Primrose Hill's party problem and casting some light on Clapham Common
If you’re going to pick a hill to die on, you might as well choose one with a lovely view
Primrose Hill is famous for a few things: Its ‘set’ (both the 90s version and the more modern incarnation); being the chosen spot for the Martian HQ in War of the Worlds; and, of course, for its eponymous park.
Over the past few weeks though, that park has become “a magnet for illegal parties and raves” and kicked off a row that’s gone way beyond a few people getting off their heads on industrial strength cider.
Towards the end of March, residents living close to the Grade II-listed public park were complaining that the spot was “being advertised on social media” as the place to go for an illegal lockdown party. With crowds “pumping out loud music… causing fights and dealing drugs in the open.”
As PrimroseHill is very much an area that prefers it’s drug dealing to happen behind closed doors, there was a public meeting at which Councillor Oliver Cooper (leader of Camden’s Conservative party) compared the situation to the “Wild West”, and residents mooted the idea of spending somewhere between £160,000 and £300,000 to fence off the entire park on weekend evenings.
At this point the Mail picked up the story and ran an article that used the word ‘yobs’ a lot. While, at the same time, the Tory party began distributing election leaflets in the area, stating that there was “no option but to close the park at night”. That prompted the creation of a ‘Say NO to gates & evening closure of Primrose Hill!’ petition and a “Keep Primrose Hill Open” Facebook group.
Then, last Friday the MP for Holborn and St Pancras (who also happens to be the leader of the opposition) found time in his busy schedule to have “a ‘robust’ but ‘constructive’ conversation with the Royal Parks’ chief executive Andrew Scattergood” and it was agreed that “barriers could be put up around the park as soon as possible.”
And, as if by magic, “nine-foot tall aluminium barriers” went up the very next day.
By Monday morning Kier Starmer’s back was well and truly lashed, with the Observer running an article that set Sir Kier on the side of the “wealthy residents,” accusing him of following the “Tory agenda,” by “locking off London’s only permanently open royal park from the public… and maintaining its exclusivity;” and doing all that without any real consultation or due process.
But, as Camden New Journal’s Bronwen Weatherby points out in her excellent and clear-eyed Twitter thread (click below for the full thing), the Observer’s take is just as jaundiced as the Mail’s. Because this isn’t about ‘Toffs v Yobs’ or ‘Labour Agenda v Tory Agenda’, and to reduce it to that is doing a disservice to people who live in the area and just want someone to listen to them and come up with a reasonable solution.
Although, we doubt those nine foot high barriers are going to stop people blasting out classic Abba tracks from the back of a scooter, in the middle of the street:
Seeing the light on Clapham Common
Staying with the parks theme (but not theme parks): Lambeth Council has installed temporary lighting across Clapham Common, following a petition set up in the wake of the Sarah Everard murder.
The petition, which requested “that the local council urgently take action to provide sufficient lighting to cover all areas of the common,” received over 28,000 signatures and Lambeth Council were quick to respond.
Nothing controversial there… you’d think. But some residents have called the installation of the lights ‘a knee jerk reaction’, pointing out that “artificial lighting at night has a detrimental effect on wildlife, particularly birds, bats and insects, of which there are many on the Common,” and quoting research that shows “there is no clear scientific evidence that increased outdoor lighting deters crimes.”
Let’s just be thankful that Clapham isn’t in Sir Kier’s constituency.
The fight to Reclaim These Streets continues
Of course, the last time we wrote about Clapham Common was in the aftermath of the Sarah Everard vigil. Now Reclaim These Streets, the group that originally planned the vigil, are raising money to continue their battle to “expose the police ban on our vigil for Sarah Everard as unlawful and secure protest rights for the future”.
Back in March, when the original vigil was being organised and the Met threatened Reclaim These Streets with fines or arrest, the group made an application to the High Court for ‘an urgent interim declaration’, arguing that the Met was acting illegally in “prohibiting all protests irrespective of the specific circumstances.”
Although that interim declaration was refused, the case is ongoing, and Reclaim These Streets are now looking to raise £20,000 to “protect us against any claim the police may make for costs; [and] to enable our lawyers to respond to the police’s defence.”
As they say on their Crowd Justice page:
We have the opportunity to greatly reinforce the legal protection for our – and everyone’s - human right to protest, regardless of variants or lockdowns. And just as importantly, if the police are given more power by Parliament, the precedent we hope to set will help hold them back from abusing those powers to suppress peaceful protest.
And the rest
The latest on the shooting of Sasha Johnson in Peckham is that the Met are focusing on “a group of four black males dressed in dark coloured clothing,” and have reiterated their belief that “she was not the victim of a targeted attack.”
Some good news: Those bus strikes we mentioned in our last weekend roundup have been cancelled after a “resolution was reached”. No news yet on who blinked first.
Last weekend was TfL’s busiest for public transport since the week before the first lockdown was announced in March 2020. The tube was at around 58 per cent of normal demand, while buses got up to 60 per cent of usual.
The proposals for Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth project were announced at the start of the week. They include a grain silo filled with plants, a reimagined photograph of Baptist preacher John Chilembwe, and a work made from the casts of faces of 850 trans people. You can see the full list and vote for which one you want to see on the plinth here.
The Guardian has taken a look at 22 Bishopsgate the “largest office building ever built in Britain,” which comes with a climbing wall and its own signature scent. Apparently it has a “viewing gallery at the top of the building which, unlike the £25-a-pop version in the Shard, will be free to enter, and, unlike the Walkie-Talkie’s ‘sky garden’, will not be colonised by an expensive bar.”
Meanwhile City AM examines Bloomberg’s ‘Pret Index’ (i.e. their benchmark of how quickly we’re recovering from recession, measured in flat whites and chicken Caesar baguettes), and has a few suggestions for more accurate methods based on the fact that so many of us just aren’t commuting as much but are still managing to earn a wage.
A few weeks ago we mentioned that Filipino fast food giants Jollibee were opening their flagship UK store in Leicester Square. Well, it opened on the 20th, and they sold “over 4,000 Chickenjoy” in just one day (a Chickenjoy, by the way, is a piece of fried chicken).
For some reason, this guy decided to separate out the Mayoral election votes by TfL fare zones:
The teaser trailer for Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho just landed. Watch Anya Tailor-Joy strut her way through some of London’s seediest 1960s streets: