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.



  1. Caroline Calzon said

    I am always surprised by allegations that people will vote for you since the good people of Islington made their feelings very clear at the last local election by booting you and your arrogant leader Steve Hitchen out of office. The message was loud and clear. People had had enough of your out of touch policies. The local papers were full of complaints about the former leader and you. Why would they vote you back into office when they were so glad to see the back of you at the last election?

  2. bridgetfox said

    Thank you for your comments. Democracy is all about people having a choice and using our votes to make a difference.

    I’ve got no problem with people changing how they vote and who they elect. Democracy should benefit the people, and educate the politicians, not the other way round!

    The message I’m getting on the doorsteps now is that people feel let down by Labour, and that they agree with me on a whole range of issues from local post offices to the need for fairer taxes.

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