Knowing when to say no is never easy. Recently I was asked to join a welcoming party and lunch for some ‘special guests’ at St Luke’s Community Centre in Central Street, a regular hangout for many Golden Lane residents.
I muttered something like “Sorry, too busy, places to go, people to see, blah blah blah” and asked if I might “tag along later”, but was told the visitors would be gone shortly after lunch. Those ‘special guests’ were the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
The disappointment had just worn off when it emerged that our newly refurbished community centre will now not reopen until next month, maybe even later. This is annoying because it means that an exciting project will have to wait for lift-off.
The Golden Lane Estate Community Archive is an idea started by a small group of residents (myself included) around a year ago. Two photo collections borrowed from residents Patsy Cox (Basterfield House) and Heather Sutton (Bayer House) gave us the chance to create a slideshow and a trio of posters (two pictured right) showing life on the estate from its very beginning.
In the collections, architectural plans sat alongside family snapshots and other social-history memorabilia.
We got to see such gems as “Joan Flannery’s kitchen, circa 1987”, and a menu from the Golden Lane Luncheon Club (1959) at which a glass of Pouilly Fuisse (posh white wine) cost four shillings (20p).
From this small start we are now trying to get the archive on to a more professional footing. With help from the City Corporation and the London Metropolitan Archives, we hope not only to preserve the shared memories of Golden Lane but to continue to collect material for future generations to enjoy.
We’d like to put on occasional exhibitions and talks, but until the community centre opens, we’re on indefinite standby.
The redevelopment of the site of the former Richard Cloudesley School has now been rubberstamped by both Islington and City of London Councils.
That means a skyscraper bigger than Great Arthur House will hang like the mothership from a distant universe on the site currently occupied by the City of London Community Education Centre (CoLCEC).
A determined group from across the estate objected to the plans; more, mainly Islington residents, supported it. The objectors were never, as has been unfairly suggested, against the building of new social housing, or even the long-overdue development of a school site that has been looking more unattractive by the day.
What bothered them most was that the proposals seemed to bypass all established planning codes.
The London Plan, the Islington Plan, the Finsbury Plan: they all agree that the anticipated housing tower and primary academy fall short on details such as the height and density of the buildings, the provision of outdoor spaces, and compatibility with the existing architecture of the estate.
The area’s services are woefully inadequate (one GP surgery). Yet all of the guidelines were sidestepped without any serious consultation with Golden Lane residents. Other, more harmonious, plans went straight in the bin. Add to this the nearby Denizen luxury apartments planned for the site of the now demolished keyworker homes at Bernard Morgan House, and not surprisingly many estate residents are sceptical about how the decision between Islington and the City Corporation – two politically very different neighbouring councils – has come to pass.
The disgruntled protesters have now shifted their campaign to environmental concerns.
The proposed development will rob the multi-award-winning Golden Baggers allotment project of valuable light, while three mature Birch trees, home to countless numbers of singing birds, are due to be plucked from the earth and discarded any day now.
Some residents claim to have seen bats in the trees, but this cannot be officially verified, so it could all be a cheeky ruse.
The good news this month is that the newly-remodelled children’s playground next to Hatfield House is finished after a tedious delay. It hasn’t officially opened yet and still remains padlocked. The much-publicised decorative mural is “coming soon”, but already the children have wasted no time sneaking in to make good use of the many attractions (pictured above, Ella Ivy, aged seven-and-three-quarters).
Early reports reveal that one of the playground’s slides is too steep (says Frank, age seven, a view supported by Sam, five, who adds that it is “a bit fast”). And the whole of the play area “smells of pumpkins,” says Elsie, age eight. You read it here first.
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 a City of London Community Builder. He writes a blog about neighbourhood happenings at basterfieldbilly.blogspot.com