Not Wandsworth, for a change

After a few days of Jubilee-related events I found myself bloated and lethargic: the consequence of a little too much cake, ice cream and alcohol.

Battersea Park: with facilities for the 90,000
My weekend managed a degree of diversity. Saturday was spent in Kent, at a fair organised in my wife’s home village. It was the very image of what I imagined a village fĂȘte to be including morris dancers and a Women’s Institute tea-room.

On Sunday, along with tens of thousands of others, I braved the chill and rain to see the jubilee flotilla from Battersea Park. I was surprised, and rather proud to be British, to see the park absolutely heaving with people and portaloos despite the weather. I have no idea how many people were put off, but when we were looking for a place in front of one of the big screens to set-up a picnic it didn’t look like many had stayed at home.

Lavender Gardens' penultimate sing-a-long
Finally, on Monday, I popped along to the Elspeth Road and Lavender Gardens street party. A superb event that encompassed the whole community. The organisers deserve huge congratulations for all their work; it certainly paid off.

And all the car owners deserve credit for their parking.

Like any job, being a councillor changes the way you look at things. And even with the jubilee I couldn’t help noticing the parking.

In that small Kentish village cars were absent. No-one parked in the village square, or the village hall car park, or on any of the roads used for the celebrations.

Not that big a deal, perhaps. While those spaces are usually full a nearby field was turned over to parking and only added a few minutes inconvenience to residents.

In Lavender Gardens, though, no such alternative was available. Residents had to take their luck finding a space elsewhere. And this in an area where parking has a premium, created by the cost of a parking permit and charge for a parking bay suspension. But compliance was near total. Just two cars acted as blemishes on the otherwise pedestrian-only southern half of Lavender Gardens.

Like I said, being a councillor changes the way you look at things, my correspondence often sees parking elevated to the status of human right, the space immediately outside a house becomes consecrated ground being plundered by infidel neighbours parking their cars there.

So having experienced fourteen years of parking rights extremism it was refreshing to see such widescale voluntary compliance. In Lavender Gardens, at least, I know Her Majesty is truly valued.

I have commented, in the dim and distant past, about the resurgence in street parties in the borough (and I suspect elsewhere). Evidence of the Big Society perhaps.

Next month sees the now annual Lavender Hill and Northcote Road street parties and St John’s Hill have theirs later this year. Not forgetting the first Summer in the Square just over a week ago.

The others that are hopefully going to take off are the The Big Lunch, on 18 July. I think it’s fair to say that the council has learnt a lot about how to manage large numbers of these parties from last year (which I think was the first time we’d ever had large numbers of applications outside of the traditional royal weddings) and are now looking at low fixed fee to cover the legal costs for parties being organised this year.

Last year I did think I should try and organise something, although frankly I know that event organisation is not my strong point and it would probably be a disaster. Is anyone else planning something for SW11 though? Currently the Big Lunch’s website is a blank – will there be lots of flags before the 18 June deadline for road closure applications?

[And if anyone fancies doing something on the Shaftesbury Park Estate somewhere, I’d happily muck in.]

Many of you will have seen the adverts for The Big Lunch. The idea is that neighbours all contribute towards a communal lunch and get together to eat it and get to know one another better.

Some of you will have recognised the location for the adverts is in the Shaftesbury Park Estate. A little detective work (well, not much because it’s fairly obvious if you know the area) reveals Milton Avenue is, in fact, Morrison Street.

Now I’m actually a bit disappointed by it. Not because I don’t think it is an absolutely splendid idea, but because they have created a fake location. They are advertising the idea of turning streets into neighbourhoods, but then disguising a real neighbourhood.

Perhaps even more disappointing is that, when you look on the Big Lunch website there are, currently, no events planned on the Shaftesbury Estate. Just two people who are interested – one of them is me, and I am almost certainly not going to be around on 19 July (otherwise my neighbours would have been getting more leaflets and knocks on the door than usual from me).

I usually will point out that assuming someone else will do something is the wrong thing – generally it is, there has to be some responsibility taken – but I can’t help but feel that maybe the organisers of the Big Lunch could have given Morrison Street a little kick start.

But having aired that little gripe, it all echoes a point I failed to make last week, when I was was pondering the sudden upsurge in street parties, they suddenly seem to be fashionable again.

When I was younger we always seemed to be having street parties, my earliest memory is from the street party we had for the Silver Jubilee in 1977. I was given a ride in a cart pulled by a donkey (which I assume was doing the rounds of the street parties) and had to be taken off half-way through because I was bawling my eyes out.

Looking back, despite my feeling that street parties were a regular occurrence, there were probably only two – the Jubilee and the wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981. But they seemed a natural and appropriate response to a national event. And I’m not quite sure why they stopped. Perhaps because there weren’t any more excuses. Perhaps because society changed. Perhaps because things like the Atari and video were taking off and people just didn’t want to meet other people anymore.

And maybe just blogging about it isn’t good enough. Maybe I should have cancelled my plans for 19 July, knocked on doors and delivered those leaflets to try and get something organised on my street. Having failed to do anything, I’m actually just as much to blame for the decline in neighbourhood spirit as anything else.

Maybe I should resolve to do better next year… Anyone with me?

As a little footnote the council issued a single traffic order for all the Big Lunch applications they had received (thereby saving on costs). There are only seven roads that will be officially closed on 19 July: Bridgeford Street SW18, Cloudesdale Road SW12, Fernside Road SW12, Galveston Road SW15, Martindale Road SW12, Salterford Road SW17, Weiss Road SW15.