Hampstead archdeacon called in over row with minister

�The Archdeacon of Hampstead has been dragged into a bitter row after a minister tore down a campaign banner at a community festival.

Public service activist Julian Silverman complained to the church leader after Reverend Adrian Benjamin pulled down an anti-cuts 9ft by 4ft sign and made off with it. The minister called it a “bomb” which threatened the harmony of the summer show and said it was his job to dismantle it.

Rev Benjamin, chairman of the event’s organising committee, said: “If someone came in with explosives then it would have been me who was responsible for disposing of it and as far as I’m concerned it’s as predacious as a bomb.’’ He referred to Mr Silverman as ‘‘a rogue, a rogue.”

Mr Silverman, 74, is consulting a solicitor to see if he can bring criminal proceedings for theft.

He said: “When I rang him up afterwards I said you can’t just walk off with someone’s property and he said: ‘Can’t I? If you left a bomb in the park are you saying I don’t have the right to dispose of a bomb.’

“I said it’s not a bomb, it’s a community banner.”

In a letter seen by the Ham&High, Archdeacon Luke Miller told Mr Silverman he was “sorry that this situation has arisen”.

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The argument erupted when Mr Silverman set up an unauthorised stall at the Friern Barnet Summer Show for the Barnet Alliance for Public Services (BAPS), which criticises cuts made by Barnet Council.

The All Saint’s Church Reverend said the group and the ‘Hands off our Barnet’ banner were out of place as it was peddling a political agenda at a community event. He said: “It wasn’t nice and they were very negative. I’m all for debate and discussion but to have this slanging match, denigrating councillors who are trying their best in very difficult circumstances? If the Tory party came in and started giving out notices they (BAPS) would not stand for it.”

The summer show’s committee decided to refuse BAPS’ application for a table at the weekend festival. When a friend of Mr Silverman’s loaned out their table to the campaign group, Rev Benjamin objected on the grounds that he did not have insurance and the committee had already banned them.

The minister said he had put the banner, which cost more than �80, in a tent. But when he had gone back to find it the following day it had disappeared. “It’s probably gone to Summers Lane (dump) and it’s probably a good place for it,” he said.