At City Matters we are always looking to find new ways to serve as the voice for the residents of the City of London. The Golden Lane Gazette is a...

At City Matters we are always looking to find new ways to serve as the voice for the residents of the City of London. The Golden Lane Gazette is a monthly column written by Billy Mann, who has lived in Basterfield House for more than 20 years. Published in the second edition each month, Billy’s column will keep you informed on the big stories affecting the one of the City’s largest residential pockets.

Let there be light

A decision to improve the lighting around the estate is welcome.

Crime is not a big issue here, and the poor lighting is more to do with the safety of residents and how secure they feel walking the estate after dark.

At least that was my concern when I raised the matter with our Common Council team at a group meeting more than a year ago. None of them seemed to think there was a lighting problem. I was dismissed as a fantasist. But now the Corporation has decided to act.

A consultation was set up. We sat and listened, moaned about how frighteningly dark it gets between the Shakespeare pub and Great Arthur House.

A man from the police – an ‘architectural liaison officer’ – told us how ‘smart’ lighting can be used to ‘design out’ crime, if we had any.

An official from the Corporation’s built environment department told us how funding had been found to upgrade the lighting, and then described the ways our lives might be transformed with sophisticated uplighting and LEDs.

There were diagrams to look at. I looked down at my notebook. ‘Is there a hidden agenda?’ it said on one page. After all, we have to keep the authority on its toes, don’t we?

The one that was screaming at me was that it seems the Corporation anticipates increased footfall across the estate once Crossrail opens at Farringdon and the Bernard Morgan and Richard Cloudesley site developments are finished. It will want to make sure everyone knows which way to go. Oh, and Fusion gym wants it made easier for people to find their way to its front door.

The designation of ‘private’ and ‘common’ areas of the estate is a hot-potato issue and one the Corporation and the Golden Lane Residents’ Association have been wrestling with for what seems like forever.

It is a fraught conversation and one I’m not sure any amount of ‘smart’ technology can bring to an early conclusion.

Centre of excellence

There are plans to redevelop our community centre, the flat-top building at the back of the yellow giant that is Great Arthur House.

It has been a struggle for residents to get a say in the matter, but that has changed and a steering group of locals is now doing some proper steering.

There has also been an effort to show that residents can – and will – organise and run successful events that benefit the whole estate: yoga, chess, knitting etc.

Two in particular impressed me recently.

In January a Hatfield House resident pulled some strings and a brass band took to the stage of the community hall one Saturday afternoon.

Children wriggled and giggled around our feet as the band parped out old favourites such as The Floral Dance and The Typewriter, which featured an actual typewriter: clickety-clack, ping, and all that.

In the interval, the children got to blow a few horns. Top prize overall went to the band’s rendition of David Bowie’s Life on Mars. Some residents were visibly emotional.

More recently, the hall was transformed into a restaurant and we were treated to a three-course meal of Caribbean food as actors from Off The Wall Players performed structured scenes (soup, main, pudding) based on Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, the 1967 film starring Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy and Sidney Poitier.

Like the film, the performance tackled themes of race, class and gender roles, but its centrepiece, served to our tables by members of the cast, was food.

It climaxed in a petty squabble in which an idiot boyfriend gets coleslaw dumped on his head by his date. He staggers, spits out a few swear words, then falls over humiliated and dies.

Just desserts, I thought, as we finished our main course. The community centre will close at the end of the summer for refurbishment, but let’s hope that when it reopens, such sparkling events as these get a fair shout. They more than deserve it.

Animal magic

We’ve had displaced ducks stranded on Basterfield lawn; we have a sparrowhawk who arrives with a bearded handler to put the frighteners on the pigeons; and foxes are regulars.

Some years ago we had a three-legged fox which, in spite of being seriously disabled, hopped around eyeballing innocent passers-by.

Now we have another fox. It has been named ‘Mr Fox’, but that is a bit dull, so if you have any better ideas, please let us know.

Wool meet again

Every third Tuesday in the month is Knit & Natter at the community centre. No prior skills or fancy equipment is required, just turn up, cast on and chill out. Hats for the premature babies unit at University College London Hospitals is the good cause.

Billy Mann has lived in Basterfield House on the Golden Lane Estate for more than 20 years. He is membership secretary of the Golden Baggers allotment group, and earlier this year was made a Housing Hero by the City of London Corporation. He writes a blog about neighbourhood happenings at

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