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Questions raised over future of George Michael’s Highgate memorial garden

PUBLISHED: 12:01 12 January 2018 | UPDATED: 14:09 12 January 2018

Birthday tributes to George Michael left by fans in The Grove, Highgate. Picture: @sparkle-chica

Birthday tributes to George Michael left by fans in The Grove, Highgate. Picture: @sparkle-chica

Archant

The future of George Michael’s tribute garden opposite his Highgate home has been called into question.

Fans began leaving tributes to the star on land in front of his Grade-II listed home within hours of his death on Christmas Day 2016.

Since then the triangular-shaped site which also forms part of Michael’s estate has filled with a sea of flowers, candles, photographs and messages.

But the impromptu memorial garden’s condition has suffered under the feet of thousands of visiting fans with bad weather turning once solid ground into mud, prompting questions as to how best to preserve the site and mark the star’s passing.

The Highgate Society’s environment chairman Elspeth Clements, approached by neighbours upset by the garden’s condition, said: “We don’t think it’s within our remit to get involved. We are keen on some kind of charitable foundation being set up in his memory, but ultimately it comes down to the family’s wishes. We want to abide by what they feel is appropriate.”

On plans for a statue proposed last January, Ms Clements said the society felt the idea was “problematic” given the number of famous people in Highgate.

John Vasilious, whose petition for the statue gained more than 5,000 signatures, said: “Our intention is to respect the family and await their decision, whether it’s now or in the future.”

Heidi Feichtinger, who tends part of the garden on behalf of fans every weekend, admitted the space had attracted negative publicity in recent weeks because of its appearance.

“There’s a way forward, but we need to have an open discussion with everybody to find out what that way is,” Ms Feichtinger said. “The mud is a problem but we can’t control the weather.”

According to Ms Feichtinger the memorial has inspired fundraising with events raising £22,000 in donations to causes close to the star’s heart.

Fellow fan Tonia Katsantonis said most fans don’t want to see a statue erected saying it would not be in keeping with Michael’s preference in life to keep a low profile.

Instead Ms Katsantonis recommended part of the garden be paved, but stressed a memorial should represent the star how he would have liked to be remembered.

“The garden needs someone to manage and give it direction. Fans need somewhere to go,” Ms Katsantonis said.

“Fans send us tributes from around the world to place for them in George’s garden. We are constantly fundraising for Macmillan Cancer and The Rainbow Trust and have occasionally used the space as a meeting point for this.

“A Foundation in George’s name is certainly a way forward that will continue his legacy of supporting the charities closest to him.

“We have tried to make contact with the Highgate Society and are waiting to hear back from them,” she added.

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