Ham&High letters: Rod Stewart, Hampstead Ponds, Heath House, Wessex Gardens School, libraries, be kind and national service

Pop superstar Rod Stewart in full voice at the Olympia in 1976 for his first London concert after he

Pop superstar Rod Stewart in full voice at the Olympia in 1976 for his first London concert after he split with The Faces. Picture: PA Images - Credit: PA

Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Ham&High readers this week.

How are you at remembering Faces?

Richard Houghton, author, Jimi Hendrix - The Day I Was There, 1 Totnes Road, Manchester M21 8XF, writes:

I am researching a book about Rod Stewart and the Faces, the band Rod was in when he first became famous with the hit Maggie May.

The Faces played at both Hampstead Country Club and at Westfield College in 1970 and 1971. I'd love to hear from anyone who was at any of those shows and who cared to share their memories for a 'people's history' of the band to be published later this year.

- Email iwasatthatgig@gmail.com

The Ponds

Emma James, Highgate Road, Kentish Town, writes:

Someone is getting into a muddle (Charges: fair and appropriate?). Ana Truman says that making people pay £4 for a swim in the ponds that has in the past always been free is more than justified, her grounds for this being that Hampstead Heath and its ponds belong to the Queen.

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If that truly be the case then they should immediately be taken back from the City of London Corporation, a big money outfit, and given to an elected public body such as the GLA as it is government bodies that always deal with such things as these and not private corporations. There is a cross party consensus that exists on how such matters are approached, and the public vote for the one that is felt to be the most able.

In Germany, where I visit frequently and the weather is warmer, such facilities as parks and their public bathing areas are all free to use and are administered by the local authority for this purpose, the royal dynasties that once owned them having abdicated control a century ago. If we are to continue with what little we have, maybe we should follow the advice once given, that if we are to succeed then we must be more like the Germans, which certainly sounds more sensible than what this expert has to offer.

John Palmer, Fitzjohns Avenue, Hampstead, writes:

The correspondent who argues that the ending of several centuries of free enjoyment by users of the Hampstead Ponds and replacing this with charges that will be enforced by rangers at entrance gates is a good thing does not know what she is talking about (Charges: fair and appropriate?).

The final decision on the matter will have been made on Wednesday (yesterday) of this week, but it is generally believed that the decision to go ahead with this in some form despite widespread popular discontent has already been taken. The price for a swim will be a fee of £4 to be paid at entrance gates that have been installed, and rangers will be placed around the three swimming pools to enforce this collection. This change will have a detrimental impact and the problem will arise of how to deal with the hostility that this will lead to as all three ponds are open in many ways that will make enforcement difficult. The problem is being caused by the City of London Corporation itself for not being up to the job - it knows the price of everything but the value of nothing and should never have been given them in the first place. What will the Corporation come up with next, make the public pay to walk on the grass?

The ponds are long-valued treasures that are becoming increasingly popular and should receive further investment in order to meet and satisfy these new needs and not turned into a money-making venture. In order for this to happen they should be returned once more to public control so this can be done properly by an elected London authority that is able to invest adequately and meet user needs.

Heath House

David Rapson, Hampstead, writes:

Please thank Francoise Findlay for raising the issue around Heath House.

It is a disgrace that this historic property has been allowed to dilapidate. Action should be taken to restore this landmark house without further delay.

Where are former pupils?

J Barnett, FRICS, New Barnet, Herts, writes:

As a former Wessex Gardens School pupil from 1943 and in later years as a governor, I am proud to have been invited to assist the school in celebrating their 100th anniversary in 2020 and an event that will be held on July 11.

I would appreciate to hear from any of your readers who attended the school who may wish to hear what events will be put on for old pupils and also to receive originals or copies of any old school reports, badges, memorabilia, photos, funny stories etc that would be of interest to fellow pupils.

It is also well-known that Wessex Gardens School admitted many 100s of Jewish refugee children from pre-war Europe, evident from the registers where the parents' names are recorded and the previous schools attended are in towns such as Berlin, Dresden, Hamburg, Leipzig, Vienna etc. Sadly, the last Jewish refugee child to join the school was in July 1940.

I am aware of previous famous alumni such as Jean Simmonds, Sir Simon Schama and we would like to hear of any others.

Do please contact me c/o Wessex Gardens School, Golders Green, London NW11 9RR or by email jbarnett@barnettross.co.uk

Library service

Keith Martin, Friern Park, North Finchley, writes:

The community leadership and libraries committee meeting on March 5 was a step on the very long road towards restoring public libraries to their rightful position in the UK as bastions of truth and education.

It is a long road. The committee was cunningly manoeuvred into approving a report and recommendations by The Activist Group, who had submitted a detailed Independent Evaluation of the Library Service. The recommendations covered unstaffed libraries ('the reduction in staffed opening hours has gone too far'), and restricted access to children ('concerns are raised particularly by people with disabilities and children and young people'). The wider context of the national crisis of libraries and the library profession in the UK was sidestepped as being beyond the remit of the consultants and of the committee.

Questions asked by councillors concentrated on the role of volunteers in the new setup, generally considered to be inadequately addressed by Barnet in comparison to national role models such as Merton. Thus the debate was skilfully directed by the chairman Reuben Thompstone into concentrating on these details and avoiding any discussion on Barnet's role in a future world of education for our children and grandchildren. This would be left for a later date and a later committee. The debate on the fundamental flaws in the policy was stifled by the restriction on the scope of the investigation. The recommendations nibbled at problems but came nowhere near to solving them. A library without librarians is not a library. The 1964 Act was enacted to safeguard the truth. It has been ignored.

The fundamental fallacy in this whitewash of existing policy is to ignore that replacing librarians by volunteers to save money is wrong and doomed to failure. This is left to the future.

What was ignored by the meeting is that Barnet has a shining past record of being in the forefront nationally of winning awards for the exceptional quality of its libraries. It has properly been proud of this reputation. One day enlightenment will overcome short term cost cutting. Truth will always prevail over opportunism. But this evening the emergence of truth has been delayed.

Teaching kindness

Cllr Stephen Stark, Hampstead Town ward, writes:

A few of weeks ago I met a resident who told me about a technique which teaches children about respect and kindness.

I was told that it aims to improve standards, achievement, respect and reduce exclusions and bring about other benefits. Apparently this technique is being adopted in South Africa, Israel and soon in the USA. I suggested a deputation to the children schools and family committee (CS&F). The resident wrote to the chairman of the committee (who is Cllr Lewis) to ask for permission to make a deputation at the meeting on February 25. 2020.

As I predicted the Cllr Lewis refused, saying this had nothing to do with the committee. From its possible outcomes I would beg to differ. I am the Conservative councillor who sits on the CS&F committee. I attended the meeting on February 25, 2020 and explained the possible merits of the teaching and in light of Caroline Flack's suicide and the renewed emphasis on kindness, I called upon the committee chair to reconsider.

The committee chairman again refused to hear the deputation at the next CS&F meeting.

I reminded him of the Labour leader's desire to be more accountable to the public and to include public engagement. I reiterated that the deputation is a mere two to three minutes of time and that it wouldn't take much time out of the next meeting to hear the deputation which might be of interest to committee members and indeed officers. Cllr Lewis refused to change his mind.

This is terribly disappointing and I wonder if it would be different if the request came from a Labour councillor.

National service

Lester May (Lieutenant Commander RN), Reachview Close, Camden Town, writes:

Some readers will have heard Saturday's Archive on 4 on BBC Radio. 'Call Up: The Story of National Service' had stories from conscripts who served for up to two years between the end of the Second World War and 1963; conscription ended in 1960.

Veteran broadcaster Charles Wheeler's radio series, The Peacetime Conscripts, was referenced on Saturday. Wheeler said two per cent of National Servicemen served in the Navy. Call Up, though, made no mention of conscripts serving in the Royal Navy, the Senior Service not mentioned.

Historian Richard Vinen claimed that National Servicemen were among the last to be buried where they fell overseas. That is not so, as the graves of the fallen in the Falkland Islands sadly make clear.

The parade training officer at Whale Island should consider offering an afternoon's square bashing to the narrator and producer of this otherwise very good documentary, along with BBC News colleagues. All too often, broadcast media infer that all service personnel are soldiers, when they might be Royal Marines or even sailors, or all airmen RAF, forgetting the Fleet Air Arm. Time with a Chief GI would remind these BBC 'conscripts' of the sea services.