Archive for April 2011
Kicking back with an even bigger sound system: Upper Brockley Road, Brockley.
(Click on the image to hear it. Sound system was just to the left of the picture. See Brockley Central for more.)
The lesson learned from the Friday off? Kids love a royal wedding, adults like a booze-up. Seems healthy.
Terrible night’s sleep last night. Images of Huw Edwards, people in sleeping bags… and this story. I’ll be off for a bit…
London’s Royal Wedding shelters have opened for business this afternoon, with less than 24 hours to the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey.
The two largest shelters, in Clapham and Stockwell, were once used as protection from air-raids during World War II. Now they will be at the heart of network of locations where Londoners can escape from a tidal wave of sycophantic coverage of the royal nuptials.
Disused Tube stations at Aldwych and Charing Cross (Jubilee Line) will be brought back into use, while emergency government stores of banjos, ukeleles, and Guardian Yearbooks have been opened up to keep shelterers amused.
The last United Nations airlift of level-headed citizens is due to leave Biggin Hill Airport any moment now, leaving many remaining Londoners terrified of losing their marbles in the face of seeing fellow citizens act like children over people they will never meet.
A spokesman for mayor Boris Johnson said: “These shelters are incapable of picking up radio or TV, and there is no internet access whatsoever. Londoners who are having nightmares about Huw Edwards, or those who seeking to avoid people complaining about it on Twitter, can come and join us any time between now and Saturday.
“One shelter, at Goodge Street, will be opening later than the others, so we can paint it blue as part of a sponsorship package with Barclays.”
Local councils are pitching in, too – Greenwich Council will open up a special room beneath Woolwich Town Hall, which has already proved resistant to media coverage in tests this week. Back copies of Greenwich Time are reportedly being used to add extra thickness to the walls. Spokespeople were unavailable for comment.
In Lewisham, elected mayor Steve Bullock has advised residents to head to their nearest closed library – except the ones that have become bookmakers – if they begin to feel nauseous.
First in the queue at the Clapham shelter was a man in tears after he failed to get a ticket on Thursday’s last boat out of Harwich to the Hook of Holland.
“It’s terrible,” he said, shaking. “I can’t even go to the pub to drown my sorrows without seeing badly-rendered Union Jacks. The last straw was reading something about the wedding dress on the Guardian website. I just want to live my life in peace. I mean, I could escape to B&Q but that’ll be full up by 10am.
“Here, we can hide from everything and maybe even have a good sing-song. It’s either that or going out and getting smashed and sleeping through Friday.”
Sadly for him, though, he then collapsed sobbing after accidentally catching a glimpse of an Evening Standard.
“It’s what the shelters are there for, to save people from Bedlam,” the mayor’s spokesman added. “For some though, it could be too late.”
853 exclusive: Greenwich Council is going ahead with plans to hold a “mayor-making” ceremony at the Old Royal Naval College’s Painted Hall against the wishes of its incoming mayor, and despite cutting £48m from its budget for this year.
Last year’s event at the prestigious Greenwich venue cost £30,000 to stage, angering residents protesting against cuts to council services. Most other councils hold the ceremony at their town halls instead of hiring outside venues.
Funding for youth and children’s services has been targeted, while a host of voluntary groups have lost their funding altogether and staff warned of possible redundancy. Greenwich has stopped funding the Blackheath fireworks display, while allotment and parking charges have rocketed.
Children at a Charlton primary school cited the cost of the mayor-making party in posters they made to try to save the animal centre in Maryon Wilson Park, which faces losing £34,000 in funding.
Even incoming mayor Jim Gillman has objected to the ceremony taking place, with his wife Janet – a Charlton councillor – telling a local residents’ meeting that the ceremony “has a touch of ‘let them eat cake’ in these times.” London Labour MEP Mary Honeyball praised Cllr Gillman for objecting to the event, using Twitter to say he was “leading by example”.
But despite Cllr Gillman’s objections, invitations have been sent out by current mayor Barbara Barwick for a ceremony on 25 May. Council leader Chris Roberts – who is due to give a speech at the event – is believed to have made the decision alone to go ahead with the ceremony.
“Looking around Greenwich there is much to be proud of. The physical regeneration of our community continues apace, while there are many developments in our economic, social and community life,” the invite reads.
Conservative opposition leader Spencer Drury said the ceremony is “purely an opportunity for the Labour leadership to sell its view of what is happening in Greenwich”.
“I view the whole ceremony as an expensive vanity project and it should be returned to the Town Hall where it would be cheaper to run and in my opinion, would represent the life of the borough just as well as the Painted Hall.”
Last year, council deputy leader Peter Brooks referred to the council’s overall budget cut when he said there were “65 million reasons” not to spend £37,000 on the Blackheath fireworks ceremony it jointly held with Lewisham Council. He said there was “strict control over all expenditure”, and the cost was “equivalent to a job and a bit”.
Greenwich Council has not yet responded to a request for comment on this story.
3:45PM UPDATE: Still no response from Greenwich Council. But former Liberal Democrat councillor Paul Webbewood has said: “While the amount of money involved is fairly small in the overall scale of things, it amazes me that the council is persisting with this luxury, invitation-only event when so much else is being cut. It really is a case of the Labour council acting in the interests of the few and not the many.”
Mr Webbewood asked a question at the last Greenwich Council meeting about the possibility of a ceremony, to which deputy leader Peter Brooks replied:
“The inauguration of the mayor is an important event in the civic life of the borough, enabling the council and its new mayor to meet the increasing number of key stakeholders in our community.
Many of these are critical to the social cohesion and economic success of Greenwich, including leaders of all our faith communities, volunteers and local associations as well as businesses investing millions of pounds in our borough to create jobs and economic prosperity.
The council is very mindful of the need to secure value for money and will always endeavour to do this. However this is the only occasion in the calendar year when all stakeholders are brought together – for the very reasons of cost that Mr Webbewood articulates.
That this is done on the occasion which marks the inauguration of the First Citizen of Greenwich – a determinedly non-political event – seems the most prudent occasion on which to do it.”
An increasing number of key stakeholders, eh? Can’t move for them. Conservative deputy leader Nigel Fletcher, who also comments below, has said his group “proposed a small Town Hall Inauguration, then a public celebration, sponsored to be cost-neutral”. More reaction as it comes in.
6:35PM UPDATE: Still no response from Greenwich Council. However, Tim Anderson, chair of the Friends of Maryon and Maryon Wilson Parks, said:
“It is very hard to understand why the council should opt to go ahead with an expensive mayoral ceremony when other council services such as the Maryon Wilson Animal Park in Charlton face closure in April 2012.
The Animal Park is greatly appreciated by thousands of people, especially children and families. The campaign petition to save the Animal Care Centre in Maryon Wilson Park, has reached over 4,500 signatures and is likely to reach 10,000 signatures by the end of this year.
Prioritising expenditure on its own ceremonies that could be made available for front line and community services must send out the wrong message to people who are facing losing their jobs or to organisations who face Council cuts.”
WEDNESDAY 11:45AM UPDATE: Still no response from Greenwich Council. But Paul Callanan, of anti-cuts group Greenwich Save Our Services, condemned the council’s plans.
“It’s absolutely disgraceful that while working class people face the biggest attacks on jobs and services seen in generations and are being told to tighten our belts, the council chooses to spend our money on a party. This shows just how far out of touch with reality this council is.”
WEDNESDAY 6:15PM UPDATE: Still no response from Greenwich Council. But the Green Party’s Arthur Hayles, who stood as a parliamentary candidate in Eltham last year, said:
“Even if there were no programme of cuts to Greenwich Council services, the use of an expensive venue for a council ceremony should be avoided in favour of using every penny for the welfare of the people of Greenwich.”
With the weather looking good for Easter weekend, it’s come just in time.
A rock garden has also been built along the path – something else for the occupiers of the new homes to look out upon.
This now means the only section of Thames Path closed between Deptford Creek and the Thames Barrier is the stretch at Lovells Wharf, where the path has been routed past a sales office belonging to estate agents ‘King Sturge, and where London and Regional Properties is showing no signs of planning to restore the pathway it destroyed.
One other little bit of Thames Path news – Ballast Quay, where the Cutty Sark pub is, is now two way for cyclists only. Personally, I prefer to avoid the cobbles and ride direct along Banning Street and Old Woolwich Road, but scenic cyclists can now follow the river in both directions if they want to.
6:45PM UPDATE: One word of warning, though – don’t go expecting a sit down next to the Dome, where the Homes & Communities Agency has decided that while Greenwich Peninsula is “a place where you can”, it’s certainly not a place where it’ll bother emptying litter bins on its stretch of the path. Carrier bags are courtesy of the brand new Tesco Express. That’ll look lovely come Easter Monday…
Keep an eye out for this fella over Easter – fundraiser Lloyd Scott is crawling along the marathon route raising funds for Action For Kids.
I just bumped into him on Woolwich Road, Charlton, and he’ll be spending Easter navigating his way through Greenwich, Deptford and Rotherhithe at a pace of a mile a day. You can see more on his blog.
Typically, I got to Crooms Hill about 20 minutes too late to peer down the hole that opened up this morning, and I arrived just in time to see workmen finish the job of filling it in. By the time you read this, it’s likely to have had a fresh layer of tarmac applied to it.
The hole’s just where the conduit from Greenwich Park to Hyde Vale runs (The Greenwich Phantom has a map). With the speed at which it is being filled in, it’s clear that this isn’t being seen as a big worry – unlike the collapse at Blackheath Hill just over nine years ago, which resulted in the demolition of part of a housing estate.
It’s pretty well-known that Greenwich is riddled with underground tunnels and other subterranean oddities – and one of the complaints of the anti-Olympics lobby has been that gaps could open up in Greenwich Park during the equestrian events next summer. Whether this hole in the hill proves anything, though, is another question.
The big displays around the Dome were showing off a new big brand last night. Stella Artois has joined the venue’s sponsors. An appropriate choice considering the O2 has the highest level of alcohol-related crime in Greenwich borough, according to statistics issued by the council earlier this year. See you in A&E.