Strange days in Islington

Eric Sorensen, chairman of the Angel Association, gives his review of the year.

Angel Association Annual Report 2019/2020

Well, it certainly has been a strange year, we cannot even hold our usual AGM in the Church Hall because of Covid related restrictions on getting together. So we are doing a Zoom members’ meeting on 15 October instead, an idea none of us had heard of a year ago. That said, it’s been a good time for neighbourliness and supporting each other.

For our Ward and neighbourhood it’s been an odd time in other ways. Last year we were faced with changes to our St Peter’s Ward boundary which made no sense in terms of the physical shape and cohesion of our area. For years our boundary followed main roads and was well related to our neighbourhood. Now for reasons which have nothing to do with us directly our boundary loses the link with Essex Road, we cross City Road and we lose the Arlington area. The local elections in 2022 will be run on these new boundaries.

 This year, without any consultation nor with any evidence analysing what problem is being addressed, roads have been blocked off in the name of People Friendly Streets or Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. To say that these changes are hotly contested would be a massive understatement, it feels as if the most adversely affected people are those who live here. Journeys are unnecessarily longer, there is added congestion and added pollution on the main roads such as Essex, New North and City Roads. The closures are too crude – physical barriers rather than camera recognition which would allow residents to get through but not those who are trying their luck doing a rat run, cameras are used in other boroughs.

Nor is it clear what problem is meant to be being solved. Everyone knows that private car use has fallen in inner London over many years as has car ownership. Parking is expensive and limited, and has not been allowed in new developments for many years. The congestion charge discourages car use as do bus lanes. Traffic growth is in taxis, deliveries and trade uses which keep the local economy going. Increasingly vehicles will be hybrid/electric reducing pollution. None of us want lectures on cycling, I am happy to use my bike when I feel like it.

Apparently we shall all get a say about what to do next in summer 2021 but my guess is that our Council won’t change anything. It would be very helpful to introduce camera recognition.

Meanwhile and on a much more positive note your Association has continued to support local good causes. We held a very successful fund raising event at the New Year with the support of Fredericks. You all helped raise funds for the Angel Community Canal Boat Trust which does such good work with young people and other local groups. This added to our regular grant support for the Angel Boat. You also helped the St Peter’s Summer Project for pupils from our local primary schools who would particularly benefit from additional support. There is a report about the Project’s work from Sue Richards on our website. You also supported Islington in Bloom, a very worthwhile project. Details about the Association’s contributions are in our financial report for the year on our website, the report also provides details about our financial position.

We continue to review what’s happening in our area on planning and development. Major recent developments such as the new Packington estate and in Wharf Road have now been completed. As far as we know there are no new major plans on the horizon though we all shortly see the fourth tower coming out of the ground to complete the cluster at the end of City Road Basin.

Our members help plant out small areas in the neighbourhood adding to the wonderful work of the Arlington Association in Arlington Square. The canal bank by the Danbury Street bridge is a good example of our efforts. We still hope that the Council will carry out the planned improvement works in front of St James’ Church, there were consultations about this a few years ago but no doubt getting the funding together is proving difficult.

We keep in close touch with Angel.London our business improvement district organisation for our high street. It’s been a very challenging time for businesses and it doesn’t look as if normal life is returning any time soon. We shall discuss what’s going on with Christine Lovett who runs Angel.London at our members’ meeting.

We would welcome members’ suggestions for projects we should take an interest in and support. Anyone who would wish to join our Committee please get in touch with Geraldine, our Secretary. And the best thing we can do is to look forward to better healthier times.

Eric Sorensen

Chair, Angel Association

October 2020     

St Peter’s Summer Project 2020

Dear Angel Association members

Thank you again for donating so generously to our charity at the January 2020 fundraising event. It enabled us to go ahead with the project, from 3 – 28 August at the Arc Centre, despite the significant additional costs generated by Covid-19.

The programme

As a result of the pandemic, we had to significantly restructure the programme from its 2019 format. We decided to hire a second room in the Arc Centre so that we could split the group into two discrete pods of 15 and 14 children respectively. One pod comprised Year 6 10/11 year olds, the other had a mixture of Year 6s new to the project, Year 5 siblings and two younger siblings.  

Further, we increased the number of teaching staff and volunteer instructors so that each pod had a second person to help, whether working indoors or accompanying the group to local parks for sports and other activities.

Each pod had its own range of activities depending on the skills and interests of the teacher but there were a number of shared experiences;

  • Basic skills: reading, creative (inspired by a local writer) and persuasive writing, discussion, maths and science
  • Arts and crafts: painting, papier maché, clay work, making bird boxes, cross stitch bookmarks and freedom bracelets
  • Sports: kayaking, cricket, dodgeball, football, tennis, wheelbarrow racing
  • Other: choreography, meditation, philosophy for children, cookery, learning some basic French and about Ancient Greece (through Zoom sessions)

Who participated and how well did they attend

Our children came from the four primary schools in the ward; Hanover, New North Academy, Rotherfield and St John the Evangelist. Despite Covid-19, we found ourselves with a waiting list by the start date. Attendance was much better than in 2019, demonstrating the pressing need for such a project. The overall attendance was 81% across the four weeks. In the last two weeks, a number of children went on short breaks with their families, had time off for school uniform fitting, attending induction days at their new schools or medical appointments. If we counted all these as known in advance and authorised, attendance rose to 89%.

This was a wonderfully diverse group of children comprising Black Caribbean, Dual Heritage Black Caribbean and White British, Black African, Bangladeshi, White British, White Other and Chinese. The gender balance was 52% boys and 48% girls.

When we publish our full report, you will be able to read some of the positive comments from the children, their parents and carers and staff that have inspired us to start planning for 2021.

Prof. Sue Richards, Chair

St. Peter’s Children & Young People’s Activities Group