Posts Tagged Canonbury

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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Fancy a pint?

One of the joys of Islington is its pubs, not the high street chains but the lovely Victorian pubs on quiet side streets.

Last night, Rich and I enjoyed a pint and the Sunday papers at the Island Queen. Hidden away opposite Hanover School on Noel Road, the Island Queen has a spectacular interior, huge and high-ceilinged – like the Kings Head on Upper Street, but without the crowds. Everything was perfect, the service, the atmosphere, the drinks and we unwound happily.

The week before, I met Lib Dem friends at the Crown on Cloudesely Road, which has endured when so many other pubs in the area have closed. One friend lives in an ex-pub on Cloudesley Place. Of the pubs on Barnsbury Road, the original White Conduit House, latterly the Penny Farthing, has become a restaurant; while the Eclipse is now flats, and the King Edward VII became the Church on the Corner. Now the King of Denmark at the south end of Cloudesley Road is due to shut next month.

Sometimes closed pubs do re-open. Most recently the Canonbury tavern. Famous for its huge garden, it closed in 2006 after growing complaints from the neighbours about noise nuisance. Now it’s reopened with compromise conditions preventing late night use of the gardens.

Neighbourhood pubs are great, but you want them to be good neighbours, not neighbours from hell.

The current 24-hour licensing laws, introduced by Labour back in 2003, were supposed to create a ‘continental cafe culture’; needless to say, they have not. Instead chain pubs and bars, with no stake in their neighbourhood, can create nuisance on an industrial scale.

Truly independent pubs are much more interested in what their community wants and are free to provide it. But under the current law, most pubs are tied to the big hospitality conglomerates. The Fair Pint campaign, backed by Lib Dem MP Tim Farron, is trying to change that.

Meanwhile in Clerkenwell, the LibDem councillors are running a campaign to declare the ward a ‘saturation zone’, arguing that the 135 pubs, bars, nightclubs, off-licences, restaurants and other alcohol outlets already in the ward are more than enough. I’ve been out with them the last few weeks, collecting petition signatures. (And yes, we do tend to end up in the pub afterwards).

Imagine my joy last week when I saw that on my list of people was one Hazel Blears: her famous flippin’ flat is just a bottle’s throw from Farringdon. As she was a Home Office minister at the time the Licensing Act came in, I was quite looking forward to the encounter: but she was out. Down the pub? Or, as one friend suggested, at one of her other homes….

What would I have told her? We’re not anti-pub – far from it. But we want decent pubs that are good neighbours and part of the community around them; not soulless drinking factories. 24 hour licensing isn’t the answer. Reforming the tied pub system could be.

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More resurfacing works on Essex Road

Another notification from Islington Council:

We are proposing to resurface Essex Road between Greenman Street and Church Road.
The works will be carried out at night to minimise disruption to traffic. During the work, traffic on Essex Road will be reduced to one lane with temporary signals to allow vehicles to travel in both directions. On the nights of the resurfacing there will be no parking allowed on this section of Essex Road from 6.30pm. The work will start at 7pm and will be finished at about 2am. The noisy work will be carried out in the early part of the evening. The surfacing will occur on the following nights.
Mon 20 April – Westbound section between Greenman Street and Canonbury Road. Greenman Street will be closed at Essex Road, traffic to use Popham Road and New North Road.
Tues 21 April – Westbound section between Canonbury Road and No.250 Essex Road. No road closures.
Weds 22 April – Westbound section between No. 250 Essex Road and pedestrian crossing outside No. 302 Essex Road. Halliford St will be closed to traffic at Essex Road, traffic to use Ecclesbourne Road and Elmore Street. The service road outside No. 252 to 284 will not be accessible during the work.
Thurs 23 April – Westbound section between pedestrian crossing outside No. 302 Essex Road and Church Road. Elmore St and Northchurch St will be closed to traffic at Essex Road. For Elmore St traffic to use Ecclesbourne Road and Halliford St. For Northchurch St traffic to use Crowland Terrace and Englefield Road.
Fri 24 April – Eastbound section, the junction with Ashby Grove and the bus stop outside Ashby House. Ashby Grove will be closed to traffic at Essex Road, traffic to use Arran Walk and Canonbury Street

If you have any comments or require further information please contact Costas Jacovou on or 020 7527 2049.

We apologise in advance for any inconvenience caused.

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Miles not Knives

Worrying news of another stabbing in our area.

That follows the stabbing in a fight at Bentham Court (just across the road from where I live) last month.

Thankfully in neither of these cases are the injuries reported as life-threatening. Unlike the series of stabbing deaths last year.

But it does show that we need to remain vigilant against knife crime, even if the recession has knocked it out of the news headlines. And part of that is changing attitudes. Hopefully initiatives like shows of the play Boy X will help.

As should the 24 hour walk ‘Miles not Knives’ planned by campaigner Danny O’Brien. I will be supporting the march on 23 May and hope many others will join us.

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Orange shoots

No, not a post about opinion polls. Although it could be.

The crocuses are out in Morton Road gardens, the park opposite my home.

It seems unbelievable that only three weeks ago we were deep in snow.

There are some great photos of the snowscenes, including this one of Canonbury, looking like a winter version of the set of Mary Poppins.

Apparently the crocus symbolises ‘cheerfulness and gladness’. So I shall keep smiling at all the orange shoots out there.

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Police horses out and about

You don’t often hear horses’ hooves in N1, but this afternoon the sound of horses drew me to the window – and there was a pair of police horses going down the street.

Years ago there were police mews in Barnsbury, and we sometimes had horses clopping down Hemingford Road when I lived there. But I’ve never seen or rather heard them in Morton Road before.

I don’t think they were connected with this one….

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Jan Kaplicky RIP

The Czech architect Jan Kaplicky has died.

He’s best known for his major buildings, many of them in Britain where his practice, Future Systems, is based. Exciting curvy buildings, using the latest materials, they include the media centre at Lords, and the Birmingham Selfridges.

Rich & I went up to Birmingham last year, for a weekend of family and shopping; it was quite extraordinary to come into the carefully-preserved Edwardian charm of Moor Street station, and then see through its arches, the spotty curves of Selfridges, looking like a cartoon creature briefly at rest. The excitement carries on right up to the entrance where we couldn’t resist touching the exterior. Normally its shop windows that catch the eye, the goods inside that are the most exciting thing: not here.

Here in Islington we have the glasshouse in Canonbury, designed by Kaplicky in 1992. It’s the kind of building that in theory might have divided the community, like some glass and metal cuckoo in a conservation area nest. In fact, it fits perfectly between the older buildings, and everyone loves it.

Kaplicky once said, “Where is it written that buildings have to be boxes? People aren’t boxes.” Amen to that.

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