Life affirmation courtesy of Camden Council

By Martin Vogel

My son is in there somewhere.

I’ve experienced quite a number of concerts over the years at the Royal Albert Hall. But the one I had the privilege to attend on Monday night ranks possibly as the best. Let me declare an interest, I was the parent of one of the performers. But the same goes for nearly all the 3,500 other members of the audience.

For this was the Camden Music Festival, a bi-annual event which brings together schoolchildren aged between six and eighteen from across the London Borough of Camden in an extraordinary spectacle of collaborative music-making. It wasn’t simply parental pride that made this a heart warming event. It was an ambitious, entertaining and impressive performance of undeniable quality. And it exemplifies important characteristics of the value a local authority can deliver to its community even in a time of austerity.

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Libraries are needed now more than ever

By Martin Vogel

West End Lane, NW6 – home to a dozen cafes and a library

Camden Council in north London, where I live, is considering changing the ethos of its libraries – to allow people to bring in food and drink and use their mobile phones.  The intention is to make libraries more appealing to young people.

As both a library user and the parent of a young person, this strikes me as an unfortunate and misguided idea.  Libraries are one of the few public spaces in the inner city to which people can turn for quiet.  Swiss Cottage, in the borough, hosts one of the best public libraries in the capital.  Young people constitute a significant proportion of the users.  They go there to find space where they can give unashamed attention to learning.  It’s a place of thought, study and contemplation.  It is wholly unsuited to be a stage for mobile phone conversations or snacking.  Urban life provides an abundance of venues for these activities.  The library offers an alternative realm.

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How local councils are surprised by things which seem obvious to the rest of us

By Martin Vogel

Perrin’s Court, Hampstead, where cobbles were covered over with tarmac

Close to where I live in north London, Camden Council’s road maintenance team have upset residents by resurfacing part of an 18th century cobbled street with tarmac.  Perrin’s Court in Hampstead is a quiet, semi-pedestrianised alley with pavement cafés.  People while away a pleasant hour here in what’s something of an oasis from the heavy traffic which cuts through the rest of the neighbourhood.  It’s no surprise then that they should turn apoplectic at the desecration of a charming environment.

No surprise, that is, except to the bureaucrats in Camden town hall whose sense of empathy failed them.

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