Category Archives: NEWS

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Ways to make an impact during the pandemic

At last we can begin to see our way through the pandemic with the impressive rollout of the vaccination programme. We are all longing for the end of lockdown. 

We are sorry that we couldn’t all get together for our now-customary New Year’s fundraising social event at Frederick’s. We are determined to try and arrange a gathering of some kind as soon as we can.

We wanted to let you know, however, that the committee of the Association has been giving some thought to how we can continue to make an impact in St Peter’s Ward and surroundings.

Our financial position remains secure, and we are as always most grateful to members who pay by direct debit or standing order – and enable us to reclaim Gift Aid.

Association funds stand at around £13,000. Our subscription income in the last year was £2,000 and we gave £1,800 in charitable donations. The main beneficiaries were Angel Boat and the St Peter’s ward summer school.

We have in recent years invited members to support, through our January fundraisers, projects that support local young people, including:

  • A reading support scheme for local primary schools;
  • The Angel Boat charity, which provides adventurous trips for disadvantaged local people both young and old;
  • And the St Peter’s Action Group, which has provided programmes of summer holiday activities for young people from local primary schools.

Each of these projects has very much valued the support of the Association.

We would now like to ask you to let us know of any suggestions you have for charitable donations to organisations in our ward in the year ahead. Please email Geraldine, our Secretary, at gerhackett@aol.com

The committee is also keen to support small scale public gardening projects around the ward. At the moment, we are working hard to enhance the planting on the bank of the canal, near the Danbury St Bridge. This links with the good work of other local groups in creating gardening projects and working with the Council to maintain and improve our greenspace.    

 We have plans to continue working with the Council on our street trees planting, and to help refurbish the planting in the gardens behind the flats in Elia St.

If any member has other projects they would like to propose for Association support – be it in cash or just hard work – please let us know.

As we all know, the most controversial recent issue for us has been the Council’s Low Traffic Neighbourhood intervention with its draconian traffic controls, adding to the significant controls already in place. Views on this are mixed, of course, but our view is that the lack of consultation, the impact on residents’ daily lives and on local business add up to a poor project.

Legal challenges to road closure schemes are being mounted across London. The High Court has already ruled in favour of black cab drivers who wanted access to Bishopsgate and Liverpool St station. 

 We continue to discuss the St Peter’s Ward scheme with our local councillors, but final decisions on whether to retain, amend or remove the traffic controls are unlikely to be taken by the council before January 2022. We shall shortly post a fuller note on what’s happening about the closures.

The local Police Panel, a forum for the community police team and residents’ associations, has been holding its meetings virtually. As you may know, the panel’s long-standing Chair, Richard Sykes, very sadly died in September 2019. Since then Chris Leaf has kindly taken on the role as interim Chair and the Panel will be looking for a successor. The Panel is a useful forum for exchange of information between police and residents’ groups. It is part of the Safer Neighbourhood Strategy. Meetings are open to anyone living in the ward.

And finally – we wish you all the very best and hope that it won’t be too long before we can all meet again and mingle as an Association.

Eric Sorensen,

Chair, Angel Association

February 2021

Hanover School needs funds for Chromebooks

School needs Chromebooks

The Friends of Hanover school are fundraising for more Chromebooks for pupils at Hanover school in Noel Rd.

Their donation page can be accessed through localgiving.org. Follow the link to Friends of Hanover and then click on projects.

The situation at other local schools is under review, but so far they report that they have adequate supplies”.

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

Zoom meeting, Thursday 15 October

This year’s AGM has had to be cancelled. There will be a virtual update meeting via zoom on Thursday 15 October.

The programme will be:

Chairman’s report: Eric Sorensen will review the year..
Finance:Fiona Cullins (accounts will be online).

Discussion: street closures; new planning legisation; other issues raised by members.

Christine Lovett, chief executive of AngelBID, will give an update on how our high street is managing.

Councillor Martin Klute will update and take questions.


The present committee is: Chair, Eric Sorensen; Geraldine Hackett, secretary; Finance, Fiona Cullen; Planning, Neil Vickers; Licensing, Clare Norton; Anna Turk; Colette Bowe. All are willing to continue for another year. If you would like to join the committee, let me know.

VE day in Elia Street

Screenshot_2020-05-07 VE day with Logo[1] pdf - VE-day-with-Logo12-copy2-1 pdf

An AA member has this memorable photo of the Elia St street party marking VE day. If members can add other VE related photos we should be happy to put them on our website.

Eric Sorensen, chair

Check your neighbours

The Angel Association welcomes what everyone is doing to look out for their neighbours.
We hope the suggestions below are helpful, and we would welcome more ideas and thoughts from members.
–  We suggest a very local approach, for example your own street. You probably already know who the potentially   vulnerable people are in your street.
–  Can you make a note to check on them on a regular basis?
–  Our experience is that some people welcome phone calls and some like keep-in-touch emails so it’s good to take an initiative and see how it goes.
–  Can we also help, for example, with internet shopping and dog walking?
–  There are many people/organisations out there offering help for individuals and families. What might be difficult is encouraging strangers to approach neighbours; we need to take this gently.
 There are many groups and individuals offering support through Next Door Angel, leafleting, and so on, and the Council’s summary picture and advice is helpful. Two obvious points : take reasonable care with those you don’t know, and social distancing is the strong advice from Public Health England.
What seems clear is that this is going to be a long haul. So do please share ideas with Angel Association members.
Eric Sorensen
Chair, Angel Association

Thoughts from a brother – Gillian Comins remembered

A memorial service for Gillian Comins was held on 15 January 2019 at St James’ Church, Prebend Street. The bells rang out before the service.

Her brother, John Comins, reflected on her life.

Gillian prepared for this service with her usual precision. She chose this lovely church, for which we are grateful to Father John, she chose the hymns and most of the readings. What she could not have anticipated but would have hugely appreciated, was the presence of this marvellous choir. Thank you so much.

One of Gillian’s last instructions was …. No Eulogies

Well, this won’t be an eulogy…. Just some thoughts from  one who knew her longer, if not better than anyone else.

EARLY YEARS

Looking back at our childhood, I can see that among parents and children, the most independent mind and probably the strongest character belonged to my sister. She was the one who faced down the adults, refused to cooperate without good reasons, and instructed me, her junior by 3 years, in the ways of the world. From many aspects, that relationship never altered

 

Raised in the countryside outside Tewkesbury, she was an early starter; brought on by   an excellent governess. She read Barnaby Rudge at the age of 7 and claimed she enjoyed it,  burst into tears at the postponement by just one day of her attendance at her first school and was generally regarded as bright beyond her years.

 

SCHOOL

At her main school, a bleak establishment in the 40’s at the top of the Malvern Hills she remembered with warmth only the music lessons from Ivor Atkins, Elgar’s great friend. He taught well for music remained a passion all her life..Otherwise she began a long war of attrition with the teaching staff. One in particular was an early entrant on what became in time a longish  list of those whom Gillian thought should spend a fair time in purgatory..

 

For 4 years she refused to play games and made no friends. As my father said…’’ the cat that walked by herself’’ Despite this or perhaps because of it, she easily got into university. She chose Cambridge,when her parents had expected Oxford and chose Economics when everyone else expected Literature.  Whatever the reasons it may also have been an early example of what became an abiding characteristic. Wherever  a strong tide was flowing , Gillian would often  be found in mid stream battling against it.

 

Recent manifestations being a certain fondness for President Trump, deep scepticism about climate change and increasing irritation about the number of women on television.

 

 

ME

I must say that at this time, we weren’t close. We lived in the same house but shared little. I think she looked on me as a Roman would have regarded a member of the Helvetii, uncouth, untutored, and certainly not wanted on her side of the Rhone.

 

Soon, all this changed, and she became a very, very dear, loyal and supportive friend.

 

 

CAMBRIDGE

Cambridge was a  revelation.  There for the first time she made friends, some of them lifelong, found people with similar tastes and ambitions; people who took serious things seriously.  She was taught by the famous Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawn; and even taken out to dinner by the great poet of the day, Thom Gunn. In a real sense, Cambridge shaped her.

 

She supported Labour, with a fervour, which those who have only known her after her conversion to High Toryism will well understand. Aneurin Bevan was an early member of what became an opposing list, of favourites whose faults could be ignored and, if not,.certainly forgiven. .

 

In those days and to my mother’s distress, Gillian has an academic’s indifference to fashion. To compliment her on her appearance would lead to the instant dismissal of her hairdresser and cloths, often for the worse. It was if she did not think personal attractiveness was a quality she wished to emphasise

 

And then she was monumentally untidy. Years worth of papers would be thrust under her bed and only disposed of when the mattress started to levitate

 

PERSONALITY and PEOPLE

What had been early evident but not till then fully developed, was a certain didactism. She wanted to share with others such experiences that she considered important.   She had a good memory and could conjure up, in conversation, a fluent narrative of events. If, at times, one felt, that more information was supplied than circumstances  required ,one was always conscious that a considered coherent interpretation was being given.

She would have made a marvellous teacher.

I say that not only as a tribute to her powers of instruction but to a more important quality, her intense interest in people.

She engaged with everyone, her natural self assurance carried her into conversation at all levels .she never noticed social distinctions, the young were treated as intelligent adults.

 

And people responded,.her personality left its mark,.her genuine interest in others was noticed and reciprocated..

This interest was, of course, one of the  great attractions  of the  cruise ship, much patronised in later years offering limitless numbers of strangers with whom to become acquainted, their experiences  digested, and then, suitably edited, relayed to family and friends. It was the essence of life.

WORK

Gillian had no particular vocation. She.took her chance in the world of commerce.  At Unilever  she was trained in the practice of Market Research and its disciplines of clear analysis, accurate interpretation and objective conclusions  proved very well suited to Gillian’s intellect and temperament. Over the years she established a wide connection  and made a point wherever possible, of making her clients her friends.

A spell with Guinness ended with a management buyout of its market research function and she became a director of an independent company.

 

INDEPENDENT COMPANY

. The mechanics of running a profit making operation interested her not at all. She regarded chief executives as generally tiresome and ineffective, lacking understanding of her specialist skills and best employed in providing good car parking and decent stationery. Her principal managing director was quickly added to a new Rogues Gallery of the incompetent and the over promoted, soon to be joined, I fear, by many others, including, and  I speak at random,  a champion jockey, almost all opera directors, our most popular living dramatist and several princes of the church

LONDON

Gillian would have agreed with Sydney Smith in regarding the country as a healthy grave. Having left the countryside at 18 she never wanted to go back. London was her place, and Islington, for over 50 years, her village There she could enjoy and contribute to cultural and communal life. She often said that England should end at Oxford with the North being left to its own devices.

 

VIEWS

In conversation at least, Gillian’s judgements on people, as on issues, were normally clear cut. A position once adopted was only abandoned reluctantly, if at all. A balanced view, the careful weighing of pros and cons was not admired. She liked the parry and thrust of a good argument and defended with attack and dexterity, extreme, even absurd opinions.. One could not deny that instinct, even prejudice, sometimes played too great a part. This gave her personality an added bite and no doubt some felt the force of her comments a little too keenly, but, .always beneath the rigour, one could find a great fund of sympathy and kindness

 

RACING

Gillian had I think less interest in sport than anyone I have ever met, and yet.I have at home an early letter from her to my father. It ends with a drawing of something with four legs inscribed  ‘’That noble animal, the horse’’

She adored racing. To her, the names of Ascot and Newmarket and Cheltenham were almost as magical as those of Bellini, Schubert and Browning.. . Her ownership of shares in various horses provided endless amusement and even some profit..

She surprised her great nieces and nephew, by making them minor owners before they were 10 years old in the hope, perhaps of their becoming owners in the future, or even bookmakers.

 

 

GIVING

Which gives me an appropriate occasion to mention her generosity. Dealing with her affairs after her death I was amazed by the number of causes, individuals and charities she supported. The family benefited immensely from her ever open purse. One example I will quote.

 

She had acquired shares in her company at a favourable price.. The firm prospered and when she came to dispose of her holding, she ignored its proper and much higher valuation and insisted on giving it to younger employees at the same price which she herself had paid.. I was breathless with horror but also with admiration. It was, to her, a moral decision, not a financial one.

 

CHURCH

That was perhaps but one reflection of her faith The Anglican church was one of the pillars of her life. She was a very regular attender and the chapters of Westminster  and  St Paul’s knew her well. Her interest in the tastes, diversions and careers of the clergy was worthy of a Trollope or a Bronte

 

FRIENDS

And then, there was that other pillar, her friends.  I think people were fortunate to have Gillian as a friend seeing how firm were her attachments and the pleasure she took in their company. Though time had denied her many of her earliest and closest , those of more recent vintage were crucial, and I must here repeat the family’s gratitude for their unwavering attention in her latter days.

 

RETIREMENT

Gillian entered retirement with joy.  The dreary journey to High Wycombe ceased,. the hated car was sold. New societies joined, new friends made, new causes promoted. Travel took off and theatre, opera, evening classes, play readings and family visits filled her calendar. Politics were scrutinised as never before. It was a crescendo of life

 

ENDING

Ill health brought a diminuendo, curtailing her activities, but not interests and her intellectual curiosity. Her ending was characteristic, matter of fact,  unsentimental and accepting.

 

In hospital, she immediately got to know all the names and backgrounds of the other occupants of the wards and a succession of doctors were assessed for presentation and competence and her judgement passed on to her next visitor, sometimes rather  loudly

 

She remained lucid and decisive to the end, which was a blessing, to have been otherwise would have been an affront to nature

 

I have been fortunate, for over 80 years, to have had her as my critic,  my counsellor and my confidant, and  I shall miss, as will others, and more then I can say, that  generous and resolute spirit..

 

What utters us

Blind nature, told the trees and birds 

And bright stars; yet of all the words we knew, her name was the most dear.

We give thanks she was spoken here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obituary: Gillian Comins

Gillian Comins, our much loved neighbour and friend, died on November 15 2019 after a short illness.

She was born in 1933 and grew up in Gloucestershire. She attended Cambridge University, where she read economics.

After university, she pursued a career in market research.

She came to live in Sudeley St  in 1968 , and her house became a hospitable centre for her lively social life.

Gillian was a  knowledgeable owner of racehorses, or at least legs of them, and an indefatigable traveller, latterly becoming fond of  cruising the northern seas around the Scottish coasts and beyond. She loved many  kinds of music, and was a keen opera goer. And she  very much liked  popping up the road to see an afternoon movie.

She was a supporter of Living Streets, Islington Gardeners, and was a long serving, very committed  and popular member of the Committee of the Angel Association, where she was secretary for a number of years.

She will be greatly missed by her many friends in N1.

There will be a memorial service for her at St James’ Church, Prebend St, at 2pm on 15 January and all are invited.

 

 

City of London Academy – its past and present

Members of the Association will be interested in this short history, (by Sir Paul Curran of City, University of London),  of the various schools that have stood on the site of CoLAI.

If this little history brings back memories, perhaps you might also have some photos of the schools from days gone by?

“Good evening.  It is a great honour to be invited to present the keynote address at your awards evening, not least because I feel incredibly proud, that my university had a small part to play in COLAI’s spectacular journey from the most underperforming school in Islington to this year’s Ofsted rating of ‘Outstanding’.  The transformation is of huge credit to the drive and commitment of the senior team and the governing body but at tonight’s awards evening we are celebrating much more.  We are celebrating the latest chapter in the story of a 135-year-old school with an indomitable spirit and a character all of its own.

As many of you will know, COLAI’s location has not changed over the years but it has had four names, four sets of buildings and a long and distinguished history of dedicated teachers serving the needs of the young people of Islington.

Back in the early 1800s the  poet, William Blake, lamented that the ‘fields of Islington’ were being ‘builded over’.  Unfortunately, they were being ‘builded over’ by rows and rows of houses and the building of accompanying schools was to await the pioneering Compulsory Education Act of 1870.  Our Academy, then called the Queens Head Street School, was founded in 1884.  Twenty-one houses containing around 150 tenants were bought from the landlord and demolished and onto this tiny strip of land were built tall, tiered classrooms, each for around sixty students, with ferocious ventilation to minimise the risk of TB and with a precarious exercise space on the roof.  The school was to serve very local families, many of whom were displaced agricultural workers from the West Country and Italy.

It expanded rapidly, was rebuilt within the first ten years to accommodate 1,200 students, had the luxury of central heating installed in 1910 and then enjoyed a period of inter-war stability until all of this area was badly damaged during the Blitz.  [But fortunately, the students had by then been moved to Peterborough].

The population of London plummeted after the Second World War but the school was rebuilt on a site that had doubled in size as a result of the bombing.  It was renamed Tudor Secondary School and regrew again to 1,200 students on waves of immigration from the Caribbean, Africa, India and notably Bangladesh and Ireland.

By 1965 the size of the plot had doubled yet again to incorporate where we are tonight and extensive new buildings were opened to accommodate first, the post-war baby boomers and then, by the early 1970s, young people from the newly opened Packington Estate.  The school’s name was changed yet again, this time to Islington Green School and by the late 1970s had become a well-regarded comprehensive with some of the strongest examination results in Islington.  It felt youthful, vibrant, sassy and attracted iconoclastic teachers, one of whom was Alun Renshaw.  It was his connections that saw massed ranks of the school’s students sing the anti-establishment song of my generation on Pink Floyd’s album – The Wall.  Sadly by 1994 that youthful zeal had evaporated, examination results were declining and Tony and Cherie Blair made the fateful decision to send Euan elsewhere.  By 1997 the school was in special measures and it was only kept going by the collective professionalism of the staff.  A former pupil, soul singer Paloma Faith, recalls that it was:

Very, very rough. The police were there every day; there was a lot of violence. But the teachers were incredible. My tutor sold the Socialist Worker every Sunday in Hackney Central. They were very encouraging to me.  I was put in the Hackney Gazette because it was a failing school and I got all As at GCSE.” 

Six years and nine inspections later, it escaped from its lowly Ofsted rating but by then its reputation was damaged irrevocably and academy status was proposed with sponsorship by an educational charity.  This was not well-received by the good folk of Islington and the Academy that was to emerge in 2009 was co-sponsored by the City of London and ourselves, City, University of London.

I joined City in 2010 and it was clear that the Academy had a great building, great teachers and great students but was not thriving.  The City of London shared this view, much was changed and the rest, as they say, is history.

To mark the school’s two anniversaries of 135 years since foundation and ten years as an Academy and its achievement of being so highly rated by Ofsted the university presented the school with a gift.  It was the City, University of London and COLAI Anniversary Award for Outstanding Achievement and later tonight I will have great pleasure in awarding it for the very first time.

So, over the holiday season, when your relatives ask you, as they undoubtedly will, ‘ how’s school’, you can say, “it’s OK, this year my school celebrated its early Victorian origins and its decade as an Academy and took its place among this nation’s outstanding schools, so yes, it’s OK”.

Professor Sir Paul Curran, President, City, University of London