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Row breaks out over cemetery's pink Checkpoint Charlie

PUBLISHED: 13:37 22 May 2008 | UPDATED: 15:06 07 September 2010

The entrance 'checkpoint' is in the pink - but for how much longer?

The entrance 'checkpoint' is in the pink - but for how much longer?

Tan Parsons A PINK admissions booth has become the catalyst for a wave of anger at the way Highgate Cemetery is run. Some visitors think the garish pink entrance booth is an insult to the dead and buried – including Charles Dickens and Karl Marx – but cla

Tan Parsons

A PINK admissions booth has become the catalyst for a wave of anger at the way Highgate Cemetery is run.

Some visitors think the garish pink entrance booth is an insult to the dead and buried - including Charles Dickens and Karl Marx - but claim that the guardians of the site are unprepared to listen to public concerns.

There is also confusion over the announcement by the Friends of Highgate Cemetery of a competition to help them choose a new colour for the kiosk. Situated just inside the East Cemetery in Swain's Lane, it is used to collect £5 'donations' from visitors.

But when Tufnell Park art student Emma Yardley called to offer her services, she was told curtly that there was no such competition.

She said: "I spoke to someone who said they didn't know anything about it. But I heard him mutter to someone, 'It's about that bloody competition'.

"I was put on hold but no-one answered - so I called again.

"I spoke to a woman, who just said, 'There's no competition - goodbye.'

"All I wanted to do was find out how to enter the competition and see what the deadline for entries was. But all I got was abuse."

Friends board member John Oakes said there were definite plans to repaint the kiosk and consultation would take place over the summer.

He said: "We shall take a selection of colours deemed suitable for countryside developments by the Department for the Environment and have them printed and put the ideas up on a poster outside the kiosk.

"Visitors will be able to say which colour they prefer and put their choices in a ballot box. A lot of people care about the cemetery and I think it's worth opening this up to as wide a debate as possible."

But Haverstock Hill resident Vivien Bright added: "It's not the colour of the ugly shack at the entrance which has sparked an outcry - it's the shack itself. A cross between a portable loo and a Communist border hut like Checkpoint Charlie, it is an unnecessary barrier - a purposeless blot on the landscape.

"The 'guards' holed up inside the checkpoint behave as you'd expect. They look sullen and suspicious as they vet visitors coming in and they are ready to shoot from the lip at the mildest of questions.

"The 'competition' on colour is an irrelevancy and nothing more than a shabby stunt to take the heat out of the situation."

However, founder of the Friends of Highgate Cemetery, Jean Pateman, said the kiosk had been selected by architects to fit in with the stone at the cemetery. She said: "It's relatively unobtrusive and dignified. There will always be people who don't like it."

Trustee Richard Morris said: "Far from the Friends being neglectful and in a 'state of atrophy', we have been active in continuing the work of preserving Highgate Cemetery.

"Just last year, we completed the restoration of part of the Eastern Cemetery walls at a cost of £568,000.

"This year, we are proceeding with restoration of catacombs in the Western Cemetery at a cost of £226,000, aided by English Heritage."

tan.parsons@hamhigh.co.uk


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