Posts Tagged Angel

Will Islington Council take on RBS’ Angel offices?

The Royal Bank of Scotland is looking to move out of its offices at the Angel, Islington. The offices – controversial from the start because of the ‘dead space’ at street level – were built for the bank but then sold and leased back, according to The Scotsman. Their report goes on to say that RBS are trying to get out of the lease – and expecting Islington Council to take it on. RBS obviously like taxpayer bailouts.

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Singing in the rain

The Christmas lights are coming on all over Islington, courtesy of the council.

Yesterday we gathered in pouring rain to see Jason Merrells switch on the Essex Road lights. The Essex Road traders laid on mince pies, and children from the RoseBowl Youth Club sang; feet damp, but not spirits.

It was so wet we wondered whether to call off the evening’s canvassing. But with just 23 weeks to go, Christmas and Easter included, to the likely election date, we’re not letting any campaign opportunities slip. So armed with boots and brollies we were off to Barnsbury – and I’m glad we did.

On a single estate we met so many people disillusioned with Labour and switching to the Lib Dems. There was the grandmother worried about her family’s future; a single mum who says Labour’s training schemes have failed her; and a first-time voter who wants to see us win. There was support too from a community activist who used to vote Green. One of the ward team was telling me he’d been approached in the street by someone wanting to help deliver our leaflets. Truly reason to sing in the rain!

Tonight I was doing the singing – carols at the Angel with others from St Mary’s. We were singing at the invitation of Christine Lovett, the energetic director of Islington’s Business Improvement District. The BID brings together businesses from around the Angel who pay an extra voluntary levy which, unlike the business rates, is spent locally on improving the area for their customers.

We started in Camden Passage and ended up in the N1 Centre. Not quite sure what the queue for the Days of Grays tour made of it, but we had lots of smiles and even applause from passers-by. (For what it’s worth, the most popular carols seemed to be Ding Dong Merrily and, as ever, Silent Night).

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End of the road for the Mall

Hazel Blears’ Planning Inspectorate has ridden roughshod over local views again.

Last year it was the Old Street tower; now it’s the redevelopment of the Mall at Camden Passage.

Camden Passage is a unique mix of market stalls and permanent antiques shops. Over recent years it’s become diluted with more fashion shops and eateries, but the core antiques business is still strong. And one of the most distinctive buildings in the area is the Mall.

That’s partly because it’s the most visible bit of Camden Passage, being on Upper Street; and the first bit you reach from the Angel tube. And partly because it’s such an interesting building. Originally it was a tramshed, part of the North Metropolitan Tramways Company set up in 1871, operating horse-drawn trams.

It’s long had a restaurant upstairs (formerly the wonderful Lola’s) and downstairs, a collection of small specialist antiques shops creating the famous mall.

I’ve blogged before about the battle to defend the Mall from developers. Unable to touch the outside of the building, they applied to take down the partitions creating the mall effect inside to create one large retail unit – and not for antiques. It’s not just vandalism, it’s daft too. Surely it’s counter-intuitive to these recessionary times to put all the eggs in one large basket, compared to the range of thriving small shops. That’s the developers’ problem. But it also undermines the character of Camden Passage. And that’s bad news for all of us who love Islington.

The traders fought a fine campaign. Councillors of both parties, headed by Council leader James Kempton, objected to the plans. The Council rejected the plans and fought the case at appeal.

Clearly all the Labour government’s talk of the new localism is so much hot air.

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Angel Waitrose due to open 2 April

When we lost our local Woolworths last summer, we didn’t know then they would all be going.

I was sceptical about the plan to replace our busy Woolworths. It was one of only two in Islington, the other all the way up at the Archway (it’s also now closed of course); and we already had 2 Waitroses, one at Nags Head and one on Whitecross Street near Old Street.

The only comfort is that at least our Woolies workers beat the others to the front of the job centre queue 😦

It’s not as if we got an instant replacement. Waitrose was supposed to open in October last year. It’s still nto happened. But finally there is some activity behind the hoardings, and the latest word is that the new store will open on 2nd April.

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St Peter’s action day: sun, soup and success

Getting people out to campaign in January can be a challenge. So I was a little anxious in advance of our first full action day of 2009.

It clashed with the policy conference at LSE. Some colleagues were helping in local by-elections in other boroughs. The weather forecast was bad – I could hear the wind and rain bashing the windows when I woke up. Then came a couple of texts from activists unable to make it. As Rich and I helped unload survey forms at the ward HQ, we wondered if anyone would be joining us.

No need to worry. The sun came out, and so did the helpers. We had two teams out in the morning. My morning team got off to a flying start. The first door we knocked on, I introduced myself, and the lady said, “Oh yes, I vote for you, how lovely to meet you!”. Husband was summoned, email addresses exchanged, and offers of coffee politely declined. Our newest canvasser was very impressed. He stayed enthusiastic, even when the dog a few doors down audibly ate his leaflet. The councillor on our team was getting more compliments than casework. And by the time we headed back to HQ for lunch, we’d even recruited a new deliverer.

Our kind hosts were scrabbling to find extra chairs as we ate their soup at lunchtime. Looking round the table, we had activists whose backgrounds include French, Dutch, Somali, Finnish, Turkish, and (most exotic of all, for Islington) south London; mostly young, many new, all keen. People joined in during the day, by the end we’d had 5 teams of canvassers out. One of the newbies has already phoned to volunteer door-knocking on Tuesday too. Like the chip ad says, it’s all good….

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Angel Crossing: SUCCESS!

It’s been a long time coming, but we’ve now heard the good news back from TfL that they’ve finally agreed to our demands and will move the Angel crossing.

As the thousands of people who use it every day know, this crossing is a nightmare: it’s too crowded, people have too long to wait, the crossing point is too far from the bus stops, and we have cars still passing while the green man is on.

I started this campaign back in 2004 and I’m so grateful to everyone who has supported it in that time. Islington Council, specifically Council leader James Kempton, have been brilliant in supporting the campaign. Special thanks to everyone who signed the petition or responded to the consultation this summer.

We mustn’t let things slip now. So I’m asking people to keep writing to the local papers to keep up the public pressure on TfL and the Mayor of London for action as well as promises.

Moving the crossing won’t happen overnight: work is due to start next spring/summer 2009 – watch this space for progress reports.

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Stormy weather

When thunderstorms were raging over London earlier today, I wondered if I should cancel tonight’s campaign session. Just as well I didn’t!

It was a really successful foray round the pretty small streets just off City Road near the Angel. Comparing notes at the end of the evening we had one new member, two new deliverers and a batch of supporters.

We’d planned to meet for drinks at the lovely Charles Lamb pub on Elia Street, but it was packed out (maybe Thursday is the new Friday…). So we went to the Arc. Confession time: I’ve never been in there before. It’s a bit of an identikit modern pub – low leather sofas, sports channel on screens, lager and BOGOF cocktails.

Normally I’d have a swift half but we’d had such a good evening, I felt like a celebration. And the Arc’s cocktail du soir was a Stormy Weather. The main flavour is ginger, my favourite, so that was that. I normally get headaches before a storm; if I feel rough tomorrow, I’ve only myself to blame.

Meanwhile, if you’ve missed out, here’s a Stormy Weather recipe. It couldn’t be easier, and tastes equally delicious whatever the weather.

And if you prefer a song, listen to Ethel Waters here…..

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