WhampArt: Guided tour at Camden Arts Centre

STOP PRESS: This event is now full. If you’d like to go on the waiting list then by all means contact me, and leave a mobile number.

We’re a cultured bunch in West Hampstead, right? We know our Matisse from our Magritte, our Monet from our Manet, and even our Munch from our Munk if we’re very cutting edge.

So it’s time to push the boat out a little. Time to expand those artistic horizons. All you need to do is come along to #whampart at the Camden Arts Centre on the evening of Wednesday, February 6th.

This is our first collaboration with the Camden Arts Centre (but hopefully not last, so behave yourselves!). We’re getting a special guided tour of the Film in Space exhibition, and then we can retire to the rather nice café/bar for some wine and incredibly intellectual discussions about what we’ve seen. Or we might talk about the weather or kittens or US foreign policy in Obama’s second term.

Here’s a bit about the exhibition from the Camden Arts Centre’s website:

Film in Space is a group exhibition selected by British artist-filmmaker Guy Sherwin. The exhibition focuses on expanded cinema, a film movement which came to prominence in Britain in the early 1970s, at the time Sherwin started making films. The movement was closely associated with the London Filmmakers’ Co-operative, an organisation set up in 1966 by artist-filmmakers to exhibit and produce experimental film work which challenged mainstream cinema. Sherwin worked at the LFMC in its early years and was highly influenced by his experience. For Camden Arts Centre he has selected a number of key works from this period and is showing them along with works by younger artists who are continuing to experiment with the versatility of analogue media, as well as others who have started to take on board the advent of digital technologies. Throughout the exhibition there is an emphasis on film, light, and sound as material to be constantly re-worked, manipulated and experimented with.

I’ve seen the exhibition and it’s interesting but I think having the guided tour will really make it much more accessible. So even if you’re not sure that 1970s expanded cinema is your sort of thing, why not come along and learn a bit more about it. The Camden Arts Centre is such a great local resource but it’s underused by locals; here’s an opportunity to get to know it.

Sounds great! What do I do now?
We’ll need to meet in the reception area at 7.30pm promptly on Wednesday February 6th. The tour will be about 30 minutes and then we’ll head to the bar, which stays open until about 9pm.

We have 15 places and you’ll need to reserve your spot. It’s going to be first-come/first-served. As always, if you sign up then please don’t pull out at the last minute. It might be hard to get late replacements, and it’s not fair on the Arts Centre staff who are doing this especially for us.

To book your place you must with your name and mobile number. Max 2 places per person.

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NW6 Film Club launches

This month we’re launching the imaginatively named NW6 Film Club – an informal meetup of local film buffs. It’s basically like a book club only with a screen instead of pages! Or is that what book clubs will be like anyway in a couple of years?

Enough biting satirical commentary. You need details:

The first Film Club will be on Sunday 27th Jan (the plan is to do it on the last Sunday of every month). The exact time will depend on the film time but we’ll usually meet 45 minutes before the Sunday evening showing. This Sunday, that means meeting at 6.45pm.

Our first and usual venue will be the Tricycle Cinema on Kilburn High Road. If you don’t know it, this lovely cinema has a good screen, comfortable seats and usually shows excellent films.

It’s also good value compared to most London cinemas. Standard tickets are £9.50 and if you plan to go regularly then become a Tricycle member and get £1.50 off.

What films will we see?
Generally whatever is showing at the Tricycle; they usually show interesting films – not too blockbuster but not too “art-house” either.

The first film is Zero Dark Thirty – Kathryn Bigelow’s dramatisation of the capture of Osama bin Laden.

How does it work?
Just buy a ticket for 7.30pm showing on the 27th, and come and join us at the Tricycle Bar before the film. We’ll be there from 6.45.

After the film we’ll head across the road to the Black Lion to drink and chat about the film for as long as we want (or until we get thrown out).

We’re not arranging tickets – it’s much easier if you just buy your own. You can usually buy tickets on the night, but to be sure you might want to book in advance (online or at the box office). If it looks like its really filling up we’ll let you know via twitter.

The Tricycle has allocated us some seats so if you want to sit together with the group just mention the Film Club when you book over the phone. If you have your own favourite seat you’re welcome to sit there – we won’t be offended!

How to find out more?
The best way is to follow @NxNW6 on twitter and/or read this website. If you want to get in touch with us tweet @NxNW6 or @nathankw or if you’re not a tweeter you can email .

It would be great to get a rough idea of numbers so if you can let us know if you’ll be coming that would be a real help.

Hope to see you there!

Mark, Nathan and Jonathan

Amy and Ben – two months after the crash

It was a fluke. I happened to see a tweet whizz through my timeline. It referred to a blog written by a widower. I thought it might have been the return of the chap in his 90s who’d briefly blogged his trip to Switzerland but had been overwhelmed by the response and abandoned it.

It was not.

The photo was the immediate giveaway although my eye took in the name underneath a split second later. There could only be one recently widowed husband of a woman called Desreen.

Life As A Widower is written by Ben Brooks-Dutton (he added “Brooks” to his and his son’s name after Desreen died – she had kept her name when they married, just 14 months earlier). His wife was killed in the collision on West End Lane last November.

The blog, which began on January 6th, documents his emotions and the enormous challenge of coping with overwhelming grief and a two-year-old son. This isn’t a diary as much as an anthology of memories and experiences. There must be an element of catharsis here, although my ignorant hunch would be that it’s too soon for that. There is certainly an element of wanting to share the experience, and hopefully to help others:

I can’t help but think that some poor bastard will wake up tomorrow morning, realise their wife has gone forever and that it wasn’t just a nightmare, and search for someone who can relate to the hell that they are going through. Perhaps if I keep writing they’ll find that someone. Perhaps a few more blokes will be encouraged to open up about how they feel. Perhaps the process might act as catharsis and make things easier on me. Perhaps when the next bloke calls Care for the Family there will be a few more guys to talk to.

More bluntly, Ben also says “I think opening up now is going to make living in my own head somewhat less difficult in the future. That’s what the books I’m throwing myself into say anyway.”

That last sentence hints at the humour in this blog. Does that sound odd? Read it, it’s not.

Ben explains his tattoo

Many of the entries are heartbreaking. It will be a harder person than me that doesn’t well up at the image of the toddler wiping away his father’s tears. As Ben says, “It’s just two guys trying to make each other feel better. One 2 and the other 33.”

Amy’s recovery
Meanwhile, across the pond, Amy Werner is having her own battle. The American postgrad who was badly injured in the same crash was put back together by St Mary’s in Paddington, before her parents decided to fly her back home to the US. These sort of medical flights don’t use long-haul aircraft, so Amy and her mother had to hop from London to Shannon to Newfoundland to Boston in early December. She spent a week in hospital in Boston and then she moved to a rehab clinic affiliated with Harvard.

She is making steady progress – her rehab work is both physical and cognitive. Every day she’s able to walk further using crutches, and her right leg – broken in the accident – is getting stronger. She’s also having speech therapy and other rehabilitation treatment to work on functions such as memory. At the moment, the cause for concern is the sight in her right eye, which has yet to return.

It’s going to be a long journey back for Amy, but her mother’s daily updates are full of optimism, and each one describes how Amy’s feisty attitude and determination is leading to demonstrable improvement in her abilities. I understand that Ben is also aware of Amy’s progress and hope that he can take some strength from her determination.

Both Ben and Amy had their lives turned upside down in a matter of seconds. If we can learn anything from either of them it’s to treasure what – and whom – we have; and that human beings are capable of remarkable acts when they find themselves at the very brink. I wish them well.

Camden’s fire response time sees biggest increase

You’ll recall that back in November, Belsize fire station was on a list of likely candidates for closure. West Hampstead station was always safe, even in the drastic 31 station closure model.

No shock then to see Belsize on the final list of stations to close, announced by the London Fire Brigade (LFB) this week. The surprise is that this list runs to just 12 stations, five fewer than the minimum-impact model published in November. Seven of the remaining 100 stations will lose a fire engine, and four will gain one bringing the total number of appliances down from 169 to 151.

  • Closing: Belsize, Bow, Clapham, Clerkenwell, Downham, Kingsland, Knightbridge, New Cross, Silvertown, Southwark, Westminster and Woolwich.
  • Losing one engine: Chelsea, Chingford, Hayes, Leyton, Leytonstone, Peckham and Whitechapel.
  • Adding a second engine: Hendon, Orpington, Stanmore and Twickenham.
Could this be the fire service of the future?
(c) john-crane.co.uk

In my last article I discussed the impact on response times of the various proposals in some detail. The increase in times in some boroughs seems to have been one of the main reasons behind the decision to close fewer stations (this also means that the LFB still needs to find around £5 million in further savings). The “151/100” option will save £23.5 million and would mean “the deletion” (their words not mine) of 460 station-based posts. If I understand correctly, the remaining £5 million is likely to come from further staff reductions in the years ahead – but this is not clear.

The LFB has decided that it wants to see no change at all to average response times across London.

While one can believe that this might hold true for average times across London, clearly in some locations, it will take longer for a fire engine to get to a fire. As a friend of mine from the US said when I was telling her all this “if your house is on fire, keep some buckets handy”.

The LFB’s report on targets says that while response times need to be looked at at the city level, and it does not organise at the borough level (unlike the police), it understands that the public is concerned about the impact at the neighbourhood level (yeah, no kidding). You can read the (very lengthy) document that explains how this borough-level concern meant that tweaks were made to the model should you wish. Having tried to play down the borough stats, it then cites them to explain how the changes aren’t that bad really (unless you’re in Enfield, which is now half a minute outside the first appliance target).

Camden, as it happens, fares worse than any other borough in terms of increase in first appliance response time, with an increase of 45 seconds. To put this in context, this takes the average response time to 5’26”, still within the 6 minute target, and the 11th fastest in London. The average response time for the second vehicle goes up 26 seconds, the 10th largest increase, to 6’26” – 12th fastest in London down from 10th.

What of these 460 “deleted” jobs? Apparently, the LFB hopes that all of them (!) can be achieved through natural leaver rates and voluntary redundancies. Seems optimistic.

Members of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority will discuss the plan on Monday 21 January at 1400. A final decision on the plan is expected to be made at the Authority meeting on 20 June, following a public consultation. Here’s a full list of documents relating to station closures, performance statistics and the number of cats stuck up trees.

My two cents: everyone should want public services to run efficiently and effectively, and reassessing the needs of the population every so often is going to lead to sensible changes in coverage. Nevertheless, the numbers here are clear – response times are going to rise on average in London. Not by much, I accept, and from what is, by national standards, already a fast time. But still, it’s an increase. Obviously, no country has limitless funds and trade-offs between costs and public safety are inevitable – it just seems that the balance is tipping inexorably (and one feels irrevocably) in favour of cost. One also wonders whether as much time is going into the effort to close corporation tax loopholes worth billions as it has in the quest to save £25 million off the fire brigade’s budget.

License landlords or resort to Asbos?

This month Newham will become the first council in England to require private landlords to be registered. Meanwhile, Camden has already served the country’s first landlord asbo to a West Hampstead landlady and has sought this week to extend it in court. Over at City Hall, Boris is proposing a “new housing covenant“, which puts forward some changes to tenancy agreements in the favour of tenants under a London Rental Standard.

The idea of licensing is to root out and stiffly penalise rogue landlords – the sort of people who exploit tenants by cramming lots of people into poorly maintained houses and then charge them an extortionate amount of rent. It also means that people who decide to rent their property out for lifestyle reasons rather than for pure profit must also register – there are a lot of these people. Many in the industry think that the licence requirement is overkill and that there are more cost-effective ways of protecting tenants from rogue landlords.

Last year, Camden opted for a different approach. It served a two-year anti-social behaviour order on Catherine Boyle of 14 Iverson Road back in January 2011, and sought to extend it at the end of 2012 after she failed to comply with some of the court’s requirements.

Google Street View catches a pest control
vehicle parked outside 14 Iverson Road

Catherine Boyle lives in and rents out rooms at the property, at the Kilburn end of Iverson Road. It qualifies as an HMO (house of multiple occupancy). She has been banned from causing harassment, alarm or distress to her tenants, entering their rooms without their consent, and cutting off their gas and electricity supply. She was also fined £8,000 for failing to comply with fire regulations despite having been given more than six months to meet the requirements (more than half of this was to pay the council’s court costs). In August 2010, she was cautioned for assault against one of her tenants.

Asbos seem like a pretty drastic solution to tackle problem landlords. They remain practically unheard of – the only other example that comes up is in Plymouth, where the council is appyling for an asbo against a landlord that would prevent him from letting to anyone on housing benefit. Councils do already have considerable powers to fine landlords heavily, especially those letting HMO properties, and jail sentences are not unheard of. The council can also takeover the running of the property.

In Ms Boyle’s case, I understand that there was both bad behaviour, as well as non-compliance with regulation, which may have been why the order was sought.

What is not clear to me is why a licensing policy such as Newham’s need to be applied to all landlords. Reserving it for HMO landlords, or even those with multiple properties would save time and money for both the council and plenty of ordinary landlords. This might be combined with a compulsory training program.

The Mayor certainly argues against any additional regulation in his private rented sector (PRS) report:

The Mayor does not support top-down regulation as a way of achieving better management or more choice for tenants, not least because the GLA does not possess formal powers in this area. In any case, regulation is damaging for investment into the PRS and it should always be a last resort. The sector’s capacity for voluntary self-regulation has not yet been exhausted – indeed, with the support of the Mayor, boroughs and landlord organisations, voluntary accreditation can deliver the step change in standards that tenants are rightly seeking. It is also unfair to penalise the majority of law-abiding landlords because of the actions of a small minority.”

It does seem that the system of landlord accreditation could do with some consolidation.

What do you think? Should councils use the powers they already have to deal with rogue landlords or are licensing or asbos the way forward?

Jester Festival seeks acts (and helpers)

The organisers of West Hampstead’s very own village fête, the Jester Festival, are already planning this year’s event.

They are looking for local artists and musicians who would like to participate over the weekend of July 6th and 7th. If you think you might fit the bill, then please e-mail Lyn.

The committee is also on the lookout for new members; so if you’d like to get involved in all aspects of organising the festival, do please e mail Jody .

Tweet of the Year: We have a winner

Thanks to the 345 of you who voted in the Tweet of the Year competition.

In the end it was a two-horse race, but the winner, coming from behind on the very last day of voting, was Heather Wilson with 82 votes

Overheard conversation in WHampstead: a little boy saying to his Nan “I’m 9th fastest in the class, but I know what I’m best at: politeness”

In second place was Lauren with 76 votes:

Last night at a local tweet-up a nice lady said to me “I can’t be the only one who thought this was going to be a naked dogging thing”

And in third place, back on 46 votes was Simon:

Just visited West Hampstead Post Office. LOVE the whole “Communist Russia” theme they’ve got going on

Congratulations to Heather who’ll get her prize as soon as possible. Thank you all for voting.

Books, bbqs, Batman: 2012 whampevents

Another year, and lots more West Hampstead locals have met each other at the various events we’ve organised. It very much feels that this year, the events have moved well beyond a collection of tweeters and have become more – dare I say it – mainstream. And that’s no bad thing at all.

Way back in January, we held Whampgather VIII at The Priory Tavern. More than 100 people turned up, making it the biggest yet. We had live music for the first time (though we perhaps should have done a soundcheck) but best of all we raised more than £500 for The Winch through the raffle. The bar had been set high for future events.

We followed up immediately with the second bookshop “lock-in” at West End Lane Books. On a cold night, a literary crowd of locals turned up for some free wine, discounts and lively conversation. We ran the night again in August with quite a lot more people and there should be another one coming up in the New Year.

In March, whampreview turned its attention to Little Bay. This was the biggest headache whampreview I’d attempted with 32 of us taking over the conservatory of the Belsize Road restaurant. Lots of new people came along, which is always great to see. Once we’d got used to having red pepper sauce served with everything, the evening became very enjoyable indeed.

April saw 24 of us at Guglee on West End Lane, only in its third month of operating. Sachin and his staff looked after us extremely well and the Sev Puri Chat provided quite the ice breaker. If you haven’t tried them yet, i’ll just say that you need to tackle them in one mouthful.

If anyone needed some good ice breakers it was the 30 lovewhampers who bravely signed up to the first ever singles night, organised by Katie. After being carefully matched up based on complex algorithms and a rigorous questionnaire (cough), our 15 couples headed off to various local restaurants to see if love was in the air. It wasn’t for most, but there were a couple of couples who didn’t return – and at least one walk of shame the next morning. So, that’s a result right? Think we might be doing this again in 2013.

The final whampreview before the summer break was our poshest yet. Just 16 of us trotted down Abbey Road to One Blenheim Terrace. Lots of new faces again, and some excellent food if slightly slow service.

In June we held the summer #whampgather. In keeping with previous years, this was a daytime family-friendly affair that rode on the coattails of the Team Sunday Lunch adventures earlier in the year. Fifty of us filled up the front of the pub to enjoy the various roast offerings of the revamped pub. There was some torrential rain that lunchtime, so many new people had to introduce themselves while pretending they liked looking like drowned rats.

The awful weather in the first part of the summer meant we feared the worst for the second WHampBBQ. In 2011, we’d ended up choosing the hottest day of the year. That seemed like a distant hope in 2012. Yet, astonishingly. the Gods of the Grill shined down on us and in late July more than 60 people descended on Chris’s lovely flat on a warm sunny Sunday for more meat, salad and Pimms action than NW6 has seen since.. well, since the same time last year.

We actually held two events in July as it was our first Whampfilm night at the Odeon in Swiss Cottage. We managed to get 27 tickets for the opening night of the Dark Knight Rises at the Imax screen (and get a glass of wine thrown into the bargain). There were a few logistical problems, which we were able to learn from when we had the second film night for Skyfall in October.
It wasn’t technically a whampevent, but I was heavily involved in promoting yet another event in July when the Friends of Fortune Green held their first ever outdoor film screening. This had been postponed a couple of times already due to the weather, but finally a large crowd of around 200 people came to watch Breaking Away and get bitten to smithereens by mosquitoes. A second screening was held in late September and the FoFG hopes to get this up and running again in 2013.

Aside from the Bond night, October was quiet, but we were saving ourselves for November. First up was Whampsushi at Feng Sushi. This was a whampreview with a difference as we took over the whole restaurant for a special set menu devised by co-founder and managing director Silla Bjerrum. Silla was also on hand to give us some sushi demonstrations. Given all the clamouring there’s been over recent years for sushi events, this had proved a surprisingly hard sell, but the night itself was really excellent – both the food and atmosphere lived up to billing. It was also sadly the first time we had no-shows for a whampreview – hopefully the last, as it messes up table arrangements, deprives people of a place, and screws the restaurant.

A week later was the biggest event of the year. No, not the Olympics. No, not the Jubilee. No, not the Leveson enquiry. Bigger than all of those. Whampgather X. We changed locations (we’re running out of large enough pubs) and took over The Alliance for the night. In total, 160 people turned up – lots and lots of new people alongside the familiar faces. It was a great night, and lovely to see DJ Stoney providing the music. He had been at the very first whampgather back in October 2009, when I’d thought that perhaps if it went well I might do a second.

Christmas drinks were relatively informal again this year, but it was nice to raise a glass with all those who turned up.

Twelve months of events – thank you to everyone who came along to any of them. A special thank you to my able helpers: particularly Tom, Mark, Nicky, Lauren, Jen, Brad and Katie. Thank you also to all the businesses who have donated raffle prizes or worked with us to offer good deals at events. It’s all much appreciated and I hope that locals reciprocate with their custom.

If you’ve never been to a whampevent but think that you might want to meet some friendly locals, then do sign up. They sell out quickly, and the restaurant events are always oversubscribed so don’t be disheartened if it takes a couple of attempts to come along to one. In 2013 I’m going to try and organise more whampreviews, there’s a monthly film club starting very soon, lovewhamp should return, and of course Whampgather XI is already looming on the horizon!

I’m going to give the last word to @tommyjames, who tweeted the morning after Whampgather X: “I went along to #whampgather on my own, took a risk and made some friends.”

That’s what it’s all about.

See you next year.

I’m going to party like it’s 2013

Nothing screams party like a Monday night in West Hampstead. But this Monday is New Year’s Eve so all of a sudden it’s party central in NW6. Or something.

Personally, I’ll be getting in a bottle of vodka and enough Haribo to sink the Bismarck and watching Jools Holland in my Christmas onesie, but no doubt the rest of you aspire to more sociable activities.

The Gallery: “Anything Goes”. Get your £15 tickets at the bar (but they’re selling out fast apparently). Fancy dress preferred but not mandatory. DJ until late.

The Alice House: “Madhatter’s Tea Party” [see what they’ve done there? No, not the typo]. Tickets also £15 (or £25!! on the night). DJ, special cocktails “and more”. I don’t know what that implies either but for £25 I’d want quite a lot more.

La Brocca: Open until 2am. Party in bar, restaurant also open. Normal menu + some “delicious New Year specials”. Normal price – no cover charge

The Black Lion (West End Lane): ‘Glasses or Moustaches’. Tickets are £10 in advance or £15 on the door, which includes a glass of Black Lion punch. Soul & funk music from 10pm. You can hire their booths as well.

The Alliance: “Lots of music and a party ’til the early hours”. I heard good things about last year’s NYE bash here, so if you’re up that end of town worth checking out I’d say.

The Priory Tavern: DJ from 10pm, glitter shots (I predict coughing), a special cocktail menu (remember, these guys are serious about cocktails), fireworks at midnight(ish). Tweet, call, or drop in to put yourself on the free guest list. Otherwise fork out a fiver after 10pm.

North London Tavern: Two options here – one with a four course dinner and the one without. Both end up in an 80s party. Dinner will cost you £40 (here’s the menu), while entry to the bar is just £5 after 10pm when the DJ starts. Open ’til 2am.

The Good Ship: “Something Serious NYE Extravaganza”. “Party into the small hours recapturing the wonderful summer when everyone came together before waking up with a hangover in 2013 and realising that we’re all absolutely done for.” Nice. That’s the sort of pessimism that made this country great. Something Serious apparently play indie, pop, rock n roll with a dash of electro as the sprinkles on top. They “guarantee to make you dance until your feet smoke.” If that’s not worth the £10 ticket price alone then I don’t know what is.

Betsy Smith: “Saints & sinners”. The evening kicks off at 7.30pm and 2-for-1 cocktails last until 9. There’s a £50 bar tab for the best dressed. So that’s another two cocktails. It also advertises “shot girls” and a “torture chamber”. Just to reiterate that you will be paying for this. But then there are confetti canons, and who doesn’t love a confetti canon. DJ Louisubsole is on the decks. £10 in advance (which is actually pretty decent for around here) or £15 on the door. Call 020 7624 5793.

Still waiting to hear back from: The Railway, The Alliance, Kilburn’s Black Lion, and the Lower Ground Bar. Will add those as I get them so keep checking back.

2012 review: What have I missed since Jan 1st

Did someone say bandwagon?

Like any publication worth its salt, this website is not immune to the allure of churning out a review of the past 12 months. So here are the crime-fighting vicars and the organic cauliflowers that made up 2012 for West Hampstead.

First, the stories you may have missed, then a fuller round-up of the bigger news of the year.

January: During a siege far away in Child’s Hill, it was necessary to explain to some in West Hampstead how helicopters work. The Kings Troop left their barracks in St John’s Wood, which meant no more parades up West End Lane. Police carried out a sting operation to rescue a kidnapped dog held to ransom.

February: West Hampstead’s crime fighting vicar Andrew Cain got plenty of attention from the press after he apprehended a thief. A man was evicted after building a microlight and a boat in his flat. Virgin broadband customers were told problems would be sorted out by mid-March.

March: We began the Herculean task of testing all the Sunday lunches in the neighbourhood.

April: Vince Power shelved his ambitious (did someone say ridiculous?) plans for a festival in Kilburn Grange park that would have lasted throughout the Olympics. The Netherwood Day Centre received another – more lasting – reprieve from council cuts.

May: We launched NxNW6 for local film listings. Virgin broadband customers were told problems would be sorted out by mid-September. Luton fans caused chaos at the Thameslink station.

June: Twitter power got a potentially dangerous hole in a railway fence fixed very quickly. It really isn’t just about Stephen Fry and photos of breakfasts y’know.

July: Kilburn High Road flooded spectacularly. There was the first of two outdoor film screenings on Fortune Green. Some residents complained about having to look where they were driving. A man bought a bag for £20 in a West End Lane charity shop that was worth a small fortune.

August: Local celeb Robert Webb got miffed when a fan told him via Twitter that he’d spotted him in the pub.

September: The Met Line ran its last old train. George Orwell’s son read from his father’s Bookshop Memories essay in West End Lane Books. Developers offered a free Mini if people bought one of the Mill Apartments on an open day. Virgin broadband customers were told… well, you get the idea.

October: The Blackburn Road student building had its topping out ceremony. Camden proposed a 20mph blanket speed limit.

November: The tenth whampgather set new records for attendance and money raised. We learned the West End Lane post office will close, but only when new (co-located) premises have been found.

December: We launched ZENW6 for health & fitness news and reviews, and Property News. The third Christmas market was a success once again. We learned there were 704 Jedis in Camden (but only 9 Scientologists)

Bet you didn’t remember all that?

But what about the issues you did remember?

In the market for produce?
News that we might get a market first emerged in April. Back then we were told that the Iverson Road site would not be big enough for an accredited farmers’ market. Readers were asked to say what sort of market they’d like to see instead. The results were overwhelmingly in favour of a food market.

Good time then for Hampstead Butcher & Providores to announce its plans to open in West Hampstead. After two years of tweeters clamouring for a butcher, it seemed as if their prayers had been answered. A month later, we learned that the butcher had “postponed” its decision to move to the area. We’re still waiting.

In June, we discovered that London Farmers’ Market – the group that runs multiple markets in the city, including the large one in Queens Park – was in negotiation with Network Rail and that a proper farmers’ market was looking likely. It was not until August, and a false start, that we finally had a firm opening date for the farmers’ market and a cow to prove it. The cow stood next to a short-lived hot dog stand and Mr Whippy van.

Finally, on September 22nd, while I was fast asleep in a hotel in Denver, Colorado, the market opened. There was joy, there was laughter, there were some quite expensive vegetables. I awoke to a deluge of tweets about it. It has since been described by several people (not all of whom are Cllr Risso-Gill) as being “the best thing to happen in West Hampstead for years.”

After trading for a couple of months (and having an amazing run of luck with the weather), the market required planning permission. An overwhelming 284 people wrote to the council in favour of the market, with just four objections. No surprise then that permission was granted.

February: the much-loved (but too seldom-frequented) Rotisserie on Fortune Green closed, while on West End Lane, Guglee opened after revamping the short-lived Costello’s.
March: Sushi Kou opened in the Rotisserie’s spot.
April: Walnut and Bon Express – at the opposite ends of both West End Lane and the culinary spectrum – both shut their doors. The latter remains empty. Karahi Master, which had been refused a late licence, also closed. Kebab options in West Hampstead were dwindling fast. Meanwhile, the Lion became the Black Lion (again) to confuse everyone.
June: Grilled O Fried opened where Karahi Master had been. Was it a typo, or was it Portuguese? Feng Sushi took over from Walnut, bringing the number of sushi outlets in the greater West Hampstead area to seven. Millennium Café in Broadhurst Gardens closed with a whimper.
July: The smallest of those seven sushi bars closed – Sushi Gen was no more.
August: Picasso opened where Sushi Gen was – oddly, given that Picasso was a Spanish artist who lived in France, Picasso served Italian food.
October: Elephant Walk and J’s both closed.
November: Wired, a pop-up coffee shop, opened, as did Hana, taking over from the much-maligned Sea Lantern.
December: Bella Luna opened where J’s had been, and Grilled O Fried’s short-lived operation shut up shop.

Star of stage and screen
When you’re blessed with natural beauty and talent, it’s no surprise to find yourself thrust centre-stage. I should know, there was a whole paragraph about me in GQ earlier this year. Oh yes.

January: Maxine Peake was in the Wet Fish Café filming legal drama Silk. Across the road in West End Lane Books, Warwick Davis and Karl Pilkington were filming for An Idiot Abroad.
March: Vanessa Feltz grumbled about parking in West Hampstead on her BBC London radio show. A lively debate ensued online.
May: Keith “Plays Pop” Chegwin was spotted around Fordwych Road filming for a PR company
June: That episode of Silk aired, and the West Hampstead police stables were mentioned in a short BBC World film about Hampstead.
July: The Abbey Area estate was the setting for a BBC/Film 4 short film featuring Noel Clarke that polarised opinion [I liked it]
August: West Hampstead popped up in The Guardian, thanks to me, and in the Evening Standard, thanks to Robert Webb. It also featured on Samantha Womack’s edition of Who Do You Think You Are?
September: The police stables appeared again, as ITV reported on a performing horse joining the Met.
December: On the same day, Wired appeared on the One Show, and Flowerstalk featured on This Week. Later in the month West Hampstead was a pointless answer on Pointless, got a mention on Graham Norton and flashed by in archive footage in a piece about 150 years of the tube.

Plan of action
Perhaps the biggest stories of the year have been forged in Camden’s planning department. Not everyone gets excited about planning news, although as soon as building work begins you can guarantee a surge of interest and misguided accusations of a lack of consultation.

The most dramatic and controversial of all the planning decisions was that for 187-199 West End Lane aka West End Square aka the Ballymore scheme. Consultation for this sizeable residential development ended in mid-February. There were vocal objections to the scale, especially the 12-storey tower that would form the high point of this six-block plan. Nevertheless, in March, Camden passed the proposal on the grounds of the housing shortage and Ballymore’s amendments to its initial plan. City Hall also had to pass it, which it duly did. In September, the strip of shops on that land – from Café Bon to M.L.Estates – were given six months’ notice to quit.

West End Square proposal

Consultation also closed in February for the residential development at 163 Iverson Road where the garden centre once stood. The original plans had been watered down and although there were still objections, Camden passed the proposals in the summer. There is no word on when building will start.

Gondar Gardens sounds like a location in The Hobbit, and the saga has certainly dragged on like a Tolkein novel. In May, Camden rejected developer Linden Wates’ second proposal for this site even as an appeal over the first rejection was underway. That appeal was upheld by the national planning inspector in November. Then in early December, to many people’s surprise, Linden Wates also decided to appeal against the second refusal as well. Hedging their bets, or simply trying to recoup costs?

West Hampstead has been earmarked as an “area for intensification” in the London plan, with the bulk of that increase in population destined for the area around the train lines. The neighbourhood is therefore likely to undergo significant change over the coming years, and thus – using powers under the new Localism Act – a Neighbourhood Development Forum was set up in January, and is drafting a Neighbourhood Development Plan. Over the course of the year, it unveiled locals’ attitudes to architecture and to West Hampstead in general. Alongside this sits Camden’s own Placeshaping plan. This initiative was launched in 2011, and finally published its report in June.

Education isn’t a topic covered often in these pages, but schools did feature in planning news this year. South Hampstead High School was granted permission to build temporary classrooms on the Lymington Road sports ground (which it owns) while a two-year rebuild and refurb of its existing site in Hampstead is carried out. Meanwhile, Liddell Road industrial estate has been identified as the probable site of a new primary school that will operate under the aegis of Kingsgate primary school.

Emmanuel School opened a new building across the road from its existing property. Lots of locals moaned about the choice of grey brick rather than the more traditional red. Finally, a small private school could move in to the empty ground floor unit of Alfred Court on Fortune Green.

With so much activity, I added a “Planning news” menu option for the website and compiled an annotated map of all large local developments that will be kept updated throughout 2013 – a year that could see construction start at 187-199, and will definitely see the Abbey Area development begin.

Dial 999
It is sadly inevitable that over the course of a year in an area as densely populated as West Hampstead there will be crime and tragedy. In 2012, much of this seemed to be concentrated in the last two months of the year.

On Saturday November 10th a car hit two pedestrians on West End Lane. Desreen Brooks, from south London, was killed as she left the house of some local friends. Amy Werner, a postgrad from Vermont, was extremely badly injured. Her parents flew over immediately and she spent a month in an induced coma. A couple of weeks before Christmas she was able to fly back to the US where she is now in a rehab centre recovering slowly but steadily. Police are still piecing together what happened and no arrests have been made.

Desreen Brooks, with husband Ben Dutton

Later in November, Douglas Hutchison, a 60-year-old visually impaired man, was seriously injured in what is believed to be an unprovoked attack in broad daylight outside his home in Goldhurst Terrace. His attacker was immediately arrested following a police chase through the streets of South Hampstead. Mr Hutchison, who was more commonly known by his nom de plume, Professor Whitestick, died from his injuries in December.

There were two serious house fires in December. The first was in West End Court and sadly resulted in the death of the elderly woman who lived in the flat. The second was in Maygrove Road; thankfully fire crews were able to rescue all four people inside. There was also an unusual fire on West End Lane that thankfully caused no injuries but knocked out power for some residents.

What of the emergency services themselves? West Hampstead fire station looks secure for the time being, although Belsize is set to close. The local police station, however, has been earmarked for closure. In December, we learned that PC Ruth Marshall from the local Safer Neighbourhood Team will be returning to Northamptonshire police in early January.

March: A security van was robbed on West End Lane, which caused a few wags to speculate on how a speedy getaway would work given all the traffic.
June: Following a spate of attacks, the Ham & High reported on the pressure on Camden to improve security on the Black Path.
August: A dispersal zone was created around the Lithos Road and Lymington Road estates. Strangely it was removed in November with no consultation.
December: There were two West End Lane accidents in one day, one in the morning involving a police car and one in the evening when a pedestrian appeared to have been knocked down on a zebra crossing.

Sporting triumphs
For London, the Olympics was the year’s single biggest story. West Hampstead may not have held any events itself (although we learned it has some Olympic history) but we were not immune from the Games (and at least two locals performed in the opening ceremony).

There were fears that TfL had underestimated the impact the Olympics would have on the interchange between the three stations, especially with Lords and Wembley being close by and with two of the three lines heading straight to Stratford. In the end, West Hampstead coped remarkably well, and Kilburn even hosted the Trinidad & Tobago cultural house.

Sports person of the year (officially and unofficially) was Tour de France winner and Olympic gold medallist Bradley Wiggins. His local connection first came to the fore in an interview with Sky Sports, and from then on the media dubbed him the “Kid from Kilburn” (even though he’s lived in the north-west of England rather than London for quite some time). There are still murmurings about getting him to do a victory parade up Kilburn High Road, or naming something in his honour; and there was a lot of unnecessary quibbling about where exactly he came from.

L’Equipe identifies Kilburn
(photo via @mascart)

A year is a long time in politics
It was a relatively quiet year politically for West Hampstead. In the Mayoral elections in May, West Hampstead voted to keep Boris as mayor, but resoundingly kicked out Assembly Member Brian Coleman – as did the rest of his Barnet & Camden constituency. The Lib Dems, who hold all six of the West Hampstead and Fortune Green council seats, took a battering at the ballot box.

In October, the Boundary Commission presented its revised proposals for parliamentary constituencies and returned Fortune Green to Hampstead & Kilburn.

It was confirmed that all three main parties will field new candidates in the next general election, although none is yet to declare its candidate. The Conservatives have at least drawn up a shortlist, while speculation is rife as to who will assume Glenda Jackson’s mantle for Labour.

The end of the year as we know it… and I feel fine
There you have it – all the news that’s old and approved as Adrian Kronauer would have said if Good Morning Vietnam had had a slightly flippant review of the year. Hope you enjoyed following along on West Hampstead Life this year. For a weekly round-up of local news delivered to your inbox, just sign up to the newsletter. You’ll also be the first to hear about upcoming whampevents.

Best wishes for 2013.

Tweet of the Year: Vote now

Forget the Oscars, the BRITS, the Golden Globes or even Sports Personality. There’s only one annual award worth winning. The West Hampstead Life Tweet of the Year award. It’s here. It’s now. It’s competitive.

Below are the eight tweets I’ve shortlisted. Vote for your favouite – please vote only once, and I shall be on the lookout for people trying to cheat! The poll closes at midnight on New Year’s Day

There is an actual prize for the winner, so lets see who will follow in the footsteps of the inimitable Jon Kelly who won in 2011. He got posted to Washington DC recently – that’s the impact that having Tweet of the Year on your CV can have.

Off you go!

UPDATE: Winner announced

Four rescued from Maygrove Road fire

This morning I saw a tweet saying “Small house fire on Maygrove Road”. Shortly after, the London Fire Brigade tweeted “20 firefighters are tackling a house blaze on Maygrove Road”. Not such a small fire after all.

After an hour, the fire at No.39 was out. According to the fire brigade, part of second floor flat, a staircase between the first and second floors and a ground floor hallway were damaged in the blaze. Fire crews rescued a woman and a child. The woman suffered burns and smoke inhalation and the child suffered smoke inhalation. A further two men were led to safety by fire officers wearing breathing apparatus. All were taken to hospital.

The cause of the fire is still unknown.

This comes two weeks after an elderly woman died in a fire in West End Court on the corner of Priory Road and Greencroft Gardens.

Cordon tape from the West End Court fire
Photo via Jon Foster

NxNW6 Film Review of 2012

I have been writing this column for eight months and have been blown away by the local appreciation and passion for film. North-west London is a genuine oddity in cinema terms. How many other neighbourhoods (outside of the West End)  can boast seven cinemas (five independent) all within walking distance of each other?

I also wanted to take the opportunity to thank the 60 of you who came to our first #whampfilm events for Skyfall and The Dark Knight Rises. It was very much appreciated and we plan to run similar events in early 2013. We’re also starting a monthly film club night at the Tricycle. However, as you all know, the first rule of film club is that you can’t talk about film club, so I’ll stop talking. More on that later!

There is a slight change in format for this week’s listings. Along with the Film of the Week, US musical comedy Pitch Perfect is the only other new release in the area, so I’ve taken the opportunity to compile my personal list of the films that I thought were outstanding in 2012 – please let me know your favourites as well (either in the comments below or via Twitter @NxNW6).

Have a great Christmas one and all and keep loving cinema.

Film of the Week

Life of Pi
(2012, adventure drama, 127 mins, PG)
The first Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger) film for three years tackles the much loved Yann Martel novel. The 3D rendering is apparently excellent and this is very likely to become a staple of the awards season.
  • Everyman Maida Vale 2D
  • Everyman Hampstead 3D
  • Finchley Road Vue 2D & 3D
  • Swiss Cottage Odeon 3D

Films of the Year
(in no particular order)

Films that just missed the cut: Damsels in Distress, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Shame, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Dredd.

And, for balance, here are my worst five: Battleship, John Carter, Rock of Ages, Wrath of the Titans and The Lorax.

Listings back to normal next week!

Dec 26 – Jack Reacher, Midnight’s Children, Safety not Guaranteed.
Jan 1 – The Impossible, Quartet, Playing for Keeps, Texas Chainsaw 3D
Jan 11 – Les Miserables, Gangster Squad, Jiro Dreams of Sushi
All times correct at time of publication.
*new release.

Contact Mark via Twitter or .

Video: West End Lane fire

Last night around 4.30pm, smoke was spotted seemingly coming out of the ground outside Sainsbury’s on West End Lane in West Hampstead.

About the same time, a few businesses and residents across the road reported a power cut. Perhaps unsurprisingly it turned out the two were related. Apparently there was a small electrical fire in the cabling that runs under the street (some reports said TV cable), and this was causing smoke to rise quite dramatically from West End Lane.

The fire brigade arrived pretty quickly – not exactly a long way for them – and the fire was extinguished, but it was quite some hours before power was restored to parts of West End Lane.

Wayne Nixon captured some of the drama on video.

Update 4.45pm The Ham & High’s report

Smart and diverse – the Camden census

Camden census – some highlights

The Office for National Statistics released its first set of data today from the 2011 census for England & Wales. I waded through the spreadsheets to find some of the more striking figures relating to the London Borough of Camden and tweeted some of them. It’s too early for ward-level analysis yet.

Storified by West Hampstead · Tue, Dec 11 2012 05:51:29


#whampcensus Camden’s population 220,338 49m/51f, that’s up 18k from the (revised) 2001 populationWest Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden has the 8th densest (steady…) population in the country at 101.1 persons/ha. (Islington is the densest 138.7) *cough*West Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden has Inner London’s 2nd highest absolute number of people 65+ living alone.West Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden has highest % of flats in converted houses in the country (7th for purpose-built)West Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden 6th highest level of private rented accomm. (top 9 are all in Inner London), 3rd lowest ownership (excl. Isle of Scilly)West Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden has the lowest % of people living "in a household" in Inner London (96.4% vs. avg 98.4%)West Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden has an average household size of 2.2, but an average number of bedrooms per household of 2.1West Hampstead
#whampcensus worth thinking about today: 3,406 households in Camden don’t have central heating. That’s 3.5%, above inner London average 3.2%West Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden has 5th highest % of single mother households as % of single parent households (K&C is #1)West Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden has Inner London’s 3rd and UK’s 4th highest number of registered same-sex civil partnershipsWest Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden has country’s (and London’s) 6th highest % of single person (never married) households 42.9%West Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden ranks 10th for % of people born outside the EUWest Hampstead
@WHampstead #whampcensus Camden ranked 6th highest nationally in % of households with no carEllen


#whampcensus Camden has 5th highest % "any other white" popn in country (at local authority level). Brent the 2nd lowest "White British"West Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden has country’s 4th highest % White Irish population; Brent is No1 unsurprisingly. 3.2 and 4.0% of total popn respectivelyWest Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden ranks 2nd (behind the often anomalous City of London) for "Irish and British only" identity, and 4th for "Irish only"West Hampstead
#whampcensus 44 people in Camden identify as Cornish only.West Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden ranks 4th for mixed-ethnicity partnerships (this would include eg. 1 x White Irish and one 1 x White British I assume)West Hampstead

Employment & Education

#whampcensus Camden people work long hours – we rank 6th for % of people working 49+ hrs a week, 5th if you just take womenWest Hampstead
#whampcensus is it surprising that Camden ranks 343rd (out of 348) for % of economically active popn. who are employed part time?West Hampstead
#whampcensus 62 people in Camden work in Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing. Who knew!West Hampstead
#whampcensus Those 62 people working in Ag & Fish are split exactly 50/50 male/female.West Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden ranks 3rd however for Professional, Scientific and Technical activities (behind City of London and Islington)West Hampstead
Camden also ranks 2nd for "other" (which includes actors).Oddly, Forest Heath comes top, perhaps due to the 2 USAF bases there?West Hampstead
#whampcensus 2,232 people work in "real estate activities". It is believed 2,231 one of them are based within 100 yards of West End LaneWest Hampstead
#whampcensus Unemployment rate in Camden was 4.5% (vs. inner london average of 5.6%).West Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden 2nd lowest proportion of people working in manufacturing (behind the City of London, where they just manufacture money)West Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden ranks 9th for % of single parents not in employment (51.3% of all single parent households)West Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden has 5th highest % graduate population in country. Over half of 16+ popn. have at least an undergraduate degree.West Hampstead


CORRECTION: #whampcensus Camden had the highest % of people not stating a religion (and came 180th for "no religion").West Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden has the 3rd lowest % Christian popn. in England and Wales at 34% (Tower Hamlets 27.1, Leicester 32.4% are lower)West Hampstead
@WHampstead I’m one of the 0.4% Sikhs locally. The rest are all my relatives #takingover #whampcensusSimi
#whampcensus Camden is in the ONS’s lowest bracket for Christian % popn (0-45.9%), and has 5th highest Jewish % popn. (4.5%)West Hampstead
#whampcensus 704 Jedis in CamdenWest Hampstead
#whampcensus One person in Camden belongs to the Church of All Religion. Hedging their bets there a bit.West Hampstead
#whampcensus 9 Druids, 6 Heathens, 1 Mystic, 2 Occultists, 13 "own belief system", 143 Pagans, 6 Satanists, 2 Shamanists, 23 WiccansWest Hampstead
#whampcensus 54,759 Camdeners put "no religion", just 269 actually wrote atheist, and 264 agnostic, 2 wrote "Free Thinker", 18 "Heavy Metal"West Hampstead
#whampcensus Amused that Heavy Metal followers outnumber Scientologists in Camden. OK – enough religion now.West Hampstead
#whampcensus 45,276 didn’t fill in the religion box at allWest Hampstead

Web chat with Mike Katz

The We are Camden website seems to have struggled to gain traction since it launched some 18 months ago. The idea was to provide a community forum on a ward basis, but posts are sporadic at best. It’s slightly surprising that the venture has lasted this long, at a time of cuts.

Perhaps one way of drawing people to the site is to make it more interactive. So, on Friday, Councillor Mike Katz (Kilburn ward) will be doing a live webchat for an hour from midday om how Kilburn can be improved. You can ask him questions directly then, or mail with questions in advance.

Cllr. Mike Katz

If you can’t make the webcast live, it will be up on the site for a while.

One Show visits Wired

Turn on BBC1 tonight for early evening magazine programme The One Show to see West End Lane’s very own Wired make an appearance.

A One Show researcher contacted me yesterday trying to track down a number for Wired (hint: you need a website guys!), and the crew and a reporter turned up this morning at 9 o’clock to chat to co-owner Tom about whether the recent adverse publicity surrounding Starbucks has had any impact on business.

Watch (or iPlayer) the show from 7pm tonight to find out what Tom had to say about independent coffee shops.

Photo via @cyberdonkey
Photo via @cyberdonkey

West Hampstead screen prints for sale

Many of you will remember an article back in July about artist Martin Robertson who was interested in finding out what we thought symbolised West Hampstead.

Many of you gave your thoughts on this and Martin went away to work on his interpretation.

Lots of West Hampstead landmarks there – bonus points for spotting the Czech chef, and the #whamp hashtag!

You can order the black & white screenprint or the colour versions directly from Martin.

Boris puts kybosh on tube station lift

Navigating between the three West Hampstead stations is already challenging, with narrow pavements, crowds of people and at least one road to cross whichever change you’re making.

Now imagine that you’re not so good at walking – or can’t walk at all. That minor hassle becomes a major hassle. Or would be if it was even worth attempting given the lack of step-free access to the platform.

The Thameslink station does now have proper step-free access (though god help you if there’s one of those pesky short-notice platform changes). The Overground station doesn’t have a lift at the moment, but will get one, perhaps in 2014, having successfully been awarded £1m by the Department for Transport.

Which leaves us with the Jubilee Line station – arguably the most useful of all for day-to-day travel in London.

No-go area for wheelchair users

Lib Dem London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon recently asked the Mayor:

Do you agree that West Hampstead station, which sits on both the Jubilee and London Overground lines, is a good candidate for being made step free?

Boris provided a written reply (I doubt he wrote it himself, there isn’t a single classical reference in there), of which here is an abridged version:

Regrettably there is no funding to undertake works at the Tube station. Aside from the funding question, the Underground station would not be an easy location at which to install step-free facilities. This is because the small ticket hall sits on a road bridge above the tracks carrying the Jubilee, Metropolitan and Chiltern lines. The station is also surrounded by various separately owned properties and there is no space for a lift.

Customers in the West Hampstead area who require a step-free route to central London or need to access the Tube network can use Thameslink services to a number of stations in zone 1 including King’s Cross St Pancras, Farringdon, Blackfriars and London Bridge, all of which are now fully accessible.

Local resident and wheelchair user Shannon Murray certainly doesn’t mince her words in response:

Regrettably they don’t have the funding to undertake the works, well regrettably I don’t have the ability to undertake walking. I can’t use Boris bikes nor can I use the buses or navigate most pavements independently. It’s easy for politicians and decision makers to distance themselves from the implications of access issues because they don’t really impact their lives.

It is a valid point that there are engineering challenges with the Jubilee Line station and these would push the costs of installing a lift even higher. But it is beyond the wit of man to find some innovative solution to this challenge? I fear that step-free access across the Underground network will never become a reality but, at a major interchange like West Hampstead, dismissing the idea so readily feels like a missed opportunity.

Christmas market returns to West End Green

On December 8th, West End Green will host the third successive West Hampstead Christmas market.

It starts at 10am and there’ll be stalls on the green. In previous years these have been a mixture of local crafts, some food (hot and cold), and a couple of community groups. It’s not a German-style market, which I know has disappointed a few people in the past.

The market in 2010

This year there is also a full programme of indoor events in Emmanuel Church, with a focus on events for kids, but with enough to keep adults occupied too. Many of these aren’t necessarily traditional Christmas activities although there’s the opportunity to make wreaths, and there’ll be a choir singing in the afternoon. But there’s also zumba, karate and yoga. These have been arranged by the Community Association for West Hampstead and the Friends of Fortune Green.

The market is still looking for volunteers to help on the day. If you’d like to be part of it, please call Jody Graham on 07765 214867.

Alexanders Estate Agents is the main sponsor this year, and it’s interesting to note that the other sponsors are a diverse bunch of services, only one of which appears to be located in West Hampstead. It would be good to see more local businesses getting behind the Christmas market, which might help elevate it from the village fête feel it has had the past couple of years to more of a destination market that might attract people from further afield.

Full programme
10-12 Make Wreaths & Bird Feeders
11–12 Intros to Knitting
11.30–12.00 Street Dance by children
11–1 Art Project for families
12-12.30 Zumba
12.30-1 Karate for kids,
12-3 Slap-London Face Painting
1.00-1.15 Children’s Indian Dancing
1.15–2.00 Storytelling for families
2–3 West Hampstead Choir
2-4 Art Project for Families
3-3.30 Performing Arts by kids
3:30–4:00 Yoga for Adults

Amy could fly home on Friday

I spoke today with Rich Werner, father of Vermont student Amy who was so badly hurt in the car accident on West End Lane a couple of weeks back.

Rich sounded more upbeat and the news that many of you have been asking about is that Amy continues to make good progress. She still has a long way to go. She’s breathing unaided now, and she can move her arm – seemingly in response to stimulus.

An American PA at the hospital very kindly arranged for two Thanksgiving dinners on Thursday night for Amy’s parents, and there was even a special Thanksgiving meal made for Amy, who is still receiving fluids only.

Her progress, and reasonably stable condition mean that she could be heading back to the US on Friday. This would be in an air ambulance and she would be transferred directly to Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston – part of Harvard Medical School.

As you can imagine, the Werners are excited at the prospect of going home, so fingers crossed that Amy’s recovery continues. They asked me once again to pass on their thanks to all the local people who’ve been sending messages of support and keeping Amy in their thoughts.

Dover,VT Fire Station sends its support

Could West Hampstead police station close?

West Hampstead police station looks certain to lose its front counter, but the murmurings that the whole station is under threat are getting louder.

The Metropolitan Police has engaged in a strange consultation process regarding front counter closures. It can, at best, be described as cursory. A cynic might even interpret it as underhand. “Priority stakeholders” were the only people due to be consulted. Andrew Dismore, the London Assembly Member for Barnet & Camden, is one of these people but, for some reason, it took the borough police a week to find his e-mail address to inform him of the consultation. By that time there were only four days left for him to respond. Even if he had received it in time, it still seems a staggeringly short period of consultation. And why was it so hard for the police to find the e-mail address of an elected representative? (Here’s a hint for them next time).

Andrew Dismore

We all know that public services are being cut back far and wide, and the Met is certainly not exempt. The consultation document (which is a strange two-pager that’s heavy on rationale but light on solutions) explains that the force’s budget need to drop by an eye-watering half a billion pounds by 2015. That isn’t just a lot of money, it’s also a huge chunk of 2011/12’s £2.7 billion budget.

There are 136 police front counters across London, although the consultation paper says that more than a quarter have less than one visitor per hour. Fewer than 50 crimes a night are reported at front counters between 11pm and 7am, and 23 of the 24-hour stations see less than one crime reported every three nights. “They are now primarily staffed by police officers, simply waiting for the public to come to them,” says the paper.

The Met is keen to point out that “This is not about reducing our service but expanding, adapting and changing it for a more modern approach.” I do wonder why it’s not possible for those police officers drumming their fingers on the front desk to perhaps be doing something else while they wait, and maybe someone has to ring a doorbell to be let in, so there’s a drop-in service, but the desk doesn’t have to actually be manned permanently. Surely multi-tasking is possible. (I don’t believe for a minute that police officers aren’t already doing something while they sit and wait).

At Mayor’s Question Time this week, Boris came under sustained fire from Assembly Members, notably Labour’s Dismore and the Lib Dems’ Caroline Pidgeon, who said that 1 in 4 rapes were reported at front counters and was it really reasonable to expect people to report these and other serious crimes in coffee shops. For the consensus is that this is Boris’s big idea: relocate police counters to more accessible locations such as shopping centres. This good ITV news report even moots our very own O2 centre as a possible location as well as showing the Mayor’s response to the questions – he accuses Dismore of “fetishising bricks and mortar”, and says that coffee shops are indeed one avenue that might be pursued.

The grand plan foresees the number of locations where the public can contact the police in person rise from 136 today to up to 270 locations in 2015. In total, 65 front counters will be replaced by more than 200 “Contact Points”, of which seven will be in Camden.

Hampstead police station has already been slated for closure and despite a vocal campaign up in NW3 it’s hard to see that it will be reprieved. Although the consultation document doesn’t expressly mention West Hampstead (in fact the only station named is Holborn which will be the borough’s only 24/7 station), Camden police told Dismore directly:

“The proposals under consultation for Camden are for Holborn front counter to remain open 24 hours and for Kentish Town to be open 40 hour per week. Albany Street, Hampstead and West Hampstead front counters will close and we are looking to create 7 Contact Points across the borough to provide alternative access to policing services.”

That seems pretty clear. It would make our nearest public access station Kentish Town, which is hardly convenient. What is still not clear is whether the whole of West Hampstead police station would close, including the 999 response units. As we all know, West Hampstead also has stables for the mounted police, although this division sits outside the borough structure. According to a letter from Camden’s conservative leader Andrew Mennear in the CNJ back in October, the mounted police would stay while the rest of the police station would close and West Hampstead’s police force would be off to Kentish Town. Even the latest draft of the Neighbourhood Development Plan mentions the police station site as a possible development space.

I’m led to understand by Andrew Dismore’s office that the (seemingly blindingly obvious) idea of turning the small Safer Neighbourhood Team base by the tube station into a front counter is not being considered. So where will locals be able to report crime (or hand in lost property)? The O2 shopping centre strikes me as the most obvious place. The SNT already runs stalls there from time to time, and there is designated community space upstairs. It’s hard to think of anywhere on West End Lane unless there could be co-sharing with the library, or with whatever comes to pass at 156 West End Lane (aka the Travis Perkins building). Mill Lane has more vacant spaces, but none of these solutions are to house a response team. Still, we all know that there’s never any traffic between here and Kentish Tow… oh, yes. Right.

Making savings of £500m is always going to lead to some difficult decisions, but efficiency and cost-effectiveness are surely only part of the equation when it comes to providing emergency service cover. In the meantime, Dismore’s changed his Twitter avatar to one that reads 999SOS – a Labour initiative in City Hall and across London to coordinate objections to the scale and speed of cuts to the police and fire services.

How would you feel about the demise of the front counter at West Hampstead? How about the loss of the whole police station?

West End Lane crash: Can we help?

Since Tuesday, I’ve spoken to Ben Dutton and twice to Rich Werner. Ben is the husband of Desreen Brooks who died in Saturday’s accident on West End Lane in West Hampstead. Rich is the father of Amy who was badly injured in the same crash and remains in hospital. Rich and his wife Gina flew over immediately from their home in Dover, Vermont together with Amy’s grandmother.

It would be an understatement to say that both were gracious under incredibly difficult circumstances. I think – I hope – it helped that these weren’t interviews for an article; they’d already been through that a few times on Tuesday. They were calling because they had heard, via the police’s family liaison officer, of the strength of feeling expressed in the comments left on this website, and of local people’s desire to help in any way they could.

Terrible incidents like this generally bring out the best in people – a desire to do something, anything, to show they care; to show to those affected that this isn’t just another statistic. How that goodwill manifests itself almost becomes irrelevant, people just want to show support. For the families going through the hell that is a sudden bereavement or horrendous injuries to a loved one, their focus can be only on coping with what is happening at the time.

How incredible then, for both Ben and Rich to want to take the time to express their thanks to the locals who have shown them such kindness. Ben was very clear that any help people could give should go towards supporting Amy’s family, who are a long way from home. He and his son have a lot of family and friends close by – he was just realising how many – and are being well looked after, he said. He told me that he and Desreen had planned a day out on Saturday, and he fully intended to go ahead with that because he wanted to keep a sense of normality for their son.

Ben was also very clear that they would still be frequent visitors to West Hampstead – their best friends live here, indeed that’s who they were visiting last Saturday night. His positive attitude, and determination that their son would know what an amazing woman his mother was, was extremely moving.

When I spoke to Rich on Tuesday, Amy was in theatre. We talked briefly about where they were staying and whether there was anything we could do to make that more comfortable for them, but he said they were in good shape for now. However, they recognise that they could well be here for a while and that a longer-term option might be necessary. We spoke again yesterday. On Tuesday it sounded like he was making an effort to be calm; yesterday there was a genuinely more positive tone. Tuesday’s operation had gone well, and the surgeon had been positive about Amy’s progess. She is still in a serious condition but the medical staff are keeping her stable before the next operation, which has been pushed back a couple of days. Amy’s grandmother will fly back to the US today.

Amy and her mother in May 2011

“I can’t express enough how great everyone has been,” said Rich. “It’s been overwhelming. If we close our eyes for a few minutes, it’s like we’re back in Dover.” To feel so cared for that you could be at home, when you are in fact 3,500 miles away is testament to the quality of care they are receiving at St Mary’s. They’ve been to the site of the crash and seen the cards and flowers people have left for both Amy and Desreen.

He specifically asked me to thank two people who’d left comments on the blog. First, one of the doctors who’d been passing and stopped to help. In the chaos that followed the collision, a plastic bag containing a vintage ukulele that belonged to his grandfather and was being taken to be restored went missing. The doctor has posted about this, understandably nervous that it would seem self-serving in the wake of such a tragedy but explaining that it had huge sentimental value. I didn’t think it was self-serving – here was a guy who’d stopped to help victims of a road accicent, bit harsh to think anything other than good of him. Rich saw it the same way and told me to say that he was sorry that this good samaritan had lost the instrument and to thank him for all he’d done for both victims.

He also asked me to thank someone who simply signed off as “J”, with no other way of contacting them. J had sat with Amy and put a blanket over her while they waited for the ambulance. I don’t have kids, but I can still just about imagine that thought that your child is lying in the road and you are an ocean away but someone, some kind person, is holding their hand and keeping them warm. If you read this J, then know that Rich and Gina are immensely grateful.

As for what we can do to help, well, right now, very little. It’s not the answer lots of you are looking for I know. Feeling impotent at a time like this is frustrating, but it’s nothing to what the people immediately affected are going through. Rich and I agreed to speak again in a few days’ time when they have a clearer idea of what their needs might be. Then I’ll be badgering you all for contacts in the property business, or whatever it is we need. Until then, let’s let them focus on being there for Amy.

West End Lane crash: details emerging

Today, the police released the name of the woman who was killed in the tragic road accident in West Hampstead on Saturday night.

Desreen Brooks, 33, was with her husband and two-year-old son at the time. As the car mounted the pavement her husband Ben Dutton pushed their son out of the way and jumped clear. Sadly his wife was not able to get out of the way. Despite the best efforts of doctors who were passing and stopped, she was pronounced dead at the scene.

Desreen Brooks and Ben Dutton

American postgrad student Amy Werner, 23, was also caught up in the accident as she headed to Camden to meet up with classmates, and remains in hospital in a critical but stable condition. Her parents have flown over from Vermont to be with her.

The 83-year-old driver was taken to hospital but his injuries have been described as “not life threatening”.

Local residents have left many comments of support for both families – this accident has shaken the community, partly I think because it was so random and for those who live in the immediate area it was so dramatic. Lots of readers have asked how we might help, and I can tell you that the Family Liaison Officer is making the families aware of this level of support and if there is anything practically that we can do then I shall let you all know. Clearly both families have enough to deal with at the moment so it may be a little while before our help is needed.

The cause of the crash is still not known. Police are appealing for witnesses and anyone with any information should call 0208 842 1817.

The Evening Standard and Camden New Journal both have reports with extra detail.

Time to make the farmers’ market legal

Not that it’s exactly been “illegal” since it opened. The market has been allowed to operate without planning permission for a short period of time, but now the application is in with Camden and if you are broadly in favour of us having a farmers’ market in West Hampstead every Saturday then it would be a good idea to go to the comments section of the planning application website and say so.

I’m not entirely sure why the application itself is not searchable on Camden’s website, but it’s pretty straightforward so if you like the market, let Camden know you want to keep it.

Because one market’s never enough

Tomorrow there’s going to be another market opposite the farmers’ market.

This is a small craft market selling greetings cards, including Christmas cards, designed by a local artist, designer watches and bracelets from Australia, as well as vintage jewellery. Will be interesting to see whether the farmers’ market shoppers will be drawn across the road or not.

Winter coats for people who really need them

Chilly isn’t it? Expect you’re digging out that winter coat from the back of the wardrobe to keep you nice and warm as you trudge from your centrally heated house to the hot tube to your heated office and back. Because for those minutes that you’re outside, it’s cold and you want to be warm. Makes sense.

Now imagine that it’s just as cold but you don’t have a centrally heated home, in fact you don’t have a home at all. Nor do you have an office. You’re pretty much outside most of the time. But you want to be warm. Makes sense.

Hands On London is trying to help. For the second year in a row, it’s organising Wrap Up London. The idea is that you donate a winter coat for homeless people and those living in poverty. Maybe you have a coat that’s no longer in fashion, maybe it’s not as smart as when you bought it, maybe you simply have too many coats in your wardrobe, or perhaps your son or daughter has grown out of the coat you bought them a couple of years ago. So give it to someone who really needs it.

Hands On London’s second annual coat collection campaign will take place from Monday 5th – Friday 9th November. It aims to collect and distribute 10,000 coats to London’s most vulnerable people via more than 80 different shelters and charities.

There are a few ways you can give your coat: at major tube stations next week between 7 and 11am (see website for full details), or, more conveniently for some, you can drop it in to Paramount estate agents on West End Lane during its office hours (Mon-Thu 9-7, Fri 9-6.30, Sat 10-3) right through to November 14th. Help keep someone warm this winter.

Afro-Caribbean sunshine in West Hampstead

Tomorrow night, St James’ Hall in Sherriff Rd (next to the church) hosts what is apparently an annual African-Caribbean night.

The fun kicks off at 7.30pm and is in celebration of Black History month. There’ll be delicious national dishes such as curry goat, plantains, and, rum punch.

I am also assured that you will also get a chance to show off how to look good on the dancefloor with some reggae and cheesy disco music. That’s why there’s rum punch.

Tickets are £5 for adults and £3 for children – you can buy them on the door.

Changes to recycling

You may well have had a leaflet through your door recently about quite major changes to the way Camden handles recycling.

The council plans to do away with the always-disappearing blue bags and the never-quite-big-enough-for-all-my-wine-bottles green boxes and replace them next summer with one wheelie bin.

This bin will be the sole receptacle for paper, plastic and glass recycling. Food waste will conut in one place.

Apparently, “experience from other councils that have introduced wheelie bins shows that by providing additional storage capacity the amount of recycling increases.”

This is not hugely surprising – it is, after all, a bit of a faff to have to separate stuff out, especially for those who live in flats who might not have so much room for all the various bags and boxes and bins.

Camden is not rushing into this without checking with you lot though; specifically on the important matter of what size and what colour you want the bin to be. There are also some other data gathering questions about how much you like to recycle, whether it gives you a warm glow, that sort of thing.

They come in TWO sizes (gasp)

You can fill in the survey here.

If you have not received a letter, but would like to be considered for a wheelie bin, then you should definitely fill in the survey. Camden will then contact you about your request. There are also roadshows where you will be able to see the wheelie bins (it’s like the Olympic torch all over again) and ask questions. There are some brilliant questions already answered in an FAQ document. This tells you, for example, that you can hold on to your existing green box and perhaps keep your tools in it!

The nearest roadshows to us are:
Thursday October 25th 2pm-5pm, Kilburn library, 12-22 Kilburn High Road, NW6 5UH
Thursday November 1st 10.30am-1pm, Swiss Cottage library, 88 Avenue Road, NW3 3HA
Friday November 2nd 11.30am-2pm, West Hampstead library, Dennington Park Road, NW6 1AU.

Meanwhile, click the image below for a full-size reminder of what you can and can’t recycle.

Art workshops this autumn

Claire – by Julian Gordon Mitchell

Julian Gordon Mitchell, an artist who’s exhibited at the Royal Academy, will be hosting a series of events at the West Hampstead Community Centre over the next few weeks. The first one is this Friday evening and it’s a workshop.

Stepby-Step Portrait Drawing starts at 8pm, (get there at 7.30). Julian will explain the steps involved in developing a realistic portrait from life. All levels of experience and ability are apparently welcome (this is clearly a man who hasn’t seen me wield a paintbrush).

It’s a tenner to join in and you need to book by contacting Cindy on 07904 088341 () or Laraine on 07703 192695 ().

There are three more events:
Sun 11th November – Lecture: “The Entire History of Art”
Fri 30th November – Workshop: “Painting a Portrait”
Sun 2nd December – Lecture: “Pickled Sharks and all that”

Julian has been lecturing and teaching art in local schools and colleges for many years, and – as an aside – his grandfather is Arthur Croft Mitchell whose painting Interior of a Religious House is currently featured in the Your Paintings section on the BBC website.

Get down and dirty on Fortune Green

The redoubtable Friends of Fortune Green have an Action Day coming up at the end of the month. They say “day”, but really it’s more of an Action Afternoon.

This isn’t action in some vague fist-waving “we really must do something about those damned [insert bête noir here]”. This is proper action (the words “hard” and “labour” have been bandied around).

The FoFG has had action days before, but it’s on a mission to make them better and more regular. This will be the last one of 2012, but after the winter they will take place in the afternoon of the last sunday of the month. Everyone is welcome – not just members. So if you’ve got some green fingers, or want a bit of a workout without paying for gym membership, this could be for you.

The excitement kicks off at 2pm on October 28th, and the goal is to set up the beds (as in flower beds, not that kind of action cowboy) for the winter.

From 2-3pm:
– formative pruning of the hedge
– some pruning of the perennials
– weeding
– picking the sycamore seedlings
– plus the usual litter picking

That’s an hour of hard graft, but someone’s got to keep the green looking ship shape right? So, why not you? If you can bring your own tools and gloves then please do.

From 3-4pm the type of action is a bit more up to you. The FoFG really want your feedback on the planned children’s landscaped corner. The aim is to revitalise the tired hedging at the corner with Ulysses Road, and the group has worked on this with Beckford School. The team will show you the plans so far, mark out some of the areas, and try and convey some of what they envisage.

As if the reward of a job well done wasn’t enough, there’ll be tea and biscuits and (I have it on a good authority) even a bit of home made cake. Contact if you’d like to join in.

2-for-1 offer at Affordable Art Fair

The Affordable Art Fair returns to Hampstead Heath at the start of November. And, as a West Hampstead Life reader, you can get 2-for-1 entry (or 50% off if you’re a solo whamper). Nice right?

The Affordable Art Fair (and here I’m quoting from the blurb) “showcases contemporary collections from household names and emerging talent, all priced from £40 to £4,000, set in the scenic surroundings of the Heath. Defined by its informal and relaxed atmosphere, the Affordable Art Fair is the destination for looking, learning and loving contemporary art, with each piece ready to be wrapped up and taken away the same day. However, it’s not all about buying art – the fair offers a fun filled day out for the whole family with a host of activities for all ages including informal talks, artist-led hands on workshops, kids’ activity packs and a free crèche.”

To get your discount, just print out this page and show to the ticket desk on arrival.

Hampstead Heath:
Thursday 1 – Sunday 4 November 2012
Opening hours: 11.00am – 6.00pm (Late View Thursday 1, 5.30-9.30pm)
Ticket prices: £10–£20 (concessions £8 – £13)
Kids under 16 are free to enter with an accompanied adult

Information: 020 8246 4848
Join us on Facebook: The Affordable Art Fair, UK
Follow us on Twitter: @aaflondon

Opening night Skyfall tickets – Bond is back

It’s the most successful film franchise of all time (probably, I have no idea – but it’s got to be a frontrunner, right?). Now Bond is back with Daniel Craig’s third outing as 007.

Skyfall opens in the UK on October 26th and you can get to the 19.30 Imax screening that very night at the Swiss Cottage Odeon with our second #whamppremiere event.

Tickets are £22, which gets you a premier seat (all sold out for this first night screening – so this is your only chance), and a free specially designed “M” vodka cocktail just for us (house wine/bottled beer available).

We have just 30 tickets available. Those of you who came to the Dark Knight screening will be pleased to know we’ve ironed out the kinks in the process. Now you pay us directly, so you don’t have to collect your tickets in advance or pay separately at the bar.

To reserve your space, asap. It’s first come/first served. Maximum 2 tickets per person (do say whether you want 1 or 2). I’ll send you payment details.

Cancellation policy: please don’t cancel.

Kilburn Grand Tour in October

October is “Kilburn month” at the Kingsgate Workshops.

As part of a collaboration between the front-of-house volunteers at Camden Arts Centre and the Kingsgate Workshops Trust, Kingsgate Gallery’s exhibition project is focused on the artistic exploration of the Kilburn area and its history, and especially the engagement with the local community.

What’s on? Let me hand over to the organisers to whet your appetite. You can also check out the latest news regarding the exhibition.

As well as the specific events listed below, Asako Taki’s blog project, which started in May 2012, reflects her encounters with the people of Kilburn. Throughout October, Deborah Farr installs a glow-in-the-dark mural in the Iverson Road arches, while the collective Kilburn-Mapping-Project of Cornelia Marland continues to grow within the gallery, through the help of our visitors. Also inside Kingsgate, Suits Meso’s flag-and-sound installation is displayed alongside a performance-wall drawing by Evy Jokhova. Jokhova is also making a short film that follows one day in Kilburn for 50 years using archival documents and footage filmed by herself.

So drop into the gallery Thursday–Sunday from midday to 6pm (it’s free), or come to one of the events.

October 4: Kilburn Grand Tour Opening Night 6pm-9pm

Join us for the opening night of our one month-long creative and artistic exploration of Kilburn. As with any Grand Tour we know our destination, but the journey is not set… From hidden rivers, imagined maps, and constantly-evolving art we need your help to inspire our voyage.

As the project evolves, the gallery space will change, so don’t miss your chance to see what might not be visible a week later. Help us give our project the best possible start and join us for the official kick-off of The Kilburn Grand Tour at the Kingsgate Trust Gallery.

October 6: Blue Flower River Project – Gardening Event 2pm-4pm [Ed: I think this sounds like a brilliant idea]

Join in this celebration and remembrance of the River Westbourne with a gardening twist! Guided by Helene Latey, walk the river path and see the Blue-Flower-River project along the way.

Come back to Kingsgate gallery for refreshments and a short presentation on Green living given by the Camden council Sustainability Team. Also at the gallery, pick up a river map and wildflower seeds and get involved in some guerrilla gardening of your own as you continue the river walk through the Kilburn streets.

October 13: Suit Meso’s Flag Making Workshop 1pm-4pm

Come along and get creative at this flag making workshop. Learn about flags from around the world, draw on your cultural influences and merge symbols and signs to design and make your own personal flag.

Led by artist Suits Meso and tying in to his artistic practice, this workshop will result in the creation of a large scale “Kilburn Flag” constructed from the individual flags produced on the day and to be displayed as part of the Kilburn Grand Tour exhibition.

October 14: River Talk: “The River Westbourne – Kilburn’s Hidden River” 6pm-8pm

Could there be a river running beneath your feet, or even beneath your house? Now’s the time to find out as river historian Stephan Myers, author of Walking on Water, London’s Hidden Rivers Revealed, will reveal Kilburn’s own hidden river in his presentation on the River Westbourne.

Learn the fascinating history of this now underground river, map its location beneath the Kilburn streets and follow its influence and role within the Kilburn landscape all within the art filled atmosphere of the Kingsgate Gallery.

October 19: Evy Jokhova: Kilburn Grand Tour 5pm-6.30pm

Jokhova’s Kilburn Grand Tour opens to the public with a screening of a film compiled from newspaper clippings, personal and borrowed film footage that follows Kilburn on one day in October for the past 50 years. The screening of Kilburn Grand Tour will be accompanied by a public panel discussion between artist Nicola Lane, Kilburn historian Dick Weindling and local residents on what makes Kilburn a ‘home’.

Following on from this Jokhova will create a week-long performance drawing in the gallery space inspired by the contents of the discussion.

October 19: Artist Talk and Walk 7pm-9pm

Live in Kilburn? Long to live in Kilburn? Or just want to get to know Kilburn a bit better? What better way than to come along for our special Artist Talk, and let our artists illuminate (literally) this wonderful area of North-West London for you!

Following the overground trail of the hidden River Westbourne, artists Helene Latey, Deborah Farr and Lara Smithson will take you on an hour-long walk through Kilburn, presenting their artworks along the way; an experience which will make you see your surroundings and community in a whole new light. The walk will end up at Kingsgate Trust Gallery where there will be refreshments, more art and the chance for everyone to contribute to our very own Kilburn-map.

October 26: Closing Party 6pm-9pm

The Kilburn Grand Tour’s closing party will take place on the final Friday of October. Come along for the final chance to see our artists’ completed work, catch-up with our process and celebrate the creative and artistic life and spirit of Kilburn.

If you’re not familiar with the Kingsgate Workshops Trust, it supports a wide range of arts and crafts in studio spaces of variable sizes. The workshops are a converted 19th century warehouse which provides studio space for more than 50 artists and crafts people as well hosting up to 12 public exhibitions a year.

Are you sitting comfortably?

Got this in an e-mail from the people behind Locally Sourced, which, if you don’t know, is a group organising words & music events in Brioche every so often.

Anyway, it’s a blatant advert for a storytelling course, but I thought it sounded a bit different and the tutor seems to have good credentials so I’m passing it on.

“If you want to improve your confidence, public speaking and communication skills, or if you want to tell a story in front of an audience but never dared to do it then this might be the course for you.”

Over five sessions you will learn:

• Basic skills of storytelling.
• Some understanding of narrative structure
• An appreciation of traditional tales
• Experience in telling a story and engaging an audience
• A combination of theory & practice in a fun & engaging way

The course will culminate in a Locally Sourced evening with class participants each telling a story to an audience of friends and neighbors. This will take place the evening of 26 November at Brioche café in West Hampstead.

Tutor: Ariella Eshed. Ariella is a theatre director, storyteller and workshop leader based in London. For the past six years she has led courses in storytelling at City Lit in Covent Garden. She has worked for many years with the National Theatre Education Department on their storytelling programme in schools and with other companies and organizations in Israel and the UK.
Guest tutor: John Eastman
Course dates: Five Wednesday evenings between 24 October-20 November 2012 from 19.30-21.30 and the performance.
Where: West Hampstead (location to be confirmed)
Cost: £90

For more information or to book your place please contact

Stand By Me on Fortune Green

Short notice, yes, but I just got confirmation that the second Friends of Fortune Green outdoor film screening will happen this Saturday evening. It’s Stand By Me.

If you came along to Breaking Away earlier in the summer you’ll know how this works. Basically, the film is powered by bicycle. Now, Breaking Away is a film ABOUT cycling, which probably inspired people. Stand By Me isn’t (although I do seem to recall a couple of scenes on bikes?), but people still need to be willing to do a 5-10 minute stint on a bike. It all worked fine last time, and there’s no obligation at all to get on your bike and ride.

The film, if you don’t know it, is a 1980s coming-of-age classic, starrring Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix and Corey Feldman (Richard Dreyfus and Kiefer Sutherland are also in it). It’s based on a Stephen King novel and was directed by Rob Reiner. So, basically, it’s a good film. If you’ve already seen it you’ll know it’s well worth watching again and if you haven’t then now’s the perfect time to rectify that.

The screening starts at sundown – which is 7pm, though if you want a good spot I’d get there quite a bit earlier as the bikes do slightly limit the viewing angle. Last time there must have been at least 200 people there, so hopefully there’s a similar turnout this time – and hopefully it’s too cold for the mosquitoes that plagued us all. Bring a picnic blanket, bring a picnic (Nautilus should be open for a sustaining fish & chips takeaway), and bring some friends.

The event is free, but FoFG will be asking for donations to help cover similar future events, so be nice and give a little something for this great community event.

Democratic paradox south of the tube line

The local Neighbourhood Development Forum (which is now on Twitter by the way), held its latest meeting last week. I just perused the minutes and was intrigued by a paradox of democracy.

Walk with me.

The NDF has to determine the precise boundaries for its local plan. Ward boundaries are not necessarily the solution, but at the moment they’re the easiest option and the NDF covers West Hampstead and Fortune Green wards. This means that, for example, Broadhurst Gardens is not covered because it’s in Swiss Cottage ward.

According to the minutes of September’s NDF meeting, WHGARA – the residents association for the streets between Lowfield Road, West End Lane, Hemstal and Sherriff Roads – has not yet decided whether to support the Forum, but would make its decision on October 9th. I have discussed before the psychological and physical divide felt by some, but not all, residents who live south of the tube line between them and the rest of West Hampstead.

NDF members said they thought it would be hard for WHGARA to express its views on the development of the area, particularly the Interchange, if they excluded themselves from the Forum; WHGARA’s representative said she “thought the Forum was pro-development and didn’t have much support in the south of the West Hampstead area.”

James Earl, the NDF chair, said that if WHGARA decided not to support the Forum, the southern boundary would probably move north to be the railway line.

This raises a couple of issues. First, I’d like to see the evidence of the support or lack of for the Forum in the WHGARA area. My unproven hunch is that most people have probably never heard of it, let alone have a view on it. Second, although I accept that residents assocations generally represent their area, they are not necessarily representative of an area, so to my mind it seems odd that if an RA chooses not to support an initiative, this automatically means that area is excluded.

But this is not the paradox.

Keep walking with me.

Later, the minutes explain that the October 22nd NDF meeting will be open to the public and run in conjunction with WHAT. “Members said it was important to invite and involve more people than ‘the usual suspects’. There was a desire for publicity to be at the new farmers’ market; in shops and local businesses; and at other public events. Suggestions for poster locations also included on trees; doctors’ surgeries; schools; nurseries; community centres; parks; and cafes.”

Excellent – I wholeheartedly approve, and you can be sure I’ll mention it on here too. Now we come to the paradox. You live in the WHGARA area, but have never heard of it- or it’s not your thing perhaps. You’re browing the cauliflowers at the farmers’ market when you notice a flyer for a public meeting about shaping the future of West Hampstead. This sounds more interesting. You toddle along, but then find all too quickly that it will have no bearing on your immediate streetscape because some people you don’t know have decided not to support it.

Moving beyond the usual suspects is surely the right thing to do – the process should be open to as many people as are interested. So why then, is something as important as the boundaries for the whole plan dependent on the powers that be at WHGARA? More bluntly: what sort of majority off what sort of turnout is needed at a WHGARA meeting to determine whether it’s a yay or a nay? Do leave a comment if you know the answer to this question.

I would urge the NDF to stick to its guns and use the two ward boundaries as the basis for the plan. Even though I don’t think it’s perfect, I remain unconvinved that the lack of support of a residents association (should that be the eventual outcome) is enough reason to shrink the size of the area.

And there’s the paradox. Democracy should be about opening up decision making to the people, but it’s also pragmatically about electing decision-makers and abiding by their rules. Yet at this hyperlocal scale, the two seem to have the potential to clash.

You can stop walking now.

Is Mill Apartments £15,000 sweetener enough?

A couple of months ago I went to have a look round the show apartment at the Mill Apartments. Back then they were called the Mill Apartments Hampstead, though they have since been rebranded – extremely sensibly – as the Mill Apartments West Hampstead (although the website address hasn’t changed). I saw a 3-bed flat, which was very nice. And very expensive. £815,000 expensive to be precise for this first floor flat. The service charge would be in excess of £2,500 a year and a parking space was an extra £25,000. More hilarious was that if you wanted storage space in the basement “big enough for a bike and a couple of sets of golf clubs”, then you’d have to part with another £10,000. I think I laughed out loud at this point. Sounds like I might not have been the only one.

You might argue that £815,000 for a modern nice 3-bed flat in West Hampstead isn’t out of the ordinary. By the way, lets not kid ourselves here, while pretending these apartments are in Hampstead was presumably verging on some sort of property misdescription, they can hardly be said to be in the heart of West Hampstead either. Shoot-Up Hill is much nearer than West End Lane. Nevertheless, it is quite a lot of money for any flat around here outside the NW3/NW8 postcode. This is the cheapest 3-bed in the building, they go up in price as you go up the floors, so the 3rd floor 3-bed flat is £830,500.

Floorplan of the 3-bed apartments

Which brings me to the point of this story. To date, 17 of the 27 non-social housing flats in the development have sold (the three 3-beds have not). The prices for the four penthouses, which are just coming on the market now, are not on the website, but early communications said that the top price flat would be £1.5m, so I guess we assume that’s the price of the only 3-bed penthouse, while the cheapest penthouse is £1.35m.

Looking south from one of the penthouse suites

Given that the apartments don’t seem to be flying off the shelves, so the developer, Taylor Wimpey, is holding an open day and resorting to “buy now” discounts in the form of cash/cash-equivalent incentives.

If you sign on the dotted line this Saturday at the open-day then it will throw in either a luxury holiday, £15,000 to spend at Selfridges or a brand new Mini. According to the PR company, “Offering these incentives is a new trend for estate agents and house builders, in order to kick-start a property industry that has slowed in recent years.” Or in other words “we overpriced the apartments a bit”. Now, if you’re willing to drop £1.5m on a 3-bed apartment in what is almost Cricklewood, it’s debatable whether a £15,000 cashback deal (1%) is going to make much difference to your yes/no decision. Even for the cheapest apartment still available (£588,000), you’d only be getting a 2.5% discount.

The press release implies, although certainly doesn’t make clear, that that expensive car parking space might be thrown in as well (or a 2-year parking permit). That’s a far more valuable incentive, both financially and practically, but this is a common negotiating tool as far as I’m aware.

Anyway, if you want to go along on Saturday, then there’ll be drinks, nibbles and live music between 11am and 3pm. If you want to view an apartment (and surely that’s the only reason to go), then best reserve in advance by calling 0845 676 2377. Even if you don’t have half a million quid to spend on the day, us locals are apparently welcome. I quote: “It is also a fab opportunity for local residents to find out more about their newest neighbour!”. Which is very friendly.

What’s sold and what’s not by Sep 26th 2012 (penthouses not included)

Farmers’ market makes a splash

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make the first West Hampstead Farmers’ Market last Saturday, but intrepid correspondent Nimet was on hand to record it for posterity in both words and pictures.

“Shortly after 10am on a crisp Saturday morning on the Thameslink station forecourt, in front of a small gathering, Cllr Gilllian Risso-Gill rang the inaugural bell and announced the West Hampstead Farmers’ Market open.

Finally! The is it on / off palaver had caused some entertainment in the run up over the past few months, but the resident cow had certainly left no doubt that the market was definitely on.

I arrived shortly before 10am, spoke to Cheryl Cohen from the London Farmers’ Market, then watched some of the hardy stall holders dressed in their gloves and hats set out their stalls ready for business (you can find out more about the full list of producers). The vibrantly coloured fruit and vegetables, freshly baked bread, cheese, flowers, fish and meat soon looked at home on the normally empty forecourt.

I spent over an hour at the market wandering around speaking to the vendors about their produce, observing the crowds and earwigging conversations. Each producer was more than happy to let you try a sample (where appropriate) and all spoke passionately about their produce. One farmer gushed about how his wife had handmade all the sausages and gave expert advice on how to cook them.

The shoppers really were loving it, there was a chaotic buzz and very few stalls struggling for custom while I was there. Most came with empty bags which slowly filled up with fresh produce. The evidence on Twitter (#whampFM is the hashtag in case you’re wondering) is clear – it was a resounding success, Jonathan also Storify’d the reaction. I’m pretty certain the weather played a huge part in the massive turn out and the stock sell out my midday. I really hope that Whampers still make the trip to support the market when the weather isn’t so fair.

Someone on Twitter asked me what ‘Lincolnshire’s finest’ was doing in West Hampstead…? Well, we didn’t expect many NW6 producers did we? In fact, quite a lot of the vendors aren’t actually from London. As Jonathan explained in a previous post, all the producers come from within a 100 miles radius of the M25 and they must raise, grow or bake all their stock. Well, that’s good enough for me.

Stupidly, I went to the market with only a £1 coin in my purse so I hunted for best way to spend my fortune. I settled on 6 large eggs that were laid the previous day. I made dippy egg and marmite soldiers. Delicious.

The West Hampstead Farmers’ Market is trading each Saturday between 10am and 2pm on the West Hampstead Thameslink station forecourt, see London Farmers’ Market website and Facebook for more.”

Zadie Smith shines light on Kilburn

“I do not claim to know what happens in villages”

Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith is everywhere at the moment, and yet this media ubiquity also has a very firm geographic focal point: North-west London.

No great surprise there, after all, Smith has become some sort of literary symbol for the cultural melting pot of this part of the capital. And when she titles her latest book “NW”, you can’t blame journalists for making something of it.

Since 2010, Zadie Smith has been a professor of creative writing at New York University. She’s not popping into Poundland on the Kilburn High Road of a Saturday morning. Yet the sense of north-weezy (as the kids say) identity and affection clearly runs deep. Back in June, she wrote an impassioned article in the New York Review of Books about the plans for Willesden library and bookshop (read the article if you haven’t already).

In what one hopes was a great editorial idea, rather than clever publisher PR, TimeOut this week took Smith up the Kilburn High Road to meet a few locals. Although defining what “local” is in Kilburn is a tricky matter as one tweeter commented.

@jamesrobking @timeoutlondon how many “locals” did she Speak to? Er none by the looks of it. But welcome to all the visitors of Kilburn.
— ANNE MOUTADJER (@kilburnbelle) September 6, 2012

Kilburn High Road has always been a street on the move though. It’s arterial, with all the blood-pumping energy that implies. Not so many “born and bred” locals, but a galaxy of people who’ve called it home at one time or another. That’s what has made it Kilburn.

Spot a celeb? Think before you tweet

West Hampstead has its fair share of local celebrities – Black-cab driving Stephen Fry might have deserted us but there’s still the A-list thesp set of Jim, Imelda, Phyllida, Emma and Greg. There’s the permanently louche Bill Nighy. There’s actress Angela Griffin, singer Chaka Kahn (although no-one ever seems to see her), and many more. Most recently, David Mitchell (ok, he’s in Kilburn) and Robert Webb have been the most visible local famous people.

Webb, in particular, is spotted very frequently on West End Lane and in particular in a couple of the local pubs. I see him myself fairly regularly. Yet, despite the fact that I seem to tweet every five seconds, I generally don’t live-tweet celebrity spots – at best I’ll wait until I’ve got home, or be very vague about where I’ve seen someone. In the same vein, I tend not to retweet other people’s real-time local celeb spots. This is particularly true for those famous people who actually live here or who, like Robert Webb, are seen frequently – it’s really not news and i don’t think my twitter followers are that interested. If someone’s here for work reasons (Phil & Kirstie, for example) then it’s a different ballgame.

Why so prissy? I think that if I was well-known I wouldn’t really want my whereabouts advertised when I just wanted a quiet pint. Some people crave the limelight, others have it shone on them when perhaps they’d rather stay in the shadows.

I was interested therefore to see a short exchange on Twitter last night.

Hard to tell whether Webb’s being narky or funny, and I feel a bit sorry for @markmccluskey who clearly didn’t expect to be called out on his tweet. It’s true that most people who spot Webb don’t use his twitter name, so unless he has a search set up for his name(or for “that bloke from Peep Show” or “Jez”) he probably doesn’t see how often he’s identified.

The moral of this story – next time you see someone famous in the neighbourhood, maybe have a think as to whether you really need to immediately tell the world that you’ve seen them and – if they’re on Twitter – whether there’s anything to be gained from using their twitter name in any message you do decide to post. Failure to do so might result in Robert Webb asking you to explain yourself in person!

Ice cream and hot dogs on Iverson Road

Lots of you have noticed the new additions to West Hampstead’s, er, vibrant retail scene. Yes, Mr Whippy and a hot dog stand have arrived in town.

Photo via @RicksterLondon

They have set their stalls on the new wide pavement by the Thameslink station but this hasn’t proved popular with everyone – they don’t seem to quite fit with the image West Hampstead likes to have of itself.

In fact it’s not entirely clear how they are there. There was some confusion as to whether that space was a designated car park (which it is not), and then as to whether they had the right licence. The police moved them on for a day, but then they were back with the right licence.

The councillors are trying to get to the bottom of it as there is even more confusion as to whether this is a Network Rail issue or a Camden council issue. The land is owned by Network Rail but trading licences should normally be given by the council. That’s what happens when you privatise “public” space I’m afraid (if you’ll allow me to ride one of my hobbyhorses for a moment).

I have a sneaking suspicion that Mr Whippy and his frankfurter friend won’t be there much longer, so if you like a 99 Flake or a £3 hotdog, then get down there quick.

JOB: Want to manage the West Hampstead farmers’ market?

If you are organised, efficient, and enthusiastic, and you are interested in food, environmental issues, or farming, you might enjoy managing London Farmers’ Markets new West Hampstead market.

You need to be self motivated, assertive, cheerful, a good communicator, polite, and well organised.

Some of the duties include:

  • Being present at set up of the market (usually 2 hours before start of market). Duties involve co-ordinating the position of stalls, and putting up signs.
  • Setting up a table with information about London Farmers’ Markets
  • Ringing the opening bell and ensuring that there is no selling before the bell.
  • After ringing the closing bell, supervising the clearing of the site and confirming that each stallholder has cleaned up.
  • Filling in a weekly market report to LFM on market day
  • Enforcing the market rules.
  • Talking to stall holders and customers and convey those comments to LFM.
  • Promoting the market during market hours, for example, by leafleting, handing out samples or talking to local businesses or community groups.

If you’re interested then contact . Send them a letter or e-mail telling us something about yourself. If you have a C.V. then attach it, but if you don’t, or it’s not relevant, a written statement giving an indication of your previous experience is fine. Please provide two referees. Tell LFM what you’d bring to the job, why you think you’d make a good manager, and what skills you think you’d bring to the role. If you’ve been to one of the LFM markets, give them your impressions, and what you think could be done to improve it. You’ll need access to e-mail and a mobile phone.

Farmers’ market moooves closer

The saga of West Hampstead’s farmers’ market has been more like a storyline from The Archers of late. Will it/won’t it/Has Nigel Pargeter fallen off the roof?

Then today a cow appeared. Not a real cow obviously, but a painted one. It’s standing next to the Mr Whippy van and the hot dog stand, so probably just as well it’s not a real one. It’s announcing that the Farmers’ Market will open on September 22nd.

The LFM website confirms that the market will be every Saturday from 10am to 2pm. In early September the organisers will announce who’s going to open the market. In the meantime, LFM is still looking for a manager for the West Hampstead market if you’re interested!

Kilburn goes Caribbean

If you’ve been reading the local film listings of late, you’ll have spotted that the Tricycle in Kilburn has been taken over for the Trinidad & Tobago cultural village. Fiona went along to see whether it had brought some Caribbean sunshine to the mean streets of Kilburn:

“After an incredible weekend for Team GB, my flatmates and I had thoroughly caught Olympic fever. So on Monday night we decided to try one of the cultural villages that have popped up across London, and as Trinidad and Tobago have made the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn their home, it seemed like the obvious choice.

The evening’s main event was a dance class was led by Attillah Springer who is heavily involved in the local Trinidad community in Kilburn (she has a blog). She began by explaining the history of wining and its importance as an expression of freedom and female sensuality. For her wining is about owning your own body and displaying it proudly during Carnival. We were repeatedly told ‘Your bottom is not your enemy!’

We started with simple ‘chipping’ (effectively walking with rhythm) and then moved on slowly to creating the signature grinding movement. I won’t pretend I was any good at it but I did manage to learn something and had a great laugh doing so – and who knows, by the time the Notting Hill Carnival comes around I might be wining with ease!

After the class we went downstairs to eat. There are five or six stalls serving up traditional Caribbean food from tiny hotplates and microwaves. We chose one, which turned out to be from Jouvert, a Trinidad and Tobagan restaurant rather annoyingly based in SE6. The roti was really excellent: tender chunks of mutton with spicy potatoes, proper chapatti, and grilled plantain on the side, all for £8 (or £6 without the plantain). No cards are taken, so take cash! We washed it all down with Carib beer, and sat back to watch some athletics and cheer on the Jamaicans on the big screen as sadly no one from T&T was competing that evening.

There is still plenty more to come as the village runs until the 25th August. The workshop floor where we had our dance class was covered in glitter from an earlier children’s workshop, and if you can tear yourself away from the Olympics (we couldn’t) there are also film screenings and music concerts (the later sadly seems to have sold out) in the evenings. We had a great evening, and on a wet squib of a summer evening, it was nice to find a slice of Caribbean sunshine on our doorstep!

You can find out more here: http://trinbagovillage.com/.”

Farmers’ market confusion

I reported a few days ago that London Farmers’ Markets had added West Hampstead to its list, with an opening date of September 22nd. Odd then that a day later the page had been removed. Odd, right?

I contacted LFM to see if I could find out why, and was met with a “not my area, call back later in the week,” delivered in a defensive tone.

Instead, I tweeted Cheryl Cohen of LFM who responded very quickly and much more positively. She quelled the rumour I’d heard that the problem was a conflict with Queens Park farmers’ market, which LFM also runs.

“We are confident,” said Cohen, “that we will have confirmation of the West Hampstead farmers’ market soon and are very much looking forward to becoming a part of the local community.”

This would imply that the issue is with Network Rail, who own the land and perhaps the website shouldn’t have gone live.

There’ll be a Facebook page for the market soon apparently. But despite the disappearance of the website, the message from LFM is that all is still on track. Lets hope Network Rail are on the same track.

Farmers’ market – it’s official

London Farmers’ Markets has added West Hampstead to its list of markets. The market, which will be outside the new Thameslink station, opens on September 22nd and every Saturday after that. There isn’t much detail yet on what the stalls will be.

UPDATE Aug 7th : the West Hampstead page has been removed from LFM’s website. Find out why: http://www.westhampsteadlife.com/2012/08/farmers-market-confusion.html

London Farmers’ Market is the organisation that operates the only accredited farmers’ markets in London (they are accredited by the National Farmers’ Retail & Markets Association (FARMA)). Its producers come from within 100 miles of the M25 and they must raise, grow or bake everything they sell.

I’ve been reporting on the evolution of this market for a few months now. The response has generally been positive, with a few sceptics and grumblers thrown in for good measure. Interestingly, LFM claims that farmers markets increase footfall and increase trade for local businesses by as much as 20–30 percent.

Art exhibition to help London’s homeless

This Saturday, head down to Gloves Boxing Club on Broadhurst Gardens (just round the corner from the tube) to a pop-up exhibition.

It’s for a charity print project inspired by London 2012. London Street Prints is a collection of limited-edition prints by a group of different artists & designers. All proceeds go to London-based charity, Broadway Homelessness & Support. Broadway’s figures show that from 2011 to 2012 the total number of people sleeping rough on the streets of London had increased by 43% on the previous year.

The exhibition aims to raise £2,012 over the course of the Olympics. You can see some of the designs at www.londonstreetprints.co.uk. Each print is priced at £49 for an A3 giclee edition.

London Old & New, Bryan Kitch

Highbrow day out

It was flattering to be asked by The Guardian to write an article for its travel website about my “perfect day out” in north-west London. This forms part of a series of similar pieces written by other London writers and bloggers.

It was an interesting exercise thinking about the highlights of our part of London. I tried to avoid some of the most obvious attractions and was pleased to be able to plug my personal Hampstead highlight:

Completing my Hampstead tour is one of my favourite north-west London museums: 2 Willow Road was the home of architect (and arch-villain, in the eyes of local resident Ian Fleming) Erno Goldfinger. Like any architect worth his salt, Goldfinger designed his own home, which meant knocking down some cottages that Fleming apparently liked. Goldfinger (you can’t say it without bursting into a bit of Shirley Bassey, right?) also designed pretty much everything inside the house too. It’s a modernist’s wet dream and worth doing the guided tour to appreciate all the details.

I was amused to see that the paper has billed the article as a “highbrow day out”, which is largely because they asked me not to list a load of restaurants and cafés, which apparently some other contributors had done. Ironic then, that one of the few eating places I plugged – Ammis Curry – closed between my submission and publication. Shame.

Have a read of the article, and see whether there’s anything you’d have added (bearing in mind that it’s quite a packed day already!).

On a separate issue, it would have been nice to have been paid for this – especially given the length, and the fact that I do write for a living – but I was willing to forgo the cash this time in the cause of NW London boosterism.

BBQ is scorcher once again

Last year’s BBQ turned out to be on the hottest day of the year. After the crappy last couple of months, it was almost too good to believe the predictions for a warm sunny day for the second edition of Secret BBQ last Sunday.

Yet the forecast was right and some 65 of us sprawled across Chris’s back garden last Sunday basking in the warm sun.

There are photos of lots of you here. Thanks to Mark for his “official photographer” duties.

Massive thanks again to Chris for throwing open his flat to all of us (and for having the excellent idea of buying individual ice creams!). See you all in 2013.

Don’t forget to use your Spiga prosecco vouchers either!

Photos all (c) Mark Townsend apart from the top photo

Fortune Green needs PR help

You might not think it after the great turnout for the outdoor screening this week, but the Friends of Fortune Green is after some help. Maybe you’ve got the skills they need?

FoFg is looking for someone to help it on the PR and communications side. It’s FoFG’s weakest link. Specifically, we need help building and updating a simple website and help with newsletters (striking the right balance between getting information out to the public without swamping them). We also need to keep our logo and image coherent and are interested in dipping our toes into the world of Twitter, Facebook and Flickr. On top of all this, a willingness to help out at action days every now and then (e.g. weeding and litterpicking) would be greatly appreciated. The PR/comms person could also join our effective committee meetings (one evening a month) although this may not be essential. Perhaps attending a couple of meetings would be good, just to determine the best way of working.

If you’re interested, please send an e-mail to .

Kilburn floods while Twitter explodes

I woke up on Wednesday and lazily checked Twitter only to find my timeline swamped by a deluge of tweets about Kilburn.

A burst water main initially believed to be in Maygrove Road, but later believed to be in Christchurch Avenue, caused a quite spectacular flood that was up to a metre deep in places according to London Fire Brigade.

Photo via @Kilburn_Dave

As it was the morning rush hour, the flood caused considerable disruption but the sight of the road under water seemed to be so amazing that grumbling was largely replaced by astonishment.

Photo via @mossbat

This is exactly the sort of news story that works well on Twitter. It doesn’t require in-depth analysis, public bodies can get important information to the public very quickly, and – as my hastily aggregated Pinterest board shows – it’s very photogenic.

No surprise then that Twitter formed the backbone of news reports.

The Evening Standard’s quoted heavily from Twitter and (in later versions) from eye witnesses who’d tweeted.

LBC actually sent a reporter to the scene and she tweeted good photos of the large hole in Christchurch Avenue and of the cleaning up operation in local shops.

Photo via @stanchers

You’d expect the local media to be on site and indeed, after the CNJ’s Richard Osley fired up a Storify page about it, he dispatched reporter Ruth Stivey to the scene. Ruth tweeted a good photo of the damage done to the cellar of the Sir Colin Campbell pub.

Photo via @LollyGee
Photo via @RuthStivey

The Brent & Kilburn Times also actually went to speak to the flooded business including the pub.

Not everyone manages to nail the use of new media. Brent Council, clearly preoccupied by the arrival of the Olympic torch through the northern reaches of the borough popped up on Twitter with a link to a page (since thoroughly updated) announcing that the High Road would be closed for five days.

This rather melodramatic scenario was clearly nonsense as the Fire Brigade did an amazing job of pumping out the water in a matter of hours and traffic was already flowing freely by mid-morning, even if the pavements were still a little muddy.

Once the water was gone, so was the news interest. The Brondesbury Medical Centre was closed all day, and Thames Water’s loss adjusters have been on the scene no doubt trying to work out quite how much damage this flood has done. Having seen the photos it’s actually amazing that the damage wasn’t more serious. Hopefully all the businesses that suffered don’t also incur any financial loss.

Large crowd for Fortune Green film

As the sun went down on Tuesday, a crowd began to assemble on Fortune Green. The screen was slightly smaller than some had anticipated; the bikes that would be used to power the equipment blocked the wider viewing angle; there were a couple of technical hitches and everyone was bitten to shreds by mosquitoes.

And it was great.

Photo via @chipstoph

This felt like a real community event. People brought picnic rugs and bottles of wine, volunteers got on the bikes to ride for as long as they could; there was free popcorn courtesy of the Mayor of London’s Showtime funding; and the film was the charming Oscar-winning 1979 coming-of-age cycling film Breaking Away.

The Friends of Fortune Green, who put on the event, are already making plans for a second screening – most likely at the end of September. Keep your eyes peeled.

Will West Hampstead get free WiFi?

Last Wednesday, Camden council approved recommendations for the provision of free wireless “within the borders of the London Borough of Camden in areas of the borough that commercially viable as they have a high ‘footfall'”. What does that actually mean and would it include West Hampstead?

It’s far from clear exactly what “high footfall” means. After all, Camden includes Kings Cross, Camden Lock, and even parts of Covent Garden. Relative to that, even the interchange between West Hampstead’s stations at rush hour would be considered “sleepy”.

So are we going to get free WiFi or not? Camden’s finance chief, Theo Blackwell, has tweeted saying “Wifi could cover most of the borough”. Provision requires the use of exisiting council infrastructure, which is a posh way of saying “lampposts”. In response to a direct question as to whether West End Lane would be included, he replied “Wifi attached to street furniture so where people and streetlights, there should be coverage.”

The main reason for the lack of a straight answer is that this will be a commercial concession put out to tender. This is not a public-sector scheme to deliver universal WiFi, it’s a money raising exercise that brings some public benefits. Coverage will depend on what is economically viable for the provider. Camden intends to derive income from this (a good way to raise cash and provide a public service) and incur zero expenditure. We shall have to hope that bidders recognise the commercial benefits of giving access to our reasonably affluent neighbourhood, even if we lack the volume of pedestrians of Covent Garden.

The language used in the report (shown below with key passages highlighted) that Cabinet voted on does strongly imply that there will be a core network at first and then it says “It is expected this network will be further extended over time to support the priorities as set out in the Camden Plan.” 

There is also talk of “inter-borough collaboration” although the details seem a bit sketchy at the moment. It says, “The concession will be established in a way to permit other London Boroughs to participate in the arrangements to enable wireless services to be provided across Borough boundaries”. Those living on the Brent borders may wonder what likelihood there is of Brent council embracing this idea. Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea boroughs have already collaborated to award a concession. Although the document states that Camden is working with other London boroughs on joint procurement, it doesn’t specify which ones unfortunately.

The contract is expected to be awarded in February 2013.

What do you think? Are we well served already by free WiFi in coffee shops and bars and in the library. It’s unlikely that any free network would enable heavy home use – it’s intended for the public realm, so you can instagram a police horse, or send a quick e-mail from the street without using the slower 3G networks (and any data allowance). So do we even need it? Or would omitting NW London’s twitter capital be a horrendous oversight?

Camden Cabinet Meeting July 18 2012 Notes on Wireless Provision

Love Parks; Love Fortune Green

This week is Love Parks week. Fortune Green is getting involved with a raft of events. 

Monday 6 to 8pm: Evening drawing class – come after work and do some drawing on the Green, with an informal glass of wine! Class led by Andrea the artist

Tuesday 1:30pm for one hour: Health walk -a gentle walk in a relaxed and friendly environment.

Tuesday from sundown: Outdoor film – on our third attempt we will be showing ‘Breaking Away’.

Thursday morning: Photography class on the Green -a little walk round the Green taking photographs on and of it, led by local photography teacher Peter Coles.

Live long and prosper – move out of NW6

Maps have always been a powerful way of highlighting London’s social inequalities (Charles Booth‘s and John Snow‘s are the most iconic examples of this) and they continue to show how the richest and poorest Londoners often live side by side.


The latest map from UCL’s Spatial Analysis team overlays two sets of data – life expectancy and child poverty. The team wanted to see whether the adage held true that a year in life expectancy is lost for every station eastbound on the Jubilee Line between Westminster and Canning Town.

You can read the full article for the methodology, or click the map for the full view of London, but lets look briefly at the findings locally.

People living within 200 metres of both TfL’s West Hampstead stations have a life expectancy of 81. This is pretty much bang on the national average (which is 78 for men and 82 for women) but lower than our neighbours to the south on the Jubilee Line, to the west on the overground and Bakerloo, and on a par with that in Kilburn.

It’s not especially surprising that wealthy St John’s Wood (83) or Maida Vale (86) have higher life expectancies. In fact the borough of Westminster has the second highest life expectancy in the country, but perhaps marginally surprising that West Hampstead fares as well (or as badly) as Kilburn Park or Kilburn High Road. If we look at the Guardian’s deprivation map from April this year, we can see that the West Hampstead stations are marginally better off than Kilburn’s stations, and the child poverty data above tallies with that. So, why the discrepancy?

Frankly, that’s not the right question to be asking. This sort of mapped analysis is not intended to be a perfect reflection of the reality on the ground. Mapping is all about scale, and this London life expectancy map is best seen as a way to see general changes along tube lines, where the trends are very clear. There is, for example, an astonishing 21-year difference between the shortest (75.3) and longest (96.4) life expectancies. However, when you see that the longest life expectancy is for Oxford Circus and think how many people live within 200 metres of that tube station, you begin to see the challenge of trying to derive meaningful insights from individual data points. This doesn’t detract from the fact that there are large discrepancies, most notably from west to east – this is even more visible when you look at the child poverty data.

You may think this is old news, but as a way to bring to life the concept not just of deprivation but of disparity, maps are surprisingly powerful. Take a look at the routes you regularly use to get around London, and next time you whoosh through the city (or, more pertinently, go to the Olympic Park) on a tube train, have a think about the areas you’re passing through out of sight. Maybe also have a think about whether a child born in east London deserves a lower life expectancy just because of where their parents live.

Business network holds open brunch

The Community Association for West Hampstead is holding a “Business brunch” the morning of August 3rd at the Dornfell St community centre. It’s free to come along and you can just turn up. Should be a great opportunity to make some business contacts, schmooze a little, and get your morning dose of coffee all in one.

Free outdoor film back on

Back in May, the Friends of Fortune Green planned an outside film screening on the green. For free! It rained. Obviously.But as the weather seems to be improving, the screening has been rescheduled for this Tuesday July 24th and has now received a small grant from City Hall as part of the Mayor’s Showtime scheme.

And now you can unleash your inner Bradley Wiggins (he’s from Kilburn y’know), because this screening will be bike-powered. If you can lend a bike (and ideally your legs) on the night then please e-mail

Each shift on the bike will be about 20 minutes, but you can be inspired by the choice of film. Breaking Away is a 1979 classic film starring Dennis Quaid. I’m not going to recap the plot here, come and watch the film dammit. But I will tell you that the film won the 1979 Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, and nominations for Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, Best Original Score and Best Picture. It’s also number 8 on the American Film Institute’s 2006 list of America’s 100 most inspiring movies (which is actually a pretty good list of films worth watching).

The film will start at around 9.30pm on Fortune Green, but I’d suggest turning up from about 8.30pm with a picnic.

Capturing the essence of West Hampstead

Local artist Martin Robertson contacted me last week to ask for my – and your – help.

Martin produces screen prints of local areas, based around what makes them great places to live. That’s the usual shops, bars, restaurants, along with anything and everything that people hold dear.

Here you can see what he’s done for Queen’s Park.

Martin needs our help to capture what it is about West Hampstead that we all love. Specifically, he wants to encapsulate the local quirks and personality of an area as the the simple day-to-day places that makes people love the area they live.

I’ll get the ball rolling with some ideas, but please add your comments below so Martin can do more than just draw on what I think!

  • train stations (specifically the new Thameslink)
  • the strip of shops including Peppecorns which won’t be around much longer
  • the view from West End Green down the curve of West End Lane where the majority of cafés are
  • The Gallery
  • mansion blocks (and the general red brick architecture)
  • our situation between Kilburn and Hampstead
  • the 139 bus
  • longer-established businesses (e.g., La Brocca, Lately’s, The Wet Fish Café, West End Lane Books)
  • the newer ones (e.g., Spiga, Ladudu and The Kitchener)
  • police horses
  • the fire station
  • Davids Deli
  • the Jester Festival
  • and finally – the Twitter community, which is unquestionably the most active and engaged local online group in north London, and quite possibly one of the most lively in the country. For me, nothing captures that like #whampgather.

Those are some of my thoughts, but what, or who, captures the heart of West Hampstead for you? 

The Londoner Challenge

On Thursday night, I found myself on stage in the lecture theatre at the Museum of London taking part in a University Challenge style N v S v E v W quiz organised by London’s überwebsite Londonist. Having been asked to captain the North London team, I was seated in the traditional captain’s position of second from the right.

When I’d agreed to this I’d assumed that the other contestants would also be random people who maybe knew a bit about London. How wrong I was. Despite teams apparently being selected anonymously based on applicants’ love of their quadrant of the capital, we seemed to be facing teams with Mastermind finalists and people ranking in the top 20 in World Quiz leagues.

Andrew, Abby, me, Mark

There were two semi-finals, with the winners battling it out for overall glory. We were up first against Team East. It was a fairly one-sided affair. My team of Mark (our only hardcore quizzer), Abby, Andrew and myself won comfortably against East’s team, captained by the Londoneer’s Pete Stean.

The buzz around the auditorium was that Team South and Team West were the two top teams with Team South the out and out favourites thanks to the presence of Jesse Honey, the current World Quiz champion (who knew there was such a thing?) who was also the 2010 Mastermind champion, and Paul Steeples who is also a Mastermind finalist.

For my money (and this may have been because I was in the audience rather than under the spotlight), this was the marginally easier of the three contests. South beat West fairly comfortably in the end, although the margin wasn’t as big as ours.

Despite having posted the highest score so far, there was no question that we were the underdogs in the North v South final. We held our own early on, and were able to get our fair share of the starter questions, but eventually the superior general knowledge of Pete Watts’s (The Great Wen, Time Out) team came to the fore and they consistently scored more heavily when they got their bonus questions.

So, we lost the final, but I think we can be proud of ourselves for doing well against a team of serious quiz people. At least we knew that Hampstead was the deepest tube station on the network, though there were disappointingly no questions about the relative merits of Kilburn’s Sunday lunches or the status of local planning applications!

I believe Londonist will be publishing the questions at some stage, so I’ll add that link here and you can see how you would have done on the buzzer!

Secret BBQ returns in 2012

Last year, Chris generously volunteered to host a barbecue in his flat for whampers. It was a massive success (see pics), so we’re doing it again.

Why “secret”? We’ll reveal the exact location the day before to those of you who sign up (Chris isn’t a big fan of posting his address all over the internet and I don’t blame him). Rest assured, it’s within a 10 minute walk of West Hampstead tube station.

The date: from 2pm on July 22nd.

How it works: we provide all the food. Yes. All the food, the meat, the veggies the salad, soft drinks and all the ice for your beers. Last year we asked people for a donation to cover the cost, bit it didn’t quite work. So this year, we’re asking for £6.50 upfront (this includes the eventbrite fee). Doing it this way also helps us get a better idea of numbers. If we make any profit we’ll donate it to The Winch (the Swiss Cottage youth charity I regularly raise money for).

If you want to guarantee that The Winch gets some cash, there’s a £10 ticket option, from which £3.50 goes straight to them. Absolutely no obligation to do this, and if you’d rather give more or less, or donate anonymously then there’ll be a donation tin on the day.

You can buy tickets here via PayPal, or visit the BBQ event page.

When you get your ticket, we’ll need your mobile number (so we can tell you where it is), and please tell us of any dietary requirements. If you’ve got kids under five, bring ’em along for free (but please let us know in advance).

What else? You’ll just need to bring something to drink, some suncream (there was an “incident” last time – the hottest day of the year – she knows who I’m talking about), and your best party shirt/dress. Couldn’t be simpler. Oh, and no stilettos (wood floor you see).

Obviously, if you get a ticket, please do actually turn up. Imagine poor Chris sitting there that evening surrounded by bridge rolls and uneaten burgers!

Oh, and if it rains, there’s just about enough room to squeeze everyone inside and it will go ahead as planned. But it won’t rain. Definitely not.

See you there!

Farmers’ market in West Hampstead?

You’ll remember back in April that I asked you all to say what sort of market you’d like to see set up by the new Thameslink station. I passed your comments on to our local councillors who were taking them into account.

I never aggregated the results for you on here. So here they are:
Food – 33 votes
Crafts/gifts – 6 votes
Antiques – 5 votes
A mix of all the above 3 votes
Food with flea market once a month – 2 votes
Books – 1 vote

It was clear that food was the most popular and there was a strong sense that people wanted good quality “normal” food rather than it all being cakes and “treats” (apart from people who run cake companies who said they wanted cakes).

You’ll also remember that I banged on about the fact that, as much as we might want it, it wouldn’t be a farmers market. This was what I’d been told – and was consistent with previous discussions about the lack of space.

So, imagine my surprise when I found out that it now looks like it’s going to be a proper farmers market. Apparently, London Farmers’ Markets (who organise most of the main farmers’ markets in London, including Queens Park) is in discussion with Network Rail (who own the land) about a Saturday market with around 18 stalls.

This is very much still in the negotiation stage and is not confirmed. It wouldn’t start until September. Of course being an official farmers’ market would mean that local would-be stallholders would be squeezed out if they were not accredited. Is it better to have a a high-grade market that attracts people to the area, or a mixed market with local businesses taking more of the direct revenue? I would argue the former model is more sustainable. It’s also possible – as has happened at Swiss Cottage – that a successful farmers’ market could spill over into other market trading days in the same space.

Yoga for Guys – try it for just a pound

Calling all men… are you feeling flexible?

Local yoga practitioner/teacher Veronika Kloucek is launching a men-only yoga class – beginners more than welcome. It starts this Tuesday, at 7.30pm in Sumatra Road. Normally this hour-long class would set you back £8, but Veronika’s doing a deal for first-time #whampers so you can try it out for just £1.

Still not convinced? Here are three reasons why men are increasingly taking up yoga.

Check out Veronika’s website for more details or mail her.

Jester Festival this weekend

The Jester Festival is this weekend. This is West Hampstead’s answer to the village fête, and there are stalls, activities for kids, and a stage with various music and performances. More details on the website, but the programme is below.


On the stage

  • 12:00 Open Festival with DJ Earl
  • 12:45 Guilfoyle Dance – Irish dancers
  • 1:00 DJ Earl
  • 1:30 Mayor of Camden
  • 1:45 Tricycle Theatre
  • 2:45 DJ Earl
  • 3:00 Gillian Winn: West Hampstead School of Dance – Little ballet dancers
  • 3:20 Hampstead School Bands
  • 4:15 The Blow Rock Band
  • 5:00 The Untouchables Blues
  • 6:00 Close

Other events

  • Fortune Green Nursery in the 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 Partnership stall 1:00-4:00
  • Puppet time with Curly Ru Puppets 1:00-4:00
  • Magician & Balloon artist 1:30 – 4:30 
  • Dog Day Awareness  Free Dog Training & Advice  10:00- 3:00 (takes place in the Hampstead Cemetary)
  • WHAT Walk: The Streets of Fortune Green  3:00 – Joy Levene will lead the walk from the WHAT stall

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

Silent auction: Outbid your neighbour on goodies donated from local businesses: Achilea Flowers, Alice House, Bernadetta Beauty Clinic, Fitbees, Mill Lane Bistro, 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 10% discount on Sunday lunch at the Alliance Pub Mill Lane


On the stage

  • 12:00 DJ Earl
  • 1:00 Florence Joelle
  • 2:00  DJ Earl
  • 2:30 Praise Chapel Choir
  • 3:20 Rosie Belly Dancers
  • 4:00 DJ Earl and Raffle Draw
  • 4:30 Eddy and the Wild Dice
  • 5:30 DJ Earl
  • 6:00 Close

Other events

  • Fortune Green Nursery in the Kids Tent: Storytelling and Art Projects 1:30-4:30
  • Street Dance Workshop 12:30 – 4:30
  • 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 Partnership stall 1:00 – 4:00
  • Magician & Balloon artist 1:30 – 4:30
  • WHAT Walk: The Streets of Fortune Green 3:00 – Joy Levene will lead the walk from the WHAT stall

Kingsgate Open Studios weekend

If you’ve ever cut through the back streets to get to Kilburn, you may well have walked past the Kingsgate artist studios and wondered what exactly they were. They are actually a converted 19th century warehouse that now provides workshop facilities for more than 60 artists and craftspeople. And now’s your chance to look inside. This weekend is the studio’s open days, from 12-6pm on Saturday and Sunday, and there’s a preview on Friday night from 6-9pm.

The Open Studios event will include the Kingsgate Mini Olympics housed in our education building, where children and families will be ableto participate in a variety of arts/sport workshops, such as ‘Athlete Splatlete’. Do have a look at all the details of the weekend.Creative workshops and activities will run throughout the weekend. Refreshments are also available, and entry is free.

Starter for 10

We all know North London is beter than South London, right? But what about East and West London? Are we the bestest London of all?

Everyone’s favourite London website Londonist, together with the Museum of London, is going to find out in a University Challenge style quiz. And yours truly is captaining the North London team. Oh yes.

Each team will consist of five people (a captain, three others, and a stand-in). If you have a love of London trivia, are willing to sit on a stage in front of an audience and are free on the evening of 5 July, then hotdamnit you might just be what we need.

To volunteer, send an email to (NOT TO ME) before the end of Monday 25 June.

Use the subject line “Londoner Challenge”, followed by the quarter of the city you’d like to represent (north, south, east, or west). For example: Londoner Challenge North.

As a tie-breaker, please say why you think your quarter of London is the best. The most imaginative, funny or thoughtful answers, as chosen by the relevant team captain, will get the places.

So, lets see if we can’t prove that our love (and knowledge) of London exceeds those pesky rascals who live in postcodes that don’t start with N.

Dead Sea Midnight Runners

After #whampgather this Sunday, why not wend your way down to Kilburn for some music? “What sort of music?” I hear you ask. Let me hand you over to Nathan, who can explain all.

“Musicians have often made high-profile attempts to show that they’re not one-trick ponies. George Michael has tried to sing folk songs from the American Great Depression, Luciano Pavarotti has duetted with Frank Sinatra on ‘My Way‘, and more, much more than this, Michael Bolton has had a crack at ‘Nessun Dorma‘.

Let’s agree that none of the above really worked.

Far less high-profile, but surely more successful, will be the first full gig given by the Dead Sea Midnight Runners, this Sunday at Kilburn’s Tricycle Theatre.

If you think you know klezmer music (and hey, you’re from North London, so you should), you are probably right. Which is why you might find this gig interesting.

The Dead Sea Midnight Runners (also known as Fat Klez) are not steeped in klezmer. Martin White is an accordionist, and largely plays music that the accordion should play, as well as his own music for the Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra. Nathan Hamer is a trombonist of the classical tradition; he listens to Mahler to relax and can spot a parallel fifth at ten paces. Ben Handysides is a jazz drummer, which means that he does not know silence. Amy Butterworth, a lifelong West Hampstead resident, has dedicated her life to Slash and the preaching of rock violin. Just like so many other West Hampstead residents.

The band first formed in the spring of 2010 having been asked by the quite legendary Mark Thomas to play in his ‘Walking The Wall’ shows at the big summer festivals. A long, sold-out run at the Tricycle preceded Glastonbury’s first two-hour comedy set to an audience of thousands. Appearances at Latitude, Leeds, Reading and the Greenbelt festivals followed. In January 2012, Mark gave his show a swansong at the Tricycle, and it was during that week that outgoing theatre director Nicolas Kent invited the band to put on their own show.

There’ll be surprises and laughs, because having fun is what klezmer is all about. It’ll be short (just over an hour), because it’s on a Sunday night and we all have ironing to do. Tickets are a mere £8. That’s cheap fun. See you on Sunday. Oh, and bring a pun.”

Special offer: Dark Knight Rises local premiere

Don your cape, check your batarangs, get into your batmobile and speed through the mean streets of Gotham to get to the Swiss Cottage Odeon on July 20th for opening night of the Dark Knight Rises.


Photo via @tomrye (edited by @LollyGee)

Thanks to the nice people at the Odeon, we’ve got special priority booking for the IMAX screening on the film’s opening night. For £20 you’ll get a top-end “club” seat and a free glass of wine from the Ambar’s rather good (that’s me saying that, not them) selection. This screening will sell out once it goes on general release, so here’s a chance to bag yourself a prime spot for the third and final film in the Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale version of the caped crusader story. Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Tom Hardy also star in this dark tale of the Dark Knight, along with Anne Hathaway in a leather catsuit. Ahem.

It’s also our first crack at a film-oriented get together, in line with the new local film listings page that appears every week written by West Hampstead’s answer to Mark Kermode, @NxNW6. So come and mingle before the film starts over a glass of something, then settle into your extremley comfortable seat as the Bat does his thing on the big screen.

There are just 17 spots available  27 spots available. To register you need to , the cinema will then get in touch with you directly to arrange payment. This is first-come first served, and there’s a max of 2 tickets per person.

I think this should be a great event, and as a fan of these latest Batman films I’m pretty excited. I hope lots of you feel the same. If you’re not sure.. here are not one but TWO trailers to convince you!

Bunting a-go-go

We have a long weekend. Four whole days of it! It’s like we’re in continental Europe or something. And why have we had this bestowed upon us? Because the Queen’s been Defending the Faith longer than Jamie Carragher, that’s why.

Is anything happening in West Hampstead to celebrate E II R’s lengthy Game of Thrones, I hear you ask. Why yes, yes it is. There are a few local events, so I thought I’d better put them online for you. I’ve heard rumour of other odd street parties, but don’t have the details – do please feel free to add your local events (Kilburn and West Hampstead only please) in the comments section at the bottom.

If you’re into drinking and live music more than cucumber sandwiches and bunting – but still want to capture that Jubilee vibe then you’ll want to spend your evenings at The Alliance’s Coronation Weekend Party. On Saturday, Sunday AND Monday, there are a series of free gigs. On Saturday, Boz Boorer (who some of you will know plays with Morrissey) will be DJing and there’ll be a “very Special Guest Star” live on stage!

More live music on Sunday with Florence Joelle and her band from 8pm and on Monday, Carlos and the Memphis Flashers are playing. Lyn Boorer hosts the weekend and there’s a Jubilee style menu over all three days. And it’s free. Did I mention it was free?

More traditionally… On Saturday afternoon, West End Green (that’s the small one up near the fire station, some people always ask) will host the W.HEART Jubilee Lunch. You actually bring your own lunch, but there’s entertainment planned all afternoon and Camden’s new mayor will be there at about 2.30pm.

Also on Saturday, the Fordwych Residents Association is holding a Jubilee celebration in St Cuthbert’s Church (just south of Mill Lane) from 2-5pm. There’ll be stalls, light refreshments and “High Tea” at 3pm.

On Sunday, the Friends of Fortune Green are holding a Jubilee Big Lunch starting at midday. They provide sausages, soft drinks, plates, cups, napkins, bunting, entertainment and children’s activities including a magician and a project to build a cardboard Windsor Castle (flammable stuff, cardboard – just saying). You provide: yourselves and a dish to share, savoury or sweet. Please label your dish so people know what they are eating. If you want to make a cake bring it along and it will be entered for the Fortune Green bake-off. They’re also asking if people could bring along a big teapot if possible. Presumably for some nursery rhyme reenactment… or for tea. Definitely one or the other. If it rains, the event will be in the playcentre at the north end of the Green.

The FoFG have a good track record of Big Lunches. Last year they held a Big Lunch to celebrate the improvements to Fortune Green and over 200 local residents joined in.

On Monday, why not take a break from bunting waving and head to The Good Ship in Kilburn for the first of the Edinburgh preview shows. £4 if you reserve (yes, just four pounds) or a fiver on the door to see Fran Moulds, James Acaster and Johnny & The Baptists. So, to recap. Three previews of shows that will be at the Edinburgh Fringe where you’d pay full price for EACH ONE. Instead you can see all of them here for £4. There’s also a raffle, the bar stays open late, and the excellent Ammis Curry is even on hand to keep your appetite sated through the night.

On Tuesday, the Lymington Road Residents Association are hosting a Jubilee Party that starts at 12.30. There will be numerous stalls serving a variety of hot food, cakes and drinks, a bouncy castle, face painting, a live band and more. The event will take place both on Lymington Road and in the LRRA Hall at 1 Dresden Close.

At the same time, Alexandra & Ainsworth Tenants & Residents Association is holding a Jubilee Picnic from 12-4pm in the park with Punch and Judy (aka Phil and Liz, surely?) and a football tournament.

Is this Virgin suicide?

One of the most frequent grumbles I see on Twitter from locals concerns the performance of Virgin Media’s broadband service. For months, people ask whether other locals are having problems. A few helpful folk repeat what they’ve been told by the help desk – which has generally been along the lines of “we’re aware of the problem and it will be fixed by … [insert month of your choice here].”

This wasn’t good enough for Steve Berryman – he takes up the story:

“In about October 2011 (I can’t remember the exact date it was so long ago) we (my brother and I) noticed exceptionally poor internet performance at home. We have the 50Mbit package (the most expensive) and  first figured, “It’s only a couple of days. Must be a small fault somewhere. They’ll fix it.”. However, the problem persisted. We called and asked what was wrong. “A fault in the area. It will be fixed in November”. OK. These things happen. An irritation, but no big deal.

November came and went. December came and went. There were some days when it was ok. Many where the connection was mediocre at best, and some where it was simply unusable. This is all during peak hours, of course: those hours when we’re actually at home, wanting to use the internet. The few days I worked from home, it was lightning quick.

We rang back again in January to ask what was going on. “Oh, yes that will be fixed in February”. Not the November we were first promised. A bit of complaining, but the date wasn’t too far away. We’re patient guys. Other people in the area were complaining of similar issues so it wasn’t an isolated problem. Surely that meant that the fix was a priority?

February came and went. On ringing back (and getting a fault reference as well!) we were told March was the new fix date. I went on holiday for much of March but was surprised to see when I came back in April that there were still issues. “Oh, the new date is end of April”. Great. Quite angry now. Paying for months of service that we aren’t getting. We had asked previously about compensation for the months it was broken but only one time were we offered anything: £15 off that month’s bill. I’m not actually sure if it ever came off either… Other requests were fruitless. The first line support are unknowledgeable, don’t seem to have any authority and sometimes are plain rude.

The April date has come and gone. It’s now the end of May and I’m told there is a new fix date – late September. That will bring it to almost a year of poor quality (tonight, as I type this, I am struggling to load the lightest of web pages) internet that I am paying quite a lot for.

I’ve had many conversations with first line on the phone. Many tweets between the @virginmedia twitter social support staff and all they can do is apologise, tell me it won’t be fixed for months, ‘these things sometimes take longer than anticipated’, and agree that it’s not great. I’ve had enough. In my opinion it’s a capacity problem. It’s fine during the day on weekdays, but evenings and weekends it all goes to hell. They are still heavily advertising in my area.”

Thanks Steve. To prove that this isn’t just anecdotal evidence of a poor service, Steve has started measuring packet loss using the tool mtr and recording it in 5 minute intervals. “I believe a problem on this scale should be a priority, and certainly not something that takes a year to resolve,” says Steve.

Here’s the techy stuff: “The graphs show the packet loss for 20 pings on each hop of the route between home and Google’s servers. Each line represents a hop of the route (hence the messiness) and the higher the line, the worse the packet loss. Here is a Wikipedia article on packet loss, what it means, why it’s bad and what can cause it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Packet_loss. I have strong suspicions that the NW6 Virgin Broadband problems are due to congestion on the line. They’ve known about the fault for some time – the fault reference is f001829169.”

I’ve included one of Steve’s graphs – in this case from May 23rd, but you can visit his site to see the updates.

Thanks to Steve for letting me reprint his words. The original appears here.

Mind the (mental) gap

Apart from being a bon viveur, my food and drink correspondent Tom also has a predilection for the paranormal. Of course I’m drawing no correlation between the amount of red wine he drinks and his willingness to see the supernatural.

Anyway, he drew my attention to this snippet from The Fortean Times back in 2009 in an article about “floating platforms” in West Hampstead.

“The same, or a very similar, floating platform was seen again nearly 40 years later on the afternoon of 18 October 1955. The Reverend Pitt-Kethly was travelling on the Uxbridge train line to East Harrow, London. When the train had stopped at the West Hampstead viaduct, he noticed a reddish-brown and grey platform the size of a small bus. It was silent and travelled at a height of about 120ft (37m).

There were approximately 20 helmeted men dressed in khaki uniforms standing on the platform, which moved at about 20mph (32km/h) and was in sight for three or four minutes. The Reverend did “not doubt the evidence of his own optics”.”

Sounds like the reflection of the top deck of a double-decker bus to me. But what do I know. The only time I’ve seen a floating platform is while trying to change tube lines at Baker Street after far too many drinks.

Remember when it was all fields?

Dick Weindling and Marianne Colloms quite literally wrote the book(s) when it comes to local history. And now they’re taking their work online with a new Kilburn History website.

The first story to appear concerns a wartime murder at Kilburn station, but it’s not all blood and guts. Dick tells me that subsequent stories will include a Professor of Swimming and the now extinct Kilburn Baths, a painting of a Kilburn farm by an artist who was also an astronomer, and South Pacific tribal objects.

Dick Weindling talks about A.A.Milne back in October 2010

If you haven’t come across Dick and Marianne’s books then you are missing out. Their Kilburn and West Hampstead Past book is essential reading for anyone even remotely interested in learning more about this part of London. I wholeheartedly recommend it. Also worth a read, although published by the Camden History Society, is The Streets of West Hampstead, which is a bit more of a gazeteer, but is a handy reference.

Having heard Dick speak at the unveiling of the green plaque to A.A. Milne in October 2010, I can attest to his engaging manner – this is no dusty historian.

The two of them have a book due out in July called Camden Town and Kentish Town: Then and Now, and one next year called Bloody British History: Camden, with lots of blood and gore, which will cover the whole of the modern borough of Camden. It’s fairly gory around Camden Town most Saturday nights today if you ask me. They clearly have a slight fascination with the macabre; one of their other books is called The Good Grave Guide to Hampstead Cemetery.

Stories from all these books and more will pop up on the new blog I’m told. It’s a very welcome addition to the local blogosphere.

West Hampstead included in Camden eruv plans

You may have heard of an eruv. It’s the name commonly given to an demarcated area within which Orthodox Jews are permitted to do some things on the Shabbat that they otherwise would not be. Most pertinently, and generally at the heart of calls from the community to set up an eruv, it allows people with limited mobility – either due to infirmity/disability or due to having young children – to leave the house. Wheelchairs and buggies are otherwise not allowed to be used, nor can medicine such as insulin be transported and used outside the home.

Rabbi Shlomo Levin of South Hampstead Synagogue has been spearheading the campaign for the so-called “Camden eruv”, which would encompass West Hampstead, Fortune Green, Swiss Cottage, Belsize Park, Hampstead and beyond. An eruv “would change lives of Jews living in Camden,” he believes.

View camden_eruv2011 in a larger map

Eruvs are not particularly rare – Jewish communities in many large cities around the world have created them in order that people can continue to live modern urban lives in accordance with Orthodox laws. There is already an eruv in north-west London that covers Golders Green and Hampstead Garden Suburb. There’s also a proposal being developed for one in St Johns Wood and Maida Vale. My hyperlocal friend @w9maidavale, who (with his tongue firmly in his cheek) calls himself Lord Elgin, tweeted “The Eruv arguments are making Lord Elgin’s head spin. Charmingly bonkers but harmless.” Others in the area are taking it more seriously and it’s already running into some controversy

One of the things that some people find strange about an eruv is that it has to be physically demarcated. This can be (and largely is) done using existing walls or boundaries, but where that is not possible, then tall poles are usually erected with wire strung between them. These are required for fairly complicated reasons relating to the separation of different realms and each set of poles and wires physically represents a doorway.

It is the construction of these poles and wires that tends to bring the issue to the attention of the wider community as, in the UK at least, this requires the support of the local council. Jewish communities always pay for any work required but, unsurprisingly, non-Jewish residents can find it rather odd to have wire that has absolutely no significance for them strung up in their streets. If you’re not a religious person, then it’s really just street furniture. Eruv supporters will tend to argue that the poles and wires are very unobtrusive.

You can read a lot more about the Camden eruv, and, on Wikipedia, more than you probably want to know about eruvs generally – such as that even with an eruv, you can’t open an umbrella on the Shabbat or that there appears to be a long-running debate as to whether the entire island of Manhattan is an eruv. It is precisely those sort of peculiar arcane laws that distance orthodox followers of any religion from the mainstream – whether religous or secular.

It’s worth mentioning that not all Jews automatically support the creation of an eruv. For liberal Jews it’s meaningless as they do not abide by the Orthodox laws anyway. Some also argue that it might be time to question the underlying principle. A letter sent to the Camden New Journal by a non-Orthodox Jewish resident of Hampstead suggests campaigning “for these Sabbath laws to be more flexible and take people’s individual needs into account. I would also point out that when these laws were instituted neither insulin nor wheelchairs existed.” Nor are the details of how they are created unanimously agreed on. According to the BBC, “The Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC) – which includes synagogues in north-west London – has claimed that there are “serious halachic (Jewish law) problems” with the North West London eruv that make it invalid.” 

My immediate reaction when I first heard about this was to wonder why it wasn’t enough to declare where the borders of the eruv were – handing out a map perhaps – rather than erecting poles and wires. After all, the people for whom it matters don’t use the poles as signposts, they are representational – and as I mentioned above, most of the eruv’s boundaries are simply existing structures. Having now understood the symbolic purpose of the phyiscal eruv infrastructure I can at least see the point of the poles, although one wonders whether there aren’t more imaginative ways of combining religious doctrine with modern multicultural living in a way that is invisible to everyone.

West Hampstead “cooler than Hampstead”

This week, The Times ran an article in its property section looking at West Hampstead. The full article is behind the Times paywall, but I thought I’d share a couple of the highlights.

“West Hampstead is more under-the-radar than Hampstead proper, with a high street that is less pretty, but blessedly free of tourists and day-trippers.”

Less pretty, but with fewer chain shops.

“The Kilburn side of town is slightly better value — four-bedroom terrace houses start at about £1.2 million… Prices rise closer to Hampstead and homes also get larger: you will pay up to £2.5 million for a detached villa. Two-bedroom flats start at about £450,000…. While property is not exactly budget… it is on average 15 per cent cheaper than Hampstead. “West Hampstead has become an area of choice and not a poor relation,” he [Bambos Haralambous, the sales director at Goldschmidt & Howland] says.”

I think it’s been “an area of choice” for a while now!

“How is the nightlife? Not a lot going on beyond closing time, however, Camden Town is handy if you don’t want to head into Central London.” 

Clearly no-one mentioned Lately’s or the Lower Ground Bar to the journalist, and what about heading to Kilburn rather than Camden Town? Hmm?

“Is there any green space? The jewel in the crown of Hampstead proper is the heath. West Hampstead cannot compete, but it does have some open spaces, including Broadhurst Copse, a small park and playground, the Iverson Road Open Space, a hard-surface sports area with football and basketball facilities, and the Maygrove Peace Park.” 

Bizarre not to mention Fortune Green, Kilburn Grange Park or even West End Green.

“Upsides: A less touristy and some say “cooler” version of Hampstead, and it’s cheaper.
Downsides: Property rarely comes with off-street parking, and finding a space is a scrum.”

That parking issue again…

Whampreview goes posh

On Thursday May 10th, whampreview takes place on the West Hampstead / St John’s Wood borders at the relatively new One Blenheim Terrace.

One Blenheim is owned by chef patron Ed Shaerf  (previously at The Ivy). According to its website: “our menus bring classic dishes to centre stage again but with an imaginative new performance.We take classic dishes on British menus, strip them bare, re-imagine them and then re-present using only the best ingredients. We aim to achieve style with a bit of cheek and chic.”

Very kindly, the restaurant is offering us a 30% discount on the night, so those upmarket prices are slightly more within reach, but we’re still looking at ~£30 a head for three courses before wine (and we’ll go easy on the wine).

There are just 16 places available for this one. As usual, if the event is oversubscribed then names will be drawn out of a hat next Tuesday (May 1st).

A recap of whampreview basics: dinner will be at 8pm and we’ll meet at The Salt House on Abbey Road for a drink from 7pm. During the evening whoever is running your table (there’ll be two tables of eight people) will note down comments about the food/service/value etc., which will go into the write-up, although 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 forward, or Tweet to @WHampstead
before Tuesday May 1st.

If your name is picked, I will need a mobile number and active e-mail address from you. Please don’t commit to this on the offchance you might be free. Dropouts have been creeping up again recently – it’s a headache when that happens. If I contact you to say you’re in, please check your diary and lock it in. It’s not always easy to find last minute replacements, especially for somewhere a bit more expensive like this.

Of course, I understand there are always one or two genuine last-minute dropouts, so even if you’re unlucky, I may come back to you at short notice to see if you’re still interested.

Read more about whampreview and see where we’ve already been.

A market for West Hampstead

I got a very exciting e-mail yesterday from Cllr Gillian Risso-Gill announcing that an agreement has been reached with First Capital Connect for the West Hampstead Business Forum to hold a Saturday market on the widenened pavement area by the new Thameslink station on Iverson Road.

The site is not big enough for a full, accredited, commercial farmers market, which I know a lot of you are keen on. However, in order to try and maximise trade, the organisers are keen to know what locals would actually want. This will help them determine whether the focus will be on food, or antiques, or crafts, or something else.

An early poll on Twitter yesterday suggested food was by far the most popular, although there was a significant vote for crafts/antiques/flea market. Perhaps different weeks could be different markets?

The hope is that a pilot market could be arranged in the next 5-6 weeks.

If you are interested in having a stall, I suggest you contact Gillian at in the first instance. If you’d like to have your say on the type of market you’d like to see, then please leave a comment below. I’ve already noted comments via Twitter so please don’t vote again!

Plans for Feis festival scaled back

There wasn’t a whole heap of support for music promoter Vince Power’s original plan for an 18-day festival to be held in Kilburn Grange during the Olympics.

As it seemed that the proposal had a snowflake’s proverbial of being approved, Power has scaled back the proposal considerably. Local Lib Dem campaigner James King sent me the details:

“He is now proposing that the event should be four days long, on the final weekend of the Olympics. The operational hours now proposed are as follows:

Thursday 9th August – Doors open 5pm – Live music finished by 11pm – site and bars closed midnight;
Friday 10th August – Doors open 2pm – Live music finished by 11pm – site and bars closed midnight;
Saturday 11th August – Doors open 2pm – Live music finished by 11pm – site and bars closed midnight;
Sunday 12th August – Doors open 12 midday – Live music finished by 11pm – site and bars closed midnight.

The proposed build time for this event would be Monday 6th – Wednesday 8th (3 days) and the ‘de-rig’ would be Monday 13th – Tuesday 14th. The capacity would now be 2,500 public visitors maximum at any one time.

This is obviously a significant change to the original application, and would involve the middle of the park been taken up for a week rather than more than three weeks. However, local residents may still have concerns about the risk of anti-social behaviour and late night noise, and the entry/exit arrangements via Netherwood Street. Furthermore, if there any problems, we may not be able to rely on Camden police as normal because they will be stretched by Olympic-related responsibilities.

I am trying to confirm whether a decision will still be made by the Licensing Panel on 5th April.”

Help available for Digital Switchover

I’m sure most of you know that in April, the London TV region will be going fully digital. What does this mean? Well, it’s the biggest change in television since the introduction of colour. In April 2012 analogue television will be switched off across the London TV region. If you don’t have digital TV by the time of switchover, you will lose your TV channels.

For the vast majority of you this will mean nothing more than pressing a button and retuning your TV on April 4th and again on April 18th. Because you have Freeview, or Sky, or Virgin. There’s loads online about this, but the best single thing to read is this PDF.

Now imagine you’re an older person who’s not that tech savvy. Maybe you’ve got family who’ll help you. But maybe you haven’t. And perhaps the television is a big part of your life, especially if you’re not very mobile. As strange as it may sound, not having Jeremy Kyle in your living room of a weekday morning may actually be MORE distressing than the prospect of the show itself.

Thankfully, help is at hand for people aged 75 and over, or who are eligible disabled. The digital switchover help scheme offers equipment, installation and free aftercare to convert one of their TV sets to digital. It costs £40, or is free to eligible people who are also on income related benefits.

Everyone eligible will already have received a letter telling them all about it, but the Beeb needs to reach 100% of people, not 99.9%, so it’s trying all avenues. I’ve been involved in an extremely minor way with helping the BBC think how it can use local websites such as this to reach those people eligible for the help scheme.

So, although you as a website reader are probably already aware of the whole thing, maybe you know a neighbour or a relative who isn’t. Or perhaps you’re a member of one of the residents associations, or generally come into contact with eligible people through your job – doesn’t have to be in West Hampstead, all of London will switch at the same time. The Switchover Help Scheme has launched a ‘Helping Hand’ campaign calling on everyone to try to make sure every older and disabled person in the area knows about the help they can get.

There is a lot of information available for people who want to get involved , and the team is determined to do all it can to make sure that everyone gets the help they need. For more information, call 0800 40 85 900 or visit helpscheme.co.uk. Textphone users can call 0800 40 85 936.

For general information and guidance on switchover please call Digital UK on 08456 50 50 50 or visit digitaluk.co.uk.

Get on your knees: Local vicar won’t be victim

Everyone loves a crime-fighting member of the cloth right? Who doesn’t look back fondly at Tom Bosley as Father Dowling? No, ok, I never watched it either but I’m sure it was amazing.

Move over Bosley (to the extent you can given you died in 2010), there’s a new bad-ass vicar in town. While Father Dowling merely investigated, Father Andrew Cain of West Hampstead gets burglars down on their knees before calling the cops. Less Bosley; more Eastwood.

West Hampstead’s vicar

It all began with a rather blasé tweet Fr. Cain sent to me and @WHLocalPlod on Feb 21st: “we caught a burglar for you today. Red handed in our safe he didn’t stand a chance against assembled clergy.” Cain went on to say that the burglar was “foolish enough to steal from God’s House whilst I was in the Church”. Oh yeah.

In a week when a horse has dominated the news agenda, the press was all over this story like a swarm of, er, biblical swarming things. The Camden New Journal ran it yesterday calling the St Mary’s and St Andrew’s vicar a “brave cleric” and printing a sort of Dempsey & Makepeace photo (google ’em) before describing him as a “fitness fanatic”.

Photo with permission of Camden New Journal

Cain & Cargill in their 80s TV series

The Ham & High hasn’t got its print edition version online yet, but it went with “Brave vicar foils collection thief”, with the excellent subhead of “Cleric orders intruder to kneel on floor after hearing curate’s screams” and mentioning that Fr. Cain works out at the gym several times a week”.

As is often the way with these sort of stories, the bigger papers caught wind of this surefire crowd pleaser. The Telegraph eschewed “brave” and just opted for the factual headline “Vicar made thief kneel until police arrived“, with no mention of his fitness regime at all.

The Evening Standard, meanwhile, gave Fr. Cain an added note of authority in its “Vicar stops thief by ordering him to his knees” but also squeezed in that our hero “works out at the gym several times a week.”

Quite why there’s the obsession with a vicar’s desire to keep fit isn’t entirely clear. Surely it would have been more impressive if it had been some weedy timid vicar standing up to the intruder rather than the gym bunny hunk we all know and love.

What of the unlucky criminal? Will he face the wrath of God? It turns out that 54-year old Eric McDougall is quite the villain of the vestry. He was only out on bail as it was, and after appearing at Highbury magistrates court the next day, he’s gone straight back to prison.

The last word of course should belong to Father Cain, quoted in the CNJ: “he realised there was nothing he could do, so he got on the floor – it was clear that he shouldn’t mess with me.”

West Hampstead library hours change

Amid all the discussion about library closures and the three Camden libraries that have been handed over to community groups, I suspect some people had forgotten that all the remaining libraries were to have their hours reduced.

Here are the changes to West Hampstead library as of April 2nd:

Old opening hours New opening hours
Monday 10am-7pm 11am-7pm
Tuesday 10am-7pm 11am-6pm
Wednesday Closed 11am-6pm
Thursday 10am-8pm 11am-6pm
Friday 10am-7pm 11am-5pm
Saturday 10am-5pm 11am-5pm
Sunday 11am-4pm Closed

The big change is that the library will now be open on Wednesdays but closed on Sundays. In total, library hours fall from 49 to 41.

Remember also that the library will close from March 5th until April 2nd for some improvements. The new hours take effect when it reopens.

For the changes to all Camden’s libraries, download the full list.

Finchley Road’s glacial history

A chance tweet yesterday drew my attention to this local fact: the glacier that covered almost all of the British Isles in the last age stopped – just like the Jubilee and Met Lines (and moving at about the same speed as the Jubilee earlier this week) – at Finchley Road. Change here for “milder temperatures”.

Thanks to @Tetramesh for then sending me the link to this BBC documentary where no less a glaciologist than Alan Titchmarsh explains more (ff to 23m57s)

The Lion’s future

There seemed to be some confusion as to what was happening to West End Lane pub The Lion, so I wrote to Greene King, the owners. Here’s the response:

“We are planning to close the Lion in West Hampstead temporarily for an exciting refurbishment. The plans and timings for the refurbishment have not yet been finalised but we will keep the local community updated. We apologise for any inconvenience the short-term closure may cause.”

Not adding huge amounts of info, but it does seem to suggest that the pub hasn’t been sold, but is being revamped – so the gastropub rumours may be correct.

Something For The Fans

The Brit awards are almost upon us and there’s some local interest with Belsize Park’s and Coldplay’s Chris Martin nominated for best British group and album. I’ll have to see if they’d be up for being the house band at the next #whampgather. Only if they win, obviously.

Now, I know for an actual fact that some of you are singers. But maybe there are more west hampstead folk with a secret penchant for tinkling the vocal ivories. Or maybe you’re a “singing in the shower” kinda guy or gal. Either way, why not tune your tonsils and see if you can win a “Priceless duet” with triple BRITs 2012 award nominee Jessie J as part of MasterCard’s “Something for the Fans” competition.

The lucky winner will win the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform on stage with the Jessie J. The Priceless Duets competition launched back in January, and MasterCard has already given three music fans the chance to perform with Emeli Sandé, JLS and Labrinth in a MasterCard Priceless TV advert to premiere on ITV1 on 21st February, the night of The BRIT Awards 2012.

Time is running out! The deadline is March 1st, and you need to register your interest at www.somethingforthefans.co.uk. A shortlist of entrants will then be invited to provide an audition video of themselves performing a song by Jessie J, which will then be judged by a panel, including Jessie and her management.

You have to admit, it’s a pretty priceless opportunity – but then we’re all familiar with MasterCard’s “some things are priceless, for everything else there’s MasterCard” slogan these days. Priceless London is the company’s venture into combining the two and you can sign up for all sorts of offers on the website such as dinner at the Savoy, or discounts at museum exhibitions. Whatever takes your fancy. Sadly, the chance to win a duet with Blondie doesn’t seem to be on the website yet – one for next year MasterCard?



Sponsored PostViral video by ebuzzing

Love is in the air

I realise that V-day is still more than two weeks away, but if I don’t write this now I never will.

If you’re the sort of person who goes for the typical dinner for two on Valentine’s Day then you shouldn’t need my help. Haul yourself along to one of West Hampstead’s many dining options and let nature take its course over a bowl of pasta (Spiga), a plate of salmon (The Wet Fish Café), a hearty boeuf bourgignon (Mill Lane Bistro), wild boar sausages (Walnut), or a seafood platter (Hidden Treasure).

If, however, you’re a bit “yawn” about V-day, but still like the idea of doing something nice for the one you love – or the one you’d like to love – without having to avert your eyes from salivating couples then here are a couple of ideas. They do require you to pootle over to Hampstead – but nothing’s too much trouble right? Right?

Love film?
First up, on V-day itself, why not whisk your date off to a screening of one of the greatest films of all time? The Hampstead Film Society (yes, there is one, and it’s not run by some octogenarian luvvie) is screening Chinatown on its 15′ wide screen. Head over to Hampstead Town Hall (213 Haverstock Hill in Belsize Park). You can take the C11 ‘cos nothing says “I love you” like a ride on a London bus. It starts at 7pm.

You can become a member of the HFS for £15/10conc. and then it’s £4 a screening, or as a one-off it’s £7 a film. There’s a bar so you can get your date tipsy. Not that you would.

Not into film? Well it’s not about you is it? Hmmm? Chinatown is one of my all-time favourites, and if you’ve not seen it I recommend it wholeheartedly. Luvvie duvvie it ain’t.

Love music?
If you’re after something a little less rough around the edges than a classic film noir then I have another suggestion. This is actually on the Sunday before Valentine’s – and there’s a special offer for West Hampstead Life readers. Oh yes.

At Burgh House in Hampstead, there’s a Valentines Champagne Concert on Sunday 12th Feb. Actually there are two: one at 3pm and one at 7pm. “Debonair pianist” and “self-confessed romantic” Warren Mailley-Smith will perform a selection of classics “guaranteed to tug at the heartstrings”. The concert will include Chopin, Grieg and Prokoviev, finishing with  Gershwin’s famous Rhapsody in Blue. And you get a glass of champagne.

As an avid reader of West Hampstead Life, you also get a 10% discount. Come. On.
Click here for the 3pm performance.
Click here for the 7pm performance.

Love truffles?
Before settling down to the sociable sounds of Warren, why not start your Sunday off with a chocolate truffle workshop. We all know someone who likes a truffle after all. The workshop will be held at Bake-a-boo on Mill Lane from 10:30am-12:30.

You will, apparently, “create a rich and delicious truffle mix base and then flavour your truffles using natural flavours such as orange, mint and ginger.” So far so good.

Then, while your truffle gets hard in the fridge, “you will make a beautiful box from scratch to present your truffles in and decorate this using Alice’s collection of rubber stamps and inks.” Alice is running the show, in case you wondered.

“Then you will expertly [this is someone who’s never seen me in the kitchen] roll each of your truffles and coat each in a range of coatings such as cocoa, nuts, ginger biscuit crumbs, chocolate etc. You will leave the workshop with at least 8 gorgeous truffles in a beautiful box, perfect for a valentines gift for a loved one.”

The whole truffle shindig costs £36 and includes tea and scones. Book online.

Transition Whamp: Grow your own

On Monday, a bunch of locals met at The Gallery to re-ignite Transition West Hampstead. Marcia MacLeod reports:

“Fancy growing your own veg? No garden? You could put your name down for an allotment – but Camden’s waiting list was, the last time I checked, 40 years, and unless you can see yourself tottering around with a Zimmer frame as you water the tomatoes, there’s no point even trying.

Flowerbed planting at Kilburn tube. Photo via Kilburn Times

But there is another possibility: Transition West Hampstead’s food growing project – and if you walk down Abbey Road later this year, you might just see the first green shoots behind St Mary’s Church.

The church, at the corner of Abbey Road and Priory Road, has donated some land to Transition West Hampstead to enable local residents to experience The Good Life. Led by David Abrahams, the group plans to turn the 20 square metre space into raised beds in time to start planting in the spring.

Any crops grown will go to the people who worked on the site and the project hopes to include Abbey Community Centre and other community groups.

Once Priory Gardens Food Growing Project gets off the ground, there are likely to be more. Even London Overground is apparently keen to see food growing at West Hampstead. Hmmmm….beans and cabbages would certainly make a change from graffiti!

Transition West Hampstead is always keen to recruit new volunteers so, if you’re interested in finding out more, contact David at or call him on 07724 894145.”

A year in 140 characters

Every week, the round-up of the previous seven days’ events includes a Tweet (or Photo) of the Week. I thought I’d take the best of them and see whether they revealed anything more meaningful about the year we’ve just experienced in West Hampstead.

They don’t. But some of them are quite funny.

I’m sorry I haven’t included every single one here, and there have been some weeks where the competition for Tweet of the Week has been stiff, so some people have missed out on the prestige of being able to add the letters TOTW to their business cards despite some excellent witty and pithy tweets. At the end (you’ll need to let the Storify widget load fully) is your chance to vote for Tweet of the Year.

Here then, without further ado, is the run down of the things that made us tweet in 2011:

2011 Whamp Quiz of the Year

As the sun sets on West Hampstead for the last time in 2011, it is of course a time to reflect – and pose a bunch of silly questions to see whether you’ve been paying attention, or whether the intake of alcohol at the various whampevents has addled your brain.

There are – as last year – no prizes for this. So sit back, click away, and enjoy remembering the whamp year that has passed. Thanks once again for all your support, tweets, blog comments, e-mails, appearance at events, and – in the case of one whamper – throwing your home open to a bunch of strangers for a massive barbecue. On with the quiz!

1. Which creature helped stop the plans to develop Gondar Gardens?
A. the grass snake
B. the red squirrel
C. the giant dung beetle
D. the slow worm

2. Which retailer moved into the former Woolworths’ site on Finchley Road?
A. Peacocks
B. Primark
C. TKMaxx
D. Waitrose

3. Which singer was immortalised in graffiti form in West Hampstead?
A. Dusty Springfield
B. Slash
C. John Lennon
D. Billy Fury

4. Which café featured in a kids prank show, featuring yours truly?
A. Café Bon
B. The Wet Fish Café
C. David’s Deli
D. Kitchen Table

5. Who opened the new Sainsbury’s Local on West End Lane?
A. Matt Dimbylow
B. Keith Moffitt
C. Justin Rose
D. Me

6. Which Hampstead & Kilburn electoral candidate admitted to causing criminal damage this year?

A. Ed Fordham
B. Beatrix Campbell
C. Tamsin Omond
D. Chris Philp

7. How many units are being proposed for the 187-199 West End Lane development?

A. 23
B. 203
C. 212
D. 230

8. Which cake put Café Bon firmly on the map?

A. Eccles cake
B. Coconut cake
C. Battenburg cake
D. Chocolate cake

9. How did short-lived cafe/restaurant Costello describe itself?

A. “A funky chameleon concept”
B. “Honest grub at honest prices”
C. “In it for the long-haul”
D. “Setting a new benchmark in food”

10. Which local endeavour got national news coverage?

A. FoxCam
B. WhampCam
C. BinCam
D. CoffeeCam

11. Which advertising legend came to West Hampstead this autumn?

A. The Dulux dog
B. The Man from Del Monte
C. The Go Compare singer
D. Aleksandr Orlov the meerkat

Final score:
0-3 Pay more attention in class
4-6 Unremarkable
7-9 You’re a keen whamper
10-11 You need to get out more

Thank you and good night.

It’s the end of the year as we know it

It’s the last Friday of the year and as those of you on Twitter will know, Friday is traditionally the day that people tweet “Follow Friday” – back in the days of yore (2009) this was a nice way to introduce your followers to some other people they might like to follow. Now it’s become little more than a shout out for people you like. I hardly ever “follow friday” anyone, but thought that for the end of the year I’d make an exception.

How did you do?

At the start of the year, I asked you via Twitter for your predictions for 2011. Most were silly, a lot were funny, one or two were semi-serious, and a couple were outlandish. But how many were accurate?

Tubes and trains were popular topics. Back in 2010, the Jubilee Line closures were a major talking point and if I remember, were due to finish in March. They ran until October. So @simontreanor‘s “The Jubilee Line will often be closed on weekends. It’s a long shot I know”, turned out to be pretty much on the money.

Meanwhile, It took 12 months for @Sparklegirl21‘s prediction to come true “They actually build something at the Thameslink station instead of playing with their diggers”.

We did however eventually get what @David_Stringer optimistically predicted “One weekend, just one, the tubes AND overground will both work”. In fact it happened more than once. Long may it continue.

We’re still waiting for@RandomCarlos‘s prediction that the “Jubilee Line will be converted into a moving walkway so we can get into town more quickly” to come true, or for @blueskyflowers‘ hope that “Mill Lane gets pedestrianised!”

It was always a gimme that @aktaraja would be right that there’d be more “roadworks/gasworks/electrical works on WEL”, but no-one foresaw the level of disruption on Kilburn High Road that’s only just finished.

The imminent arrival of a Sainsbury’s Local on West End Lane exercised many of you, but none of your predictions that Waitrose would move in, or that Tesco & Sainsbury would collapse in the face of revived localism came to pass. Perhaps the most accurate was again from @RandomCarlos: “The combined effect of both Tesco and Sainsbury delivery vans will cause national gridlock.”

Despite the recession, @Cyburn‘s prediction that a poundshop “or maybe a £2 shop” would open in West Hampstead didn’t happen either; and although @marmitetoast was wrong that more estate agents would open in West Hampstead, the one that closed (Brian Lack) was replaced by a new one (Goldschmidt & Howland).

@flyperson was overambitious in suggesting that coiffeurs would overtake estate agents, but he was at least directionally right as we saw the opening of Rock Men’s Salon and Geezers (which did not close down, despite @bobbymann‘s prediction).

Meanwhile, we’re still waiting for @leonora1 to “finally open my own craft shop!”

Food & Drink
Given that whampers seem predisposed to eat and drink out a lot, how were their predictions? 
@nickhudgell suggsted that “glo gets let to a mexican burrito joint.”. In fact it became Ladudu.
@sblower wondered whether “ShakeTastic will produce a drink mixing peanut butter with fruit, and… roast veg.” Not quite, but it is now doing herbal teas.
@gitfinger, ever prescient, predicted that “The restaurant formerly known as Le Petit Coin closes and reopens under a new guise. Twice” Well, it was Lite for a bit, but has just reopened as The Sea Lantern.

The WHampstead 7-a-side team didn’t have a great start, but once the league became 5-a-side, things took a turn for the better. @nickhudgell predicted that the team would win the league – and the West Hampstead Wanderers did just that. The following season Whamp Athletic (the other team that spun off from the 7-a-side team) picked up the title with Wanderers just behind them. Sadly, @SamWong1‘s assumption that the Wanderers would be bought by an Arab billionaire has yet to happen.

World news
Twelve months ago, Osama bin Laden was still alive. We only have the US government’s word that he was killed in Pakistan. Perhaps @DanDrillsma was right: “Bin Laden found directing global operations from the back room at Lower Ground Bar…”

So that was 2011 – any thoughts for 2012? Leave them in the comments below

The Winch: A time for new dreams

Some more recent arrivals to West Hampstead Life may not be aware that I actively support local youth charity The Winchester Project. You can read a bit more about the genesis of that support here.

If you’d like to know more about the excellent work The Winch does, then I would urge you to go along on December 1st to hear about a “Time for New Dreams”. This would be an excellent opportunity to find out how you might be able to support the organization (whether financially, or by giving your time, expertise, or opportunities through your network), and to learn how it’s moving forward.

Hope that I’ll see lots of you there! Click the pic for a larger version and more details.

Whampreview – December 8th, Ladudu

On December 8th, the next whampreview takes place at Ladudu – the popular Vietnamese restaurant on West End Lane opposite the Iverson Rd junction. We’re looking to take around 20 people for an 8pm seating. We’ll be trying out the restaurant’s Christmas menu. This hasn’t been finalised yet, but there’ll be a platter of appetisers, two savoury courses and a dessert course for £25 (£20 if you’d like the vegetarian option). Ladudu will throw in some prawn crackers and tea as well, other drinks will be extra.

As usual, if the event is oversubscribed then names will be drawn out of a hat this Thursday morning.

Whampreview basics: we’ll meet beforehand for a drink and, during the evening, Tom and I  will note down comments about the food/service/value etc., which will go into the write-up. The evening is really more about meeting people though rather than being ultra-critical about restaurants. The bill is split equally unless there’s been a large discrepancy in consumption. Any questions, just ask, or check the FAQs.

To put your name forward, simply mail or tweet me @WHampstead before the end of day this Wednesday. If your name is picked, I will need a mobile number and active e-mail address from you. Please don’t commit to this on the offchance – we’re making a reservation for a large group at the restaurant, so it’s not fair on them if we suddenly have lots of dropouts.

Of course, there are always one or two genuine last-minute dropouts, so even if you’re unlucky, I may come back to you at short notice to see if you’re still interested.

If your whampstead house needs haunting…

Halloween time again. An excuse to dig out the facepaints and get your goth on, or to hide indoors munching a large slice of pumpkin pie. The choice is yours (Mmm… pie).

What are your options this year for spooky revels? Surprise surprise, The Gallery and The Alice House once again lead the way with their Halloween parties. The Alice House’s kicks off at 7pm on Saturday and runs through to 1am with a DJ. There are prizes for the best costumes (1st prize – dinner for two, 2nd prize – bottle of bubbly [does that mean not champagne?], and the best dressed group wins a round of shots).

Over at The Gallery, well, it’s much the same. No DJ, but the bar’s open until 2am, which is confusing because the clocks go back at 2am on Sunday morning, so does that mean an extra hour of drinking? Fancy dress is still encouraged (although when I walked past last year, most people seemed to just be wearing black).

The Priory Tavern has a pumpkin carving competition on Saturday from 3-6pm (max 15 entrants/teams). The regulars will vote on the winners (which is a scary prospect in itself), who’ll be announced on Bonfire Night and will win a decent bottle of red wine. The popular 12 Bars blues band are playing Saturday night and on Halloween itself it’s the usual 2-for-1 on house cocktails on “Happy Mondays” (seem to have missed the point of Halloween there!)

Over in Kilburn, the North London Tavern has a Halloween Horror night finishing at 1am. Prizes for the best dressed, ghostly drinks specials all night, and apparently tricks and treats!

The Railway is your Halloween antidote – it’s decided not to do anything special this year, so if you want to escape the slime-coloured shots and zombie-clad wannabes, this is the place for you on Saturday night.

The Good Ship prides itself on not overly pandering to or exploiting Hallmark holidays, but it likes to give a nod to Halloween, so on Saturday night, there’s an evening of Halloween fun with a spooky short film and then four live acts from 8-11.30pm and of course DJs until 4am.

It won’t have escaped your notice that all this is happening on Saturday, which is NOT the 31st. Halloween itself is on Monday night and where better to spend it than laughing your little vampire socks off at The Good Ship comedy club, where host Ghouliet Stephens (don’t blame her for that, I came up with it all by myself) will be introducing a top night of comedy headlined by the outstanding Pappy’s (if you’ve not seen them, now’s your chance), and she’s claiming there might be pumpkin pie. 

Have a fun weekend everyone – look out for our three local spooky tweeters @ghostontoast, @Ghoul_of_London and the deliciously strange @MarmiteGhost. And if you think it will make any difference whatsoever, here’s a poster the West Hampstead Safer Neighbourhood Team have circulated for those who aren’t in the Trick or Treat mood.

Click and Treat for full-size

Will cycling the wrong way soon be right?

Several of the roads in the southern half of West Hampstead are one-way. This is generally a good thing as it allows for on-street parking while keeping the traffic moving. However, if you’re a cyclist these restrictions may prove rather frustrating and the temptation is great to take a short-cut by cycling the wrong way down a one-way street. Aside from the illegality, this can be hazardous if neither cars nor pedestrians are expecting it.

Camden has decided to investigate this and is proposing to make some of these streets two-way for cyclists only. This is apparently called “cycle permeability”. Good ol’ local government and its penchant for language.

Making these changes is relatively cheap – a bit of signage is really all that’s needed – and will be paid for by TfL. The following roads would be affected: Priory, Canfield, Greencroft, Sherriff, Messina, Gascony, Fairhazel, Smyrna and Kingsgate Place.

Click for larger version

The council would like to hear from anyone who would be affected by the changes in terms of access to property/deliveries during the changeover, or from the eventual new system. The ward councillors on the Swiss Cottage side of West End Lane (to the east) have expressed their view “that local residents who use these streets every day as pedestrians, car drivers and cyclists should have a real input into decision making.”

The work is scheduled to be carried out betwen November and March. If you wish to comment on the idea, you need to make sure your letter or e-mail is received by November 11th and send it to:

London Borough of Camden
Culture and Environment Directorate
Transport Strategy Service

or e-mail , making sure you include your postal address.

Here’s the full consultation document [pdf download].

Bin there, dump that

No question what the story of the week has been in West Hampstead. For once, I was scooped by the local press and wondered why the Camden New Journal was exhorting me to to turn to page 3.

The answer: Bin Cam.

You can read the full story, or go straight to the Bin Cam website, where William Robertson posts (very) frequent photos and videos of the Camden council bin that sits on Fawley Road by the side of Sainsbury’s.

Robertson had got fed up of people fly-tipping around the bin, so has decided to keep a record of the comings and goings on the street. Inevitably this means capturing all sorts of other incidents, such as a woman falling over, and a man taking a leak. 

My personal favourite part of the site is the BinCon level widget (based on the US military’s Defcon settings).

The serious idea behind all this is to show Camden that it might want to increase the frequency of emptying the bin. It will be interesting to see if it works.

Get involved in the 2011 Christmas market

You may remember that last year there was a very successful Christmas market on West End Green. Well, good news whampers – plans are afoot for a second one. However, to make it happen the organisers need a little bit of help from some of you.

Cllr Gillian Risso-Gill who is coordinating the event, is looking for some specific expertise and support.

  • People with experience in marketing/PR/promotion, including social networks (ok – there’s got to be SOMEONE reading this who fufills that criteria).
  • Stall holders, particularly local craftspeople or traders
  • Additional business sponsors.

If you’re interestedin helping, having a stall, or sponsoring the event, then please register your interest at or call Gillian on 07798 845919.

Talent seeking

Richard snapped this earlier… if you want in to this Lymington Road residents association event, the contact details are at the bottom of the poster (click for large version). Frankly I’m upset that I haven’t been asked to be a judge. This must be what Cheryl Cole feels like.

Whampreview is back – October 6th

After the summer break, #whampreview is back – and it’s bigger than ever.

If you’re new to all things blog/Twitter around here, then some background: over the past couple of years, we’ve tried out 11 different local restaurants and rated them on food/service/value and overall experience. Each time just eight of us have gone – with the exception of Barraco when I was full of the Christmas spirit of generosity. It’s a different eight each time and for many people this is a calmer and quieter way to meet some locals than the party atmosphere of whampgather. Plenty of friendships have been forged at whampreviews and I think each one has been a great night out.

What now?
As the whamp community has grown so has demand for places at whampreview. It got to the stage where I was turning away more people than I was taking. Time for a rethink. We’re going to start increasing the number of people now, the precise number will depend a bit on the restaurant. Where possible, we will still order off the à la carte menu. No longer will we be anonymously reviewing the restaurant – that’s simply not feasible or fair with large numbers, the event is more about trying out somewhere new or different or that has a new menu, and getting to meet each other over a plate of food and glass of wine.

So, where are we going next?
Next up is perennial favourite The Wet Fish Café on October 6th. Despite its popularity, we’ve not reviewed the WFC before, largely because it wouldn’t have been possible to do it anonymously but that is no longer a concern. However, the restaurant has just this week launched a new evening menu so it seems like an ideal time to go and check it out. Owner André is also throwing in a free glass of prosecco for us all as an aperitif.

I want in! How does this work?
I’m lovin’ your enthusiasm. We have 16 places available. If you’d like to come then please or tweet me (@WHampstead) before midday Friday. If the event is oversubscribed then, as is customary, I shall draw the names out of a hat. (NB: this is not first-come-first-served as whampgather was). If you’re one of the lucky ones, I shall be in touch Friday afternoon and I will need a mobile number and active e-mail address from you.

Please don’t commit to this ‘on the offchance’. Once I’ve contacted you to say you’re in, then that’s basically a restaurant reservation you’ve made. Of course there are always odd very good reasons for last-minute dropouts, but for the restaurant’s sake (and mine!) please try and commit to the date – that’s much appreciated.

What’s the bill going to be like?
We always split the bill evenly, although we do try and take into account any large discrepancy in alcohol consumption. The Wet Fish is not the cheapest restaurant in West Hampstead and a three-course meal + wine + service is likely to run at ~£40/head. We may decide to share starters to bring this down a bit, and we’ll stick to house wine, but don’t come with a crumpled £20 note and expect that to be enough this time around!

Anything else?
If you go here, you can see links to all the previous reviews. Note that from now on we won’t be scoring every element of the evening. I’ll jot down some comments during the evening to incorporate into the write-up, but this is a bit more about socialising together and a bit less about hardcore restaurant reviewing than it used to be.