Annual General Meeting – March 2012

Friends AGM: Ice cream, cricket and controversy

Report on the Annual General meeting of the Friends of Barnard Park, Church on the Corner, Barnsbury Road, March 13th 2012

Committee in attendance: Dianne Browning (Chair); John Scholes (Treasurer); Venetia Phillips; Jo Murray; Lis Howell

The meeting opened informally with drinks and nibbles, plants for sale, and a sample of ice cream from Susanna Austin of Sorbitium who hopes to sell ice cream in the park in the summer.

Lis Howell welcomed everyone. There were 41 attendees including the committee, guest speakers and Barnsbury Ward Cllr. James Murray.

Dianne Browning gave the Chair’s report. She explained how over the last year, FoBP have worked for improvements in the day to day running of the park while continuing to seek a way to fund a major renovation of the park in an economically difficult climate. There are now more than 15 local residents who turn up for volunteer gardening and regular gardening sessions with the Green Team from St Andrews School. A portion of rental income from renting the football pitch to film companies has been spent in the park thanks to lobbying from the FoBP meaning the funding of the thinning of more than 30 lime trees. Last July FoBP hosted a popular history event at the One O’clock Club. We are hoping to open up a pop-up cafe in the park this summer.  The thinking now is that the cafe will open for ‘Sunday in the Park’, for six or eight Sundays during the summer.

John Scholes took us through the accounts.  If you would like to see the accounts, please e-mail us at and we will send them to you.

Guest speakers:-

1. Skevos Loizou, Area Service Manager, Young People’s Division, talked us through the slow but steady progress on the Adventure Playground, clarifying the situation which had caused some frustration for local Friends. Skevos made it clear that the contractors have finished the actual construction of the climbing frames. Adventure Playground staff and volunteers are now working to make the frames and area fully operational.  Skevos was hopeful that the outdoor area of the playground might be operational by Easter. One attendee from the floor pointed out that disruption and possible damage to the new play structure is being caused in early evening after the facility is closed. Until recently, a youth club meet there until 9pm, but these activities been moved to the new White Lion Street facility.

2. Sgt. Marcel Baker and PC Richard Wells of Safer Neighbourhood Teams gave a positive and helpful review of police activity in the park, including difficulties caused by a dispersal order and the need for constant vigilance on the part of local people whose help was much appreciated.

3. Bhupesh Thapa, Greenspace, West Area Parks Manager, talked us through the horticultural developments in the park, the provision of a tap in the children’s playground area and general improvements. A question from the audience asked whether personal trainers and other sports coaches were to be charged by Islington Council for using the park as a facility. We have since received written confirmation from Councillor James Murray that the Council will NOT be charging.

4. Andrew Life of Greenspace, Assistant Projects and Development Manager, provided the most controversial contribution to the evening by explaining how Greenspace and Islington Council intend to proceed with the regeneration of the park.  This involves a feasibility study now in progress to arrive at a ‘light’ version of the Latz masterplan for the park. This masterplan by landscape architects Latz+Partners was approved by the Council in 2009 after a lengthy public consultation. The cost of implementing the original plan was £5m, with a large £2m multi-use building to consolidate park buildings which are deteriorating and to provide new space for children, youth and maybe a cafe. This has proved too expensive to be implemented, particularly in current economic conditions. However £900,000 has been found for an abbreviated renovation of the park from Council funding for local amenities. Some concern was raised by Friends from the floor, principally centring on the time all this was taking.  A contributor from the floor reiterated comparisons with parks in other Boroughs and after an altercation with another attendee, left the meeting. Andrew managed to convince the meeting that regeneration on a smaller more cost effective basis was possible, leaving scope in the future for the implementation of the Latz masterplan, but improving the park (particularly the pitch area) in the near future.

All speakers were thanked.

A call was made for nominations for new committee members and it was emphasised that any interested person could come to a committee meeting for a ‘taste’. The existing committee members were re-confirmed.

Finally James Dunnett treated us to a fascinating and entertaining short talk on the origins of cricket in the area, with a powerpoint presentation operated by John Scholes and some general hilarity. James was thanked for a very informative talk – many people present had not realised that cricket had been developed on our doorstep.

The meeting finished with further drinks and refreshments at 9:45 pm.

Written by Lis Howell

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