the inspirational graffiti from last year’s Olympic road race. It’s a smooth road with lots of bends and not as tough as Leith Hill. From the summit, there was a series of rolling hills before Leatherhead and the final hub. It was downhill all the way to Wimbledon, by which time I admit I was in pain. I guess that’s what happens afer 90 miles. By the time we crossed Putney Bridge, the top of the the Houses of Parliament was the most welcome site all day. I turned through Admiralty Arch and, yes, I sprinted down The Mall and met some friends in the pub for a drink.

How do you help?
The grand plan is to make this the annual cycling equivalent of the marathon. The ballot for 2014 has opened and already a few whampers have put our names down. The ballot closes when there are 80,000 entries and there are 20,000 places.

If you think it sounds like a long way, well, even Boris did it – if he can, you can!

Enter the ballot for Ride London 2014 here.

London has improved as a city to ride in but, according to the Times, there were 122 cyclists killed on London Roads in 2012. Ride London could popularise cycling in ther capital and make it seem normal – and we can raise money for charity. Only force of numbers will mean better cycling infrastructure and more consideration given to cyclists by town planners and other road users alike, hopefully reducing fatalities.

Eugene raised just over £2,000 for Help the Hospices, and his Just Giving page is still taking donations.

Name the West Hampstead Square towers

Whether or not you’re a fan of the West Hampstead Square development, it’s already well underway. Some of you have been into the marketing suite, which showcases the fixtures and fittings of the apartments (vintage, despite the modern architecture), and plenty more of you have been gazing through the window at the rather large model of the development.

For people who haven’t yet realised how big this scheme is, the model (which lights up at night rather pleasingly) gives some idea. West End Lane is on the right.

The tower blocks, which range from 5 storeys to 12, are currently named “A, B, C… etc.” Dull, right?

I had a word with Ballymore and it is willing to let whampers come up with names for each building. It’s competition time folks.

Get thinking
You need to come up with a name for each of the seven blocks in the development. Ballymore (not me) will choose the winner and there’s a caveat here – because these will be actual addresses of people’s properties, they have to be approved by the council too, so bear that in mind.

The winner will be the person who makes the most suggestions that are then used in the final building names. That person will win a three-course dinner for two with a tasting glass of wine paired with each course at The Wet Fish Café, and will be invited to the opening, along with knowing that they’ve helped to shape the built landscape of West Hampstead. Should a building name that has been submitted by other readers aside from the winner be chosen, they too will be invited to the opening.

There are no other parameters. I’m sure some of you will have some choice suggestions that clearly won’t get selected, and I’m braced for people who’ll say “we’re doing Ballymore’s job for them”, but why not look at the positives, help shape the place we live and bring these buildings into the community.

If you can’t come up with seven names, then why not suggest as many as you can – they may still get selected.

As I said, there are no other criteria – i will tell you that the marketing campaign is built around “Connections”, but that doesn’t have to influence you. I’ve already bagged Jimelda Towers by the way, in honour of our local thespian couple.

Send your suggestions to . Deadline is midnight September 2nd.

Good luck

Whampbooks is Five – August 29th

This month sees the return of the ever-popular Whampbooks lock-in; the fifth edition no less.

What is this event? I hear you cry. It’s a chance to browse and stock up on some holiday reading at the lovely West End Lane Books, while drinking free wine (thanks Chelsea Square) and meeting some lovely literary locals. As if that wasn’t incentive enough, there’s 20% off all books on the night.

There’s no need to book a ticket – just turn up anytime from 7.30pm; browse, chat, mingle, drink, buy. It’s not too hard.

Put August 29th in your Moleskine diaries (yes, there’s 20% off all cards and stationery too) and we’ll see you there!

Film on Fortune Green: We’re on a mission from God

Yes! Sanity prevailed. The people spoke (well, 186 of them did) and the overwhelming winner in the vote for August 31st’s Film on Fortune Green is The Blues Brothers.

This classic musical comedy from 1980 stars Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi and was directed by John Landis. It features cameos from some of America’s musical legends – most famously Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and James Brown. It also has one of the best (and longest) car chase sequences of all time and spawned a thousand tribute bands, imitators and wannabes.

It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses.

The film starts at 7.45pm, and will once again be bike-powered (volunteers are very welcome indeed), but come earlier to grab a good spot and bring a picnic. It is a 15 certificate, though that’s really for a few swear words (always in context, of course) rather than anything more disturbing for younger kids. It’s really a glorified cartoon – and brilliant for it.

These film nights are getting more and more popular and this one should be even better. Bring your dark glasses and thin black ties and lets get our whampblues on.

Jake and Elwood Blues – They’re on a mission from God
Rapt audience for Back to the Future in June

Could Solent Road generate more parking fines?

Camden generates the third biggest surplus from parking fines in the country, according to a report from the RAC. But should one street in West Hampstead actually be generating more revenue for Camden?

According to the RAC, Camden’s surplus is £25 million (a shadow of Westminster’s £41.6 million). Camden’s own annual parking report from September 2012 gives a surplus figure of £24.3 million. Despite falling revenues from parking fines, expenditure has dropped even more dramatically as the borough has “continued the drive to implement efficiencies”, thus the surplus has grown substantially.

Source: Camden’s 2012 annual parking report

Source: Camden’s 2012 annual parking report

The surplus has to be reinvested in transport (this is a legal requirement), and just over 50% of Camden’s surplus went into discounted travel for older and disabled people last year – entirely funding the borough’s contribution to these London-wide schemes. The money can also be spent on “off-street parking” and “transport planning costs”, but neither category has received any money from the surplus in the past three years.

Source: Camden’s 2012 annual parking report

It’s clear then that it’s in councils’ interest to maximise the surplus to help fund other transport services. Motorists would no doubt wish this to be done entirely by reducing costs rather than increasing fines. However, all residents would surely expect that, as Camden’s finance chief Theo Blackwell put it, “The parking system must be based on fairness.” Interesting then to consider the case of Solent Road.

Yesterday, there was a Twitter debate about the taxi cabs, allegedly from Direct Car Services on Mill Lane, which park on Solent while they wait for jobs.

Solent Road (photo via @mustardcoleman1)

Local tweeter Nicky Coleman wrote “More cab drivers stopping residents parking on Solent Rd. Every day is the same. They block the crossroads on Solent/Glenbrook so you can’t cross. It’s a nightmare when I’m crossing with the buggy.”

Fellow local resident Jen added, “They block the double yellow lines too, making it hard to see when you’re turning out of Solent Rd.”

Another tweeter suggested that the taxis had the same right to park there as anyone else, but the problem is that this is residents parking as you can see clearly in the photo above, and their behaviour suggests that these cars do not have permits. Nicky Coleman again, “They all park up and sit in one cab chatting, and run when and if a warden shows up.”

They scarper only if a warden shows up on foot, it would seem. This morning, still on the crusade, Nicky tweeted “Traffic warden on a moped drove down Solent Road past four cabs parked up.”

It’s not unheard of for traffic wardens to be susceptible to bribes, as happened in Westminster last year. One would hope that Camden’s parking enforcement contractor has suitably stringent measures to make sure that couldn’t happen here.

Obviously, if the cars drive off when a warden shows up then it’s hard for Camden to enforce the parking restrictions although CCTV enforcement is used in some parts of the borough. There is certainly no evidence I can find that taxis are exempt from parking restrictions, with the exception of physically dropping off and picking up passengers. You can read Camden’s parking enforcement rules here [pdf].

There is also such a thing as “Dispensation to Wait”, aimed at tradespeople and that allows them to park in permit bays or on single yellow lines where restrictions allow. This costs £30 a day.

It’s worth pointing out that Camden is moving to electronic permits, so cars can be legally parked without any displayed permit in the windscreen. Be careful therefore of jumping to conclusions. Nevertheless, it would be good to get reassurance that traffic wardens, or enforcement officers as they’re now called, are actively checking minicabs when they come across them parked in permit bays, and enforcing the rule that parking on double yellow lines is never permitted.

Perhaps a tiny sliver of that £25 million surplus could go back into making sure that everyone who parks illegally pays the appropriate fine. The upshot might be an even larger surplus to spend on improving transport locally next year.

Direct Car Services has yet to respond to my request for comment.

Vote for the next Fortune Green film

Everyone agreed that the screening of Back to the Future in June was a huge success, and the Friends of Fortune Green raised enough money that night to put on another bike-powered summer film on Saturday August 31st.

Photo via Mark Stonebanks

Mark “The Hills are Alive” Stonebanks, chair of the FoFG, is determined that it should be a musical, but is leaving the choice up to the Great Whamp Public. He’s come up with a shortlist based on some early suggestions and you can vote for your favourite.

The choices are:

  • Bugsy Malone (1976, Jodie Foster, dir Alan Parker – famous for the custard gun scene)
  • Fame (1980, Irene Cara, dir Alan Parker – famous for legwarmers (but not as good as the TV series))
  • Footloose (1984, Kevin Bacon, dir Herbert Ross – famous for the theme tune)
  • The Blues Brothers (1980, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, dir John Landis – famous for being bloody brilliant)
  • Les Misérables (2012, Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, dir Tom Hooper – famous for being entirely in song)

You have to go the Friends of Fortune Green event site to vote (scroll down when you get there). Far be it from me to sway your vote in any particular direction. I shall just leave you with this.

What’s with the cucumbers?

[updated: July 16 1pm]
[updated: July 18 11am] 
[updated July 22 9am] 
[updated July 24 9.30am] 
[updated July 24 2pm]
[updated July 25 9am] 
[updated July 28 7pm] 
[updated August 5 9.30am] 
There’s an old journalist adage: two’s a coincidence, three’s a trend.

What’s going on? Are they breeding? Is this a Day of the Triffids sort of thing?

My first guess was that it was linked to the new Mexican restaurant opening where Love Food was, but as you can see in the comments below, they’ve denied this.

Then a fourth cucumber was spotted:

The mystery continued. Then, on Monday, there was a sniff of a lead:

I followed up…

Where were all the cucumbers coming from? Sainsbury’s?

On Tuesday morning – it seemed the trend was taking hold – now with added spring onions.

After a quiet day on Wednesday with no leads, there was a sighting in Chalk Farm in the evening.

This cucumber, lying in the road, was always at risk and swiftly became just another squished vegetable statistic.

A commenter below also spotted on on the platform at Burnt Oak station that same day.

The story made the national press finally, with a short piece in the Independent which sadly confused West Hampstead with Hampstead and didn’t mention this page as the top source of all local cucumber news.

On Monday morning (23rd), Mark captured this brilliant copycat cucumber move by Gospel Oak pub The Southampton Arms. The caption gives away that this is not an original cucumber though.

The media, er, frenzy continued on Wednesday with the Telegraph covering the piece in its print edition, and adding a dash of celebrity and a woeful grasp of London geography. The BBC Paper Monitor has addressed the fact that all these journalists (who surely all live in north London?) are confusing different neighbourhoods as they report the story.

Then, as if this wasn’t excitement enough, the BBC London Breakfast show wanted to talk to me about it – luckily I was out of bed in time to get the message and had my 90 seconds of fame. Presenter Paul Ross mused that a marrow in Harrow might be next!

The very next BBC London programme was Vanessa Feltz. She brought in Geoff Martin, editor of the Ham & High, who was able to shed no more light on the mystery, despite being grilled for 10 minutes about it (ff to 2h02’19”).

Geoff claimed 40 cucumbers had been spottted, though I have no idea where this – or the 36 cited in the Telegraph – comes from. Vanessa then read out the entire Telegraph article before saying “Maybe we’ll see if we can get that guy from the blog and see if he can talk to us about it.” That would be me – the producers of these programmes clearly don’t speak to each other.

The story then spread to TV. On The Wright Stuff’s review of the papers, comedian and actor Steve Furst picked out the story, though inexplicably there was some debate as to whether it qualified as news. Clearly some mistake there. Catch it here (ff to 53’02”).

The media exposure has revealed at least one more sighting:

Thursday morning (25th) and my original suspected culprit, the soon to open Mexican restaurant, spotted a cucumber in a local West Hampstead taxi. Investigations are ongoing.

It’s been a quiet weekend (thankfully). The last sighting was on Friday:

It’s now August 5th. I’d really hoped the cucumber phenomenon had waned. TimeOut had picked the story up (though who these bloggers plural are I have no clue) but no more sightings.

Then late last night, Marcia left a comment below and then e-mailed me the photo. The cucumber mystery continues…

The Kids are Alright

Cinema is becoming an increasingly expensive hobby. Add kids to the mix and it can become prohibitively costly. As the summer holidays approach we thought it would be helpful to look at how families can make significant savings on trips to the cinema, as well as highlighting special kids’ screenings both locally and elsewhere.

Let’s look at the latest kids films. Say a family of four wanted to see Monsters University in 3D this weekend at the Swiss Cottage Odeon at 3pm. A family ticket (either 2 adults and 2 under 12s, or 1 adult and 3 under 12s) would cost you £42.50. If you didn’t know about the family ticket then the damage would be worse with adult tickets £14.45 and children’s at £10.60.

Cineworld has a special offer running all summer that provides a 20% discount on family tickets for the big family films of the month (July’s is Monsters University). There are also significant savings to be made at the concession stand. It also has a ‘Movies for juniors’ stand with prices starting from just £1. The closest cinemas to NW6 are at Staples Corner and Shaftesbury Avenue.

Closer to home
The Vue on Finchley Road has a dedicated ‘Kids AM’ slot on weekend mornings (and every day during the summer holidays). Films tend to be recent but not the latest releases. Recent examples include Oz: The Great & Powerful and Brave. The cost: just £1.75 for everybody (or £3 for 3D films).

Down the road at the Odeon Swiss Cottage, the deal is similar though there are fewer films.
All tickets are £3 and screenings are on weekend mornings (usually at 11am). As with the Vue, the films tend not to be the latest releases.

The Everyman chain puts on kids’ screenings on Saturday morning in at least one of their three local cinemas. The films tend to be a bit more educational and highbrow than the multiplexes (although not always). The price is £5 for an adult and child together, but realistically you also need to factor in the additional cost of the food and drink.

Wherever you’re taking the kids this summer, make sure you check out these special offers and save yourself enough money for a well-earned cold drink after a day of herding children.

Brought to you in association with Cineworld

Competition: Kenwood House concert tickets

LIVE BY THE LAKE, the hotly anticipated series of outdoor summer concerts at Kenwood House, marks the welcome return of the English Heritage concert season. Produced by the young dynamic agency, Rouge Events, Live By The Lake’s outstanding lineup of world class music is scheduled over six days: August 23-25 and August 30-September 1; each show promises to attract up to 10,000 music and film lovers to enjoy the music and share a picnic with friends and family in more than 100 acres of Kenwood House’s beautifully landscaped gardens.

Suede kick off the season on August 23rd

Boasting the perfect mix of pop, rock, soul, classical, musical theatre and film, LIVE BY THE LAKE promises something special for every music lover in the land. Tickets are now on sale at www.kenwood.seetickets.com and there are a limited number of discounts for residents in many of London’s northwest postal districts.

Ticket holders will be able to choose a variety of reasonably priced tickets for each concert and to decide whether or not to bring their own picnic and all-weather paraphernalia! For those who want to rock up unhampered, the best of Carluccio’s Italian picnics can be ordered in advance and picked up on the day of each orchestral concert. (NB: Suede and Keane concerts will be standing room only, so picnics and chairs should be left at home and a range of drinks and delicious food will be available from the on-site concession stands).

COMPETITION: We have three pairs of tickets to give away. You can choose which concert you’d like to attend. To enter, just e-mail your name and contact phone number to . The deadline is 5pm on July 26th and winners will be announced immediately.

Here’s the full programme:
August 23rd: Suede, with special guests British Sea Power
August 24th: Royal Choral Society and the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra
August 25th: Keane and special guest Laura Mvula
August 30th: Singin’ in the Rain – film screening, score performed by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra
August 31st: Ana Maria Martinez and the English National Opera Orchestra
September 1st: Michael Ball and friends sing Gershwin

Sponsored by Live By The Lake / Rouge Events

New plays and new seating policy at the Tricycle

Indhu Rubasingham, entering her second year as Artistic Director at the Tricycle Theatre, has announced the new season of plays and some changes to the seating policy.

The new season opens in September with the UK première of Colman Domingo’s award-winning A Boy and His Soul. This is followed by the world première of Handbagged – Moira Buffini’s take on the relationship between the Queen and Margaret Thatcher. Rubasingham herself directs Stella Gonet as Margaret Thatcher and Marion Bailey as Elizabeth II.

Starting in November,  Kathy Burke directs a major revival of Mary J O’Malley’s Once a Catholic; and to complete the season, the multi-award-winning Red Velvet written by Lolita Chakrabarti and directed by Rubasingham, returns to the theatre ahead of its transfer to New York. Adrian Lester reprises his role as Ira Aldridge. Chakrabati and Lester also join the Theatre as Creative Associates, along with Rosa Maggiora.

New seating policy
Starting in September, the theatre will also introduce allocated seating throughout the auditorium. This means ticket-holders will no longer need to queue for seats before performances (hurrah – it can be a bunfight at times!). The theatre will also have some £8 preview tickets, cheaper than it’s previously been able to offer. Normal ticket prices will stay the same. Concession tickets will save £2 Tuesday-Saturday. There’s also a season ticket deal: book for three or more plays at one go and save 20%. Finally, there are a limited number of £10 tickets available for people aged 25 years and under for Monday–Thursday for the first two full weeks of A Boy and His Soul, Handbagged and Once A Catholic.

The Tricycle is also re-launching the Tricycle’s Young Company. This is free, and open to 11-25 year olds. It provide opportunities to make high quality theatre productions, and develop skills, confidence and professionalism. In March 2014, a Tricycle Takeover festival will see the Young Company present at least two new works.

Indhu Rubasingham, commenting on the new programme, said “It’s an exciting time for the company, seeing us collaborate with so many writers, actors, and directors, and to reach out to new audiences both here, and in the US, with such a diversity of work.”.

Russell jumps; Mike is pushed

We’re still a year out from the local elections, but the parties are starting to get their line-ups in order and there are a few changes in the offing. Some forced, some voluntary.

Russell Eagling has been one of the three ward councillors for Fortune Green since 2006. But, next year – after eight years as a Camden councillor – he will not stand again. “I have no guaranteed evenings to myself”, he told me. It’s the great challenge of councillor life – these people work hard and the younger ones like Russell, who was 29 when he was first elected, also have jobs.

Russell Eagling with fellow councillor Flick Rea at Gondar Gardens

Russell has been the whip of the Lib Dem group in Camden, which is more of an administrative role than a traditional parliamentary whip. He freely admits that rather than having a pet cause he’s interested in whatever the topic of the day is.

Russell is the partner of Ed Fordham, who stood as the Lib Dem candidate for Hampstead & Kilburn in 2010. However, both Russell and Ed stood for council seats in 2006 – Russell in Fortune Green and Ed in Hampstead Town. Russell won and Ed didn’t, which was always going to be awkward. With Ed failing to secure the seat in Westminster in 2010, Russell’s decision for 2014, also means that any residual awkwardness should come to an end.

I asked Russell what he has been most proud of during his time as a councillor. “The UCL academy [in Swiss Cottage] was the biggest thing,” he says. “It was a 2006 election manifesto commitment but people thought we weren’t serious. We had to fight hard and lots of barriers were thrown up so the admin side became very important.” Richard Osley’s article about the opening of the school sheds more light on the challenges.

What won’t he miss once he steps down? “Intractable casework,” is the prompt answer. “People sometimes come to councillors with terrible problems and you simply can’t pull the levers that would help them.”

Russell’s fellow Fortune Green councillors, Flick Rea and Nancy Jirira, are expected to stand again next year. Russell’s replacement on the Lib Dem list is likely to be decided next week when the party chooses its replacement parliamentary candidate in the wake of the Emily Frith debacle.

Russell jumped but Mike Katz was most definitely pushed.

Mike was elected as a Labour councillor for Kilburn ward in 2010 after previous election defeats in both council and general elections. His motivation, he says, “was a mix of wanting to give something back and helping make the world a better place (albeit in a small and local way).”

This year, he has already suffered the disappointment of being passed over as Labour’s parliamentary candidate when the party decided to enforce an all-women shortlist. Never mind, he must have thought, I’m still a councillor with a good chance of being re-elected next year. But strange things were afoot. Russell and Ed aren’t the only couple in local politics. Once again, Richard Osley has the inside track:

“There had been talk earlier in the year that Thomas Gardiner, often appearing restless to colleagues about the Labour group’s direction and progress, and his wife Maryam Eslamdoust, the councillor who irritated the leadership with comments about racial divisions at Camden Town Hall, might be open to an ambush. “Well, that was all in their f***ing minds”, was the blunt assessment of that idea today from one frustrated member.

The annoyance is because after the internal vote last night, Thomas and Maryam (also pictured) were re-selected and Mike, cast as a New Labour eagle in a nest of lefty voices, lost his place on the slate. Either the plan to bump them off had never existed or it had been warded off in the weeks running up to the vote.”

Mike maintained a dignified silence on the topic the next day on Twitter, but it’s hard to imagine that he wasn’t (and probably still is) seething.

Some of the comments following Richard’s article focus heavily on the politics of the matter and it’s left to Conservative councillor Chris Knight to point out that he’d “always found Mike to a decent bloke to work with”. But surely it’s the constituents who really matter?

Local resident Matt tweeted “Seemingly you get shafted if you put your constituents before party machine”, while Adrian wrote “Political shenanigans .. no sign of a meritocracy”. In my experience, Mike had always been very responsive to constituents’ concerns but it appears that popularity has nothing to do with it.

He responds robustly to the accusation that his parliamentary ambitions implied he wasn’t interested in his ward constituents:

“I’ve never been reticent about saying I want to stand as a councillor, or as an MP, because I think it’s better to be upfront with people and also I don’t think it’s something to be ashamed of! I don’t think it means I’m not committed to Camden – I only got elected to the council at my fourth attempt. If I was a fly-by-night, or didn’t care about my local area, I would have drifted off elsewhere long before 2010!”

Like Russell, Mike’s expresses pride over larger campaigns that he fought in – especially saving the Netherwood Day Centre, which was an early candidate for closure once the public spending cuts were implemented. He says, though, that he gets just as much satisfaction from smaller casework like helping local pensioners group KOVE get a bench on the Kilburn High Road. 

I asked both councillors what their one piece of advice would be for new councillors. Russell says “perservere”, which i think says a lot about the job of councillor. Mike says “never be afraid to ask”, which is good advice generally in life.

Mike’s replacement on the ballot sheet will be Douglas Beattie. Meanwhile, perhaps Mike’s wife Penny – herself a Labour activist – might want to think about running for office instead. Political couples seem to be all the rage around here.

NW6 Film Club: The Bling Ring on July 14th

It’s nearly time for the next instalment of NW6 Film Club, and this month’s offering is not only a great pick, but also one of the most eagerly awaited films of the year.

Sofia Coppola’s films have fallen into two distinct camps: either they focus on the reality of celebrity, especially its claustrophobic qualities (Lost in Translation, Somewhere), or they feature teenagers who are desperate and isolated from society (The Virgin Suicides). It could be argued that The Bling Ring contains elements from both strands.

The Film Club screening is at The Tricycle Cinema in Kilburn at 8pm on Sunday 14th July. We’ll meet in the bar at the Tricycle from 7.30pm. There’s no need to tell us you’re coming – though a tweet is always welcome.

You can book through the Tricycle Box Office on 020 7328 1000 – we will have a reserved block right in the centre of the cinema so mention “NW6 Film Club” if you want to sit with us (or don’t if you don’t!). It’s unlikely to be booked out so feel free to come along on the night as well.

After the film we’ll go to the Black Lion opposite the cinema for a drink and a chat. We’ll wait at the top of the stairs for a few minutes after the film finishes and head over together but if you miss us there then just head over.

The film is 90 minutes long, so there should be time for a good post-movie discussion. As always, follow @NxNW6 for updates on Twitter (or the #nw6filmclub hashtag), and hopefully we will see you on Sunday 14th.

Mark (@NxNW6) and Nathan (@nathankw)

Juggling tennis and the Jester Festival

Another year, another Jester Festival on Fortune Green. This weekend, West Hampstead’s answer to the village fête, clashes with Wimbledon finals. Still, the forecast is set fair, so tennis fans can plan to come before the matches start, and the rest of you can come later. Perfect.

If you needed any more incentive to come along then on the Sunday you can call by the West Hampstead Life stall and say hello to me and some of my guest correspondents. We’re also going to be running a Twitter clinic for those of you who aren’t quite sure what Twitter is, why you should join, or how to set it up. And we’ve got a few other things up our sleeve! We’ve got a stall near the heart of the event so no excuse!

More details on the website, but the programme is below.


On the stage

  • 12.00 Open Festival with DJ Earl
  • 12.30 Karate
  • 12.50 Bollywood
  • 1.15 Fortune Green choir
  • 2.10 Gillian Winn: West Hampstead School of Dance
  • 2.30 Mayor of Camden
  • 2.45 Guilfoyle Dance – Irish dancers
  • 3.00 Amy McBye
  • 3.30 Feel the Beat Street Dancers
  • 4.30 Mr Meaner
  • 6.00 Close

Other events

  • Kids Tent: Storytelling and Art Projects 1.00-5.00
  • Circus Skills 12.30-4.30
  • West Hampstead Community Centre: Open Sports 1.00-5.00
  • Face Painting at Chelsea Square stall 12.00-6.00
  • Puppet time with Curly Ru Puppets 1.00-4.00
  • Magician & Balloon artist 1.30-4.30
  • Dalek 1.00-5.30

Raffle: £100 Grand Prize donated by Parkheath. Other prizes donated by Bake-a-Boo, Curled Leaf, Holistic Hair & Beauty, Londis, Mill Lane Barber, Nando’s, Nautilus, Pizza Express, Tiffin Tin, The Village Haberdashery

Silent auction: Outbid your neighbour on goodies donated from local businesses: Achilea Flowers, Alice House, Bernadetta Beauty Clinic, Mill Lane Bistro, Monsters of Art, Movers & Shapers, The Private Space, Tip Toe Nails by Claire, Vini Vivi, West Hampstead Physio, Wet Fish Cafe

Fill out the festival survey for a chance to win a Tiffin Tin Voucher
See the festival programme for a free glass of wine with Sunday lunch at the Alliance Mill Lane


On the stage

  • 12.00 DJ Earl
  • 12.30 Sabrina Bronwyn
  • 1.30 Tanya Christina
  • 2.30 Praise Chapel Choir
  • 3.30 Rosie Belly Dancers
  • 3.45 Raffle Draw
  • 4.00 Dan Raz
  • 5.00 Ta Mère
  • 6.00 Close

Other events

  • Kids Tent: Storytelling, Puppet show, and Art Projects 1.00-5.00
  • Climbing Wall 1.00-6.00
  • Caricature and Portrait Workshop 1.00-5.00
  • West Hampstead Community Centre: Open Sports 1.00-5.00
  • Face Painting at Chelsea Square stall 12.00-6.00
  • Magician & Balloon artist 1.30-4:30
  • WHAT Walk: West Hampstead Village Walk, begins at West Hampstead station

Make a wish at the Kilburn Festival

Next Sunday, the Kilburn Festival takes over Kilburn Grange park.

One of the more unusual events is called “The Wishing Wall”. It will consist of 100 wooden bubbles displayed in the park. Each bubble will have been written or drawn on by members of the local community expressing a wish for the future.

Why 100? Well, it’s Kilburn Grange Park’s 100th anniversary this year. And why the bubbles? It’s to support the national Giving Voice campaign. The event’s organiser, Emma Shaughnessy, is training to be a speech & language therapist, and the Giving Voice campaign aims to raise awareness of the profession and its ability to give a voice to all members of a community through therapy.

“The Wishing Wall will be a great opportunity for members of the local community to contribute to creating a memorable artefact that everyone can reflect upon during their time in the park,” said Emma. “It’s a really fun and positive way for residents to think about what they hope for in the future.”

If you’d like to be part of this project you can e-mail Emma at . You can reserve a bubble for the day itself or, if you can’t make it on the day, Emma may be able to get a bubble to you in advance.

It’s a simple but rather pleasing idea – and with local businesses also getting involved, we may see these bubbles hanging around our West Hampstead shops after the festival.

Guerilla gardening in Fordwych Road

Residents in the north of West Hampstead may have noticed some lovely flowers popping up around the base of the trees in Fordwych Road. But it’s community spirit that’s also blooming in the NW2/NW6 herbaceous borders.

Fordwych Road treepit

If this sort of guerilla gardening sounds up your street, or you could see it on your street, then put July 11th in your diaries.

Naomi Schillinger, author of Veg Street and popular urban gardening blog Out of My Shed, will be giving an introductory talk on setting up community garden projects. These can range from the tree pits pictured above to full-scale vegetable beds.

The talk takes place at Davina House, the redbrick building on Fordwych Road, next to St Cuthbert’s Church and runs from 7-7.30pm. The event is hosted by newly formed Garden Friends NW2, which is heading up a ‘Green-up and Clean-up’ Fordwych Road initiative. You can contact the group at .

The Garden Friends has also launched an Adopt-a-Treepit project on Fordwych Road. As one of its advocates told me “The huge thing is meeting your neighbours over the flowerpits. Fordwych has been rather faceless until now”.

James Earl, chair of the Fordwych Residents Association, said “It’s great to see the planting and it’s really brightened up Fordwych Road. Local residents have been in touch to say how much they appreciate the plants and flowers. Thanks to all those who’ve put in the effort to make this happen.”

Friendliness is blossoming along Fordwych Road and there’s even a Herb Corner in the offing too.

If you can’t make the talk and want to know more about treepits, then read Naomi’s blogpost on the topic here: http://outofmyshed.co.uk/2013/01/15/edging-a-tree-pit/.

West Hampstead: Smarter than the average neighbourhood

I’ve already done some analysis of the census results locally, but it’s interesting to see them presented in an easy-to-digest form. Camden produces ward profiles, and although West Hampstead covers more than the West Hampstead and Fortune Green wards, this is a good starting point.

What these profiles also give us are the changes from 2001 (see this article from Tim Harford on how hard it can be to dig up government data).

Demographically, the two wards are very similar although West Hampstead is (slightly) better qualified, with 61% of adults holding a degree, compared to 58% in Fortune Green.

The profile documents are below, but here are the other stand-out stats:

The 60-74 year age group saw the largest increase in both wards from 2001 (from 3% to 9% in West Hampstead and 3% to 10% in Fortune Green.

The percentage of residents that were born in the UK decreased from 64% in 2001 to 57% in 2011 in both wards. The percentage of people born in EU countries (including the most recent accession countries) other than the UK and Ireland increased from 6% in 2001 to 11% in West Hampstead and 12% in Fortune Green in 2011.

Just under a quarter of Fortune Green and West Hampstead households met two or more of the ONS’ deprivation conditions in 2011, lower than Camden’s average of 29%. Deprivation conditions are when any household member is unemployed or long-term sick; no household member has at least a level 2 education and none are full-time students; any household member has long-term health problem or rates their health as bad or very bad; household is overcrowded, shared, or lacks central heating.

Car ownership fell in both wards (which could be seen as a measure of falling wealth, or rising dependence on public transport): 54% of households in Fortune Green had no access to a car or van in 2011 compared to 46% in 2001. In West Hampstead, 59% of  households didnt have access to a vehicle, up from 53% in 2001.

Ward Profile West Hampstead 2011 by WHampstead

Ward Profile Fortune Green 2011 by WHampstead

Moral dilemmas in NW6

A true short story by @UKColin

I’ve fallen for my share of scam artists who approach with a sob story about needing bus or train fare to visit a sick relative, or because they’ve been mugged, or their car has broken down. On Saturday night, a man in a blue baseball cap approached me outside of Kilburn tube station with a familiar story.

His daughter had just fallen ill that day and he was trying to raise money for the tube fare to go visit her. I gave my standard, “Sorry, can’t help you,” and kept walking.

Late Sunday afternoon, I spotted the same bloke further up Maygrove Road, and although I recognised him, he evidently didn’t remember me. When he greeted me with the same story as the day before, I replied, “You tried that on me yesterday,” and kept walking.

He called after me, “Did it work?”

I turned and replied, “No, sorry.”

He then caught up with me and struck up a conversation. He revealed that he had a drug habit, and that’s why he needs the money. “I’d rather do it this way than mug an old lady,” he explained.

I was taken aback by his honesty and attempt at causing the least amount of harm to help himself. I debated whether to try to suggest that he try to get help for his drug problem, but all I could respond with at the time was, “Oh, well, good luck to you.”

After the fact, I wished I could have offered him some advice about treatment centres or ways to earn money without having to trick people for it. But I also wanted to congratulate him for not resorting to violence to feed his habit.

Then it dawned on me that I’d just had a longer conversation with this guy than I’d had with anyone living on Maygrove Road (apart from the neighbours I chat with over the garden fence) in the seven years I’d lived here. What does that say about me? What does it say about my NW6 neighbours?

Colin Bridgewater

Paramount scoops national award

There are a lot of estate agents in West Hampstead. This is a truth universally acknowledged. However, as anyone who’s sat through Avatar will testify, quantity doesn’t always equal quality.

It is, therefore, refreshing to report when one of our esteemed agents does well. Even more so when it’s not one of the larger chains, but a West Hampstead operation.

So, credit where it’s due to Paramount who won two gold awards at The Times and Sunday Times Lettings Agency of the Year Awards 2013. Paramount won Best London Lettings Agency and Best Single Lettings Agency UK.

Karren Brady (l) presents Carla Bradman and Spencer Lawrence with their award

This isn’t just some industry back-slapping award ceremony, there is a degree of rigour involved. Nearly 5,000 offices enter, and the winners are determined by a panel of 19 industry experts who conduct an extensive review of the entrants, including mystery shopping exercises. The judging process was overseen by Christopher Hamer, the Property Ombudsman.

The judges described Paramount as an “agency that is absolutely red hot on customer service, keeps up with technology and constantly strives to move forward … always looking for ways to improve the business.”

That’ll be partly due to Carla Bradman, who lots of you know better as @west_hampstead. Carla, who runs the account, does a great job of balancing local info with property-related social media updates and engages with the community rather than trying to masquerade as a pure community resource. I’ll be honest, I’d prefer it if it used @ParamountWH as people do occasionally get Paramount’s Twitter account confused with mine but, while Carla’s hands are on the agency’s social media reins, then all is well.

Carla herself told me “We recognise that our website is our shop front to the world and have invested heavily in design and functionality for our new website (launching next month). I personally also spend a lot of time on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin – it’s a great way to meet new people, learn something new, promote a local cause (our coat collection for Hands on London, for example) and also allows us to respond to queries and feedback within minutes.

Spencer Lawrence, Lettings Director of Paramount, said “it feels great to be recognised by our industry peers for the overall approach we take to lettings. The lettings team work exceptionally hard to ensure every step of the lettings process runs smoothly, so national recognition on this scale is a great reward for all of us at Paramount”.

NW6 Film Club: Once more unto the breach

A slightly different tack for June’s NW6 Film Club – and a discount price! The Tricycle is one of the cinemas that’s teamed up with the Globe Theatre to show three productions from last year’s season at the open-air theatre on the South Bank.

First up is perennial crowd-pleaser Henry V, on Sunday June 9th. The screening starts at 5.30pm and there’s a Q&A afterwards with artistic director Dominic Dromgoole, Jamie Parker who plays the title role, and Brid Brennan who plays Queen Isabel. The screening includes the interval.

The production was very well received by the critics (see here, and here), and is always apt whenever the country finds itself in conflict – be it to support or criticise the idea of war and leadership. If you’re not sure about Shakespeare, this might be a good one to try out. The story is easy to follow, there’s not too much witty wordplay or sub-plots involving twins, and it’s fairly action-packed.

The Tricycle has very kindly given us a discount for this screening. Normally, tickets are £15, but NW6 Film Clubbers can get them for £10. To benefit from this, either ring the box office on 020 7328 1000 or book online using code “NW6FilmClub”.

You do need to book in advance for this one and we don’t have a pre-booked block of seats. However, we’ll meet beforehand in the bar as per usual, and we’ll also have a table reserved in the bar for the interval. What’s not to love?

See you there!
Mark, Nathan and Jonathan

Back to the Future on Fortune Green

This Saturday, the Friends of Fortune Green will pick up where they left off last summer with the first outdoor film screening of the year. Powered by bike (not DeLorean).

If you didn’t come to these last year, they were a great success. The premise is simple: a large screen is put up on Fortune Green and everyone bring a picnic, settles out on the grass from about 6.30 in the evening and then as the sun sets the film starts. With people cycling on fixed bikes to generate the power. Volunteers are needed to do a bit of the cycling (10 minute spells are fine) and a few bikes are also needed. Please contact FoFG if you can lend a bike for the evening.

The first film this year is 1980s cult classic Back to the Future with Michael “never gets older” J Fox and Christopher Lloyd. Sure, you’ve seen it before, but films like this always merit watching again.

The forecast is reasonably good for the week, so the FoFG are optimistic that it will go ahead. The film is PG, and it’s free thanks to sponsorship from Benham & Reeves estate agents.

The one lesson from last year: bring some bug spray.

See you there.

WIN: The Balcony Gardener book

One of the problems of living in a very built-up area like this is the lack of garden space. Ok, it’s not a problem for everyone, but deep down most of us have a need for some foliage in our life and the cactus on the shelf by the TV doesn’t really cut it.

But maybe you have a balcony? Lots of us have balconies and where there’s a balcony there’s the potential for a balcony garden.

Local green-fingered enthusiast Isabelle Palmer is here to help with her book, The Balcony Gardener.

“We all live busy lives”, says Isabelle, “If you have never had a garden before, it can be a daunting thought not knowing where to begin. I know that this was how I felt initially and, looking back, my balcony garden started out as not much more than two pot plants. So, I would suggest that you start small. By small, I mean growing easy-care and low-maintenance plants at first to start to build the foundations of what you want to achieve”

The book shows you how to turn any balcony, roof terrace or window sill into your own mini-garden with a range of inventive gardening ideas and projects.

Isabelle provides lots of tips and advice for the small space-gardener as well as including a number of creative window boxes for those time-poor lazy gardeners among us who yearn for a blossoming garden with little effort and low maintenance.

If you’re into food, Isabelle shows how to plant a selection of culinary herbs and who would have thought that a simple window box can easily provide you with tomatoes, strawberries, carrots , courgettes and all-year round
salad leaves?

Tempted? Well, guess what! You can win a copy of The Balcony Gardener (worth £14.99 – and otherwise available from www.cicobooks.co.uk). To enter, simply tell us which form of transport appears in one of The Balcony Gardener‘s Terrariums. Mail your answer to with the subject line “The Balcony Gardener”. The winner will be drawn at random from the correct answers received by Friday 17th May. Open to UK residents only.

Win a year’s Zipcar membership!

Owning a car in West Hampstead always seems a bit pointless. Three bus routes, three rail stations, even more within walking distance… who needs the hassle and expense of insurance, parking permits, the congestion charge? Plus, I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but cars are all kinds of expensive to buy.

But then there’s that trip to IKEA you have to do (have you even tried walking back to Neasden station with a flatpack of Malm drawers – my advice, don’t), there’s the impromptu weekend away, or helping a friend move house. Even if we don’t love them, it’s hard to deny that cars are useful from time to time.

Car clubs have been around a while now, and West Hampstead is really the ideal location for them. There’s enough on-street parking plus the enormous car park by the O2 centre where we can park even more. Even councils like car clubs and ask for designated parking spaces for them in big new developments.

Zipcar is the world’s largest pay-as-you-drive car club. It has more than 777,000 members in five countries and more than 1,500 vehicles in London alone. There are 10 times as many Zipcar locations as there are Starbucks in London offering VW Polos, Golfs, Tourans, Audi A3s and even vans. There are plenty of cars locally as you can see:

How does it work?
There are no fixed costs: Zipcar takes care of insurance, road tax, maintenance, roadside assistance and the congestion charge. All reservations also include 40 miles of fuel per day.

The Zipcar iPhone and Android apps make booking a car easy – you can find and reserve Zipcars in minutes. You can even honk the horn to locate your car and unlock the doors

Annual membership costs £59.50 and rates start at just £5/hr. I’ll do the maths for you: the typical Zipcar member saves £264 per month (£3,162 per year) compared to owning their own vehicle.

And you can win a year’s membership and £50 of driving credit with West Hampstead Life.

Think what you could do with 10 hours of driving time. In fact, don’t just think about it: tell us. To win a year’s membership and the £50 of credit, set out in no more than 80 words what you’d do and where you’d go in 10 hours…. starting in West Hampstead, of course. Send your entries to .

Your deadline is 5pm May 15th. The winner will be contacted on May 17th. Please read the terms and conditions below (specifically, you must be at least 21 and hold a full valid driving licence); entering the competition means you accept the T&C.

Sponsored post

Terms & conditions
1. Entrants must be UK residents, at least 21 years-old, and be eligible to join Zipcar.
2. Purchase of Zipcar membership is not necessary to enter.
3. Entries (max one per person) must be submitted by 5pm BST on 15th May 2013.
4. One prize will be awarded of a year’s membership of Zipcar together with £50 of driving credit.
5. Participation in this competition is subject to the full Terms and Conditions of the Competition (http://www.westhampsteadlife.com/p/zipcar-competition-full-terms-conditions.html?m=1).
6. Entering and participating in the competition constitutes acceptance of the Competition’s full Terms and Conditions.

Local geology and basement excavations

If you’re interested in learning more about the impact of basement excavations on groundwater – and it’s a hot topic in many parts of West Hampstead, then go along to St Stephen’s Church on the aptly named Pond Street in Hampstead on May 23rd.

Dr Michael de Freitas is Reader Emeritus in Engineering Geology at Imperial College, a former vice-president of the Geological Society and former chairman of its Engineering Group. He has also advised the Heath & Hampstead Society on how our local ground conditions can affect basement construction.

Doors open at 7pm, and the talk begins at 7.30pm. It’s not free I’m afraid. It’s £10 on the door; £8 in advance, £6 full-time students/unemployed. However, this does includes a glass of wine or soft drink – presumably water is free.

For advance bookings (tickets held at the door) please send a cheque for £8 payable to ‘Heath & Hampstead Society’ to: Vicki Harding, Heath & Hampstead Society, Garden Flat, 19 Frognal Lane, London NW3 7DB.

Godzilla in Hampstead

If you’ve been to Camden Arts Centre over the past few weeks then you’ll have seen the rather amazing T-Rex/Godzilla sculpture by Serena Korda. If you’ve looked more closely you’ll have spotted a couple of harnesses inside it – yes, it’s designed to move!

This Saturday, the 9ft-tall latex beast will embark on a procession from the Arts Centre on the corner of Arkwright Road and Finchley Road up to Hampstead Heath where the performance will culminate with a re-enactment of The Battle of the River Plate in Whitestone Pond, where the monster will be waiting. This one took a while to get council approval but it promise to be one of the local events of the spring.

The excitement kicks off at 3pm at the Arts Centre and they’d like you to let them know if you plan to participate.

Korda’s beast in Blackpool

Logo competition: Local forum seeks identity

The local Neighbourhood Development Forum should get the all-clear from Camden council next month, which means it can go full steam ahead with drafting the actual plan.

The experience of other Neighbourhood Development Plans is that strong visual imagery helps people understand what the NDF is all about, and having a unifying logo for all communications is A Good Idea.

To that end (and because while the government is all for localism it doesn’t want to actually give any money to help), the NDF is holding a competition to design its logo. The winning entry will get glory, fame and a meal for two at The Kitchen Table.

Naturally, the NDF would love any local graphic designers to get involved in this community project, despite the lack of funds for payment – though any non-professional budding artists are also very welcome to enter. There may also be the opportunity for some follow-up paid work, as a small amount of funding may come available in a few months, but no promises on that score.

Here’s the brief, which as you’ll see, leaves plenty of room for artistic interpretation.

  • The name of the organisation is “Fortune Green and West Hampstead Neighbourhood Development Forum” although it’s likely to be referred to as just the “West Hampstead NDF”
  • The logo will be used on all communications: e-mail, twitter, leaflets, posters, banners etc – so it needs to be fairly flexible and work on a small and large scale.
  • There’s no set colour or font, but again, the font and colour scheme are likely to be used widely.
  • The committee feels that it should reflect both the traditional and modern aspects of the area, especially given the developments being built around the stations and the fact that the development plan may not be “anti-development” per se.

The deadline for submissions is Monday 13th May, please mail your entry to the committee at and contact them for any more details.

To find out more about what the forum is trying to achieve, check out its website or read more of my articles on its evolution over the past few months.

Up with the larks in Fortune Green

On Saturday May 4th, there’s a “Dawn Chorus” walk in and around Fortune Green. It’s limited to 15 places and booking is essential.

Venue: Starting from the middle of Fortune Green (at the crossroad of paths) and moving into Hampstead Cemetery. After the walk, join us for breakfast at a nearby house (optional).

Leader: Dave Lawrence, formerly of Camden’s Conservation Department.

Equipment: A pair of binoculars would be helpful, but is not essential. Warm clothing is essential!

Booking: To book a place on the walk please email (or if you don’t have email please drop a note in to 3 Ajax Road). Also let us know if you would also like to join us for breakfast.

NW6 Film Club: The Look of Love

In April the film club saw Trance, which was enjoyed by almost everyone.

Our next movie is also London-based and also the work of an original and eclectic British director; in this case Michael Winterbottom. His latest film, The Look of Love, reunites Winterbottom with Steve Coogan (they worked together on 24 Hour Party People and the recent TV series The Trip) to tell the life story of strip club entrepreneur Paul Raymond.

Winterbottom certainly has a thing about sex and movies – his Nine Songs is supposedly the most explicit film to get a general release in the UK. He’s also a highly political director (Road to Guantanamo and The Shock Doctrine). So will this be a thoughtful examination of the politics of pornography and exploitation or a sexy romp through Soho? Come along on May 5th and find out.

The film is screening at The Tricycle at 8pm on Sunday 5th May and tickets are already available.

How do I book?
Through the Tricycle Box Office on 020 7328 1000. We have a block of seats reserved right in the middle of the cinema so mention “NW6 film club” if you want to sit with us (or don’t if you don’t!). It’s unlikely to be booked out so feel free to turn up on the night as well.

How do I find you?
We’ll meet up in the bar area at the Tricycle from 7.15pm, so collect your ticket and come and say hi. You’ll spot the crowd! There’s no need to tell us you’re coming – though a tweet is always welcome.

After the film we’ll go to the Black Lion opposite the cinema for a drink and chat. It’s a bank holiday weekend (hurrah) so do come along for a post movie meetup.

It’s going to be a great night, I hope you can join us. As always, follow @NxNW6 for updates or the #nw6filmclub hashtag.

NW6 Film Club: Trance on April 7

It’s nearly time for the third instalment of the monthly NW6 Film Club, and this month’s offering is a great pick!

Trance is Danny Boyle’s (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, 28 Days Later) first film since his legendary Olympic opening ceremony last summer and looks set to be another rollercoaster ride.

Simon (James McAvoy), a fine art auctioneer, teams up with a criminal gang to steal a Goya painting worth millions of dollars but after suffering a blow to the head during the heist he awakens to discover he has no memory of where he hid the painting. When physical threats and torture fail to produce answers, the gang’s leader Frank (Vincent Cassel) hires hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson) to delve into the darkest recesses of Simon’s psyche. As Elizabeth begins to unravel Simon’s broken subconscious, the lines between truth, suggestion, and deceit begin to blur.

The film is screening at The Tricycle at 20:00 on Sunday 7th April and tickets are already available.

How do I book?
Through the Tricycle Box Office on 020 7328 1000- we have a block of seats reserved right in the middle of the cinema so mention “NW6 film club” if you want to sit with us (or don’t if you don’t!). It’s unlikely to be booked out so feel free to turn up on the night as well.

How do I find you?
We’ll meet up in the bar area at the Tricycle from 19:15, so collect your ticket and come and say hi. You’ll spot the crowd! There’s no need to tell us you’re coming – though a tweet is always welcome.

After the film we’ll go to the Black Lion opposite the cinema for a drink and a chat. The film is only 100-something minutes long so there should be time for a good post-movie discussion.

It;s going to be a great night, I hope you can join us. As always, follow @NxNW6 for updates or the #nw6filmclub hashtag.

Mark (@NxNW6) and Nathan (@nathankw)

More management than medicine?

On Tuesday, the West Hampstead Medical Centre – the GP surgery on Solent Road – held a public meeting ostensibly to explain its new appointment system and keep patients up to speed with developments. Marcia MacLeod went along to find out more:

“I nearly lost the will to live. A room full of about 100 people, no microphone, and speakers with such quiet voices that no one at the back could hear; many left. Finally – after a good hour – some bright spark suggested the speakers stood on the side of the audience, half-way down the room.

But was it worth listening to the West Hampstead Medical Centre’s doctors and Patient Participation Group chairman in the first place? Hmmm…that’s debateable. The event was billed as an opportunity for patients to hear about the new booking system and new ways the practice wants to work with their patients, and a chance for us to tell them what we want and need from the doctors and receptionists. Unfortunately, it turned out like so many other public meetings: more than half was taken up with the renegotiation of Personal Medical Service Contracts (no, I’ve never heard of them, either, but they are really beyond the influence of patients; but more later) and Key Performance Indicators; and, as always, there were a couple of people with their own very dull axes to grind, dealing with their own personal situations.

The PMS Contracts are things that many practices – including West Hampstead – sign with their local Primary Care Trust to ensure they get paid an agreed rate for the work they do with NHS patients. All PMS Contracts expire at the end of March, requiring practices to re-negotiate new ones, including new fees. And this time the fees are going down, which means the Practice will have less money to deal with the same number of patients.

To make matters worse, the fee is in part dependent on KPI – how often they meet targets for various aspects of their work, with each KPI met earning a certain number of points. Although we were told that we – through the Patient Participation Group – can help decide the KPIs that should be measured, the ‘pilot schedule’ includes such exciting things as recording the percentage of infants that are breastfed; the percentage of patients with newly diagnosed mental health problems and who smoke; and the percentage of obese adults that are referred to weight management services and followed up on their next visit. Hell, even having a Patient Participation Group that helps to ‘influence service redesign’ is worth five points.

There were some good ideas thrown about at the meeting, though. Could we have blood taken at the practice instead of having to go to the Royal Free? Could the over-65s have a regular review and discussion with their doctor about their current and future projected health? Could there be extra support services for people coming out of hospital? Could children ‘piggyback’ on their parents’ appointments, so that the mum coming in for herself could bring the son or daughter who had a minor ailment, too, thereby reducing the need for a second appointment, and freeing up the doctor’s time to see another patient?

But by the time we got to the really interesting part – the bit that discusses the dreaded appointment system and how it can be improved – time was running out. But the practice manager, Tushar Shah, did explain – quickly – that a new system will be trialled this summer with the aim of staggering phone calls from patients wanting appointments, so that instead of everyone calling at 8.30am, there will be different time periods in which to phone; a new phone network to facilitate the changes; and the possibility of introducing walk-in appointments for non-urgent cases.

We’ll just have to wait and see what happens. It is unlikely that any of these ideas will have an awful lot of impact due to the sheer size of the practice, which has 10,000 patients on its books. The most logical solution is to employ another doctor – but then, the new PMS Contract won’t cough up nearly enough money for that.”

Gloves off for Easter egg challenge

This Sunday, Gloves Boxing Club is holding “The Eggstravaganza Rabbit Punch”.

Participants meet on Fortune Green at 10am, look out for clues on Twitter and Facebook and in teams of two (apparently tied together three-legged-race style) go and find some of the 320 eggs scattered across 10 locations in West Hampstead.

Return with your stash to Gloves on Broadhurst Gardens at 3pm and find out who’s wone prizes from local businesses and who’s won the Golden Egg, which is worth a year’s membership at the boxing club (value £1,250). For an unbiased review of the club from a first-timer, check out @ZENW6‘s recent review.

All the details for Sunday’s event are on Facebook (it seems you have to register there).

Reducing collisions on Kilburn High Road

Kilburn High Road has developed a reputation for dangerous junctions: there have been more than 100  accidents over the past couple of years. At the last Area Action Group meeting for Kilburn ward, Brian Deegan and Jacqueline Saunders from Camden Council’s Transport Strategy team gave a presentation on transport improvements in the area Kilburn.

Thanks to Nick Kimber at Camden for these notes:

Jacqueline explained that Camden was working with Brent to deliver area improvements and discussed how funding for improvements came from the Local Implementation Plan. She also said that Kilburn had been highlighted as a key area for investment. Camden would like to reduce the number of collisions and road danger and improve accessibility; Jacqueline also stressed that it was important to improve the character of the area and establish a sense of place.

Brian asked residents to think about routes they would like to improve in the area and highlighted Kilburn High Road, West End Lane and Abbey Road as areas of particular concern.

Residents responded that Quex Road was a particularly difficult road to cross and was heavily congested, and that illegal parking was causing problems on Belsize Road and Willesden Lane. Brian showed how clustered the locations of collisions in the area were – note that the high road isn’t “highlighted” in the map, those are all separate accidents.

Kilburn High Road collisions for three years up to July 2012:
151 collisions: 77 (51%) involving pedestrians or cyclists (51 pedestrians, 26 cyclists)
20 of all collisions (13%) were “killed or serious injury”:  8 of which were pedestrians – 6 serious, 2 fatalities.

This showed a persistent problem along the whole of the High Road [it also shows that West End Lane is also relatively dangerous], indicating that junction fixes at specific locations would not resolve the underlying issue. Over the past three years, 151 collisions have been recorded and residents were keen to stress that there had been two fatalities in the past six months alone.

Residents then spoke about the issues they had encountered with Kilburn High Road, which included:

  • long waiting time at signal crossings
  • short amount of time given to pedestrians to cross the road
  • difficulty cycling along the High Road
  • lack of parking for shoppers
  • lack of parking enforcement leading to congestion

Brian showed an idea from Brent for a road with a central median strip and street trees and asked if  residents would support a similar scheme on Kilburn High Road. One resident said that the proposal was not practical and that the ideas had been looked at and dismissed in the past. Other residents could see the benefits of being able to cross the road in stages where they wanted too.

The “Brent Idea” (looks like Willesden Green to me!)

BD asked residents if there were any other transport issues they would like the Council to look at and the following suggestions were put forward:

  • look at the cycle route that runs by the side of Tesco
  • look at resolving parking and traffic management issues deriving from the development on Abbey Road
  • could cycle lanes be introduced on Kilburn High Road
  • could Camden reinstate the pedestrian refuge island on Quex Road
  • could the footway on Kilburn High Road be repaved and the street clutter reduced.

Concerns were also raised about potholes and road maintenance in general and Brian confirmed that there were plans to resurface Kilburn High Road in the next year. Jacqueline pointed out that it was important to find the right balance on a street between businesses and residents.

The introduction of a controlled zone was suggested by one resident to reduce the dominance of heavy goods vehicles, which it was suggested brought little benefits to the people of Kilburn. A low emission zone could be considered as part of this controlled zone. By the end of the session Brian and Jacqueline  confirmed that Kilburn would be prioritised for funding and that officers would look into the suggestions put forward by residents to improve their area.

Residents who would like to make further suggestions or seek more clarification on transport developments in Kilburn can contact the officers and

Big Bamboozle promises great afternoon out

Looking for something different to do on Saturday? Want to keep the kids entertained or try out some great food? Don’t want to stray too far from home? The Camden Arts Centre’s special open day may be the place to go. The Big Bamboozle runs from 2-5pm and there’s an amazing range of things to do, see and eat.

In case you’ve not been paying attention of late, the Camden Arts Centre isn’t in Camden Town it’s right here in our own bit of north-west London on the corner of Finchley Road and Arkwright Road. It’s a five minute walk from Tesco in fact.

The day is built around the “overlooked” artist Finchley Arkwright-Keslake-Esssendine (work with me here people), and the centre is going to be transformed into her home while the garden (weather permitting) will be where Street Feast traders will set up stall. Although there is a fundraising element to the day, it also offers a great opportunity to see the centre and perhaps get involved in activities – almost all of which are free and many are open to all ages. So if you want to decorate a clock, learn about the art and craft of diary keeping or immortalise your index finger in plaster you know where to come.

The galleries themselves will also be open if you want to look at the latest exhibitions.

There’s also a special evening event, which is not free. Tickets are £99 each for that, which gets you more food, and all manner of entertainment.

Cake and consultation for Women’s Day

It’s International Women’s Day this Friday – arguments aside about whether 50% of the population should probably get more than 1/365th of the days – it’s a day that highlights inequality at both global and local levels.

West End Lane solicitors, Karina Leapman & Co. are supporting Oxfam to raise funds on the day:

“On 8 March, we are selling home made baked goods from outside West End Lane Books on 277 West End Lane and handing out vouchers for 20 minute consultations with a family law solicitor for a minimum donation of £20 towards this cause between 11 and 22 March 2013 (for a limited number of people.)

Millions of women and children live in poverty, where hard work is not enough. We want to take some time to remember these women and help them empower themselves to come out of poverty, receive healthcare, education and food. Surely these are birth rights!

Come and join us, buy a snack for your coffee and make a donation.”

Read more about Oxfam’s “Let’s Get Together” campaign.

NW6 Film Club: Stoker on March 3rd

It’s nearly time for the second installment of the monthly NW6 Film Club, and this Sunday’s offering should be a nice contrast to Zero Dark Thirty, which we saw last time.

The film this time is Stoker – a film with a heritage as intriguing as its plot.

An American production by a Korean director, inspired by Hitchcock and Bram Stoker – it’s part horror, part romance, part family drama. It has an amazing cast including Nicole Kidman, and is getting great reviews. It sounds like it should have something for everyone!

The film is on at The Tricycle at 8pm on Sunday 3rd March.

We’ll meet up in the Bar Area at the Tricycle from 7:15 once you’ve got your ticket. There’s no need to tell us you’re coming – though a tweet is always welcome.

You can book through the Tricycle Box Office – we have a reserved block right in the centre of the cinema so mention “nw6 film club” if you want to sit with us (or don’t if you don’t!). It’s unlikely to be booked out so feel free to come along on the night as well.

After the film we’ll go to the Black Lion opposite the cinema for a drink and a chat. We’ll wait at the top of the stairs for a few minutes after the film finishes and head over together but if you miss us there then just head over.

The film is only 90-something minutes long so there should be time for a good post-movie discussion. If you can’t make it to the pub, please tweet your mini-review with the tag #nw6filmclub and we’ll compile them into an online meta-review.

As always, follow @NxNW6 for updates or the #nw6filmclub hashtag, and hopefully see you on Sunday.

Nathan (@nathankw) and Mark (@NxNW6)

What, where, when: Fordwych Residents Association

What exactly IS a residents association, and why might you want to become part of your local one? To kick off a round-up of all the local ones, James Earl introduces the Fordwych Residents Association, which he chairs.

“The Fordwych Residents Association (FRA) is a long-established and active group in the local area, representing the views of members and residents in its immediate area and the wider West Hampstead community.

The area covered by the FRA is essentially Fordwych Road and its adjoining streets. This means we cover a diverse area, from Maygrove Road and Kilburn in the south – up to Richborough Road and Cricklewood in the north.

The FRA normally has meetings every two to three months, which are open to anyone living or working in our area. Our next meeting is on Monday 4th March. We also have a Christmas event and organise social events, such as a party for the Diamond Jubilee last year.

The issues we cover include the ultra-local: such as pavements, litter and bins – to recycling, local planning applications and the policing of the area. We also work with a number of other West Hampstead groups, such as WHAT (West Hampstead Amenity & Transport) and were one of the first local groups to support the formation of a Neighbourhood Development Forum. We work closely with our neighbouring residents associations, our ward councillors, the Sidings Community Centre, Friends of Maygrove Peace Park and the Cricklewood Improvement Programme.

In terms of planning issues, we were heavily involved in discussing the plans for the 1 Mill Lane development (and the new green space behind it) – as well as the new developments on Maygrove Road.

For those wanting to know more, you can see our website: www.fordwych.org.uk and follow us on twitter @FordwychRA.

If you would like to join and/or be added to our mailing list, please email: .”

Profile: Flick Rea “It’s payback time”

In our occasional series of profiles of notable locals, Moya “Scoop” Sarner spoke to Fortune Green ward councillor Flick Rea.

“Flick Rea’s home is a testament to her passions, from the theatre posters on her wall, to the ‘I heart Kilburn’ bag hanging off her kitchen chair. And, of course, Mr Monster, her cat who has his own Facebook fan page (although at the last count, he only had four likes, and one of them was mine).

Flick Rea & Mr Monster

She’s one of West Hampstead’s most recognisable faces, not only because of her standing in local politics (a councillor for Fortune Green, she was first elected in 1986), but because she’s lived here for 43 years and she knows it better than anyone.

“There’s something unusual about West Hampstead,” she says. “It’s in the air, it’s on the water, it’s in our bones – it isn’t like anywhere else. It’s much friendlier than anywhere else in London, and it’s always been a harmonious place to live. Although some neighbours might not get on, we don’t have large pockets of people who can’t stand other parts of the community. And although there are a few people who will hang on tight to the past and fight against new flats or shops, most of the changes in this area I appreciate enormously.”

She has certainly seen a lot of changes. “The place is cleaner, tidier, greener. When I first lived here, it was bedsit land, but now a lot of the cheap housing towards the north end has been turned into beautiful family houses. Iverson Road is transforming as you look at it. They’re all smartening themselves up with new gates, you can see how the area has changed just by counting the burglar alarms.”

Flick first became involved in politics nearly 40 years ago, while she was trying to cross the Finchley Road. “It all started when I was standing in the middle of the road, screaming at the traffic because I couldn’t get across to collect my kids from school – they were down at Holy Trinity opposite Waitrose. I was shouting at all these cars when a frightfully nice woman came up to me, and said ‘Oh I know how you feel, isn’t it dreadful, all these cars? I think we should do something.'”

The next thing she knew, Flick was on a protest. Without permission from the police, a group of them walked, placards and children in hand, round and round West End Green, crossing Mill Lane and West End Lane in a circle, blocking the rush hour traffic.

Soon after, she became a founding member and secretary of the local campaigning group WHAT – West Hampstead Amenity & Transport. Traffic protests and newsletters led to delivering leaflets and addressing envelopes for the Liberals, and, eventually, Flick was elected as a local councillor for the Liberal Democrats in 1986. She also created Spotlight, the local party’s “attempt at a newsletter”, as she calls it, which is still going strong. It was her husband, Charles Rea, who drew the recognisable cartoon logo of an old-fashioned theatre spotlight, a reference to their acting careers.

Flick’s was cut short by the birth of her two children, now with families of their own, but it’s easy to spot her RADA training when she’s in command a council meeting or giving a reading at a local event – or, indeed, being charming and funny in interviews.

Charles was “a very good actor and a lovely man,” Flick says. He died 20 years ago, and his memory sings out from the posters on Flick’s wall advertising his plays as well as from her anecdotes. As for the other cartoons he drew for the newsletter, they don’t get much of a look-in these days, as Flick explains: “I used to use two cartoons to illustrate news stories – a little lady with a shopping basket and a headscarf, and a man with a cloth cap and a stick. But Keith [Moffitt, Lib Dem councillor for West Hampstead] said people in West Hampstead don’t look like that any more, and now I’m only allowed to use them about once an election if I want to represent pensioners. It’s a great concession to me,” she concludes, dryly. An apt illustration, if you’ll excuse the pun, of how NW6’s demography has changed.

When I ask why she’s still involved in politics, her answer is disarmingly honest: “It’s certainly not for the money! What I absolutely love is the entitlement to poke my nose into all sorts of places. Somebody once said ‘Flick Rea would come and inspect my toilet if I let her!’ I like hearing what’s going on, being early with the news, and I really, really care about where I live. I love West Hampstead and I want to make it better. And, I hate to say this because it sounds goody-goody, and I’m not, but, it’s payback time. I’ve had a very privileged and lucky life, not exactly free from financial stress but I’ve never had to endure some of the things that other people have to put up with. If I can do something to help others, this is a good way of doing it.”

If this does sound a bit goody two-shoes, Flick’s wry demeanour returns upon mention of fellow actress-turned-local political figure Glenda Jackson. “She was the year above me at RADA. Our paths have relatively rarely crossed then or since” Enough said.

Could she ever leave? “In a box. I never want to leave West Hampstead. I’ve sorted my house out so that I can live on the ground floor when stairs become a problem. When we first moved here, into a bedsit on Fawley Road, I went to the shops on West End Lane and I remember walking back with a bunch of daffodils and thinking ‘This is just the best place.’ And so it is.”

Get spinning for charity

Fancy tackling a three hour spin class – all for charity? I thought so. Read on dear friends, read on.

Long time #whamper (well, ok, technically Willesdener), Esther Foreman is doing an Arctic hike for the MS Society in April. Esther, who has MS herself, is a trustee of the MS Society which is based in Cricklewood.

The trip involves travelling over 250 km in the frozen wilderness of northern Norway and into Sweden. The group will be camping in temperatures as low as -20°C and experiencing gruelling 14 hour days.

Aaaanyway, while you can of course donate cash in the usual way, you can also get involved in a more active way. The Virgin Active gym in Cricklewood is sponsoring a 3-hour spinathon on Sunday March 3rd from 10am to 1pm to help Esther raise the funds she needs. It costs a minimum of £10 to secure a bike and you don’t have to be a member of the gym to take part (you can also use other gym facilities such as the pool and steam room while you’re there) and there’ll be fruit and water provided.

It’s basically a three hour spin class with five instructors to keep you on your toes, or pedals, or something. And all for a good cause. There may even be prizes! To take part, head over to Esther’s donation page and everything is explained there.

Green fingered women wanted

The West Hampstead Women’s Centre, which occupies the Old Kilburn Library on Cotleigh Road, is looking for volunteers to help with its community garden.

Daffodils? The WHWC’s garden is already sprouting!

Every Wednesday afternoon you can not only do a bit of planting, but then learn how to cook with what you grow. I think it sounds good – but sadly I don’t fit the demographic.

Anyway, for more information e-mail Sarah, go to Facebook, or see the poster below.

Bring an open mind to Open Space

You know how you have an idea, or a problem, or just something that’s bugging you? The kind of thing that maybe you find yourself turning over and over in your mind at 3 in the morning. How about chatting about it with a few locals and getting their perspective. You can do it with your friends, but sometimes it’s good to get the point of view of someone who doesn’t know you and has no preconceptions.

Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in West Hampstead any more

This is where Open Space comes in. It’s a new idea by a couple of locals. You can read all about it here, but in essence the idea is for a few people to meet in the pub and discuss the issues they face. Check out the webpage and if it sounds like your sort of thing, then drop them a mail.

Burst pipes, broken communication?

Burst water pipes. They happen. It’s annoying. You might lose water for the day, which – depending on your needs – is either slightly or extremely inconvenient but it’s a day, and you’ll cope.

If the water pipe is under a main road then that road will probably have to be closed and dug up and naturally that adds to the inconvenience. These are day-to-day occurrences for the public and privatised bodies that deal with our utilities. It’s easy to see that for them it’s just another job number. But they must also surely recognise that for the residents involved this is a fairly unusual and disruptive state of affairs. It is not too much to expect, therefore, for them to do everything they reasonably can to minimise that inconvenience. Overall I think we can say that in this latest incident on West End Lane, this has not happened.

Aside from the large pipe that burst, this past week has seen a spate of other burst pipes in the area. It looks like we’re in for some lengthy upgrade works, which means more disruption. Again, this happens. Stuff breaks and has to be fixed. You don’t get the Victorian architecture without some Victorian infrastructure that needs repairing.

Newly painted road markings (via @RentalFlatsNW6)

The good news is that this latest batch of burst pipes should bump us a few places up the priority list for upgrade. The bad news is that although the original stretch of West End Lane should reopen today, the leak at Cleve Road is more complicated than it looks and this section of West End Lane may also need to be closed for a few days. Perhaps if that happens then we can learn the lessons from this past week’s somewhat farcical situation.

First, it’s still not clear why there was a gap of several hours last week between Thames Water turning up to examine the West End Lane leak and Camden closing the road so they could start work on it. On Twitter, Camden told me they were looking into this but I’m yet to hear any answers.

Second, although Thames Water repaired the leak reasonably quickly, fixing the road has taken an inordinate amount of time. I realise that they have to prioritise – which is why some leaks gets fixed immediately and others, which don’t cause loss of water supply or that risk damaging property, can take weeks. However, a busy main road that is on three bus routes is surely something of a priority? We were told on Wednesday that the road would be closed until Saturday, and that Camden then hoped to continue its own road resurfacing. Two days to fix a hole in the road – even a large hole – seemed reasonable. Problem was that not a lot happened on Friday. Then there was some activity on Saturday. But not a lot on Sunday. Today, Monday, it looks like it’s going to finally be fixed and reopen. But why did nothing happen on Friday and Sunday?

Do the budget cuts at Camden mean there’s no-one left to chase Thames Water? Do such things just fall through the cracks. Is there too much trust placed on the utility by the council? It’s true that Camden insisted that Thames make good the whole section of road in order to maintain the integrity of the road surface, which added time. But there was so much downtime on this job – or at least appeared to be – that they could have probably done the rest of the West End Lane while they were at it.

In the age of Twitter and the demand for greater transparency and information, these bodies need to up their game. Camden, Thames Water, and me(!) were being asked all day what was happening. Thames, which I think is generally ahead of the game in terms of using Twitter, was not hugely responsive; Camden presumably didn’t know – or at least the people manning the Twitter feed were too far removed from the people who knew the answers. I just felt like starting a “Is West End Lane open yet” websites that just showed a big “NO”.

What SHOULD happen is that people go to Thames Water’s neat interactive map that lets you check the status of reported leaks. Yet this simply isn’t up-to-date enough. People expect real-time information in 2013, and surely it’s not a major IT task to have status data uploaded from the senior person on-site into the database that underpins the map? Yet, if that’s supposed to happen, it does not. Right now the map says “We’re aware of a leak on West End Lane” – that’s the one they’ve already fixed. The Cleve Road leak doesn’t even get a mention.

Third, TfL dropped the ball. On Friday I bumped into a heavily pregnant woman on West End Lane at the corner with Broadhurst Gardens. She asked if I knew what bus to get to Kilburn. I had to tell her that her best option – short of a taxi – was to walk down Sherriff Road. TfL, generally fairly on the ball with dealing with closures, was saying on its bus countdown app that the buses were all running fine despite the fact that the road was impassable and all three buses – the 139, 328 and C11 – were on diversion. The full website has all the details, but surely there should be a trigger that can ensure the right information comes to our smartphones?

Sure, West Hampstead isn’t Oxford Street. Sure, residents had their water supply turned back on reasonably quickly. And sure, none of this stuff is the end of the world. But the knock-on effects are frustrating to say the least. This main leak has now taken six days to fix, and means another weekend of disruption as Camden will have to come back and do the original resurfacing work it had to cancel for this past weekend.

Everyone concerned can do better.

West End Lane should reopen this evening

West End Lane is scheduled to reopen around 6pm today. One of the reasons for the delay (and there’s a separate post on this coming up net) is that Camden has insisted that Thames Water make full repairs to the road rather than just filling in the hole and tarmacing over it.

The leak further south on West End Lane at the junction with Cleve Road, is apparetntly more complicated than first thought. There is apparently a “significant void under the carriageway”, according to a Camden communication. I take this to be council speak for “a bloody big gap”, and reinstating the road here could mean closing West End Lane again. There’s a meeting tomorrow morning to assess the next steps. For more on the saga of West Hampstead’s burst pipes and broken communications, read this.

Found: West Hampstead’s Metal disciple

We found the rock god. Or rather we found the guy who worships at the altar of heavy metal.

Remember the article about very local census data a few days ago? It concluded by showing that it’s possible to narrow down single data points to just a couple of streets. One person in West Hampstead had said in the census that his religion was Heavy Metal. That person had to live in Woodchurch or Acol Road. And now – thanks to Siân Llewellyn on Twitter – we’ve found them. Meet Alexander Milas.

Alexander, who has since moved from Woodchurch Road, isn’t just a worshipper of Heavy Metal though. Oh no. He’s the editor of Metal Hammer magazine. Better still… Alexander, together with his friend Rick who owns the Crobar in Soho, actually came up with the whole campaign to get people to put Heavy Metal as their religion. In total, more than 6,000 people nationwide signed up to the church of Metal (more than claimed to be Scientologists, or Druids, or even Taoists) thanks also to the efforts of Saxon’s singer Biff Byford, who agreed to be the ambassador for this new religion. Byford set out the stall for why Metal was truly a religion to be embraced:

“It’s not like pop music, where if the next song isn’t good enough then forget about it; with our music, people will allow you to be shit sometimes, and that’s one of the great things.”

It’s actually surprising that there was only one Metal devotee on the census. “It’s only fair we mention that it was actually a metal household,” said Milas. “My flatmate Duncan Wilkinson is actually in a band called Collapse and also very, very noise like myself.”

Water out most of day, road closed until weekend?

A water main burst last night on West End Lane by West End Lane Cars. Many people south of the stations either have no water or low water pressure. The latest estimate from the workmen carrying out the repairs is that water will be restored by 5pm today.

The repairs to the pipe have meant closing the road. Apparently, one of the reasons for delay was coordinating with the council to close the road. More on that story as I get it.

As a very rough rule of thumb, properties on and to the west of West End Lane are worse affected than those to the east, although there are exceptions to this rule possibly based on how high up in a building you are. Thames Water is providing bottled water outside West End Charcoal Grill. I did see people taking water and heading north, when the problems are south. Seems a bit opportunist.

This is what water looks like

Starbucks and Costa have been struggling – the former is serving filter coffee, the latter is out of hot water. Wired has a large external tank and is still operating as normal. ML Estates decided to abandon any attempt at opening its office today.

West End Lane is closed between Blackburn Road and Iverson Road. National Express coaches, already diverted off Finchley Road (not sure why), are now having to head down Iverson Rd.

There was a tweet just now from Cllr Keith Moffitt saying that the road would be closed until Saturday “in order to ensure all remedial works are completed”. This does not bode well for traffic for the rest of the week – buses are of course on diversion, clogging up both Kilburn High Road and Finchley Road as well as side streets.

I’ve asked Keith whether he can find out whether the resurfacing work on West End Lane, which disrupted traffic and polluted the farmers’ market last weekend, will continue as planned or whether we’ll get some respite after three days of closure. [update 12:50pm: resurfacing work will go ahead, depending on progress of Thames Water’s works]

It is perhaps worth pointing out that there have been instances recently where the doom-and-gloom news of lengthy road closures have in fact not been that bad at all. Nevertheless, expect disruption and delays at the very least.

Here’s the latest from TfL on the bus diversions:

  • 139 Curtailed to Quex Road and stand Kilburn High Road. Depart via Kilburn High Road Left Belsize Road Right Abbey Road to normal route.
  • 328 towards Golders Green from Quex Road Right Abbey Road Left Belsize Road Left Finchley Road to normal route.
  • 328 towards Kilburn from West End Lane Right Iverson Road Left Kilburn High Road to normal route.
  • C11 towards Archway from West End Lane Right Iverson Road Left Kilburn High Road Left Quex Road Left West End Lane Right Broadhurst Gardens to normal route
  • C11 towards Brent Cross from Cleve Road Left West End Lane Right Quex Road Right Kilburn High Road Right Mill Lane Left Westbere Road to normal route.

Census: Finding the rock god

The headline aggregate census statistics were released last year but only at the local authority level, i.e., Camden-wide. As the data crunchers do their thing, the Office of National Statistics will start to release the numbers at the local level.

This allows us to start looking at West Hampstead in more detail.

It’s stats, which means methodology. Bear with me (or scroll down for the numbers). Census data is collated at the “output area” level. There are MSOAs, which correspond roughly to ward-sizes, LSOAs are one-size smaller, and OAs are at the street/postcode level. They all have numerical codes and it can be quite hard to find out what they actually correspond to on the ground!

However, it is possible to see that Greater West Hampstead roughly covers four MSOAs with the evocative names of Camden 005, 010, 013 and 016. This map shows the area they cover.

With more time you could play around with the LSOAs to get the “perfect” boundaries for the area you want to cover, but we’re going to stick with MSOAs for now. The great advantage of these areas over the ward boundaries is that they do not change as much, which makes comparison over time easier.

Right that’s your geographical stats lesson out of the way.

The latest release of stats gives us the total population at these lower levels, the ethnic make-up of the area, and the stated religious affiliation (or lack of one).

The population of West Hamptead is 33,751, up from 31,004 since the 2001 census – a rise of 8.8%. The bulk of this growth has been in the north of the area in Fortune Green and the “heart” of West Hampstead. These two MSOAs experienced population growth of more than 10%. Given all the building work slated for the next few years, the 2021 census should show even greater growth. The area as a whole though is broadly in line with national population growth rates and lower than the London growth rate of 14%.

Ethnic mix
Less than half of West Hampstead’s population consider themselves to be British in one form or another – 44.6% to be precise. Of the 94 ethnic categories in the census, only Punjabi, “Black European”, “Black and Chinese” have no representatives in West Hampstead, which is quite astonishing. Here are the other highlight numbers:

  • 4.9% “Other Western European” (seems to be almost everything apart from Italian); 
  • 4.8% to be African, 
  • 4.2% to be Irish, 
  • 3.6% Indian or British Indian, 
  • 2.77% “Other White”, 
  • 2.75% “European Mixed”, 
  • 2.1% Australian or New Zealander, 
  • 2.1% Bangladeshi, 
  • 1.7% North American and so on. 

Comparisons with 2001 are tricky as I simply can’t find the comparable 2001 chart. It’s possible to get the broad ethnic breakdown by each MSOA but if anyone can send me a link to the full dataset I shall be grateful

Just over a third of whampers (35.9%) class themselves as Christian, which is well below the national average of 59.3%). A quarter of people have no religion (this includes people who state “Jedi”), and a fifth didn’t asnwer the question.

  • 8.7% identify as Muslim
  • 6.5% identify as Jewish
  • 1.2% identify as Buddhist
  • 92 people identify as Jedi

Unlike the ethnic breakdown there are a lot of religions not represented in the area (there are 56 religions mentioned in the census). One of the delights of the very detailed output is that you can get quite precise about where these people live. So, for example, according to the data, the one Heavy Metal devotee probably lives on Woodchurch or Acol Road (or was staying there that night).

So if you’ve got a neighbour on those streets who plays heavy metal and you don’t like it, complain at your peril – you may not be able to infringe his or her right to worship 😉

Whampreview: Hana February 21st

Ever since Montefiore closed some three years ago, 351 West End Lane has struggled to deliver a good restaurant. Now, there are new owners and new impetus. Hana has been open a few months serving Persian food. The owners had a successful restaurant in Temple Fortune but wanted to try cracking the West Hampstead market.

But is it any good? Only one way to find out – and meet a bunch of lovely locals at the same time. Come along to whampreview on February 21st.

What’s the deal?
We’re taking 24 people to Hana. Each table will get a selection of starters for £6/head, and then everyone can order their own main course. It is a meat-heavy main course menu, there’s one seafood main course and one vegetarian main – however, they are going to put an additional vegetarian main on for us so even if you’re not a meat eater there’ll be some choice, and most of the starters are vegetarian. Main courses vary from £8-13.

Whampreview basics
Dinner will be at 8pm and we’ll meet at The Black Lion on West End Lane for a drink from 7.15pm. During the evening, whoever is hosting your table (there’ll be three tables of eight people) will note down comments about the food/service/value etc., which will go into the write-up, but the evening is more about meeting people than being ultra-critical about restaurants. The bill is split equally between your table unless there’s been a large discrepancy in alcohol consumption. Any questions, just ask.

To put your name in the hat, simply before 5pm February 6th with your mobile number. Whampreviews are always oversubscribed, so I draw the names out of a hat and will contact everyone with a “yes” or “no” on the 7th.

The headmasterly bit
Please don’t commit on the offchance you might be free. Once I contact you to say you’re in, please check your diary and lock it in. Chasing round to fill last minute cancellations is, to be blunt, a pain in the arse that I could do without. I appreciate that sometimes people do need to cancel for a good reason – obviously the more notice you can give me the better.

Monkey Music classes for babies and toddlers

Eloise Trippier talks about Monkey Music classes in Hampstead

Come and join the award winning Monkey Music Hampstead team for some quality music classes for babies from 3 months to 3.5 years. Original songs and nursery rhymes, fantastic props, puppets, specialist percussion, hoops, parachutes, movement, bubbles, fun and giggles!

Monkey Music has been running for 20 years and introduces music to children in a way they can easily understand and enjoy. The curriculum is progressive and developmentally targeted at each specific age group. The teachers introduce new themes every two weeks which gives the children the opportunity to practice and build on what they have learnt from week to week. Classes are 30 minutes long and include a singing section, a section where the children play percussion instruments and a movement section.

The baby class – Rock ‘n’ Roll
Your baby will flourish in a stimulating musical environment, engaged through gentle songs, fascinating sights and sounds and absorbing activities. The class will also give you some more ideas of games and activities to play at home with your baby.

The toddler class – Heigh-Ho
Themed sessions with musical activities specifically chosen to develop the social skills and natural musicality of toddlers. Heigh-Ho specifically targets concentration and focus and as the term progresses, the toddlers learn the times to be quiet and the times to make some noise!

The class for 2-3-year-olds
The children develop a strong sense of rhythm and learn to accompany a song on percussion whilst playing a short rhythm and singing at the same time. At this age, the children have a longer attention span and can listen carefully to the teacher’s instructions and now start to ‘compose’ their own music.

Where? Classes take place on Monday mornings at St Andrew’s Church (top of West End lane, corner of Finchley Road & Frognal) or Wednesday mornings opposite Willesden Green tube station and Thursday afternoons at Huggle in Swiss Cottage.

Please come and try a FREE class and if you then decide to join, please quote West Hampstead Life, membership will be reduced from £18 to £1. Classes are £10 and you can join at any point in the term. Membership is for life and comes with a welcome pack which includes a 100% cotton t-shirt and a CD. You also join the online little Monkey Club where you can play games, print off the song lyrics and access discount vouchers for great children’s brands like Jojo Maman Bébé and Green Baby amongst others.

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New skills / new friends at West Hampstead WI

I bet lots of you didn’t even know there WAS a WI in West Hampstead. But there is, and it’s thriving, and here’s Emma to tell you all about it:

How did you start your new year? I like to get out and do something a bit different in January, while still watching the pennies. So I was lucky that after a short stomp through the cold to Brioche at the beginning of the month, I got to spend a brilliant evening learning about puppetry. Watching a professional puppeteer demonstrate her exceptional talents for engaging an audience through this fun art form, I then began learning how to bring my own hand puppet to life. Plus there was time to meet new people from around West Hampstead and catch up on the local gossip with friends. This is why I love being part of my local WI.

The West Hampstead Women’s Institute recently celebrated its first anniversary, and we are looking for new members to join us.

The puppeteer at our January meeting was Ruth Walters of Curly Ru Puppets and she is typical of the diverse range of topics that make up our monthly meetings; all of which aim to entertain and inform our members and are a great way to make new friends.

What is the Women’s Institute?
The Women’s Institute is a national organisation and charity with branches across the country. It plays a unique role in providing women with educational opportunities and the chance to build new skills, to take part in a wide variety of activities and to campaign on issues that matter to them and their communities.

During the past year the West Hampstead WI has organised talks and Q&A sessions with local stage and film actors (such as Imelda Staunton and Jim Carter), readings and discussions with local authors, guided London walks, pub style quizzes, raffles, singing lessons and craft workshops.

We meet on the first Thursday of the month at 7.30pm for a variety of talks, workshops and social events. These official monthly meetings are free for members, or you can join us as a guest for £3 up to three times.
We also meet during the month on a Wednesday morning at 10am for an informal coffee morning. There is no entrance fee for these morning meetings.

Our next meeting is on Thursday 7 February at 7.30pm and will be a hands on meeting about portraiture with artist and sculptor Barbara Beyer. Come and join our growing network!

All meetings, unless otherwise advertised take place in the Brioche cafe on West End Lane.

Membership: £33 for the year, and you can sign up at one of our meetings.

Upcoming events

  • February 7th – Barabara Beyer, artist and sculptor, will lead us through the details of portraiture – a hands on meeting
  • March 7th – Liz Astor will talk about the challenges of being a parent of a child with autism and preparing that child to enter the adult world.
  • April 4th – A social evening. Last year’s social evening was a real success, so we hope to have some more of that buzz
  • May 2nd – Senior midwife Jude Bayley, will talk about the state of midwifery today. Very topical as this year’s WI resolution is about supporting the recruitment of more midwives.
  • June 6th: An evening with local West Hampstead organisations including West Hampstead Life – A chance to find out what is going on around us.

Contact Details
Email us: and join our mailing list
Find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/WestHampsteadWI
Follow us on Twitter: @WestHampsteadWI
Check out the Women’s Institute Website: www.thewi.org.uk

We look forward to meeting you at one of our events!

Vicky, Jane, Dilys, Sue and Emma
The West Hampstead WI committee.