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Our man in the Golden Lane Estates, Billy Mann, extolls the benefits of coming together as a community to have meaningful conversations about pressing issues.

Back in April our residents’ association, GLERA, hosted a ‘Community Conversation’ on crime and antisocial behaviour.

A number of those present took issue with the smelly old phone box at the junction of Golden Lane and Fann Street which, they report, has been repurposed as a drop-off/pick-up point for drug dealers.

The meeting proved the value of the Community Conversation and the initiative took another step forward recently with a gathering, in partnership with the estate office, on the use of the public and private spaces on the estate.

Golden Lane is theoretically a private estate, but is used heavily by the public, and residents want to know where the boundaries lie, especially as one of our councillors, Mark Bostock, noted that public use is expected to rise when Crossrail is finished, and with the arrival of an ever-growing number of Culture Mile attractions.

Residents also want to know who pays for the impact of this new footfall. Should that be themselves through their rent and services charges? Or our local authority?

Other issues emerged around security, crime and antisocial behaviour. The Community Conversation was again a success, conducted in good spirit. Another hot topic was the use of the estate by film and TV crews to make hits such as Line of Duty and Luther.

This is a facility marketed by the City Corporation. Residents do not share in the receipts but suffer the inconvenience.

Only three of our eight councillors joined the meeting, which inevitably spawned a discussion about how to get more Golden Lane residents to stand for election to the Common Council.

There isn’t a queue because the role is not seen as an attractive one. There is no pay, the various council committees meet during a normal working day, and there is the strange matter of the business vote. This is an old tradition which entitles businesses to cast votes in council elections alongside residents.

The custom is meant to strike a balance between the small number of the City’s residents (about 8,000) and Square Mile workers (close to 500,000 daily), but many locals are suspicious, especially those in the 25 wards that are dominated by residents, as is ours, Cripplegate.

Saturday 6 July is national ‘Demand Democracy Day’, with lots of mass-action events planned to promote the cause of fairer voting systems (visit makevotesmatter.org.uk), so there’s probably no better time for residents to consider stepping up to the electoral plate.

One of our current councillors, William Pimlott, says council committee work for those in full-time jobs might prove to be difficult, but not so for part-timers, flexible workers and students.

He offers to advise anyone thinking of giving it a go (william.pimlott@cityoflondon.gov.uk). “We need more representation from Golden Lane,” he says.

While getting residents to engage in local politics might be hard work, when it comes to having fun there’s no stopping them.

Open Garden Squares Weekend was again a great success. The community cafe got so busy it ran out of milk, but thankfully not cake. And more than 350 visitors trooped through our award-winning allotment, the Golden Baggers, to inspect our fertility.

The prize for Most Fascinating Plant went to a low-growing ‘daylight neutral’ flowering strawberry in Bag 33. There was also some healthy rivalry and a lot of cheeky banter at a new GLERA quiz night in the community centre. A scary invigilator called Nicholas patrolled the room looking for anyone using their phone to cheat, but what was scarier was the vast number of contestants who didn’t know that John Lennon’s middle name was Winston. Our team, The Jo Brand Milkshakes, came third.

The mini masterpieces by year six Prior Weston pupils I mentioned in last month’s column are to get their own exhibition here on the estate.

The Golden Baggers have kindly agreed to host a showing in the Sir Ralph Perring Centre during their next Social Sunday on 7 July (11am-4pm). Expect to be dazzled.

Billy Mann lives in Basterfield House on the Golden Lane Estate. He is a teaching assistant, a City of London Community Builder and blogs at scrapbookbilly.blogspot.com. Write to him at goldenlanegazette@gmail.com.

Cover image by secretlondon123 (Creative Commons).

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