From the archives: celebrating 50 years

Posted on 20/11/2021


Over the last 50 years, we have aimed not only to contribute to the amenity of Belsize Park but to bring residents and supporters of the area together. The summer garden parties – hosted in the gardens of our members – have proved enduringly popular with legendary cakes baked by members and enjoyed by everyone.  There was a Jubilee Garden Party in Mary Shenai’s garden at 1 Belsize Park in May 2002 which featured a brass band.  We are hugely grateful to all our hosts over the years and to our loyal bakers and servers without whom we simply could not hold this event.  

A highlight of the calendar has been community carol singing in Belsize Village.  This started as a last minute idea in December 2003 under the talented leadership of Handley Stevens, BRA Chairman.  Over 100 people attended, joining in the singing, eating mince pies and giving money to the local Marie Curie hospice. This set the pattern and tone from then until now.  The weather has not led to any dampening of spirits!  In December 2012, it rained non-stop but Belsizers simply raised their umbrellas and carried on.

Handley and his family continued to lead the carols until 2017.  Choir leader Matthew Watts led the carols in 2018 and 2019 in great style before the pandemic led to the cancellation of this event in 2020.  We will be celebrating Christmas again this year with carols in Belsize Village on Saturday 18 December.  The generosity of everyone in giving donations to Marie Curie has been consistent.  For instance, over £300 was raised in 45 minutes of singing in 2019.  

Although the annual meetings with Belsize Councillors are open only to Committee members, we have for many years held successful hustings in advance of local elections.  Candidates in the Belsize area from across political parties have spoken and been questioned by the audience on local issues.  Venues for our hustings have included Hampstead Town Hall on Haverstock Hill, Sarum Hall School in Eton Avenue and latterly Belsize Square Synagogue.

The archives cover hustings in location elections in the 2000s. In 2002, the hottest issue was the proposed market at the end of Eton Avenue, which the meeting overwhelmingly supported. Other issues included the Belsize Library’s future and the proposal for a 20mph speed limit which was substantially supported by the audience. In 2014, questions from BRA members concerned 100 Avenue Road, HS2, local amenities and social housing.

TYCT over the years

The archives record how, in December 1993, a committee member “will really get it done soon”, with the “it” being a Tradesmen’s List. Updated regularly, TYCT has been very useful and always popular. During much of its history, it boasted illustrations by Tony Gollop (who also provided material for the newsletter), with earlier issues having images of Belsize House, in 1845.