Nazanin calls from prison during rally on West End Green

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

Great turnout to support freedom for Nazanin

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

Supporters, young and old, were out in force

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

Emma speaking via Greg

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

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

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

A large press presence

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

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

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

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

Marchers setting off down West End Lane

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

Emma Thompson joins Ballymore tree row

It’s been quiet of late on the Ballymore building site at West Hampstead Square. This has meant a stay of execution for the trees that have caused so much heated debate over the past couple of months.

Emma Thompson at the 2011 charity cricket match
Photo via @bubela

Now, one of West Hampstead’s most famous residents has waded into the debate with a letter, published in the Ham & High this week, which she’s given me permission to print in full here.

An open letter from Emma Thompson to Sean Mulryan, Chairman & Group Managing Director of Ballymore Developments and Peter McCall, Construction Director


I am a long-term resident of West Hampstead (54 years) and have watched as over the years, development has all but removed any green spaces and most of the life-giving trees from the area. I understood from the Council that your development was set to include the trees that give pleasure and vitally – oxygen – to the area but I now understand that you are planning to chop them all down.

Please do not indulge in this act of vandalism and eco-savagery. It’s totally unnecessary and you will endear yourselves greatly to this community if you listen to their desires in this matter.

No-one wants to lose the few trees we have. Their survival is of the utmost importance. Your development will be infinitely more attractive with the trees in place. Your recommendations stated that you would protect and enhance the ‘green infrastructure’ – which it now seems you had no intention of doing. I understand all too well the way these things happen. Give lip-service to the ‘green’ bits and then when everyone has forgotten about the agreement, lop it all down.

Do not be tempted to do this. It won’t help you and it will anger the community.

I look forward to your reply.

Sincerely yours
Emma Thompson (actor/writer and conservationist)
Local resident

I think we all look forward to Ballymore’s reply, which I’d be very happy to publish here.