Posts

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worth reading so you understand what you are (and are not) voting for (obviously many of the links in that article are out of date, but the key messages are the same).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.

via GIPHY

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

via GIPHY

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

via GIPHY

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

via GIPHY

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

via GIPHY

We all know West Hampstead’s brilliantly connected.

You can get anywhere in London in half an hour.

via GIPHY

Until you get to the tube station.

via GIPHY

The Thameslink is a godsend

Until there’s a change of platform announcement.

via GIPHY

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.

via GIPHY

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

On one side there’s the Heath…

via GIPHY

… on the other side there’s Kilburn.

via GIPHY

(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.

via GIPHY

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

via GIPHY

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.

via GIPHY

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…

via GIPHY

You know you wouldn’t want it any other way

via GIPHY

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

 

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

Sponsored post

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

 

 

Crime on the rise in West Hampstead

Is crime in West Hampstead on the rise, or are we just made more aware of it through social media? And through the rare but higher-profile crimes such as moped-based thefts or the recent acid attack. WHL met up with Sergeant Mark Townsend to discuss.

Certainly there is a sense that our relatively quiet part of north-west London has seen more crime of late, but do the statistics back that up? And what are the police doing about it?

Crime stats are available from the College of Policing website and are broken down by wards: Fortune Green, West Hampstead, plus parts of Swiss Cottage and Kilburn that make up ‘West Hampstead’. The numbers are a couple of months behind with the most recent figures being for June. Given that crime levels are generally relatively low, increases can be seasonal or statistically not significant, however, the data does suggest a rise in crime.

monthly Reported crime

As you can see from the chart, across the previous few months, monthly crime levels are actually fairly stable, with the exception of Kilburn, where crime is somewhat higher overall. However if you compare it with the same period last year it’s clearer that the trend is upwards. There is an average rise of 15% for the wards and a startling 50% jump in Fortune Green, confirming anecdotal (or tweetendotal) evidence that crime is on the up.

Crime 2016 vs 2017

Crime in Fortune Green up by 50%

Of course it’s important to know what types of crime are causing the increase. In Fortune Green, it’s largely a rise in burglaries and thefts from cars. From April to Jun 2016 (2Q) there were 31 burglaries in Fortune Green, but that had nearly doubled to 55 in 2017. Likewise from April to June  2016 there were 43 theft from cars, but in 2017 that rose to 78.

Fortune Green ward; breakdown of crimes

Fortune Green ward; breakdown of crimes

Here is a breakdown of which crimes make up the total. It is important to point out that West Hampstead is still relatively safe, but not as safe as it was. It is now about average for London, although still safer than Camden overall.

FG ward's relative position in the crime tables.

FG ward’s relative position in the crime tables.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These monthly stats are important because they alert the police to any hot spots and allow the Safer Neighbourhoods ward panels to decide crime priorities. Its is really important that you let the police know if you are victim of crime.

How can the police make our neighbourhood safer?

Sgt Mark Townsend has been at West Hampstead for two years and in the force for 13 years. He is in charge of three Safer Neighbourhood teams: Fortune Green, West Hampstead and Kilburn. Although the teams are separate, they do support for each other and coordinate on problems at the ward boundaries. West Hampstead and Fortune Green have two PCs each and one PCSO. Kilburn, with its higher crime rate, has four PCs and one PCSO. Alongside the Safer Neighbourhoods Teams there are response teams (these are the officers who respond to and investigate crimes) based at Kentish Town police station.

There are more changes in the pipeline as earlier this year Camden’s force merged with Islington. This merger is one of two pilots in London – the other is a merger of three east London boroughs. The aim is to turn what thirty London borough forces into 16 policing areas. Therefore further mergers are on the cards as are cuts to police numbers. Numbers are down already. In March 2010, there were 33,367 full-time officers in London. This had fallen to 31,782 in by March 2016 (both numbers include long-term absentees, currently about 1,000 officers).

With burglary and theft from cars on the rise, residents can play their part in making it harder for criminals. Sgt Townsend said that one of his biggest problems is people being lax with their own security. Car doors should always be locked (and anything valuable hidden out of sight), and mopeds should have a disk lock and be secured to the ground. All the oft-repeated advice about securing lower-ground floor flats and being careful not to leave communal doors open or letting in random people to communal flats without checking naturally apply too.

How to report a crime

If you are the victim of a crime, what’s the correct procedure? If it is urgent, call 999, but for less urgent matters call 101, which can take a minute or two to connect. If you are not sure on the level of urgency, Sgt Townsend said call 999 and they will direct your call as appropriate

If anyone wants to report something suspicious they can also call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 – or do it anonymously online, though this means you’ll have no follow up and the police can’t ask for more details. You can also report it directly the Safer Neighbourhoods teams where they can follow up.

Nevertheless, it is important to report a crime, and today the best way to do this is online, although there can be an urge to talk to a real person straight away. Four out of five crimes can now be reported online, even car collisions. The reasons to report all crime, apart from having it investigated, is that it then gets included in those crime stats, which themselves shape the police force’s priorities. Those priorities are updated on the police college site, and the Metropolitan Police pages for each ward’s Safer Neighbourhood Teams (Fortune Green , West Hampstead and Kilburn).

The Met’s site is still in beta, and could be more user-friendly, for example with photos of team members, which would make it more personable, though there are other attempts to modernise the service and make policing more visible. Kilburn Safer Neighbourhood team got smartphones about a year ago and have been tweeting more and more actively . Initially, Sgt Townsend said the team was unsure about this, but they have grown more comfortable with the idea and now eagerly report their successes and ward rounds. There are also Twitter account for Fortune Green and West Hampstead, but they are less achieve and specific than Kilburn, but with time should be more informative.

Safer Neighbourhood Panels

The crime stats are supposed to help the police together with the Safer Neighbourhood Panels (SNP)  decide what the crime priorities are for the area. Recently this has been drifting due to a change in personnel, however, earlier this year local activist Miles Seaman has taken over.  He has been working at reactivating the SNP by ensuring the the meetings are more regular and issues are raised in an orderly fashion. Confusingly, the police also ask for input about which crime priorities on the Safer Neighbourhoods website, but with only 4 votes last month it’s not very democratic.

What next?

So crime indeed has been on the rise in the area.  The question is what to do now?  Firstly, Sgt Townsend says please take personal responsibility, it is astonishing that the number of thefts that take place from unlocked cars. Given that we are facing continued cuts in police numbers this is all the more important. The Safer Neighbourhood Team numbers are safe.  For the moment.  But WHL thinks the police can also do their bit – they have been very slow to take up social media and their websites are – to say the least – clunky. A lot of local policing is know the faces of the bobbies (or PCSOs) on the beat but all we have are grey boxes, nor are their links to the email addresses or a phone number to contact the teams.

The Safer Neighbourhoods panel should hopefully be more pro-active under new chairmanship. Likewise we also haven’t seen much activity from our local councillors (or indeed from the local opposition), but we are happy to be corrected on this.

There is concern about releasing CCTV footage when crimes are committed. WHL has his wallet stolen in Costa coffee (doing an interview about crime, how’s that for irony) but Costa refused to release the footage even though the thief was caught on camera. Sgt Townsend thinks it is time to take a more sensible approach because the police don’t have the resources to follow up.

One example over the past year of everyone pulling together (including WHL) was on improving the Black Path and Billy Fury Way. Both paths had become overgrown and felt unsafe, this resulted in a few incidents. Last August WHL and a number of locals turned out to start cutting it back  and this galvanised Network Rail into action, thanks to help of the Police and local councillors. The overgrown foliage has been cut back, the lighting is improved, the path resurfaced and, that bit at least, is now a safer part of the neighbourhood.

And finally, here is some simple crime prevention advice from the Safer Neighbourhoods Team.  Stay safe West Hampstead.

Crime prevention

Finishing line is in sight as Studio Society nears completion

Sponsored post

As 37 Fortune Green Road – aka Studio Society – nears the end of its 8-week build, this 8,000sqft empty space has been transformed into state-of-the-art group exercise studios. As the physical build draws to a close, the technicians are now taking control, installing multiple projectors and creating a floor-to-ceiling cinematic visual experience like you’ve never seen or experienced in fitness before.

StudioSociety_article

The changing rooms are already almost complete with both wet and dry change areas tiled and painted. Everything is sleek and simple to allow the highest efficiency in cleanliness. GHD hairdryers and mirrors surrounded by light bulbs help you feel like a superstar before you leave to start your day! The sheer size and finish from the moment you walk through the door is stunning to say the least and it is now clear that the focus of these studios has had the members’ experience at heart.

We are no ordinary health club. We strive for a harmony between physical exercise and sensory motivation. Our immersive fitness studios transport you to another world. One minute you step off the tube, the next, you’re in our studio, working out on a tropical Thai beach. Think of it as your calorie burning, muscle toning, cardio-vascular paradise. Floor-to-ceiling 360-degree video, cinematic Bose® surround-sound, synchronised lighting and even the scent of sunscreen and coconut filling the air. It’s an extraordinary fitness experience for individuals who want healthier bodies and happier minds. It’s where technology meets fitness meets your imagination – the perfect ying-and-yang of exercise and inspiration.

Studio Society
37 Fortune Green Road
West Hampstead

www.studio-society.com

A newcomer’s view of the Jester Festival

The Jester Festival is such a central part of the West Hampstead year – and of the last 45 years – that it’s bit difficult to get an unbiased perspective. So this year WHL asked Irene, as newcomer to the area to take a fresh look. This is what she found…

I moved to the neighbourhood a year and a half ago, running away from the tourists of Camden Market and a hellish Northern/Central line commute. Having lived in four different countries during the previous six years, I had been longing to put down roots somewhere that felt like home. West Hampstead turned out to be that place and the Jester Festival represents everything I love about West Hampstead.

All the fun of the fair, Jester 2017 style

All the fun of the fair, Jester 2017 style

As I got to know and love the neighbourhood – my leafy street, the village atmosphere, the shops and cafés – I decided to find out more about the community by getting to know my neighbours and working to protect our little slice of London. The Jester Festival was the perfect opportunity to do so.

The sun was shining as I and a friend from south London approached Fortune Green on Sunday; before I could see it I could hear jazz in the distance. We arrived to find stalls lining the paths, kids running around, families enjoying their picnics and even couples dancing to the rhythm and blues. It was the perfect village fête, London-style, everyone seemed to be having a great time and in every stall there were friendly faces happy to chat; from local businesses trying to attract new customers to the neighbours’ associations gathering support.

Stand-out attraction, literally, was the climbing wall, a big hit among the younger ones. They didn’t seem to mind one bit when they slipped and were left swinging from their ropes. The political party stalls were pleasantly low-key and more focused on having fun than in campaigning. Especially popular was Labour’s raffle – the children jumped for joy every time they managed to win a box of chocolates.

My favorite stall ? Herbal Haven – I loved getting lost in a hundred colours and aromas, and bought as many plants as I could carry to replenish my small balcony garden.

Fabulous Foliage at Herbal Haven

Fabulous Foliage at Herbal Haven

As part of my WHL research I talked to a wide variety of residents, and everyone was equally welcoming. They told me how they enjoyed the unique family atmosphere of the festival, how many activities there were for the kids and how they enjoyed the fact that all their neighbours were there. Volunteers went on about what a fantastic opportunity the festival was to give back to the community, and the vendors mentioned that it didn’t even feel like work. I only heard one complaint – there weren’t enough toilets for everyone.

There was also time to learn more about some local hot topics. The Neighbourhood Development Forum (NDF), a local voluntary organisation that works to influence planners and developers when making planning decisions in the area, explained its concerns about overcrowding at West Hampstead tube station and with the current development proposals on Gondar Gardens reservoir. These worries seemed to be shared by many of the neighbours, as they were collecting a lot of signatures.

Ravenous after all that chatting, we struggled to agree on what to eat. There was Indian, Greek, and French on offer – everything seemed equally delicious. Decisions, decisions. Finally, we went for the galettes (savoury buckwheat crêpes), gone in 60 seconds. After that it was off to the Lib Dems stall to try their famed cakes. They didn’t disappoint – the lemon drizzle and the fruity chocolate brownie, which we were told were the most popular, were absolutely mouth-watering (and waistline-busting).

Overall impression? With that galette on the grass, the smooth jazz in the air and the children running around felt very similar to happiness. And my friend, who had come from Stockwell to spend the day with me? She decided that she wanted to move to West Hampstead.

West Hampstead passengers top 20 million a year

As long-suffering commuters in (and through) West Hampstead are aware, it’s feels ever more crowded at our stations – especially the tube station. But do the numbers back up that perception? We crunched the numbers, and we were surprised at the results.

Passenger flows at West Hampstead’s three stations – the Underground, the Overground and Thameslink – are measured separately, but Oyster card data allows reasonably accurate tracking of people changing trains as well as those who enter and exit here and don’t change.

To better understand how tube passenger numbers have grown, we compared West Hampstead to neighbouring Kilburn, Finchley Road, and Swiss Cottage stations. Passenger numbers at these stations have been essentially flat over the past 10 years, but at West Hampstead they are up 50% from 7.5 million to 11 million entries/exits p.a. (a whopping 3.5 million extra passengers a year).

West Hampstead passenger numbers surge from 2010 onwards

West Hampstead passenger numbers surge from 2010 onwards

The growth spurt began in 2010, but what has driven it? Part of the rise is due to development here, which looks set to increase with more recent development in and around the stations. Just 100 additional residents commuting to work 48 weeks a year is 48,000 additional journeys. However, the real driver has been, the upgrade of and the extra passengers on, the Thameslink and especially the Overground.

Thameslink use has risen steadily from 2.2 million to 3.7 million over the past ten years, but it is the Overground that has seen the real growth. In 2006, there were 1.9 million entry/exits in 2006, dipping to just over 1 million with disruption of construction. This year, that is expected to surpass 5 million.

Longer trains and a more integrated network have pushed Overground numbers up

Longer trains and a more integrated network have pushed Overground numbers up

Add them all together and total passenger entry/exits for the three stations have risen from 10.7 million in 2007 to 19.6 million in 2016 (and should be more than 20 million by 2017). That’s a doubling in ten years.  That includes an increasing number of interchanges – the data here is not perfect, but we estimate there were about 250,000 in 2007, last year it was more than 1.5 million. West Hampstead it doesn’t  just feel more crowded – it really is!

Woo-hoo a new gate at the tube station. Actually it's a real improvement. What next?

Woo-hoo, an extra gate at the tube station. A real improvement. What next?

To cope with this growth, TFL is upgrading the Overground to expand the platforms and add step-free access. At the tube station it has  added and an extra gate – which will help when it’s finally working. But this is unlikely to be the silver bullet that solves the overcrowding, although it’s a sensible step in the right direction

Another major issue we face is the lack of step-free access at the tube station. Thameslink has it, and the new Overground station will have it. The tube station is the last piece of that particular puzzle. Last week TFL announced six stations were getting funding for step free access from a £200 million pot, but depressingly, this didn’t include West Hampstead.  One of those stations is Mill Hill East station, the least-used station on the Northern Line (with 1.3 Million entry/exits p.a.).  Doesn’t quite compute.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mingling on Iverson at the MILAM lunch.

Mingling on Iverson at the MILAM lunch.

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

Jimmy the juggler kept the kids entertained

Jimmy the juggler kept the kids entertained

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

Everyone loves a police horse!

Everyone loves a police horse!

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

Couscous the new potato salad

Couscous – the new potato salad

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

Tom the Magician bamboozled the boozy residents of Gondar

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

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

State-of-the-art fitness studio opens in West Hampstead this July

Sponsored post

Forget everything you know about fitness studios – the revolution is coming – and the first in line can get a fantastic pre-opening offer.

For the team behind Studio Society, a brand new next-generation fitness studio, there was no other place to launch than West Hampstead which has a tendency to favour specialist boutique businesses.

Studio Society swaps the mundane for the extraordinary, tearing up the rulebook to bring an exciting twist to your fitness regime.

StudioSociety_article

Situated by the park on Fortune Green Road, West Hampstead’s new health club promises to take you to another place.

A world combining the latest sports science with immersive entertainment for an optimised, turbo-charged fitness experience.

It’s the perfect harmony of physical exercise and sensory motivation. The ultimate natural performance enhancer you didn’t know you needed.

Step off the tube and straight into a tropical beach for your workout. You’ll work harder than you ever thought possible, as floor-to-ceiling video and synchronised lighting consume your senses and drive you faster towards your goals.

Cinematic sound adds another dimension to the environment, the scent of sand and sea permeating the air takes you beyond captivation into another world.

This is more than just fitness. This is a new frontier.

Unleash your true competitive streak to compete with other cyclists at Spivi® using real-time performance technology.

Bring your A-game to one of the POWER classes and fire up your metabolism with high intensity, dynamic workouts.

Relax your body and your mind with a calm group fitness class – perfect for those who want to slow down the pace, stretch and rediscover their inner calm.

With over 100 live and 100 fully immersive classes per week – including favourites like Body Pump, HIIT, Body Combat, Yoga and Pilates, the path to a healthier you is made easy.

It’s where technology meets fitness meets your imagination. An extraordinary fitness experience exclusive to West Hampstead.

The studio opens its doors next month, and members who join now can take advantage of a limited pre-opening offer. For just £20/month you will have access to unlimited classes, pay no joining fee and not be signed into a contract. That’s 200 classes to choose from and an instant saving of over £50. There are limited places available at this price.

Sign up now to lead the revolution.

Studio Society
37 Fortune Green Road
West Hampstead

www.studio-society.com

Miss Compton Collier – West Hampstead’s pioneering society photographer

3. Miss Compton Collier with her plate camera_top

For fifty or even sixty years, Miss Compton Collier, based at West End Lane, Hampstead, has toured the English countryside. With her haversack of heavy photographic equipment, wooden camera and tripod she has stalked the great English families in their lairs.” – Cecil Beaton.

In The Tatler magazine from 1916 to 1948, photographs regularly appeared by ‘Miss Compton Collier, West End Lane’. The earlier pictures were of popular actresses, and then from 1920 onwards they were of society celebrities in their houses and gardens. At the time, she was one of the few woman photographers.

Dorothy Marguerite Cuisset Collier was born on 24 January 1899 at 1 Goulton Road Clapton, near Hackney Downs. She was the only child of Edward Allen Collier who was a distillery manager. By 1911 the family had moved to 28 Victoria Mansions in Willesden.

In November 1919, at St Augustine’s Church in Kilburn, Dorothy married John Davis, a 35-year-old business manager who lived at 22 Kilburn Park Road. She had left home and was living at 115 West End Lane. The witnesses at the wedding were Owen Nares and his wife Marie Pollini, both very popular actors. For most of the 1920s, Nares was Britain’s favourite matinée idol and silent-film star. Dorothy had befriended them during her work for The Tatler, and her photo of them appeared in 1918.

Owen and Marie Nares, Tatler 1918

Owen and Marie Nares, Tatler 1918

In 1922 Dorothy and John moved just six doors down to 103 West End Lane. Dorothy continued to use the professional name she had created of ‘Miss Compton Collier’. Sadly by 1931, their marriage failed and the couple divorced.

In 1966, renowned photographer Cecil Beaton wrote an article called, ‘The Woman who made me want to be a photographer’. This provides the best insight into Miss Compton Collier, and how her pictures influenced the young Beaton:

Many of my adolescent glimpses of the grand world came through the photographs in The Tatler which bore the credit line ‘Miss Compton Collier’. They invariably showed us delightfully fair-haired ladies caught in a silvery light enjoying, in a leisurely manner, the herbaceous borders, clipped yews, stone garden seats and sundials of their country houses. Pouring over these reproductions week after week I came to know Miss Compton Collier’s taste extremely well.

Daphne Du Maurier, Tatler, 4 July 1945

Daphne Du Maurier, Tatler, 4 July 1945

Wherever possible she chose to photograph her subject standing on a piece of flagged path… Balustrades, terraced steps and rustic bridges were also other favourite haunts. Occasionally Miss Compton Collier would sprinkle a successful actress or two among her aristocratic sitters, but these too, would be photographed as far as possible from the atmosphere of the theatre and would be found on holiday, leaning against a gate surrounded by cow parsley, or holding a sheaf of corn in some stable yard. In fact, my earliest family snapshots were mostly made in emulation of Miss Compton Collier…Trying to appear the Ladies and Honourables, or stage stars ‘on holiday’, my wretched schoolgirl sisters would then be made to pose by garden urns or sundials, or among the Japanese anemones and harebells. But, try as I might, my sepia prints, brought from the wash basin of hypo, never acquired the silverpoint effect of the original inspiration.

Other photographs that appeared in The Tatler were attributed to ‘Rita Martin’ and ‘Lallie Charles’ and ‘Basano’, so why, I wondered, should it be ‘Miss Compton Collier’. Who was this lady? I was intrigued to discover her whereabouts but I knew of no one who had ever met her, and her name was not listed in the telephone book.

It was many years after Miss Compton Collier’s photographs had ceased to appear that I heard that she had continued her career with unimpaired zest, and each spring would send to people of high rank an itinerary of her summer tour stating that she would be in the neighbourhood during a certain week in case she were needed for an ‘at home’ sitting. I was intrigued to know that this mysterious lady still existed, so I wrote to ask if she would deign to include me professionally in her schedule and take some pictures of my mother and myself in the garden at Broadchalke. Miss Compton Collier graciously announced her willingness to oblige me. [Ed: this was in 1955].

Miss Compton Collier with her plate camera

Miss Compton Collier with her plate camera

Miss Compton Collier proved to be an extremely agile spinster of over seventy with a pale brown face of minor distinctiveness with the flesh solid and shiny. She was dressed in old-fashioned clothes, somewhat like a land girl of the 1914 war, with large felt hat and flowing skirts. She projected a personality that brooked no nonsense, and no interruption; her main objective was to seek out the nearest flagged path and the most lichen-mottled stone garden ornaments. A slightly forced giggle was part of her stock-in-trade. This softened any of her criticisms and enabled her to make all sorts of observations that, without it, might have caused offence; it was certainly not a giggle from the heart. I felt that Miss Compton Collier did not approve of the decoration of my house; she was only interested, and that for utilitarian reasons, in the bathroom, and the quicker outside the better.

Miss Compton Collier is extremely knowledgeable about gardens: ‘After all, I have photographed eleven thousand of them!’ She knows her England well: ‘Dorset has the best little manor houses. Oxford is where the nouveaux riches live in gardens planned by Sutton’s. That thatched wall is typical of Wiltshire; we must take it quickly – but, oh dear – the horrid sun is coming out! I hate the hard light it gives. Such a bad week last month – sun every day! I loved the summer before rain all the time! People can’t believe it when I photograph them in a downpour. But I say: “I’ll give you your money back if you don’t like it!” Recently in Scotland she had placed a whole tribal family in the garden under umbrellas, and at a given moment ordered the gillies to rush up to take away the umbrellas while the exposure was made.

Miss Compton Collier took pictures of my mother and myself obediently sitting on an old stone seat with the dog at our feet. Behind the camera her performance was dynamic – even acrobatic. In order to stimulate the interest of her subjects she would jump up and down, wave an arm, squeak a rubber dog, and hum in a high musical voice. Suddenly, with a heavy click, the shutters of the lens would open and close. ‘Got it!’ shouted Miss Compton Collier in triumph. Her face was now a matter-of-fact, rather sullen mask. The switch from such inspired enthusiasm to the merely businesslike was somewhat of a shock.

At lunch she told us that for many a donkey’s lifetime now she has lived in a small house in West End Lane, Hampstead, tended by an old servant of seventy-six. Miss Compton Collier appears so strong and healthy that one knows it is true that when she goes to bed it is to sleep so soundly that nothing will disturb her: – not even a bomb. In fact in one raid when the roof was blown off the house and all her rooms but two were destroyed, Miss Compton Collier went on snoring. [Ed: this was the V1 that hit West End Lane in June 1944].

‘Every day of my summer is taken up with work; from April to October I’m busy, so I leave everything else that has to be done to my winter months. I only do shopping in January: if a cup gets broken it has to wait till the first of the year. But I hate shopping in any case – it bores me. Now these clothes I’m wearing were bought fifteen years ago. I never read the papers: they’re so vulgar. I’ve never listened to the radio; I hear everything I want to hear. And I wouldn’t dream of doing the usual things like filling in a census or having a ration book. I just haven’t time. I hardly ever go to a play, but when I do I ring up and find out first if it’s got a nice happy ending because I hate all these squalid dramas that are so much the fashion. I loathe magazines and won’t contribute to them any more now that they’re full of Communist propaganda. I’ve never worked for the Press; if, in the old days, my pictures were used in The Tatler, it was I who chose the people to photograph: I never took people especially for the paper.’

How did you become a photographer?’ I asked. ‘I had a weak heart at school and wasn’t allowed to play games. Someone gave me a camera and I suppose that the artistic feelings, always in my family, came out in my generation in this different way. In another century I would have been a painter.’

Cecil Beaton by Miss Compton Collier, 1955

Cecil Beaton by Miss Compton Collier, 1955

Miss Compton Collier does most of her own photographic processing, and said she was up till three o’clock last night developing plates. All her paraphernalia is entirely obsolescent. She climbs under a dark red velvet cloth attached to her wooden 1895 camera with its long rubber tube with ball-shutter release. Hanging from the wooden tripod is a large bag containing a menagerie of toy dogs, mice and other pets to attract the attention of her aristocratic children and animal sitters. Miss Compton Collier has never visited a photographic exhibition, and shows complete ignorance of the work of other photographers. She had never heard of the work of Steichen, Bill Brandt or Cartier-Bresson. Although she has no further ambitions, she is never bored with her work; each sitting is a thrill for her.

In the silvery prints that resulted from her visit to Broadchalke both my mother and I appeared calm and leisurely, our faces smoothed and our hair silken. We were not only amused, but delighted.

Miss Compton Collier lived in her own closed world with little regard for current events. She took no newspapers; did not own a radio and did not watch television; she relied entirely for news of the world on her Kilburn bank manager. Her bank manager, not unreasonably, said: ‘I shall need some guidance, Miss Collier. If I am to provide you with news of the world, could you give me examples of what you mean?’ ‘Oh, yes’, she said, ‘it is perfectly simple. I mean the death of the sovereign or the outbreak of war’.

103 West End Lane, May 2017

103 West End Lane, May 2017

Dorothy continued to live at Number 103 West End Lane until her death on 27 June 1977 at ‘Chilton House’ a nursing home near Aylesbury. She left £60,361, worth about £340,000 today.

Hustings postponed in wake of Manchester attack

We have had to cancel tonight’s hustings at the Sherriff Centre.

Following the terrible attack in Manchester last night, which has left 22 people dead and dozens more injured, the political parties have suspended campaigning.

Sadly this sort of disruption of the democratic process is surely one of the aims of terrorism. While calling a temporary halt to the campaign is understandable at the national level, and of course in Manchester, I believe the hustings would have been an opportunity for West Hampstead to come together as a community and pay its respects to the people caught up in this unimaginably awful situation, while acknowledging that sensitive and thoughtful political debate can continue even as we mourn for the victims.

We will try and reschedule the hustings, and keep you informed. Thanks to those of you who had already submitted questions. Hopefully they can still be asked

WHL Hustings 2017: Tuesday 23rd May 7.30pm

The 2015 #Whampstead hustings

The 2015 West Hampstead Life/Sherriff Centre hustings

H&K promises once again to be closely fought battle and West Hampstead is the marginal bit of a marginal constituency.

Given the snap election, hustings have been thin on the ground in 2017 – in fact we don’t know of any large-scale hustings at all. We’re therefore very pleased to announce that we’ve teamed up again with the Sherriff Centre and you’ll have the chance to grill your candidates on Tuesday evening at St James’ Church.

Many of you will remember that we held a successful hustings in 2015, with more than 200 people attending. We appreciate this year’s is short notice, but hopefully lots of you will be able to make it.

To make the evening flow smoothly, we’re encouraging you to send questions in advance – the candidates will not see these beforehand. We will then ask some of the popular submitted questions before handing over to the floor.

To send a question, simply drop me an email before midday on Tuesday. There will also be a question box in St James’ Church over the next few days.

Format:
Each candidate will get a 4-minute slot to pitch themselves, and then we will structure the evening in three parts. First, questions on Brexit, then questions on other national issues (incl. foreign policy), and then questions on local issues. If we have time then there’ll be time for free questions at the end.

Doors open at 7pm, we will start at 7.30pm. We will aim to finish around 9.15pm. The Sherriff Centre café/bar will be open. We’d like to encourage floating voters to sit at the front (but you might need to get there early).

Live streaming
We are planning to livestream the event on Facebook in case you can’t make it. You’ll need to Like the West Hampstead Life FB page and keep your eyes peeled around that time.

We very much hope you can make it. All the predictions are that this will be a tight race – come and hear from the candidates and make an informed choice.

Fordwych Residents and Green Gym improve the area, and you can join them.

One of the many things that make West Hampstead a great place to live is the number of local groups and associations that take an interest in the area and give people the chance to volunteer – as well as play their part in improving the community. Such groups are always looking for new members to help out and to replace those who move on. This coming Saturday, 20th May, three local groups are putting on an event that gives people the chance to go along, find out more – and get involved.

Fordwych RA and Garden Friends NW2

Fordwych RA and Garden Friends NW2

For a number of years, the Fordwych Residents Association (FRA) has, as part of its work to represent the area, organised social events to bring residents together. Following on from the success of its Green Fair last year, it is again working with the Garden Friends NW2 group to put on the Fordwych Spring Fair – on Saturday 20th May, 10am-1pm at St Cuthbert’s Church and gardens, 59 Fordwych Road.

All are welcome to come along – for tea and cake; to buy plants; and to find out more about our groups and how you can get involved.

A little further up the road the West Hampstead Green Gym is also holding an event at the same time at the recently created Minster Road Nature Reserve. There will be information about its work and how people can volunteer. Previously this was part of the  Camden Green Gym but West Hampstead Green Gym is splitting off and setting up on its own. The group will be working weekly, on a rotating basis, in the Minster Road Natural Reserve, the Westbere Copse and the Mill Lane Open Space. The Camden Green Gym will continue its monthly visits to Hampstead Cemetery.

Email:

Green gym - we are ready for lift off!

Green gym – we are ready for lift off!

The Fordwych RA has a track record over the past 40 years in representing people living on Fordwych Road and adjoining streets. It takes up issues such as traffic, planning, rubbish, crime, the environment and local developments – and works with our councillors, Camden Council and others to make this part of the West Hampstead area a better place. We have regular meetings and are active online. We’re looking for new members and people willing to contribute a small amount of time to assist in the running of the group. You can get in touch and find out more:

Twitter: @FordwychRA
Website: fordwychra.wordpress.com
Email:

The Garden Friends NW2 group has done amazing work to plant the tree pits on Fordwych Road, which have had an incredibly positive affect on our local area. Where once people dumped mattresses and other household waste, beautiful flowers now bloom! Volunteers working with the group have also created a community garden in the grounds of St Cuthbert’s Church. The group has regular weekly sessions and is keen for more people to be involved:

Twitter: @GFriendsNW2
Email:

So do come along on Saturday 20th for a cup of tea, to meet your neighbours – and to find out more…

James Earl is (outgoing) chair of the Fordwych Residents Association

Will West Hampstead have a rosy view of Rosa’s Thai Café?

It was Bank Holiday Monday, we were on the way back from a swim at Swiss Cottage, and feeling a bit peckish. Time to try West Hampstead’s newest kid in town – Rosa’s Thai Cafe. We were not alone. The place was pretty full when we arrived past 1pm and got even fuller over lunch.

Aurevoir Ladudu, hello Rosa's.

Au revoir Ladudu, hello Rosa’s Thai Cafe.

The team has done a quick and efficient job at refurbishing the old Ladudu, but it did feel a little corporate. The decor is a mix of industrial and Scandi-chic (Scandustrial?) with little reference to Asia, unlike Ladudu. I had to stop myself from getting up to scuff the perfect walls a bit. In the background a gentle Ibiza soundtrack. All nice enough but could have been anywhere.

The staff were nice and friendly and coping well with a busy dining room. In fact the manager later confessed that they have been busier than expected since it opened last week. Still having teething troubles though – their phone number doesn’t work, yet.

Rosa’s offers both an evening and (cheaper and simpler) weekday lunch menu, although as it was a bank holiday we were offered the main dinner menu with dishes priced slightly above that other West Hampstead stalwart, BananaTree.

Despite being busy we didn’t have to wait too long to order, or for our food to arrive. As it was a self-imposed meat-free Monday I stuck to the vegetarian options – there were plenty – ordering the chilli and Thai basil stir-fry while my dining companion ordered crispy salmon in curry sauce plus a green papaya salad and coconut rice to share. For drinks we had raw coconut water and lemongrass tea, both good and exactly what I feel like drinking when eating Asian food – different options that nearby Pham House doesn’t alas offer.

Bank holiday lunch.

Bank holiday lunch.

The menu has a good selection of dishes – some favourites (its website says that across its other eight branches Rosa’s has served over 400,000 pad thais) plus other regional dishes. The salmon was the best dish we ordered, while the stir-fry was OK but the salad lacked a bit of bite. However, the mix of flavours got better as the meal went on and we finished it all off. The bill, including service, came to just under £50 (£25 a head), which felt about right.

It's thumbs up for Rosa's.

It’s thumbs up for Rosa’s.

Thanks to Teresa for passing on the baton to Rosa’s. It was her choice of restaurant to replace Ladudu. Part of me is a little sad that chain (albeit a mini-chain) Rosa’s is able to do better what she was doing. But Rosa’s is also about the personality and both by the door and on the website you can pick up recipes from founder Saiphin so you can cook some of the dishes yourself.

The future for Rosa’s Thai Cafe in West Hampstead looks rosy.

An Insight into: Brinkworth Dairy

London Farmers’ Market, which runs the West Hampstead market, has an annual competition to find customers favourite stall at each market. In West Hampstead, the winner (again) was Brinkworth Dairy. So who better for WHL’s next Insight.

Brinkworth Dairy is run by Ceri and Chad Cryer (helped by their young three boys and other family members) from Hill End Farm, which has been in the family for five generations since 1910. It’s a small 180-acre farm in North Wiltshire, with 100 grass-fed pedigree British Friesians dairy cows. Future plans include offering camping on the farm (and updating the website to include the award of West Hampstead’s farmers market favourite stall).

Every morning Chad gets up at 4.30 to bring in the cows for milking and at the weekend he then gets ready to set off for farmers markets in West Hampstead (Saturday) and Queen’s Park (Sundays).  He’s helped out here sometimes by a local friend, although this weekend he brought along two of his boys, who were selling jars of Chad’s honey – and sold it all.

Brinkworth Dairy, favourite stall at West Hampstead Market

Brinkworth Dairy, favourite stall at West Hampstead Market

Chad, what brought you West Hampstead?

London Farmers’ Market brought me here. Originally I had a stall with them at Queen’s Park as well as Marylebone, they were finding new venues and about four years ago they asked if I wanted to try their new market at West Hampstead. It was a good market from the start – some other markets start off well but then tail-off – but here things started well and continued to grow.  I like to do the work myself so decided to stick to West Hampstead and Queen’s Park and leave Marylebone.

What is your favourite memory of the area?

It was actually when I needed to go Sainsburys to buy some sugar for the stall and I kept on being greeted by customers. It was strange that here I was walking through London, but it felt like being back in my own village. Nice memory.

What was your first impression of West Hampstead?

I set up at the first market with my friend Seb, who had grown up here and so have mainly seen it through his eyes. He was amazed how much it had changed, and rather regretted his parents had sold their house here.

The first customers were really pleased that the space outside the station was being used. I knew a few of them from Queen’s Park market, they were also pleased they didn’t have go so far for their coffee, cheese and yogurt.

Cheese, glorious cheese, milk, yogurt and butter. Highly recommended by @thewetfishcafe

Cheese, glorious cheese, milk, yogurt and butter. Blue cheese highly recommended by @thewetfishcafe

What has surprised you about the way West Hampstead has changed?

Even in the short space of time I have been coming I have seen the skyline change. When I chat to someone new, often a couple, buying a coffee I’ll discover that they are looking at property in the area.

What’s for lunch?

A pizza from Napoli, the new pizza stall – usually with a samosa from Mumbai Mix (they have the stall next to mine at Queen’s Park). Otherwise it might be a burger from James, or a sausage roll.  But pizza is the new thing.

Conversely, when I’m setting up my stall at 8.45 all the other stallholders are polite enough but what they are really saying is ‘hurry up, please, I want my coffee!”

West Hampstead in three(ish) words?

Nice sense of community.

Farmers’ market update

For those of you that have read this far – changes to the farmers’ market are on the cards. There is talk of extending to Sunday and even running it some weekday evenings.

 

 

 

 

Claire-Louise Leyland chosen as Tory candidate for Hampstead & Kilburn

The local Conservative party held its constituency selection meeting last night in the Dennington Park Road synagogue hall – a special general meeting called at short notice after Theresa May’s surprise election announcement. Hampstead & Kilburn is a key target seat for them.

The local party had sent a shortlist to Central Office which initially included local party leader Claire-Louise Leyland, rising star Henry Newman – a wannabe Highgate councillor – and existing Camden councillor Siobhan Baillie. However, it seems that Siobhan either declined to stand or was dropped and when the list returned from Conservative central office it included a new name: London Assembly member Kemi Badenoch.

Tory selection meeting about to start. Image: @richardosley

Tory selection meeting about to start. Image: @richardosley

During the meeting, each candidate made a five minute personal statment, then answered the same four questions; on Brexit, the constituency being a marginal, changes to education funding and HS2. This was followed by 20 minutes of questions from the floor. Of the 700 local members, 142 turned out.

Kemi Badenoch was up first. She is the deputy-leader of the GLA Conservatives and on the GLA since 2015; her Tory credentials extend to having a husband who is a Conservative councillor. She had only found out she was on the shortlist at 11.30 yesterday morning and hadn’t even had time to go home to Wimbledon and change. Given the short notice and lack of “home advantage”, she put up a creditable performance.

Next came Claire-Louise Leyland, a familiar face to the audience as leader, since 2014, of the Camden Conservative group. She grew up in South Africa (but says her dad is as Lancashire as stick of Blackpool rock). She works as a professional art therapist and counsellor, and has spent seven years as a Conservative councillor. She campaigned for Remain last year. She had the advantage of knowing many people in the room – indeed even the room itself – as her first venture into politics was as a council candidate for the ward of West Hampstead.

The final candidate was rising bin-selfie star Henry Newman. Henry is director of Open Europe, having been a special advisor at the Justice Department for Michael Gove and at the Cabinet office. He’s only had limited media experience but was a polished performer.

As well as the four standard questions other issues that came up were the pensions triple lock, Brexit (again), the rights of EU residents, the “yellow peril” posed by the Lib Dems, Tulip, housing and inter-generational fairness.

After the first count no candidate had got a clear majority – apparently the vote was fairly evenly spread but third placed candidate Kemi dropped out.

Claire-Louise Leyland, stood as the ppc in West Tyrone in 2015. Will stand as ppc for H&K in 2017 Image: Ulster Herald.

Claire-Louise Leyland, stood as the ppc in West Tyrone in 2015. Will be ppc for H&K in 2017. Image: Ulster Herald.

In the second round of voting, Claire-Louise Leyland won to become the prospective parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn. In her short winners speech she said it was a privilege to have been selected.

Will she be the candidate to see Hampstead & Kilburn turn Conservative on June 9th? Labour’s Tulip Siddiq and the Lib Dems’ Kirsty Allan will be hoping not

Victim or thief? The strange story of the West Hampstead diamond broker

Leonard Tom – Leon to his friends – was a diamond broker. He was born in Amsterdam in 1890, but lived at several addresses in West Hampstead during his life. His family came to England in 1896, and when Leonard was 16 he joined his father in the diamond trade.

After his marriage in 1922 Leonard lived at 57 Greencroft Gardens. He was already well respected in Hatton Garden, where brokers acted as middle men, taking jewels on approval from merchants to show to prospective clients for sale on commission. In the 1930s it was common for the brokers to meet on the street or in kosher cafes around Hatton Garden to look at the goods and agree the price on a handshake. This practice continued until the war, when trade moved behind closed doors in secure premises. The London Diamond Bourse opened in 1940 in Greville Street near the junction with Hatton Garden.

In February 1932, Leonard Tom was living at 190a West End Lane (near today’s Tesco Express). At 10.30am on February 5th, Leonard Tom visited Messrs M. Gerder and Co. at Hatton House in Holborn. It was a trip he had made many times before. On this day he chose several pieces of jewellery valued at £12,350 (about £700,000 today). He then went to a café in Charles Street in ‘the Garden’ and then on to Old Bond Street to try to sell the diamonds. But the trade, like many others during the depression, was going through a difficult time and the diamond mines in Africa had closed down. There were no buyers at the right price and after lunch at Maison Lyons, a restaurant on Oxford Street opposite Bond Street Station, he decided on the spur of the moment to turn down Gilbert Street.

Oxford Street in the 1920s

Oxford Street in the 1920s

Leonard was halfway down this quiet road which runs between Oxford Street and Brook Street, when he was attacked by two men outside St Anselm’s School. They covered his face with a ‘treacle plaster’- brown paper covered in treacle which stopped him seeing anything. It was a technique copied from a famous ‘Treacle Plaster Robbery’ of a cashier in 1912.

The robbers snatched Leonard’s briefcase containing the diamonds and got away in a stolen car, which was later found abandoned in Cavendish Square. Henry Stenner, the school caretaker, witnessed the attack. He said the car had been waiting outside the school and described the men. The police were soon able to arrest Alfred Philpot and William Baldock who Stenner picked out from a line up. At their trial they were found guilty of robbery and sentenced to three years imprisonment.

Baldock was a 34-year-old piano finisher with a scar on each cheek and tattoos of a snake, a dagger, a tombstone, flowers, a woman and Buffalo Bill on his back. Philpot who was 28, had five previous convictions for stealing cars and an assault on a policeman.

The thieves may have been found, but the jewels were not. Gerder and Co., which was a very large company with an international reputation, claimed on its Lloyds insurance policy but the underwriters declined to pay. They pointed to a clause that exempted them from liability for any loss caused by theft or dishonesty by a broker. In short, they were saying that Leonard Tom, who had a spotless reputation, had stolen the diamonds.

A year later, the civil case came for trial to be heard before Justice Humphries without a jury. By now, Leonard had moved to 16 Cleve Road. The defence barristers talked about the normal day-to-day work of brokers in Hatton Garden, where millions of pounds worth of jewellery was traded in coffee shops, and where gangs of crooks were on the lookout for a chance to snatch a bag or briefcase. In the witness box, Leonard described the attack, which was so quick he had no time to react before his case was snatched.

Philpot was brought from Chelmsford Prison to give evidence. Standing with warders next to him in the box, he said that in January 1932, Leonard Tom had met him, Baldock and another man called Mark, who he assumed was the gang leader, and two other un-named men, in a teashop in Hatton Garden to plan the robbery. He said Leonard had taken them to Gilbert Street to survey the scene. Philpot was the driver tasked with stealing a car in Camden Town. After the attack, he said they met in a pub in Smithfield where they divided £200 for their part in the robbery. Leonard was pressed very hard by the barrister, and admitted that times were difficult and that in the previous six months he had earned only about £100 (today worth about £6,500). But he denied planning the attack with the gang and said he was completely innocent.

In his summing up, the judge said that if this had indeed been a real hold-up it was a most remarkable thing. He made much of the fact that the attack happened in a quiet side street where the thieves were waiting beside their car. How could they have known Leonard Tom would take that route unless he had told them? It was also strange that Leonard did not defend himself, although he had fought in the war, where he was promoted from a private to a lieutenant in the Tank Corps. The judge visited Gilbert Street and concluded the robbery must have been pre-planned. After carefully weighing all the evidence, Justice Humphries said it was a painful decision because of the consequences for Leonard Tom, but he found in favour of Lloyds against Messrs Gerder.

As a result, Leonard Tom was arrested on 20 June 1933 for conspiring with two men to commit a bogus robbery, and committed for trial at the Old Bailey. In July the jury listened to the same evidence that Justice Humphries had heard, but could not reach agreement, and a new trial was called. At the second trial the new jurors heard a director of Messrs Gerder say they still had complete confidence in Leonard’s honesty. This time the jury agreed and found him not guilty. Leonard stayed at Cleve Road until his death on 24 June 1943. He left £876 (worth about £35,000 today), to his widow Dora.

What do you think – was he innocent or did he arrange the bogus robbery?

We love leafy West Hampstead, let’s keep it that way.

Recently the Mayor’s office published this map of all the street trees in London – colour coded. This dendrophile’s wet dream covers all of London but if you put your postcode in the top-right corner then you can zoom in on West Hampstead.

From City Hall's tree map of London

From City Hall’s tree map of London

By unclicking certain dots you can see what West Hampstead would look like without, for example, its Plane trees. This could really happen as all London’s magnificent Plane trees (e.g along the Embankment) are coming to the end of their lives.

Leafy West Hampstead

Leafy West Hampstead

To find out more about trees in West Hampstead WHL spoke to Riccardo Arnone, Camden’s tree officer for this part of the borough (area 2 to be exact).  For each area the Tree Department has a three-year programme of inspection and replacement; our next one is due in 2018/19. He deals with trees on streets, on council estates and in parks, but not those on private land.

Did you know that if you see a diseased, dying or dead tree you can report it to Camden via the trees section website. And if you really care about trees, you can help water the newly planted ones. We are having another very dry spell but the watering contract hasn’t started yet so any young trees around are getting very thirsty. It costs about £100 to plant each tree, but for Riccardo it’s not just about the money but also about the loss of something living. “It’s a shame to lose a tree”.

It’s a bit too early to be 100% sure of the underlying reason, but Camden’s Tree Department is having to adjust its tree stock due to the impact of changes in the climate. There are new pests and diseases, such as the Oak Processionary moth as monitored on Fortune Green back in 2015, and longer dry periods such as we are experiencing now. That, plus managing subsidence risk, means Camden is planting smaller varieties such as Amalanchier. Although this is a fine tree (with delicious berries) it isn’t a true replacement for the trees we are losing as it doesn’t provide much shade on a hot summer’s day.

They look fine now, but long term the Plane trees are too close together.

They look fine now, but these Plane trees are too close together.

West Hampstead has also lost a number of established trees to recent redevelopments, and despite promises at the time they don’t seem to have been replaced. Yes, there new trees outside the Ballymore development in West Hampstead Square, indeed they are Plane trees. Great, given the prospect of many of the older ones reaching the end of their lives, except… they are planted too close to each other. Sigh.

If you like our trees, and they are what makes makes West Hampstead nice and green, then look out for the tree walk the Friends of Fortune Green have lined up for the autumn. The last one they organised was a few years ago and more than 60 residents joined – the highest number Camden had ever had for a tree walk. In the meantime here’s a reminder of one of the area’s greatest trees.

Image via Louise O'Keefe

Image via Louise O’Keefe

Don’t trust an MP who says they’re a “regular person”, says Tulip

Where's the NHS money Boris? Image credit: Tulip Siddiq/BBC

Where’s the NHS money Boris? Image credit: Tulip Siddiq/BBC

Tulip Siddiq, MP for Hampstead & Kilburn, is a busy working mother and her baby daughter Azalea is going through a naughty, determined, stage at the moment. After her mother’s recent haranguing of “smirking” foreign secretary Boris Johnson in the House of Commons, perhaps we know where Azalea gets it from. We sat down with Tulip to talk politics, Brexit, spin and, of course, West Hampstead.*

Juggling political life

At the moment, Tulip and husband Chris both have full-on jobs, and a baby to bring up. She laments that they are often like ships passing in the night and sometimes don’t get to see each other much. When they do, it’s a multilingual affair. Tulip talks to Azalea in Bengali, while Chris talks to her in Mandarin (he is a fluent speaker) to give her a good grounding before she starts learning English. Interestingly, if Chris talks in Bengali, Azalea refuses to answer him. Poor kid is probably baffled!

Juggling home and work life sounds pretty standard for most people, but Tulip is not impressed by those politicians who profess to be just ‘normal regular people’. To become an MP is quite a struggle – in her case with what she describes as a gruelling selection process (particularly bitter as “you are up against your friends”), followed by contesting a tight marginal seat, which can be a vicious experience. It is an unusual existence, and Tulip suggests you shouldn’t trust anyone who suggests they are just a regular woman, or man, who just ended up there by accident.

Tulip revealed that it was a Conservative who gave Tulip her first break in politics. Andrew Marshall, now an independent councillor for Swiss Cottage, is the man responsible, according to Tulip. Back in 2007 there was a council by-election in Fortune Green, following the death of councillor Jane Schopflin. At an informal hustings for candidates, Tulip says that Andrew was impressed enough to email Anna Stewart, then the leader of the Camden Labour, saying very complimentary things about Tulip. This, she says, is what got her noticed and she was then selected for Regent’s Park ward, made a Camden cabinet member, selected as parliamentary candidate and is now our MP. Andrew himself has no recollection of the hustings or the email.

Unity and division 

It may sound strange to outside ears for a member of one party to openly praise a member of another. But the reality is that parliament is not always as partisan as it appears. Tulip has worked with Conservative MP Maria Miller on a cross-party bill on sex and relationship education, and also actively supports Harrow MP Bob Blackman’s private member’s Homeless Reduction Bill. She even shares a corridor (and long chats) with Chris Philp, who many readers will remember as the Tory candidate who came just 42 votes short of toppling Glenda Jackson in Hampstead & Kilburn in 2010.

Tulip is also working on another cross-party bill with Conservative MP Oliver Dowden who, like Tulip, has a constituent imprisoned in Iran. West Hampstead resident Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has spent almost a year now in prison in Iran and Tulip say she is trying hard to get a meeting with the government to discuss her case, but claims Boris is stalling.

Lest we should think that all is sweetness and light across the house, Brexit of course remains divisive. Tulip was one of the Labour rebels who opposed the bill (and stepped down from the shadow cabinet as a result), and she is disappointed with the Tory response. She suggests that some Conservative MPs talked a good game but when push came to shove only Kenneth Clarke voted against the bill.

There are 17,000 EU nationals in Hampstead & Kilburn, one of the highest number in any constituency. Of course they don’t get to vote in a general election, but Tulip argued that “I’m not here to get votes, I’m here to help people.  I am your MP. If you live here I will represent you”. Of course in an area that voted some 3-to-1 in favour of Remain, far in excess of her victory margin, voting against the bill hardly seems like political suicide. Tulip does point out that it is becoming harder not to be very guarded when making public statements given the volume of nasty attacks that ensue if you say something even mildly controversial (that’s you Twitter trolls). A recent Guardian interview with her and anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller, gives some insight into the intensity of vitriol women in particular can face, and the lengths public figures like Tulip have to go to to keep themselves safe.

Brexit has predictably led to a big jump in EU casework – for example she is trying to help a Spanish constituent who has custody of her child whose father is British. Will she be allowed to stay? None of these implications were discussed by the Leave campaign at the time of the referendum, and as Brexit minister David Davis frankly admitted, there has been a complete lack of preparation.

Even this week, Tulip voiced her Brexit ire in the House of Commons, criticising Boris Johnson for “smirking at the British public” over the claim that £350m would go to the NHS.

Thankfully, Tulip is generally amused by Speaker John Bercow cutting MPs down to size in the chamber. “His comments are so funny,” she says (the clip includes a good example).

If proposed boundary changes go ahead, which would on paper suit the Conservatives, then perhaps her rebel stance will help her. Even if there is no change, the national polls don’t look good for Labour under its current leadership. Of course, she is fighting the proposals anyway – which would see Kilburn drop out of the constituency and leafier suburbs to the north and east come in.

Tulip’s main concern is splitting the Kilburn High Road across two constituencies. It is, she points out, already under-represented, particularly  since it straddles two boroughs – four if you go far enough north and south. She became particularly aware of the problems Kilburn faces when her constituency office was there and she became involved in all sorts of local issues: HS2’s ventilation shaft in South Kilburn, payday lenders and loan sharks targeting the area and even parking for Eid prayers.

What about West Hampstead?

Whatever boundary changes, West Hampstead will remain in the constituency, and so the conversation turns to our own neighbourhood. Tulip says that she was sorry to see long-standing Lib Dem councillor Keith Moffitt go, but that Labour’s Phil Rosenberg has carried on the tradition of working hard for the community. As a former local councillor, she is well aware of the problems local councils face at the moment: “The government doesn’t care about local councils, if you haven’t been a local councillor you don’t know the full impact of the decisions they are making.”

On the thorny issues of fortnightly waste collections in the area, Tulip politely demurs that she doesn’t know the full details, although she says that she understands the concerns and lots of people are coming to her surgeries about the issue. She does point out that councils have to make difficult choices and not everyone is aware of the level of services the council provides in other areas – much of which is statutory and cannot be cut.

As the conversation draws to a close, a school bus passed by, which Tulip said she had used as a 16-year-old – yes, she’s lived here that long. Of course, she still finds out new things about the area in West Hampstead Life, which she kindly says plays an important role in keeping locals informed (whether or not we say nice things about her personally). “I always read things where I think ‘I didn’t know that.'”

*this interview took place before the tragic events around Westminster last week

 

Shop local: 12 Presents for Mother’s Day

Mother’s day or Mothering Sunday, is the 26th March. Which is soon. If you haven’t got something for yours, or for younger mums something ‘from’ the kids – what to buy?  WHL scooted round the shops in the ‘hood – and this is what caught our eye.

Next decision, which colour...?

Next decision, which colour…?

Season’s Cookshop said “well it depends how pleased you want to make your mum!” and suggested a Le Creuset casserole dish (priced from £99 to £219).  Or for the perfect coffee with the right crema a Bialetta coffee maker (£36.30 with 20% off at the moment).  Otherwise, although your mum might take this the wrong way I quite liked the ‘avocado shark’ – a kitchen tool for avocados.

My heart belongs to ... cocoa-dusted walnuts, or possibly chocolate salami.

My heart belongs to … cocoa-dusted walnuts, or possibly chocolate salami.

Sticking to the food theme, down at Cocoa Bijoux on Broadhurst Gardens they recommended their cocoa-dusted Perigord walnuts at £15 or a selection of home made truffles. Otherwise Selma who was running the shop that day (Stuart the owner’s mum and from South Africa), would like some of their Biltong, but not sure my mum would be that chuffed.

Can't decide? Get all four.

Can’t decide? Get all four.

If wine is more her thing then Avie at Tannin & Oak suggests maybe some vintage prosecco by Nino Franco at £25 a bottle, or a white frizzante Moscate D’Asti at £16.00.  For something with a bit of a wow factor he also has magnums, recommending a rose – Rosado 2015 by Ramon Bilbao at £19.99 or red for £30.00 from Camille Cayron. Andrea at Vini Vici on Mill Lane was a bit more cynical about Mother’s Day, but happy to make a recommendation if you pop by.

Buddha or angel?

Buddha or angel?

North West 6, the gift shop by the tube station offers jewellery – recommending this blue topaz set for £240. It also has range of semi-precious stones (their healing powers are all the rage in L.A. at the moment) so maybe a rose quartz buddha or angel (depending on her religious viewpoint)? They also have a good range of oh-so important mother’s day cards.

Is she a cat or a dog person?

Is she a cat or a dog person?

Something for the younger artier mum? Try Monsters of Art on Mill Lane. Is she a cat or a dog person? Two pictures that caught my eye are these. The cat (£175) is by a local (well, Cricklewood) artist. The photo doesn’t really do justice to the dog picture (£300) – I really liked it, as did a well-known (and cool) DJ who’s already got a couple.

Nice frame at Joy

Nice frame at Joy

Two other options for the younger mum (or young at heart) is Joy which offered this nice picture frame (£12.00) and La Boutique Secret. Both had lots of fashion options but it’s a tricky one, not only does the piece and colour have to be right but the size too. Easier for woman to choose than a man methinks.

Perhaps a pampering present would be perfect? On West End Lane, Healthtown are offering a Mothering Sunday massage voucher for £50 (normally £60). Nearly opposite Nailsuite UK are offering a mani/pedi voucher for £40 (normally £55). As does Beauty Blossom on Mill Lane also £40 (that’s their normal price).

Best Mother's day card in West Hampstead (in our judgement)

Best Mother’s day card in West Hampstead (in our judgement)

Still looking for a card? The Sherriff Centre is another good source, and probably had the best card I saw (in the picture). As for presents it has some reasonably priced clutch bags by Holy Chic at £9.00 – or natural candle sets for £15.95. Ever popular are their individual letters at £1.75 each; so you can spell it out.

From the sublime to the ridiculous

From the sublime to the ridiculous

Literally, another option is West End Lane Books. Danny had several excellent recommendations; something from the display of gardening books in the window? Shelves full of Persephone and Virago books or ‘Mothering Sunday’ by Graham Swift? A little lower down the literary scale they offer ‘The Mum – how it works’, or ‘Adrian Mole – The Collected Poems’.

Say it with flowers, paper flowers!

Say it with flowers, paper flowers!

The Village Haberdashery has plenty to offer, suggesting cute crochet and knitting kits (£25 to £39). They also offer vouchers for their in-house workshops (£60) or paper flower making kits (starting from £5).

Another handmade option on West End Lane is to take the kids (or just yourself) and paint a mug (£18) or a plate (£18 to £30) at Art for Fun. But better get your skates on as it has be done this weekend since it takes a week to fire, so ready for collection next Saturday evening. In time for Mothering Sunday, just.

Achillea - bloomin' marvellous.

Achillea – bloomin’ marvellous.

If it is real flowers you are looking for then for my money, or should that be for my mummy, you can’t go wrong with a bouquet from Achillea flowers (from £20 upwards).

So there you are – at least twelve suggestions for a mother’s day present on your doorstep. If she doesn’t get anything, can’t say it was because you couldn’t find anything locally.

Is anyone counting West Hampstead’s job growth?

The reason West Hampstead seems inundated with new developments is that it was designated a “Growth Area” by City Hall. The Growth Area is specifically the part of West Hamsptead around the railway lines. Targets were set for 800 new homes and 100 new jobs between 2010 and 2031. Yes, 2031.

WH Growth area2

Growth Area is outlined in black

Seven years in, we are far ahead of that job target, but there seems to be little joined up thinking about the implications. The whole issue is far more complex than it should be.

For a start, Camden seems to have changed the employment target from 100 jobs to 500 jobs (or 7, 000m2 of business space) in its Core Strategy 2010-2025 document. Yet Camden’s soon-to-be-adopted Local Plan 2016-2031 still talks about the Mayor’s targets of 100 jobs, which is also the current London plan target.

Inside Ink at Blackburn House Image: Ink Global/Sidetrade

Inside Ink at Blackburn House – Image: Ink Global/Sidetrade

Nido student housing. The first development built in the growth area was the student housing on Blackburn Road that replaced the Mercedes Benz garage. It contains 2,100m2 of office employment space, which at 12m2 of floor space per job should have created 175 jobs. It took a while to let the space out, but now, the magazine publisher Ink Global operates out of the space (if you have ever read the Easyjet Magazine that’s one of theirs), and they sublet some, but in total there are 150 full time jobs on site, and the student housing itself accounts for nearly 20 full-time jobs on site. So at ~170 full-time jobs, this space has delivered as predicted but not quite as planned. And indeed that is the entire London Plan job target met in one fell swoop.

But of course it doesn’t stop there,

West Hampstead Square. Alongside the 198 flats, there’s the M&S (583 m2), which will have ~35 full-time equivalent staff. There is another 300m2 of retail space, which has been taken by the Village Haberdashery, Provenance butcher, and Johns & Co. (Ballymore’s in-house estate agent). There’s also a further five units of 100m2 each for business or healthcare still to be let. There has been early stage interest from a doctor and a dentist for possibly one unit apiece, and other businesses for the remaining units. All told that should result in another 40 full time employees. This would give a total of ~90 new full-time jobs.

156 West End Lane. Employment was a hot topic for this redevelopment given that Travis Perkins would be removed. And of course the 2,400m2 of empty council offices had employees. The new retail space (763m2 divided up into three units, provisionally two retail and one restaurant) should create ~45 jobs, with another ~70 jobs coming from the regular office (593m2) and affordable small business workspace (500m2).

Liddell Road. Liddell Road actually falls outside the Growth Area, but does that mean that its impact should be completely ignored when thinking about local infrastructure? We would argue not.

Yellow = school, blue = housing and red = offices, workshops

Yellow = school, blue = housing and red = offices, workshops

Alongside the residential units to be built there is 3,700m2 of employment space. According to the planning officers report this will create ~280-295 full-time jobs when fully let. And the new school should eventually account for ~50 jobs. 

Iverson Tyres. Also outside the Growth Area – just, as part of its planning permission the developer was required to keep 150m2 of light industrial space, however, it has since applied to convert it to B1 office or D1. This should create a further ~10 jobs.

If we add up all the jobs we know about, then we get to just over 700 new jobs in ~8,700m2 of space (including Liddell Road outside the growth area). Even if you deduct the jobs that have been lost from these sites (a hotly contested number especially on Liddell Road), there is no question that net new jobs in West Hampstead will far far exceed both the London Plan target of 100, and Camden’s revised target of ~500.

And there are still more growth area sites to be developed, such as Midland Crescent, which will add another 100 or so, and of course the O2 car park, which has the potential to dwarf every other site.

But will all the developments deliver the total jobs predicted? Is there demand for office space in West Hampstead? Only a couple of years ago, 65 & 67 Maygrove Road were predominantly office space but agents struggled to let the space and it has since been turned into 91 flats after the developer successfully argued that there was no demand for office space in the area.

Another piece of the puzzle is that much of the new employment space is labelled ‘start-up’ and ‘incubator’ space, both at 156 West End Lane and Liddell Road. Although this sounds trendy, there is no sign of anyone offering, for example, co-working space in the area. If Camden was serious about this approach, it could have tested the waters at 156 West End Lane (the upper floors of which have been empty for years now) as a ‘meanwhile’ space for start ups and creative businesses. It feels a bit like Dad dancing at a family wedding, faintly embarrassing jumping on a bandwagon.

David Matthews of local agents Dutch and Dutch, which is letting the 500m2 flexible commercial space in West Hampstead Square, is unsurprisingly upbeat about the situation. The space hasn’t officially started to be marketed yet because construction isn’t finished yet (no surprise), but he says there has been strong demand.

West Hampstead is changing, and all these new jobs around the stations will change it even more, hopefully bringing more activity during the day though also more commuters using the stations. We looked at the issue of growth area sustainability back in 2013, but nearly four years later it feels that there has been little progress in tackling the inevitable outcomes of increased employment and residential density.

Researching this article has shown how difficult it is to understand exactly how many jobs are being created.  There is no record in the planning applications of how many jobs were lost at the Ballymore site, the Mercedes Garage or even the old Council offices, so it difficult to know the net increase. Is anyone keeping track of this? Things are not helped by confusion on what the actual targets are – with different numbers  in the Camden Core Strategy, and the Camden and London plans for the West Hampstead Growth area. The same plans talk about street improvements and better environment, but when it comes to action there is similar confusion.

‘West Hampstead’ to disappear from northbound 139 bus signs

Proposed changes to bus routes will mean ‘West Hampstead’ may fall out of London’s collective consciousness as the words will no longer appear on the 139 bus as it heads north from Waterloo.

Having pulled an earlier consultation on changes to the bus routes that run north on the Baker Street corridor (funnily enough right before the Mayoral elections). TfL consulted again on the same proposals in August, and this time the outcome is to push through the proposed changes, which are due to be implemented from the late spring. A former councillor once explained this approach as being ‘consult and ignore’.

The TfL report reveals that only 32% of respondents supported or partially supported the changes to route 13, even fewer (26%) the changes to the 82 and 25% supported changes to the 189. Changes to the 113 were more popular with 48% support or partial support and there was actually a majority in favour of one change: 52% supported the changes to the 139.

Soon to vanish? destination - West Hampstead

Soon to vanish? destination – West Hampstead

Disappearing signage aside, the changes are probably overall good news for West Hampstead (hence the majority support for the 139 changes). The 139 will now run all the way to Golders Green, which will mean the end of ‘ghost’ buses that run empty along Mill Lane as they return to the Cricklewood depot, and that have been such a bugbear. It will also increase the frequency of buses between Golders Green and West Hampstead.

Proposed changes to 13, 82 , 113, 139 and 189 bus routes. Image: TFL

Proposed changes to 13, 82 , 113, 139 and 189 bus routes. Image: TFL

The other change that affects West Hampstead less directly is to remove route 82, but increase the frequency of the 13. Not that the 13 will be the bus it once was – it effectively becomes the new 82 (still with me?). The 13, which currently terminates at Golders Green, would continue to North Finchley (where the 82 currently ends). Southbound, it would no longer terminate at Aldwych, but instead finish at Victoria (where the 82 currently terminates). To recap: new 13=old 82.

For occasional users of the buses up and down the Finchley Road, the overall loss of frequency during the morning rush hour is likely to be the biggest negative change. More regular users might notice a bigger difference.

The other (minor) proposed change is that the 189 would end at Marble Arch instead of Oxford Circus. This means that neither the 13 nor 189 would run down Oxford Street, helping to reduce the excessive number of buses along there. If you want to come back to West Hampstead from Oxford Street, you either take a bus to Marble Arch and change, or wait for a 113 or 139. The new one-hour hopper fare (or transfer) means anyone using an Oystercard or contactless card does not have to pay again for a second journey taken within one hour of joining the first bus. So no extra cost, but more waiting around potentially.

Meanwhile, we shall mourn the loss of that small sense of pride of standing by Piccadilly Circus as the 139 to West Hampstead hoves into view. And no more will Emma Hignett, the voice of the bus announcments, chime out with, “This is the 139. To. West Hampstead”. End of an era.

Will the Fawley Road leak ever be stopped?

If you live on, or walk or drive down Fawley Road then you won’t have failed to notice the leak that’s been spewing water down the street for the past week. It’s not the only one – Achilles Road and West End Lane also have leaks – harking back to the time a few years ago when West Hampstead leaks seemed to be a weekly occurrence.

One man has been on a personal crusade with Thames Water to try and get this one fixed. Here is his story.

Warning: contains a lot of images of water flowing over tarmac.

Bobby F’s timewarp bar opens on West End Lane

Photo: Jane Lucken (model: unknown)

Photo: Jane Lucken (model: unknown)

It’s been a long-time coming. La Brocca closed its doors in June 2015, but its replacement – Bobby Fitzpatrick’s – opens tonight. Bobby’s owners, ULG (who also run The Gallery and The Alice House), have opted for a louche 70s theme for the new bar.

West Hampstead Life was – of course – at the launch party last Friday and the first day of the soft launch on Monday. But what did our various correspondents make of the makeover?

Shalini:
Wow, there’s nothing quite like this in West Hampstead! A throwback bar where you feel like you’re at a party in That 70s show, or in the fully functional underground house-cum-fallout shelter like in Blast From the Past, that film where they thought the world had ended and they lived frozen time, gaudy décor and all.

Photo: Shalini Rawlley

Photo: Shalini Rawlley

The devil is in the details from old-fashioned hand dryers, amber soap and classic books by Fleming and Tolkien and that’s just in the loos! Clunky speakers and fuzzy, chunky TVs; there’s nothing chic about this shabby place, which all adds to the charm.

The only modern hints were the gorgeous cocktails, with twists and classics and all new Bobby creations, served in old fashioned drinking glasses of course! But they serve beers and shooters too, and unpretentious comfort food and the friendliest staff to make your evening a winner.

I would definitely bring my friends back to this groovy bar, it will certainly leave an impression and have you holding back on all the Austin Power’s quotes!

Photo: Shalini Rawlley

Photo: Shalini Rawlley

Mark:
I liked it. I was concerned it was going to be over the top and too faddy but actually it went to the edge but not over it. It’s been very well done. I hope for West Hampstead that it does work, ULG has a good track record. It’s doing something different from the prevalent Brooklyn industrial chic, zagging while the others are zigging. As for the food – the burger was good but I’m not sure recreating 1980s deep dish pizzas is such a good idea – they weren’t that good to begin with. And a mention for the staff were friendly and professional and helped create a good atmosphere.

Jane:
I have many happy memories of La Brocca, so my first ten minutes was spent gasping at how much it has changed. But I’m up for evolution and soon started smiling at how they have brought Bobby’s home to life. I’d have loved the job of sourcing all the crazy bits and bobs – where did they find that hand dryer?! I applaud the owners for moving beyond the too-common industrial luxe aesthetic and creating somewhere genuinely fun and different. The cocktails are excellent, if crazy, just like the whole place really!

Photo: Tom Vanheems

Photo: Tom Vanheems

Tom:
I can see Bobby Fitzpatrick being a hit with the locals. A huge amount of work has gone into the crazy, amusing and even atmospheric 70s design, so that it feels welcoming rather than just a novelty. I sense this will create a good vibe and an inviting place to hang out; the sense of fun and originality is tangible.

Food is well-priced, with fresh, flavoursome American-style pizzas (think soft-base like Franco Manca rather than the old Italian style of La Brocca) – perhaps would be good to see some sides of fresh greens or something, to balance things out a little? Hopefully the wine list will expand beyond the two reds and two whites currently available, though I can confirm that both are very drinkable!

Venue hire options in West Hampstead (more than you think)

Got a kids’ party to host? Want to run a kindergarten, teach a yoga class or hold a meeting? These all require venues – but where are the rooms and halls to hire in West Hampstead?

Emmanuel Church and the Sheriff Centre are particularly keen to hear from those wanting to start a regular community oriented group. The Hub is also looking to work with partners.

Prices given are indicative – many venues reduce the price for community and regular users.

How big a room do you need? If square metres don’t mean a lot to you, then here’s a guide: a 35m2 room at Emmanuel Church will fit 15-16 for a meeting round a table, or ~25 in rows of seats (“theatre style”) for an AGM or presentation. For a yoga class, the 65m2 hall at Lymington Road can fit 15 (comfortably) to 24 (bit tight). For larger meetings, a rule of thumb is 1m2 per person sitting and 0.5m2 standing, so Kingsgate’s 87m2 main hall can roughly fit 100 seated and 200 standing.

Emmanuel Church
The newest kid on the block is one of the older buildings! As we reported last July, the newly refurbed Emmanuel Church has five spaces on offer: a small meeting room (16m2), three larger rooms (30-35m2 each) and rear nave space (not a near-rave space) that’s 100m2. And it has a small kitchen too.

Cost: £10 per hour for the smaller room; £20-£25 for the larger ones; £35ph for the rear nave space and £40ph to hire the whole church.

Contact: 020 7435 1911

St. Cuthbert’s Church

In a bit of empire building St. Cuthbert’s now falls under the aegis of Emmanuel and has a room for hire.  It’s a hall that holds about 40 people, only really available on Saturday afternoons but that’s OK as it is mainly used for kid’s parties.  It has access to a kitchen and toilets.

Cost: £50 per hour

Contact:

The Sherriff Centre
This trendy venue with a nice atmosphere has a couple of options: the Lady Chapel, which is used for classes and meetings during the day, is £15 per hour and £25 in the evening, though it can be a bit noisy at certain times of day.

For children’s parties (ages 1-8), there’s the popular Hullabaloo play area. Exclusive use is possible on Saturdays 10-12pm, 12.30-2.30pm, and 3-5pm. You can also hire the whole space in the evenings for bigger/bespoke events. The cost will depend on the precise details.

Cost: Non-exclusive use is £275 and exclusive £360. Sundays is £385 for exclusive use only as the building is closed to the public.

Contact: / 020 7625 1184

St. James’s Church hall, Sherriff Road
Right next door to the Sherriff Centre is St. James Church. The hall is 90m2 plus a stage space and it has not one, but two kitchens. A small niche one and a full-sized one too. And outdoor space, useful in summer.

Cost: £40 per hour, but negotiable for regular/community users.

Contact: 020 7372 6441 (Beryl)

St. James Church Hall - they pretty much all look the same!

St. James Church Hall – they pretty much all look the same!

St. Luke’ Church hall, Kidderpore Avenue
It’s the other side of the Finchley Road so not technically West Hampstead, although its parish extends across to Fortune Green. Anyway it has a church hall available for hire that can hold 60 people

Cost: £20 per hour or £150 for children’s parties (3 hours), plus the bonus of a bouncy castle for hire.

St. Andrew’s United Reform Church  Hall

Also on the other side of the Finchley Road, but at the bottom of Frognal at the junction with the Finchley Road, so practically West Hampstead.  It has a larger hall and two smaller rooms available for hire at limited times during weekdays. The larger one is available for children’s parties on Saturday afternoons.

Cost: £30 an hour for children’s parties

Contact: Sara Meadows on 020 7794 9516

02 Centre
Part of the O2 centre’s obligations under planning consent is that it has community rooms available for hire. It has two spaces, The Art Gallery and The Venue.

The Art Gallery is 40m2 and suitable for small meetings and events.

Cost: £35+vat per hour or £140+vat per day.

The Venue is 200m2 (and has a mirror down one wall) and is suitable for larger events and training sessions. Alas, The Venue no longer accepts bookings for parties (wonder what happened there…)

Cost: £65+vat per hour Mon to Thurs, and £80+vat at weekends. (set up time is charged at £24+vat per hour). Regular events (classes) pay about half the hourly charge.

Contact: 020 7794 7716

JW3
JW3 has a wide range of options, although they are a little pricier than others. The facilities are still very new though, and there’s a great café on site. There are “breakout rooms”, a demonstration kitchen, a 60-seat cinema, a dance studio, the piazza and a hall that can seat up to 270 theatre style, or 180 banqueting style. The rate for all rooms varies according to whether it’s a charity, corporate or private event

Cost: the charity rate starts at £36 per hour for room hire – full and half-day rates are also available.

Contact: More details here.

Hampstead Synagogue, Dennington Park Road
Familiar to some as the venue for the Area Forums, the upper hall is a large space that can seat up to 220 people. The Synagogue can also provide tea and coffee, tables and a projector and screen etc. for an additional fee. There’s also a smaller lower hall that seats 60.

The rooms are less glossy than some of the others, though there are plans for redevelopment (these are at a very early stage though!)

Cost: £60 per hour during the week and £70 Friday and Saturday irrespective of which room you choose.
Contact: / 020 7435 1518

West Hampstead Library
Often used for public meetings and talks, the library can seat up to 70 people, and allows some standing room in a flexible 90m2 space.

Cost: £25 per hour for community use and a rather pricey £100/hour for commercial use. AV facilities are available for an additional cost.

Contact: Camden’s events service or 020 7974 5633

Emmanuel School
The recently built school hall is a biggish modern space (about 180m2) suitable for public meetings (such as the council hustings we held there in 2014!) and children’s parties.

Cost: £40 per hour (£50 per hour including kitchenette). AV equipment is extra.

Contact:

Fortune Green Playcentre
The playcentre is a popular, if slightly shabby, venue for younger children’s parties with the advantage of outdoor space for play (in summer).

Cost: £40 per hour with a three-hour minimum booking.

Contact:

The Hub
If you are looking for something in South Hampstead, there is the Hub on Fairhazel Gardens It’s run as a mental health well-being centre, with a very helpful and clear website, and offer six tree-named rooms for rent. Like Emmanuel and The Sherriff Centre, The Hub is keen to work with other local groups.

Cost: Oak £35ph for 30-50 seated/60-70 standing; Beech and Elm £25ph for 10-15; Willow – a specialist computer room at £25pn for 5-10; Ash and Maple £15ph for 2-3, suitable as a therapy rooms.

Contact: 0207 278 4437

The Curled Leaf

The increasingly popular vegetarian Curled Leaf Cafe on Mill Lane has a basement room.  If you are planning a giant’s convention then the ceiling is a bit low (but not that low) so as a venue for kids parties it’s fine.  It even has direct access to a small garden.  For parties they can obviously help with the catering – another bonus.

It is not just a party venue, it can also be used for yoga classes.  And if you are looking for a massage/treatment room they have one of those upstairs that they occasionally let out.

Cost: The basement room is a reasonable £25/hour

Contact: 020 7794 6296

Healthtown

As the name suggests the rooms they offer are health oriented.  There is a large (60m2) exercise space complete with mirror down one side (used by ballet classes)

The Rooms Above

(How I missed this one in the original listing I don’t know).  The Rooms Above have six rooms – three larger and three smaller ones.  In their own words “the rooms are used for rehearsal groups, personal trainers, life coaches, healing arts therapists (pilates and yoga), singing, dance, music and much much more!”

Cost: The larger rooms are £20 to £25 per hour and the smaller ones £15 to £18.

Contact: via their very comprehensive website 

The Community Centres

Lymington Road Residents Association Hall
This is a fairly simple 65m2 room with a small kitchen. It gets quite booked up, especially at evenings and weekends. It’s used in the evenings for yoga and karate

Cost: £20 per hour.

Contact:

Sidings Hall
Sidings (off Maygrove Road) has a number of rooms and halls (and a kitchen) for rent, although they are fairly busy so availablity is limited

Contact: 020 7625 6260,

West Hampstead Community Centre
There’s a small hall (about 50m2) for rent that has just been renovated but is fairly booked up (especially in the evenings) as it is used for a wide range of classes.

Cost: £20 for classes, more for one-off events.

Contact , 020 7794 3729

Kingsgate Community Centre

Kingsgate has a number of rooms to hire, including a large hall with stage (£60 per hour for 200 seated/100 standing), a small hall with kitchen (£29 for 100/50), an art room (£30 for 15) and two meeting rooms (£23 for 12). After a big rent increase by the Council, Kingsgate has reviewed hire rates – the rates quoted are for private hire, though it has a sliding schedule for community/regular users.

….And finally, there is possibly one more room on the way as plans for 156 West End Lane include a 65m2 community room. So there you are – updated – it’s now twenty possible venues in West Hampstead, with more than – updated –  50  separate possible rooms for hire.

That’s it!

If I’ve missed any – and I’m sure I have – please let me know. We haven’t covered party venues – i.e., pubs – in this post. We’ll be looking at that next.

Get fit in 2017: The West Hampstead gym guide

west-hampstead-gym-guide_ft

It’s that time of year again; time to start thinking about undoing some of the damage from treating ourselves a little too much over the festive season. For all those times we said, ‘Oh go on then, it’s Christmas after all!’ Now your clothes are a little uncomfortable and you seem to have grown a couple of extra chins in those family photos.

But it’s a new year and you’re ready to get back into shape. There will be times it will hurt and you’ll wondering why you’re doing this to yourself. I’ve already been there and reminded myself, “Because mince pies.”

Where to go and what to do? Here’s our guide to the area’s best options for getting fit and healthy this year.

Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre (http://www.better.org.uk/)

At around £55 a month, the Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre is a really great value-for-money choice. It boasts a huge pool that’s sectioned into lanes for different abilities, plenty of equipment and a great choice of classes, which actually run at convenient times. It’s also set beautifully, with huge floor to ceiling windows, plenty of natural light, trees and a huge water fountain, which I find helps to really motivate me. You can also see down over the pool from one of the studios and most of the equipment has built-in TVs so you can watch your favorite shows at the same time.

The downside is that actually getting onto a class it really difficult as they are so popular! Despite being able to book easily on the app or website, you need to be ready to book your place within the first hour of the slots becoming available each week or you’ll lose out! Occasionally you can manage to get a last-minute class if there are cancellations, and beware, you are charged if you don’t show up!

Being a public leisure centre, Swiss Cottage can get extremely busy with large groups of kids clubs, but that does mean it offers so much more if you have children or big groups, with choices including a climbing wall, basketball court, squash rooms and more (at additional costs.)

It also offers a flexible, monthly rolling contract, so it’s worth trying out before deciding whether to commit. For all you New Years Resolutioners, Swiss Cottage is offering a January deal of no joining fee and two months free if you pay for 10 months up front.

The Gym (https://www.thegymgroup.com/find-a-gym/gym/the-gym-west-hampstead/)

If you’re looking for great value, all the machines you need, and you can motivate yourself to go to the gym without needing an inspiring setting then this is the gym for you. At £21.99 a month (plus a £20 joining fee) this no-frills gym may be the right compromise. It’s also open 24 hours with automated signing in systems, which is great for all you night owls and extremely early birds! It also offers a few limited classes.

HIIT Gym (http://www.hiitgyms.com/)

These unique classes mean business! Perfect if you feel like you’ve plateaued going to the gym on your own or if you need extra motivation to see results. And with these classes you will see results. They are pricey (though we’ve got a WHL-exclusive offer below) but effective.

The HIIT gym is a group class-based workout. The instructors are great, and with varied workouts that can work on strength, fat burning and stamina it never gets boring. HIIT stands for high intensity interval training, which is designed to help you keep burning fat even after the workout.

There is a downside to it not being a traditional gym in that there is not really the option if you ever did just fancy a workout at your own pace. However, if you arrive a little earlier to a class you could jump on the treadmill if you really wanted to.

A word of warning: personally I have to be at full energy to be able to take part in these classes. They are very high impact, no matter what your fitness level. So working out here can be a little ‘all or nothing.’ However, you won’t be bullied into doing that final burpie or shamed for not increasing the incline to 15 on the treadmill. It’s really important to listen to your own body if you feel it is too much.

The classes can also get extremely crowded at the most popular times (which gets a little worrying when people are swinging weights around). Some people might also feel that the showering facilities are quite limited given the cost, and often I feel I’d rather freshen up at home.

Prices vary according to membership, but if you want the most flexibility then classes are around £20 for pay-as-you-go. However, HIIT is offering a 10% pay-as-you-go discount for West Hampstead Life readers with the discount code: 10january. It’s valid until January 31st. HIIT also offers a one-week free trial, so you can try before you buy.

Virgin Active (https://www.virginactive.co.uk/clubs/swiss-cottage)

Virgin Active at the O2 Centre is one of the pricier options, but boasts a jacuzzi by the pool, decent equipment and great classes. It also offers spa treatments, which are very good. I’m not sure the price difference vs the Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre just up the road is worth it, considering you get almost the same facilities and services. However you do get to avoid the children’s clubs and the service and quality is always great with Virgin. It does offer corporate discounts for many employers so be sure to check at work, as some of the discounts are quite substantial. For this month only it is offering a 12-month contract with no joining fee and a personal training package that works out to £99 a month. It is also offering a flexible rolling month-by-month membership at £106 a month with a £30 joining fee.

You don’t have to go to a gym

Primrose Hill offers exercise without the sweaty floors!

Primrose Hill offers exercise without the sweaty floors!

ParkRun (http://www.parkrun.org.uk/hampsteadheath/)
Every Saturday, this 5k run across the beautiful Hampstead Heath is a completely free, fun and friendly social project. What could be better than getting some fresh air with with your neighbors and volunteers in this national heritage site we are lucky to have on our doorsteps.

The run starts at 9am – what a way to start your weekend! You do have to register and bring a printed copy of the barcode you’re given, which lets you keep track of your progress and time. However you are encouraged to go at your own pace.

ruNW6 (http://twitter.com/ruNW6)
An even more social running group that sprung up from West Hampstead Life readers also meets every Saturday. Starting from West End Green, the group tends to head out for a 30-45 minute run with a variety of routes, including the stunning Golder’s Hill park before returning to West End Lane. No runner is left behind! There’s more about this group here.

Public fitness parks: Primrose Hill, Kilburn Grange and Swiss Cottage
Another way to keep fit is to run over to the beautiful nearby Primrose Hill, where there is a substantial outdoor fitness park. The ‘trim trail’ consists of pull-up bars, parallel bars, rings, low bars, sit-up benches and more. Once you’ve had a good work out you could even reward yourself with a very short stroll over to London Zoo where you can often catch a cheeky glimpse of a giraffe!

There are also free outdoor fitness equipment facilities at Kilburn Grange Park and outside Swiss Cottage Library. These are great if you love the outdoors and don’t want to get caught up in gym membership commitments. Personal trainers also use these with clients.

With all these options you should be in tip-top shape for next year’s mince pie blowout!

The Twelve Christmas gifts of West Hampstead

Our Christmas gift guide is back! If you’re looking for gift ideas this year then don’t just head straight to Amazon, check out the shops on your doorstep. It’s likely you’ll get more inspiration and it’s definitely a more relaxing experience than Westfield or Regent Street. We went shopping to see what’s on offer. Don’t forget there’s also the West Hampstead Christmas Market on Saturday, and when you’re tired of shopping, there’s loads else to do in the neighbourhood this Christmas.

1. Copper and Slate Serving Plate, £34.99
Season Cookshop, 166 West End Lane
season-cookshop-christmas-gift-guide
This hand-beaten copper bowl is made in Scotland and provides an on-trend variation to the classic slate tray. You’ll also find Orla Kiely oven mitts, coloured kilner jars, glassware and everything else you’d expect in a kitchen shop.

2. Faux Fur Collar, £18
La Boutique Secret, 132 West End Lane
boutique-secret-christmas-gift-guide
You can clip this glamorous collar to a coat, jacket or accessorise a dress and it comes in a range of colours. Chokers (from £9) are also a popular gift this year. This little shop by the tube is bigger than it looks, with more clothes and jewellery downstairs.

3. Dolfin Chocolate Squares, £8
Cocoa Bijoux, Broadhurst Gardens
cocoa-bijoux-christmas-gift-guide
Twenty-four individually-wrapped chocolates with flavours like Noir Poivre Rose and Noir Cardamome. Cocoa Bijoux has an enormous range of sugary treats that will make great stocking fillers or larger presents. The Chocolate & Fig Pannetone baked at the Padua Prison Bakery is delicious!

4. Dinosaur Sandwich Box, £5
Sherriff Centre, St James Church
sherriff-centre-christmas-gift-guide
Dinosaurs, unicorns or fairies? Take your pick of these eco-friendly sandwich boxes and flasks; perfect for little ones with environmentally conscious parents. The Sheriff Centre has all sorts of other present ideas including candles, evening bags and puzzles.

5. A History of Pictures, David Hockney & Martin Gayford, £29.95
West End Lane Books, 277 West End Lane
west-end-lane-books-christmas-gift-guide
In this beautifully produced hardback, the authors examine why humans have made and enjoyed art throughout history. Not the right gift? Ask the bookshop staff for present ideas for the tricky people in your life. You might consider Zadie Frost’s new book, a screenplay of Fantastic Beasts, the Private Eye Annual or a signed copy of Alan Bennett’s new diaries.

6. Bottle of Tridentum Sparkling Wine, £22
Vini Vivi, 35 Mill Lane
vini-vivi-christmas-gift-guide
This full-bodied, very dry and clear sparkling wine is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes in the Trentino region of Italy using the champagne method. A bottle usually costs £28 but is on offer for Christmas. Vini Vivi has a wide selection of fine and everyday wines. It also imports Italian and Spanish delicacies such as high-quality pasta, pane carasau and sun-dried tomatoes.

7. Solid Silver Bracelet, £60
North West 6, 122 West End Lane
north-west-6-christmas-gift-guide
If you’re looking for special, wearable jewellery then take a look at North West 6’s wide selection of bracelets, necklaces and earrings. Did you know that many of North West 6’s customers come in for crystals and tarot cards?

8. Minions Framed Print, £50
Monsters of Art, 112 Mill Lane
monsters-of-art-christmas-gift-guide
Know a Minions fan? These popular prints feature minions in all sorts of characters. Pop into the shop to find your favourite or have a look at the other street-art inspired prints on offer.

9. Cohiba Cigar, from £14.99
Robert Graham Whisky and Cigars, 4 Broadhurst Parade
robert-graham-cigars-christmas-gift-guide
Think of Fidel and visit our local humidor. Cigar prices vary substantially by brand and age. Did you know that cigars are purchased as investments? A limited edition cigar bought by the shop in 2011 for £34 is today worth £105. The shop stocks gift sets and, true to its name, an interesting variety of whiskys.

10. Chocolate Cherry Figs, £10.20
The Hampstead Butcher & Providore, 244 West End Lane
hampstead-butcher-christmas-gift-guide
The butcher offers plenty of christmas treats beyond turkeys, like these delicious chocolate cherry figs. Dig around and you’ll also find chestnut panettone, Prestat chocolates and unusual wines.

11. Antipodes Aura Manuka Honey Face Mask, £23.29
Peppercorns, 260 West End Lane
peppercorns-christmas-gift-guide
Who wouldn’t want a cleansing facemask with manuka honey, avocado oil, pohutukawa [Ed: what?!] bloom and vanilla pod from New Zealand? It ticks the fair trade, organic and recyclable boxes, as does the rest of the beauty range available in Peppercorns.

12. Christmas wreath, £55
Achillea Flowers, 92 Mill Lane
achillea-flowers-christmas-gift-guide
The Achillea team create stunning Christmas wreaths that would please that impossible person who has already bought themselves everything they’d ever need. If that’s a step of luxury too far you’ll also find Christmassy candles in decked-out pots for £25.

Twelve things to do in West Hampstead before Christmas

With Christmas less than a month away (eeek!),  time to let you know about twelve events in West Hampstead in the first half of December, to get you into that Christmas mood. To be followed by a Christmas survival guide as we get closer to the day.

1. Kingsgate Studio’s Winter Show 2016 (Thu, 1st Dec to Sun 4th – see below for times)

If you like artists or designer-makers and you haven’t been to Kingsgate, you’re in for a treat. Even if you have been it’s worth a return visit.

The Winter Show is a chance to pick up some interesting artwork or ceramics which will make a very special Christmas present. Where is it, you ask? Down on Kingsgate Road.

Image: Kingsgate centre

Image: Kingsgate centre

2.  Christmas Art Workshop @ the Sherriff  Centre – Fri 2nd Dec 3.30pm

Sherriff Centre will be holding a kid’s Christmas Art workshop (4 years and up). Tickets £4.50 in advance from Hullabaloo.

3. West Hampstead Fire Station open day – Sat 3rd Dec 12-6pm

OK, not that Christmassy (except it is red like Father Christmas). The open day is a must for all those kids who want to follow in Fireman Sam footsteps, plus an appearance from a life-sized playmobil fireman.  Celebrating 150 years of the London Fire Brigade, don’t you know.

4. Beckford School Christmas Fair Sat 3rd 2-4pm

On the same afternoon along Mill Lane it’s the Beckford School Christmas fair. Come and support your local school.

Three floors of fun for all the family, including lots of games, Santa’s storytelling, live auction, food and drink stalls. Plus Street Dance Stars, the junior and senior choirs and the Beckford African Drummers.

The school has been tweeting furiously about all the donations from local business for its raffle (think we will need to win a prize from Insight Opticians to read the tiny print on this flyer). Basically, it says lots of great prizes from local businesses.

beckford450

5. JW3 open air skating rink (opening on Sat 3rd Dec )

jw3-rink350

Almost the Rockefeller Centre…   Image: JW3

West Hampstead has its own ice rink! And as an added bonus it’s also open on Christmas day. A novel way to work off the Christmas lunch calories.

It’s also a good opportunity to explore JW3 if you haven’t been. It has a great café, Zest, and a cinema too.

The ice rink is even recommended by Londonist as the best value peak time (i.e. evening and weekends) skating rink in London.

 

6. West End Lane Books – One day Winter Sale Thu 8th Dec (9am-9pm)

Harrods? Forget it? Hamleys? Meh! The real harbinger of the festive season is the advent of West End Lane Books’ one-day Winter Sale. The shop will be offering its customary exemplary range of books, new and classic, plus seasonal stationery, diaries, calendars etc at 20% off…and this includes an extensive selection of signed books! There will be seasonal nibbles throughout the day and the hard stuff will be coming out after 6pm. All free. Gratis gift wrap available on all purchases over £30 and tonnes of Whamp bonhomie and literary banter to boot.

7. The West Hampstead Christmas market – Sat, 10th Dec 10am-4pm

Ho ho ho - it's nearly that time of year again. Image: Xmas Market

Ho ho ho – it’s nearly that time of year again. Image: Xmas Market

It’s the 7th Annual Christmas market, held on West End Green. There will be a range of stalls selling Christmas gifts and decorations, including local businesses such as Monsters of Art, Achillea Flowers and the Camden Society. The organisers have upped the craft element; we are intrigued by leather goods from the Friday club and Japanese knitwear from Fukushima knit. Edible treats will also be available – The Kitchen Table and Welsh teacakes are among the cake stalls.

It’s not all about shopping however – there are fun, free activities for kids in the neighbouring Emmanuel Church. There will be music, dance and storytelling as well as plenty of Christmas crafts including flower making and ‘up-cycled’ Christmas baubles.

Not forgetting carol singing on the Green at 2pm!

8. Emmanuel School Christmas fair – Sat, 10th Dec 2-5pm

Come and support another local school. On the afternoon of the West Hampstead Christmas fair on West End Green, and practically next door, Emmanuel School is holding its own fair (inside the warm school)!

As if there is isn’t enough sweet stuff at this time of year, Emmanuel is having a bake-off. As well as the usual tombola, raffles and mulled wine.

Top draw looks like Santa’s grotto – kids you can let him know what you want for Christmas (but you better have been good).

emmanuel700

9. Fortune Green Choir Christmas charity concert – Mon, 12th Dec 7.30-9pm

A relaxed concert with a Christmas touch held in the newly refurbished Emmanuel Church. The choir is singing Broadway tunes, traditional choral pieces and of course carols. Cantereas, the choir within the choir, will be singing a couple of pieces and there will also be carols for the audience too.

Mince pies and mulled wine after the concert.  Festive spirit guaranteed.

Suggested donation £4, as they are raising money for the De Capo foundation, a local charity that encourages music education from toddlers to teens.

Hark! the herald angels sing ...

Hark! the herald angels sing …

10. Wishing you a FoWHL Christmas – Monday, 12th Dec 7.30-9pm

It’s the Friends of West Hampstead Library (FoWHL) AGM, but to lighten the doom and gloom of staff and budget cuts there will be some festive readings by the FoWHL players – how many other libraries friends group have their own acting troupe?

fowhl-xmas-2016

 

11. Panto at the Sherriff Centre – 16th Dec.

A first this year – panto in West Hampstead, but a travelling not local production – so no chance to see the Linda Snell or Eddie Grundy of West Hampstead. Alas, it has proved extremely popular and it sold out already.  Bah humbug!

12.  Festive Mod and Soul Party at the Railway– 17th Dec 8pm-midnight

Live band Serious Chord Squad playing The Who, The Jam, The Small Faces plus classic Mod & Soul tunes. Soul DJ set to party til late. Free entry.

And finally, looking for a Christmas tree?

They’re on sale outside the Sherriff Centre on the corner of Sherriff Road and West End Lane, and if you’re at the other end of town, you can find a good selection of trees at the Mill Lane Garden Centre.

Four best brunches on West End Lane

One of the things that make West Hampstead so special are the incredible restaurants it has to offer, many with outdoor space. Perfects spots for a bit of brunch on the weekend, and is there anything better than a leisurely morning spent enjoying, rather than rushing the best and most important meal of the day?

So where are the best brunch spots in the area? These are my top four picks on West End Lane:

The Petit Corée
What a pleasant surprise the Petit Corée was! Serving French-Korean fusion, this delightful little place serves a variety of brunch dishes, in case you’re looking for something different. The kimchi pancakes with scamorza cheese are a perfect, light and warming dish, it packs a perfect little punch to start your day.

The highlight, however, must be the honeycomb butter that comes with the French toast. It is to die for! The French toast can come with caramelized banana or smoked streaky bacon, either is an absolute treat. You can also get a fresh, sweet orange juice and with good value to boot, this place deserves a score of 10/10

French toast with bananas at The Petit Coree

French toast with bananas at The Petit Coree

The Alice House
No one can deny the Alice House will always be buzzing with energy, drawing many people to West Hampstead. And the brunch is delicious too! The full Alice is sure to cure you of too much merriment from the night before, and satisfy any craving. Highlights include homemade beans and excellent quality sausages. If you can’t quite manage a full Alice, you can pick and choose your favorite breakfast bits!

For those with a sweet tooth (like me!) the incredible stack of pancakes will certainly make it feel like the weekend. The iced coffee is divine and the freshly squeezed orange juice is liquid gold. The major drawback however is that brunch finishes at 12! And I’m sorry, if it’s before 12, it’s not brunch…it’s breakfast! That, plus it’s slightly dear compared to other places gives it a score of 7/10

Brunch options at the Alice House

Brunch options at the Alice House

The Wet Fish Café
Always popular, the Wet Fish Café serves an amazing variety of brunch. The potato, chorizo and egg scramble with refried black beans & toast is simply gorgeous, and can be made dairy free to the delight of my brunch companion. The avocado toast with feta and lime is also recommended for those looking for something slightly lighter.

They also serve Eggs Benedict, which is simply perfect. The main drawback is that it is always so busy, you may need to wait and may not get the table of your choice (the ones by the door are lovely); hardly surprising given the delicious food, beautiful interior and lovely staff. This place deserves 9/10

Potato, chorizio scrambled egg at the Wet Fish

Potato, chorizio scrambled egg at the Wet Fish

Bellaluna
If you’re looking for a more economic brunch, Bellaluna is worth a look. Some may argue that what they serve is a full English breakfast rather than “brunch”, but who’s complaining? One might not expect this lovely Italian restaurant to serve English breakfasts, but who can blame them for dipping in to the market of hungry brunch lovers? You can’t go wrong with a fry-up that is good quality and won’t hurt your bank balance, though without the elegance of some of the other establishments in the area. My score is 7/10

Dive into the delights of West Hampstead events

What I love about Whamp events is the brilliant people I have met. Yet without these events, I would have quite happily walked past them on West End Lane!

Of course, I also like the easy exchanges about the streets and roads we live on, recommendations on the best places to go in the area and how long we’ve been living in this mutually-agreed-upon wonderful neighbourhood. Not to mention walking home at the end of the evening with no requirement for public transport. An evening sans social-commute! Bliss! These are enjoyable and indeed essential pieces of the Whamp Life puzzle.

Summer evening drinks at The Black Lion

Summer evening drinks at The Black Lion

However, it is the lasting impression of local characters that leave me bubbling with enthusiasm after every event I’ve organised. From fresh-starters to long-time Whampers; from witty writers to astute city goers; from the famous West End, to West End Lane business owners. Every person has a different story about how they came to be in West Hampstead, yet steadfastly I’ve found them to be friendly, interesting and interested in the world around them. Turning up to an event in the hope of meeting your neighbours is a good filter to find sociable, open people and that seems especially true here. This is what makes West Hampstead Life so special.

Few drinks at One Sixty before heading out for a dinner

Few drinks at One Sixty before heading out for a dinner

What’s the story?
I have my own little personal history of how I came to run the Whamp events. I find myself re-telling the tale when I meet new faces at these socials and the inevitable curiosity about how this unique community came to exist in London. Firstly, I always emphasise that I only running the events! There’s a small team of people who do a fabulous job of the website, emails, reviews and twitter (usually I don’t contribute to the news!).

Secondly, I am not the pioneer! I am continuing the years of work by Jonathan and his supporters who established this concept. I’ve always been a big fan of meeting people in person, so I’m delighted to be carrying it on with his guidance. I will save the rest of the story of how I got involved for face-to-face telling, otherwise you’ll be missing out on the requisite animated hand gestures. All I will say is that it involves a willing bunch of West Hampstead ladies (and one lovely one in particular), a few too many Pimms & Lemonade and a narrow escape from the doomed Lower Ground Bar!

What kind of events?
Whether it’s a sit-down WhampDinner or a more relaxed WhampSocial, we like to mix it up. Since relaunching the events in June this year, we’ve done a Friday night curry at gorgeous Guglee, book-ended by drinks at One Sixty and the Railway; an evening with a steady flow of lovely people round a table or two at the Black Lion; followed by a splendid turnout of old timers and newcomers that found their way to us through the Czech bar, into the beer garden and onto plastic chairs.

Twenty four locals enjoy dinner at Guglee

Twenty four locals enjoy dinner at Guglee

Most recently, a lively bunch met for tasty Vietnamese at Pham House, with a few drinks next door at The Gallery. Next we plan to try the soon-to-open Thunderbird bar on West End Lane.

If all this sounds like its for you, read more about the practicalities (tldr: sign up to the mailing list)

All you need is an email address and a NW6 postcode (or NW2 or 3 if we’re feeling generous), then the Whamp world is your oyster. Throw your name in the hat and maybe yours will be the next Whamp story. If you do, I think you’re highly likely to have an entertaining evening. Because we’ll be somewhere lovely in West Hampstead, happy to meet someone new, surrounded by more people with the same outlook. Long may Whamp Events continue. Come! We’ll make it so.