2012 review: What have I missed since Jan 1st

Did someone say bandwagon?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bet you didn’t remember all that?

But what about the issues you did remember?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

West End Square proposal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Desreen Brooks, with husband Ben Dutton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

L’Equipe identifies Kilburn
(photo via @mascart)

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

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

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

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

Best wishes for 2013.

A year in 140 characters

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

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

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

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

2011 Whamp Quiz of the Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10. Which local endeavour got national news coverage?

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

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

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

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

Thank you and good night.

Big WHamp Quiz of the Year

It’s been a good year for the blog and Twitter and the WHamp community generally. We’ve had lots of meet-ups over dinner, drinks and even our first picnic. The blog was mentioned a couple of times in The Guardian and I was the only non-mainstream media person allowed to the Hampstead & Kilburn election count in May.

We had to say goodbye to some of those who attended the very first whampgather (of which there have now been five!), although they will always remain honorary locals. Even Stephen Fry has left the neighbourhood. But many new friends have appeared, and there should be plenty more chances to get to know your neighbours in 2011. Look out for all your predictions in tomorrow’s New Year’s Day blog.

Back to this year, and rather than try and do a review of 2010, I thought I’d set you all a short (and very easy) quiz. No prizes, it’s quite lidderally “just a bit of fun”. Thank you for all your support over the past 12 months – West Hampstead Life and @WHampstead would be pointless without you all.

1. How many times did Boris Johnson visit West Hampstead during the election campaign?
A. Boris who?
B. They were only reported sightings. There was never any proof
C. Twice
D. We couldn’t get rid of him

2. Which of these is a genuine cocktail at the Betsy Smith?
A. Honey-roast parsnip shaken with caramelised red onion relish. El Jimador tequila, rhubarb liqueur, lemon and apple juice. Served with dolcelatte cheese garnish
B. Turkey breast puree blended into rosemary-infused cranberry juice and Grey Goose vodka. Served with a salt-encrusted sage leaf
C. Tomato juice, apricot essence, chipotle powder and celery salt muddled with Hendricks gin and vermouth. Served with a cheeky grin and a star anise
D. Warmed champagne and pineapple juice poured over three cherries soaked in Angostura bitters. Served with a forest fruits brochette

3. Election question a) What was the name of Tamsin Omond’s political party?
A. Creative Commons
B. Common Sense
C. Common Ground
D. The Commons

4. Election question b) What was Glenda Jackson’s winning margin over Chris Philp?
A. 4
B. 40
C. 42
D. 440

5. Who bowled the first ball in the Hampstead CC charity cricket match?
A. Emma Thompson
B. Jim Carter
C. Imelda Staunton
D. Daniel Radcliffe

6. Which popular local live music venue announced it was closing?

A. The Good Ship
B. Powers
C. Sir Colin Campbell
D. The Luminaire

7. What event opened up the Kilburn State to the public for the first time in several years?

A. The Pope’s visit to Kilburn
B. OxjamKilburn’s fashion show
C. Ruach Ministries Bring & Buy sale
D. General election hustings

8. Which restaurant did the whampreview gang rate highest overall in 2010?

A. The Green Room
B. The Wet Fish Café
C. Walnut
D. The Rotisserie

9. What have locals found slightly peculiar about new cafe Senses?

A. The staff speak only Magyar
B. They don’t allow pushchairs
C. The furniture is all for sale
D. There’s a mannequin in the window

10. Which children’s author was the first recipient of a green plaque in Kilburn?

A. Richmal Crompton
B. A.A. Milne
C. Kenneth Grahame
D. Alison Uttley

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

Thank you and good night.

West Hampstead Digest No.12 – Review of the (er…) “Year”

Back in October, when @WHampstead had already been around for a good few months, it seemed like a good idea to take some of your messages and photos and aggregate them into a weekly round-up of the week’s whampevents. Encouraged by some excitement that week, Digest 1 went to press on October 11, the week that the leafy streets of West Hampstead were rocked by gun crime. Choosing the lead story for Week 1 was as easy as bumping into Ken Livingstone on the morning commute into work.

Week 2 was momentous thanks to the inaugural whampgather. I won’t lie. I was a wee bit nervous as I walked up to The Alice House. I didn’t think that nobody would come, but I wasn’t at all sure it was going to be a hit. My fears were swiftly allayed. A real big thank you to those of you that turned up that night and made it such a success. Of course one notable West Hampstead tweeter was absent but delightfully made up for it with a message that evening.

One of the long-running stories of the year was the power cuts that knocked out large chunks of the area with alarming frequency. EDF claims it is working on the problem, which involves a local substation, but the problem is big enough that it has its own hashtag now.

The billboards around the tube and train stations have prompted an unusual flurry of comments. Most recently, Tory PPC Chris Philp’s cherubic face has beamed down on us, but earlier in the year it was the typos in the adverts for Alfred Court that caught the eye. After getting it wrong first time, one might have thought that all efforts would be made to get the replacement sign right. One might have thought.

Whampers once again found that there was no local fireworks display – the Primrose Hill display having been cancelled many years ago due to health and safety concerns. Somehow the message hasn’t sunk in.

Travel problems have been the cause of most of the gnashing of teeth among Whamp tweeters. And it’s not just been the Jubilee Line. Thameslink commuters, already coping with the long-running line improvement works encountered a whole new problem in mid-November.

Week 6 also saw whampers undertake the first whampreview at the Czech Restaurant. Perhaps the less said about it the better.

Later in November there was a major breakthrough for tweeters living around Willesden Green when Brent MP Sarah Teather’s lobbying bore fruit and the Metropolitan Line stopped at the tube station when the Jubilee Line was closed. Hurrah.

A topic that always generates a surprising amount of interest is the opening and closing of new shops. Broadhurst Gardens was a veritable hub of retail comings and goings at the end of the month, with an eclectic mix of shops opening.

December brought the second whampgather – another roaring success, with a three-fold increase in attendees. Sadly, not all loyal whampers were able to make it. Their loss, some might say!

Bursting the bubble of whampeuphoria was news of the farcical Jubilee Line engineering works. TfL and its contractor Tube Lines played the blame game while passengers look like suffering.

In the run-up to the holiday season, we were all dreaming of a whamp Christmas and lo and behold, the white stuff began to fall. One short simple message captured everyone’s ambivalence to snow: yes, we love to wake up to a blanket of white; no, we don’t like to have to actually deal with it on a workday.

Finally, the Christmas edition of Digest threw a crossword at readers. Some attempted but only one succeeded. Congratulations to @bubela, who will be getting a free cappuccino. Here’s the solution.

So that was @WHampstead in 2009. Roll on 2010. The Year of the Whamp.