Archive for November, 2012

Friends of Clapham Common Diamond Jubilee Oak Tree – Saturday 17 November 2012

The planting of a Diamond Jubilee Oak Tree on Clapham Common held great significance for the achievements of this Friends Group and their hard working Chairman, Melanie Oxley who has been able to foster a most rewarding partnership with Trees for Cities and their volunteers.

Over the last five years tree planting on Clapham Common has been an on-going task in all weathers and with the continued help and co-operation of so many loyal supporters, a further 158 standard trees to replace diseased and fallen stock would have been planted on Saturday, in addition to this commemorative royal oak that little Ruben and I safely introduced to its new site alongside a time capsule of wishes for the common.

The digging also exposed a stag beetle larva that was very quickly rescued by Melanie who reliably informed us that they are a most prized addition to our bio-culture and found more commonly in London, with Lambeth being recorded as having the highest density of their positive contribution to open space environments anywhere in our capital.  Another recognition for our progressive borough, as was the planting of this Royal Oak that now stands its ground beside a neatly inscribed commemorative plaque with decades of responsible growth ahead and the wishes for Clapham Common securely embedded in its roots with the earnest hope that for future generations these might become a reality and a reflection of what the Friends of Clapham Common have been able to achieve.

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Unveiling of plaque in memory of Lieutenant Henry Bowers RN – Monday 12 November 2012

The unveiling of a plaque in memory of Lieutenant Henry Bowers RN, who as a youngster had lived at 19 Pathfield Road, was an opportunity for the Streatham Society and Lambeth Living to join forces in giving recognition to a distinguished name in our local history.  It was a fitting pay back to the community from Lambeth Living with their well founded sentiments expressed in an opening address by the Chair Keith Hill and the hard facts of the expedition explained by the well respected local historian John Brown.

The discovery of the bodies from Scott’s ill-fated attempt on the South Pole was made on this day in 1912 long after their death calculated to have been sometime in mid March.  The events and tragic end to their Polar journey are well recorded but what is not often referred to, is the unlikely relationship between Bowers and his well connected leader.  They were technically only a rank apart but their social standing and spheres of influence could not have been more different or distant.

The short stocky frame and beaky features of Bowers did not compare favourably with the elegant height and imposing looks of Captain Robert Falcon Scott who had married to advantage with his wife an admired beauty of the time and a most accomplished sculptress; but circumstances were to bridge a social divide that would have been unimaginable to both men prior to setting out for the South Pole.  They were eventually to be joined in a sense of sharing whatever depths of cruelty the elements were to expose.  They were to share an outward journey of extreme physical hardship that would end in their shared realisation of failure.  They were to share the death of their companions and the agony of knowing that the same fate would befall them as the ferocious blizzard raged and battered their forlorn little tent.  But what they didn’t know was that they would share their loyal courage and endurance with us in 2012 as we stood in the rain to salute a favourite son of Lambeth and marvel at the heroism of Lieutenant Henry Bowers RN.      

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Remembrance Sunday Brixton, Stockwell and the Vincennes Memorial West Norwood – Sunday 11 November 2012

Remembrance Sunday was bright but cold, early but fine and with the forecast for the day most encouraging we mustered in large numbers at the departure point on the far side of Windrush Square.  Such circumstances on a November morning might have been common place to many a remembrance for the London Borough of Lambeth and its communities, but this year it was different with what was the biggest procession anyone could remember and with over two hundred people at the parlour reception that followed many of them young people in uniform, it was an event to savour and be proud of what we can achieve in this borough.

The scouts, sea cadets, beavers and cubs were a joy to have with us and our thanks to their adult leaders and especially the District Commissioner Rachel Mayes and her colleagues for their hard work in making the day so successful in worthy remembrance and the welcomed dignity of their uniformed presence. 

The Stockwell Remembrance Parade was equally impressive and well attended and taking the salute alongside Rosi Prescott our Deputy Lieutenant and Borough Commander Chief Superintendant Matt Bell MBE the stage was set for our visit to West Norwood. 

We were not to be disappointed with the Vincennes Memorial Service a credit to the organisers and most fitting in its dedication and remembrance to the selfless sacrifice and loyal duty shown by Lieutenant Violette Reine Elizabeth Szarbo GC, daughter of our borough who gave her young life in pursuit of liberty and the survival of others.


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Kings College Hospital Limb Reconstruction Trust – Friday 9 November 2012

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeons like Mark Phillips, Founder Trustee of Kings College Hospital Limb Reconstruction Trust have exceptional skills in being able to deal with the dreadful injuries sustained by crash victims, but he would be the first to agree that putting patients back together again does not necessarily mean a return to what was for the patient a normal life, by putting them on the path to psychological recovery.

It would seem that no matter how good the professional skills of the surgeon, with limited NHS funding, the extent of the treatment following surgery will usually ignore the psychological trauma of losing a limb.  This state of mind will be made even more painful with the crushing realisation that a life style that had previously been unfolding with effortless ease for a young man in perhaps his early twenties, was now to be changed permanently and with such devastating affect on the individual and his family.

The gender and age group for crash victims such as those sustaining injuries involving motor cycles, is male in the age range of 17 to 40 and for this reason KCH Limb Reconstruction Trust was set up about seven years ago and it was a great pleasure to be invited to one of the fund raising events arranged by this most worthy charitable trust.

The Mayoress and I have now been made aware of their work and the immense enthusiasm that they generate across related support groups, including many members of the legal professional.

We wish them every success, commending them for their generosity of time and applauding their role model in `giving back to the community’.

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Re-dedication service at Nunhead (All Saints) Cemetery – Sunday 4 November 2012

The atmosphere surrounding the solemnity of the occasion was reflected in respectful tones of greeting amongst the huge body of attendees including the Royal British Legion and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission who were responsible for the recovery of the site; members of the armed forces both national and international, civic representatives and local people, many of whom were familiar with the original memorial brutality vandalised and cruelly robbed of the brass name plates, identifying 267 young men who had fought and died in the First World War.

Following brief prayers of welcome by the clergy we were taken along at a brisk pace to the sounds of “Sussex by the Sea” played by the pipes and drums of Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham college, who along with their cadets, paraded in a most fittingly received role of youthful expression.  Then at attention or with heads bowed, the re-dedication was competed by a laying of wreaths and the debt of sacrifice repaid, in full view of a new generation for whom the horrors of trench warfare will be recalled not through the loss of comrades, but in an act of remembrance by young men and women at the beginning of their lives.  Young people bright with the prospects for a future filled with hope, so harshly denied to a generation who now at last lay re-buried with honour and remembered with dignity.

I have recently written to Cllr. Ian Wingfield Deputy Leader of Southwark Council expressing my thanks to all those involved for what was a well conducted tribute carried out with respectful loyalty from a local authority that has finally given closure and a fresh start to an environment that might eventually lead to another form of regeneration for the borough and its communities.

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Fireworks Display: A clear night sky in Brockwell Park – Friday 2 November 2012

The weather was for once just what we wanted and with the right level and choice of music from the backing tracks, it was a perfect combination to pull in a capacity crowd who had arrived for what was a real `Rock with the Brock’ event in the Park.

Lee Fiorentino and his hard working events team were mindful of the occasion and were there alongside the contactors, all highly visible in making sure that this fireworks display, as with the Lambeth Country Show was yet another well managed speciality from the London Borough of Lambeth.

Although damp underfoot the spectators, many of whom were family groups with children on half-term and little ones brandishing the illuminated lights first seen in Star Wars, were there to enjoy themselves; although some; especially the very young were more content to be warmly wrapped up in the safety of a buggy, thrilling to the sounds of music and wide-eyed to the sky in amazement of this special night out.

It was good to open this event in a way that fitted the atmosphere and be able to introduce twenty three minutes of continuous light show display, the longest for any London borough and brought to us in Lambeth by the same professional pyrotechnics team who were responsible for the London 2012 Olympics.

No wonder there were regular shouts for more and as the final cloudburst of coloured lights and flashes filled the night sky over Brockwell Park, there were echoes of thanks from groups and individuals, keen to express their appreciation with prolonged applause for an event that the local authority can take deserving credit and full satisfaction for a job well done.

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Civility and tact as key to an impressive track record of twenty four Lambeth Mayors – Wednesday 31 October 2012

John Atkinson, a much respected member of the Mayoral team made his goodbyes to us all at a lunchtime farewell on Wednesday October 31st in company with our Chief Executive, senior officers, colleagues, friends and elected members.  It was a time to reflect on the years of loyal service he has given as he put the `bling’ (ceremonial chains) on me and then with a final duty of mace bearing completed, he rode off into the early evening just like `Shane’ a big screen super hero that John lists as one of the all time black and white movie classics, although the screen performances in “The Treasure of Santa Madre” would be a close second.

You see, John was not just the most reliable chauffeur-macebearer in the business but a well informed devotee of the big and small screen, with a lifetime of knowledge surrounding themes and storylines that unfolded through that creative imagination to be found in the cinemas of his childhood and early teens.

It was an indulgence of mystery and intrigue, daring and sentimentality, experienced alongside the security of the time, when order was a strict code of conduct and knowing who you were common to all; the product of a safe and measured childhood that willingly entertained a depth of screen characters ready made for audiences at home or in the one and nines at the local Odeon if your had a girl friend.  These were audiences that John knew about and the screen heroes that they would queue to see, as we gradually moved from Wagon Train to Dallas, Brief Encounter to Dr Strangelove, fuelling analysis of Peter Sellers’ comedy and why Ealing Comedies can still charm us with the magic of “The Lady Killers” or how cinema will allow us to engage in deep conversation surrounding David Leans’ direction in the dangerously misguided leadership portrayed by Colonel Nicholson in “Bridge On the River Kwai”.

Perhaps these movies and their characterisations have given us something that was John Atkinson and if they did, thank you movie makers and actors all, because we have been the winners not at the box office but within the world of the Mayors’ Parlour for nearly a quarter of a century.

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Borough Commanders’ Commendation Ceremony – Friday 2 November 2012

Accompanied by our Deputy Lieutenant representing Her Majesty, the Borough Commander’s Commendation Ceremony at New Scotland Yard was a unique occasion for a Lambeth Mayor and as first citizen the invitation was an honour to receive on behalf of the local authority.

Whilst the long list of citations, were detailed and deserving of full attention to the courage and professionalism being commended; hearing first hand in the presence of the recipients as to the exacting nature of the work carried out, was a humbling experience.

These were acknowledgements delivered by senior police officers, commending to Chief Superintendent Matt Bell MBE acts of bravery and determination, leadership and professional dedication, not just by officers from the Metropolitan Police Service but police staff and members of the public, who on one occasion were able to successfully talk down a potential suicide and another who, despite pavement crowding, harassment and obstruction, disregarded his own personal safety and came to the assistance of a police officer who was then able to call for assistance and make an arrest.

Time and again the comment was made that having served as a police officer in the London Borough of Lambeth, it carries with it a bench mark of earned professionalism and when viewed on a CV is looked upon with respect for demanding police work conducted in a very challenging environment.  It was a sobering thought, that these commendations were just the tip of the iceberg and therefore, members of the MET and members of the public, your commendations are fully deserving of our praise and we are very pleased to endorse the contributions that you have made and continue to make, in meeting the challenges we face as local communities south of the river.       


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An evening of dominoes and laughter – Friday 19 October 2012

St Martins in the Fields Scholarship Domino Tournament was not only an opportunity to support the charitable funding of a young A Level student in Jamaica and Ghana, but also to spend time in a welcoming environment for casual guests and experienced players, some with long memories and stories that could quickly wrinkle a smile into the full throttle of thigh slapping laughter.

The enthusiastic welcome from Dean Watson Head of Business studies was followed by a tour of the tables, meeting some of the players many of whom had grown up with dominoes in the Caribbean during the late forties and early nineteen fifties with those little numbered dots part of everyday life and community living.

Leaving family and friends was for some inevitable, with stories surrounding the three week voyage to England aboard ships that for many an anxious father were definitely off the agenda, and despite the additional cost; their daughters made the journey to Heathrow by air.  Hardships are a continuity of circumstances, but especially so when lower down the social scale and whilst the early stories are entertaining to recount they are also a great leveller and tinged with an appreciation for circumstances that are unlikely to change. Yet with a little help some can make it against the odds.

My thanks to Mrs Morrison, the organisers, the attentive students and the players for their contribution to an evening of enlightened laughter and the sound of dominoes hitting the table in belief of the hand that they hold”  

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BT Melodians Steel Orchestra – Saturday 20 October 2012

With their leader Terry Noel fronting this talented group of musicians, their twenty fifth anniversary concert on Saturday October 20th lived up to expectations and when next passing the underground at Brixton listen out for the unmistakeable sounds on steel that can move your body, loosen your legs and irresistibly quicken your step all the way to Oxford Circus.

Well, that’s my experience and if you were there in the capacity audience at Henry Cavendish Primary School the urge to sway along with the musicians was at times too tempting to refuse, because that’s what being with these BT Melodians will do for you and long may their music continue as a therapeutic tonic and their natural joy of performance shared by everyone. 

Our borough has been home to the BT Melodians Steel Orchestra since 1987 with a generation of our young people growing up with the gift of their infectious musical expression as an indelible group belonging, and the generous sponsorship from British Telecom giving us that continuity of gratitude to be reflected in audience applause for many years to come.

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