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Great Get Together Weekend – Jo Cox would have been proud of West Hampstead

It was a hot weekend in West Hampstead but with the ‘Big Lunch/ Jo Cox Great Get Together there was some really cool stuff going on. On Saturday night it was cycle-powered outdoor cinema and on Sunday a number of Big Lunches in the ‘hood.

By popular demand the first outdoor screening of the summer, organised by the Friends of Fortune Green, was back to cycle-power. The film was ‘Arrival’, which overall proved a popular choice although the audience of over 325 either loved it (“it was best film I’ve seen in ages”) or didn’t (“what was that all about?”); but even those who didn’t quite get the film enjoyed that fantastic atmosphere. Normally, by the end of the film it’s sweaters and blankets but not this time as it was still 23 degrees at 11pm.

Outdoor film - a cool thing to do on a hot night.

Outdoor film – a cool thing to do on a hot night.

Before the film started MC Simon Inglis thanked FOFG for putting it on and electric pedals for the system, and wished a speedy recovery to Councillor Flick Rea, in the audience with her arm still in sling. He also asked for donations to help fund the film, and the audience responded generously giving £925; so next up the kids-friendly film on August 12th (date for your diaries).

After the late-night film screening it was a gentle start for the Big Lunches on Sunday. Down in the Iverson Road Space, Monica Regli from MILAM reported that “It was sweltering hot so we had to keep moving the tables but we had a really good turnout. She heaped praise on member Carlotta Fiocchi-Sassoon the main organiser, although “everyone chipped in (and a special thank you to Sidings)” Monica was especially pleased that there was a great community spirit, “you could hear everyone networking and swapping information. Just what the country needs right now – a really positive effect.”

Mingling on Iverson at the MILAM lunch.

Mingling on Iverson at the MILAM lunch.

Up in Fortune Green ward it was take your pick. Probably the award for best village fete atmosphere was the Ravenshaw event on Glastonbury Street – although with a street name like that you can’t but help have a great atmosphere. It was a really well planned , but their secret weapon was their paddling pools! Popular on a hot day with the kids … and eyed enviously by the adults.  Their raffle raised a tidy sum for a local charity and #Grenfelltower.

Jimmy the juggler kept the kids entertained

Jimmy the juggler kept the kids entertained

A short walk away Hillfield Residents Association had about 75 adults and kids turn for their Big Lunch. Co-organiser Sandie Evans said “I’ve met the nicest people – and how did I NOT know Neil and Amanda – they live practically opposite and we’ve both lived on the Street for over 15 years”! Hillfield’s secret weapon was resident Jimmy who just happened to be juggler and kept the kids entertained for hours, although thankfully for him given a brief break by the arrival of police horses.

Everyone loves a police horse!

Everyone loves a police horse!

For the cultural historians among you that old buffet staple potato salad is out (there was none), pasta salad came in second place but the winner by far was couscous salad – there was enough to resurface the M1. Hillfield’s raffle was for #troysmission, the West Hampstead toddler with cerebral palsy whose mum is seeking to raise £50,000 for a potentially life changing operation for him.

Couscous the new potato salad

Couscous – the new potato salad

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

Tom the Magician bamboozled the boozy residents of Gondar

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

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

How can you help brighten the Black Path?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rubbish behind the fence is also a problem image: Shelley

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

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

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

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

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

In the meantime it’s getting darker earlier. So rather than talk about it more, isn’t it time to do something? If you are one of those commuters who is constantly ducking under trees, or even if you just live locally and care about this kind of thing, then please email moc.l1511408661iamg@1511408661daets1511408661pmahw1511408661rette1511408661b1511408661 and join us on Bank holiday monday from 2pm in the afternoon to help clear up the Black Path. Even if you can’t make that date (and it is a bank holiday weekend) then still drop us an email, as there will probably be another date in September.

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

Get creative with public spaces in urbanism competition

Urban Commons

Organisers of a new competition are inviting Londoners to re-imagine the city’s urban spaces in a practice known as “commoning”, or reclaiming public spaces to be used by the communities in which they are located.

With London’s open spaces increasingly being developed for profit and managed by private owners (sound familiar in West Hampstead at the moment?) the organisers Theatrum Mundi, a group of urbanists and artists, feel that “the range of activities permitted in urban spaces is becoming increasingly narrow”. How best to reclaim and use these spaces?

Feeling inspired? Perhaps there’s somewhere local, such as the Travis Perkins building on West End Lane, you feel could be used to benefit the local community.

You don’t need to be a professional designer or architect to enter your idea – it’s open to all. Full details can be found on the Urban Commons website, and the closing date is May 1st, so there are still a couple of weeks left to develop your idea.

Ten selected proposals will be awarded £300 toward the implementation of their proposal and will be featured at an exhibition at the LSE as part of the London Festival of Architecture.