Ham&High letters: Islamophobia, community choir, Wollstonecraft statue, waste, pollarding, Streatery care and 2020’s hits

People sitting on the CIL-funded planters at Belsize Village. Picture: Linda Grove.

People sitting on the CIL-funded planters at Belsize Village. Picture: Linda Grove. - Credit: Archant

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

Pledge to work together against hate

Cllr Joseph Ejiofor, leader, Haringey Council, writes:

Haringey takes pride in its diversity and our Muslim community are a vital part of that. November has been Islamophobia Awareness Month, and I believe that it is an important time for us all to recognise the discrimination that Muslims face in daily life and also pledge to work tirelessly together to defeat it.

But discrimination isn’t always so direct. It can be unconscious. Latent. Hidden. Pervasive.


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Studies show that the majority of references to Muslims in the British press are negative, and that in a single year from 2017 to 2018, religious hate crimes rose by 40 per cent, with more than half of victims being Muslims.

We’ve been taking steps to address Islamophobia locally, holding webinars on Islamophobia during last month’s National Hate Crime Awareness Week and establishing a Hate Crime Delivery Group to improve outcomes for hate crime victims.

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The responsibility falls on all of us to renounce negative stereotypes and assumptions whenever and wherever we encounter them, to challenge institutional prejudices, to help reduce stigmas that Muslims encounter on a regular basis, and to show our Muslim community that we stand alongside them against hate, now and at all times.

A local jewel

Dorothea Linder, Hampstead, full address supplied, writes:

I wanted to bring to your attention a local jewel, it is the Belsize community choir.

During the lockdown into the summer, the choir met virtually on zoom and produced truly amazing, high quality pieces of music with original compositions, arrangements and videos. Two of them are dedicated to the lockdown itself, the Coronavirus Chorale and Lockdown Thursday.

You can find all pieces on this link.

We have yet another lockdown about which many people are very upset. Music soothes the nerves, and to listen to a local high quality choir might be inspirational for your readers. This is why I wrote this letter. We are all in it together.

Wasteful in front of goal

Cllr Tom Simon, Liberal Democrats, Belsize Ward, writes:

At Monday evening’s council meeting, Labour councillors unanimously passed a motion praising the council’s performance (and by extension their own) in collecting waste and cleaning the streets in Camden.

The good people of Camden will have their own views on whether this praise is deserved. One point in the motion Labour councillors passed highlighted its own absurdity – it cheered the fact that Camden last year was in the top third of the 13 inner London boroughs for its recycling rates, while admitting that its place in this table tended to fluctuate. Is this really the pinnacle of Labour’s ambition for Camden? To make a football analogy this is like occasionally scraping into the Europa League. Camden Council is often described as a “top-tier” local authority so when it comes to rubbish, let’s aim for the Champions League, not mid-table mediocrity.

That statue

John Stratton, Thurlow Road, Belsize Park, writes:

Cllr Richard Cotton, like many others, has been misled by the media frenzy over the so-called Wollstonecraft statue at Newington Green (Ham&High). I agree that she deserves a statue in Camden if a suitable site could be found but the present one is not supposed to be her, naked or otherwise – as the sculptor has explained.

It is a tribute both to her and to women in general, the naked figure representing womanhood as a whole, rising from the emerging bodies of other women.

There is no objectification and there are plenty of other nude statues of women in galleries and elsewhere so this is no exception.

Pollarding

Harvey Flinder, BARA and Canopy Coalition; Alice Brown, Climate Emergency Camden and Catherine Hays, Canopy Coalition, write:

Camden’s program of precautionary pollarding has become an emotive issue for many Camden residents. Last week’s meeting of the culture and environment scrutiny committee, covered in this paper, made this abundantly clear. A few comments, however were somewhat wide of the truth.

Pollarding is not used, on urban trees, to encourage healthy growth and a better shape but to remove all stems and leaf in an effort to reduce the amount of water consumed by the tree. Cllr Harrison maintained that, if not done, buildings could be affected and even collapse and that not pollarding risked insurance claims “skyrocketing”.

In fact, in any one year, less than 1 per cent of street trees in Camden will be involved in damage to buildings, while Camden’s level of insurance claims over the past 10 years follow the trend seen in our neighbouring boroughs.

Camden is not unique and across many metrics is similar to Islington and Hackney, which only pollard a tree in specific circumstances and as a last resort. Camden’s precautionary pollarding is a crude, blanket approach that results in thousands of trees being needlessly compromised, it reduces the leaf canopy and thus the trees ability to sequester and store carbon and it harms biodiversity.

Stopping it would save almost £100,000 a year which could be used to finance tree planting and bring the watering schedule of new saplings up to the required amount; a cost that Camden admits it cannot currently afford.

If precautionary pollarding really makes our homes safer and reduces insurance claims then show us the evidence. If not, then let’s consign it to the past and spend the money on addressing the climate and ecological emergency and improving our environment.

Planters

Linda Grove, Hampstead, full address supplied, writes:

Cllr Cooper was sharing the glory of Belsize Village during the summer by donating CIL money. As we all saw the Streatery was a great success in the summer enjoyed by all - but projects need to be maintained.

The plant boxes would have been better if there had been about two larger ones only instead of the ones which have been made, easier to maintain and folk wouldn’t be able to sit upon them as you can see from the image (above), the top ledge was not a good idea.

Anyway, we have them now, so a solution would be to get the person who made them to attach a small bench seat on each so they can be sat upon without ruining the plants. This is where the sun is during the winter, so again folks want to sit in this spot. Camden I know has many stored benches, would it be possible to get three or four more benches that maybe sit in front of the planters if the attached bench idea isn’t possible?

This was funded by community money and it would be criminal not to act on observations so the project is a success.

Incidentally, a tap still hasn’t been provided for watering, when will that happen?

Top of the pops

Doug Crawford, Hampstead, full address supplied, writes:

The government has been in power for about a year so lets have a look at some of their “greatest hits”.

1. Incompetence - This one’s not a single - it’s a double album at least. Handling of the pandemic, failure to carry out due diligence resulting in public money being squandered on “unusable” PPE, an inefficient track and trace system, failure to plan for an orderly Brexit etc etc.

2. Callousness - presiding over a shambolic pandemic response that has resulted in unnecessary deaths and blighted lives whilst failing to acknowledge their responsibility - compounded by refusal to meet with members of bereaved families.

3. Croniysm - awarding contracts worth well over £1 billion of public money without scrutiny - often to companies who did not have the relevant experience - but who in many cases were Tory party donors.

4. Exceptionalism - condoning the behaviour of Dominic Cummings whilst lecturing others to comply with the rules; one rule for them another for us.

5. Tolerance of bullying - refusing to sanction the behaviour of Pritti Patel despite an independent report finding that she broke the ministerial code.

These are my top five “hits of the year”. I’m sure that we could easily come up with a complete top20 (or top 50) very easily! So could someone please remind me why this government was voted into power?

Feed London

James Burton, Feed London Miracles Project director, writes:

I wanted to let you know about an amazing project being launched in December by the children’s charity, Miracles. The project is called Feed London and aims to support hundreds of vulnerable families predicted to go without a meal on Christmas Day.

We will provide a nutritious and healthy Feed London Christmas Hamper to families in London which will include all the ingredients needed for a sumptuous Christmas dinner, plus healthy recipes ideas, a box of Christmas crackers, supermarket voucher and some wonderful treats for the children.

By donating £25 people can give the gift of Christmas dinner. Businesses and corporations are also invited to purchase a family hamper for £175 which they can donate to their clients as an alternative corporate Christmas gift.

We desperately need the support of the London community – from local business and from local citizens in each borough.

To find out how to get involved and to donate please visit our website: feedlondon.org/

In London 700,000+ children are living in poverty, which is more than in Scotland and Wales combined.

The five London boroughs with the highest rates of poverty (after housing costs) are: Tower Hamlets, 53 per cent; Newham, 43pc; Hackney, 41pc; Westminster, 41pc; and Islington, 40pc.

There are many reasons why a family might be living in poverty but for children it’s simple: they are born into it.

At Feed London we believe in taking a whole family approach.

We want to encourage long-term healthy eating and to introduce children to the fun of cooking because nothing tastes better than food you have cooked yourself.

Save The Children’s survey of households on universal credit or working tax credits found nearly two thirds had run up debts over the past two months. 60pc had cut down on food and other basics, and over a third had relied on charities for food and clothes.

According to this research over a quarter of respondents said it was harder to afford food compared to the start of the pandemic, while 22pc reported using a food bank.

For more information about Feed London – how to donate or get involved please contact me, James Burton, on 07545174243 or email james@miraclesthecharity.org

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