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Highgate Newtown Community Centre Wellness Cafe 12/3/2021

has started a new Telephone Befriending Service to help people who are shielding or isolating and unable to meet friends and family members. If you’re feeling anxious or scared or are worried about your health and wellbeing, and would like to chat, then you could do so regularly with someone from this service. Its aim is to support residents in Camden, who are aged over 55 and are feeling lonely, to stay connected with a friendly listening ear at the other end of a phone.
All volunteers have had a DBS check, receive training and support and you will be matched with one who can call you on a regular basis. Referrals are accepted from Adult Social Care, GPs, Family Members, Friends, Carers, Hospitals or you can refer yourself. For more information, please contact revah.larraine@outlook.com or phone 07483 145587.

Belsize Village Streatery 2020 9/2/2021

In 2017, Belsize Village was described as being “besieged by burglars” in the Evening Standard. In January, Robert Stephenson-Padron reflected at a Camden Council Meeting on what the Belsize Village Business Association has been able to do to revitalise the Belsize Village area.

The Association was started just over two years ago, a period when Bob had observed numerous businesses closing and footfalls dwindle. Despite the cloud of the Coronavirus pandemic, the past summer was one seeing economic vibrancy return to our Village. He’s particularly pleased that the employment created – estimated at 50+ jobs saved or created – were in part associated with commitments to pay the London Living Wage.

At the council meeting, Bob outlined some of the key steps in the changes seen. The first was raising the profile of the Village through social media. Looking at the Instagram, Twitter, WhatApp, Facebook pages of the Association, there is a lot of activity often centring on photos taken in Belsize Village. We all know the spot is picturesque, the central feature of recent TV ads (remember 2018 Visa advert) but the Association could really highlight the Village’s biggest strength: that all the hospitality, leisure and retail businesses in Belsize Village are independents, benefitting “from the love and passion of the families that run our unique local businesses.”

A second stage of the revitalisation has focused on beautifying Belsize Village so the outdoor spaces could be used. Historically, Belsize Village suffered from litter and fly-tipping. Residents in 2015 took Camden officials on a walk to highlight the state of the village area, and working with Camden Council and with volunteers, this has been improved. Perhaps most recently were the efforts in September as part of the Nationwide Great British September Clean.

That then brings us to the Streatery. With beautiful gardening planters installed, the scene was set for an innovative, new phase for the Village on July 4, 2020, which transformed Belsize Village square into a vibrant hub and led to the economic boom the Association is most proud of. They also see this success as transferable to other communities especially tackling what they view as a largely unrecognised “litter crisis”, which blights our communities but could reset such spaces to become more economically vibrant.

Village Business Association recommendations

At the meeting at Camden Council, Belsize Village Business Association pointed at where the Council might help:

1) Tackle the litter crisis. Use the council’s marketing and enforcement power to make littering and fly-tipping anathema.

2) Have a drive to rid the Borough of graffiti-based vandalism and step up enforcement against other Anti-Social Behaviour.

3) Continue to support the innovative use of public spaces such as pro-actively supporting the Belsize Village Streatery.

4) Designate Belsize Village as a Historic Action Zone to help, for instance, install visually attractive Belsize Village signs. 

5) Provide economic incentives to businesses and/or landlords to upgrade the frontages of their buildings because these upgrades benefit an entire community.

6) Pro-actively work on improving community infrastructure, perhaps extending Belsize Village square down Belsize Terrace.

FInd out more at: https://belsizevillage.org.uk/ or social media handle @belsizevillage 

The Last Belsize Festival 1989 9/2/2021

The sketch for the cover of the 1989 programme showed a Belsize village filled with festival-goers.

The Village has formed a focus of local activity of many kinds over the years.  Developed in the nineteenth century by William Willett, he gave up land in order to open up a triangular village green See “Streets of Belsize”, Camden History Society.  

Did you know that for many years Belsize Village hosted the Belsize Festival?  Organised by local people, and supported by the Belsize Residents Association, the Festival was held for the first time in September 1974 with Belsize Lane closed to traffic.    

The picture of the Village which you see on this page was drawn by Matthew Bell and was part of the cover of the 1989 Belsize Festival programme.  The Festival ran from 10-17 September.   The theme of the Festival was “Greening the Village”, reflecting the interest of Belsize residents in the environment which continues to this day.  The main day of the festival was Saturday 16 September.  George Melly opened the day and Belsize resident Ken Ellis was the MC.  Musical events took place in (among other places) the Village and St Peter’s Church.  There was a grand fancy dress parade, a toy and book market, and roundabout and inflatable castle.   

The programme – which is now part of the BelSoc archive – says that Mr Newman “will be there as usual with his donkeys.”  The Festival raised money for St Joseph’s Hospice in Hackney, the Simon Community and the London Wildlife Trust.   The BRA itself contributed £39.11 to these charities from cake sales – showing that the tradition of Belsize cakes is a long one.  The BRA organised a ceremony to hand over cheques to the charities.        

This was the Festival’s final year.  In 1987, the Festival was rounded off by Lord Eric Sugmugu and his Band in the rain.  After rain affected the 1988 and 1989 festivals, enthusiasm waned and the BRA Committee decided not to initiate it again.  

We are 50 years old 9/2/2021

It is 50 years since Belsize residents came together to preserve the amenity of Belsize Park.

  • FIFTY YEARS AGO:  A group of local residents ran a campaign against a proposal for a ring road around London that would have destroyed Victorian houses and cut Belsize Park in two.  This turned into the BRA in 1976.
  • FORTY YEARS AGO: The BRA Constitution was adopted in 1982 and a campaign against estate agent boards was started.
  • THIRTY YEARS AGO: In February 1991, Harold Marks was Chairman. The BRA was contributing to the Camden Borough Plan.
  • TWENTY YEARS AGO: In February 2001, Gordon Maclean was Chairman.  The BRA was campaigning about the Swiss Cottage redevelopment; opposing a major redevelopment of the Load of Hay pub in Haverstock Hill; and welcoming the green recycling boxes (members supported the boxes but did not like the loose lids!).
  • TEN YEARS AGO: In February 2011, Averil Nottage was Chairwoman.  The BRA was gearing up for the formal consultation on HS2; taking action about budget cuts to libraries; and investigating the impact of basement developments.
  • NOW: The BelSoc Committee continues to meet by Zoom and is arranging the first (and hopefully last) Zoom AGM.  Our work on planning applications continues and new ideas for digital content are in train in order to keep up community spirit in a pandemic.
Commemorative tree for Consuelo Phelan at St Peter’s Church 9/2/2021

Anne Stevens, Committee member, updates us:

Rowan from Belsize Park

Very many members of Belsoc will recall Consuelo Phelan’s love of trees, and the care she took to ensure that applications to fell or prune them were rigorously monitored and trees preserved and protected whenever possible. Her family in Melbourne were keen that a tree should be her memorial and kindly passed funds from her friends and themselves to BelSoc so that we could arrange this in the neighbourhood she loved so much.

A Mountain Ash (Rowan) tree has been planted where many of us frequently walk by. Do look out for it in the north east corner of St Peter’s church garden, close to the corner of Belsize Park and the east side of Belsize Square: it’s sparse and bare now, but will have delicate leaves, white blossom in spring and red berries in autumn. We are very grateful to Kenneth Robbie, the churchwarden, and to Paul Nicholson, the vicar, for arranging this.  In a short ceremony in late November, which was necessarily limited to a few members of the Belsoc Committee and a an equally small number of Consuelo’s friends, her ashes were buried at the foot of the tree.  We are delighted to have a beautiful reminder of her and so are her family, who will visit as soon as  conditions allow.


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