Posts Tagged Finsbury

TfL gets Michael Cliffe wrong

A few years ago I got TfL to correct the 153 bus stop which had renamed Hemingford Road as Hemmingford. Surely it’s not impossible to get placenames right when you are the main transport body for the city!

Now they’ve done it again. I was using the TfL journey planner to plot a route to the Finsbury Estate for a friend who was planning a trip to the nearby Islington Museum. The website came up with a walking map – but spoilt it all by referring to the destination as “Michael Clifton House/Patrick Coman House”. As Finsbury folk know, it’s Michael Cliffe House, not Michael Clifton.

Michael Cliffe was a Finsbury councillor, Chairman of the Housing Committee, and Mayor of Finsbury, who went on to be the MP for Shoreditch and Finsbury.

The whole point of naming estates after people is to honour their memory, so the least TfL can do is get the name right. I’ve written to them pointing out their mistake and asking them to correct it.

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Catchup – too busy to blog!

Once again, I’ve been too busy of late to blog. So here’s a quick catchup on what I’ve been up to over the last few weeks:

- attended the service of blessing for the re-opening of St Mary Islington’s crypt with former Archbishop George Carey
– welcomed party President Ros Scott to our Pizza & Politics evening
– spent a morning visiting businesses, from pharmacies to Fish Central, in Finsbury
– speaking to black community churches at the WOSEM ‘Prayer for Islington’ event
– raising poor breast cancer screening and referral rates with Islington NHS
– continued to campaign for justice for Equitable Life investors
– wearing pink to support breast cancer charities
– lobbied for MPs to back the 10:10 targets for government (Emily Thornberry didn’t)
– attending the Friends of Barnard Park AGM
– meeting Essex Road traders, jointly campaigning against Labour hikes in business rates
– meeting Nick Clegg to discuss London issues
– meeting council leader Terry Stacy to discuss local services
– meeting leaders of Islington’s Somali community
– attending Remembrance ceremonies
– various interviews and meetings with City University students
– dealt with casework from housing to hunting
– knocking on doors across the constituency
– speaking at Islington Lib Dem AGM

plus a long weekend in Amsterdam (that’s it for holidays til after the election!)

Now I’m off to give the opening speech at London Region Lib Dem conference, which meets today at City University, followed this evening by a Q&A on climate change at All Saints church, Caledonian Road, after their showing of the ‘Age of Stupid’.

Busy busy, but I love it!

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Strike a light

Despite real fears about crime, the figures are getting better. Crime fell 14% in Islington last year, and the Lib Dem Council is funding a new team to support crime victims and work with residents to increase the number of anti-social behaviour cases going to court.

Meanwhile one Finsbury resident has been jailed for a year for a rather unusual crime. Andrew McKee from Hermit Street, EC1 was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment for ‘recklessly and negligently endangering an aircraft’ – despite never leaving the ground.

Back in July 2007, the Metropolitan Police helicopter was on an operation over Hermit Street, when a green laser light was shone directly into the cockpit, several times.

The police traced the laser back to Mr McKee and charged him under Article 73 of the Air Navigation Order 2005. MoD scientists and the helicopter pilot gave evidence that shining the laser into the cockpit did put the aircraft, its passengers (and of course all the people living below including Mr McKee and his family) at risk.

I don’t expect the Met Police have much call to apply the Air Navigation Order, airports apart, but it could have its uses.

Article 66 of the same Order, you will be glad to know, prohibits dropping animals from an aircraft in flight (‘whether or not attached to a parachute’); while article 50 requires one pilot to remain at the controls at all times while it is in flight. Makes sense to me.

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Campaigning across the generations

It’s been a madly busy week.

On Saturday we had an action day in Clerkenwell, with dozens of helpers piling in. They got all our leaflets out by lunchtime, and canvassed chunks of the ward too. Meanwhile I stole away to enjoy the launch of Black History Month at St Mary Magdalene Academy. Over lunch I chatted to three generations of women from the Martin family. Originally from the Caribbean, they work as a carer, a civil servant and a special needs teacher: amazing women who contribute a huge amount to our community. There are some fascinating events during the month: I’m looking forward to the talk about the Rev Samuel Ajayi Crowther on 15 October.

On Sunday I was celebrating with a different community as I joined a party of Turkish friends to support Halkevi’s fundraising concert at the Hackney Ocean. Halkevi do fantastic work with the Alevi community of Turkish and Kurdish origin, and it’s no surprise they’ve outgrown their current building. We enjoyed music from singers including Sivan Perwer ‘the Pavarotti of the Middle East’, as well as a (non-singing) appearance from our MEP Sarah Ludford.

It’s Freshers Week, and I dropped in to help out at the LSE Freshers Festival on Tuesday. The whole of the Clement Building on Aldwych, normally full of quiet study rooms, was packed with stalls and students. Outside there were promotions from everyone from Streetcar to the Ministry of Sound. Inside, students collected stickers from each society they wanted to join and then got charged a £1 at checkout; every efficient. On the third floor we were in a room with the other political parties and the Politics Society. The Tories were in suits; Labour in plain sweatshirts and long faces; Lib Dems with yellow bunting, in high spirits. Also in our room, bizarrely, was the Manga Comics Society stall. Surrounded by comics, the guy on the stall was intently reading the FT. Only at LSE!

We had queues of people wanting to join the Lib Dem Soc; good news as LSE has a Hall of Residence in Islington South. Although many are overseas students (one friend swears that LSE stands for Let’s See England) there are enough homegrown voters to give my campaign even more of a boost.

From students to seniors: yesterday the St Luke’s community centre in Finsbury was celebrating Older People’s Day. I’ve got lots of friends there, as I’m a member of the St Luke’s timebank, but I’ve never seen the centre quite so busy. We had everything from massage and health checks to ‘giant knitting’ on huge wooden needles, live music and yet more stalls. Freshers eat your hearts out.

I always love meeting people, but what’s made all the events this week special is the mood of excitement, as people are really interested in my campaign and looking forward to their chance to vote. Earlier this year, there’s no doubt that the expenses scandals had put a lot of decent people off voting. Now the mood has changed again. There’s a real sense since we got back from conference that we are now in the countdown to the General Election. Liberal Democrats have even overtaken Labour in the national opinion polls.

We’ve had teams out door-knocking every day this week, in very different territory, and, as ever, meeting some great people. Like the Asian mum and business woman on an estate in Clerkenwell, the science student recently moved into the Angel, or the cheerful grandmother in Barnsbury, people can’t wait for their chance to vote Lib Dem next time.

Bring it on!

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Islington’s blooms are best in London

The Britain in Bloom results are out.

Islington has scooped an impressive 10 awards, including Best in London.

This is a proud achievement for any borough, but how fantastic for our small, densely populated one. Especially when you think that for all those years under Labour, the Council never bothered to enter, and criticised the hanging baskets programme as a waste of money.

The flowers along our busiest roads lighten people’s mood, soften the ugly railings, help boost local shops and counter the pollution. What’s not to like?

Finsbury has done particularly well, with awards for the St Luke’s Centre in Central Street (they’ve recently expanded from floral displays into allotments), the remodelled grounds of Gambier House and the courtyards at the Peabody estate off Whitecross Street. I’m looking forward to meeting Cllr Ruth Polling to visit some of the winners later today.

Islington’s awards show that sometimes the people and places with the least open space appreciate it most.

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Walking for Bradley

At the weekend I blogged about the tragic death of Bradley Carty, a teenager from Clerkenwell, who drowned on a day trip abroad.

I was very moved to hear about Bradley’s death and the struggles his family had to bring him home. At 19, on a day trip, travel insurance is the last thing on your mind. Yet it can cost thousands of pounds to bring someone home for burial, a huge bill to face at a time of terrible bereavement.

So I was glad to be among over 100 family and friends of Bradley who took part in a sponsored walk around Islington and Finsbury on Sunday, to honour his memory and help raise funds.

The weather was sunny, and the mood of the walkers was upbeat despite the sadness for Bradley. Even the drivers who had to wait while we crossed various roads were (mostly!) patient and supportive.

At a time when our youth are often criticised, I want to pay tribute to the young people who organised the walk, gave up their Sunday to take part, and raised over £1600 towards a lasting memorial for Bradley. We should all be very proud of them.

Sharon Smith, Bradley’s mum, is hoping to put the funds towards a memorial bench or possibly a life-saving course in his memory.

Losing a child is probably the worst thing that can happen to a family. Nothing can bring Bradley back. But I hope the love his friends showed will be some comfort to Bradley’s family going forward.

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Finsbury’s Liberal hero

On Friday I was doing some daytime door-knocking around the Angel with Caroline Pidgeon. We were also getting signatures for the One Hour Bus Ticket campaign, on which more later.

Seeing Islington through a visitor’s eyes, one thing that struck me was that on quite a short stretch, we passed 3 blue plaques – as well as the homes of various contemporary celebrities.
Last month, I was honoured to be among the guests for the unveiling of a new blue plaque in Clerkenwell, organised by the Amwell Society. The plaque commemorates Finsbury MP Dadabhai Naoroji – appropriately enough in Naoroji Street, named after the great man. He was Britain’s first Asian MP and a Liberal MP, first elected in 1892.

And his political connections live on today in Clerkenwell councillor Marisha Ray.

Dadabhai is a hero for our area (he already has a plaque on Finsbury Town Hall) and for my party, but not exactly a household name. As the Amwell Society point out, people don’t know why it’s called Naoroji Street. And with more people talking up the BNP, it’s important to remember that London has always been a multi-cultural city. So the plaque is a great idea.

Emily Thornberry MP didn’t exactly unveil the plaque – it’s high up above the reach of vandals – but she did speak very positively about Naoroji’s contribution, although managing completely to avoid mentioning he was a Liberal MP! There’s a nice piece aout the event in the Tribune.

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Clerkenwell action day

We had a great campaign day in Clerkenwell today.

Mind you it started a bit madly. As I was getting ready to leave the flat, I got a casework phone call and ended up making a dash for the bus with a heavy bag of target letters for one of the student halls. So much for the serene image that candidates are supposed to project…

But things got better and better as we went along. Spring weather, a great turnout of activists ranging from our MEP Sarah Ludford to Marisha’s little boy Abrial, meant we got the whole ward delivered in a day: and time for some surveying too.

Great value lunch at the Union Tavern (corner of Lloyd Baker Street and Kings Cross Road) – £8 a head for a full lunch, and they were very accomodating to a dozen hungry Lib Dems.

Basements in this part of Clerkenwell used to flood regularly with water from the Fleet and its underground tributaries. There’s actually a drain cover in the middle of Lloyd Baker Street where you can hear the river running by. When the first digging for the Metropolitan line cutting was done about 150 years ago, the engineers tried to block off the river with disastrous results – filthy water erupted all over the neighbourhood. Thankfully despite all the railway works around Farringdon, we don’t have quite such dramas today.

After lunch we went surveying. My team was on the Peabody estate off Clerkenwell Close – honey coloured brick outside, pristine walls inside, and very friendly residents. There’s a lot of respect for the hard work of Lib Dem councillors over the years – and a lot of anger and disappointment with Labour.

I was shocked to hear from one woman who works with the family courts that Labour has increased the court fees for care proceedings from around £150 to around £4000! All added expense for hard-pressed social services departments, and the opposite of investing in children’s services.

Peabody built some of the first and best social housing in London – but they predate lifts, so it was good afternoon exercise. (I’m relieved we could use the lift up Michael Cliffe House’s 23 floors earlier today. Walking down delivering is one thing, walking up is another). The warm welcome at the top of the stairs made the climb in each block worthwhile. Although we were glad of a sit down with tea and cake back at HQ.

Then it was time to go – not forgetting my bag of student letters. Luckily the hall is opposite the bus stop for my trip home.

So feet up tonight? Well, briefly. I’ve had some more tea and a quick shower; the green jacket has been swapped for a little black dress, and now I’m about to cram my tired feet into heels to go off to the Londra Gazette Ball….

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A Sunday of Whitbread and Guinness

Not booze but buildings…

Yesterday we had our latest action day, in Bunhill ward. There were moments last week when we wondered if the day would happen at all. The leaflet was a day late from the printer, meaning the sorting and bundling had to be done in half the time. And our hostess, Cllr Donna Boffa, was ill: but nobly let us invade her home for the day all the same.

These action days are a bit like catering for a party where no-one has RSVP’d. You put a lot of effort into getting everything together – leaflets, extra letters, petitions; then you look at it, think you’ve got too much stuff and no-one will come. As more and more boxes of leaflets were unloaded into Donna’s kitchen. she looked understandably concerned if she would ever see her lino again. But with the help of councillors, activists, and Donna’s kids, the leaflets were soon moving out the door.

I headed down to Whitecross Street where Cllr Ruth Polling and I did a delivery/walkabout on the Whitbread estate, catching up with the TA chair and some of the residents as we went round. Whitbread is a hidden gem of an estate. It may be monolithic to the point of invisibility from the outside (it’s the 1980s blocks above Waitrose) but it’s charming inside. To live, that is. The idiosyncratic numbering – one block runs into the next – makes it less idyllic for deliverers. There is an oasis of a communal courtyard garden, plus lots of individual front patios and balconies showing off the residents’ green fingers. There are even lush potted palms near the lifts. So it might surprise some to know it’s an Islington council estate.

The name comes from the Whitbread Brewery based in nearby Chiswell Street and whose stables were formerly on the site: apparently brewery vaults and some narrow gauge railtracks for moving barrels still exist below the carpark, and its history is reflected in the names of the blocks – Shire, Farriers and Cooper.

After a team lunch, off we set again. This time to the Guinness Trust estate on Lever Street. The Trust was founded in 1890, but this is a modern low-rise development around a tranquil courtyard, another lovely estate.

“Oh hello”, said one lady, “you’re not Emily, you’re the other one.” We agreed that I was, indeed, the other one. “Good for you delivering your own leaflets”. I did point out that I don’t actually do them all (that would be impressive), and there were quite a few other people giving up their Sunday to help…

Then there was her neighbour who wanted two copies of the leaflet, one for her, one for her husband – “you’re the one we’re voting for this time”. With just 484 votes in it, every little helps!

Finally it was time to round up the rest of the team, collect in the Council Tax petitions, and head back to HQ. To find that we’d delivered all the unallocated routes: a result.

I’d planned to go home before church, but ended up just sliding into the back pew of St Mary’s as the 6pm service started, box of spare leaflets under one arm, briefcase with clipboards on the other. The theme was the feeding of the 5,000 – miraculous resource management, appropriate for the day.

And I did finally get a glass of the amber nectar before bed.

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Whitecross Street: from monks to markets and makeovers

I’ve blogged before about Whitecross Street’s shops and market.

The street has a fascinating history. John Strype’s 1603 History of London dates the street back to a hospital founded in the reign of Edward I, and given as a monastery house for the Brotherhood of St. Giles by Henry V. There were also almshouses founded by a former Mayor of London, Sir John Gresham.

By the 19th century the street was more residential. In David Hughson’s 1806 History and Description of London it was described as “noble, wide, and well built, inhabited by persons of property.”

One of them, a Samuel Baylis of Whitecross Street, was a founder member of the Radical Club, a fore-runner of the Liberal Party, along such famous names as Daniel O’Connell, Joseph Hume, Francis Place and Sir William Molesworth.

The Guildhall Library’s print collection shows some of the fine buildings on the street, including the Lord Mayor’s stables, Lady Holles’s School House, the Great Northern Railway Goods Depot, and the City Weights and Measures Office. For most of the 19th century the street was best known for the debtor’s prison.

Like much of the area, parts of Whitecross Street were firebombed in the December 1940 blitz. And the southern end has since been transformed by the post-war developments of the Whitbread estate and the Barbican.

In recent years, the street has had a makeover with new lighting and paving. Now the revived market and the great mix of shops, from grocers to galleries, serve a very diverse neighbourhood in Bunhill ward.

One blot on the west side of the street is a run of empty properties opposite the Peabody estate. They have shop units on the ground floor and potential for housing above; the run of shops previously included cafes, a nail salon, and a record shop, but now they are just a semi-derelict eyesore.

Now the local regeneration project EC1 NewDeal and the Council are proposing to take over the properties with a compulsory purchase order, and plan to sell them on to a housing association; and if that isn’t possible, to sell them to a private developer. The Council may actually lose money on such a deal given falling property prices and all the legal costs involved in a CPO; so the partnership with EC1 NewDeal could make all the difference.

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