This is a milestone year for Hampstead Theatre, which celebrated its 60th Birthday in September. As many readers will know, the theatre has recently welcomed a new Artistic Director, replacing Edward Hall who was at the helm from 2010. Roxana Silbert has joined from the Birmingham Rep and continues the theatre’s tradition of staging significant new plays and new writers.
The current season got off to a memorable start with The King of Hell’s Palace which ran in September and October. The play, written by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig and directed by Michael Boyd (former Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company), was inspired by the real life of Dr Shuping Wang, who exposed the spread of hepatitis and HIV infection through contaminated blood and plasma in China two decades ago. The imaginative set, which jutted out into the audience, made the dialogue, singing, dancing and soundscape very engrossing.
At the curtain call on the opening night of Hell’s Palace, the actress playing the role inspired by Shuping’s whistleblowing, invited Shuping onto the stage to take a bow. She received a standing ovation, which was, in retrospect, particularly poignant as she was to pass away 10 days later.
The Christmas production, Ravens: Spassky vs. Fischer, opening on 29 November, promises to be a gripping, psychological thriller. Taking as its subject the famous chess match that became a signature event of the Cold War, this is a world premiere from Tom Morton-Smith, the writer of Oppenheimer. It is directed by Annabelle Comyn, who has worked in leading theatres in Ireland where she is based.
Roxana Silbert makes her own directing debut as Artistic Director in early 2020. The play is The Haystack, another world premiere, and is an intriguing story about GCHQ, data, electronic intrusion and the world of intelligence operations.
Many residents will remember the Hampstead Theatre Club, as it then was, in its much-loved re-purposed scout hut. Today the theatre’s welcoming space houses two auditoria: the recently refurbished Main House, with 370 seats and the exciting studio space, Hampstead Downstairs. The downstairs studio (of which our Newsletter Editor is a particular devotee) has hosted many innovative and interesting productions, in an informal atmosphere.
Following extensive consultation, to which BelSoc has contributed, the Local Boundary Commission for England has published revised draft recommendations for ward boundaries in Camden. The new recommendations contain some significant changes to previous drafts, and so the Commission decided to run an additional consultation exercise on the changes. That exercise closed on 11th November.
In light of a great deal of community evidence, the latest draft recommends that the whole area covered by the Netherhall Neighbourhood Association (Netherhall Gardens, Maresfield Gardens and Nutley Terrace) should be in Belsize ward and not split between Belsize and Frognal wards.
The Commission now also proposes that the boundary between Belsize and Haverstock wards should run to the rear of the properties in Chalcot Gardens rather than down the centre of Englands Lane. The evidence which the Commission received suggested that Englands Lane was the main shopping street and community hub for that part of Belsize ward and the initial proposed ward of Belsize would have divided this community.
The Commission recommends that the boundary between Gospel Oak and Belsize wards will run directly along Rosslyn Hill and Haverstock Hill so that the Aspern Grove/Russell Nurseries estate will be in Gospel Oak ward. The Commission observed that “this estate is managed alongside other Gospel Oak estates via the Gospel Oak District Management Committee. Its inclusion in Gospel Oak ward will provide those electors with more effective and convenient local government representation.”
As for numbers of councillors, the proposal is that Belsize, Gospel Oak and Haverstock wards will each have three; Hampstead Town will have two. Swiss Cottage ward will no longer exist and a new South Hampstead ward will be created in that area, with three councillors.
In reaching its final recommendations, the Commission aims to propose a pattern of wards for Camden which will provide electoral equality in the sense that each local councillor ought to represent a similar number of voters, to the extent that this is possible. It also considers community identity, aiming to reflect the interests of local communities and community links. The boundaries need to be easily identifiable and should be designed to help Camden to deliver effective and convenient local government. BelSoc’s ideas have in the main been taken on board and so we are in broad agreement with these latest recommendations (there is no perfect solution).
The final recommendations will be published on 2 February 2020. After that, new boundaries must be approved by Parliament and will come into effect in time for the local elections in 2022. Details can be found at: www.lgbce.org.uk/all-reviews/greater-london/greater-london/camden. The map shows the names of the current proposed wards and their boundaries but these may change again in the final recommendations.
TV viewers with eagle eyes will have noticed that the current commercial for Direct Line Insurance is set in Belsize Village. BelSoc is often informed about film projects and can liaise with production companies on behalf of affected residents.
We have been in touch with Olympia Productions UK Limited who are proposing to film scenes for a new feature film entitled “Sack Lunch” in January 2020 in Belsize Lane. Sack Lunch will be a family-friendly feature film scheduled for cinematic release in late 2020. The story follows a group of immortal beings as they strive to protect humanity.
Filming in Belsize Village is currently scheduled to take place on Saturday 18 January 2020.
The production company is applying to close a portion of the road in Belsize Village on the day of filming but pedestrian access will be maintained. The filming proposal is currently being considered by Camden Film Office (www.camdenfilmoffice.co.uk).
The aim is to generate new understanding of community formation and capacity through participation. The inaugural session is next week, on 4th December, and an impressive panel has been assembled:
Lucy Bland; British professor of social and cultural history at Anglia Ruskin University. Much of her work focuses on British sexological history and she will tell us about her latest book Britain’s ‘Brown Babies’, the stories of children born to black GIs and white women
Andrew O’Hagan, FRSL; Scottish Novelist and non-fiction author. He is also an editor-at-large of London Review of Books. O’Hagan is currently the Visiting Professor of Writing at King’s College London. As a working class kid growing up in a Glasgow estate, Andrew will tell us about the pivotal role that community and libraries have played in his professional life.
Sofia Akel; a race equality specialist in higher education, activist, and lecturer at Goldsmith University. Author of Insider-Outsider: the role of race in shaping the experiences of black and minority ethnic students.
Professor Tom Selwyn; Professorial Research Associate, Department of Anthropology, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.
Wednesday, 4th December. 18.30 for food, 19.00 for the Assembly. Tickets: Belsize Public Assembly: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/public-assembly-building-community-re-building-society-tickets-83202050573
Comments on the new 100 Avenue Road Construction Management Plan were due on 15 November 2019. The CMP is the agreement between Camden Council and the developers about the approach to be taken for managing construction works. A version was agreed earlier in the year and the revisions in this round of consultations, focus on and follow from detailed work undertaken since then.
Revisions are in response to concerns raised by Transport for London, especially the developer’s intention to lift large elements of the building into the site from the A41. The plan would have meant the material passing over the entrance to the Swiss Cottage tube station and TfL will not allow this.
The revised plan has rerouted 18 deliveries each day so that they enter the site, rather than being lifted in from a pit lane off the main road. The new movements will mean articulated lorries being far closer to the open space. The CMP envisages fewer lorry trips in total, but the concern is that reduced use of the pit lane and increased use of the site near the open space will reduce air quality.
The Belsize Society has responded to the consultation.