Sign of the times as Barnet goes up market with an accent

VANDALS in Barnet have astonished fellow residents with a campaign of graffiti aimed at improving the area

Josie Hinton

VANDALS in Barnet have astonished fellow residents with a campaign of graffiti aimed at improving the area.

An acute accent has mysteriously appeared over the 'e' on road signs around the borough in a bid by mischievous residents to change the unglamorous sounding Barnet to the more sophisticated 'Barnay.'

Despite repeated attempts by the council to return signs to their original form, the campaign has continued. There is even a group dedicated to the graffiti on the social networking website Facebook.

The group, which has more than 800 members, is entitled 'Actually I prefer living in Barnét than living in Barnet.' It includes confessions of graffiti and advice on the best materials to use to deface signs.

One member's entry said: "They can try and cover it up with white paint, but we are proud to live in Barnét."

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Another entry welcomes the media attention. She said: "What a claim to fame."

But some residents are not convinced by the new continental sounding borough.

Even though his wife is French, Richard Wakefield from the Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust, a body which protects the heritage and appearance of the area, thinks a more imaginative revamp should be explored rather than a piece of French punctuation.

"Barnet is a pretty ordinary name and although with an accent it may sound posher I am sure we can come up with something more exciting than that."

Still, the French link to Barnet is not without foundation.

In 1248 the first reference to the area was as La Barnette before becoming Barnat in 1290 and then Barnet, as we know it today.

And rather confusingly it was Henrietta Barnett who founded Hampstead Garden Suburb 100 years ago.

Yet despite all these possible variations on the name, officials have said there will be no change.

London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden, Brian Coleman, said: "Barnet is an historic, traditional name with a hint of firmness to it. You could not move Barnet any further upmarket than it already is.

"As far as the council is concerned the accent in Barnet is still securely fixed on providing the best value services to ensure we remain a successful suburb.