A year of crusading for the community

THE Ham&High has always been at the centre of community campaigns, fighting for local people and investigating on their behalf. Local Newspaper Week, from May 5-11, is now in its 10th year

THE Ham&High has always been at the centre of community campaigns, fighting for local people and investigating on their behalf.

Local Newspaper Week, from May 5-11, is now in its 10th year. Organised by the Newspaper Society, the theme of this year's event is "Campaigning for Your Community".

The past year has seen unprecedented campaigning and support for the community from the Ham&High. Whether by featuring marathon runners raising money for valuable causes, fundraising campaigns for local organisations or battles to keep essential services such as schools, post offices and police stations, this newspaper has been at the forefront.

Even residents battling unfair parking tickets or over-development on prized open spaces like Hampstead Heath, received support, and our regular Your Cause pages encouraged readers i their support of charities.

Last summer we announced our support for Cancerkin, the charity based at the Royal Free which helps thousands of women battle breast cancer. With our support, Cancerkin was able to raise more than £300,000 from donations last year, money used to fund pioneering intra-operative surgery at the Hampstead hospital.

Throughout June and July, we campaigned for better maternity care at the same hospital, following revelations of malpractice among midwives which contributed to the deaths of babies.

Most Read

Using powers under the Freedom of Information Act, we revealed that official complaints were running at two per week at one stage. Following our reports, reviews were carried out and standards improved.

Last July we helped with the successful asylum application of Francoise Motoum-Kamga, a nurse who fled Cameroon after suffering a series of horrific rapes and beatings. Many readers generously made donations to help with her legal costs.

Other asylum seekers we helped escape persecution included Stella Mpaka, originally from Rwanda, and Zhanna Andrianova, from Russia. Our coverage of Cat Le-Huy, the Hampstead TV executive wrongly imprisoned in a Dubai jail, also helped with his release earlier this year after drugs charges were dropped.

In September, we made public the admissions from a Camden Council-employed parking attendant who said he was encouraged to issue large numbers of fines to drivers with the incentive of a cash bonus. The story lifted the lid on a hidden trend many people had suspected but which has always been denied by the council and contractor NCP.

In the autumn, we pressured the police to come clean about plans to sell off Hampstead and Kentish Town police stations after we revealed how Safer Neighbourhoods teams had been looking around vacant offices in Perrins Court. The Met's asset management plan was eventually made public in November, confirming people's worst fears about Hampstead, Kentish Town and Golders Green. The Ham&High continues to support the fight to keep police stations open during the current public consultation.

At Christmas, we launched our Lights to Remember appeal to aid the Marie Curie Hospice in Lyndhurst Gardens. Donors who pledged money made invaluable contributions towards cancer care.

Ham&High reporters Ben McPartland and Katie Davies also chose to help the hospice when they ran the London Marathon last month. In total, they raised more than £2,500.

Our Christmas Cheer campaign saw £5,000 donated by this newspaper to worthy causes in the area in conjunction with Barclays bank.

In February, we exclusively revealed the list of post offices doomed to closure under Royal Mail plans. Since then we have been supporting the fight to keep branches like South End Green, England's Lane and Highgate High Street open.

Since October 2006 we have campaigned for the Frank Barnes specialist deaf school in Swiss Cottage to stay open, and last week we were able to confirm that it would be saved and rebuilt in Somers Town.

Chair of the governors, Stephen Phillips, told us after the decision: "This is huge for us and for Camden. The school thanks the Ham&High for everything it has done - you've really made a difference to how successful this campaign has been and deserve a lot of credit for keeping our profile high."

Last month we launched our Building for Babies appeal to help the Whittington Hospital raise another £143,000 for a new neonatal intensive care unit.

We are also sponsoring the EPIC awards - the hunt to find exceptional people In Camden. With our help, scores of people have been nominating their community heroes over the past few months - winners will be announced in June.

Events we have supported over the past year have included the Hampstead Garden Suburb Centenary (for which we published an entuire supplement last June), and the Hampstead and Highgate Festival which is about to kick off again in 2008.

And last month we received a Newspaper Society gold award for our 24-page Reader's Edition. The pull-out supplement was published for last year's Local Newspaper Week and featured dozens of contributions from our readers.

Editor Geoff Martin said: "The Ham&High has a proud reputation for fighting for its community. It's flattering to be told that the paper's interest and support has helped protect the unique character of the areas we cover, as well as maintaining or improving the quality of life for residents.

"When there's a battle to be fought for the greater good, our readers know that they can turn to us. The Your Cause pages have also enabled us to highlight the fantastic efforts our readers make to help local and national charities - more than 100 have been featured so far and many more will be in the future. Rest assured that where our readers' interests are concerned, we will continue to be as active as ever on their behalf "