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War over Hampstead’s babies sees toddler group thrown out of building

PUBLISHED: 17:00 01 April 2015

Mini Mozart Protestwith Clare-Louise Shaw  outside The Venue in the O2 Centre after the their last class. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Mini Mozart Protestwith Clare-Louise Shaw outside The Venue in the O2 Centre after the their last class. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

A popular toddler group which plays classical music to Hampstead’s babies has been banished from its new home after being embroiled in a bitter row with another pre-school club.

Mini Mozart, the brainchild of former BBC Classical Music presenter Clare-Louise Shaw, has had to up sticks after just months of starting classes at their latest hub at the O2 Centre in Finchley Road.

The group, which opened its doors at the shopping centre’s community space in January, sees professional musicians perform classical music to babies and parents.

The weekend saw actress and Belsize resident Helena Bonhham Carter insist playing Mozart to her own children had made them “unbelievably clever” – and it’s something Mini Mozart wants to repeat with other children in the area.

But a furious spat with Gymboree play centre, also at the O2 Centre, reached tipping point last week and ended with Mini Mozart being thrown out of the building.

Land Securities, which owns the O2 Centre, said it made the decision due to a “conflict of interest with a major tenant”.

It follows complaints, allegedly made by Gymboree, that the arrival of Mini Mozart’s weekly 90-minute sessions had made competition for local babies too fierce.

Mini Mozart has now launched a petition demanding the decision be overturned. It has reached more than 330 signatures.

Clare-Louise Shaw told the Ham&High: “Land Securities was granted planning permission to build the 02 Centre under the proviso that they provided a public space for community use. But now we’re being thrown out.

“We and the parents who come to our group are obviously very unhappy. We’ve looked at the possibility of other venues but there really is a lack of appropriate community space in the area.”

The group’s final session took place last Wednesday.

One parent, Avril, said: “This is so frustrating as there are so few areas to go to for children’s activities followed by lunch or coffee to meet other parents. We go to both Gymboree and Mini Mozart as they offer different activities.”

Another, Magalie, added: “These classes really help developing your baby. The more opportunities stay-at-home mums have the better.”

Neither Gymboree nor Land Securities chose to comment when contacted by the Ham&High.


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