Golden Lane Gazette: September


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.

Things that go bump

‘Bumping’ sounds like a nightclub dance craze from the 1970s. In fact, it is a theory of social cohesion.

The citizens of small, tightly-packed communities get on far better if they bump into one another regularly. And the places they do this are held by social scientists and community-engagement experts to be sacred, fertile grounds for a better society.

Golden Laners have their chosen spots. Fusion gym, Waitrose and Fortune Street Park are all well established ‘bumping’ places. Lesser known ones are the undercover pavement on Golden Lane alongside Stanley Cohen House and, my favourite, the short tunnel of trees behind the Cripplegate Council noticeboard at the back of the Shakespeare pub.

But bumping also happens outside the confines of our bright and colourful concrete paradise. Often I will see neighbours at the open meetings organised by Healthwatch City of London.

These are roundtable talking shops at which City residents, workers and service users chew the fat with healthcare professionals in an effort to shape future policy. Issues such as medication passports, community pharmacy, dementia, and social care come under intense scrutiny.

These talks are important because the City of London shares some health and social services provisions with neighbouring boroughs, notably Hackney, so policy needs to embrace a wide range of needs. The Healthwatch gatherings take place in various locations, but often at the Dutch Centre in Austin Friars EC2.

They are always a great success, and I think I know why: the free buffet lunches they serve to fuel the conversation are mouthwateringly good, so good that I have even spotted some of my Golden Lane neighbours stuffing their faces at lunchtime then disappearing quietly before the serious topical talking starts.

This is obviously unethical and I never hesitate to remind them of their poor conduct. And in my experience, all the best ideas come with a full stomach, so ‘Let’s do lunch with Healthwatch’ could be the start of a new trend. It’s good to talk… and eat.

‘Recovery After Heart Surgery’, an examination of patient experiences and priorities, is being hosted at St Bartholomew’s Hospital on 5 October, while Healthwatch City of London’s fourth Annual Conference is at the Dutch Centre, 7 Austin Friars on 20 October.

Crystal ball moment

I predicted in last month’s Golden Lane Gazette that objections to the development proposed for the former Richard Cloudesley site would start rolling in. I wasn’t wrong, and even more piled in on deadline day last week.

I also mentioned that a “clever resident from Bayer House” had circulated his own alternative to the existing Hawkins Brown blueprint.

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Fred Scott’s alternative plans for the Richard Cloudesley School site. Photo by Fred Scott.

This is the ‘Fred Plan’, a scheme more compatible with the estate’s existing architecture, and its author, Fred Scott, is so clever that to advance his rival idea he has created an artistic photo-composition of what looks like an awayday of 1950s British intellectuals loitering ghostlike over a model of Fred’s insurgent 21st-century Golden Lane redesign.

They look to be contemplating, with deadly seriousness, a time in the future when our prize-winning estate will be enlarged in a way sympathetic to the original post-war vision of its architects Chamberlin, Powell & Bon.

In the light of how the Richard Cloudesley project has been managed so far, in which residents’ views have been barely registered, let alone considered, it is tempting to remark “pigs might fly”, but stranger things have happened.

Culture vultures

The reinvention of the City as a cauldron of creativity under the title of ‘Culture Mile’ might not be as farfetched as it sounds.

Getting the heritage architecture of Golden Lane and the Barbican to be included in this hot new idea might be a fantasy too far, but at a recent party to mark the closure of our community centre for refurbishment, I learned about Joe Mitchell.

Back in the 1960s, Joe was the “Cameron Mackintosh of Cripplegate”, rallying residents of all ages to perform on the Golden Lane Community Centre stage in his famous ‘Follies’. Some of Joe’s protégés even went on to attend the Italia Conti Academy of Theatrical Arts.

Italia Conti has been an incubator of top talent for many years, so don’t be surprised if the next Doctor Who hailed first from the Golden Lane Estate.

Behind the scenes

And if your life is not already dramatic enough, take time to check out the absorbing Life on the London Stage exhibition at the London Metropolitan Archives around the corner in Clerkenwell.

In addition to being a longterm resident of the Golden Lane Estate, Billy 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