Family’s grief as Primrose Hill memorial bench for 26-year-old moved
A BENCH which has stood in memory of a 26-year-old rock musician since he died three years ago is to be removed to make space for a modern redevelopment – without any consultation with his family.
Peter Stevens, from Muswell Hill, died in June 2007 after emergency surgery and treatment for bowel cancer was unsuccessful. The Primrose Hill bench has since become a focal point for family and friends.
But now the traditional curved- back bench with its inscription “Peter Stevens, musician and dreamer, whose favourite place was Primrose Hill 1.2.1981 – 9.6.2007, NW1” will be replaced by modern, flat, backless benches with no plaque.
The family was only told of the plans to relocate his memorial when the original plaque was stolen and then replaced by Royal Parks – after a planning application had been submitted for the redevelopment.
His mother, Alison Ritchie, said: “I had a letter saying the plaque was stolen and they were replacing it, and it was only then they also told me about the redevelopment and that, as part of it, they would have to move the bench.”
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However it is much more than a bench to Mr Stevens’ family and friends. Ms Ritchie continued: “When Peter died, his friends wanted to mark his death with something that they could visit.
“As a group they used to spend a lot of time on Primrose Hill together playing music and so they raised the money and we organised the plaque with the parks department. We were amazed that a bench in such a wonderful position was still available. It’s very special to us.”
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The bench – which cost �800 to have dedicated – has become an important place for both the family and Peter’s many friends to express their grief, but also to keep his memory alive.
Mr Stevens, who attended Fortismere School, died after his bowel cancer was misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome. Despite treatment, he died nine months later.
Ms Ritchie said: “The bench has meant a lot to us because we are not religious and this is somewhere nice to go to remember him and think – we wander up there when we have time or on important days like birthdays or Christmas. It wouldn’t be the same in another part of the park.”
The bench will be moved to another part of Primrose Hill but those who sit and reflect on it will no longer have the world famous view of London to look out over.
A spokeswoman for The Royal Parks said: “We understand the bench has a very special significance to the friends and family of Mr Stevens and regret any upset plans to relocate it may have caused.
“When anyone decides to dedicate a park bench, they are made aware that the sponsorship is of the bench rather than its location, and that it may in future be positioned elsewhere in the park.
“We contacted Mr Stevens’ family to let them know of plans to move the bench and have continued to maintain contact. The Royal Parks Foundation will arrange to meet with the family on Primrose Hill to discuss options, including other possible locations.”
Mr Stevens was a keen musician and told his parents that it was his goal in life to use the power of music to turn people’s lives around. In his memory his family and friends set up The Peter Stevens Music Project which pays for a specialist music teacher one day a week to work with children with behavioural problems. See www.peterstevens.net to find out more.
The controversy comes as Camden Council prepares to consider a planning application to redevelop the brow of the iconic hill.