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Virtuoso violinist Nigel Kennedy backs Dam Nonsense campaign against Hampstead Heath pond works

Nigel Kennedy concert at St Peter's in Belsize Park. Picture: Nigel Kennedy Nigel Kennedy concert at St Peter's in Belsize Park. Picture: Nigel Kennedy

Thursday, December 5, 2013
9:00 AM

World famous violinist Nigel Kennedy has branded the proposed works to Hampstead Heath’s ponds “suspicious” and thrown his weight behind the Dam Nonsense opposition campaign.

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The virtuoso musician accused the City of London Corporation of “scaremongering” over its claims that nearly 1,500 people could drown if major engineering works are not carried out to the Heath’s dams.

The long-time Belsize Park resident was speaking after performing for the first time on his home turf at St Peter’s Church, Belsize Square.

He told the Ham&High: “They’re saying that thousands of people are going to die from floods from these ponds, which have been there for hundreds of years, and the ponds are basically on the lowest level of land anyway, so how can anyone get done over by that?

“It does seem a bit suspicious. To have too much development of the place, it’s going to lose its natural beauty.”

Mr Kennedy arranged the concert as a benefit for The Heath and Hampstead Society, which launched the Dam Nonsense campaign to save the ponds last week.

The society is urging the City, which manages the Heath, to scale back proposals for major engineering works to prevent the ponds failing in the event of an extreme storm, which is forecast to take place only once in every 400,000 years. Critics say the £15million project is unnecessary and will “permanently disfigure” the landscape.

Mr Kennedy said he visits the Heath every day to walk his two dogs and he wanted to support the society’s fight to protect it.

“I’ve not done any gig in Hampstead ever and I just wanted to do something for some people who might be living locally, just to kind of say a metaphorical thank you for being in such a nice part of the world,” he added. The violinist, who was the star of the Last Night of The Proms in September, was also raising money towards a £10,000 project to improve the church garden at St Peter’s.

Sporting a trademark Aston Villa top under his jacket, he played an eclectic programme including works by Bach, jazz violin great Stéphane Grappelli and his own compositions, backed by an ensemble of violin, guitar, double bass and drums.

Introducing the concert, he told the audience: “I love Hampstead Heath and I love the green of this part of the world, and so my friends agreed to come here and play to remind people how beautiful this area is and to try to keep some of the innate characteristics from being spoiled by political organisations, or whoever else might be trying to put some concrete up.”

The benefit came about after a chance meeting with the church warden at St Peter’s, Ken Robbie, who described the concert as “electrifying”.

The society thanked Mr Kennedy for his support by naming him an honorary life member.

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