What have you missed since March 26th?

Hello. Today’s final “What have you missed…” comes from both Mark and Jonathan. Why?

Sadly, this is the end. WHL has been going for nine years, but all good things etc. etc. We explain all (including what’s happening to the mailing list – don’t worry, we’re not selling your data!)

We’ll both be at a farewell drinks event at Bobby Fitzpatrick’s on Thursday (April 5th) from 7.30pm. Everyone’s welcome. No need to RSVP, just turn up. I imagine we’ll be there until fairly late.

Of course the news doesn’t stop – and there’s plenty this week, so let’s crack on

Kilburn High Road was closed because of a fire at Oxfam. Two people were rescued and thankfully there were no serious injuries.

Fire engines block off KHR to deal with Oxfam fire. Photo via William Vanner

West Hampstead could be in for a sizeable windfall from the sale of Liddell Road – but will any of that money actually be spent here?

Maybe that’s a question to ask the candidates for the upcoming local election. We profile all 18 candidates from the three main parties in both West Hampstead & Fortune Green wards (NB: we will keep this page updated).

There’ll be a hustings, co-hosted by WHAT and the NDF, on April 9th. Council hustings are relatively unusual, so it might be worth going along and asking about the pertinent issues.

One person not standing is existing West Hampstead councillor Phil Rosenberg. We spoke to him about his experiences as a ward councillor and what the future holds. Phil was also on Channel 4 News this week in relation to the anti-semitism demo in Parliament Square.

Election time always means a few political big hitters drop in to help canvas support. Swiss Cottage, which is being seen as a bellwether ward, in particularly popular with both defence secretary, Gavin Williamson and former Conservative education Minister, Nicky Morgan dropping in. Morgan certainly knows the area, she used to live on Sumatra Road.

It’s been two years since West Hampstead resident Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was first detained in Tehran. To mark this, her husband and others campaigning for her release held an event on Fortune Green.

There’s been much debate over the future of Billy Fury way, but what is really the best way to manage the footpaths around there? We surveyed pedestrian footfall last weekend and in just one hour mid-Saturday morning, just three people used the steps from West End Lane down to Billy Fury Way, while 168 people used the parallel Blackburn Road. Food for thought.

Are you are 30-year-old woman living in Camden? Good news.

Plans are afoot to improve Kilburn Grange’s adventure playground, Work should start this autumn.

Brent is applying to TfL to resurface the northern section of Kilburn High Road. The decision should be made later this month – fingers crossed.

There’s a new shop opening on Mill Lane. Lots of sequins.

Did you loosen – and lose – your (Hermès) tie this week? It’s been found.

Southwark police are still searching for Phil Nicol who has been missing for a month. He was last seen on Fortune Green Road – they are asking if anyone has any CCTV footage.

And for our final week we shared 18 ways you know West Hampstead is in your blood. Doesn’t get more hard-hitting than this.

Coming up
Thurs 5th Whampdrinks @ Bobby F’s
Fri 6th April – 7:30pm Jazz pianist Omar Klein at the Sherriff Centre. Bio here and tickets here.
Mon 9th 7.30pm Election hustings in the Synagogue Hall
Tues 10th – John Lloyd in conversation at West Hampstead Library on the current state of journalism and fake news.
Tues 10th – Lucy Mangan in conversation at West End Lane Books
Mon 16th – Locally Sourced ‘Rant Night’ at the Alliance
Tues 17th – Elizabeth Day in conversation with Susie Steiner about her book ‘The Party’ at West End Lane books.

Sat 21st – 7:30 GoWestHampstead Quiz, at Emmanuel Church. booking essential (includes meal)
Tues 24th – 7.30pm Spring Singfest with five, count ’em, five choirs in Emmanuel Church
Thurs 26th – Susie Steiner in conversation with Detective Inspector Graham Macmillan at West End Lane Books.
Sat 28th April – 7pm performance of Handel’s Messiah at UCS. Tickets here.

Last ever tweet of the week (*sniff)

Farewell West Hampstead

We’re sad to announce that West Hampstead Life is stopping the presses.

After nine years, it’s had a really good run, but Tuesday’s “What have you missed…” will be the last post on the site and the final newsletter is going out as soon as I hit “publish” on this post.

As you know, for the past couple of years, Mark has been doing the bulk of the writing for West Hampstead Life but he is now moving from West Hampstead to West Potsdam in Berlin.

This has happily coincided with my own decision that, having moved out of the area three years ago (almost to the day), I’ve been devoting too much time to West Hampstead and there are other projects I want to pursue.

I did the big sentimental “good bye” last time, so I’m not going to do it again. I do however want to say a huge thank you to Mark. He stepped in when it looked as if WHL might meet a premature end, and his commitment and enthusiasm since then have been exemplary. He’s got a few words he wants to say too:

I’m not very good at goodbyes. Like many of you, I was an avid reader so when it came to end in August 2015, I felt there was a WHL-sized hole in West Hampstead. After a few months, with some trepidation, I asked Jonathan if I could help. Thanks to his gentle guidance I think I did a pretty good job. I’ve rarely done anything that has had such consistent and positive feedback. I think you know this already, but I can’t tell you want a cool guy Jonathan is; it’s been a pleasure to work with him. No bust ups. Ever.

There is something about life in West Hampstead that both Jonathan and I appreciated, and many of you do too. West Hampstead Life has tried – and I hope succeeded – in making it just a little bit better. It’s been a privilege to take over the West Hampstead Life mantle for the past two years.

Thanks Mark – kind words. Very simply, without Mark there wouldn’t have been a WHL for the past two years.

If you’re interested, we’ll be at Bobby Fitzpatrick’s on Thursday (April 5th) for a farewell drinks party. Do come along – everyone is welcome.

A few answers to the obvious questions:
Are you closing the website completely?
The website will remain up. Sometime soon it’ll go offline for about a week while I simplify the design and turn it into an archive. There’s nine years of content on WHL and I think it would be a shame if it vanished. But I’m afraid there’ll be no new content.

Why aren’t you selling it?
I was talking to someone who I thought would have been an excellent new owner, but unfortunately he too is thinking of leaving the area. I’m not looking for anyone else to take it on – my experience from a couple of years ago suggests that although there’s lots of interest, when the reality of the time commitment sinks in, it’s no longer viable for most people.

What about the mailing list?
We will keep the mailing list for the next three months, on the offchance that someone makes me an offer I can’t refuse. However, if anyone does want to use it then you will be given the chance to opt in to anything new (in accordance with the new EU data protection laws). After three months, we’ll delete the list completely.

And Twitter/Facebook etc?
Good question… my @WHampstead twitter account will remain. Those of you who’ve been around a while will have noticed that I tweet a lot less than I used to! Expect to see an even greater proportion of RTs vs. original tweets. As for the other channels, I’ll play it by ear.

What about socials?
There’s still an appetite for whampsocials, but they’ll be promoted via social media rather than the mailing list – keep your eyes peeled on Twitter/Facebook etc.

And that, my friends, is the end.

Local elections 2018: The candidates

The local elections are on May 3rd. This is when you get the chance (and “you” includes EU citizens) to vote for three councillors for the ward you live in. All the ward councillors who are elected form Camden council (or Brent council for those of you the other side of the Kilburn High Road).

For those of you new to the whole local politics thing, we wrote a useful 101 guide to it last time around that’s worth reading so you understand what you are (and are not) voting for (obviously many of the links in that article are out of date, but the key messages are the same).

We are going to take a look at the two wards that are fully in West Hampstead: Fortune Green and West Hampstead itself. Some of you will live in Kilburn ward and others in Swiss Cottage ward (anyone living in the Gardens area between West End Lane and Finchley Road falls into that ward). Kilburn ward is hardcore Labour, Swiss Cottage has been Tory for quite some time, though two long-standing councillors are standing down this year, so it’s now considered up for grabs. But our focus is on West Hampstead and Fortune Green.

In any election it’s important to know who you are voting for. Some people always vote on party lines. Many people (most people) don’t vote in local elections at all, though plenty still have a good ol’ whinge about everything the council does. In the current political climate, some voters – especially Labour voters and Remain Tories – may find voting on party lines harder than usual, which means that it’s even more important to understand the individuals you want to represent you. As our interview with departing councillor Phil Rosenberg suggests, the individuals do matter.

The general election last year showed Labour strengthening its hold in the area. There’s even talk in Camden of a total clean sweep of the council with a chance that traditional Tory areas Swiss Cottage and Belsize and even Hampstead and Frognal might go red. Most sane people would accept that a one-pary state with no opposition was not healthy for democracy at any level.

What are the big issues?

Brexit: Most of you know that this was one of the most devout Remain constituencies in the country. Labour’s manifesto suggests you “let Theresa May know how you feel about Brexit by voting Labour”, which given Jeremy Corbyn’s lack of clarity on Labour’s stance on Brexit seems like an odd line to take. Of course the local elections have almost no bearing whatsoever on Brexit, but given that it’s almost the only political story in town at the moment, it’s bound to play a part in how some people vote.

Rubbish: This is squarely within the remit for local elections and the Conservatives  are unsurprisingly going big on it given their poor Brexit credentials in a Remain area. Candidates are calling for the reinstatement of weekly rubbish collections. After huge problems when the new system was introduced a year ago, yes it’s been a year, gradually things have got better. Sure fly-tipping is an issue, but it was actually an issue before as well. As Cllr Phil Rosenberg said things are now at a granular level and Camden are now getting round to dealing with street by street issues (which they should have done much earlier).

Growth: West Hampstead continues to experience high levels of development – although many of the major sites are now accounted for, if not fully developed. However, the O2 car park and the area around Blackburn Road generally is still up for grabs and while nothing may happen here over the next four years, it could be a major issue. None of the parties have much to say about it – but if you get the chance to grill the candidates on the doorstep or at the hustings then this could be a good topic.

Crime: Councils do not really have much responsibility for crime, though they do of course liaise closely with the police in many areas. Crime is on the up in our local area, by more than the average rise across Camden, but there’s not a great deal councillors can do about this other than to remain engaged and listen to residents concerns. Crime is more relevant in both the general election and the mayoral/London Assembly elections.

Are there hustings?

Yes. Local groups WHAT and the NDF are holding a joint hustings of all the candidates, yes both West Hampstead and Fortune Green wards, on Monday 9th April 7:30pm in the Synagogue Hall. Council election hustings are relatively rare given the number of candidates involved, so if you get the chance do go along.

CNJ deputy editor, Richard Osley, did a good summary of it on his blog. Or as he put it, on a polite night in West Hampstead

Enough waffle – show me the candidates

Ok, ok… First West Hampstead, or you can jump straight to Fortune Green.

West Hampstead ward

In the general election, West Hampstead was seen as the swinging bit of a swinging constituency. The reality was that Tulip Siddiq grew her majority considerably and West Hampstead swung resolutely Labour. It should be an interesting ward – and with three new Labour candidates maybe it’s not quite as clear cut as some pundits would have you believe.

Parties are listed in the order of last election and we will have updated this page once now all the nominations are in. 

Labour

WH Labour candidates: Peter Taheri, Nazma Rahman and Shiva Tiwari

Labour has three new candidates as existing councillors Phil Rosenberg and James Yarde are stepping down and Angela Pober, who was elected on the Labour ticket but has been sitting as an independent since September 2015, will certainly not be standing for Labour again. The final date for nominations is April 6th, and Angela has proved elusive of late so we don’t know if she’s going to stand again as an independent.

Nazma Rahman
Nazma is a nutritionist and a West Hampstead resident for nearly a decade and elsewhere in the borough before that. She has brought up two children in the area and if elected she is “determined to work tirelessly to improve the quality of life of people in West Hampstead. I want to tackle crime locally, improve rubbish collection in the area and ensure that our recycling rates continue to rise”. She is also concerned about housing, law and order (she recently suffered an attempted break-in).

Peter Taheri
Peter is a barrister who represents the police and says “I can bring to the table my experience as a barrister representing mainly police forces and other public bodies, which has given me a very concrete overview of the vital work that our police and other public services do and a deep understanding of the importance of protecting and supporting these precious services. My job gives me the skills to analyse and articulate arguments and standing up for public services is something I do day-in, day-out”.

Peter has just stood down as the local party chairman, and acted as Tulip Siddiq’s agent in the last election.

Shiva Tiwari
Shiva moved with his young family a couple of years ago to the area and since then had got stuck in, as a trustee of the West Hampstead Community Centre and a governor of Swiss Cottage School.

“If elected, I will work my hardest to improve the quality of life for all people who live and work in West Hampstead. My focus will be on fighting the recent uptick in petty crime, improving the collection of commercial waste on West End Lane & Mill Lane, campaigning for more affordable housing and controls on private landlords and ensuring that Camden is creating enough high quality school places to give local children the best possible start in life”.

None of the candidates mention development and the growth area. Over the last four years none of the three sitting councillors has really championed the growth area at the council. Phil Rosenberg was the most active, and was a regular at NDF meetings, but without a champion in the town hall (and ideally someone with an interest in urban design), West Hampstead could continue to be shortchanged.

Liberal Democrats

West Hampstead was once a Lib Dem stronghold holding all three seats. Are these three going to be able take back the ward?

WH Lib Dem candidates: Nancy Jirira, Roger Fox and Mukal H

Roger Fox
Roger is a fresh face in West Hampstead. “I think I bring a different perspective to our local councillors as a young private renter and someone starting a life in London”. He joined the Liberal Democrats in the aftermath of the EU referendum and is now chairman of the Camden Lib Dems. This is his first time standing as a candidate.

Mukal Hira
Nuruzzaman (known as Mukal) Hira has lived in West Hampstead for almost three decades. “As a father of two teenagers I have seen many changes that have affected our community. If elected, I am determined to tackle youth crimes and anti-social behaviour across the Borough”.

Back in 2006 he stood as a candidate for Respect in St. Pancras and Somers Town, getting a ‘respectable’ 781 votes before switching to the Lib Dems in 2008.

Nancy Jirira
Nancy has lived in West Hampstead for decades so she is “well aware of the local challenges”. She is an active member of the congregation of St. James Church (aka the Sheriff Centre). She works in the NHS, and is a familiar face. She was a Fortune Green councillor, elected in a by-election in 2008 and retaining her seat in 2010. She narrowly missed out in 2014, losing out (by 17 votes!) to Labour’s Richard Olszewski.

The Lib Dems are the first party to have their local website up and running so you can find out more about the candidates here.

Conservatives

WH Conservative candidates: David Brescia, Sedef Akademir and Mohammed Salim

Sedef Akademir
Sedef is campaigning for “cleaner, greener and safer West Hampstead”. She’s also concerned about the rise in crime which she says is up by 42% in the past year.

David Brescia
David is a familiar face in West Hampstead, he’s lived here for 20 years and is actively involved in local groups including the NDF. He is campaigning for a restoration of weekly bin collections which is the Conservatives’ top pledge. “We’re also fighting for a passenger lift and wider entrance at our overcrowded tube station”.

Mohammed Salim
Mohammed lives in West Hampstead and runs Spice Tree restaurant on Mill Lane. He says that “voting Conservative in the upcoming local elections is to get the bin collections restored to weekly, the garden tax abolished, and more local police officers and CCTV cameras to combat the rise in crime”.

Green Party

WH Green candidates: Jane Milton, David Stansell and Helena Paul.

Jane Milton

Jane thinks that “although they may feel a strong leaning towards us, they mistakenly believe that Green votes are wasted ones. Often people don’t realise that the greater degree of proportional representation at a local level really does give them more power to choose. We as a party do try to get the message home that Greens can be powerful and effective locally, but I do think we need to do a lot more work on this”.

David Stansell

Another long-term West Hampstead resident, David is a management consultant who runs his own firm helping energy companies transition 100% to renewable energy. His two main reasons for standing are ‘recycling and cycling’. His experience dealing the public sector made him observe that ‘the solution to many of local problems comes from not getting everyone together and agreeing on the baseline of the issue’.

Helena Paul

As a member of the NDF she recently led a project to monitor the air quality in West Hampstead and came up with some shocking results as the air quality, on the Finchley Road, in particular, was very poor.

“We must get TfL to prioritise improving West Hampstead Jubilee line station with an entrance on the same side of the road as the other two stations, while the interchange between the three stations needs addressing. There are already proposals for all this – let’s get on with it!”

You can read more about the candidates on the Camden Green Party website.

Fortune Green

Unlike West Hampstead, where three new councillors are guaranteed, all three sitting councillors in Fortune Green are standing again, which makes it a simpler but no less interesting ward.

In 2014, the Lib Dems suffered a collapse in their vote across Camden but Cllr Flick Rea managed to retain her seat in Fortune Green and with 1,151 votes, got the highest number in the ward. She has held the seat since 1986. She was the sole remaining Lib Dem in Camden and said she woke up understanding survivors guilt. Also elected were Labour’s Lorna Russell and Richard Olszewski, though the Lib Dems and even the Tories came close to nicking a seat.

Who is standing?

Parties are listed in the order of last election and we will update this page once all the nominations are in, but our focus is on the three main parties. 

Labour

FG Labour candidates: Richard Olszewski, Sorin Floti and Lorna Russell

Sorin Floti
Newcomer Sorin, if elected, would be the first Romanian councillor in Camden. Sorin quit the world of finance to do a masters in social policy at LSE and has been active in a number of groups including mentoring young people via the Prince’s Trust. As a Romanian he is “personally affected by the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, but am also aware of how it will affect everyone’s lives”. So this is one of his top issues, along with education and housing.

Richard Olszewski
Richard was a councillor for Regent’s Park from 1994 to 2002 and was then an advisor to senior Labour MP John Reid. Richard thought he might squeeze through if he stood in Fortune Green in 2014 and squeeze through he did, beating Lib Dem Nancy Jirira by 17 votes for the third Fortune Green seat. He is the relatively new Camden cabinet member for Finance. His priorities are ‘supporting our schools and early years services’, ‘providing more housing of all types, but especially council housing and low-rent accommodation’ and ‘campaigning against Brexit’.

Lorna Russell
Lorna has been one of the most visible and engaged local councillors over the past four years. “I have worked hard to represent the residents of Fortune Green at all levels of the Council. I am proud of the work I have done to support the community here, and hope that this is recognised by voters in May”. Her priorities are housing, crime (she has been a victim of burglary AND a phone theft), and getting a fair deal for EU residents”. Lorna stood up for the area over the controversial Liddell Road scheme showing a certain degree of independence when needed.

Liberal Democrats

FG Lib Dem candidates: Flick Rea, Adrian Bridge and Tracey Shackle

Adrian Bridge
The impetus to get involved in local politics came in the wake of the EU referendum. “We believe that with the Tories both nationally and locally in disarray, there is a clear need for a strong and effective opposition in Camden. We do not think that one-party rule is the best way forward in a democracy and would seek to provide rigorous scrutiny of what will almost certainly be a fresh Labour administration”.

Flick Rea
Flick was first elected a local Fortune Green councillor in 1986, and has lived in the area for even longer. She knows Fortune Green well. She says “my local priorities include protecting and improving our parks and green spaces, opposing overlarge unsuitable developments such as the Gondar Gardens Reservoir scheme – protecting our bus routes, and fighting to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists on Fortune Green Road, Mill Lane, West End Lane as well as major roads (Finchley Road and Shoot up Hill)”.

Tracey Shackle
Tracey works as an education practitioner in both pupil referral units & mainstream schools solving problems, which has given her good contacts to Camden officers and in “getting things done”. And if Tracey doesn’t get elected? “If I don’t get elected this May, those of us who didn’t will be back even stronger next time around! Lib Dems fight back!”

Conservative

FG Conservative candidates: Shamin Ahmed, Axel Kaae, Philip Taylor

The Conservatives are pushing a return of weekly bin collections and more police as key policies. They are (understandably) quiet on Brexit.

Shamin Ahmed
Shamin says that the Conservatives are pledging “an extra officer in every ward – paid for by the saving from installing LED street lights and leveraging the matching funding from the Met”.

Axel Kaae
“Our manifesto sets outs some really innovative plans to solve these problems and do so much more and I’m sure Fortune Green voters will consider them carefully”.

Philip Taylor
When asked how the Conservatives could turn round a poor general election showing, Phil replied “Luckily for us, Fortune Green voters are smart! They understand this is a local election and will vote on the issues and services which affect them every day”.

Green Party

Rather ironically, the Greens only have one candidate standing for Fortune Green. Her name is Helen Jack, but we don’t know any more about her. Even on the Camden Green Party website they don’t list anything (yet) although there is something for the candidates standing in West Hampstead.

18 ways you know West Hampstead is in your blood

Living in West Hampstead brings its unique challenges, opportunities and emotions. One minute you’re all This place is awesome and the next it’s more Why aren’t there any useful shops?

There are the ups and downs of West End Lane.

You might bag the last table for brunch at the Wet Fish Café.

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But then you pop into Tesco on your way home from work and get stuck in the queue.

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And is that another estate agent that’s just opened?

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Bill Nighy holds the door open for you at the bookshop and you play it cool.

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But then you see Emma Thompson browsing at the farmers’ market and you try to just keep walking.

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We all know West Hampstead’s brilliantly connected.

You can get anywhere in London in half an hour.

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Until you get to the tube station.

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The Thameslink is a godsend

Until there’s a change of platform announcement.

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Or you find you’re on the fast train to St Albans.

We all know that West Hampstead is an expensive place to live – but even locals can be shocked.

At the price of a one-bed flat in West Hampstead Square.

At the price of a coffee and croissant in Gail’s.

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Still, it’s a small price to pay to live in this fantastic part of London.

On one side there’s the Heath…

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… on the other side there’s Kilburn.

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(I’m kidding – I love Kilburn).

There’s an undeniable community spirit in the area. People look out for each other.

Tweets about missing cats trigger an almost visceral reaction.

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Though (pet peeve) for some reason, tweets about a missing child get this response.

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And we bring you all this excitement via West Hampstead Life.

We may be writing the newsletter when it’s 10pm on Sunday night already.

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But it’s worth it when you tell us that when you wake up to find it in your inbox on Monday morning you’re all…

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You know you wouldn’t want it any other way

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Is West Hampstead due an £8 million Liddell Road windfall?

Liddell Road – a school, some office space and apartments. It was a controversial scheme when it went through planning a few years ago, with Camden acting as developer and approver. There was much talk of how the numbers added up and why there was to be virtually no affordable housing. Three years on, some of those numbers have changed – so could this mean West Hampstead is about to get a whole whack of cash?

Let us take you back to the mid 2010s. Liddell Road was a council-owned piece of land used as a light industrial estate. The council wanted to use half the site to build a school – specifically an extension to Kingsgate School – and it would pay for this largely by selling off the other half of the site for housing and office space.

Revised Liddell Road plan with 14-storey tower block (reduced to nine storeys)

The plan was for a four-form entry lower school (up to 7-year-olds) that would ultimately house up to 360 children who would then move on to Kingsgate’s main buildings over in Kilburn. The council claimed the school would cost £13.4 million.

To pay for it, Camden argued it needed to sell land with planning permission to build a nine-storey tower block plus some mansion blocks. In total, there would be 100 flats, of which just four would be “affordable”, and 3,500 m2 of office space. This would cover the cost of the school and generate an additional £1.9 million for the education department. The school was also eligible for £6.7 million of central government funding. Camden took this money but excluded it from its calculations on how to pay for the school.

In March 2015, the council’s own planning committee agreed two separate yet inseparable planning applications: one for the school and one for the development to fund it.

For reasons that were never made clear, the two sites were built separately. First the school, where construction has finished and which opened in September 2017. Next, the residential and commercial buildings where construction hasn’t even started. This second part of the site is due to be sold to an external developer this spring. When work eventually starts it will obviously cause considerable disruption and potential danger from construction traffic to children at the school. Not to mention the additional inconvenience to local residents from yet more construction. It’s hard to understand why both developments were not built simultaneously.

At the time, the Neighbourhood Development Forum and West Hampstead Life did some number crunching and argued that the development would generate a much larger surplus (or “profit” as a normal person would call it) than Camden was suggesting.

The residential and office space was supposed to generate £15.4 million (£13.4m for the cost of the school + the £1.96m surplus). This seemed low. Experts that the NDF consulted valued the land £10 million higher, which would lead to a £11.96m surplus.

From speculation to cold hard cash
It turned out that building the school was more expensive than first thought. Quite a lot more expensive. The cost rose by 38% from £13.4 million to £18.6 million when the construction contract was finally given. Camden’s press office told us that “£13.4m was the estimate quoted in the December 2013 cabinet paper,” but then argued that in the period 2014-2016, “the proposals were developed in detail while at the same time construction costs rose significantly for the industry as a whole and in Camden, resulting in this increase in cost.” It seems a very large jump in costs in two years, and it was not put on the table at the planning committee in March 2015 when the scheme was approved on the basis of the £13.4 million number.

It is still not clear whether the £6.7 million central government grant for building the school actually went towards building the school – even though it would have more than offset this £5 million increase in costs.

Was such a big school needed in the first place. Demographic modelling showed a lack of primary school places, but the four-form school opened last year with only three forms and this year’s entry will also be only three-form. Camden’s response: “The unexpected national drop in births in 2013 has had a considerable impact in Camden, and other authorities. Surrounding authorities have found themselves in a similar situation, reducing pupil admission numbers to temporarily address the falling reception numbers.” It’s true that the birth rate did fall in 2013 quite dramatically, but this was public knowledge in 2014, so again why was it not made clear in March 2015 when the decision came before the planning committee. Could the school have been slightly smaller and therefore cheaper?

Whatever the rights and wrongs of predicting school places, a school that cost £18.5 million would not be paid for by the £15.4 million raised from the homes and office development. It seemed the development had lurched from profit to loss? .

Fast forward to spring 2018 and Camden is finally planning to sell the land and has pencilled in the amount it expects to get. Turns out, surprise surprise, that it should sell the land for more than £15.4 million. It’s even going to be more than the NDF’s estimate of £25.4 million. Camden has pencilled in a net £26.8 million expected capital receipt. More than enough to cover the £18.5 million for the school, and the £1.9 million surplus (all assuming that £6.7 million was spirited away elsewhere). We are now looking at an £8.3 million surplus.

Camden’s press office again: “The original estimate of £15.3m was made back in 2012 as part of the business case for the redevelopment. Since 2012, land values in Camden have increased and more detailed work has been undertaken on the development which has resulted in this higher valuation. (This increased valuation is still very much open to market fluctuations).”

However, when the NDF made estimates using March 2015 valuations it estimated a sale value of £25.4 million which is much closer to the current valuation. Why was Camden using a 2012 valuation for a 2015 planning decision? Camden redacted all the numbers in its viability report due to ‘commercial considerations’ (this is the report used to justify the level of affordable housing) but the discrepancy in the public numbers and the final valuations suggests that decisions were made by the planning committee using out-of-date information.

Let us reflect that the argument for virtually no affordable housing at Liddell Road was that there wasn’t enough money and that the school itself was a public sector investment. Now the profit from the development looks like it’s risen from £1.96 million to £8.3 million. Does this mean more affordable housing is a possibility? The council does not rule this out, which is encouraging, though no chickens should be counted. How much of the money will pay for other improvements in the area, which are sorely needed as the population of West Hampstead continues to grow rapidly.

Camden’s rather vague answer to where the money will go is that “the extra money goes to support our continuing Community Investment Programme”. However, it accepts that “depending on the level of offers, additional affordable housing may be a point of negotiation with the shortlisted developers. Increasing the affordable housing numbers may result in a reduction in capital receipts so this can only be done if the overall programme remains viable.”

In fact, the Camden planning officer’s report in March 2015 was rather more specific. It states that “If the profit/surplus is more than £3m, this should be spent on an off-site contribution to affordable housing. This will be set out in the S106 agreement”.

Has this been set out? The other Section 106 payments (that’s money developers have to contribute to the local area to help offset the impact of their schemes) in the Liddell Road project were extremely low for a development of this size, only £47,000 and £30,000 for Maygrove Peace Park and local community facilities respectively. There was nothing more broadly for the larger growth area. It would seem that it’s time to revisit this.

Once again, the issues around this development are ones of transparency as much as of intent. As we wrote at the time, although it was a controversial development that led to a loss of jobs and useful local services, many people in the area were still broadly in favour of the school and accepted that some housing was needed to pay for it.

But when the development cost and possible income change so much from initial estimates – and in some cases these numbers could have been adjusted before the planning committee approved the project – we are left in the dark again.

When will Camden acknowledge that locals feel they have a right to a clearer understanding of how the calculations are made on affordable housing, of where exactly money in the “Community Investment Programme” will be spent locally, and on where that £6.7 million central government grant went that was specifically tied to the Kingsgate expansion.

Featured photo credit: Sue on Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Could departing councillor Phil Rosenberg be back sooner than expected?

It’s getting hard to miss but the local elections are coming soon. West Hampstead ward looks set to see three new faces as none of the existing councillors are standing again – or rather we know two are not and one hasn’t returned any of our messages.

In 2014, Labour took a clean sweep of West Hampstead, overturning the Lib Dems who’d been embedded for years. The three new Labour councillors were Angela Pober, Phil Rosenberg and James Yarde. James and Phil have announced they are standing down. Angela resigned the Labour whip in September 2015 over accusations that the party was being disingenuous about plans to close the library and has therefore been sitting as an independent for the past two years. She has not publicly disclosed her intentions, though she has until April 6th when nominations close.

James and Phil both announced their decisions a year ago. James told the CNJ a year ago that he would not stand again. “I will soon be completing my PhD at the London School of Economics, after which I will be looking for a University teaching post. Uncertainty in the academic job market – in no small part caused by Brexit – means that it is important that I can be flexible around where I work. Sadly, I have accepted that this is likely to mean moving further afield.”

Of the three, one has definitely been far more visible than the others. Phil Rosenberg has attended every public meeting available and has engaged whenever possible, even on the most contentious issues of the past few years, such as 156 West End Lane or the introduction of bi-weekly collections. We spoke to Phil over coffee at David’s Deli about his experiences as a councillor and what the future holds.

What made you want to be a councillor in the first place?
“I like solving problems and I was weighing up either becoming a rabbi or a councillor. I wasn’t religious enough to be a rabbi (and my girlfriend wasn’t keen) so councillor it was!”

Why are you stepping down?
“I would like to buy a house with my girlfriend, but West Hampstead is unaffordable.” Phil admitted that it didn’t help that the local Labour party (and the party more widely) seems to have a problem with anti-semitism, something which is  a front page issue today, but he maintains it wasn’t a significant factor in his decision.

How have you enjoyed being a councillor for West Hamstead?
“I really love West Hampstead. It’s a great place, but still quite down to earth, it’s got entertainment, decent restaurants, good transport. It’s got a lot going for it.

Another of its strengths is the deep levels of social capital here. There are lots of active groups. This didn’t always make my life as a councillor easy, as if they have an opinion they will share it, but it’s certainly a strength.

Although it’s a great place, parts of West Hampstead have pockets of real deprivation, so that brings its challenges. Another issue that worries me (and others on Camden Council) is the hollowing out of Camden and London, with very wealthy parts other areas with large numbers of social tenants, and the middle whittled away”.

Cllr Phil Rosenberg – he loves West Hampstead!

What do we need to do to make West Hampstead even better?
“Of the top of my head – and I’ll admit it’s a very localised issue, but I’d say tackling the parking problem around Iverson and Maygrove Roads. We also need to sustain community assets and green space and of course build more housing. This is a particularly thorny issue but it’s a major problem that needs to be tackled. So many of the cases I see in my surgeries are to do with lack of or poor housing. And by housing, this included more social housing.

I’m particularly concerned about the rise in homelessness. Due to cuts in services like mental health, people who previously were just about coping with some support are now falling through the cracks and being thrown into crisis. It was great to raise money for C4C operating out of Emmanuel Church right here on our doorstep, which is helping to tackle this issue. There’s also a concern that social housing could become concentrated with tenants with high needs – we need to try and ensure that communities continue to be mixed.”

How would you describe your political philosophy?
“It’s been shaped by communitarianism. If we help each other a bit more then the state wouldn’t have to take up so much slack. There is quite a lot of this in West Hampstead already, but I’d like to see more. Of course we can’t do everything, but neither can the state.

The church (or the synagogue) or pubs have historically been at the heart of this, but this seems to be disappearing.”

What advice would he give the incoming councillors?
“My advice is be engaged! Know that the diversity of opinion can be challenging but use it to your advantage”.

What frustrations has he faced?
“There have been a number of internal challenges, principally the inability of certain parts of Labour to clamp down on anti-semitism. It’s by no means everyone, but some people in the membership have an itch that they cannot stop scratching.”

What does the future hold?
As we ended our chat, Phil said that in his frustrating property search he is seeing property prices drift downwards in West Hampstead, so he may, after all, be able to stay around the area. Maybe, at some point in the future, we might see his name popping up on the ballot papers again.

What have you missed since March 19th?

After a quiet spell, the phone snatchers were back, with at least four incidents on Friday night.

Tom, our resident gourmand (glutton?) paid a visit to newcomer Ham. How did he find it?

Tila Studio on Fortune Green was broken into this week, as was Glass Art on Mill Lane.

So sad to hear @Tilastudio in @WHampstead got broken into two days ago. Thieves stole cash and equipment. So much damage caused. It’s appalling. Pic (and text): Joe Sayegh

The luxury retirement home planning application for Gondar Gardens is going to appeal. Number of luxury self-contained retirement flats = 82, number of affordable homes = 0 “we can’t afford to provide any”

In more popular planning news, West End Lane Books will be getting its jacuzzi and spa extension. Or maybe just more space for books.

A West Hampstead café or restaurant in a prime location is up for sale. Speculation is rife as to which one it is…. Answers on a postcard, please.

This week local author Susie Steiner revealed her likes and dislikes about West Hampstead. “Pants and socks, people, pants and socks.”

A crack house was closed in Fortune Green Ward.

Local estate agents John’s & Co wrote a (sponsored) post about how the local market diverges from national trends (though that crack house story above might just send prices plunging!)

The most popular single journey destinations from West Hampstead tube station were revealed. Bond Street beat Canary Wharf to the top spot.

Brent Council is undertaking a ‘have your say’ on specific town centre areas within Brent, including the Kilburn High Road. Now’s your chance to make your voice heard.

TFL is consulting on ‘modernising’ the Overground, which in plain English means there might not be a ticket office in the new West Hampstead station.

Meanwhile, on the buses, after C11 services were cut earlier this year, there is now talk of reducing the 328 service too.

The clothing bin saga continues. The company that owns them has come forward but apparently, it has been dissolved…

Want to know what the space where the Paramount building is, looked like in days gone by?

Coming up this week

It’s Easter!

Fri 30th (Good Friday)- 7:30pm Poetry and the Sacred at the Sheriff Centre

And beyond…

Fri 6th April – 7:30pm Jazz pianist Omar Klein at the Sherriff Centre. Bio here and tickets here.

Tues 10th April – John Lloyd in conversation at West Hampstead Library on the current state of Journalism, Fake news.

Tues 10th April – Lucy Mangan in conversation at West End Lane Books

Tues 17th April – Elizabeth Day in conversation with Susie Steiner about her book ‘The Party’ at West End Lane books.

Thurs 26th April – Susie Steiner in conversation with Detective Inspector Graham Macmillan at West End Lane Books.

Sat 28th April – 7pm performance of Handel’s Messiah at UCS. Tickets here.

Tweet of the week

Susie Steiner’s West Hampstead guide

I’m a seriously local person. I don’t like to leave my manor. When I leave Whamp, I feel like I need a decompression chamber to prevent the bends. I’m a homey, hanging with my FG-massive. I’ll stop being embarrassing now.

My favourite place to eat: The Wet Fish, for posh nosh. We’ve tried the new posh one, Ham, and liked it. The Czech & Slovac Club (74 West End Lane) for schnitzel, dumplings, goulash – everything Czech in fact. And the best beer. I’ve been going there since my Czech grandfather first took me aged 5, so ahem a few years now. It hasn’t changed one jot except the smoking ban cleared the air somewhat. If you’ve never been, try it.

Sunday roast at: home, obvs. Or The Green Room or The Alliance. There is def an opening for more Sunday roasts out – Ham, are you hearing us?

I still miss: Tom & Jenny’s Kitchen Table. Dizar gift shop – remember that one? The flower lady who used to be at the entrance to the cemetary, before Tesco came.
I don’t take change easily.

West Hampstead could do with more: clothing and general shops. An old fashioned DIY store. I have a secret yen for a GAP. Pants and socks, people. Pants and socks.

West Hampstead could do with less: estate agents, obvs. What have we done to deserve this plague of shiny suits?

I hate that: the pavements are cluttered with wheelie bins, the high street awash with rubbish bags which the foxes raid. As a sight-impaired person, my travel down the payment is fraught with risk on bin day. But after hearing Georgia Gould, Camden Labour leader, talk about the brutal cuts to local authority budgets, I reluctantly concede that the bin changes were necessary. Reluctantly, I tell you. I mutter audibly to myself as I step around seeping bags on Fortune Green Road.

The best place to walk: round the cemetery in high summer, across the Finchley Road and up the paths to the Heath in autumn, down to the farmers market on Saturday mornings.

Hold your kid’s party at: Play centre on Fortune Green, which also happens to be the best after school/holiday play scheme in town with the loveliest staff.

Get drunk at: I’m a notoriously tame drunk. Half a shandy, home by 9pm. But I choose to spend those precious un-drunk minutes at Bobby Fitzpatrick’s, because it’s so like being in my living room. Also, excellent nachos slathered with everything.

Exercise at: I’m sorry what? I can’t hear you.

Have your hair done at: Tila Studio, on Fortune Green Road. Amazing hair colouring. Also, profesh make up – useful if crap eyesight leads to frankly bizarre make-up application.

Fill the cultural tank at: West End Lane Books of course. Brilliant readings by authors (not just me), seriously good thriller recommendations from Danny and an all round warm hug of a shop. Also hilarious on Twitter. JW3’s not bad also.

I will be at West End Lane Books on April 26 to celebrate paperback publication of Persons Unknown, my latest Manon novel, along with the murder squad detective who advises me on all things procedural. He’s seriously interesting. Come for him. Contact West End Lane Books (see below) to reserve a spot.

My books have a distinct local flavour. Missing, Presumed mentioned Fordwych Road and Fortune Green both appearing, and a couple of characters buy Soleros on Mill Lane (gripping), while Persons Unknown is awash with Killy High Road refs. It’s out in paperback on April 5 and signed copies are available from West End Lane Books or tweet them @welbooks.

Tom enjoys some good kombunations at Ham

Finally it was my time to sample Ham, the new upmarket restaurant on West End Lane, which arrived to plenty of interest, and with a chef with a reputation. Ham kindly invited me to try it out and the welcome from David and the team was very warm.

We gazed around at the interior, with its soothing colours and neat yet homely feel. Somehow a little different to anything else locally, yet it blends in very well with the West Hampstead feel (then again what do I know about interior design!?)

To warm up, sourdough again showed itself as the boss of breads; perfectly stretchy and chewy, and our wine selection proved successful before even sampling it, as its label featured – errm – a Japanese ninja, and blood (OK, from the colour, let’s say candle wax) dripping down onto an otherwise elegant pair of diners!

I was curious about my starter of Buffalo mozzarella with seaweed and kale; the combination certainly new to me, and it absolutely worked. The kale was fried crispy, releasing a hit of flavour as it dissolved into oil against the fresh mozzarella. Highly seasoned, yet subtle at the same time – a delicate and enjoyable intro.

I tried a little of the Norfolk quail, artichoke, pearl barley and kombu; rich and powerful. What occurred to me again was the depth of flavour and seasoning; a really salty, punchy affair in which the pearl barley created a satisfying background. I asked how the dish was made, not being familiar with kombu, and it was evident that a lot of thought and effort had gone into it.

Fried kale tops buffalo mozzarella

Quail

My cod with verjus sauce and mussels was exquisitely cooked and again the balance was perfect, the sauce being deep and decadent; there is a reason why salt and pepper is not present on the table at Ham (though I was assured they’ll provide, if requested). Devon beef (medium rare) with black sesame, soy and turnips also went down well; it occurred to me that these ideas would be popular with those familiar with another fantastic, high-calibre local – Le Petit Corée – which also takes a fusion approach and succeeds greatly with it.

Cod with mussels

Beef with soy and turnips

Broccoli was perhaps a little firm for me, but then the extra freshness acted as a counterpoint for the delicious smoked cheese sauce, so perhaps that was the idea. A salad of magnificently grand red leaves added an element of palate refreshment.

Broccoli (you knew that though)

It’s called Ham – something had to be pink

Dessert of chocolate tart, blood orange sorbet and mint might have been missing the mint, on recollection, but it was marvellous anyway. We appreciated its contrast of bitter notes against sorbet sharpness, without too much sweetness.

Staff were enthusiastic and knowledgeable; and the atmosphere was buzzing. The restaurant should do well; yes, you need to have three courses and pay a little more than the average, but I feel people will return to experience this type of offering. There’s a reason why the likes of, for example, Wet Fish Cafe and Sarracino have been around for years; diners trust the quality to be present each time, and hence these establishments remain firm favourites.

Ham’s found a home here, and the neighbours have noticed!

Bringing West Hampstead insight to national property statistics

Sponsored post

Every week newspaper headlines vary between ‘house prices rise’ or ‘house prices fall’ – but which headline is accurate?

We thought we’d delve behind the headlines for this month’s West Hampstead Life column; we’ll be sharing some interesting stats and sprinkling them with some local insight to bring them to life.

First-time buyers
Nationally, the number of first-time buyers is down compared to 20 years ago, and according to the English Housing Survey, the average age of first-time buyers now stands at 33 years old. However, although there is no question that the average age of first-time buyers has steadily increased over the years with a direct correlation to property price inflation, the reality is more nuanced. That’s because the age at which someone buys for the first time is dependent on their personal circumstances.

For example, we receive many enquiries from first-time buyers who are getting considerable support from their parents. In these instances, parents either have cash or equity they can release from the family home, therefore bridging the affordability gap for their children who only need to take out a mortgage for an amount that’s affordable to them.

First-time buyers in this scenario typically live at home and are in the early stages of their first job after completing a degree. This gives an average first-time buyer age of around mid- to late-20s, a stark contrast to the majority of first-time buyers whose parents can’t raise such a large amount of ‘spare’ cash – and therefore spend years saving for a deposit whilst renting. For this self-sufficient majority, the average age is early- to mid-30s.

Private rented sector
Nationally, 4.5 million households rent in the private sector, and that figure is likely to grow (with many developers now choosing to build specifically to rent rather than sell). On average the weekly rent in London is £309, but in West Hampstead it’s around the £430 mark. Despite it costing more than average to live in West Hampstead, we’ve found that local tenants pay less in rent as a percentage of their income, compared to the wider London market.

In general, the number of families living in the private rented sector has grown significantly over the last decade. Although we haven’t seen this too much in West Hampstead, there has been an increase in young families with children under four renting in the area.

Neighbourhood
According to the English Housing Survey, 88% of Londoners are ‘satisfied’ with their neighbourhood. We’re sure most West Hampstead Life readers are more than ‘satisfied’ with their neighbourhood and reckon we’d score higher than average!

What’s interesting is that the London data shows a slight discrepancy in levels of happiness between those that rent and those that own their own home – but in our experience, this isn’t the case for West Hampstead. We’ve found that renters rarely leave the area and do so only if they want a complete change in lifestyle.

Local update
Stats aside, it’s been a slow start to the year. However, the change in the weather has helped both the sales and lettings markets; throughout March we’ve been contacted by vendors seeking pricing advice as well as tenants looking to move and settle before summer begins.

On the sales side, there’s a healthy demand from buyers looking for a first or a better home in and around West Hampstead. What’s noticeable though is how discerning buyers are being, and they’re certainly less prepared to compromise than they’ve been in the past.

On the lettings side, we’ve noticed a lot of applicants moving from Hampstead and Belsize Park to West Hampstead. These tenants tend to be professional couples looking for extra value for money who now perceive West Hampstead at nearly the same level as Hampstead and Belsize Park. Naturally, we agree, and there’s no doubt that the significant improvements to transport infrastructure and amenities along West End Lane have helped shine a light on the area.

To get accurate market advice for your property, please do get in touch to arrange your personal market appraisal or pop in to see us at our West End Lane Office, on the edge of West Hampstead Square.

Jonny Miller and Matthew Spencer

T: 020 7481 2907
E:
W: www.johnsand.co
JOHNS&CO, Unit 7, Hardy Building, West End Lane, London, NW6 2BR

What have you missed since March 12th?

The post office in the Sherriff Centre was burgled. Apparently, the burglars tried first on Monday evening, but were disturbed by a cleaner. They came back at 9.30pm, but were disturbed by the alarm before trying again in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

We all know how the leopard got its spots, but how did David’s Deli get its name?  We learned how in our Insight with Ellias the owner.

There was another moped enabled mobile phone snatch near Kilburn tube, but this one had an unexpected ending. (In case you don’t know Ashley was on Made in Chelsea).

Fortune Green seems very confused, Which season are we in? asked Scotty

The Chalcots Estate in Swiss Cottage has been in the news again (it was evacuated in the wake of the Grenfell fire). The council now wants to replace the windows for £30 million, on top of the £50 million it’s already spent on post-Grenfell improvements. Not to mention the millions it cost to install the original defective cladding. Residents haven’t ruled out running their own candidate in the local elections.

Another week, another Tory typo…(at least we hope it was), apparently they are campaigning for ‘reduced air quality

Clothing bank update: they have been given one month to be removed. There is more to this story than we first thought. Were these clothing banks ones that were first stolen?

West Hampstead bakery Roni’s suffered what appeared to be a premeditated attack at its Belsize Park operation. And there was a second attack.

Phil Nicol has been missing for over two weeks, he’s from Peckham but was last seen at the O2 Centre on March 3rd. He then boarded a 13 bus and got off at Fortune Green Road. He has not been seen since. Do you recognise him?

WHAT again proved at their AGM that they punch above their weight in getting things done round here. Holding Thames Water, TFL and Camden to account on road closures and diversion. Others may tweet the tweet, WHAT actually does stuff. Plus TFL confirmed they are undertaking a feasibility study over access to the tube station.

There was another burglary on Iverson Road. Watch out as there was a similar one on Mapesbury Road using a diversion tactic. Fireworks.

There was a moving performance of ‘Finding Mummy: Nazanin’s story’ at JW3.

The owner of these these (very cute dogs) has been located.

Coming up
Mon 19th – Locally Sourced at the Alliance, looks like an excellent evening

Wed 21st – it’s the ENO community choir concert at the Sherriff Centre. It’s free, but ticket here.

And this week why not try the cinema at JW3

Tweet of the week

An Insight with: Ellias from David’s Deli

One of the pleasures of writing West Hampstead Life is writing these Insights during which we get to know some familiar West Hampstead faces a bit better, behind the facade even. This month’s is no exception as we caught up with Ellias from David’s Deli.

We all know him as Ellias, in fact his full name is Ellias Dbouq; he was born in Beruit from mixed heritage Middle-Eastern heritage, and considers himself Lebanese. When the war broke out his family moved to Germany, where he grew up.

Ellias is super enthusiastic about life, David’s Deli and West Hampstead. Yes David’s Deli is business but it is also at the heart of the community as a place to eat, meet and greet. But it takes a proactive approach to be so, helping cook for the winter shelter at the church (and handing out 250 oranges).

Ellias in front of David’s Deli, West Hampstead. It’s his life!

So, what brought you to West Hampstead?

“It was accidental really, or perhaps fate is a better way of putting it. It was 2004 and I’d come over from Kiel to visit my brother, who was living in Wood Green. I was looking with a business partner for an opportunity over here and I knew Gaby* and Zak (who worked for Gaby). Gaby saw this site in West Hampstead and suggested we take a look, so I came over to visit with my brother. I had a really good vibe about the place and West Hampstead, so we went for it. And that is how Zak, my brother and Dauod opened David’s (Daoud’s) Deli.

“After two years Daoud decide to move back to Germany and Zak wanted to move on,  at which point they offered me the chance to buy their share of the business. I took it.”

*yes readers it is the Gaby of Gaby’s deli on Charing Cross Road, one of Jeremy Corbyn’s favorite haunts.

What was your first/fondest memory?

“Like I said as soon as I arrived here I felt at home.  I remember the first night we opened the deli I went for a drink in what is now the Alice House and met a very friendly reception, chatting with people right away. And I thought, yes I’ve made the right choice”.

How has West Hampstead changed?

“When I first arrived in 2004 it was very booming and quite mixed but then credit crunch of 2008 hit. It hit the business quite hard as we saw a substantial drop in our earnings. We adjusted our business but after things picked up we noticed a shift in the area by 2011/12 there was more investors money coming”.

“When things wobbled in 2008 we had to think about what we could do, extending the day by becoming a shisha bar at night seemed a good option, so we tried it (Ed – with the correct licences he added)! It’s worked well and now adds another leg to the business”.

What’s for lunch?

“Here are David’s Deli there’s lots for lunch! We have a new chef who we hired from Maroush, we call him Abu Ali. Since he arrived we have jumped over 4,000 places in the Tripadvisor rankings.

As well as our regular mezze he cooks range of daily specials. [Ed – on offer the day I went was garden chicken, golden from the saffron sauce, a nice new addition]. He also makes homemade hummous and chilli sauce and has other secret recipes…”

Garden chicken anyone?

[For breakfast David’s Deli offers a croissant with halloumi and fig jam. A  new variation on the sweet and salty combination that works so well.  If you are looking for something different for breakfast, try it!]

Halloumi and fig jam croissant. Mmmm.

“If I’m going out then of course the Wet Fish Cafe which does a professional breakfast and very good coffee. With my wife and kids I’ll go to Locanda 311 we always have fun and enjoy the food”.

West Hampstead in three words?

“It’s my life”

What have you missed since March 5th?

Oh no! Water leak season has started again. A series of leaks affected a wide area and many houses were left without water.

Damas Gardens, Kilburn’s Syrian restaurant, was fined £1,000 by Camden for fly tipping on the Kilburn High Road.

It’s less that two months until local elections, but the Conservatives are apparently asking you to vote for a question mark. Just a typo we were told. The missing candidate is actually Sedef Akademir.

“Can’t possibly carry all that guv…” Photo via Ian Cohen

Our historians reported on a real life ‘Death in Paradise’. Actor and sometime West Hampstead resident, George Rose was murdered in the Caribbean in the 1980s.

It was gridlock on West End Lane due to two sets of temporary traffic lights. The theme of local campaign group WHAT’s AGM next week is appropriately: Roadblocks and Diversions!

There are at least two huge metal ‘clothes banks’ in West Hampstead that are not charity boxes and appear to have been illegally placed there some time ago. They’re at least half a tonne each. Did no-one at the council spot this?

We have a good samaritan among us. A mystery man paid for the groceries of an older man at Sainsbury’s who had come out without any money. The older chap’s wife is very thankful.

Do you recognise this flowery handbag? It has an empty purse inside. It was dumped outside someone’s house but we are trying to reunite it with its owner. Or do you recognise an abandoned hold-all, which contained a quantity of cash, and was left outside the tube station.

There was a burglary on Iverson Road. Police advice is to make sure doors and windows are locked but maybe time for a webcam?

Local resident, engineer and writer, Roma Agrawal, appeared on Any Questions. Go Roma!

The Priory Tavern on Belsize Road has changed hands.

And while we are down that end of the KHR, here’s a trip down memory lane.

This Wednesday sees the next Sheriff Concert series. The moving force behind them, pianist Yehuda Inbar (we’ve heard he’s good) and violinist Timothy Redout, are playing ‘the Romantic Influence’ (you know – Schubert, Schumman, Brahms and beyond)

It is coming up for TWO years since Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was put in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. To mark this, and to mark her second Mother’s Day in jail, there are a series of events coming up: a performance of ‘Looking for Mummy’ at JW3 (if you haven’t seen it is very moving), a comedy fundraiser hosted by Shappi Korsandi (sadly sold out), paint a pebble for Mother’s day and an event on Fortune Green.

Good Luck to Jess Curtis, a West Hampstead teenager, who is off trekking to Everest base camp. She’s raising money for a charity that helped her brother, James, who was born profoundly deaf but now able to hear. You can support her here.

Coming up this week
Tues 13th – 6:30 to 8:30 Cycle maintenance workshop @ Sidings
Wed 14th – 7:30 WHAT AGM @ West Hampstead Library
Wed 14th – 7:30 Concert at Sheriff Centre
Fri 16th – 6:30 Private view of Kingsgate Workshops exhibition. Machiavellian Mary.
Sat 17th – 7:30 at JW3 ‘Looking for Mummy‘ Nazanin’s story.
Sat 17th – 7:30 to 9:30 Emmanuel Church. It’s Barn dance time again!
Sun 18th – Coffee concert at St. Cuthbert’s church.

George Rose: Death in the Caribbean

Actor George Rose travelled an unusual path from Bicester to Broadway. He lived in West Hampstead for the best part of a decade while he learned his craft from great actors and directors such as Tyrone Guthrie, Laurence Olivier, Peter Brook and John Gielgud. And after a very successful career on the stage, he died a tragic death in the Caribbean.

George was born in 1920 in the market town of Bicester, 15 miles north of Oxford. The son of a family butcher, he was educated at Oxford High School and went to see plays in the city every week. George left school at 16 to work as a secretary at Oxford University and then tried farming. After serving in the Army during WWII, George studied music at the Royal School of Music where he saw an advert for singers at the Old Vic and joined the company. With a letter of recommendation from Lawrence Olivier he got a one-year acting scholarship at the Central School of Speech and Drama; which was then at the Royal Albert Hall, moving to Swiss Cottage in 1957. Rose worked in Shakespeare at Stratford before joining Peter Brook’s productions at the Haymarket and the Phoenix theatres.

By 1948 Rose was living at 49 Howitt Road in Belsize Park before moving to 109 West End Lane in 1951. He stayed in West Hampstead and was at 21 Lymington Road in 1957, leaving by 1959.

He made his New York debut in the 1946 production of Henry IV, Part 1. He did two further Broadway productions, Much Ado About Nothing (1959), and A Man for All Seasons in 1961, when he moved permanently to New York. Rose became very successful on Broadway and won two Tony awards for his performances in a revival of My Fair Lady (1976) and in The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1986). He was particularly good at comedy roles ranging from Shakespeare to light opera, and in 1981 he appeared in The Pirates of Penzance with Kevin Kline and singer Linda Rondstadt.

Friends loved him for his warmth and eccentricities. Fellow actor Paul Scofield said George had ‘a smile like a big log fire’. In New York, George lived in a flat in Greenwich Village which he shared with a lynx, a mountain lion and other wild animals. His working life was devoted to theatre while his spare time was spent reading, cooking and listening to his collection of 17,000 records.

About 1979, George bought a holiday home in Sosua in the Dominican Republic. Friends warned him about the dangers of living there but he loved the country life as a break from New York. In 1984 he adopted a fourteen-year-old local boy called Juan and in 1986 made him heir to his $2 million estate.

In May 1988, the New York Times reported that George had been killed in a car crash in the Dominican Republic, but the local police soon said it was not an accident. Juan, now 18, his natural father and two other Dominican men confessed to having murdered the actor for fear that Rose had turned his attentions to a younger boy and was about to alter his will. The police said George had been held prisoner for eight hours. The men faked the car crash to try and hide the fact that George was beaten to death. They did not stand trial for the murder, though all but Juan were imprisoned for several years.

A few days before his death George had asked an American friend on the island to take him to see a lawyer as he wanted to change his will as he realised that Juan did not really care for him. But he never made the meeting. In a private settlement after George’s death, the penniless Juan received the house in Sosua, which he promptly sold and then he disappeared. He reappeared on the island in 1997, the year the three men were released from prison.

The Dominican authorities gave out little information about the murder as they wanted to protect the valuable tourist industry. This meant George’s friends and family were unaware of the details of his death for some time.

In June 1988, 800 people gathered in New York’s Shubert Theatre to celebrate George Rose’s life in a memorial service. Theatre producer Joe Papp referred to him as a Broadway legend. Henry Fonda once described his artistry as a marvel, and Jack Lemmon said Rose’s performances had given him the most pleasure in theatre. Cleo Laine, who appeared with him in Edwin Drood, recalled his singing and encyclopaedic knowledge of music. Lynn Redgrave said he taught her everything she knew about playing comedy and was the first person she phoned when she arrived in New York. In 1964, after George stole the grave scene from Richard Burton when they played together in Hamlet, Burton humorously said ‘Never share the stage with animals, children or George Rose’.

George Rose also appeared in more than 30 films – his IMDb entry lists 76 performances in film and TV between 1952 and 1988, and this does not include his many stage performances. Alix Kirsta wrote a very good article about Rose in the Sunday Times on 25 May 1997 which is available (along with many photos) on her website.

There was revived interest in Rose in January 2016, when Ed Dixon wrote and starred in a one man play Georgie: My Adventures with George Rose, which was performed in small theatres in New York. Dixon said he wanted to take the audience on his personal journey. In 1973, Ed had met and become friends with George who was 30 years older, when they toured together in The Student Prince. Dixon said, ‘He was famous and gay, powerful and gay, rich and gay. People couldn’t say no to George. His personality was overwhelming’. Dixon was in awe of Rose and the first hour of the play looked at his career with anecdotes and impressions of famous actors such as Laurence Olivier and Katharine Hepburn. In the last half hour Dixon tells how George had invited him to Sosua. Here, Ed said he felt uncomfortable with the young men at the house and he returned to New York. A short time later he heard about George’s death, and he was stunned and horrified as he learned the truth about his friend, mentor and idol.

What have you missed since February 26th?

It was cold, and quite snowy. In case you didn’t notice. Some locals took it in their stride, and many (very many) of you whipped out your cameras.

As previewed last week, Ham opened (sorry Ham, we really can’t be bothered to keep inserting the line over the a). The cold weather threw up some challenges that probably weren’t in the business plan!

There has been a huge jump in fly-tipping reports. Locally, Camden is getting round to enforcing the no-bins-on-street rule it promised when the new contract was introduced a year ago.

Flowers in the snow via @ingamells

Lately may have closed, but former owner Gordon Stevenson is still around and he talked to us about his 38 years at the helm of West Hampstead’s favourite club.

Kilburn Ironworks (whose owners are taking over Lately) is itself now for sale – offers around £1 million.

It’s Mother’s Day next Sunday. What better gift than something from your ‘hood.

The council tax increase we reported last week was approved, though Labour slightly wrong-footed the Tories by finding an extra £540,000 for extra policing, (or it could be said by adopting a Tory proposal).

The Mayor got interested in the West London Orbital Rail scheme, which would end at West Hampstead. What! more commuters? There was, however, no mention of how the £250 million scheme would be funded.

Those of you on Twitter may remember a recent plan to get a board games night up and running. Good news – it starts this week.

London-wide estate agent Dexters, which recently acquired Martin & Wright’s office in West Hampstead, has acquired north London agency Benham & Reeves, including B&R’s office near the tube station in West Hampstead.

Walkies! The Wag Club, the doggie daycare place that opened on Mill Lane a year ago is on the move. It’s moving to larger premises: the former scuba shop in Child’s Hill.

West Hampstead actresses Emma Thompson and Imelda Staunton held a Q&A at the Tricycle. Thompson revealed that Nanny McPhee might become a musical and shared the experience she drew on for her performance in Love, Actually.

Coming up

It’s quite an arty week
Wed 7th and Thurs 8th – 19:00 to 21:00 The Art Room is holding a pop-up exhibition of fashion illustrator Jo Bird RSVP
Thurs 8th – Local artist Alketa Xhifa Mripa will have her installation up in Kings Cross outside St. Martins
And why not pop in to the Camden Arts Centre to see the Giorgio Griffa exhibition?

Tues 13th – 6:30 to 8:30 Cycle maintenance workshop @ Sidings
Fri 16th – Opening of Kingsgate Workshops exhibition. Machiavellian Mary.
Sat 17th – 7:30 to 9:30 Emmanuel Church. It’s Barn dance time again! Yee-haw.
Sun 18th – Coffee concert at St. Cuthbert’s church.

Tweet of the week

It’s Snowest Hampstead!

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

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

And we woke on Wednesday to this…

The cemetery looked splendid too…

But the snow had a downside. 🙁

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

And still it kept on snowing…

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

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

A post shared by My Kilburn High Road (@mykilburnhighroad) on

Health Town had a special winter offer…

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

And the ever arty Kitchentablenw6 spotted this.

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

A post shared by @ kitchentablenw6 on

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

Five Mother’s Day presents from West Hampstead

Seaching for a present for your mother (or the mother of your kids, or whoever you want to express your gratitude to)? We have been searching the snowy streets of West Hampstead for inspiration (and bagged you a couple of discounts along the way!)

Say it with flowers, Achillea style

First stop, a WHL favourite, Achillea Flowers on Mill Lane. It has its usual array of really beautiful bouquets of course, but for something a bit more special how about getting your mum a place at one of its workshops? Next up is “Dressing the table for Spring” (£100 with £5 off if you mention WHL) on 20th March. This includes all materials (and wine!) so your mum will come away with a beautiful table display and lots of ideas.

West End Lane Books suggested the latest novel by Elizabeth Strout, ‘Anything is Possible’, or Elinor Oliphant’s ‘Everything is Fine’. Fans of historical fiction might like ‘The Miniaturist’ (televised over Christmas) or ‘The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock‘. For something a bit more emotional, the shop has signed copies of Greg Wise’s book, co-written with his sister Clare, who died from cancer in 2016. If it is a cookbook you’re after then I liked the look of Anna Jones’ ‘The Modern Cook’s Year’.

Just the right weather to curl up with a good book!

Season Cookshop has done all the hard work and, in a very helpful window display, made suggestions for the tea, coffee or wine-drinking mother.  It also stocks Artisan du Chocolat’s delicious sea-salted caramels. I know, I know, salted caramel is as ubiquitous as a Keep Calm apron, but Artisan was one of the first to combine them and still one of the best.

Tea, coffee or … wine!

For more chocolate options head over to Zyla on Broadhurst Gardens where Zoe has a delicious selection available. She is also offering a Mother’s Day basket, which includes not only her chocolates (and I think a candle by local candle maker) but also a suitable book from… West End Lane Books (of course)!

And finally, if you are looking for something creative and ‘crafty’ try the Village Haberdashery. It has put together a selection of nine Mother’s Day present ideas. Plus on Mother’s Day itself, Annie will be popping prosecco and hosting a free paper-flower making table at the shop. No booking required – bring your mum, bring your kids, just come and relax.

An Insight on Lately: Gordon Stevenson tells all

Regular readers will know that West Hampstead nightclub Lately has closed after almost 40 years. We met up with owner Gordon Stevenson.

What brought you to West Hampstead?
“Buying Lately, that’s what! I opened it 38 years ago after I was offered the club by a friend. Previously it was a called Vincent’s but had been empty for about 18 months and he was offering it for sale. I knew him because those days I had been supplying him his drink, and I bought it from him.

When I looking for a name, I was late arriving back from somewhere and my friend said why don’t you call your new late night venue Lately”.

It’s been enjoyable running it all these years, with lots of good days and I have made lots of friends.”

Gordon was far to discreet to drop any celebrity names, but he did say that being close to the Central School of Speech & Drama has led to quite a few young actors becoming regulars, and many have gone on to be household names.

Gordon of Lately out in daylight!

What is your first/fondest memory of the area?
“That’s going back 38 years. In those days it was more a like a village, with independent and small shops, rather than Costa, Starbucks or Tesco.

I remember Nick who used to run the hardware shop (called the Funny Little Hardware Shop), with his mother helping out on Wednesdays and his ex-wife helping out too. And also Western Food Store, which has just closed, which used to be a greengrocers which I liked.

Not sure it’s the fondest memory but certainly memorable – I remember David Martin’s escape and arrest as his girlfriend’s flat was above Lately.” [We wrote about this a couple of years ago]

What has surprised you about how West Hampstead has changed?
“I suppose the biggest difference is that that local people seem to have disappeared and new (more international) people have moved in. But that’s true of the whole of London.”

At this point, I asked Gordon whether he’d ever had any problems with drugs, which are often a part of London nightlife (and previously caused licensing issues for Lower Ground Bar). A steely look crossed his previously affable face as he said that he never allowed it at Lately; “What people do is their own business” but he made it clear what side of the fence he was on and “any potential dealers knew not to cross it”

What’s for lunch?
Given that his life revolved around late-night hospitality, Gordon said he rarely went out for lunch. When pushed, he said he liked the Banana Tree.

West Hampstead in three words?
“No man’s land.” These three words need some explanation! “West Hampstead is such a diverse area, sandwiched between the different worlds of the Kilburn High Road and the Finchley Road/Hampstead, so it’s a place in between, but it’s own place where all are welcome (as they were at Lately).”

So what is the latest on Lately? As we reported, the team behind Kilburn Ironworks have taken over the lease and it will become a bar called Heads & Tails. It will keep the late licence (so probably the dancing will continue, but we will have to wait and see). Gordon is really happy about them taking over the licence.

To end, Gordon wanted to say a big thank you to West Hampstead for its support over the last 38 years.

What have you missed since February 19th?

Council tax is going up 4.99% – we took a closer look as to why and how austerity is affecting things. It’s going to be £1,487 for an average band D property.

Hām opened with a soft launch. WHL went for brunch on Sunday; was it Hamtastic?

Camden was rocked by a series of stabbings last week, two of them fatal. Those took place not far apart over in Kentish Town but earlier on the same day, there was one much closer to home in Kilburn. Thankfully, that one was not fatal.

Further up the Kilburn High Road, a pensioner was run over by an HGV and died on the spot from his injuries. The crossing in question (at Brondesbury Road had been highlighted by KOVE as potentially dangerous (as there is not enough time for older people to cross).

Flippin’ eck! As spotted by Fenella Nichols

The ‘masseur’ who was on trial for sexually assaulting his clients got a nine-year sentence.

Watch out – a resident using the ATM at Tesco was scammed and his account was cleared out.

Watch out – another resident nearly had her handbag snatched outside Banana Tree by thieves on a moped.

However, there was some good news on the crime front. The Fortune Green SNT Police made seven arrests at two addresses on Fordwych and St. Cuthbert’s Roads.

Local Councillor Phil Rosenberg, spoke out about the continuing anti-semitism in the Hampstead and Kilburn Labour Party.

Local actor Greg Wise did a book reading at West End Lane Books (signed copies still available) which he co-wrote about his sister Clare who died prematurely of cancer. From the start of the illness she wrote a blog which Greg carried on when she was too ill to continue.

West End Lane Books is running a competition – Bookshop Bingo. How well do you know the bookshop and its staff?

And the ever-creative Village Haberdashery is running a children’s art show. Deadline for submissions is the 9th March! the theme is ‘Spring’. Here are more details.

Nazanin Zaghari- Ratcliffe is still in prison in Tehran. And it was made more explicit that is was because of debt owed to the Iranians. The authorities offered to release under armed guard but the family declined.

Did you miss the photo workshop on Fortune Green? You can see some of the photos here.

Did you miss the FoWHL (Friends of the Library) AGM? You can read the report here.

Coming up
26th Mon – NDF AGM
3rd March – Walk – The Wonder Women of Hampstead Cemetery (£10) book tickets here

Tweet of the week
Oh the wisdom and wit of Wet Fish Cafe

Brunch at Hām; was it Hamtastic?

It’s always exciting when a new business opens in West Hampstead and recently there seems to have been a shift up-market, with the arrival of Gail’s, M&S and Lola’s. The latest business to open is the new restaurant Hām, with a soft launch this weekend offering brunch at lunch and dinner in the evening. Our resident food critic Tom will be going for dinner in March so watch out for that, but I went for brunch this weekend.

And who better to go with than Jennie and Tom, formerly of that West Hampstead stalwart, the Kitchen Table. They know a thing or two about brunch. So, I rocked up at Hām on Sunday to meet them and a couple of friends.

The decor is very ‘now’. In a good way.

The first thing you notice about the place is that has undergone a serious renovation, the new Hām is very ‘now’, from the tone of the walls and furniture, to the shape of the lights, but in a good way. It was full of friends and family of the owners and there was a nice buzz to the atmosphere.

The chefs working in the kitchen are visible, although the clever use of mirrors not only brings more light to the back of the room it makes the kitchen seem to float in a different plane.

The chef, Matt Osborne (an Aussie) was formerly at the Ledbury (amongst other venues). The food is creeping into fine dining territory for brunch and I expect for dinner. I ordered the Hām breakfast (£13) a full English but with a twist: added avocado and kasundi (it’s oven dried tomato paste with a kick of chilli). It was good, a chef-cooked full English with the quality ingredients shining through. For me (and Tom who also ordered it), quality or not, we would have appreciated an extra rasher of bacon.

The Ham breakfast

Jody ordered avocado on toast with goats cheese (and kasundi), but not enough goats cheese in her opinion. Jennie went for the mushrooms (and Doddington cheese) on toast, which looked delicious, and she also sensibly ordered some crumpets with honey, ricotta and pear to share. It was brunch after all, which should be a relaxed sharing type meal, so I ordered them as well. And they were a nice sweet complement to my full, but fine, English.

Those crumpets (freshly baked) with honey, pear and ricotta.

Tom, Jody and I wondered if the sourdough toast was a bit difficult to cut, but we were put in our place by Jennie who thought that it was the crunch of the crust was what made it.

For drinks the menu offered green (apple, celery, spinach) and red (apple, carrot and beetroot) juices plus fine teas and coffee which met the high standard of the ex-Kitchen Tablers (and coffee drinkers) around the table.

While chatting to Rose and David, the new owners, Jennie advised ‘listen to Twitter and Instagram’ because West Hampstead will let you know how it feels. And if this tweet is anything to go by, Hām is off to a positive start. I’d agree – I had an enjoyable and importantly delicious brunch. Hām is a step up the fine dining and price ladder from other local options, but as we have seen with the arrival of Gail’s and then Lola’s if you offer a quality atmosphere and food, people will come – and pay.

Once it fully opens on 28th it will offer brunch and a set lunch menu, with à la carte in the evenings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slicing the pie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“More rough than ready”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

West Hampstead property price rises set to outpace London average

Sponsored post

It can be easy to generalise when talking about the London property market. However, London has often been described as a collection of villages, each with its own unique style, atmosphere and charms. For this reason, when discussing the London property market, it’s important not to look at the capital as the sum of its parts but to understand that each borough is its own entity.

Such distinct differences result in significant variations in the growth rate of property prices between boroughs and the dynamic nature of this vibrant capital means that growth can be sustained but it can equally take place in short focused bursts. For instance, between 2009 and 2015, property values in Kensington and Chelsea increased by 65%, whilst growth in boroughs on London’s periphery was up to three times lower. Then from 2014 to 2017, growth in the exclusive Royal Borough all but stopped, whereas property in the outer London boroughs experienced a 46% increase in value.

A recent study by CBRE has shown that in 2017, Camden experienced by far the highest increase in property values of all London boroughs with a 13.4% growth in prices. The research argues that this trend is set to continue over the next five years, likely due to new developments in the borough and improvements to transport infrastructure and local amenities such as those occurring all along West End Lane.

With prices likely to continue to grow in the borough, the importance of getting an accurate market appraisal was highlighted recently when we ran a ‘guess the house price’ competition. Recent visitors to our West Hampstead estate agency had the opportunity to guess the price of a property in NW6 as part of a prize draw. Entrants had internal and external images to look at as well as a short description of the property to help with their guesses. Over the course of the day it became apparent that competition entries varied wildly, with people significantly under or overvaluing the property.

This emphasises the importance of using a knowledgeable agent to advise and guide you on the best price to market your property. Accurately priced properties are able to sell because they are appealing to both seller and buyer and it takes a highly experienced agent to understand where that balance sits for each property.

To get accurate market advice for your property, please do get in touch to arrange a free appraisal or pop in to see us at our West End Lane Office, on the edge of West Hampstead Square.

T: 020 7481 2907
E:
W: www.johnsand.co
JOHNS&CO, Unit 7, Hardy Building, West End Lane, London, NW6 2BR

P.S. I’m thrilled to announce that next month’s Property News will be co-written by my new colleague Matthew Spencer, who has recently joined us as Lettings Manager. If you’d like to get in touch with him before then please email or call 020 7481 2907.

What have you missed since February 12th?

Kaboom! A house partially-collapsed on Sumatra Road. It had been empty for over 10 years and had been in some planning limbo. In a sign of quite how crazy property prices are it was labelled as being on ‘millionaire’s row’ by the Daily Mail. Ironically, it was just around the corner from the humble house where Alfred Northcliffe lived, who founded the … Daily Mail.

Talking of Ham… sorry, Hām, our newest restaurant is opening on February 28th. For a taste of what to expect, the Caterer met the chef – formerly from The Ledbury. The Eater was awaiting the opening too. And they are looking for staff.

An 18 year-old-man was stabbed in Compayne Gardens

The gap formerly known as house on Sumatra Road. Pic: Chris Simpson

Out of the mouth of babes… A West Hampstead six-year-old has started a campaign against plastic waste. She’s right, let’s join her.

The Friends of West Hampstead Library had its AGM this week. There was a very good turnout, ‘ with cake’ (are the two related)? Cllr Simpson said future library closures would be “over his dead body”. It does look like there may be volunteers working at the library at some stage though.

The Ham & High, which has been going for 150 years, is closing its offices on the Finchley Road and relocating to Barking. It will keep a couple of ‘hot desks’ in the area. Former reporters were sad at the news.

Another local restaurant, Wet Fish Cafe, celebrated its fifteenth birthday this week. Congratulations.

Alas, not so fortunate for Tiffin Tin on Mill Lane. They were broken into this weekend.

St. James and St Mary’s churches are still looking for a new vicar. Any suggestions?

Stanley Rosenthal, who had lived in West Hampstead all his life (indeed in the same house), passed away at 94. His memories of fellow school children turning up with no shoes in the 1930s turned him into a life-long Liberal supporter (an anecdote he recounted to me, although the newsletter got the party wrong. Apologies.)

Our historians looked back to the punk-era in West Hampstead, and an artist who helped them.

A freight ’super-hub’ was approved, just off the Cricklewood Broadway, by Barnet Council as the Conservatives hold a one-seat majority on the planning committee. It is not actually in Camden (its about 500 metres to the north) but local Fortune Green councillor, Lorna Russell, who fears the impact on our area, addressed their planning meeting. There were hundreds of letters opposed and three in favour. This gives a bit of a background about what it will be.

JW3 wants to put a large ad space on the apartment blocks it owns on Finchley Road.

Local resident Gio Spinella (a councillor the other side of the Finchley Road in Frognal) was elected Conservative leader in Camden, taking over from Claire-Louise Leyland. Turns out he had to leave Sicily because of the Mafia.

Coming up this week

Mon 19th – Locally Sourced ‘An Evening with Virginia Woolf’ at the Alliance

Mon 19th – an Evening with Mick Herron and his latest book, London Rules, at WEL Books

Mon 19th – Tricycle fundraiser Jim Carter + Kenneth Branagh and Derek Jacobi. Tickets here.

Wed 21st – Greg Wise reading from his sister, Clare’s book on her experience of cancer,@WEL Books

Fri 23rd – Sherriff Concert series, Heath Quartet. Tickets here.

Sun 25th – Join the Friends of Fortune Green for the big cut-down (of perennials). Help make West Hampstead more beautiful.

Sun 25th – Tricycle fundraiser Jim Carter + Emma Thompson and Imelda Staunton (last few tickets left)

Mon 26th – NDF AGM at the Library.

Tweet of the week

WE WON THE ZONE 2 world cup! (It was a hypothetical knock out league of zone 2 tube stations). West Hampstead beat Maida Vale in the final. More details here.

The artist and the punks of West Hampstead

In April 1977, Tony Drayton moved to London from Cumbernauld, a new town in Scotland between Glasgow and Edinburgh. From 1976 to 1979, Tony was the editor of the early punk zine, Ripped and Torn. He lived in London, Paris, and Amsterdam and had a very varied career, including fire eating. In the summer of 1978, his sister Val joined him in London. After living in several squats, in the autumn of 1979 they met some punks in West Hampstead. One was Adam Ant’s (Stuart Goddard) ex-wife Eve (Carol Mills) and one was Kevin Mooney, a bassist who later joined Adam and the Ants. They let Tony and Val move into an empty flat at 33 Sherriff Road, a house run by the West Hampstead Housing Association (WHHA).

Also sharing the house were Andi, the singer, and Ross, the bass player, of Australian band The Urban Guerrillas, and Dave Roberts, later a member of the band Sex Gang Child. There were more: Leigh Kendall, Andy Groome and Malcolm Baxter, who were members of The Last Words, another Australian punk band. They earned £6 a day by delivering leaflets and Tony said they spent most of it drinking in the nearby pub, The Railway, or listening to the punk bands at the Moonlight Club which was run at the pub by Dave Kitson from October 1979 until 1993.

Brett and Val on Westbere Road c1981

Tony began to edit a new punk zine and the first edition was produced for Adam and the Ants’ 1980 New Years Day gig at the Electric Ballroom in Camden. The run of 500 copies sold out on the night and had to be reprinted. Tony and his friends, who called themselves the Puppy Collective, produced six issues up to 1983. Tony also wrote articles for the Record Mirror, New Musical Express, and Zigzag. In the summer of 1980, Tony and Val moved to another WHHA house at 39 Westbere Road. Artist Jo Brocklehurst lived in the same street and saw them as they passed by her home. She thought they looked fantastic and invited them to her studio where she made wonderful pictures of them.

Tony Drayton, fire eating c1986 (Tony Drayton archive)

Jo Brocklehurst moved into 12 Westbere Road in the 1960s and stayed there until her death on 29 January 2006. She was born Josephine Blanche Brocklehurst in Lambeth in 1935. She was a very good athlete, and in the 1950s she competed for the Selsonia Ladies Athletic Club in the shotput and discus.

A precocious talent, Jo first entered St Martin’s School of Art shortly before her 14th birthday, on a junior art scheme. Having left the school at 18, she was a regular visitor to the costume life classes in the fashion department. From the late 1990s, Howard Tangye, then St Martin’s head of women’s wear and a close friend, invited Jo be a visiting lecturer to work with his students.

In the 1960s, Jo sketched jazz musicians such as George Melly, and worked in commercial fashion before becoming swept up in the punk scene. She is best known for her paintings of the early 1980s and her subjects included the punks in West Hampstead, The Blitz Kids, Siouxsie Sioux, Marc Almond, Philip Salon, Boy George, and, in Berlin, the dance company of Pina Bausch.

Her first one-woman show was in Amsterdam in 1979. Following her big breakthrough at the ICA’s Women’s Images of Men show the following year, Jo had considerable success with her drawings, showing twice at the Francis Kyle Gallery in London in 1981 and 1982, and later at Leo Castelli in New York and the Connecticut State University Gallery.

In 1994 the V&A (which holds a collection of her work), showed a series of her figure drawings in Street Style. Brocklehurst began to spend more time in Europe, especially in Amsterdam and Berlin where she sketched in the clubs.

Her friend Isabelle Bricknall said, ‘She liked Berlin because it was very punk in a lot of ways; it was before the wall came down. There’s so little known about her here, but in Germany and Poland at the arts festivals, they all knew her. She played artist in residence – she’d be sketching on a daily basis for newspapers such as Berliner Zeitung, drawing different acts from theatre to art. She also made some very good friends in Berlin.’

Although sometimes compared to the Austrian painter Egon Schiele (1890-1918), Jo was an original and she drew people without the aggression of Schiele’s work. Jo was always drawing. She never minded being stuck on a bus for hours in traffic, as she always carried paper and pens. She drew places, situations and people. She enjoyed landscape, and would regularly cycle to Hampstead Heath.

Tony and Val at the Jo Brocklehurst Private View, 1980s

In her house in Westbere Road there were vibrant pictures of characters from Alice through the Looking Glass, each with more than a hint of the fetish club. She was fascinated by Charles Dodgson’s alternative persona as Lewis Carroll and called the work ‘Brocklehurst through the Looking Glass’.

Isabelle Bricknall met Jo through Colin Barnes, a lecturer at the Royal College of Arts, St Martins, and Nottingham Trent where Isabelle studied for her MA in fashion and textiles. Jo was a lecturer with Colin Barnes in fashion illustration.

Isabelle worked in the fashion industry with many top designers, such as Zandra Rhodes. She has been a fashion designer, textile designer, artist and model, working in many art different mediums including fabrics, glass, steel, film, and photography. This drew Jo and Isabelle together to create with each other’s art work. Starting with Isabelle modelling her own designs and Jo drawing them, to working on art exhibitions and other art projects, and helping Jo to archive her work. She and Jo visited clubs together and their creative relationship lasted until Jo’s death.

A retrospective exhibition of Jo Brocklehurst’s work, Nobodies and Somebodies, was shown at the House of Illustration, King’s Cross London from 3 February to 14 May 2017. It was co-curated by Isabelle Bricknall and Oliva Ahmed.

Acknowledgements:
We would particularly like to acknowledge the help of Tony and Val Drayton, and Isabelle Bricknall. Anna Bowman helped us with information about the WHHA.

House collapses on Sumatra Road

At midday on a quiet Monday, Sumatra Road was shaken (literally) when the walls collapsed on a house undergoing renovation. At the time of the collapse, first tweeted by Chris Simpson, there were builders in the house, 163 Sumatra Road, but they saw ‘the writing on the wall’ when large cracks appeared and were able to get out in time.

Firefighters were quickly on the scene, confirmed that there was no-one injured and evacuated neighbours as a precaution. The Fire Brigade posted more photos of the house, including an excavator, which was working in the basement.

The house had been empty for over a decade. It was sold in 2006 by a family that had lived there since 1947. It was up for auction a couple of times over that period, while the owner/developer was seeking planning permission for conversion into flats, most recently in 2015 for 4 flats (2 x 1 bed and 2 x 2 bed) as well as the conversion of the basement. The developers went to appeal over their 2015 application, but this was turned down (although the actual reasons were unclear). Camden didn’t object to the conversion but wanted to make it car-free and ensure payment of financial obligations.

The story has been widely picked up; by the Mail Online, the Independent, the BBC, the Standard as well as the local press. The Mail Online’s story took the biscuit though as it described it as a “Terraced house in millionaires’ row where homes cost £1.5m collapses“. Sumatra Road is nice enough, but it’s not exactly millionaires row.

What have you missed since February 5th?

There are more details of the scammer we warned about last week, including her photo which has now been released by the police. She struck again on Walm Lane this weekend.

The chemist by West End Green had eight tins of baby formula stolen this week – the suspect had stolen four tins the previous week and came back again, but this time the shelves were empty. Other chemists and Waitrose are having the same problem.

We ate at the Clock Cafe. Did it strike a chord?

Another accident on Mill Lane, time for some traffic calming? Pic: Russ Denton

There was the sound of gunfire in Kilburn on Thursday night.

On Sunday morning a 28-year-old man and a 43-year-old woman were arrested in Kilburn as suspects for a murder of a 55-year-old woman in Fellows Road, Belsize Park on Friday.

There was a warning about cars being broken into on Gascony Avenue, Smyrna Road and Westbere Road. Follow the usual advice – don’t leave anything of value visible.

This week we met local engineer Roma Agrawal who published her debut book. She is passionate at explaining the wonder of engineering, and gave a good restaurant tip, in our latest insight.

It’s been 100 years since some women got the vote. What were they doing in our area?

And still fighting for women’s rights 100 years later, local artist (and owner of Curled Leaf) Alketa Xhafa-Mripa is installing her piece ‘Thinking of you’ in Kings Cross on March 8th. It involves hundreds of women’s dresses and if you want to donate you can drop one off at the Curled Leaf, or any Lush store by March 1st.

A masseur based in West Hampstead was in court accused of assaulting three clients.

Tory council candidate Maria Higson has switched from West Hampstead to Hampstead, following Hamish Hunter pulling out as a candidate for Hampstead.

It’s the Friends of West Hampstead Library’s AGM this week on the 15th. ‘Past Tense, Future Perfect?’
And to get in the mood this is the latest post from their writer in residence. It’s a nice read.

And talking of literary matters, our friends at West End Lane Books have requested planning permission for an extension.

Coming up

Tues 13th Nick Coleman on ‘Voices, How A Great Singer Can Change Your Life’ at WEL Books

Tues 13th – 6:30 to 8:30 NEW cycle maintenance workshop at Sidings Community Centre

Thurs 15th FOWHL AGM at, errr, West Hampstead Library…!

Sun 18th: 2-4pm. Photographic workshop on Fortune Green. Sign up here

And beyond…

Mon 19th – Locally Sourced ‘An Evening with Virginia Woolf’ at the Alliance

Mon 19th – an Evening with Mick Herron and his latest book, London Rules, at WEL Books

Mon 19th – Tricycle fundraiser Jim Carter + Kenneth Branagh and Derek Jacobi. Tickets here.

Wed 21st – Greg Wise reading from his sister, Clare’s book on her experience of cancer,@WEL Books

Fri 23rd – Sherriff Concert series, Heath Quartet. Tickets here.

Sun 25th – Join the Friends of Fortune Green for the big cut-down (of perennials). Help make West Hampstead more beautiful.

Sun 25th – Tricycle fundraiser Jim Carter + Emma Thompson and Imelda Staunton (last few tickets left)

Tweet of the week

We thought this (below) was really clever.

An Insight with: Roma Agrawal

This month we spoke to Roma Agrawal, engineer and debut author (and West Hampstead resident).

Roma spent six years working on the construction of the Shard. During that time she was asked to give presentations about the Shard, first to other engineers, to outside groups such as the Womens Institute, and then to schools. She really enjoyed going out and raising awareness, “People don’t really hear about engineers and certainly not in a positive way”.

One day she was asked, why don’t you write a book about it? And the result is ‘Built: The Hidden Stories Behind Our Structures‘, which is published today.

Roma, her book and some West Hampstead bricks

Before we learn more about the book, what brought you to West Hampstead?

“I had family connections to the south in St. John’s Wood and to the north in Mill Hill, so when we were looking for somewhere to live this seemed like an obvious choice.  I love the fact that it is between the Finchley Road and the Kilburn High Road but also has its own high street”.

What is your first/fondest memory of the area?

“The first time I went to the farmer’s market. I just loved it, it was so lively and it really felt like there was a community here.

A close second was the opening of the Sherriff Centre, it’s been a great addition. And as an engineer, I love just looking up at the brickwork and the ceiling.”

Tell me a bit more about ‘Built’?

“It came out of my talks and lectures. I just loved telling people about engineering. It’s all around us; the buildings we live in, the bridges we walk over and the tunnels we travel in. I wanted to peel back the facades.

Here in West Hampstead, the Victorians built a lot using different types of brick (which are made from clay that can be 50 million years old with tiny fossils in it). The churches, in particular, are amazing – I sometimes just go into the Sherriff Centre and gaze at the soaring ceiling.

I also researched people such as Emily Roebling, who engineered the Brooklyn Bridge (taking over after her father-in-law who died suddenly and her husband who got the bends from diving too deep). Or Fazlur Rahmen Kahn, a Bangladeshi child prodigy, who has changed the way we design skyscrapers. It used to be that they were 60-70 storeys, now they can build double that height.”

As for the book, Roma quipped “Do judge a book by its cover – I’m really happy with design!”

What is for lunch (or dinner)?

“I’m a huge fan of Anjanaas in Kilburn, at the bottom of Willesden Lane. They do South Indian food – I’m from India but don’t generally like Indian restaurants in London, but I love Anjanaas.

There is another good restaurant next door, Vijay’s which is also good but it is only vegetarian. Whereas Anjanaas does some meat and fish as well, in fact it does great fish, so it’s got the edge.

We also really liked Mamacita, so I miss that since it’s closed.”

Describe West Hampstead in three words

Eclectic, friendly, (with some great) sunsets.

Clock Cafe; fresh face, familiar food

You will have noticed that where Lena’s Café was we now have a fresh face on the high street, but something seems familiar about Clock Café.

With the same set up of deli-style food served hot or cold, Clock Café has the same chef and management as Lena’s but has been given a much needed facelift (after a Porsche crashed through the window)!

Mixed salads on offer at the Clock Cafe

Though it doesn’t quite boast the same ambiance as some of the restaurants, pubs and cafés we have on West End Lane, Clock Café offers some variety, a low key and reasonably priced option, whether you’re eating in or taking away. I’d imagine this wil be a popular spot for those working in the area looking for a quick bite on their lunch break.

You’re spoilt for choice with the food options.  I highly recommend the baked cauliflower – bursting full of flavour, the greens and chicken in tomato sauce. It was extremely tasty; I’d go so far as to say delicious. The aubergine was quite salty, in fact, I dread to think how much salt went in a lot of the menu items. However, if you choose well you may end up with a fairly healthy, hearty meal. It’s a great grab and go or quick sit in place.

And more salads!

Those who were fans of Lena’s would be pleased to know that Clock Café hasn’t lost it’s ‘marketplace in the Mediterranean or Middle East’ feel, with vast trays of baklava and assorted nuts on offer (the nuts are new by the way).

And it does food to go.

Prices are cheaper if you take your food to go, choices include boxes filled to the brim with your own choice of main food items and salads, sandwiches, wraps and a soup of the day. They also have a nice selection of drinks, including coffee (of course).

It’s nice to have you back in the neighborhood, Clock Café.

What have you missed since January 29th?

The application to build 82 retirement flats on the former Gondar Gardens reservoir site was refused by Camden Planning. The Mayor’s office also refused the application particularly over the lack of any affordable housing.

There is a scammer about – watch out. She will claim to be a neighbour and ask for £20. (The story also contains a summary of how to contact your local Safer Neighbourhood team).

How’s the Overground redevelopment progressing?

Not a sunset, but a sunrise as seen, early, by WHL (on our Instagram).

The Sherriff Centre – and some local mums and a dad (hello Richard!) made an appearance on the One Show in a story on ‘baby brain’. It’s on iPlayer – the segment starts at 3’30”

West Hampstead dog walkers continued their (ever so polite) fight with Camden Council over the cemetery. Camden backed down slightly and said as long as dogs were kept under control then people are welcome to walk them there. It appeared one part of the council had not been talking to another.

Camden signed up to new air quality targets by 2030, which means it will be getting even tougher on cars. Will it improve West End Lane and the Maygrove/Iverson situation?

South Hampstead School is hosting a performance of Looking for Mummy: Nazanin’s story on 9th Feb for 160 sixth formers and will be live-streamed to more schools.

Western Food & Wine, the convenience store at the corner of Sherriff Road is being forced to close after 20 years after the landlord apparently hiked the rent.

It was the last day of the Kilburn Ironworks.

Camden replaced the memorial bench to the popular Kilburn café owner, Huseyin Gulbudak, who was stabbed to death by his son. Someone stole the first bench back in July.

Coming up

Ooh! Ooh! there are a couple of seats still available for the Tricycle fundraising evening with Jim Carter interviewing Emma Thompson and Imelda Staunton on 25th Feb. Buy now while stocks last.

(And there are also still tickets for the event on Mon 19th Feb with Kenneth Branagh and Derek Jacobi).

Mon 5th – Fitness for older men @CAWH 12:30 – 1:30pm

Fri 9th – Ultimate Improv Friday is back!

Sun 11th – 3pm Patrick Hemmerle at St. Cuthberts playing the rest of Bach’s well tempered Klavier (he’s good!)

And beyond

Tues 13th 7:30pm – Nick Coleman book talk  @WELBooks – How a Great Singer can change your Life

Thurs 15th 7:30 pm Friends of West Hampstead Library AGM.  Their 20th!

Mon 19th 7:30pm Locally Sourced @ the Alliance; An evening with Virginia Woolf (not actually her of course)

Tweet of the week

It was #Groundhogday this week and that is exactly what it feels like for this local who is trying to get the Christmas trees removed from West End Green.

Watch out! There’s a scammer about.

Watch out, there’s a scammer about (and below we have details of how to contact your local police about this and other security issues).

The police have now issued a photo of the woman and more details about her.

A resident of Achilles Road reported that he was woken up at 6 am on Sunday by a loud banging on the door and shouting by a woman.

“She was shouting ‘Can you help me! Can you help me!’ When we opened the door, she claimed to live on the corner of Achilles Road, and that she was our neighbour. She said that was a nurse and trying to get to work and that she had locked herself out and left her car keys inside.

Could we give her £10 to 20 pounds to get a taxi to get to her sister who had her spare keys? She appeared to be talking to a taxi firm on her mobile, and they said it would be £18 or so for a return trip. We gave her £20 and she promised to come back with the money in an hour.”

She didn’t come back.

She didn’t come back because she was doing the same thing around the corner in Hillfield Road, where another resident fell for the same scam. Although here she only asked for £10.

The same woman was spotted over in Mapesbury a couple of weeks ago, pulling the same trick, and on January 2nd she tried to the same thing on Fordwych Road.

You have been warned.

This is a good opportunity to remind you about how to contact your local Safer Neighbourhood team to report petty crime like this.

Of course, if a crime is taking place call 999. If it has taken place and you need to report it then call 101 or you can report it online. The Met contact centre also has Twitter account @MetCC

For other local matters, you can contact the Safer Neighbourhood Teams. There are three ward-based police teams operating out of the base on West End Lane, just south of the tube station. They will be moving up to West Hampstead Police station.

The officer in charge of all three teams is Sgt Mark Townsend, who we interviewed a few months ago.

Fortune Green
Mobile: 07920-233765, email: 
and Twitter: @MPSFortuneGreen
Team: PC Robert Beattie, PC Justin Royer-Collard, PCSO Karen Monaghan

West Hampstead
Mobile: 07920-233766, email:
Twitter: @MPS WestHampstd
Team: PC Simon Bishop, PC Craig James, PCSO Victor Lo

Kilburn
Mobile: 07843-291099, email:
Twitter: @MPSKilburnCam
Team: PC Ian Currums, PC Leonard Muthurine, PC Stephen O’Hara, PC Marcus Sales, PCSO Sham Ali

For those of you living in CRASH/South Hampstead, it’s the Swiss Cottage Team, which operates with the Hampstead teams (out of West Hampstead police station), under Sgt Ailsa Naish.

Swiss Cottage
Mobile 07717-4451987, email:
Twitter: @MPSSwissCottage
Team: PC Paul Boniface, PC Robin Springate, PCSO Matthew O’Reilly

Overground redevelopment (just about) on track

It’s been a year since the redevelopment of the Overground station started in earnest and it’s taking a while. Inevitable, as TfL chose (wisely) to keep the station open during the works, even though that also means higher cost.

Before… and after. Image: TfL

For those of us using the station, it’s been impossible to miss the arrival of the new footbridge. This was installed just before Christmas and is expected to open in March 2018, three months behind the original schedule.

Image credit: TfL

Since the station is remaining open during construction, TfL will install a temporary walkway behind platform 2, and a new temporary station layout. By Easter, we should also see the wider platforms and the new waiting shelters too. But the really exciting news is that the elevators are scheduled to be operating by September. Woo-hoo, step-free access.

The new station building (adjoining West Hampstead Square) is scheduled to open in December 2018, with some landscaping to do after that.  Finally, the old station will be knocked down and new retail space constructed but with the frontage set back to widen the pavement (hurrah).

 

What have you missed since January 22nd?

A gruesome lead story this week. A decapitated fox’s head was found in a West Hampstead garden on Friday morning. According to SNARL, an independent group helping the police with the notorious M25 cat killer, this looks like it could be a related incident. Pet owners, keep an eye on your cats.

Tom went to try the new vegan buffet offered by Mon Way, was it his way or the highway?

Camden is ‘criminalising’ West Hampstead dog walkers. We ‘doggedly’ investigated this issue and think they should have let sleeping dogs lie.

Fortune Green as photographed by FoFG’s new artist in residence Peter Coles.

Local business Ink Media (publishers of the rather good EasyJet magazine among others) is looking to float on the stock market for £70 million. The company is based in the commercial space at the bottom of the Blackburn Road student accommodation. [paywall]

In a surprise move Claire-Louise Leyland is standing down as leader of the Camden Conservatives and as a Belsize councillor at the May elections.

Cllr Phil Rosenberg has a twin brother, Bill. Who knew?

This guy has been going to the Swiss Cottage Odeon. Every week. Since 1945.

Into dance and house vinyl? there’s a ton at Cancer Research – and more to come. A (sometimes) DJ is having a clear out.

All we want for Christmas is for… last year’s Christmas trees to be gone! It’s a month after Christmas day and they were still there.

It’s nearly Valentine’s day – one local couple celebrated in a rather different way!

As we announced last week, Lately is closing (the owners of Kilburn Ironworks aren’t commenting yet on their plans to take it over). We’re interested to hear your memories of West Hampstead’s favourite nightclub… if you can remember any of them. Drop us a mail <>

Coming up.
Hotly tipped for Oscar success, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri is on at the Tricycle Cinema, while JW3 is showing Churchill biopic Darkest Hour

Camden ‘criminalises’ West Hampstead dog owners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom does it Mon Way

The arrival of Mon Way Bistro on Mill Lane seems to have caused a bit of a stir (especially the soups!), and somehow captured the imagination of a broad range of diners. It’s often very busy, sometimes with customers having to wait to get a table, and inside it’s relaxed yet buzzing, with diners really enjoying themselves.

Specialising in vegetarian, and often completely vegan food, and presented via an ‘all you can eat’ buffet (something that always appeals to me!), I was curious to see whether the eating experience would live up to their tantalising photos on Twitter and Facebook.

Chatting with owner Andrea and one of her chefs, Mihaela, it became apparent very quickly that this is an operation run with real enthusiasm and commitment. The food is excellent. Enticing salads, reminiscent of those at the charming Clock Café on West End Lane (previously Lena II), with key items such as aubergine; pasta dishes, grains (yes, this is NW6, there’s quinoa!), couscous with raisins etc. – there’s plenty of choice, and everything is prepared with care, vegetables cooked well, sauces and dressings well-seasoned. I ate ton of food, then promptly marched back to the buffet for seconds.

Now desserts must be tricky to do from a vegan perspective; without eggs they can be a little dense, however I actually quite like this quality, and the unctuous feel it gives to brownies and things. Indeed, brownies were present, and delicious, but I was also intrigued by emerald cakes (or whatever they were called) which feature spinach. These were delightful, and very moreish, I think due to being well-balanced with not too much sugar.

This style of food is becoming more and more popular. It only takes a quick Google to learn of all sorts of people endorsing it – including professional rugby players, who clearly need a pretty solid helping of protein and nutrients.

For me, it’s grub of which you can enjoy generous quantities, and still feel great afterwards. Fantastic after a workout, or just as a healthy alternative for any occasion. And that feeling of healthy empowerment then makes it all the more justifiable to enjoy a huge curry and a bottle or two of red wine in the evening (not that those are unhealthy, of course).

Dry January? F**k that. But eating at Mon Way every day for a month? – I could do that, happily.

Ed – Mon Way is now offering the vegan buffet during the week as well as at weekends. It was £6, and will be rising to £9 (still very reasonable).

What have you missed since Jan 15th?

One of Kilburn’s nicer bars, Kilburn Ironworks, which opened in 2014, is closing in early February. On Twitter, the owners have hinted that they might have another local operation starting soon….

… West Hampstead institution Lately is shutting up shop. The nightclub has been a fixture of West End Lane for as long as most of us can remember (and we can’t remember much after too many late nights there). A planning application has gone in for a large-scale revamp of the venue, turning it into a bar. Who’s behind it? A bit of digging into the planning app seems to suggest that it’s the owner of… Kilburn Ironworks

Kilburn had a visitor from the Falkland Islands. Twitter was all aflutter. What was it? How did it get to NW6? Turned out it was a striated caracara (a Falkland’s falcon or Johnny Rook to the locals), and it had escaped from London Zoo.

A striated caracara a long way from the Falkland Islands… spotted by tashry18

Do West Hampstead kids have enough opportunities to play outdoors in our neighbourhood? Not at this time of year maybe, but with summer on the distant horizon we investigated the latest Play Street initiative from Narcissus Road (and took a look at parks too).

The Mayor has announced a further thirteen tube stations that will get step-free access. Once again West Hampstead is not among them. But there may be some light at the end of the tunnel as TfL has agreed to conduct a feasibility study into a lift.

The Tricycle has three job openings, so looks likes the theatre is gearing up to open up again. Hurrah! (Any budding producers out there…)

Jeweller Dinny Hall has lived in West Hampstead for more than 30 years, and this is what she likes about it.

A sushi place has opened up fairly recently on Broadhurst Gardens (near La Mer). Sushi Tokoro is tiny but is getting some good reviews especially for it’s (good value) set lunches.

Last week’s news about the food hygiene ratings contained a link to a rather out of date list of local restaurant scores. Apologies to those restaurants whose scores have since improved. The latest scores are here: and there’s also a new twitter bot tracking changes in NW6 scores.

Is Camden Council due for a £1 million windfall?

Love board games? One local is trying to set up a regular meetup. I imagine it will have the monopoly in the area.

Or if drumming is more your thing, another local is trying to set up a drumming circle.

Coming up

Thurs 25th – 12-1pm West Hampstead SNT will be a JW3
Sun 28th – 3pm At St. Cuthbert’s Church, Patrick Hemmerle playing ‘the Well Tempered Klavier’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Menelik vs. Asmara finals last summer image:Daniel Leon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What have you missed since January 8th?

West Hampstead tube station is still not on the shortlist to get a lift.

The student housing block on Blackburn Road has applied to add 41 extra rooms – which means a new storey, or two. We got the full story…

The new restaurant replacing Brioche is going to be Hām. Like the Wet Fish next door, the name isn’t a particularly good indication of the cuisine. Hām is the Old English word for home, and the origin of the ham in West Hampstead. It launched on social media, and posted this photo of the interior. It’s due to open in February.

A sneak preview of West ‘Hām’pstead’s new restaurant

West Hampstead is ‘slightly’ polluted. Cough, cough.

Minkies got renamed “8oz”. The owner has moved back to the US and sold the original Kensal Rise business but not the West Hampstead stall; instead he changed the name and went into partnership with a former employee. (Minkie, by the way, is the name of his wife)!

Sirous is getting a serious (a ‘Sirious’…) refurbishment and will reopen as a steakhouse apparently.

Local food hygiene ratings were in the news once again, with a few West Hampstead venues scoring zero or one.

You’ve been asking what happened to the new Sunday food market in the O2 car park… it went into hibernation over Christmas but will be back at the end of January. Perhaps on the 21st even.

Over at the Saturday West Hampstead farmer’s market it’s time to choose your favourite stall again! Last year’s winner was Brinkworth Dairy. (and the year before that)

Neave Brown, renowned architect of the brutalist Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate, died.

Camden is consulting on a vision for Camden in 2025. There is a drop in session on Tuesday afternoon at the Kingsgate centre to get locals’ views. Is anything meaningful going to come from it, or is it a sop to community engagement?

The Minster Road Nature reserve was renamed the Jane Evans reserve, in recognition of her work setting it up.

DCS Catherine Roper, head of the recently merged Camden and Islington police forces, is leaving. She will be replaced temporarily by Superintendent Nick Davies and permanently in April by DCS Iain Raphael. He will be the fourth head of the Camden force since December 2015.

Coming up

Mon 15th – Locally Sourced at the Alliance; 7:30pm with Richard Prince and Nicola Burnett Smith
Tues 16th – Drop in at Kingsgate Centre 2:30 to 5pm for Camden 2025.
Tues 16th – Fortune choir restarts 7pm at Emmanuel Church
Thurs 18th – It’s the Community Associations AGM 7pm Emmanuel Church

Raising the roof on the student housing block

The new owner of the student housing block on Blackburn Road, has put in a planning application to add 41 additional rooms (studios) to the block buy adding extra floors on top.

Blackburn Road student housing ‘as is’

The development already has 347 units and has already been given planning permission to add an extension to the internal courtyard and a new outdoor canopy to the front.

The new application is to add extra floors to the existing building(s).  Each of the constituent blocks will get additional floors. The one facing Blackburn Road will get a single storey mansard roof, the one on the corner will get a two-storey extension, the one in the middle will get one floor and the tallest will stay the same height but will have its lead roofing replaced by brick fascia to match the others.

Blackburn Road student housing ‘after’.

From an aesthetic point of view, the new design seems to bring the building more in keeping with West Hampstead Square. Unusually, the planning application explicitly criticises the ‘ugly’ lead roof – the “top single storey and a 2-storey zinc appear just dropped on the roof”. Clearly Camden didn’t feel it was too ugly first time around. One can argue the visual merits of mixed materials vs. homogeneity.

Proposal as seen from the O2 carpark.

The developers have presented the plans to the NDF (Neighbourhood Development Forum).  The NDF is quite relaxed about the extra storeys and indeed at their public meeting someone opined that the existing building was of’incredibly poor design’. Apparently, the council feels the same way as ‘the council continue to recognise the opportunity to improve the appearance of the existing building’.

The extra height will cast shadow on what could be the best location for a green space as and when the O2 car park is redeveloped, so decisions made now could influence future plans – more evidence for the need for some joined-up thinking/masterplanning.

The NDF did say that as a quid-pro-quo for development it would like to see improved landscaping at ground level. The developers have made some sensible suggestions. However, when the scheme was originally built there were improvements to the passage at the side of the building. Sadly these improvements were not maintained and the area  soon looked unkempt again. If there is no maintenance plan for the new planting, the same thing will happen again. Agreements to landscape need to come with a commitment or obligation to keep any new landscapes areas in good condition, or funding so the council can do it.

New landscaping plans, but who will maintain it?

The developers are also proposing improvements to the end section of Billy Fury Way (from West End Lane to the corner of the building). Billy Fury Way has been a problem now for some time that the council and Network Rail seem unable to resolve. No progress is being made, nor are any of the options being costed or considered on a value-for-money basis, which is surprising in an era of budget constraints.

The original landscaping in front of the building is also to be replaced having not been successful (or maintained). Planting Birches (a woodland tree) in a baking hot pavement was done by someone who didn’t know what they were doing.

Despite concerns about the impact on the area, the students don’t seem to cause anti-social behaviour (their parents are paying over £10,000 p.a. per room). Also, although it took a while, all the commercial space is now let, so overall it’s a benefit to the area. It’s just a bit odd that it is being redeveloped so soon and partly on grounds of poor design. You can add comments on the application up to the 23 January.

 

No step closer to step-free access for West Hampstead tube station

Many local organisations have been pushing for step-free access to West Hampstead tube station over the past few years – even if opinion diverges on what the solution should be. It was therefore disappointing, as local residents association WHGARA pointed out recently, that West Hampstead was not included in the recent batch of stations to benefit from the Mayor’s £200 million fund for improvements.

At the end of 2017, TfL announced that “the next stations to benefit from step-free access will be Amersham, Buckhurst Hill, Cockfosters, Mill Hill East, Osterley and South Woodford.”

Collectively, these six stations have 15.5 million journeys each year (Mill Hill East has only 1.3 million journeys, the fewest on the Northern Line). West Hampstead station has 11 million journeys!

When we totted up the numbers last year, the three West Hampstead stations combined have nearly 20 million journeys a year and that’s up from 16 million in 2014.

Over the past five years we have had step-free access installed at the Thameslink station, and it is being fitted as part of the redevelopment of the Overground station. The Overground lifts were partly funded by £1.8 million from the Department for Transport’s Access for All fund.

Hope remains for the tube station. Georgia Gould, the leader of Camden Council, added her support when she came up to West Hampstead in her ‘tour de Camden’ to talk to local groups, and local tube staff have been tweeting about the issue and being more pro-active (thanks to new area staff) as they too can see it’s a sensible move. They deal with customers on a day-to-day basis (not just at West Hampstead but at other stations too) so have a sense of what needs doing.

“We are asked all the time to assist passengers,” said one member of staff. “Of course we’re happy to do it, but it takes us away from other work – and this is a station that is never not busy”.

Unsurprisingly, the issue comes down to money. TfL has said that it can cost up to £1 million to install a lift and the budget for a station refurbishment is about £10 million. At West Hampstead, a new lift and entrance is estimated to cost substantially more: £15 – £16 million, due to the engineering constraints of having the station on the bridge.

The Neighbourhood Development Forum has drawn up proposals for a ‘new’ station on the other side of the road. This would keep all the pedestrian flow between the stations on the same side of West End Lane, but has been costed at £25 million.

A cheaper option, suggested by station staff who know the layout of the station, is that a lift shaft could be installed where the now-defunct gent’s toilets were. Because West Hampstead is a single platform station, only one lift is needed. In response to a question from staff, TfL said it is minded to have a more comprehensive scheme that includes a lift and expanded access, as it expects further growth in passenger numbers once improvements to Thameslink are fully operational. However, it indicated it would be looking at doing a feasibility study.

The problems at West Hampstead are lack of step-free access and congestion at the entrance (improved by the recent addition of the extra gate). The platform itself is nice and wide and platform over-crowding is not a problem. If a lift could be installed in the gent’s loos would it be possible to take back space from one or other of the shops adjacent to the entrance to create more space and reduce overcrowding?

What is the best solution? It’s not obvious, but solving these problems rarely is. As the NDF put it “all ideas should be considered, but we are not in a position to judge on the feasibility of schemes”. It seems like it is time for TfL to come to a public meeting and explain its thinking.

Positive sentiment in West Hampstead property market for 2018

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As we move into 2018, there are signs that the property market in West Hampstead is improving. Despite what others may say, there is evidence of a market out there for those looking to sell their home. With changes to stamp duty in the autumn statement and the hesitation caused by Brexit beginning to settle, there is an increased optimism surrounding the property market as we begin the new year.

The high level of activity we’ve been experiencing in north-west London is a reflection of the upturn in confidence buyers have in the market. A recent poll conducted by The Times discovered that 41% of the British public believe that house prices will rise in 2018, with only 14% believing that they might fall. The Guardian has also reported that industry professionals are predicting a rise in house prices of up to 3% this year.

Our ability to tap into this positive market sentiment and rise above the obstacles other agents may be struggling with is proven by our recent successful sale of a one-bedroom apartment that achieved a record price for its address. This property had been on the market for a while with the owner coming under pressure to reduce the price. We also agreed the sale of another apartment in the centre of West Hampstead on the December 22nd, our last working day of 2017!

The success we’ve had in selling such properties comes from having the positivity and confidence brought about by our phenomenal success in handling the sale, rental and management of apartments at West Hampstead Square. With offices across London and in Asia we have a database of thousands of buyers, both in the UK and overseas. This means we aren’t reliant purely on the confidence of local buyers, and as such are able to avoid being mired in the more static local market. Our achievements are even more impressive considering we’ve accomplished them before officially launching our West Hampstead office, with marketing not yet in full swing.

If you are thinking of selling or renting your property in 2018, or have been on the market for a while and are frustrated by lack of progress or constant negativity, then please get in touch with us for a free initial consultation.

We look forward to hearing from you.

T: 020 7481 2907
E:
W: www.johnsand.co
JOHNS&CO, Unit 7, Hardy Building, West End Lane, London, NW6 2BR

P.S. We also want to say a big thank you to everyone who donated to our Christmas Foodbank collection. Across our offices we collected more than a thousand items of food and toiletries, and we hope to improve on that in 2018.

What have you missed since December 28th?

Welcome back! Hope you had a good holiday break. What has been happening in West Hampstead at the start of 2018?

On New Year’s day, it was 56 Years since the Beatles came to Decca’s West Hampstead studio (now ENO) to audition … and were turned down. Our historians investigated why.

Part of the pavement on West End Lane was roped off on New Year’s day following an assault early in the morning. One of the baristas from Caffe Nero was heading to work to open up when he was assaulted from behind by two men, witnesses outside the Black Lion said. The poor guy was taken to hospital where he had some stitches but otherwise was mainly bruised. He has been off work, but he should be back this coming week.

Need to shed some Christmas kilos? Our gym correspondent looked at some of the newer West Hampstead options to help you tone up.

This rather ‘shitty’ car was spotted on Iverson Road by Andy Storrar

And this car was crunched on Gascony Avenue during storm Eleanor. Pic thanks to the owner Rhona

And this car was crunched on Gascony Avenue during storm Eleanor

And talking of cars, this lovely one has been stolen! Anyone seen a red Porsche? There have been a spate of car thefts in the area (including Shiva Tiwari’s – one of the Labour candidates for West Hampstead). Be extra careful.

There have also been some more moped snatches.

Burt Kwouk’s widow sold his copy of two Pink Panther scripts at auction to raise funds for the Marie Curie hospice where Burt was cared for in his final days.

The new owner of the student housing on Blackburn Road has put in a planning application to add an extra story (and 41 more bedrooms) on top.

The Council have pencilled in £26.8 million from the sale of Liddell Road (which it granted planning permission for flats and office space).

In a not very surprising move former Conservative Cllr Andrew Marshall (who quit the party over Brexit) has announced he will join the Lib Dems, but won’t be standing for a seat.

In restaurant news…

The Clock Cafe (formerly Lena’s) reopened (after nearly a year!) with much the same food, which was popular before.

amibento, the new Japanese place has opened (where the Chinese takeaway was). It’s a welcome back to West Hampstead for the owner who used to work as a chef at Sushi Gen when it originally opened. They also have a restaurant in Chelsea apparently.

On Mill Lane, Mon Way’s vegan Sunday buffet is gathering a few fans.

Kentish Town’s Beef & Brew is scouting a second location following a successful crowdfunding campaign – it’s looking at neighbourhoods like Dalston, Brixton, West Hampstead…

There was a classical concert in the Sherriff Centre, with all tickets sold; a Bechstein piano, a well-known tenor and comfy sofas. It was the first of a series.

West End Lane Books featured on Channel Four News when local children’s author Jeff Norton was filmed responding to the Government’s latest reading initiative.

Tiger (the cat) who was lost at the end of last year, was found on New Year’s Eve. Hurrah. The owner was very thankful for all the help finding Tiger.

Quite a few locals were concerned about the state of Fortune Green after Pines and Needles, the Christmas tree sellers were gone. Camden does have a deposit and are aware, but can’t do any re-seeding until Easter (it isn’t warm enough for the seed to germinate). However, grass has its own powers of regeneration and the Green is already looking a bit better, but we will have to see.

Coming up

Mon 15th – Locally Sourced at the Alliance; Richard Prince and Nicola Burnett Smith

Tweet of the week

And a reminder to recycle your Christmas tree, whatever it’s size if you haven’t already – at Fortune Green or Kilburn Grange

Classical concert kicks off the new year at the Sherriff Centre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best new fitness classes in West Hampstead

New Year, new round-up of West Hampstead’s fitness and gym options (would you believe, this is our most popular article year in, year out). Most of you will already know about the main local gyms to help you shed those post-Christmas pounds (or kilos): Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre, Virgin Active at the O2 and the Gym up by Fortune Green.

However, West Hampstead is getting a reputation as the place for specialised fitness classes. Classes such as HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) and similar interval-based training classes have proven an effective way to get fit and into shape. The festive period inevitably leads not just to a more generous girth, but also a sluggish feeling, so having an instructor telling you exactly what to do is a sure fire way to get a work out that works.

We have reviewed three very different local fitness boutiques in the area to find out which class is best for you and we have some West Hampstead Life exclusive discounts below.

Studio Society

The Studio Society boasts live and fully immersive, interactive classes with virtual instructors. You can do mountain climbers and feel like you’re on top of a skyscraper in Manhattan or take the shivanasa yoga pose feeling like you’re amongst the temples of Bali.

The instructor is video linked and you can see their posture from three different angles, so you do see their side profiles too, and with digitally inserted overlays you get a bit of extra instruction on which areas of your body you are targeting. Of course, unlike a live class, you can’t ask the instructor a question or have them spot you if you need an extra pointer, however, the instructions are quite intricate and detailed.

You may wonder whether there’s much difference between this and taking a class at home on YouTube. Being in a group environment is actually quite motivating and Studio Society has chosen to run these classes with specialised high-quality instructors. However, if you really need a real person to get you going, then there are “live” classes too.

There are a wide variety of classes (both virtual and live), including a range of HIIT sessions, in bursts of 30 or 45 minutes, sculpting, strength and conditioning as well as pilates, yoga and even mindfulness and meditation. There is also a spinning room, with a variety of scenes on the screen – with a motivational instructor getting you to sweat to the max.

Studio Society has proven very popular since opening last summer, which can mean some quite big classes in its two huge studios and a fully packed spinning room.

The facilities are excellent and feel new. There are plenty of showers and toilets, a big changing area and lots of lockers.

It’s a short walk away (right next to the Gym actually) up by Fortune Green. Its classes start early in the morning, carry on throughout the day and finish in the evening.

There’s no contract, and £26.95 a month gives you unlimited classes. There’s a January offer of no joining fee and a 50% discount on your first month’s subscription with the promo code Jan1

Great for: Value, variety of classes and excellent facilities
Less great: Distance from the station, large classes, a little less personal
January offers: £26.95 a month for unlimited classes no joining fee and 50% discount on your first month’s subscription with the promo code Jan1

The HIIT Gym

Intense, varied, fun and impactful all come to mind when it comes to the HIIT gym. HIIT is fast paced, high energy and gets results.

Although intense, I would say these classes are suitable for all levels. They are really motivating, as the instructor talks you through every minute and the exercises change so you’re never doing anything long enough to hate it. You can tailor the exercises to your level somewhat, for example by choosing heavier weights, and sometimes the instructor gives you modifications. Included in the classes are intervals on the treadmill and rowing machines, so you get to incorporate cardio into your workout.

Although the classes always follow the same format, they always feel different and never boring.

Class sizes are around 20 max which is about right, and there is just the one class every hour. I’ve very rarely had any problems getting into a class, and there are plenty of classes outside working hours. It is also conveniently tucked away on Broadhurst Gardens, only a quick hop around the corner from all the stations in West Hampstead.

The facilities are quite limited, this is more of a walk in – walk out place but you can shower if you need to.

HIIT gym is a little more expensive at £45 a month for 4 classes a month, £65 for 8 classes month or £99 a month for unlimited classes. They also offer pay-as-you-go classes and transformation packages.

HIIT gym has given us West Hampstead Life exclusive offers:

Great for: High energy, effective classes, 1-minute walk from West Hampstead station
Less great: Limited facilities, fairly big classes at peak times so less personal attention
January offers: No joining fee plus West Hampstead Life discounts (see above).

The Tone Room

New kid on the block (on Mill Lane actually), The Tone Room offers intense and specialised workouts to get you to your strength and toning goals. With tiny classes of no more than six people, trainer Sanjay offers an experience tailored to your needs, and also offers nutritional and postural expertise. It’s as good as having a personal trainer.

The Tone Room is the next level up from a HIIT class, with less room to ‘get away with it’ if, like me, those burpees tend to slow you down! There is plenty of adaptation, however, if you need modifications to suit your fitness and strength levels. If you’re feeling like you’ve plateaued with bigger classes and want to take your workout seriously, the Tone Room can help you get to where you want to be.

Sanjay has done a great job building this boutique and intimate fitness space, and his passion for health and transformation really shows.

Facilities are limited with no showers and limited changing space, however, there is room to leave your things and it feels like a safe space.

The Tone Room is offering £10 for your first class and £45 for three classes. However, if you register for your first £10 class and mention this article, you can get a West Hampstead Life exclusive offer of three classes for £35

Standard prices are: single class £25, 10 classes £175, 20 classes £280, 50 classes £600, yearly £1,500, monthly unlimited £150

Great for: Personalised attention to get you to your fitness goals
Less great: No shower facilities and limited changing facilities, a little far from West Hampstead Stations
January offers: Exclusive West Hampstead Life offer (see above).

Good luck!

It was 56 years ago today, Decca said the Beatles couldn’t play

On a very cold New Year’s Day in 1962 the Beatles arrived in West Hampstead for their audition at Decca Studios.

The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein had several record shops in Liverpool and had a meeting with the marketing people at Decca. They told Dick Rowe – Decca’s A&R (Artists and Repertoire) manager – about The Beatles and he sent his assistant Mike Smith to Liverpool to see them at The Cavern on 13 December 1961. Smith was very impressed by the audience reaction and an audition was arranged in London for 1st January 1962.

Back in 1962, New Year’s Day wasn’t a public holiday but Dick Rowe was away, and it was left to Mike Smith to organise the session. Brian Epstein travelled to London by train, but John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and drummer Pete Best, had to drive down the previous day in a van with their equipment. The freezing weather, with fog and snow, meant the journey took ten hours instead of the usual five. After getting lost, The Beatles finally arrived at the Royal Hotel in Woburn Place around 10pm on New Year’s Eve. Pete Best (who was replaced by Ringo Starr later that year) recalled what happened:

“Brian Epstein had read the riot act to us before we went down to London. You know, be good little boys, you mustn’t be out after 10 o’clock. And there we were with everyone else in the middle of Trafalgar Square as drunk as skunks. We were late getting to the Decca Studios the next day. Brian was there before us. He was livid and tore a strip off us left, right and centre. John said, Brian shut up, we are here for the audition’. (From: Love Me Do; the Beatles ‘62, TV documentary 2012).

Embed from Getty Images

The boys arrived at the Broadhurst Gardens studio at 11 o’clock and were not at their best after a long journey and a night of heavy drinking. Mike Smith was more than hour late himself, having been held up by the snow, and Epstein was very annoyed. They briefly met Tony Meehan who went into the producer’s box. He had grown up in West Hampstead and been the drummer with Cliff Richard and the Shadows before working as an assistant producer at Decca. The Beatles started to set up their equipment but the Decca engineers asked them to use the studio amplifiers as the group’s were in poor condition.

Over the next few hours The Beatles played 15 songs, mostly cover versions; only three were Lennon and McCartney originals (Like Dreamers Do, Hello Little Girl and Love Of The Loved). Epstein had persuaded them to do a set that he thought would show their range of ability, including Besame Mucho, The Sheik Of Araby, Money and Till There Was You. Lennon and McCartney later said they had wanted to include more rock numbers. Epstein thought the audition had gone well and he treated the boys to a meal at a restaurant in Swiss Cottage recommended by Mike Smith.

Mike Smith at Decca

Later that same afternoon, Brian Poole and the Tremeloes auditioned at Decca. After the auditions Mike Smith wanted to sign both groups but Dick Rowe said they could only take one and told Smith to choose. He went with the Tremeloes because their audition was better than The Beatles’ and he thought it would be easier to work with a Dagenham band than a Liverpool-based group. Smith lived nearby in Barking.

The Tremeloes at Decca

After numerous phone calls, Epstein was invited to lunch with Dick Rowe and the head of marketing on the 6 February. He was told that Decca had decided not to sign The Beatles. In his autobiography Epstein said he couldn’t believe his ears.

“You must be out of your tiny little minds! These boys are going to explode. I am completely confident that one day they will be bigger than Elvis Presley!”

He said that Rowe told him:

“Not to mince words, Mr Epstein, we don’t like your boys’ sound. Groups of guitars are on the way out …. Your boys are never going to get off the ground. We know what we’re talking about. You really should stick to selling recordings in Liverpool.” (From: Brian Epstein, A Cellarful of Noise London: Souvenir, 1964).

Dick Rowe strongly denied that he said this, and believes that Epstein was so annoyed that the Beatles had been turned down that he made it up. But the story stuck and Rowe went down in history as ‘the man who turned down the Beatles’. But this is unfair because it was Mike Smith who made the decision. And he wasn’t alone; as Rolling Stones manager Andrew Oldham pointed out in his autobiography, “Everybody turned them down. Columbia, Oriole, Philips and Pye turned the Beatles down, based on what they heard from the Decca session”.

Epstein left the Decca meeting with the tapes of the audition. He stayed in London for a few days and on 8 February he met Bob Boast, the manager of the large HMV record shop in Oxford Street. They knew each other from a seminar in Hamburg and got on well. Boast was not very impressed with the recording tapes in Decca boxes and suggested that Epstein go upstairs where there was a studio that could make copies onto disk. He thought these would look better when Epstein approached the other record companies. The disk-cutter Jim Foy was impressed by the fact that Lennon and McCartney had composed three tracks, as it was unusual at this time for a band to write their own material. Foy told EMI’s head of publishing Sid Coleman who arranged a meeting with George Martin, who was then the head of A&R at Parlophone, part of EMI.

You can listen to 10 tracks from the Decca session for yourself in the video at the top of the article.

Most critics agree that it’s hard to appreciate the Beatles’ potential from this material. They didn’t perform well nor did their unique talent emerge. The original tapes were recently sold at auction to a Japanese collector for £35,000.

You can hear Mike Smith, Pete Best and Brian Poole talking about their memories of the audition after 40 years:

Epstein met George Martin on 13 February 1962. Martin was not particularly impressed by the Decca sessions demo either, but he admired the confidence Epstein had in the Beatles and he was struck by the freshness of the three original compositions. In May, Martin told Epstein that he wanted to sign the group and the deal was done on 4 June, two days before their audition at Abbey Road. The band recorded their first hit, Love Me Do, there in September. It was released on 5 October and reached number 17 in the charts. Their second single, Please Please Me, was released on 11 January 1963 and reached number 1 in the NME and Melody Maker charts.

Liked the Rolling Stones
Although Decca did not sign the Beatles, it did get the Rolling Stones. On 10 May 1963, Dick Rowe and George Harrison were judges at a local talent competition at the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool. George told Dick Rowe about a band he had seen who were very good. Dick returned to London and saw the Rolling Stones at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond where they had a residency. Four days later he signed them to Decca. Their first single was Chuck Berry’s Come On, which was re-recorded at Decca Studios and released on 7 June. It reached number 21 in the charts. Shrewdly, manager Andrew Oldham wanted to retain the performing rights of the music and he produced most of the Stones’ other records at independent studios and then leased them to Decca.

Embed from Getty Images

Despite being lumbered with the tag of the man who turned down The Beatles, Dick Rowe in fact had a long and successful time at Decca. He went on to sign The Animals, The Moody Blues, The Zombies, Them (with Van Morrison), The Small Faces, Lulu and Tom Jones among many others. He died from diabetes in June 1986 at his home in Greenwich.

A rich history
What of the studio itself?

The building in Broadhurst Gardens was built around 1884 as a workshop and then converted into West Hampstead Town Hall. Despite its name, this was not a public building but a private venue that could be rented for weddings and concerts.

In 1928, it became the recording studio of the Crystalate Record Company. During the depression of the 1930s, small independent record companies struggled to survive. Decca and EMI bought most of them and became great rivals. EMI opened its Abbey Road studios in November 1931, and in 1937, Crystalate was acquired by Decca which moved all its recording to Broadhurst Gardens. Thousands of records were made here by Decca until the company left in 1981. As well as many classical records, these included sessions by David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Tom Jones, Lulu, Van Morrison, The Moody Blues, and Eric Clapton with John Mayall.

In its final form there were three main studios at Decca:
Studio 1: straight ahead as you entered the building, with the control room upstairs above the studios. This was used for many pop records.
Studio 2: a smaller room, was downstairs and was the main rock & roll and blues studio.
Studio 3: was opened in 1962 at the back of the building, and was large enough to take a full orchestra. Bing Crosby made one of his last albums, Feels Good, Feels Right, here in August 1976.

In 1974, The Moody Blues did a deal with Decca and took over Studio 1 as their Threshold Studios. They had made their previous albums at Decca and they recorded Long Distance Voyager at Threshold.

In 1980, Sir Edward Lewis, who created Decca in 1929, died. The company was sold to Polygram, and is now part of the Universal Music Group. The building on Broadhurst Gardens is now Lilian Baylis House, used by the English National Opera who took it over in November 1981.

Back in October 2017, I was asked by a Dutch radio station to give them a tour of the old Decca studios – it was also filmed and you can watch it here (the first bit is in Dutch, but the rest is all in English)

What have you missed in 2017?

Hope you are all having a peaceful and relaxing holiday. We’ll kick off with the news over the past ten days, and then we thought we’d do a quick “news review” of the year.

A local carol singer raised over £100,000 over the past 40 years. Hallelujah!

A new restaurant is recruiting already. Could ‘HAM’ be where Brioche was?

The Iverson Road Space didn’t reopen by Christmas as planned, but should reopen in January.

Although the plague of moped thefts has eased, there have been a couple recently: outside the tube station and another outside Waitrose. So this is still an issue. It only takes a second to loose your phone.

It’s the final week for consultation on the pedestrianisation of part of Oxford Street. The 139 would be one of just two buses that would continue to pass along the street.

The Fortune Green Safer Neighbourhood Team cracked down on rogue landlords in West Hampstead, with Sun journalists in tow.

A gang of (pretty hapless) burglars who smashed their way into Banana Tree back in May (and five other premises) were sentenced to jail.

YEAR IN REVIEW

The year started with a bang in January when a green Porsche smashed into Lena’s Café.

Work began in earnest on the Overground station upgrade. It’s running a little behind schedule, but not too much. Passenger numbers passing though the three West Hampstead stations topped 20 million for the first time.

Planning continued to dominate as a local issue, with the controversial redevelopment of 156 WEL approved in February. Travis Perkins is still trying to get the decision reversed or delayed in the courts but is running out of options. The Ballymore flats at West Hampstead Square FINALLY welcomed their first occupants in late January, eighteen months late. And the most recent scheme for Gondar Gardens came up for consultation.

There was a new recycling regime! Introduced on April 1st it didn’t exactly run smoothly. Even six months later there were still issues.

And on that note we took a walk up West End Lane. Like the one we took down the Kilburn High Road.

Christmas trees can be recycled too… all the details are here: Please don’t dump them on the street, like someone from West Hampsted Square appeared to do on Boxing Day!?

and the winner for the first fly tipped Christmas tree of the season is …. as spotted by @ciano_ire (in fact it was beaten by this one – dumped a week before Christmas!)

There were a number of coming and goings ; M&S opened in FebruaryLadudu closed in March and Rosa’s opened on the same site. Lola’s Bakery joined the West End Lane cafés, while on Mill Lane, the Kitchen Table closed to be replaced by the MillHouse.

Father Andrew stepped down from St. James Church (a.k.a. the Sheriff Centre) in May (but remains the postmaster for the time being).

In June there was (another) general election. At the start of campaigning, the polls and bookies tipped the Tories to win Hampstead & Kilburn from Labour, but in the end Tulip won with a margin of over 15,000

Also in June, with worries about terrorist incidents in many people’s minds, West End Lane was closed off with concern about a chemical smell.

There was a very visible rise in moped-enabled crime in the area particularly in the latter half of the year with a spate of mobile phone thefts; and two guys were arrested when their moped was cornered by police after a man was stabbed to death after an attempted robbery of his phone in Maida Vale. There have been other arrests and things have improved, but it is still an issue.

It was our 300th newsletter in October!

Finally, after more than 600 days in prison, things are looking more positive for West Hampstead resident Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (Freudian typo corrected). Richard, her husband has kept her name in the news. There was a tying of ribbons round a tree on Fortune Green at Easter to mark one year in prison, and a march in November. She celebrated her birthday on Boxing Day and may be eligible for early release next month.

Coming up

There is a very interesting (monthly) concert series starting at the Sheriff Centre, sponsored by Bechstein pianos.

First one on Friday January 5th is a recital by tenor Mark Padmore accompanied by Andrew West on Piano. The following wednesday they are playing the same concert – in the Cologne Philharmonic Hall!

Tweet of the week

The campaign for a lift at West Hampstead Station received some (very local) support…

West Hampstead Christmas survival guide

Christmas day is nearly upon us, so just in the (St) Nick of time, here are a few helpful tips to make everything go smoothly.

St. Lukes Church’s stained glass

When are the local church services?

At Emmanuel Church things kick off with carols on West End Green at 4pm on Saturday 23rd, followed by mulled wine in the Church. Christmas Eve has regular services in the morning, with a 6pm children’s crib service and at 11pm a midnight mass. On Christmas day there is an ‘all-age’ eucharist at 10am, where children are invited to bring an unopened present to open during the service.

At St.Lukes in Kidderpore Avenue, technically not in West Hampstead although the parish covers the top part, they are offering carols round the tree at 3pm on Sunday, a midnight mass at 11pm and a morning eucharist on Christmas day at 11am.

unfortunately, St. James (on Sheriff Road) and St. Mary’s All Souls haven’t got their details available at the moment.

What time are the pubs open?

The Black Lion is open on Christmas Eve from 10am to 11pm, on Christmas Day from 12pm to 5pm (drinks only, unless you have booked lunch (£55 and needs to be pre-booked)), on Boxing Day from 12pm to 11pm.

The Railway is open Christmas Eve from 11am to 11pm, on Christmas Day from 12pm to 5pm (drinks only, unless you have booked lunch (£49.99 and needs to be pre-booked)), on Boxing Day from 11pm to 11pm .

The Alice House is open too and has slightly longer hours as it is open Christmas Eve from 9:30am to 12:30am, on Christmas Day from 12pm to 6pm (drinks only, unless you have booked lunch which needs to be pre-booked)), on Boxing day from 10am to 1am.

When will my rubbish be collected?

For Christmas week, rubbish collections will be two days later than normal, and for New Year’s week one day later. You can check for yourself, here.

How can I recycle my Christmas tree?

The Council iw providing a free recycling service for Christmas trees from 2nd January to the 12th. There will be the usual collection points at the bottom of Fortune Green and the Messina Avenue end of Kilburn Grange Park.

Can I expect any disruption to travel?

In an nutshell, yes quite a lot. All services at closed on Christmas Day with a reduced service on Boxing Day. But to complicate matters further there are quite a few disruptions to service beyond that.

Thameslink has engineering works over the Christmas break. Services will be shutting down from 8pm on the 24th, there will be no service on Monday 25th AND Tuesday 26th (nor any Gatwick Express for those of you trying to get to Gatwick) but there will be a limited bus service to Gatwick.

Aside from Christmas and Boxing Day disruption there will be no cross London services on Thameslink either, as trains will be terminating at St. Pancras from the 23rd December to the 1st January. However, from St. Pancras you can get the tube to London Bridge and connect to Thameslink services south from there.

London Overground is also undergoing engineering works and there will be no service from Highbury and Islington to Dalston Junction (until Sat 30th), nor any service between Camden Road and Stratford (also until the 30th) There will be a bus replacement service but you might want to consider other routes.

What will be open…?

Apart from the churches and the pubs, the ice rink at JW3 will be open, even on Christmas Day… a different way to work off the Christmas dinner, some tickets are still available for Christmas Day but please book in advance.

A walk up West End Lane

Following our recent walk down the Kilburn High Road, we took a similar walk up West End Lane. Joining us was John Saynor, chair of WHAT (West Hampstead Amenity and Transport), which takes a keen interest in these matters too.

We didn’t really focus on the litter situation, because – dare I say it – it seems a bit better, although we aren’t counting our chickens, or the discarded fried chicken containers.  Instead, we focused on the street clutter and particularly the A-boards that can obstruct pavements.

Without getting too technical (and with apologies for those who read the KHR piece), I’m going to introduce the word ‘curtilage’ at this point. This means the space between your property and the public highway, but which is still your land. Within reason you can do what want – deck it, put up an A-board or set out goods for sale.

However, if any of these activities take place on the public footpath then people have the right to be miffed. In fact it’s a planning infringement that must be rectified. A well maintained high street keeps the pavement clear and makes sure that it is wide enough for pedestrians (including those with buggies, or in wheelchairs) to pass in opposite directions. There are London planning standards for this – the pedestrian comfort guidance, which recommends a minimum of 3 metres width for a busy pedestrian pavement like West End Lane.

Of course shop-owners put their A-boards out to try to grab some extra custom, a manager might change and not realise the rules (implicit or explicit) or a contractor will put out warning signs and leave them, so there needs to be regular vigilance to ensure that pavements don’t get overrun with signage or other commercial undertakings.

However, the situation is not always clear-cut. At some points the pavement is narrow and any obstruction is a potential hazard, at others it is wide and it’s not such a problem. The width of the curtilage also varies, so at some points, a shopkeeper can put out an A-board but in others, where there is no curtilage they can’t, which can seem ‘unfair’.

With all this in mind, we started our walk by the stations. For years, locals have been campaigning to ensure that the pavements around and between the stations are widened and kept clutter free to ensure easy (and safe) movement of pedestrians. There have been improvements over recent years, but the recent attempt by a phonebox company to install some phone boxes here would have undone all the hard work. Thankfully Camden turned the application down. The situation will also be improved when the Overground station is finished as it will be set much further back, removing a dangerous pinch point on the pavement.

Outside the tube station, we spotted these freebie newspaper containers. They don’t look great and cause a certain amount of disruption to pedestrians in a busy section.  In the past, they have been removed, but they seem to be creeping back. Who is responsible for sorting this out? WHAT takes an interest in these matters, but is it anyone’s responsibility to report infringements? Is it the role of the Neighbourhood Development Forum? What about the thousands of local commuters who walk past daily, or the local councillors, or street cleaners or community police officers?

We asked the local councillors about this and Cllr Lorna Russell replied that the Council do rely on members of the public to flag issues as they can’t have eyes and ears everywhere. However, many people don’t know what needs reporting and even if they do, don’t know how best to report it. Likewise, the councillors themselves report things – they are avid users of the Clean Camden app.

Sometimes an issue can be dealt with by having a quiet word. Other times official action is needed and the council has to take charge.

Here is a good example. This redundant sign (from the Overground crane works) was left there throughout the week even on the very narrowest sections of pavement. A quick call to the Overground building works team got agreement to store them during the week. Success! It’s since reappeared 🙁 and now sits off to one side.

Next up we cross the road to Banana Tree. The restaurant has just lost an appeal and will have to remove its decking. The pavement is not terribly narrow here, so some will judge this a little harsh. However, the restaurant’s A-board does narrow the pavement further.  As a rule of thumb, you’re not going to get an A-board and decking on your curtilage, you have to pick one. And it’s not clear where Banana Tree’s curtilage is, if it has it at all.

Some of you will remember that this time last year the Alice House had a similar issue with their decking. It was a bit different though, as it was clear it was on their curtilage and the issue was more about the height of the decking.

Further up West End Lane, there was a particularly egregious example of a creeping A-boards by Bobby Fitzpatrick, right in the middle of the pavement! Naughty.  You can see how Bobby’s has put chairs and tables out on their curtilage, just as its predecessor La Brocca did, but that A-board is as cheeky as a 1970s comedy.

On the other side of West End Lane, Cedar restaurant too has decked out its curtilage but sometimes puts an A-board out too.

And right at the top of West End Lane, Schnitzel has three A-boards including one which narrows the zebra crossing.

Back down West End Lane, Lola’s is a recent arrival and it has started putting out an A-board too – sometimes partly on the pavement. Even though it has a relatively wide curtilage, it still had to apply for planning permission to put out tables and chairs, but again it’s the A-board that causes the most disruption, particularly because the public pavement is relatively narrow and busy.

There is good news here though, as a quiet word with one of the managers led to the compromise of putting the board as close to the planter as possible, which makes a significant difference.

It’s not all bad news. Here’s an A-board nearly placed on a premise’s curtilage. Gold star to West End Lane Books!

Outside the library we looked at the planting and seating.  It’s sad that this has been neglected since being installed a couple of years ago. Again there is a question of who is responsible for maintaining it.  It was originally installed when the Lib-Dem/Conservatives coalition gave areas the ability to choose projects they wanted, and this was one. Indeed it was very popular in this NDF survey. So it’s shame it’s been neglected.

We also noticed that some of the bus stops and seats were very grubby with an accumulation of dirt that a good jet wash would deal with. If it hasn’t been done by early March, then maybe it’s something for the Great British Spring Clean on March 2-4, 2018.

All in all, things weren’t bad (and better than the Kilburn High Road). But there is still room for improvement, though it remains unclear who is responsible for reporting the problems that do exist.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What have you missed since December 11th?

Things are gearing up for Christmas so we checked out some of our local stores for some present ideas.

There was a house fire on Inglewood Road. Thankfully no-one was hurt.

Firefighter Sam in action on Inglewood Road. Image thanks to Adam Morris.

Unfortunately, after a lull, there was another moped phone theft on West End Lane.

In another theft (or it may have been the same one) the thieves chucked away the Microsoft phone they snatched – they didn’t want it!

And there were two burglaries on Pandora Road. The Safer Neighbourhood Teams (SNT) reminded you to keep vigilant.

It was the West End Lane Books Christmas quiz.

There is an exhibition on artist David Bomberg (who lived on Fordwych Road) coming to the Ben Uri Gallery in June next year.

Konnichiwa to West Hampstead’s newest arrival.

Banana Tree lost an appeal on its decking and it will have to go.

The Kilburn councillors spoke out AGAINST the parking issues that MILAM (Maygrove, Iverson etc RA) are experiencing! MILAM wasn’t happy.

With Christmas and New Year coming up the next newsletter will be on the 28th December and after that back on the 7th January. For those of you sticking around over the holidays, look out for our West Hampstead Christmas survival guide this week.

With that, a very Merry Christmas from West Hampstead Life.

Coming up this week

Mon 18th – Locally Sourced at the Alliance. Christmas readings, pianist and tenor and an open mic!
Sat 23rd – Carols on the Green (organised by Emmanuel Church)

20 exciting and unusual Christmas presents from West Hampstead

Andy Williams might have sung ‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year’, but for most of us it’s the rack-our-brains-for-a-present time of the year. If that describes you here are some present ideas from just down the road.

First stop, Seasons the Cookshop, it’s a small independent kitchen store with a really nice range of stock. Popular this Christmas is a very chic set of cheese knives (£17.99), a set of Peugeot salt and pepper grinders (£39.99 normally £31 each) and the ever-stylish Le Creuset mugs (£15). They are also good for stocking fillers for the foodie in your life.

Chic cheese knives (£17.99 with stand, £13.99 without), salt n’ pepper (£39.99) and Le Creuset mug (£15)

Sticking with the food, why not order your whole Christmas dinner?! Crocker’s Folly (the pub in Lisson Grove), which we grant you is a bit outside West Hampstead, is offering Christmas in a hamper – they will cook and deliver a £8kg turkey (enough for 16) a choice of sides, plus mince pies all for £120.

Another local food options is some homemade jams and chutneys from The Well Preserved jam company. They are offering special Christmas packaging and will be at the farmer’s market on Saturday 23rd. Particular favourites of mine include the orange and whiskey, lemon, gin and tonic, and chilli jam but they have a wide selection to suit all tastes.

Crochet your own tie (£11), or toy (£25), mini cross stitch kits (around £10)

New on the block (well new and expanded) is the Village Haberdashery. If you haven’t been up yet (it’s above M&S) do pop up and take a look.

For present ideas, I liked the crochet your own tie kit (£11) – it requires no previous experience and only takes 5 hours (full disclosure, not only did I end up buying one for myself but when I showed it to my most stylish friend, she promptly put it on the list for her son). Other ideas included mini-cross stitch kits (around £10), a crochet your own toy (£25) and an all-the-rage-on Instagram mini wall-hanging set (£14.95 for the kit and £14.95 for the wool).

They also offer a variety of classes and workshops (£45 to £95, more for multi-day courses). And not just sewing (although they do have those too – including with Charlotte Newland (winner of the Great British Sewing Bee)). Other workshops include modern calligraphy and lino printing. How about offering a workshop place as a present?

If you would rather try something different then how about a pottery taster course with Freya Bramble-Carter? She was a contestant on this year’s Great Pottery Throw Down and has a studio (actually she shares it with her father) in the Kingsgate Workshops. They offer Saturday afternoon taster courses (£45), Sunday morning taster courses for teens (£30), and adult four-week pottery courses (£150).

Or what about a luxury sleeping bag from West Hampstead based Sleeping Beauties? They come in a range of boho – but tasteful- patterns and each one (singles £64.99) includes not only a matching pillowcase but also (matching) eyeshade. How chic! And for Christmas, they are introducing a double sleeping bag (£139.99). Orders can be collected from the Village Haberdashery to make life simple. How did you survive at Latitude without one?

Persons Unknown, How Not To Be A Boy, The Art of Failing, & Cats of West Hampstead. (Not shown Little Me).

Being a literary crowd, books are always a popular choice and so what’s on the shelves at West End Lane Books? Of course, any book is available – with a smile, but we thought of these four West Hampstead options; Robert Webb’s ‘How Not To Be A Boy’ (signed copies in again this week), Susie Steiner’s ‘Person’s Unknown’, Anthony McGowan’s ‘The Art of Failing’ and for cat-lovers (or dogs) ‘The Cats of West Hampstead’ and if I could squeeze in another one, ‘Little Me’ by Matt Lucas.

Another popular local choice for presents is Achillea on Mill Lane, which is offering some stunning door wreaths at the moment (£35 to £65) and table ornaments. However, from time to time they also offer workshops (£100) – they next one is in March, just before Mother’s day, on ‘dressing the Spring table’ and includes making a Spring centrepiece. Christmas and Mother’s Day present in one. Result!

Finally, not to forget the Sheriff Centre which has a good selection of kids presents and stocking fillers.  So there you are, plenty of present ideas all in West Hampstead, both objects and also ‘experiences’. Merry Christmas!

A new perspective on West Hampstead’s property market

Sponsored post

The new year will see the official opening of Johns&Co’s estate agency office at West Hampstead Square, bringing with it a fresh, new outlook on the property market in West Hampstead and surrounding areas.

If the name sounds familiar to you, it might be because we’re the preferred partner of West Hampstead Square developer Ballymore and have already been based on site, working alongside Ballymore arranging the sales and subsequent rental and management of the five blocks of 144 apartments.

The West Hampstead Square scheme has now been sold, let and managed, and whilst we are marketing thousands of new homes from Nine Elms to Canary Wharf, we still have a significant database of buyers and investors looking for property in this part of London. Having so successfully achieved our original objective at West Hampstead Square, we decided to extend our expertise to homeowners in the area, so they too can take advantage of the appetite for homes we have been experiencing since we first came to West End Lane.

As a seasoned Sales Manager from the local area I’ve joined Johns&Co to help meld their international expertise to the needs of homeowners and landlords in the local market. I began my career in this area aged 19 as an office junior, took charge of my own branch for the first time at 21 and have honed my particular brand of highly personal estate agency service over subsequent years. I have successfully run businesses for some of London’s largest companies, including Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward and Hamptons International. During 35 years in the property industry I have become highly experienced in the fields of property development and new homes which led me to become a sales manager for a major regional developer for a number of years, before returning to my first love of estate agency.

I missed the relationships with people that I enjoyed so much in estate agency. I typically assist a client for months, from providing initial advice on accurate pricing and marketing, to then helping them achieve their life goals by either selling or renting their property. I get to know my clients very well and the quality of this relationship is what makes all the difference to a successful outcome. It’s not uncommon for my clients to become friends – I have friends who were first of all clients 20 years ago. I’ve even helped some of their children with the difficult task of getting onto the property ladder, renting at first and then buying their first home, and always being on hand to provide guidance and assistance every step of the way. There is one family friend who I recently helped to buy two properties, one for their daughter and family and the other for their sons.

I’m often asked to share my in-depth knowledge of all things property and recently ran a free property workshop at the request of local community centre JW3 on Finchley Road, where I provided guidance and answered the questions of local people who were looking for expert advice on how best to sell and buy in the current climate.

While preparations are well underway for the official opening at the start of January, I’m already busy talking to local people about their proposed sale or purchase in the new year. So if you’re thinking of moving or would like to benefit from my local experience and the international reach of the team at JOHNS&CO, then call and arrange to see me on 020 7481 2907 or email me at .

Similarly, if you are looking to rent your property to prospective tenants, our Lettings Manager Jordan Charles-Jones is also on hand to assist you with all aspects of Lettings and Management from the heart of West Hampstead. Jordan can be reached on 020 7481 2907 or on email to .

We look forward to meeting you.

What have you missed since December 4th?

It snowed! You can always rely on the Wet Fish for an appropriate tweet.

We took a closer look at the redevelopment of Gondar Gardens into luxury retirement flats (including indoor swimming pool and chauffeur-driven cars) but ‘can’t afford’ any affordable housing. S-e-r-i-o-u-s-l-y?

Time for another Insight in West Hampstead; this time we popped into the Mill Lane Barbers to meet Prod.

Aaah – West Hampstead in the snow. Pics were taken by Pennygrinder (and there are more if you click the link)

No sooner had we published our profile of Prod (who is originally Greek Cypriot) than on Wednesday West End Lane was over-run by Nicosia Apeol fans who stopped on their way to Wembley where their team was playing Spurs. Heavy police presence, lots of beer was drunk (Christmas came early for the Alice House) and chanting.

West End Lane reopened on Monday evening after the burst water main was repaired. But quite a few locals enjoying the quite traffic-free atmosphere asked if it could be more permanent.

At the Junction of Finchley Road and Frognal lane, a car caught fire. Shut the Finchley Road apparently.

Things seem to have quietened down on the moped-theft fronts but alas there was an attempted robbery at the tube station on Tuesday. *Keep vigilant*

An Albanian drugs gang was sentenced to over 44 years in prison after being arrested in an (unspecified) ‘West Hampstead’ restaurant.

It was the NDF meeting – it was well attended and some really good discussion on planning issues. If you care about this sort of thing, it’s worth coming along. The next meeting will be the AGM.

This poor local can’t bury her cat. It was killed in an accident and at the behest of a neighbour Veolia collected it, but can’t now find it.

Boris made his trip to Tehran – there were a number of items discussed but Nazanin’s case was high up the agenda.

Last Tuesday, friends, family and supporters of Nazanin were outside 10 Downing Street singing carols (quite tunefully thanks to Richard’s family coming from Wales).

This week saw the latest Friends of West Hampstead Library (FoWHL) event; two thesps for the price of one as Jim Carter interviewed Derek Jacobi. It sounded like it was another really good evening.

If you missed it (and many did) there is another opportunity as Jim Carter is organising two fundraising evenings for the Tricycle; Monday 19th Feb in conversation with Derek Jacobi + Kenneth Branagh and another one with Emma Thompson + Imelda Staunton (Sun 25th Feb – this one is sold out already).

Looking for a West Hampstead present for Christmas? Doris Lessing’s Nobel Prize medal is coming up for auction, the bidding starting at £250,000. If that is a bit high, we’ll be doing a rundown of local present ideas in a *slightly* cheaper price-range.

The head chef to the Italian ambassador was cooking up a storm at Scavolini in this sponsored post.

We did a round up of things to do in December, as usual, there is quite a lot.

Tweet of the week

We think this tweet and the subsequent chain is, well, barking mad. But it’s got 1.8k likes!

Luxury retirement development ‘can’t afford’ to pay for affordable housing

West Hampstead is facing yet another large-scale property development. It’s the third proposal to redevelop the site at the former Gondar Gardens reservoir. The history of the previous proposals have been well documented on these pages, but what really caught our eye about this one was that it offers no affordable housing either on-site or as a payment for development elsewhere. Previous schemes have offered about 35% affordable housing. The developers claim that as a care-home they are not legally obliged – but even if they were, according to their sums they couldn’t afford it!

A quick recap

There have been three planning applications for this site over the past eight years. Gondar Gardens is designated a site of importance for nature conservation (it has Camden’s only population of slow worms). Developer Linden Homes’ first scheme proposed 16 houses built low in the cavity of the old reservoir (the ‘pit’  or ‘Teletubbies’ scheme) with an off-site affordable housing contribution of £6.8 million. The second proposal was to build along the frontage of Gondar Gardens (the ‘frontage’ scheme’), which was turned down as the design wasn’t good enough. A revised frontage scheme was submitted for 28 flats, or which 10 were affordable plus a small additional off-site contribution. This scheme was approved on appeal and thus we all expected that Linden Homes would build this scheme and that would be that.

There’s a new developer on the scene

Instead, Linden Homes sold the site to a new developer, LifeCare Residences (LCR). LCR, which started in New Zealand, builds what it terms “exceptional retirement communities”. Here in the UK, it has one in Hampshire and another in Battersea. In West Hampstead, it’s proposing to build Persephone Gardens. Classicists will know that Persephone is the Queen of the Underworld. Odd choice of reference for a retirement village.

For Gondar Gardens, LCR proposes 82 self-care retirement apartments with a total residential floor space of 7,662m2. The flats include 7 one-bedroom, 62 two-bedroom and 13 three-bedroom flats.  The total floor space of the whole development is 14,088m2 – almost double the floor space of the previous two schemes combined. Both of the previous schemes included about 35% affordable housing, although Camden’s (rarely achieved) target is 50%.

If this new scheme followed its predecessors, one would expect at least 30-40 affordable flats. But the plans show that none at all are proposed – nor is there any off-site contribution.

LCR is, however, building extra facilities for the residents on site because it is a retirement home, including a 15-bed nursing home. But it also plans ‘communal’ facilities – and what facilities: a lounge, a library, a restaurant and bar, and a café, an indoor exercise and rehabilitation pool, a gym. Wow! That’s a lot, you’re thinking. There is more: a hair salon, treatment rooms (of course), the sun lounge and, oh yes, a cinema. And of course a whole host of back-of-house areas for the staff.

The chauffeur-driven cars on site have already raised a few eyebrows. The development will be car-free, so LCR is planning to have chauffer-driven BMW i3s, like at its Battersea site, at the beck and call of residents, and for those who want to be ferried around in more comfort, a couple of Audi A8s too.

Are you beginning to notice something all the residents have in common?

If this all sounds rather luxurious, that it is the intention. Comparing the flat sizes to Mayor of London’s recommended size for new developments, LCR’s are generously proportioned. The flats are substantially bigger than the recommended size for flats in the London plan; e.g. the one-beds are 69m2 vs a recommended 50m2; the two-bed and three bedroom flats similarly generous.

The architects Robin Partington stated in the Design and Access statement: LCR’s brief requires the apartments to be larger than national space standards. Residents are typically downsizing from big family homes, and although there are only 1-2 people living in each apartment, space is appreciated to maintain their way of life and house their belongings“.

Finally, a non-white face in the promo images – he’s a waiter!

The luxury nature of the development is reflected also in the viability statement: “In the assessment of market values, which have been provided by Savills we understand that the specification of the common parts and apartments will be of a very high quality and reflective of the luxury retirement living that the scheme will deliver.

Why no affordable housing?

The first argument is a bit technical and has to do with use classes. LCR states that the flats should be designated as class C2 (hospital or nursing home) rather than C3 (housing). It’s understandable that the 15-bed nursing home would be C2, but the 82 flats? One common way to determine if a property is C2 or C3, is the ‘front door test’. If residents have their own lockable front door, then the flats should be C3, and it seems that would be the case here in these generous flats. To get around this definition, LCR will offer a couple of hours of assistance per week, whether the residents want it or not.

This approach has been tried before. Another retirement home developer, Pegasus Life, tried the same idea for the equally luxurious Hampstead Green Place on Rowland Hill in Hampstead. It argued the housing was C2 (offering 1.5 hours of care a week) but lost the argument and the 60 flats are being built as C3.

The other argument used by LCR is the standard plea of poverty – or at least too low a profit margin.

Linden Homes bought the site from Thames Water for £3 million, and those proposals allowed for £6.8 million to affordable housing in the first scheme and 10 affordable flats in the second. Linden Homes sold the site to LCR for £11 million according to the Land Registry records.

What does the viability statement say?

*Warning it’s going to get a bit complicated here, but bear with us, it’s important*

LCR commissioned property consultancy Rapleys to write a viability report to submit with the planning application. It’s hard to follow as it’s redacted, but it is possible to make some educated guesses as to what the numbers might add up to on a development of this scale, with the help of industry insiders.

To reach its conclusion, Rapleys had to calculate the “residual land value”, which is Gross Development Value (basically “revenue from the sale of flats”) minus costs, planning contributions, and profit (typically assessed at around 20%). This is then compared to an appropriate benchmark value to assess the viability of affordable housing contributions.

Let’s do the sums.

First, the gross development value. To calculate this, we need to know how much private flats like these would be worth? We have a  good benchmark with the high-end West Hampstead Square development, which also has some amenities (though nothing in the league of the proposal from LCR). Gondar Gardens is further from the stations, which makes it cheaper, but also not between two train lines. On balance it’s easy to argue Gondar Gardens would sell for more than West Hampstead Square, but WH Square will be a good benchmark. On this basis (looking at recent resales), a 69m2 one-bed flat in Gondar Gardens would be £825,000, a two-bed 90m2 flat £995,000, and a three-bed flat a cool £1.35 million.

(Interestingly, in nearby Hampstead, Pegasus Life is marketing two posh retirement schemes although with fewer amenities. Nevertheless, at one of these schemes, the cheapest two-bed flat is on for £2.95 million, so we may we wildly underestimating Gondar Gardens).

Sticking with the Ballymore equivalents, the sale of the flats would generate approximately £85 million. The fifteen extra care beds have a market value, like all care-home beds, of about £295,000 each, so are valued at £4.5 million. Adding the two together gives a total gross development value of £89 million.

Now we need to look at the costs of development. Rapleys don’t disclose the construction costs but based on this nearby scheme (which is equally modern, but a bit less posh), we estimate construction costs for a development like LCR’s would be about £2,500/m2 for the 14,088m2. This is perhaps the number with the most margin for error in our calculations given that just under half of the development is taken up with all those facilities. However, LCR is effectively arguing that building all these extra luxury facilities means it won’t have any money to build affordable housing.  By comparison, a normal housing development would have 10-15% of ancillary space (corridors, communal areas etc).

In total, we estimate build costs of around £35 million. Add to that a 5% contingency (£1.75 million), professional fees at 10% of costs (£3.5 million) and marketing fees – 2% of GDV to sell the flats (£1.6 million).

Then there are community infrastructure levy (CIL) costs (this is the money that developers pay local councils and City Hall to help offset the additional public sector costs incurred by having more people and development in the area). Normally CIL is calculated on the increase in residential floor space, as this is the driver of any additional strain on local resources. For Gondar Gardens, LCR is arguing that the increase in area is 9,242m2, not 14,088m2, using the empty and derelict reservoir space of 4,866m2 as the “existing use”. There is a clear change of use, so it’s not clear why LCR does not using the full 14,088m2 to calculate their contribution.

Under its proposal, Camden would receive a CIL contribution of £2,310,500 and City Hall would take £462,100 (if the full development area was used, there would be an additional £2 million of combined CIL due).

Revenue minus costs, therefore, is calculated as £89 million less build costs of £35 million, a contingency of £1.75 million, marketing fees of £1.6 million, professional fees of £3.5 million and a total CIL of £2.75 million. That gives a gross profit of £44.m million. The accepted 20% profit margin of the GDV is £17.7 million, which leaves a residual land value of £26.7 million. The numbers are obviously not exact but our industry insiders agree this is a good ballpark figure.

This residual land value basically translates to “extra profit”, which means that it’s where contributions to affordable housing would come from. Recall, that based on a much smaller scheme, Linden Homes was offering a contribution of more than £6 million. If LCR was to make a contribution then using the calculations from the Pegasus schemes in Hampstead (for which Rapleys also produced the viability report) it would deliver a £10.6 million contribution.

Yet below is their redacted claim that they can’t afford any affordable housing contribution.

Our estimate of the residual land value of £26.7 million is considerably more than the £11 million LCR paid for the site. Even if we deduct an affordable housing contribution of £10 million (which, LCR claims it can’t afford), that would still leave a residual value of £16.7 million – still more than the cost of buying the site. Even if our building costs are wrong, they would have to be substantial underestimations to soak up all this residual value. It is therefore hard to understand how no affordable housing contribution at all is deemed viable. Perhaps the expected sale value of the flats is far lower than comparable schemes.

LCR/Rapleys instructed Carter Jonas to carry out an independent valuation of the site to form the benchmark value. They don’t disclose this, but obviously it would be interesting to know how it compares to the £11 million that LCR paid for the site (bear in mind also, that the site comes with planning permission for the revised frontage scheme and its £6.8 million affordable housing contribution).

LCR told us that that have commissioned a further independent assessment of the assessment and were in discussion with Camden’s appointed surveyor, but had no further comment.

Conclusion

This proposal illustrates a significant flaw in the planning system that gives an advantage to developers of luxury retirement schemes. First, such developers are incentivised to claim such schemes are care home and not housing, even if they pass the front door test. Then, the more luxurious they make it and the more ancillary facilities they offer (and have to pay for), the more they can avoid making any affordable housing contribution.

This analysis has also been an interesting insight into the Alice-in-Wonderland economics of viability reporting. It’s important stuff, but too often developers deploy smoke and mirrors around the planning department and unless at least some members of the public understand what is going on developers get away with it. Why, for example, should so many of the figures be redacted? We had the same situation with Liddell Road, which was publicly owned land and being used partly for a public amenity.

Part of this is due to the merry-go-round of a developer buying a site and getting planning permission for one scheme and then selling it on to another, ratching up the base value. One reason for the planning system is to capture some of the financial gain when land is redesignated for another use. Yet it appears developers can drive a chauffer-drive BMWi3 though that objective.

Baby boomers lucky enough to have bought their houses in the 1970s and 80s and have made huge windfall gains. They now get sell them and move into luxury retirement flats that avoid the requirement to build affordable housing. A competing developer that was building ordinary flats for young people and young hard-working families would have to build affordable housing. Sorry, Generation Rent, it’s heads you lose, tails they win.

Twelve things to do in West Hampstead in December

There’s always a (snow) flurry of things to do in December, the challenge is fitting them all in between the socialising and recovering from socialising that seems to define the final few weeks of the year.

We don’t have to credit Tim Mossholder for the image, but we would like to. Seasons greetings Tim!

On Saturday 9th, from 7.30-9.30 pm is the Hampstead Chorus Autumn concert with Gabriel Faure’s Requiem, Francis Poulenc’s Gloria and The Heavens and the Heart by James Francis Brown. They sing at UCS and you can get tickets here.

For something a little lighter, on Thursday 14th at 7.30 pm in Emmanuel Church – and with some audience participation – the Fortune Green choir is holding its concert with a guest appearance from Cantereas (a vocal ensemble based in West Hampstead). It should be a really nice concert, and it is raising money for the Mayor of Camden’s chosen charity – C4WS, the homeless charity that operates out of Emmanuel Church. The Mayor will be attending. The suggested donation is £5 (with mulled wine and mince pies afterwards).

If you’re after something a bit more serious, then on Saturday 16th, the Hampstead Chamber Choir is celebrating a European Christmas, also in Emmanuel Church. Audience participation in the carols here too. Tickets are £12.

Something for the younger residents?

On Saturday 9th at the Community Centre is a holiday gifts workshop. Make a present for granny, she will love it! And who knows your kid might even make it into the John Lewis ad next year…

Then on Wedensday 14th, the ever-popular Sherriff Centre Panto is back. Oh, no it isn’t. Oh, yes it… save me from this please. But it is already fully booked – oh no it isn… yes, yes it is. This year it is Sleeping Beauty.

For the even younger residents, there is a not-very-Christmassy-but-who-cares Baby Broadway concert on Saturday 16th at 11 am in Emmanuel Church. You can get tickets here.

Something a bit more entertaining?

On Monday 11th at West End Lane Books, Nina Stibbe will read from “An Almost Perfect Christmas”. It’s at 7.30 pm and free, but is also a chance to pick up a copy of the book (and pay for it too, obvs). Looks like quite a nice stocking filler/Christmassy present. (Please reserve a place).

The JW3 Icerink opened again on the 3rd and will be open until Sunday, January 7th. It’s closed on Sabbaths but will be open on the 25th and 26th December so something to do on Christmas day or Boxing day to work off the calories. And oddly, it’s sponsored by a … firm of accountants!

On Monday 18th at the Alliance, it’s the Christmas offering from Locally Sourced with actress Annette Badland and an anthology of seasonal delights. She’s a familiar face on TV (and voice on radio – she’s  Hazel on the Archers!) Also appearing will be pianist Kat Gillham and baritone Phil Wilcox, so expect some Christmas melodies. This could be a lot of fun.

With the closure of the Good Ship, things comedic do seem a little thin on the ground in the ‘hood, however, something new(ish) on the radar is the London Improv theatre. They have what looks like some really good events coming up. Starting with… “God, the Untold Story” , on December 5th, 6th and 7th.

I liked the look of the Glenda J collective on Friday 15th, but it’s… you guessed it, sold out.

Also on the bill is Slattery Night Fever on Saturdays December 16th and 23rd. Booking recommended to see one of the original Whose Line is it Anyway greats.

Indeed, there is a whole host of other events including Improv Friday with a double bill of the Inflatables/Music Box. Last time I went, a group of mates sitting next to me had been to celebrate a friend’s birthday and these seem like go-with-a-couple-of-mates kind of things to do.

Finally, it’s not very Christmassy but the current Camden Arts Centre exhibitions are worth seeing both Natalie du Pasquier and Christian Nyampeta. A nice destination for an afternoon walk, and there is a rather good café too!

So there you are good dozen suggestions of things to do this month. We’ll cover the Christmas services separately.

Italian embassy chef cooks live at Scavolini Store West Hampstead

Sponsored post

Danilo Cortelleni, the head chef to the Italian Ambassador and Masterchef: The Professionals finalist, cooked up an Italian feast at the Scavolini Store West Hampstead, on the edge of Fortune Green on Tuesday evening.

Danilo took centre stage in the wonderful Diesel Social kitchen, where he created a host of delicious Italian food for guests to enjoy.

It was a real treat to watch the Masterchef star in action as he cooked dishes from his latest book, 4 Grosvenor Square. As the Prosecco flowed, we got an opportunity to watch a top chef in action, and learned a few Italian cooking secrets too.

As soon as Danilo started cooking, the showroom filled with delicious aromas. He tantalised our taste buds with his amazing cooking, and the finished results tasted as good as they looked and smelled.

Delicious dishes included marinated Sicilian red prawns with burrata mousse, pumpkin risotto with sage and gorgonzola cheese and Danilo’s show stopping multicolour ravioli with ricotta.

“You can’t have an Italian cooking demonstration in an Italian kitchen without fresh pasta. The multicolour ravioli looks hard to make, but as everyone saw, it is not that complicated, once you overcome the fear”, says Danilo.

You can tell that Danilo cooks from the heart, as he talks about the importance of putting love and care into every dish.

“The basic rule of Italian cooking is that you must love the ingredients and put care into the preparation. If you don’t put love into what you are doing it won’t work. It is the same with the place where you cook the food. If the food is comforting, the space where the food is cooking needs to be comforting too. I can talk for a good slice of Italians, especially ex-pats living in London, when I say that the kitchen and the food makes you think of home. My cooking tonight is a celebration of Italian life and that is why I have loved cooking at Scavolini, it feels familiar and homely”, says Danilo.

Brani Hadzhi, showroom manager says: “We are so pleased that Danilo could join us in the showroom. It was great to see our two fully working display kitchens being used by such a prestigious chef. Danilo’s cooking brought the authentic a taste of Italian food to West Hampstead tonight. We hope this is the first of many visits from Danilo”.

“Scavolini kitchens are how we Italians feel a kitchen should be, everything is where it should be. The Scavolini designers understand how you use space and how you move around, and the kitchens work well.

In the two and half years since it opened the Fortune Green showroom has quickly become a destination store for stylish contemporary and traditional Italian kitchen, bathroom and living room furniture.

The team at the Scavolini Store has also become a part of the local community. They sponsor the Friends of Fortune Green monthly clean up and took part in the annual Jester Festival.

“Our clients are mostly from North London and we particularly enjoy meeting and getting to know the locals. Many have become friends, for example, we recently hosted the local Women’s Institute for one of their monthly meetings. We love opening the showroom to the community and will be holding more events in 2018”, says Brani.

An Insight into: Mill Lane Barbers

Among the ebb and flow of businesses on Mill Lane there are a couple of constants; Mill Lane Barbers is one of them. To get the view from the barber’s chair, WHL popped in to as Prod, the owner, was preparing for the day. Prod’s family is Greek-Cypriot by origin, although he was born and grew up in north London. His full name is Prodromos Prodromou, which sounds exotic to Anglo-Saxon ears, until you realise that the English equivilent would be John Johnson.

Always a cheery welcome at the Mill Lane Barbers.

Before setting up his own business Prod was a freelance barber. Fifteen years ago, yes it’s been that long since it first opened, Prod decided to open his own barbershop on Mill Lane. Over time he’s been joined in his team by Vas and George.

What brought you to West Hampstead?
“To be honest it was my wife, or more correctly at the time girlfriend. She was living in Brondesbury Park and we would come over here for dinner or a coffee. I just liked the feel of the area, it was a good, busy area.

So when I was thinking of opening my own barbershop it was the obvious choice. I was (and still am) living in Finchley which was saturated with barbers. Here in West Hampstead, although there were quite a few hairdressers, there were fewer barbering options so I thought it would be good place to open up.

My aim was to make it a simple, but good quality gent’s barbers. I didn’t want to be on West End Lane, the rents were too high and it wasn’t necessary, so I settled on Mill Lane and am glad I did.”

What was your first memory of the area?
“My first memories are what drew me here –  that, even though West Hampstead is so close to the city,  it had (and has) a strong local community where people know each other.

As for places, I have fond memories of Upstairs Downstairs cafe, which was a favourite haunt of my wife. It’s on the corner where Firezza Pizza is now.”

What has surprise you the most about how West Hampstead has changed?
“Many of the independents, the smaller more interesting businesses, have gone and the big boys have arrived.

Every spare bit of space has been developed. I remember the old pub and shops up by Fortune Green, which is now Alfred Court. Likewise all the developments down by the station mean West Hampstead is even more densely populated. This also means more barbers and coffee shops, but more potential clients too – we are still doing OK.”

An action-packed day at MLB

What’s for lunch?
“Normally, I bring in something from home. Otherwise of course I miss the Kitchen Table, where I would sometimes get some lunch. However, I like our new neighbours at the Mill Café. They even open at 8am for breakfast, which is earlier than the Kitchen Table, so I pop in every now and then. Actually, the food is really good, it’s really worth a visit.”

Describe West Hampstead in three words?
Busy, developing and affluent

Anything else to add?
“Well, my main bugbear is the rubbish! (Ed – why am I not surprised). It’s not easy running a business on Mill Lane and it doesn’t help to have mounds of rubbish along the road. I’ll often mutter to myself or tweet about it. But I’ve tailed off a bit recently as it gets boring, and maybe things are also slightly better. Still some way to go though.”

What have you missed since November 27th?

Tulip entered into a bit of a spat with Channel Four news; they questioned her at the recent Nazanin rally on West End Green about a Bangladeshi QC who has disappeared. She got flustered and made what she later said was an “ill-judged” comment to a producer, although still reported the episode to the police; Channel 4 in turn complained to Labour about her comment and publicised the footage.

There’s increased competition on the Christmas tree market here in West Hampstead. We took a closer look at the options. Where will you buy yours from? And will your spend over £600 for the full service?!

The killers of of Yasir Bashir (the guy who was shot in Kilburn this time last year) received long prison sentences. It also appears that the kid who pulled the trigger (still unnamed due to his age) had a traumatic upbringing.

West End Lane was out of action this week due to a water main that burst on Wednesday morning. Any hopes of a speedy repair were dashed. Latest is that is may be re-opened by Monday. (Why do they burst over winter?)

Repairs underway on West End Lane, as seen by Michael Hilton

The tube station was closed on Monday due to a passenger incident. Apparently, it was a young lady who fell onto the tracks but was rescued.

And it was crunchtime on Mill Lane

It was the West Hampstead Christmas market, and Emmanuel School AND Beckford School Christmas Fairs on the same day.

The Lib Dems picked their candidates for Fortune Green ward; Cllr Flick Rea (the last Lib Dem standing) will stand again. She is joined on the ticket by local mum Tracey Shackle, who helped improve Maygrove Peace Park and by another local Adrian Bridge, who is a travel writer for the Telegraph.

RIP Jean Smith. This former West Hampstead librarian was a popular figure in the area and as Cllr Flick Rea said “Jean was for many years, a loved and respected member of West Hampstead’s community”.

Nazanin continued to be in the news – there was moving interview with her three year daughter Gabriella (in the Sun of all papers). Supporters for Nazanin’s release will be outside 10 Downing Street singing carols on Tues 5th. Here’s hoping Nazanin IS home for Christmas.

It’s the West Hampstead NDP meeting this week (Mon 4th) and the nascent Kilburn NDP meets on the 5th.

It’s taking joint chairs AND a secretary to fill the boots of James Earl as chair of the Fordwych RA! (We will miss you James).

The Sherriff centre is proving inspirational. Not just here but to the Knox United Church in … Calgary!

A new sushi place is opening up, down on Broadhurst Gardens!

And a new ‘eatery’ is opening at 32 Mill Lane called Mon Way; with a vegan buffet over Sunday.

It was the Whampsocial at the Gallery – I know I’m biased but I really can’t recommend these highly enough. It was another really pleasant event and great to meet more new people.

Coming up this week

Mon 4th – West Hampstead NDF meeting 7:30pm

Tues 5th – Carol singing for Nazanin at 10 Downing Street

Tues 5th – Kilburn NDF 6:30pm
Tues 5th – Derek Jacobi @ West Hampstead Library (fully booked)
Sat 9th – UCS Chorus concert
Wed 13th – Sidings AGM
Thurs 14th – Christmas Concert at Emmanuel church.

Where to buy a Christmas tree in West Hampstead

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

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

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

The Mill Lane Gardening Project

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

They can arrange delivery at a small cost.

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

Pines and Needles

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

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

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

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

George the grocer and West Hampstead Fruit and Veg

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

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

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

 

What have you missed since November 20th?

West Hampstead was all over the news this weekend due to a rally for Nazanin on West End Green and Mum’s march to the Islamic Centre in Maida Vale.

There is a new Christmas tree seller in town, Pines and Needles, and they are not popular. Locals are worried about the impact on the Mill Lane Gardening project which raises money to train those with learning disabilities. Although in all fairness quite a few like the lights on the Green. P&N have agreed not to trade next Saturday (during the Xmas market, when the Mill Lane Gardening Project will be selling at the Market) and will make a donation to the project.

Last week was Thanksgiving so the chance to tell the story of the artist behind Mount Rushmore, you know those four Presidents carved into the mountainside, who lived in Kilburn. Yes, really.

It’s just under six months until the 2018 local elections, but Camden Labour launched their campaign. They are gunning for a landslide with Swiss Cottage and Belsize in their sights. And maybe even Hampstead if the last election figures were anything to go by?

The Tories have chosen their candidates but haven’t publicised it very well (indeed can’t find a list anywhere on their website).

The Lib Dems are choosing theirs tomorrow.

He’s not standing in West Hampstead, but in neighbouring Hampstead, however, rising star Henry Newman of Open Europe was on Radio 4 Any Questions (and was open about his Italian boyfriend in one answer).

Thameslink 2000 is arriving in …2020. Originally costed at £650m the total bill will be £7bn…

This was a trip down memory lane on a C11.

West Hampstead tastes like ‘spam and chocolate’, odd but better than poor Kilburn

Camden refused permission for those ugly phoneboxes on West End Lane. At the bottom, by the stations, it would have cluttered the pavements we are trying so hard to keep clear. Up by West End Green, there are already several ugly and unused phone boxes.

Wanna rent on shop on Mill Lane? Included parking (if you don’t mind you customers climbing over a car to enter the shop)

Wanna know how to refurbish your flat on a shoe-string? This West Hampstead resident shows you how.

Mini-saga. A ring was lost! A ring was found. Much shorter than Lord of the Rings.

Coming up this week

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

Wed 29th – WELBooks Christmas 20% off day.
Thurs 30th – Whampdrinks at the Gallery
Fri 1st – Sheriff Centre Christmas Countdown (5-6pm for the kids)
Sat 2nd – 8th West Hampstead Christmas market on West End Green 10am to 4pm.
Sat 2nd – Emmanuel AND Beckford Christmas fairs
St 2nd – Fundraising walk – on homelessness raising money for C4WS
Sun 3rd – Hampstead Village Christmas Fair 12-5pm
Mon 4th – West Hampstead NDF meeting

Tweet of the week (and click on it to hear Emma talking)

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.

Mt Rushmore

From Kilburn to Mount Rushmore: The story of Gutzon Borglum

Mt Rushmore

Mount Rushmore: Photo by Brian Sandoval on Unsplash

It’s Thanksgiving in America, so what better time to dig into the link between Kilburn and the man behind one of the most iconic landmarks in the US.

American artist and sculptor Gutzon Borglum lived and worked at Harlestone Villa in Mortimer Road, Kilburn from about 1897 to 1902. The property was later renumbered as 6 Mortimer Place but was damaged in 1944 by the V1 flying bomb which destroyed North Hall, the house next door. Both buildings were demolished and today the site is covered by Halliwell House on the Kilburn Gate estate.

While at Harlestone Villa, Borglum painted murals for private homes but he is best known as the sculptor who produced the giant heads of US presidents carved into the summit of Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

Gutzon Borglum in 1919

Born in a frontier town in Idaho in 1867, Borglum was of Danish extraction. His father was a Mormon with two wives who were sisters. Borglum ran away from home to study art in California, and at the Julien Academy and the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris where he was influenced by Rodin.

He arrived in London in 1896 and rented a studio in West Kensington before moving to Kilburn. Although gaining recognition as an artist he was not earning a lot of money. He said, “I have had the disturbing pleasure of being called Master by the French critics and some Americans, yet at the moment I cannot spend sixpence without wondering where the next one will come from.”

In 1901, the daughter of a Californian friend came to stay at Harlestone Villa. Her name was Isadora Duncan and at a party she danced for Borglum on the villa’s large lawn, scattering rose petals behind her.

Borglum received a commission for twelve painted panels to be installed in the Midland Railway Company’s new hotel in Manchester. The fee was five thousand guineas (today worth about £550,000). In 1903 he supervised installation of the panels which were made in America. They depicted scenes from ‘A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream’ and the court of King Arthur.

Returning to America, Borglum became a very successful sculptor. His politics were crude; he was anti-immigrant and a racist. He criticised other artists and even called for the destruction of a public statue. Borglum courted the press and they loved him. In 1915 he put his reputation on the line and promised to make a huge monument to Southern Confederacy at Stone Mountain in Georgia. His patrons, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, did not have sufficient funds so he mortgaged his 500-acre estate in Connecticut. But after ten years he had completed less than a tenth of the carving and was fired by the Stone Mountain Association, accused of wasteful expenditure and having an ungovernable temper. The Association claimed ownership of his models and put out a warrant for Borglum’s arrest. He destroyed the models and became a fugitive, deeply in debt and publicly humiliated.

Doane Robinson, a South Dakota historian, had read about the large numbers of people travelling to Georgia just to watch Borglum at work. He believed that a mountain carving could put the little known South Dakota on the map. He wrote to Borglum suggesting a project in the Black Hills, perhaps carvings of the western explorers Lewis and Clark, Buffalo Bill and Chief Red Cloud. Borglum replied that national heroes would be better and it should be the Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt (a personal friend of Borglum). But the attempt to raise $50,000 as seed money from the public only realised $5,000. The project became a joke. One paper said, “Borglum is about to destroy another mountain, thank God it is in South Dakota where no one will ever see it.”

President Calvin Coolidge was persuaded to spend a summer holiday in South Dakota and this helped raise the total to $42,000. Coolidge pledged the government would provide additional funds. In 1929, Borglum began work with only about a tenth of the money he needed. He didn’t even know if the project was feasible as it was 500 feet to the top of Mount Rushmore and the weather in winter would make work impossible. Using jack hammers and dynamite Borglum thought the figures would take four years to complete. But money ran out and work slowed down.

In 1931 the Rushmore Association was in debt with little chance of raising any further funds during the Depression. Worse was to follow, after a severe drought created the Dustbowl. People left the state in droves and work stopped completely in 1932. Borglum and Senator Peter Norbeck persuaded influential contacts to obtain federal funds from the National Park Service and work recommenced after a year’s delay. Borglum’s 21 year old son Lincoln, who was very popular with the 400 workmen, was the site supervisor when his father was away.

In March 1941, just as he was completing the sculptures, Gutzon Borglum died suddenly from complications after surgery. He was 73. Congress stopped all funding as the United States joined the Second Wolrd War that December but Borglum’s son Lincoln finished the project, which had taken 14 years and involved removing half a million tons of granite to form the four 60-feet high figures.

Here is a film showing Gutzon Borglum working on the mountain:

What have you missed since November 13th?

A new farmer’s market opened up in the O2 carpark. It was a soft opening this week, but some nice stalls and the weather was good.

Sticking to the food theme, Deliveroo opened up a new kitchen in the area, more delivery choices, but at what cost?

There will be a mum’s march, supported by local Emma Thompson, this coming Saturday 25th at 10:30 for Nazanin. Meeting point is West End Green with a short speech, refreshments and writing Christmas letter for her. Then off for the march.

Is this a bridge I see before me? Well, the beginnings of one at least. Seen at West Hampstead Overground.

It was Children in Need on last Friday, they raised (ahem) ‘a bit’ of money. Hopefully more from the Katie Melua official single, which was recorded at Hoxa studio in … West Hampstead.

More locally, there was a ride and raise spinathon (six hours!) at Studio Society to raise money for mental health work for those affected by the Grenfell tragedy. Well done Claire, Ruth and all the cyclists for raising over £4,000.

And… West Hampstead was in the thick of Mitzvah day, the Jewish fundraising and action charity day. The Mayor was out helping to collection at little Waitrose and there was cooking at JW3, but too many multi-faith interdenominational cooks?

Among other charities they were raising money for CW4S, it’s the Mayor of Camden’s chosen charity which over the winter months operates a weekly shelter out of Emmanuel church (and other churches in Camden).

Crisis are looking for volunteers at Christmas, particularly for female volunteers at their Women’s residential centre in North London. (Ed – I volunteered at Crisis one year, it changed my attitude to the homeless).

This West Hampstead property was originally offered for £3.5 million earlier this year, failed sell at £3.25 million in June. Came this week to auction (lot 18) at £2.5 million – and sold for £2.165 million (38% off the original asking price).

Is West Hampstead becoming a dormitory town? This studio flat is for rent at £1,400 a month; two single beds but erm no living area.

This local was assaulted the other day when they asked a mini-cab driver to pick up some rubbish they had dropped. Did you witness anything?

Hampstead School has a sixth form open evening on Thursday 23rd.

Friends of West Hampstead Library new writer in residence posted this blog piece on the recent Graham Gouldman event. It’s a lovely read. Welcome to West Hampstead Tal!

Just over a month ’til Christmas… Cocao Bijoux are opening a pop-up shop.

Titan (he’s a missing cat) has been spotted down near Maygrove Road. Anyone living down there (MILAM we are looking at you) can you take a look?

Tweet of the week

Coming up this week

20th, Mon – Locally Sourced, poetry and jazz @theAlliance
24th, Fri (and on-going) new exhibition ‘Ripe’ at Kingsgate project space
24th/25th/26th – Kingsgate Centre designer-maker fair (highly recommended)
25th, Sat – Barn dance Community Association at Emmanuel church! Yee-haw.
30th, Thur – Whampdrinks at the Gallery (highly, highly recommended!)

New Sunday food market in O2 car park

At 10am this Sunday, West Hampstead welcomes a new food market. The imaginatively named 255 Finchley Road Market is in the O2 car park (some old hands may remember when the Swiss Cottage farmers market was there on Wednesdays, before our own Saturday market had started).

Land Securities, owners of the O2, approached the Food Commission, which already runs the successful Brook Green Market and Kitchen about setting something up. The market will be at the Sainsbury’s end of the car park (on the ‘bus stop’ side) but you won’t be able to miss it – there will be more than 20 stalls, including:

  • Astons Organic Bakery
  • Dee’s Pies
  • Popina Bakery (a familiar face from the Saturday market)
  • Mini Crops (oh so trendy micro greens, sadly not at micro prices)
  • Wild Country Organics (another familiar face from our Saturday market)
  • Woodlands Jersey Beef (beef from Hampshire’s Meon valley)
  • Picks Organic Farm (for those other meats)
  • The Mushroom Table (biodynamic mushrooms – for the biodynamic man – or woman, in your life)

For you homesick Europeans there are a range of European stalls (buy now, before Brexit tariffs)

  • La Contrada (Italian cheese and hams)
  • L’Ami Jac (French wines selected by a Scotsman)
  • Montadito (Spanish foods)
  • The Olive Bar (anti-Brexit, antipasti from across Europe)
  • Nonya Secrets (from further afield, Malay/Singaporean sauces)
  • Quickes Cheese (cloth-bound cheddar)
  • Pep and Lekker (vegan and gluten-free soups)

If you are bit peckish on the day they will have a few stalls selling food to eat then and there:

  • Ede and Bibe (Italian street food)
  • Fruiliamo (Northern Italian street food – mainly vegan/gluten free)
  • The Three Little Pigs (BBQ’d meats in pitta wraps)
  • Rocks (Shellfish cooked on charcoal)
  • Picks Organic Meats (yes the same ones as above, they also sell hot sausages etc)

Looks like quite an interesting selection. And if all that isn’t enough, as at their Brook Green market there will be events such as gin week, butchery workshops, and cheese & wine demos.

London Farmer’s Markets had its own plans for a Sunday market but that planning application has since been withdrawn, so 255 Finchley Road has well and truly stolen a march on them. The new market may well attract a slightly different crowd from the Iverson Road Saturday market, not least the thousands of extra visitors to the O2 centre/Homebase and residents living up and down the Finchley Road. The market will be open 10am to 3pm on Sundays.

Deliveroo offers locals new food options, but at what cost?

 

West Hampstead residents are hardworking and hungry, which goes some way to explain the platoon of Deliveroo bikes we see around the neighbourhood and congregating around West End Green. We are about to see a lot more of them.

Hong Kong, Dubai … West Hampstead

In its quest for world domination, Deliveroo has been trialling a new concept called Deliver Editions. The company is setting up kitchens in low-rent areas like industrial estates and leasing them to existing restaurant operations who employ chefs to share the kitchens and prepare take-away only food. Deliveroo of course is the sole delivery service available so it gets the rent and the delivery fee, while the restaurants get access to the growing home delivery market in new areas without the time and outlay (and risk) of setting up prime retail locations. Delivery is within a 2km radius making sure food stays fresh and hot, apparently.

Having trialled this in Dubai and Hong Kong, the company is now rolling it out in London – including Swiss Cottage. When it is fully operational the Swiss Cottage unit will include nine different sections/kitchens, but initially it’s just five; Lievita, Motu, Ahi Poke, Busaba and Mezze House.

Not everyone is happy

This new concept is taking take-away into new territory and it is also pushing the boundaries of planning.

In Swiss Cottage, Deliveroo has taken over a site behind 117 Finchley Road in the Cresta House car park (where the Estancia steakhouse was). It was a already a light industrial unit (it was an old Post Office sorting office which has been empty for years) so it’s unclear whether it  needs permission for change of use, but it does need permission for the extraction fans and ducting, which it has applied for. However, the operation appears to be up and running before permission had been granted. The company had also applied for an alcohol licence from the neighbouring Estancia steakhouse but withdrew the application after concerns from the police that alcohol should be delivered only with food.

Of course more Deliveroo means more Deliveroo drivers, which not everyone (possibly noone?) is excited about. Swiss Cottage resident Elaine Bodenitz says “it’s got to the point that we are so infuriated.” In response to concerns, Deliveroo has a full-time security guard to marshall the drivers. Meanwhile, Swiss Cottage councillor Roger Freeman is taking up the planning and enforcement issues with the local planning department.

What have you missed since November 6th?

Moped snatches of mobile phones continue to be a problem. One poor woman had her phone snatched outside Wickes on West End Lane.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s ongoing imprisonment in Tehran hit the headlines this week. In a gaffe, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said she was ‘training journalists’, which was seized on by the Iranian authorities as confirmation she was spying. He apologised and may be going to Tehran along with Richard, Nazanin’s husband.  Michael Gove is coming under fire on the issue.

Richard is also very concerned about his wife’s mental and physical health, with recent discoveries of lumps in her breast.

Another West Hampstead sunset thanks to StevieJLowy

A West Hampstead mum, suffering from cancer, was overwhelmed by a crowdfunding drive to raise money for childcare costs for her twins. It’s reached £8,000 with a target of £10,000. You can donate here.

Bienvenue Maison de la Vie (new cafe on the KHR).

Gung Ho, the chinese restaurant, is being reduced in size, apparently part of it will become an architect’s office.

We have heard that Salt House on Abbey Road has been sold to property developers.

A planning application has gone in to redevelop the Gondar Gardens reservoir (the fourth or fifth…) into luxury retirement flats (with an in-house chauffeur service). More on this next week.

There are moves afoot to rename the Minster Road Nature Reserve after Jane Evans who did so much to get it set up.

Anyone seen this earring?

Dexter the cat was found!

Gay West Hampstead 1. Joe Orton lived on West End Lane with Kenneth Halliwell (and for much longer than he lived in Islington)

Gay West Hampstead 2. Keith Vaughan artist, lived on Lyncroft Gardens. His photos are the subject of an exhibtion.

Paddington 2 opened to applause all round (think the Friends of Fortune Green has its movie for next August sorted!). The voice of Aunt Lucy is West Hampstead’s own Imelda Staunton.

Happy 100th birthday to West Hampstead resident Norah. She recalls back in the 1930s, West End Lane had ‘three butchers, a dairy and a haberdashery’. No change then – we still do: Brinkworth Dairy and the butchers at the farmers’ market + two permanent butchers and .. the Village Haberdashery).

What have you missed since 30th October?

The police say things are improving on phone snatches, (‘down by a quarter in the last three months’) and they recovered these two mopeds (along with drugs). They also thwarted this attempted phone snatch and caught this robbery suspect .

But… there have been a few more phone snatches this week – including from the partner of former leader of Camden Council. Apparently, it is not the first time it has happened outside the back of Sainsburys in the O2. Be vigilant.

Other phones were snatched outside Little Waitrose and in a new twist someone had their headphones snatched

Those famous West Hampstead skies were back this week. This one spotted by KateGleeson1

There’s still a long way to go before everyone’s going to be satisfied by the new rubbish and recycling contract (hint: communication is critical, as the comment below the article makes clear).

Remember, remember that there’s lots to do in November. Here are 12 things to get you started. With a couple of extras for good measure.

Monday was not a good day for transport… there was a crash by the Overground station (it was a BMW) and one on the Kilburn High road too!

And over on the Thameslink morning travel were disrupted by TWO broken down trains, one at Farringdon (which took over an hour to sort out). There was further disruption on Tuesday and Wednesday … and Friday. Sigh.

A man reported being raped after being followed from Finchley Road Tube station.

Boris Johnson condemned Iran for detaining West Hampstead mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. The petition calling for her release has reached more than a million signatures. Yes, more than 1 million. Have you signed yet?

And in coffee shop news this one is up for rent and there is a new French one opening on the Kilburn High Road. Oh-la-la.

Twelve things to do in West Hampstead in November

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas is coming …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

West Hampstead giving Camden and Veolia a grilling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard Bradbury from Camden on the spot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What have you missed since October 23rd?

A local resident was scammed at Barclay’s cashpoint. Don’t let it happen to you.

Phone thefts are still an issue and the West Hampstead SNT was handing out this advice.

A woman’s body was found by Menelik Road. Her death was not being treated as suspicious

Who does this leave this apparently never ending supply? wondered Mandira Bhimjiyani? (and WHL too).

WHAT held its public meeting on rubbish and recycling. We know it is an issue dear to your hearts but seems that while lots of you can tweet the tweet, coming to a public meeting was a bit too much of a commitment … Still, it was a good turnout and those that were there, although sympathetic to recycling and terribly polite, gave Camden and Veolia a thorough grilling. More details next week.

A couple of events for Halloweentreats (and maybe face-painting) on offer by Fortune Green or how about decorating a chocolate skull? (cost involved)

The Good Ship closed, but fortunately, its popular comedy club has sailed over the Colonel Fawcett in Camden.

Georgia Gould the new leader of Camden Council has been out and about in sunny West Hampstead.

West Hampstead resident (and Countdown champ) James Slater has been selected to stand as a Labour candidate for Hampstead ward, and at 19 he’s the youngest candidate.

Work began on La Brioche – apparently it’s going to have a brunch focus during the day and then become a restaurant at night. So nothing at all like its next-door neighbour The Wet Fish Café then.

Someone ‘clocked’ that at long last Lena’s Cafe 2 is reopening under a new name… Salad and coffee apparently.

It was a Whampdinner – they really are great fun. If you want a fun night out, with good food and meet some cool new people, sign up. If you don’t, then don’t. (next Whampevent is a Whampdrinks on the 30th Nov).

Newest arrivals on Fortune Green… a plumbers merchants and ….an(other) estate agent.

A teenager (16) was convicted of the shooting of Yasir Beshira last December in Kilburn. A 21 year-old accomplice from West Hampstead was also convicted of the murder. Another defendent was found guilty of manslaughter.

More about the man stabbed in that terrible phone theft incident in Little Venice his alleged killers were arrested in West Hampstead.

It was the Community Associations quiz night in Emmanuel Church.

As if we don’t already have enough trainlines, there is a suggestion that HS2 runs via … West Hampstead!

Ever wondered what it was like to be an older person using local buses?

Mill Lane was resurfaced and for a few brief moments was truly ‘car-free’.

The Friends of Library put on an EXCELLENT evening with Graham Gouldman.

Property madness 1. Wanna buy an ex-council house? It’s only £1.2 million. better hurry though. it’s under offer…

Property madness 2. This guy spotted an empty house in West Hampstead. And it earned him £10k! Though apparently it wasn’t actually empty and now the tenants are being asked to leave.

Property (not madness) LSE have digitised Booth’s map of London poverty. West Hampstead is on the edge, it was mostly ‘Middle class. Well-to-do’, ‘Fairly comfortable. Good ordinary earnings’ with some ‘Mixed. Some comfortable others poor’. No change really.

Camden is submitting a bid to be the London Borough of Culture at the end of November. Now is your chance to have a say.

WHL went to Amnesty UK’s performance of ‘Looking for Mummy’; the dramatisation of West Hampstead resident Nazanin Zaghari-Ratclilffe’s imprisonment. It was an excellent and moving portrayal of complex issue.

And another (younger) West Hampstead resident received a letter. So what you wonder? Well, it was from Paddington Bear!

Coming up this week

After a bumper week last week – as you can see from the newsletter, a bit quieter this week.  But keep and eye out for ’10 things to do in November ‘.

Tues 31st Oct – Halloween! (see above)

Wed 1st Nov. – Mark Forsyth on a “Short History of Drunkeness at WEL books. Might include glass of wine (geddit).

Labour leader visits West Hampstead

Cllr Georgia Gould, the relatively new leader of Camden Council, was out and about in West Hampstead this week. She’s visiting each ward across the borough specifically to meet the groups that make Camden tick.

She was in our ‘hood with Cllr Phil Rosenberg visiting the Sherriff Centre, which impressed her. “It’s unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like quite like it before,” she said. She also met with the Friends of West Hampstead Library, the Maygrove & Iverson Road residents assocation, Sidings Community centre, the NDF and WHAT (to jointly discuss step-free access at the tube station), JW3 and West Hampstead Life.

Cllr Gould grew up in Kentish Town and now lives in Regent’s Park – so she’s Camden through and through – but she confessed she didn’t actually know West Hampstead that well although “by virtue of it being a marginal ward I’ve done a lot of door knocking!”

Georgia Gould being shown round sunny West Hampstead by Cllr Phil Rosenberg.

Keith Moffitt, co-chair of the NDF and himself a former leader of the council, already knows Georgia and was encouraged by her interest in the tube station, adding that “she has a young friendly manner, but is highly competent”. This was echoed by Sue Measures from Sidings who said “she seems very genuine,”  and enjoyed having the opportunity to openly discuss some issues affecting Sidings.

Over at that Library, Jennie Cohen, FoWHL secretary, said that “in all the years that the Friends group has existed – we’re celebrating their 20th anniversary next year – we have never before been visited by a leader of Camden Council, so it gave us all a real boost.” Monica Regli, chair of MILAM was also impressed; “It felt like she was listening, was interested – and took notes(!)’.

Regarding the proposals for the tube station, which needs expanding, Georgia said that “Residents had some very interesting ideas about step-free access at West Hampstead tube station so that’s a lobbying thing for me to help on. We want to have a discussion with TfL about that.”

Of course the issue of rubbish has been the biggest concern for many residents over recent months – and could be a stumbling block for Labour locally in May’s council elections. The contract with Veolia is six months old and most people would agree that it isn’t running 100% smoothly yet. In response to some specific examples of local problems, Georgia said, “we kept our resources in-house to monitor the contract and educate. I appreciate it’s about behavour change; it will take time but we have resources to work with people”. She is still asking people to let them council know where there are issues. Which it seems is all some people who live in the worst-affected areas ever do.

“There are still individual properties where we need to act,” said Phil, to which Georgia added, “You have to be proactive. There were clearly issues when it first was introduced, things have got better but there is still a way to go”.

Although a lot of groups in the area cover both Fortune Green and West Hampstead (and sometimes the boundary between them is a bit unclear) Cllr Gould will be returning to look specifically at Fortune Green in the company of Camden’s only Lib Dem councillor, Flick Rea.

Good Ship Comedy sets sail for new home in Camden

Sad times on Monday night in Kilburn as the Good Ship hosted its final Monday-night comedy gig. The Good Ship closes this weekend after changes to its licence has made it unprofitable and forced owner John McCooke to sell.

Monday night comedy was a core part of the formative years  of the West Hampstead community initiative I began in 2009. Thus it seemed fitting for a few of us to return on Monday to say farewell. It was a busy night. A great line up kicked off by Matt Winning (if you don’t know him – go see him), with local favourite Jay Foreman on the bill as well as one-time hosts Jonny & the Baptists. Angela Barnes will go down in comedy history as the woman who closed the final night – and she did a storming set.

Angela Barnes headlines the last night of Monday night comedy

The Good Ship always had a special place in my West Hampstead heart. For a couple of years around 2011/2012, a constantly evolving group of locals – initially loosely coordinated by me, but increasingly just turning up because they’d know someone there – would head along for an evening of (mostly) high-quality comedy hosted then by the irrepressible Juliet Stephens.

The Good Ship was a different sort of comedy night: low-key, friendly, light on the heckling, rich on the applause – and it even had a weekly raffle, free with your ticket entry. It attracted a mixed crowd. At just £4, it was well within the reach of most, so students from the Central School of Speech & Drama in Swiss Cottage were always well represented. But there were also some older people for whom it was clearly a friendly escape.

There were characters like Freddy, who some of you will remember from his stints as our doorman at whampgathers; there were running jokes about Fisk (look it up) and the bag of shit from the poundshop. But newcomers were always warmly welcomed and even the quieter nights were good fun, while the buzzy nights could be a pounding success with laughs reverberating around the pit. It was an integral part of creating a community.

Jay Foreman with his astonishing tube station song

Comedians themselves liked The Good Ship. It was a safe space to try out some new material – on one of my very first visits there Ed Byrne popped in to do 5 minutes – and the Edinburgh preview shows were a ridiculously good value way to see top stand-ups deliver full shows for a fraction of the price you’d pay once they reached Scotland.

Juliet finally moved on and after a few different interim hosts, her place at the helm was confidently taken by Ben Van der Velde, who has masterfully steered the Good Ship Comedy for the past few years. Ben has rebuilt the momentum of the club and kept that friendly vibe. Wonderful news therefore, that even as we mourn the end of the Good Ship, the comedy night will continue from November 6th at a new venue. The Colonel Fawcett pub in Camden will host; the name will remain (hopefully in perpetuity – no-one wants to see “Unfawced Laughter”) and (eek) the price will go up. By £1. Details and tickets here.

It’s going to be a a challenge to rebuild in a new venue, so do go along and support it if you can. The pub is really close to Camden Road overground station, so it’s really no big deal to get there from West Hampstead or Kilburn. The line-ups are just as good but any comedy night is really only as good as its audiences. The Good Ship’s always had one of the best. Long may it sail.

What have you missed since October 16th?

It’s WHL’s 300th newsletter! Wow. Being a smart lot, you’ll realise that’s more or less six years of reporting on the local news. We now reach more than 2,500 of you and it’s gratifying that we keep hearing how much people appreciate the newsletter.

Before we start with this week’s news here is our very first newsletter!

What did we cover? Well there was something on the Milliband brothers (remember them?), Camden were handing out 2,000 snow shovels – and it hasn’t really snowed since! Gym news as The Gym group was opening up, a Robert Webb tweet, Achillea Flowers got a mention (it also was opening that week), there was talk of a tube strike… and we asked if the Met police should be more visible? Oh and something on recycling. All sounds rather familiar…

It’s sad that this 300th edition coincides with a crime wave that once again is our lead story this week… on which note, let’s crack on.

Earlier in the week there were arrests of two teenagers on a moped in Broomsleigh Street – following an earlier mobile phone snatch on a moped and fatal stabbing in Little Venice.

Then on Thursday, there was an already planned Area Action Forum (public meeting) on moped-related crime, which was well attended and saw a frank presentation by the new Neighbourhood policing Inspector Richard Berns.

There have been further moped-enabled mobile snatches, across the area and from this guy, but good to hear that people rallied round to help him. This one on the weekend and these not, one but two on the night of the meeting. WATCH OUT.

Teenager being arrested after the stabbing incident last night. Picture: @leocodron

To coincide with our 300th newsletter we are having a Whampdinner this week – on the outer reaches of our ‘hood (and indeed a bit beyond) at the Clifton pub. Nice place though. If you want to join there are a few special anniversairy newsletter spaces! Please email They are great fun and it’s nice to meet fellow Whampers. Who knows, we might even crack open the Whampagne.

Mill Lane is closed in sections this coming week, but it is still open for business! It seems to be reopened at the end of each day once work is finished though.

Note that WEL is also closed on Saturday nights to Sunday mornings for crane works at the Overground station. Also note both these sets of work affect bus services.

Camden staged a ‘flytip’ PR stunt but as many pointed out there were enough real fly-tips around. Talking of the perennial problem of rubbish local group WHAT are holding a public meeting this week on the 25th in the Synagogue Hall. They have produced a sensible report with lots of suggestions. If you care about rubbish – and we know many of you do – this is your chance to question Camden.

The Boundary commission have decided to proceed with the proposed changes; so it will be Hampstead. Commissioners decide to drop Kilburn and add Child’s Hill and Hampstead Garden suburb after all. They are asking for further comment and who knows if it will actually happen.

Our historian Dick Weindling was interviewed on Dutch radio about the Beatles being turned down by Decca. You can ‘see’ the radio interview here.

Will there finally be action on parking pressures on Iverson Road?

More on Nazanin – David Cameron wrote on her behalf, which proves she is a spy! ? And there is a performance of the Edinburgh show about her (details below).

Places available at  Fordwych Nursery, which has been open since 1946! (but has just been refurbished) for 2 and 3 year olds.

There was a car crash on the Finchley Road, at the start of rush hour.

The back of 529A Finchley Road has applied to become another fitness studio (see more gym news).

Black Lion – it was all happening and they had a free beer festival (warning this tweet gets rapidly really annoying…).

Welcome to FoWHL new writer in residence and this week they have ‘An Evening with Graham Gouldman’ of 10cc etc fame (look him up kids) but sorry, it’s fully booked.

It’s Halloween coming up – Achillea flowers are getting in the mood… and there is a (chocolate) skull decorating workshop at the Sheriff Centre!

And finally – anyone seen the cats Titan? or Al?

Coming up this week

Mon 23rd – Final Good Ship comedy night.

23rd – Looking for Mummy. Edinbrugh show about Nazanin. Tickets (£10) here.

Tues 24th Fowhl – evening with Graham Gouldman (sorry it’s full booked)

Wed 25th – WHAT public meeting on rubbish (not sold out) at the Synagogue Hall 7:30pm

Thurs 26th – WHampdinner (details above)

Sat 28th – the Smyths at Good Ship (sold out, might be returns)

Sat 28th – CAWH quiz at Emmanuel church – a few places left.

Police “taken by surprise” by explosion in phone thefts

There was a good turnout at last night’s public meeting on moped-crime. It’s a hot topic that didn’t need any extra emphasis, but even as the meeting was taking place another moped-based phone snatch was happening taking place outside Finchley Road tube station.

Good turnout and good discussion – it’s a serious issue.

The first speaker, Judy Thomson, is a public safety officer from Camden, who spoke about how the council is trying to tackle the problem at its source by working with disaffected young people in the borough, although with fewer resources than they would like. This involves work on estates, working with the local police and sometimes involves CCTV camera. I had the impression that CCTV was rather cumbersome and limited given the scale of the problem.

Cllr Flick Rea asked about the ‘broken windows theory’, which suggests that something relatively minor like a rise in litter leads to low-level anti-social behavior which then leads to worse. Judy agreed and replied that they absolutely challenge unacceptable behaviour, for example, fly-tipping.

The second speaker was Inspector Richard Berns, who is in charge of neighbourhood policing in Camden. He’s only been in the post for six weeks, as has he has just transferred from Hammersmith and Fulham, before that he was at Harrow Road after seven years in Hackney. However, he knows West Hampstead well as apparently he had a paperround here 25 years ago!

He was refreshingly frank and said that that the problem had “exploded” and that the growth “has taken us a bit by surprise”. Worryingly, more thefts are getting violent – as the arrests earlier this week in Broomsleigh St following the fatal stabbing in Little Venice confirm.

Moped-enabled crime is a problem throughout central London, but Camden (with 4,147 incidents) and Islington (with 3,587 incidents) are the worst affected boroughs though – whatever our perception – the robberies are very much concentrated in the south of the borough. Earlier this year, Camden and Islington forces merged and given the scale of the problem, extra resources are being put behind the issue, with an additional two dedicated two officers bring the team (‘Operation Attrition’) up to thirty. Of course it is at the fore-front of every officer’s mind at the moment. Despite the rise in crime, we can still expect further cuts in police numbers, although Inspector Berns said “these would be due to natural wastage”.

One audience member asked if road checks would help contain the issue but Inspector Berns was skeptical, suggesting that the criminals would simply avoid them and drive away. The mopeds they use are stolen and are seen as being practically disposable by the criminals. Once they are stolen any identifying marks are filed down and number plates removed. Look out for mopeds with no number plates then.

There was some cynicism in the audience about whether it was even worth calling the police to report crime. One audience member, Simon Benson, was recently mugged, had his wallet stolen and – thanks to his driving licence (and address) being in his wallet, had his car stolen too. The police response was to close the file just 53 minutes after he reported the crime. Inspector Berns agreed this was very poor service, “It was just not good enough”.

Inspector Berns was frank and honest about the scale of the problem.

Berns also confessed that calling 101 – the non-emergency number – is “not very good at the moment” and he was unaware that it is not a free call (it costs 15p per call, the money goes to the telecom companies, not the government). He said that he thinks some crimes don’t get reported as members of the public give up. Another way of reporting low-level stuff was to tweet @Metcc, the Met’s contact centre (8am-10pm).

He dismissed the myth that the police are not allowed to chase suspects, although he clarified that it does depend on the severity of the crime. The stabbing this week was met with a heavy and successful response. He was also asked whether crimes were actually investigated or not and bluntly said, “If they solvable then we will, if not solvable we won’t”.

iPhone users are most at risk from theft – they account for two-thirds of stolen phones, and the problem could get worse with the iPhone X as this will retail for more than £1,000. Even with anti-theft technology the screen alone will be worth £400 so a stolen phone could be used for parts. There is however, no typical profile of a theft victim.

How can you protect yourself?
An obvious simple step is to listen out for the sound of mopeds approaching, they make a distinctive sound. If you see someone standing outside a station looking at their phone, remind them of the risk. Avoid using your phone in public as you walk along and could be vulnerable, and make sure your phone is backed up and secured.

Cllr Russell – herself a recent victim of a break-in – questioned Inspector Berns on local crime figures, which show an apparent year-on-year rise of 38% in Fortune Green and 28% in West Hampstead. Inspector Burns said this was inline with his figures that showed crime figures in Camden and Islington were up 28%, with a national increase of 13%. Nor are these just petty crimes, serious crime is also on the up – and Berns pointed out that for most of his career crime has fallen, so this is new territory for many in the police.

Odd then, perhaps, that the Safer Neighbourhood office on West End Lane will close, as the lease will not be renewed in 2019. But the teams will apparently be moving into West Hampstead police station on Fortune Green Road.

The evening ended with a good point from WHAT chair Mary Tucker, who reflected that TfL is removing ‘countdown’ displays from bus stops as people are now encouraged to check the times on their phones. In public, by the road. Just as we’re telling people to keep their phones hidden. This chimed with an earlier observation that the police and local authorities are looking at putting in bollards and street furniture on estates and alleyways to act as an obstruction, despite having just taken it away to ‘de-clutter’ the streetscape.

Inspector Berns confirmed that crime is on the rise. It is still, as Cllr Olszewski pointed out, relatively low but in our local area we have gone quickly from below the London average to being the average (and the average is rising). Last night was a well organised and well-chaired meeting. It was good to have councillors, the police, local residents all in one room because it is only by working together that we can tackle this. Inspector Berns was refreshingly honest and frank, and perhaps more importantly, came across as competent. He too was pleased with how the meeting went. Let us hope that some increased vigilance from locals and continued work by the police can bring this mini crime wave to an abrupt end.

Crime tops the agenda at upcoming public meeting

Mobile phone snatches on the rise. Image: Unsplash

This Thursday, local councillors will host an Area Forum (aka: public meeting) at the Synagogue Hall in Dennington Park Road. Crime is top of the agenda. The meeting starts at 19:00 with the main business from 19:30.

Last night two suspects were arrested in Broomsleigh Street following a moped-related stabbing that had taken place earlier last night in Little Venice.  The victim, a 28 year old charity worker, was stabbed when he resisted an attempt to snatch his iPhone 7. He was taken to St. Mary’s hospital, but died an hour later.

Mobile phones continue to be snatched by guys on mopeds in West Hampstead (though the problem is far from confined to NW6). This week saw incidents on West End Green, as kids were coming out of Emmanuel School. Last Wednesday on Westbere Road as a woman was parking her car, her mobile was snatched as she was allegedly threatened with a weapon (it wasn’t clear whether it was a machete or an iron bar, but either way it’s extremely worrying).

On Saturday there was another incident on West End Lane at the junction of Cleve Road. The victim was walking alone down West End Lane at around 6.30pm, texting as she walked. When she reached the junction with Cleve Road two men on mopeds appeared and tried to snatch the phone out of her hand. It was dark and happened so quickly that she didn’t get a good description of them. She was shaken but blames herself partly because she knew it was a danger but still had her phone out. Yet it doesn’t feel right that you can’t walk safely around your own neighbourhood.

She didn’t realise that she could (and should) report this to the police, which can be done online. It is really important that this is done so that the police can build up a true picture.

These incidents follow the recent robbery at the busy Sherriff Centre Post Office by three masked guys, also on mopeds. A robbery that took place less than 50m away from the Safer Neighbourhoods office.

The rise in mobile phone snatching has replaced the spate of car thefts and burglaries earlier this summer. It’s hard to tell categorically from the figures, but it does seems that – as we suggested in August – crime is on the rise after years of falling. Hopefully, it is just a blip.

The Conservatives have been rather quiet on the matter, although Claire-Louise Leyland, leader of the local Tories, called a meeting in Hampstead last month. Labour has been suggesting that a combination of police cuts and austerity are at least partly to blame.

It is hard to believe in the face of all this there is a ‘consultation’ on closing the Safer Neighbourhoods office. We should find out more details at Thursday’s meeting.

The main speaker on Thursday will be Inspector Richard Berns from Camden Neighbourhood Policing Teams, alongside Judy Thomson Camden Community Safety.

It doesn’t really need me to say it, but I’m going to say it anyway. Please come along, at worst to find out how to protect yourself to prevent it happening to you. But also because the more residents turn up the more likely we are to get the resources we need to start tackling this issue.

PS:( ‘Locksmith’ stickers have appeared on letterboxes and by front doors (including Cllr Russell’s who was recently the victim of a burglary). They could be related to burglaries and the advice is to remove them.

Two arrested in moped incident on Broomsleigh Street

Residents of Broomsleigh Street were woken in the middle of the night by the sound of police helicopters and cars in action. The police were chasing two suspects on a moped who had been involved in a mobile snatch earlier in the night, that had involved a stabbing. The suspects were 17 and 18 years old.

Man being arrested at the incident last night. Picture: @leocodron

Shortly before midnight a 28-year-old man was stabbed and killed as he resisted when attackers tried to snatch his iPhone outside his flat in Little Venice. It is believed the two incidents are related.

The suspects were cornered at the Black Path entrance on Broomsleigh Street and arrested. Sniffer dogs and forensic teams searched the area at night, looking under cars for evidence. This morning Broomsleigh street was still closed off as a crime scene, with a moped still on site. The moped was later taken away with officers from the Pulsar unit expected this lunchtime for further investigation in the search for traces of blood.

Police officers on at the scene commented that moped thefts are a big problem at the moment with up to 30 incidents a night in Camden alone. On Thursday 19th there will be a public meeting to discuss moped related crime and advice on how to stay safe, taking place in the Synagogue Hall.

What have you missed since October 9th?

There has been a further spate of mobile phone snatches; by West End Green, on Westbere Road and an attempted one on West End Lane. There will be an area action forum this Thursday in the Synagogue Hall to discuss the this issue. Do come.

There’s a brand new chocolate shop on Broadhurst Gardens. But what’s happened to Cocoa Bijoux?

A couple of local venues celebrated their first birthdays.

Finchley Road (in the early 60s?) with trees! image: @villagevoice1

It’s been six months since the introduction of the new rubbish regime and local campaigning group WHAT is holding a public meeting on the 25th on ‘what is working and what is not working’. Coincidentally it is Clean Camden fortnight. Though looks like someone forget tell Kingsgate place… or here and on ‘Mess’ina Avenue

After a slight delay the local Labour party chose it’s candidates for West Hampstead ward in next year’s council elections.

Camden is the third happiest place in London, but neighbouring Brent is one of the unhappiest places in the country! Are they SO different?

West End Lane will be closed on Saturday nights for the next six to nine weeks by the Overground Station (and don’t forget Mill Lane will be closed in sections from the 21st to the 28th).

Her friends and family though that West Hampstead resident Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is being detained in Iran, might be up for early release but instead she faces three further charges and up to 16 more years in prison. Richard, her husband wrote this letter in the Evening Standard, Local MP Tulip Siddiq and Richard appeared on Channel 4 news, while Iranian lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi said Britain must do more.

This Wednesday and Thursday, local film-maker Anna Bowman will be at Kingsgate Community Centre between 1-3pm collecting memories of local community organisations established in the 1970s and 80s. If you have any memories, do go along and share them. You can contact Anna here.

A true West Hampstead stalwart was recognised by Camden magazine – step forward Sue Measures. She has run a tight ship at the Sidings Community Centre for 32 years, including working with local young people. This past Saturday she ran Sidings’ annual heritage fair.

Camden magazine also had an article on the new Kingsgate school building at Liddell Place. A reminder to parents – you need to apply to it (and any other schools) by the end of October. The article omitted that the school will be in the middle of a building site once construction starts on the adjacent housing.

Good news and bad news. First the bad news, the Good Ship is closing for good on the 29th. The final band on stage is incredibly popular tribute act the Smyths and heaven knows we’re miserable now.

The good news is that the Good Ship comedy club is sailing over to Camden to a new home at the Sir Colonel Fawcett (it’s the sister pub to Kilburn’s Sir Colin Campbell). The final show in Kilburn on the 23rd still has tickets available but the special extra show on the 26th is already sold out.

There are scant details on the changes in the C11. This document from TfL just says the changes are ‘to match demand’ but gives no evidence or explanation. The change was introduced on Saturday.

The Hampstead Theatre is facing a 14% cut in its Arts Council subsidy.

Theresa Le – of Ladudu and now Ladudu sauces – was handing out samples at the West Hampstead Farmer’s market this weekend. They are also available to buy at Natural Fruit and Vegetable on West End Lane.

New chocolate shop opens on Broadhurst Gardens

Zyla is a new chocolate shop on Broadhurst Gardens, selling humankind’s greatest invention – all things chocolate! You can get your hands on individuals truffles, gift boxes, drinking chocolate, marshmallows and candies fruit dipped in chocolate – and the list goes on.

The products are sourced from premium Belgian chocolatiers, and the owner and the shop’s namesake – Zoe Yi Ly’s own hand-made chocolates will soon be available.

Hungry?

These chocs are really special for that extra fancy gift or treat, you can make up your own gift boxes or buy them in little bags by weight. I recommend the white chocolate gianduja praline and the Bailey’s truffle. The dark chocolate mousse ganache also hits the spot.

March of the chocolates!

A nice little addition to West Hampstead. We have been spoilt for choice lately with the addition of some great new bakeries and cafes, but Zyla’s artisan chocolate shop has made it just that little bit sweeter.

Cocoa Bijoux, where are you?
Of course many of you will remember that the site on Broadhurst Gardens was previously Cocao Bijoux. Although it is hard work running a shop, when we spoke to Stuart earlier this year, Stuart was thinking about moving further up Broadhurst Gardens to a larger unit, but in the end the unit was too large and as the lease was coming up for renewal he decided to go back to his previous job as a chocolate distributor for his day job.

He is keeping it as an online-only operation. He’s still got a loyal West Hampstead customer base and says he is trading well that way. In a special arrangement for his loyal, local customers he will leave orders at the whisky and cigar shop next door – with no delivery charge.

Two West Hampstead venues celebrate their first birthday

It’s been one year since One Bourbon changed hands and name from One Sixty. To celebrate, it held an anniversary event last week and had a small refurb. When I popped in this week on a regular night there was a distinct buzz. Since the rebrand, there has been a slight shift in emphasis to the drinks side with fifteen beers on offer and whisky bourbon galore.

One Bourbon has many more than one bourbon.

Food does remain a big part of the business and the chef has used the occasion to update the menu. Old favourites remain such as the buffalo wings (they are hot!) and the ribs, but new are ox-cheeks (both as tacos and nuggets) plus there are more vegetarian options with spicy lentil tacos and a veggie burger and some cheese dishes including grilled haloumi.

One Bourbon also has live music on Fridays – if you fancy a bit of blues and rock n’ roll.

One year for the Green Room

On September 29th, The Green Room on Fortune Green had its first anniversary. It’s a more homey operation than One Bourbon – more of a neighbourhood bar that has been building business over the past year.

The quirky Green Room vibe

To celebrate this milestone The Green Room held a party and ran a raffle to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Care (the anniversary fell on the Macmillan fundraising day) collecting a useful £800 for the cause. The bar has DJs on Sundays, live music and shows sports events as well.

The menu, which started with Sunday roasts (I feel it’s time for an update to the ‘Who has the best Sunday roast in West Hampstead?’ story) now includes burgers and other bar favourites (with quite a few sharing options) during the week. It also holds theme menu nights; recent cuisines include Cuban and Mexican.

What have you missed since October 2nd?

A former lettings agent was sentenced to 30 months for theft from several properties including some in West Hampstead. He continue to posed as one to borrow keys from other firms.

The spate of mobile phones and bags snatching continues in the area.

There will be an area forum on the 19th focusing on this ongoing problem.

We popped into Curled Leaf on Mill Lane to get an insight. It’s a good vegetarian option for the area run by Luli and Alketa, she is also an artist, who has just done a TED talk.

Glorious West Hampstead sunset this evening as seen by @MarkSpivey

Save West End Lane 1. There have been four different planning applications to install phone boxes up and down the narrow pavements of West End Lane; on the incredibly busy pavements outside West Hampstead Square, at the junction of Iverson Road and West End Lane, in front of Waitrose and up by West End Green. They seem primarily a vehicle for advertising. No thanks. Local organisations WHAT and the NDF strongly object.

Save West End Lane 2. The Kebab shop opposite the overground has changed hands and installed a garish sign. It hasn’t got planning permission and the Council are taking enforcement action.

What is it about Mill Lane? As well as the Insight with Curled Leaf, we also popped into the Alliance – to meet Hélène Clément who works behind the bar. She has just published her first book. London book launch next week in South Ken. Oh la la.

Staying on Mill Lane we also talked to Lora Verner an artist and photographer who took up art again at the nearby West Hampstead Community Centre. Earlier in her career she had taken photos of Biba, which are now in the V&A. (The photos are in the article, worth a look)

Following the architect of the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate winning the RIBA gold medal there was this analysis. If you care about housing in London, or just housing it’s worth a read.

There will be fewer C11s ‘to match demand’.

It was the Tory Party conference where the Camden Tories pondered their fate in face of the onslaught of Labour in London.

The planning committee approved redevelopment of Holy Trinity Church on the Finchley Road to be replaced by the Lighthouse. If they can raise £11m to build it that is.

La Brioche closed for good. Roger and the team will be missed.

Are you confused by the checkout queues at Waitrose…? It seems many are.

Tweet of the week

It was Bookshop day this week, so someone paid a visit to West End Lane Books…

Un ‘Insight’ avec Hélène Clément

West Hampstead has a quite long literary pedigree – which continues to this day, with three local book launches in September alone. This month sees the launch of another one, but not in English and not at West End Lane Books. Mais non! This book is called “Le Plus Beau Reste á Venir” (Ed = The Best Is Yet To Come) and the launch will be at the French Bookshop, La Page, in South Kensington on Saturday 14th October. The author is Hélène Clément, one of West Hampstead’s large and growing French community.

What brought you to West Hampstead ?

Luck, really. When I had just moved to London nine years ago I was staying in Hounslow, which was way too far from… everything. When a colleague said she had a spare room in her flat on Lymington Road, I took it before even checking West Hampstead out. Best decision ever ! I immediately fell in love with the area. Since then, I’ve had to move flat twice, but never looked anywhere else. West Hampstead truly feels like home.

Behind the bar at the Alliance

Tell us a bit more about your book. Is it your first one ?

‘Le Plus Beau Reste a Venir’ is my first book, yes, so I’m over the moon and really proud that it got published by an important French publishing company.

The book tells the story of four characters, when they’re teenagers in the 90s, and when they meet again in 2010, after eleven years of estrangement, to overcome the loss of the teacher who had changed their lives and brought them together in high school. ‘Le Plus Beau Reste à Venir’ is about second chances, family, friendship and little attentions. Those little attentions which cost nothing but can make a huge difference in someone else’s life.

Where did you write it? And did West Hampstead inspire you?

Some writers need silence and stillness. I need activity. I need fresh air. I need to watch people and everyday situations. So I wrote 90% of my novel outdoors, in West Hampstead, on my notebooks. I was managing a coffee shop in Hampstead Heath at the time. Every day, I would leave work around 3pm and walk back to West Hampstead, to oxygenate my brain and gather my ideas. Once on West End Lane, I would find my writing spot of the day, at one of the cafes in the area if it was rainy. Otherwise, I would head to West End Green, Fortune Green, Hampstead Cemetery or the playground between Lymington Road and Potteries Path. And I would write for hours, inspired by the buzzing life around me.

My story takes place in a French high school, in the French countryside, so not in West Hampstead, obviously. But my readers will never know how much less obviously it’s been fed by West Hampstead. But it does and my affection for the area has grown stronger through the writing of my novel. I can assure you that, one day, I’ll write a novel all about West Hampstead !

What are you West Hampstead favourites ?

For coffee, I always go to Caffè Nero because the team, led by the lovely Teresa, is amazingly friendly, and I’m addicted to their mochas. For a drink, I would highly recommend Thunderbird. Moussa is a gem of a manager ! As for food, Lena’s Café was one of my all time favourites, I’m really sad it has closed down.

Now, if you’re looking for everything at once: great coffee, great drinks and incredibly good food, just come to The Alliance. I won’t get a pay raise for writing this, I truly mean it. I was a customer there long before starting to work for Mike. This is one of the coziest places around and the dining menu is a marvel!

How is life as a French expat in London? What do you miss the most ?

Life in London is amazing. I feel very lucky to live in such a vibrant and open-minded city. If it wasn’t for my accent giving me away, I wouldn’t feel like an expat anymore ! I’m from Carrières-sous-Poissy, a small suburban town, forty-five minutes west of Paris, really close to Saint-Germain (if you follow French football)!

What do I miss the most ? Cheese, obviously ! And pavement seating areas, there aren’t enough of those in Central London.

Describe West Hampstead in three French words :

Paisible – Chaleureux – Charactère. (Ed = peaceful, warm and characterful)

A different kind of Insight: with artist Lora Verner

Lora Verner is an eighty-something artist and photographer who has lived in West Hampstead since 1979, and whose vintage Biba photographs feature in the V&A Museum’s permanent collection.

Born in New York in 1929, the only child of Russian Jews who had fled the pogroms, Lora grew up in Philadelphia where she studied Abstract Expressionism, and became a student at the University of Philadelphia. In the swinging sixties Lora moved to London, where she trained in photography through the Inner London Education Authority with her work influenced by the striking photography of Bill Brandt (who lived in nearby Belsize Park).

Image thanks to Lora Verner

While working as a teacher at the Holland Park School, Lora heard about a new shop called Biba, located near the school and popular with her pupils. Taking her Roloflex camera, she visited the now-iconic, dimly-lit shop. As she disliked using flash, she had to return another time with a higher speed film, which would achieve the high contrast black-and-white images she was after. Fascinated by the mannequins, which reminded her of Surrealist art, Lora took several photographs of the Biba display, saved them, and forgot about them. For fifty years.

Image thanks to Lora Verner

During the 1980s, sometime after her move to West Hampstead, Lora bought a round-the-world ticket and travelled to Japan and China, where she took colour photographs for the first time. Her photographs of Japan were exhibited at the Camden Arts Centre, and she submitted her photos of China to the Photographer’s Gallery in a competition – and won. The prize was an exhibition of her pictures, which drew favourable reviews from The Guardian among others. In later years, Lora travelled often to India, and created a series she entitled ‘Faces of India’.

For personal reasons Lora stopped taking art classes but, in 2011, at the suggestion of a friend who was taking an art class at the West Hampstead Community Centre she went along and started painting again. The depression she had been suffering from began to lift. Over the next three years, Lora created more than 30 portraits from imagination, and in September 2017, she was offered the chance to show her ‘Not Your Usual Portraits’ in a glass kiosk below the Edgware Road/Harrow Road crossing – the Joe Strummer Subway.

Image thanks to Lora Verner

And the Biba pictures? Lora said, “ I had been thinking one day that I should do something with them. I called Christie’s to have them appraised. Then I called the V&A Museum and they said they were very interested.” Lora’s initiative was perfectly timed: the V & A was working on a retrospective of Biba for the fashion label’s 50th anniversary, and they bought several of Lora’s pictures. Three of them are now in the V&A, and her work is featured in the book ‘The Biba Years 1963-1975’.

Image thanks to Lora Verner

What does Lora like most about West Hampstead? She smiled and said, “We have everything here… the different restaurants. We have Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Italian.. we’re spoiled for choice, really!” For this world traveller and photographer, West Hampstead is picture perfect.

An Insight into: Curled Leaf

Curled Leaf is a café on Mill Lane that has a cool, quirky, health-conscious vibe. It’s run by Alketa Xhafa-Mripa and her husband Luli Mripa and is very much a joint effort. Alketa has lived in the area for 20 years, arriving in 1997 to study art at St. Martins. When the Kosovan war broke out in 1998 she applied for asylum and ended up putting down roots in London.

As well as running the café , doing yoga classes plus being a wife and mother, Alketa is also a practising artist. Recent works include creating ‘Traces project’, recognising the 20,000 women who were raped in the Kosovan war and very recently ‘Refugees Welcome’, which deals with the current refugee crisis. And if that wasn’t enough, she’s just done a TED talk in Tirana.

Luli runs the café with Alketa and practises acupuncture in an on-site treatment room. He arrived in London when he displaced by the earlier Bosnian war in 1991. He was studying in Italy when the war broke out as was called up for the draft, but was advised by his parents and friends not to return and ended up in London.

Curled Leaf specialises in teas, particularly herbal teas as Luli is a herbalist, and offers a staggering 52 different types. For the first couple of years, the café didn’t serve coffee, preferring the ‘ceremony of tea’ but eventually gave in to  customer demand. It also serves healthy seasonal vegetarian food and delicious, if not quite so healthy, cakes.

The arty (and veggie) Curled Leaf on Mill Lane

What first brought you to West Hampstead?
“Luck really,” said Alketa. “Although I had lived around north-west London since I arrived, living in Kilburn, and on the Finchley Road. I was looking for somewhere to open a café and saw this place on Mill Lane”. Luli ended up in north-west London when he arrived, just down the road in Maida Vale, but it was Alketa who brought him to West Hampstead.

What’s your first memory of the area?
“I remember it as being a really nice area with small cafés and boutiques plus the charity shops. I liked it and hope that it will stay like that”, said Alketa. Luli’s answer is shorter: “La Brocca.  I remember fondly the live music there.”

What’s surprised you most about how West Hampstead has changed?
“It seems that the area has changed quite quickly, ” said Luli. “It always had those little places, which you thought would survive for longer, but they are gone.” Alketa is more wistful. “I’m not really happy to see lots of change as it loses that vibe and energy and sense of community, where people know each other and help each other. Being a mum myself, I feel West Hampstead is particularly a place where mums are welcome and I would hate to lose that”.

Feeling hungry?

What’s for lunch?
“Here it’s a variety of things! We do seasonal vegetarian dishes. The house speciality is grilled aubergine, or we are offering quinoa with courgette. Also popular is our special corn and spelt bread with spinach. If we go somewhere else, then eggs benedict at the Wet Fish is a favorite or a vegetarian Pad Thai from Banana Tree.”

West Hampstead in three words?
Beautiful, sense-of-community, mums-welcome (yes , Alketa rather stretches the definition of three words).

What have you missed since September 25th?

As part of National Poetry Day on Thursday, local poet Ted Booth wrote a poem about freedom dedicated to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. The West Hampstead mum was denied parole from her Iranian jail this week. Her husband Richard read the poem outside the Iranian embassy and 1,000 copies were given out in West Hampstead.

Tom’s been out and about, eating Italian at Nona in Fairhazel Gardens. How did he find it?

Make a note – Mill Lane will be resurfaced (and closed in sections) from Sat 21st Oct to Sat 28th.

And here are the top twelve things to do in (and around West Hampstead) in October.

Putting your litter in the bin is anything but #despicable in West Hampstead. Image: Marianne Jones

The police are appealing for witnesses to the hold up at the Sherriff Centre, apparently the perpertators were three men dressed in black on mopeds.

The police have also been warning of phones being snatched by moped thieves by the tube station. Be aware. [Ed – reports of another mobile being stolen at the Thameslink last night].

Transport news 1. Following the Underground, is the Overground station ticket office set to close?

Transport news 2. Another train link for West Hampstead! Looks like the Green light for new/upgraded passenger line ‘the West London Orbital’ from West Hampstead to Old Oak Common (future Crossrail hub). More passengers for the the interchange…

Politics (Lib Dem) – former local councillor Nancy Jirira spoke at the Lib Dem conference on how minority ethnic groups are unaware of Lib-Dem policies. Or indeed the Lib Dems.

Politics (Lab) – Tulip continues to battle against a hard Brexit.

There was a very good piece on understanding the World Transformed (i.e. Momentum).

And some cross-party consensus … on chocolate biscuits!

This week saw a (sad) farewell to Paul Perkins who ran the Winch youth centre for nine years (previously there had been seven directors in as many years). The Winch provides after-school clubs and activities for young people. It is a charity WHL has long supported.

Architectural award news 1. Neave Brown architect of the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate won the RIBA Gold medal (highest award for architecture)

Architectural award news 2. Emmanuel Church was nominated for the best church renovation.

And sticking to the architectural theme there was this rather cool historical map of NW London, showing West Hampstead (or West End as was then) in …. 1790!

West Hampstead resident Ben Corrigan appeared earlier this season on Dragon’s Den with as part of a team of three pitching Pouch (an online voucher wallet). The dragons liked the pitch as all five made offers.

Tweet of the week

Worth a click to read the comments.

Twelve Things to do in West Hampstead in October

First up, West Hampstead is a good place to live. But like most (and WHL would argue all) good places it only gets that way if YOU get involved keeping it that way…

1st. This month is the Area Forum* on the 19th, presumably in the Synagogue Hall. High on the agenda will be public safety. And rubbish. *The Area Forum is your chance to speak to councillors about local issues and they mostly have guest speakers.

2. And at the end of the month the Friends of Fortune Green will have their last activity session of the year on Sunday 29th – bulb planting.

If it is music you are after

3. Suitably for third on the list on October 3rd it’s the last of the Troubadour sessions at the Railway. Live music by singer song-writers hosted and featuring Peter Conway.

4. Or if you are down in Kilburn there is an open-mic night (organised by the same guy I think) every Monday at the Sir Colin Campbell.

5. Or (our top tip) thanks to our friends at the Friends of West Hampstead Library on Tuesday 24th October there will be an evening with Graham Gouldman (ex-10cc, Wax etc), writer of songs from ‘No Milk Today’ to “I’m not in Love”. Kids – look him up! He will probably bring along his guitar. Tickets via Eventbrite.

Fancy a laugh?

6. On Sun 8th Upfront Comedy will be starting a monthly session at the Tricycle.

7. But it’s a very bitter sweet session at the Good Ship on the 23rd – it will be their last COMEDY night. (Plus before that there are comedy sessions on the 2nd, 9th and 16th)

On the Art front…

8. There is a new exhibition opening at the Kingsgate Project Space. Seems a bit perplexing again but it makes sense when you go along, learn a bit and concentrate. Opening on Friday 6th Oct 6-9pm. And it seriously ups your cool factor.

9. At the Hampstead Art School (just over the other side of the Finchley Road) they are exhibiting art works by the homeless (until Oct 13th). While you are there it’s worth checking out the courses coming up, in particularly some fun ones over half-term.

The Community Centre the Photography Group are having an exhibition from 6pm on Sat 7th Oct on Broomsleigh Street.

10. The Camden Arts Centre had their new exhibitions opening, Natalie du Pasquier and Christian Nympheta the first under their new director.

And finally, the Community Association are organising a quiz in Emmanuel Church

No nonsense for Tom at Nona

A visit to Nona on Fairhazel Gardens seemed a decent idea, as it meant stopping off for drinks beforehand at The Arches, the most charming bar in the area and a venue of even more stature and importance since the closure of the much-missed La Brocca. And so, after a really excellent glass of Sauvignon Blanc, on to the restaurant…

To start, chargrilled sardines, which I could happily eat as a main, in large quantities; these were a pleasure to devour. A little baked mushroom dish also appeared, the mushrooms filled with ricotta and spinach, with a cream sauce – quite rich for a first course, and satisfying. Nothing high-brow, but piping hot and well seasoned.

Sardines

Baked mushrooms

For a main course, as I was dining with a vegetarian, I decided I’d join in the fun (?) and try something veggie myself. This wasn’t too difficult a decision once I noticed a salad of chargrilled aubergines and roasted tomatoes with feta. The dish worked well because the salad element featured plenty of coleslaw, which added substance and a crunch factor. The aubergines were perhaps a little firm (also noted in the risotto) but I guess that was due to grilling rather than frying.

Aubergine salad

Across the table, risotto alla caponata (more aubergine, garlic, feta and tomato sauce) was also enthusiastically received, and sides of sautéed potatoes and ciabatta (oddly spelled incorrectly on the bill!) provided further carb relief. Nona’s menu is appetising, with a great deal of variety even down to the side dishes, which causes chaos for greedy types like me who generally want to eat everything. In both choice, and value, it’s along similar lines to the equally appealing and ever-popular Little Bay (side note: extremely sad to see the Farringdon branch of LB closed).

Risotto

For inexplicable reasons, we didn’t drink Italian wines, instead opting for a French Pinot Noir at £25 then a Rioja at £5.85 a glass; both enjoyable, the latter the better one.

This is a fun, upbeat restaurant serving gratifying plates of straightforward food at very fair prices, perhaps meaning one can pop back into The Arches afterwards and browse its wine list. Or, as we did, finish up with a drink directly outside Nona, in this very likeable, leafy little location. No room for puds on this occasion, but the website sagely advises that “saving room for dessert is an extremely wise move” – so good reason to return soon.

Salute!

It’s National Poetry Day!

Today is National Poetry Day and the theme this year is freedom. Ted Booth, the just-stepping-down writer in residence at the library has written the following poem to bring some poetry to our West Hampstead lives.

You may be lucky enough to be handed a copy as you cross Fortune Green or pass the library (they are handing out 1,000 copies)! If not, here it is. First, as written (the form is important) but in case that is too small to read on your phone, additionally below that fully written out.

West Hampstead, enjoy National Poetry Day.

Carpe Diem

The boys have been led
into a corridor,
long walls hung with photos.
Alumni, class after class,
year after year.
So what have they all
got in common,
asks the teacher.
Rich, famous, successful,
hazard the boys.
No, says the teacher,
they are all dead.
So this is the lesson boys,

carpe diem (1)

Carpe diem, an exhortation
given great poignancy
by the fate
of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Held in an Iranian jail,
she and her fellow prisoners
have written down
their hopes and fantasies
for the first, longed for
day of freedom.
Their notelets hang beribboned
from a tree on Fortune Green. (2)
They dream of tomorrow
to keep the energy for today.

For us the fortunate ones
who are not incarcerated,
nor staring at a ceiling
from a hospital bed,
nor staring across
a care home lounge,
tomorrow is our next,
first day of freedom,
to choose our coffee,
shut the front door
and cross the green
and go to our chosen work,
which is not, dear Phillip (3)
a toad which
squats upon our back.

In the evening
we will return
to re-cross the Green
and open the front door,
having seized another day
of freedom.

Ted Booth

(1) Robin Williams – Dead Poets Society

(2) www.freenazanin.com

(3) Phillip Larkin -‘ Toads’

The poem refers to Nazanin Ratcliffe, the West Hampstead wife and mother who is not able to enjoy her freedom. Inspired by the poem her husband Richard in front of the Iranian Embassy will be reading it, along with other poems written on the theme by Nazanin and her fellow prisoners.

The bard of Fortune Green, Ted Booth, is former artist in residence of the Friends of Fortune Green and  just stepping down as writer in residence of Friends of West Hampstead Library. A friend indeed. Thank you, Ted.

What you missed since September 18th?

We had a feeling that crime was on the rise as we recently reported… a few days later local Councillor Lorna Russell was burgled.

This week, more evidence that crime about that rise. Last Wednesday, at the Sherriff Road post Office there was an armed robbery. On Mill Lane two men on a moped attempted to steal a mobile from a partially-sighted man. On Broadhurst Gardens Lacq nail bar had its windows smashed. And on Crediton Hill a car was stolen.

And the Police response? A ‘consultation’ on CLOSING the Safer Neighbourhoods Team Offices on West End Lane.

After some pressure to act the local councillors, particularly Cllr Russell who was recently burgled and had her mobile stolen too, have arranged an area forum on Thursday 19th Oct with crime high on the agenda. If you are concerned about this issue (and who isn’t?) please come along.

There was an incident outside the Library.

Our historians delved into the case of Frank Vosper an actor who mysteriously died at sea aged 36.

 

 

Image: left by anon.

More crime news.  Ed – WHL took some flack this week for being too crime focused in this newsletter but we feel it is an important issue that is not getting the response it deserves.

The trial continues on the murder of Yasir Bashira who was shot dead off the Kilburn High Road last December. One of the accused Sammi Tesfazgi, stolen car dealer of Lithos Road, denied being involved with the shooting.

Staying on the Kilburn High Road. There was a warning to watch out for this guy.

And in a final crime story the sister nursary (in Camden) to the Fortune Green playcentre, was burgled. Both are run by social enterprise PACE. Who burgles a nursary?

Now on to politics…

Some changes in the Camden cabinet; Fortune Green councillor Richard Olszewski got a big promotion stepping up to replace Theo Blackwell in charge of Finance.

Meric Apak was moved on from bins and was replaced by Adam Harrison who immediately come up to West Hampstead to try to listen to locals about bin and rubbish problems. More walkabouts are promised.

New leader of the Council Georgia Gould is looking at ways to liven up boring council meetings.

Four cottages behind West Hampstead fire station are set for refurbishment. London Assembly Member Andrew Dismore said ‘it was scandalous that the previous Mayor was prepared to leave the properties empty’ but was curiously silent on the fact that the Mayor before that, Ken Livingston (Labour) also left the properties empty.

Christmas is coming! The Village Haberdashery are launching Makers Market: basically every Sunday from October 1st they will be hosting 24 pop-up shops over 12 weeks. There. is. some. great. stuff.

The Xmas market will be on Saturday 2nd December. If you are interested in a stall please email .

It was a ‘barn’ storming night at Emmanuel Church, as the Community Association held a barn dance.

Wenzel’s the bakers opened for a second shop. As Brenda from Bristol would say ‘What, another one, you’re joking’.

And in more carbohydrate news there is new chocolate shop opening on Broadhurst Gardens.

A Nigerian restaurant is set to open on the Finchley Road.

Local author Anthony McGowan did his book talk at West End Lane Books on his latest book ‘The Art of Failing’ and an interview in the Ham & High.

Local author #2 Susie Steiner is back on the case as she talked to the Ham & High about the return of DC Manon Bradshaw in Persons Unknown.

The beauty queen and a mysterious maritime death

Frank Vosper

Frank Vosper was born in December 1899, just two weeks before the turn of the century. He was born at 24 Gondar Gardens in West Hampstead – the house where Nobel prize-winning novelist Doris Lessing lived for more than 30 years before her death in 2013.

Vosper’s father Percy was a surgeon at Kings College Hospital, having come from Plympton in Devon to study medicine in London. In 1894, Percy married Blanche Permain, whose father was a fine art dealer and they had moved to Gondar Gardens at the end of 1896.

Frank would have had a comfortable upbringing, yet the story of his premature death at just 36 would have made as good a film as any he might have acted in, with a cast list that included Ernest Hemingway and Miss Great Britain.

24 Gondar Gardens

Frank Vosper was educated at Haileybury School in Hertfordshire. He wanted to be an actor, and when he left school at 17 he called on a theatrical agent who had previously been a pupil at his old school. Incredibly, just on the basis of this shared experience, the agent got him work and young Frank appeared in ‘Julius Caesar’ in March 1919 at the Pavilion Theatre in Mile End.

Frank was talented, and became a very successful actor. After working with actor-manager Sir Ben Greet’s Shakespeare Company, Frank first appeared in the West End in ‘The Young Visitors’ in 1920. After this he left on a theatre tour of India and the Far East. On his return in 1922 he played a succession of both modern and Shakespearean roles. In 1926, Frank joined the Old Vic Company and worked with some of the great actors of the day including Jack Hawkins, Anthony Quayle, Alec Guinness, Margaret Rutherford, and Dame Edith Evans.

He appeared in ‘Yellow Sands’, Eden Philpotts’ very successful play which ran for more than 600 performances. Frank was best known for playing Henry VIII in ‘Rose Without a Thorn’, a 1933 play about the relationship between King Henry and Catherine Howard. There is a short film of him getting into costume as Henry, plus clips of his performance.

After leaving the family home, Frank got a small flat at 7 Upper St Martin’s Lane in Seven Dials, where he lived from 1925 to 1927. He became friends with John Gielgud and they appeared together in ‘Hamlet’.

In his 1939 autobiography, Gielgud wrote:

As soon as ‘The Constant Nymph’ had settled down to a certain success, I persuaded my parents to let me leave home. Frank Vosper was shortly to move from a little flat in Seven Dials where he had been living for some time. I greatly admired this flat and arranged to take over from him the rest of his lease. The flat was full of character, and I stayed there for eight years. There was no proper kitchen, and the bathroom, with a rather erratic geyser, was down a very draughty flight of stairs. But otherwise the place was charming. The sitting-room walls had been covered with brown hessian by Vosper, and there was a ceiling in one of the bedrooms painted by an artist friend of his (under the influence, I imagine, of Braque), with large nude figures sprawling about. This I thought very modern and original.

In January 1933, Frank Vosper had a major role in a play called ‘The Green Bay Tree’ by Mordaunt Shairp. This was very controversial. Frank, who was not openly gay, played a homosexual aristocrat who adopts a working-class boy and remodels him in his own image. Mordaunt Shairp was a schoolmaster who lived with his wife at 13 Heath Mansions in Hampstead and had taught at University College School in Frognal from 1920 to 1933 when he left to become a full time playwright. The title of ‘The Green Bay Tree’ is taken from Psalms 37:35. ‘I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree’.

In the play, Frank Vosper played Mr Dulcimer, a wealthy man who bought an 11-year-old boy from his working-class parents for £500. He raises Julian as his stepson and the boy becomes addicted to Dulcimer’s Mayfair way of life. Julian then has to choose between marrying his fiancée Leonora, or staying with Dulcimer.

Although never directly stated, a homosexual relationship is clearly implied. Shairp said he wanted it to be a modern morality tale based on Dr Faustus. The play was very successful and played for six months at the St Martin’s Theatre. It was also very popular when it opened on Broadway in October 1933 when a young Laurence Olivier played Julian and Jill Esmond, who later became Olivier’s wife, played Leonora. It was frequently revived on Broadway and was produced in London at the Jermyn Street Theatre as recently as December 2014.

Vosper’s work on stage got him excellent reviews and he began to work in films. He appeared in more than 20 including, Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ (1934), where he played Ramon the assassin (this was also Peter Lorre’s first English film). Hitchcock remade the film in 1956 with James Stewart and Doris Day. In 1934, Vosper had a starring role in Michael Powell’s early low-budget thriller, ‘Red Ensign’.

Peter Lorre and Frank Vosper in The Man Who Knew Too Much, 1934

In addition to being an actor, Frank wrote several plays. His first was ‘Spellbound’, which he produced in 1927. He later rewrote it as ‘People Like Us’. In Who’s Who in the Theatre, Vosper amusingly describes his recreations as ‘criminology and blackberrying’. He was a regular visitor to the Old Bailey and ‘People Like Us’ is based on the notorious Thompson-Bywaters case: in October 1922, Edith Thompson persuaded her young lover Freddie Bywaters to murder her husband. The pair were executed in 1923, although many people thought Edith was not guilty of murder and should not have been hanged. The play had a very brief run at the Strand Theatre in 1929, but was banned by the Lord Chamberlain’s office because of the subject matter. It was not performed again until 1948.

Vosper persuaded Agatha Christie to let him adapt her short story into the play ‘Love From a Stranger’. The first night was so tense there were reports that some of the audience fainted. It received very good reviews and ran from March to August 1936. He then took the play to Broadway where it ran for another couple of months later that year. The play was twice turned into a film and was televised by the BBC in 1938 and 1947. A radio version was also broadcast on the BBC Home Service in 1945. Another of his plays ‘Murder on the Second Floor’ was filmed in 1932 and again in 1941 as ‘Shadows on the Stairs’.

By 1935, Frank Vosper was living at 34 Acacia Road in St Johns Wood with his partner, the actor Peter Willes. Willes was born in London on 30 April 1913. He was the son of a lawyer, and educated at Stowe. By now, Vosper was at the height of his career and on 9 September 1936, he and Peter sailed on the SS Aquitania to New York where Frank’s play ‘Love From a Stranger’ was to appear on Broadway. Then in December, Frank and his sister Margery went on holiday to Jamaica and were joined in Mexico by Peter, who had been in Hollywood acting in the film ‘Call it a Day’. After Margaret returned to London, Frank and Peter journeyed on to Havana, Hollywood, and then to New York.

From left Olivia de Havilland Ian Hunter Bonita Granville and Peter Willes, Call it a Day 1937

All at sea
On 6 March 1937, Frank and Peter returned to England having sailed from New York on the SS Paris. Other passengers included the American writer Ernest Hemingway and Muriel Oxford, Miss Great Britain 1935, who – after a couple of small parts in films had been undertaking film tests in Hollywood. Here is a film clip of Muriel at a beauty contest.

In the early hours of that Saturday morning, just before the ship was due in to Plymouth, Frank was reported missing. Just over two weeks later, his body was found more than 200 miles away near East Dean in Sussex.

Drawing of finding the body Illustrated Police News 1 April 1937

The papers speculated wildly about what had happened. Peter Willes told reporters that he had met Muriel Oxford at a party on the ship, and that she invited him to her state room where they were joined by Frank. As they drank champagne, Frank had gone into the adjoining lounge where they believed he had climbed out of a window and fallen into the sea. But was it an accident or suicide?

Did he slip, or did he jump?
At the enquiry, Muriel confirmed Peter’s version of events. She had been at a party in the ballroom the night before the ship was due to dock. She had danced with Peter Willes before ordering a bottle of champagne to be taken to her state room. Although she hadn’t met Peter or Frank before, she explained that she asked them to her join her as they were the only Englishmen onboard. Willes had returned to the cabin that he shared with Vosper who reluctantly agreed to go to Muriel’s state room. They sat talking and after about 20 minutes, Vosper got up and walked across the state room to the private lounge. Muriel thought Frank wanted some air and she showed him how to open the window. Later when she and Peter couldn’t find Frank, they raised the alarm.

Peter Willes believed that Frank, who was very short sighted and had broken his glasses, must have thought the low sill of the window led to the boat deck and not straight into the sea. He said Frank always preferred to leave parties unobtrusively so as not to appear rude. But he could not believe Frank had committed suicide. He was far too keen on his work and had spent the whole journey writing a new play.

William Pengelly was Frank’s solicitor and he was determined to find out exactly what had happened. In scenes foreshadowing today’s Crimewatch, he asked Muriel and Peter to reenact the scene on the SS Paris in his Gray’s Inn office. Pengelly also went to Paris to interview Ernest Hemingway who had been travelling on the ship. Hemingway occupied a state room opposite Muriel and strongly denied the press stories that Vosper had argued with people during the voyage, or that Willes had been very attentive to Miss Oxford and that Vosper could have jumped out of the window in a fit of jealousy.

Around the same time, and before a body had been recovered, Peter and Muriel went to Le Havre to help the French examining magistrate by reenacting the events onboard the SS Paris itself. The Magistrate ruled out foul play believing that Vosper committed suicide.

Frank’s badly damaged body was identified by his father Percy. At the beginning of the inquest in Eastbourne, Percy said that Frank was always bright and cheerful and was particularly level headed. He was not keen on parties, and did not stand alcohol very well. But he was not quarrelsome and his father had never seen him drunk. When asked, Percy said he was not aware that Frank had any love affairs. None of the stories in the newspapers revealed that Willes and Vosper were partners.

The inquest, which had begun at the end of March, resumed on 6 April as the jury had decided it could not reach a verdict based only on Muriel and Peter’s evidence. They wanted to hear from the ship’s staff. The court was packed as Robert Cubillare, a night steward, speaking through an interpreter, said that at about 2.15am he had gone to Cabin 243 occupied by Mr Vosper and Mr Willes, and Miss Oxford was there. A lady in an adjoining cabin had complained about the noise, and the steward asked them to keep quiet. A few minutes later the three of them went to Miss Oxford’s state room.

Charles Carbon, the night steward to the state room, said he was summoned at 2.45am. Miss Oxford and Mr Willes were lounging on the divan and were a little merry. Mr Vosper was standing motionless in front of them. When asked if Vosper was laughing or joking, he said Frank was quite silent. Carbon took a bottle of champagne from Miss Oxford and went to put it on ice. When he returned, Frank was missing. He and Mr Willes went to look for Vosper and when they couldn’t find him, the Captain was informed.

The Captain said he was told about Vosper’s disappearance about 3.10am, but he did not think anyone could have got through the small window, and as nobody had seen a man fall overboard, he thought that Frank had simply left the cabin to take some air on the deck. He only reported Frank’s disappearance when they reached Plymouth in the morning. Questioned by Mr Pengelly who represented the families, the Captain admitted he had found some marks on the white window sill.

In his evidence, Mr Pengelly said he known Frank Vosper for 11 years and his financial position was good. He confirmed Vosper was rather sensitive about his poor eyesight and would never wear his glasses in public. Pengelly said he thought it was perfectly possible to step through the window despite what the Captain had said. To demonstrate, he placed a cardboard frame the same size as the window easily over his shoulders. He thought that if Vosper believed there was a deck on the other side then he could have fallen by accident.

The coroner in addressing the jury, said there appeared little doubt that Mr Vosper had gone through the window. The only question that remained was whether he had done so deliberately to end his life, or was he under the impression that there was a deck on which he would land, in which case it would have been an accident. If it was a case of suicide, it must have been a sudden impulse because he had sent a cable from the ship that afternoon to an old friend saying he was landing the next morning.

The jury took just 25 minutes to reach an open verdict on Frank Vosper’s death. They decided that he met his death by drowning, but it was impossible to say how he got into the water.

What became of the other cast members?
After the inquest, Muriel Oxford, white-faced and angry, told reporters, There was no love making in my state room. These stories are the hardest thing to bear. We were not lying on the settee; we were sitting side by side with our backs against the wall. I deny the stories that Willes and I are in love.

In November 1937, she successfully sued the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror for making libellous claims about her morality. The solicitors representing the newspapers apologised and said there was no intention of making such aspersions. There was no mention of any financial recompense, though there may have been an out-of-court settlement.

The disappearance of Frank Vosper gave rise to the cruel saying, ‘Never get on a ship with Peter Willes’, which was still in circulation in the 1960s. Willes would go on to have a successful career nonetheless. He appeared in ‘The Dawn Patrol’ (1938) with David Niven – a classmate at Stowe, and ‘Idiot’s Delight’ (1939) with Clark Gable. After a distinguished war service, in 1947 he became the tour manager for popular comedian Vic Oliver. This proved good training for his TV work at Associated Rediffusion as a talent scout and producer. Willes produced TV plays by Harold Pinter and Arthur Miller’s ‘A View from the Bridge’. From 1966 to 1978, he was the innovative Head of Drama at Yorkshire Television and produced several Joe Orton plays. Willes became a good friend of Orton’s but disliked Orton’s partner Kenneth Halliwell who eventually killed Orton and then committed suicide in August 1967. Peter Willes himself died in Gloucester in 1991.

In his will Frank Vosper left £10,463 (worth about £600,000 today), to his solicitor and executor, William Pengelly.

There is a short news clip about Frank Vosper here:

In 1939, Sir John Gielgud wrote about his friend Frank:

His tragic death two years ago was a great shock to all his friends, and I miss him continually. I knew him well for nearly fifteen years. As a companion he had inimitable gaiety and charm. He was generous to a degree, a delightfully Bohemian and charming host and, as an artist, completely free from jealousy of any kind. He often gave the impression that he behaved selfishly in doing exactly as he liked, but in reality he enjoyed nothing so much as giving pleasure to other people. … His happiest time, while I knew him, was during the brilliantly successful run of his own play, ‘Murder on the Second Floor’. His diversity of talents created quite a sensation with the production of this play, and he was hailed by the public and idolised by his company. His dressing-room at the Lyric Theatre was always crowded with friends and acquaintances, and after the play there would be endless parties which went on till the small hours. But Frank was equally happy with just one or two intimate friends, and later he bought and furnished a beautiful little house in St. John’s Wood, ceased to entertain so widely, and settled down to a positively domesticated existence, writing, doing enormous jigsaw puzzles, and joking about how busy everyone else always seemed to be.

Unfortunately, we are left not knowing what really happened to the multi-talented Frank Vosper, who tragically died aged just 36.

What have you missed since September 11th?

Labour selected its three candidates for Fortune Green ward.  Welcome back (and congratulations) to Lorna Russell and Richard Olszewski and welcome to new candidate Sorin Floti

The selection for West Hampstead, however, wasn’t quite so smooth. And – people of West Hampstead – we can’t recommend highly enough Richard Osley’s political coverage of our area in the CNJ.

As Richard points out given Labour only have 54 candidates for 54 seats (and apparently the lists are closed) and West Hampstead now goes to the back of the queue – since the best candidates stand first could we end up with the leftovers? Reminder: of the last three candidates one left to became an independent and the other two stepped down after one term.

At the celebrity charity cricket match at HCC this Sunday we were ‘bowled’ over by Emma Thompson’s performance (throwing the first ball). Who says sport is fixed? The celebrities won. By one run. On the last ball. Good turnout and funds raised for charity so everyone is a winner (including WHL – in the raffle! )

WHL got down and dirty on the Kilburn High Road (KHR for all you kids) following complaints about the state of things. Room for improvement we think. A lot.

And as it happens the Evening Standard Property section did an area guide to Kilburn.  The area has ‘a raw and real feel’ (see above). And Kate Moss once lived here – really? Yes, really!

PoTW 295

A West Hampstead property appeared in (the prestigious) Architectural Digest.  Ooh-err.  Hang on – it’s a converted … garage!?

You need an extra bedroom.  It will ‘only’ cost you £790,000 to move from a two-bedroom to a three-bedroom in Camden. Gulp.

Looking for an office in the area?  The commercial units in the Ballymore building are up for rent, but not cheap.

It was the NDF meeting last week.  The new owners of Nido (the student housing) were there presenting plans to remodel some of the facades and expand the building (adding an extra 40? rooms). It’s only a couple of years old!

More property news – a West Hampstead landlord was fined £339,000 for breaches of planning/ renting sub-standard housing.

If like WHL, you are interesting in decent housing for everyone then we recommend ‘Unreliable Evidence’ on Radio 4, which this week looked at housing law.

Is West Hampstead getting fitter?  There is a planning application for a shop on Mill Lane to become a fitness studio and another one in a basement off West End Lane to become a gym. There was a sponsored post this week from Studio Society the new immersive gym by Fortune Green. They still have a good opening offer.

But @Scandisgirl rightly pointed out the reason for all these gyms is to… (click to find out).

Thinking about a secondary school for your child?  Hampstead School is having open mornings.

It was Cllr Flick and Ted’s excellent adventure in poetry and prose at the library.  Good turnout (nothing to do with the good canapés I can assure you) and a lovely evening.

Local, Lydia Parker is directing Dolphin and Sharks which garnered some good reviews and is at the Finborough Theatre. It’s set in a Harlem copy shop…

… and talking of copy shops WHL bumped into these familiar faces David and Debbie of Colour Division.

… and talking of closing, LaBrioche is closing as early as this coming week.  Eeek. There will then be a two month refurb before it re-opens under new ownership.

It was the farmer’s market’s fifth birthday – cake all round. And another present to West Hampstead… they have withdrawn their planning application. It garnered support – until people read the small print.

WHL warned you it was going to be an action packed West Hampstead weekend, and it was.

All over London it was Open House. WHL got to fulfil two long held Open House wishes; on Saturday WHL visited the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate, a legacy of the Sidney Cooke era of Camden Housing.  It’s a bit tired outside but inside the flats are great. And on Sunday it was a to visit the Isokon building.

And there is more! WHL also popped into the launch of Stomp School by Jeff Norton at West End Lane Books. The perfect book to read to your little monsters. And again. And again (but with little jokes for adults to keep it fun)

And in even further book news – last week saw the appearance of @chrisdifford in West End Lane books, an event truly cool for cats. And you read it here first – he’ll be back! Book. Your. Tickets. NOW!

And coming up this week another book reading by Tony McGowan of his new book “The Art of Failing’. WHL met him for a Q&A.

The countdown to closure on the Good Ship is ticking. Sad face. But some good events coming up.

What, another one?! There is a comedy night to raise funds for Cricklewood Library. It’s part of a wider fundraising initiative to raise money for Cricklewood Library.  Not West Hampstead, but for those in upper Fordwych Road it is their closest Library.

Clare Balding played the young gun trio song about Matt (of the Naz and Matt Foundation). Be the Man. And if you want to hear more about the band you can here (esp if you are into nu-folk). It too, is inspiring!

And in more entertainment news the Troubadour sessions are back at the Railway. Next one is Tuesday 19th I think.

Tweet of the week

And finally, has Gollum (or anyone else lost a ring…?) on Fordwych Road.

‘The Art of Failing’, the West Hampstead way

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

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

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

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

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

How did it come about?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What else have you written?

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

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

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

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

 

 

Getting down and dirty on Kilburn High Road

Amid all the grumbling about filth on West End Lane, it’s always worth casting an eye elsewhere to see whether we can learn from others. Or to put our own woes into perspective. Recently, there have been some despairing tweets about the clutter, litter and, general grime on Kilburn High Road (this includes responses from one of the local councillors). We went to take a closer look down the Camden side of the road.

We started up by the railway bridge near the junction with Maygrove Road. And it didn’t take long to see the first of many (illegal) A-boards. At this point I’m going to introduce the word “curtilage“. This means the defined area of a property’s land. Within your curtilage you can do what you want (within reason) – build a deck, put out goods or an A-board etc.. Beyond is the public highway and you cannot do what you want, whether it’s within reason or not.

If the public highway is narrow then it is particularly important to keep it clear for pedestrian flow, buggies, wheelchairs and so on. It is the council’s responsibility to enforce that it is kept clear.

A-board

Further down, more A-boards appearing and furniture for sale.

More A-boards

It gets worse along the really narrow stretch of pavement from 334 to 328 ; although most of the businesses have built out on their curtilage they then obstruct the remaining narrow pavement with A-boards and allow their chairs to spill off their land (and bins too). Adding to the confusion of where responsibility lies, this stretch is actually part of West Hampstead ward, not Kilburn.

Clutter

And they've even pinned an ad to the tree...

There is even an ad pinned to the tree…

A bit further on we come to the Hilal Food Centre.  It’s a popular store – I shop there too – but it still has to obey the same planning rules as everyone else. It has ‘allegedly’ spread way over it’s curtilage and keeps creeping forward across the public highway. Their gain at our loss.

Hilal2Next up is popular pizza joint Quartieri, which had tested the limit by putting out chairs on the pavement and an A-board. However, it was slapped down pretty quickly and with a reputation to keep has been playing by rules since then.

The Black Lion has been around for longer than most businesses on the High Road. It has a nice outdoor space at the side – on its own curtilage – but has recently started putting out chairs and tables on the public pavement. Without planning permission, apparently. The pavement here is wide enough to take it, but it still needs permission guys.

BlackLion

Next up, another pub. The Sir Colin Campbell has tables outside too, but – and here’s the important bit – these are on its own curtilage. And the A-boards are on it too. Cheers to the SCC for being a responsible business.

ColinCampbell

I have spared you yet more photos of fly tipping thus far – there was certainly plenty of it, but at this point we reached a particularly egregious case, some of which appeared to have come from the other side of the road. Why did the fly-tipper cross the road? Because enforcement is tougher on the Brent side.

Cllr John Duffy, a Labour Councillor in Brent, ensures that fly-tipping (and planning breaches) are dealt with and followed up. This doesn’t seem to happen as effectively on the Camden side of the road, although the local councillors tweet the tweet!

Fly-tip

Credit where it’s due

Camden can however take credit for the physical state of the pavements and for the state of the road. Any cycling readers will know that the northern end of Kilburn High Road is in a terrible state, with potholes big enough to cause an accident. But once you pass Quex Road, the surface improves and it’s fine from then on. The reason: in an effort to do some of that famed joined-up thinking, Camden is responsible for the road on the lower section below Willesden Lane and Brent for the upper section.  Camden has met its responsibilities, while the potholes suggest Brent has not.

Pothole number one (of many)

Pothole number one (of many)

And pothole number two.

And pothole number two.

The road surface is vastly better south of Quex Road

The road surface is vastly better south of Quex Road

There is a noticeable difference in the pavements too. On what I understand is the part Brent is responsible for, but in ‘Camden’, there clearly potential trip hazards. WHL checked with Camden on this as it sounds a bit odd and even they weren’t sure.

Clearly a trip hazard. Damages in case of injury would be a lot more than 10p!

Clearly a trip hazard. Damages in case of injury would be a lot more than 10p!

Kilburn High Road marks the boundary between Camden and Kilburn (with Westminster and Barnet also getting involved at the southern and northern ends) and somewhere that’s on the periphery for all councils is always likely to struggle to get the attention of borough heartlands. There are added complications that even within one borough, the road passes through multiple wards, but that shouldn’t have an impact on enforcement.

Aside from aesthetics, why should this be of such a concern? For a start there’s the ‘broken windows‘ theory (general deterioration leads to bigger problems), and certainly the deterioration of our streets has coincided with a rise in crime. And as if that wasn’t enough, living in a cleaner more pleasant environment is less stressful, which given that Camden has some of the highest rates of mental illness across the country – with almost 50,000 adults in Camden experiencing anxiety and depression (20% higher than national levels), would be one more reason to strive for cleaner streets and a decent public realm.

Finally, WHL has been getting flak from local Labour activists about the number of tweets on the state of our local streets (don’t worry we get flack from the Tories too, about different issues – so we must be doing something right). They have said we should mention the Clean Camden App, and this we are happy to do. Just done it. WHL is a regular user but there are some things it can’t do (e.g. report those broken flagstones, or bins left on the pavement). Nor have we heard from Camden about how effective it is. In a nutshell – to paraphrase a former Prime Minister; we need to not only be tough on grime, but tough on the causes of grime.

Studio Society opens its doors

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We’ve built this fitness club on the belief that great training shouldn’t be reserved for the select few. We believe that the latest and greatest fitness technology should benefit everybody; that getting fit and staying fit should be accessible, enjoyable and – most of all – fun.

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De-stress with calm classes like yoga and meditation, feel your pulse quicken with HIIT and Bodypump; cycle for all you’re worth on one of our high-tech bikes, or condition and tone with our series of Sculpt sessions. Choose virtual or real-life instructors, and choose your own schedule – we have classes running all through the day and evening.

Right now, we’re offering a special opening price of £26.95 a month. There’s no contract and you get unlimited access to all our classes, plus nutritional advice and progress tracking as well. Pop by for a tour, or check out the website for more information. We can’t wait to show you around!

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StudioSociety_logo

What have you missed since Sept 4th?

Sad news from the Kilburn High Road. The Good Ship, the popular music and comedy venue, is closing at the end of October. It’s been a victim of changes to licensing hours, which we reported on earlier.

Kingsgate Primary School – Lower School opened this week. It is supposed to have a traffic management plan to minimise traffic but the first couple of days didn’t exactly go according to plan. Local residents were not happy, they were already at breaking point before the school opened.  The Councillors and school then stepped in with CPZ enforcement and things improved – until it rained (which is does in winter). And the school is only 3/4 full. And the flats and office space isn’t built yet. And one parent hasn’t quite got this ‘travel plan’ concept…

After our recent story on the apparent rise in crime in West Hampstead, particularly Fortune Green, one of the Fortune Green councillors was burgled!

West Hampstead. This happened to Cllr Russell - don't let it happen to you. Follow crime prevention advice.

West Hampstead. This happened to Fortune Green Cllr Lorna Russell – don’t let it happen to you. Follow crime prevention advice.

Tannin & Oak was broken into as well.  And in this tweet there is report of yet another burglary.  Time for some action by the Police and the Council.

Tree down on West End Lane. Vandalism?

Labour choses candidates for West Hampstead Fortune Green this Monday and Tuesday.  With Phil Rosenberg and James Yarde standing down and Angela Pober becoming an independent it will be three new candidates on the slate in West Hampstead at least.

Local MP Tulip was held up re-entering the country because her daughter’s passport has her husband’s name on it. So she is campaigning to have BOTH parents names  in a child’s passport.  And secondly, we reliably hear from our sources  @nurseryworld that she is to chair the APPG on childcare and early years.

Down at the National Theatre another local, Imelda Staunton, has just opened in ‘Follies’.  5* reviews enter stage right ‘it’s jaw-droppingly good’.

Meanwhile, over at Hampstead Cricket Club Jim Carter is organising a celebrity cricket match next Sunday (17th).

Musician Chris Difford (look him up kids) did a talk at West End Lane books this week.  It was packed to the rafters.  After a very entertaining talk, the guitar came out and he sang a couple of songs including ‘Up the Junction’. It truly was cool for cats.

They always said Guglee curries were hot, but it appears they might have been too hot – there was a fire above their Finchley Road branch.

The Afghan restaurant Ariana II made an appearance on ‘A Cuckoo’s Calling’.

Seems like people are getting into the ‘swing’ of the new bar on Mill Lane.

It’s Mitzvah day coming up in November (Jewish Volunteering day) and this year they will be including visiting residents of Sidney Corob House  in West Hampstead.

And in the same week WHL was also asked by the Abbey community centre for caring residents to visit elderly residents in Whampstead.

Coming up this week (and beyond)

There is a whole bunch of stuff happening on Sunday which warranted a separate round-up article even!

Tues 12th –  NDF meeting
Wed 13th – Flick n’ Ted’s excellent adventure in Poetry and Prose
Thus 14th to Mon 18th – Ham & High Literary Festival @ JW3
Sat 16th + Sun 17th – Open House
Sun 17th – WHCC celebrity cricket match (starts 1:30pm)
Mon 18th – Locally Sourced is back @LaBrioche with a singer and a poet
Sat 23rd – it’s a Barn Dance @Emanuel Church

Tweet of the week

Things seem a bit gloomy recently ….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

What have you missed since August 28th?

‘How Not To Be A Boy’ was published. Author and West Hampstead resident Robert Webb was out promoting it on R4 in Woman’s Hour and Channel 4 news this week, it was also R4’s book of the week (see below). You can pick up a signed copy at our friends @WELBooks (while stocks last).

It was the fire station’s open day and the young (and some not so young) residents of West Hampstead turned out in force. Earlier the week some grateful residents dropped off a homemade chocolate cake at the fire station to say thank you.

Rubbish continues to vex us. This week there was this on West End Lane, this off West End Lane, this on Netherwood road, and this on Quex Road. Come on Camden – get a grip. But let’s not just whinge – do something. Write to with any issues, fly-tip hotspots, bins left on streets.

PoTW 293

The Evening Standard called West Hampstead ‘A sought-after swan that was formerly an ugly duckling’. The cheek of it! It is well connected (true) but  apparently there is a lack of green space (Kilburn Grange? West End Green? and of course… Fortune Green?)

They were promoting flats for £134k in Ballymore (aka West Hampstead Square). Seemed rather cheap for West Hampstead, reading the small print this is for just a quarter of a flat.

And more dissing of West Hampstead, this time by the FT! They did an ‘at home with FT’ interview with England fast bowler and West Hampstead resident, Steven Finn; but they relocated him to Hampstead. Sigh. [Paywall]

Cat was lost (twice even?). Cat was found. Cat and owner reunited. West Hampstead comes to the rescue again.

Oh no! Our little Waitrose is closing for a week – mainly to get the flooring replaced. No easy task as the store will be completely emptied for the work and stock sent to other stores.

The Black Lion is also closing five days for its refurb! But reopening at 6pm on the 8th with a relaunch party. (So, no pressure on the builders then…:-)

And there’s more… The Iverson Road open space will be closed and redeveloped this Autumn. WHL was skeptical there had been enough consultation but MILAM locals say otherwise. Still, at £100,000+ it’s a bit pricey.

This Wednesday is the first day at school for the new pupils of the Kingsgate infants school expansion, which opens this week at the Liddell Road site. Good luck kids!

An incident outside the NLT on KHR. Cavendish Road closed.

WHL goes a little bit Hello magazine as it’s been wedding bells. Congratulations to Claire from @Achilleaflowers, who married a former Kitchen Table barrista. Love on Mill Lane! And also to the newly-wed @carlabradman. Read all about her wedding here.

WHL went to see the latest opening at Kingsgate Project Space. Interesting and some talks coming up in the month long exhibition. If you want to up your coolness you could do worse than exploring this (and buying a very reasonably price print).

The football season is starting. WHFC is looking for new players more details on the link.

Tweet of the week

This week it’s not a tweet but book of the week, Radio 4’s book of the week … ‘How Not To Be A Boy’. Quick load episodes before they roll off (then have 28 days to listen).

What have you missed since August 21st?

It was a bank holiday weekend so printing presses took at break, so this is being posted a day late. Now on with the news.

A guy had his mobile snatched outside the Thameslink Station. And a woman had a substance thrown in her face in Kilburn (thankfully it turned out to be ‘only’ boiling water).

All this prompted WHL to talk to our local police sergeant and look at the crime stats. And yes crime is on the up – 50% in Fortune Green.

Tulip offered to help sort out rubbish problems, but she is our MP not a councillor and this is a council issue.  Instead please email WHAT (), our local amenity group with details of any house where this is an issue (bins left on street), fly-tipping hot spots and other issues you are having (e.g. how to get new bags for the food waste bins) they will compile a report.

PoTW292

More detail on the shooting of Yasir Beshira.

And even the Mayhew Animal Home has been affected by the uptick in crime – someone stole their van.

A West Hampstead boy went missing.  But he’s been found.

West Hampstead’s travel links are top the rankings.

Remember we calculated how rich you need to be to afford housing in West Hampstead?  We underestimated – Pete Redfern bought a £709,950 flat at One Mill Lane – allegedly at a staff discount.  Who is he? The boss of Taylor Wimpey, who earned £10.7 million over the past two years. And the ultimate irony – he’s also a trustee of homeless charity Crisis.

Camden have paid out £18 million and counting on the Chalcot’s Estate; £10 million on evacutation, a further £8 million to make the blocks safe. Plus will pay millions more to remove and replace the cladding.

West Hampstead resident, Denis Quilligan is organising a tenant fightback against the merger of Notting Hill and Genesis Housing Associations.

The band who sang ‘Be the Man’ at Glasto about Matt Ogston met Matt at Naz’s memorial bench in the cemetery and you can hear the song here. It’s very moving.

Tweet of the week 

It’s not West Hampstead, but it was the Notting Hill Carnival, so we make this our ToTW

Top Ten Things to do in West Hampstead in September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

What have you missed since August 14th?

Incident on Saturday when an elderly lady fell from her flat onto the balcony below. She suffered a broken leg; ambulance and police in attendance.

Another incident on Sunday with 10+ police cars on the Finchley Road,  not clear what was the cause.

A teenager has been accused of killing Yasir Beshira on December last year.  Yasir (also called Loopy) was allegedly a drugs runner who wanted to start dealing on his own account.

More on last week’s 113 on fire. It really was on fire; one local man bravely tried to tackle the blaze.

@aryaSchnoodle has spotted something wrong with this new construction in @WHampstead ?

@aryaSchnoodle has spotted something wrong with this new construction in @WHampstead ?

Our historians have dug up a sad story about a body buried in Kilburn.

West End lane to become White Hart Lane? For the next TWO years while their stadium is being developed Spurs home games will be played at Wembley, making West Hampstead a stop off point for a quick pint before the game.

And did you did you witness a brawl in the early hours of August 5th on the Jubilee Line?

The latest blog post about Nazanin, after 500 days in prison, suggests maybe, just maybe, things are improving. Very, very tentative though.

Will we get in the ’Swing’ of things at the new arrival on Mill Lane?

And staying on Mill Lane, the barb