29 February 2016

Why not have a street party?

Every year The Big Lunch encourage streets to eat and party together. This year the Big Lunch coincides with the Queen’s 90th birthday. So we asked local resident Oliver Kerr how to throw a street party!
So you think it would be nice to hold a street party. You want to increase that sense of community and get to know more of your neighbours. What do you do?

First you talk to a few neighbours and see if they agree. If enough of you are keen then why not give it a go?

Since we arrived in our street 18 years ago we have had 8 street parties – one impromptu (and slightly illegal) one for the Queen's Golden Jubilee and 7 under the inspiration of The Big Lunch, an organisation that has been encouraging people to hold street parties on one day in the summer since 2009. The aim is to boost the feeling of local community spirit. This year the big day is 12 June to coincide with the Queen's 90th birthday celebrations, but usually it is the first Sunday in June.

How much effort is involved in running a street party? Our experience with the Golden Jubilee showed us that it did not take much. That day started off in the morning with someone cooking some bacon and egg sandwiches on a camping stove, and all the small children running around. People drifted along, brought out some tea, and blocked off a bit of the road with cars so the children could play more safely (yes, this was a bit illegal, but the police didn't seem to mind). As the day progressed more food and drink magically appeared, along with garden furniture, and yet more people. Nearly all the street was involved, a great time was had and no planning was involved.

Over the years things have got a bit more organised, but not much. People bring along food and drink to share, and always seem to bring quite a variety. We find that you do not need to organize who brings what. If you run out of anything there is bound to be someone who will pop indoors and sort it out. Tables are very useful, we borrow ours from a school. Shelter for the food is also recommended. Rain can spoil food, but people are quite waterproof, so a gazebo or two is very useful – it has rained on all but two of our parties. Some bunting is nice. We have accumulated a good collection over the years.

You may want music and games. Both can be a good idea, but not my field of expertise. As with most things to do with a street party, there are bound to be neighbours who are keen to organise these, and who will know what to do. Don't feel you have to do everything.

One important decision is where to hold your event. If you want to close your street and have the party in the middle of the road then a bit more organisation is required. You let Lewisham Council know which section of road you would like to close, and hopefully they will give you approval to go ahead with the application. You then have to collect signatures from your neighbours declaring they don't object to the road closure. This is also a good way of spreading the word – leaflets through the door can just end up in the bin unread. The Council doesn't charge anything, and has always proved to be friendly and helpful in their support of The Big Lunch.

You will have to provide appropriate “Road Closed” signs. If you don't want to close a street, then life is simpler. You can hold your party wherever you have space – in someone's garden, in the grounds around your flats, or in a hall.

The Big Lunch web pages are full of useful guidance. They can send you information packs. Lewisham Council has a web page for The Big Lunch that gives information about obtaining street closures, the time-scales involved, and who to contact for help and guidance.



The Future of Forest Hill Library

At the end of 2015 the council ran a consultation on library provision proposing to turn Forest Hill, Torridon Road, and Manor House libraries into ‘Community Libraries’. During the public consultation 54% of respondents rejected all the options proposed by the council and 59% rejected the council’s preferred option of downgrading these libraries to community libraries.

Despite these views expressed in the consultation, and the opposition of the Forest Hill Society among other civic societies and user groups, the mayor of Lewisham accepted the recommendations of the report. It would be unfair not to mention that Lewisham council, like others across the country, are under enormous pressure to cut budgets and find savings wherever they can. Across the country this is resulting in the closure and downgrading of library services, although some, such as Southwark, have managed to avoid significant disruption to library services.

With the decision made to downgrade the libraries we now need to look to the future. The Forest Hill Society will be doing everything we can to ensure that Forest Hill library continues serves the community as well as it possibly can. Over the next few months the council will be putting the library services out to tender. We understand that at the early stages there have been around eight expressions of interest in running one or more of the community libraries in Lewisham. The ambitious plan is to have other organisations running these libraries by August 2016.

The major concern from the Forest Hill Society is that levels of book borrowing continue to be maintained and we do not see the 70% drops that other community libraries have experienced in the last 4 years (compared to a drop of just 4% in Forest Hill over the same period). To achieve this the council needs to ensure that their IT systems are able to work properly with the community libraries, levels of stock must be retained, primary school  visits must be facilitated, and volunteer levels must be sufficient to keep the library open seven days a week, from morning to late evening.

The Forest Hill Society will be looking at what we can do to safeguard the future of the library. This is now likely to involve being part of a consortium (together with local traders, V22 - next door in Louise House, and other partner organisations) bidding to run these services. But whoever does take on the management of the library, we know that we have a vital role to play in helping to find volunteers.

If you would be interested in volunteering for a few hours per week at the library we would like to hear from you so that we can start compiling a volunteer list to help with the transition in August 2016.
At this stage we don’t know what your duties would be, but an interest in books and internet research would be a big advantage. If you would be interested, please contact michael@fhsoc.com

28 February 2016

A decade in the life of the Forest Hill Society

  • April  - Proposal for Forest Hill Society on se23.com
  • May - First meeting of the steering committee
  • October - First public meeting and elections. Michael Abrahams elected chairman.
  • 2006-2009 - Campaigning to save the pools 
  • 2006-2010 - Campaigning to keep train services

  • February - History walk attracts 90 people
  • June - 23 Club launched - visiting local restaurants
  • August - Surprise listing of Louise House
  • October - Peter Irby becomes chairman

  • January - First Burns Night celebration
  • July - Swimming pool rebuild confirmed
  • October - 200th anniversary celebration of the opening of the Croydon Canal
  • December - last direct trains to Charing Cross

  • May - Tidy up in Albion Millennium Green leading to a new lease of life for the green
  • October - Richard Hibbert becomes chairman

  • February - Tyson Road development public inquiry (we lose to the best planning barrister in the country)
  • May - First trains run on Overground
  • December - Pop-up events around the high street 

  • March - Forest Hill In Bloom begins with planting at the station
  • April - Royal wedding is an excuse for an early taste of a pub at the post office

  • February - Swings for Horniman Triangle from Society bid to ward assembly
  • March - First Food Fair at the station
  • July - Forest Hill and Sydenham win funding from the Portas Pilot scheme (later to be SEE3)
  • September - Forest Hill pool reopens!
  • September & December - Two food fair traders open shops on the High Street (Aga’s Little Deli and The Butchery)
  • September - Helped form Friends of Dacres Wood

  • January - Joined march to save Lewisham A&E
  • May - First Edible High Road in Forest Hill
  • June - Subway cladding and lighting installed
  • December - Final food fair as a weekly market is established in Horniman Gardens
  • December - Michael Abrahams is back as Forest Hill Society chairman 

  • April - Street piano is installed at Forest Hill station by SEE3 and the Forest Hill Society
  • July - Design workshop re-imagines the town centre
  • September - Free concert at the station as part of Forest Hill Fashion Week
  • December - First five carriage trains on Overground

  • October - Campaign to prevent Forest Hill library being downgraded to a community library

  • Improvements to Dartmouth Road public highway

10th Anniversary of the Forest Hill Society

Back in April 2006, not long after the closure of the swimming pool, a discussion started on SE23.com about forming a Forest Hill Society. The idea quickly took hold, so on 23rd May 2006 a meeting took place at the Dartmouth Arms to set up the Society. Our first AGM was on 25th September 2006, where we elected the first committee, and I was proud to be elected as chairman.

Over the last ten years the Forest Hill Society has done lots to improve the area and influence decision making about Forest Hill. There have been some great improvements in this period, most notably the new swimming pool and the increase in train services. For the first few years these two issues dominated most of our discussion, but in 2010 we started to turn our attention to the high street and the public environment around Forest Hill.

Page 2 provides a timeline of some of the key events for the Forest Hill Society, it shows just how much we have done in ten years. Two major initiatives have been particularly instrumental in changing Forest Hill; planting in the town centre, and setting up a food fair.

Flowers in the Town Centre
Planting started modestly with an application to the ward assembly for money to install a couple of planters in the town centre. This was successful, and in 2011 we starting planting. Since then we have increased the number of planters which are maintained by volunteers  from the Forest Hill Society. To help our work around the station we arranged for the installation of a watering system for the station forecourt.

We took the planting further with the Edible High Road, which brought small trees and flowers to many of the shops in Forest Hill town centre. Many of the 2015 set of trees are doing well and our intention is to give them a spruce up in the spring.
Food Fair - gone but not forgotten

The Food Fair started almost by accident as a one-off event for St George’s Day 2012. Due to popular demand this became a monthly market and continued until the end of 2013, when the weekly farmers’ market was firmly established in Horniman Gardens.

The food fair led directly to two new shops (butcher and deli) in the high street, a general increase in footfall in the town centre, as well as providing an important element in our successful bid for Portas Pilot funding, and of course the weekly farmers’ market.

These are just two projects! There have been many other activities that have added up to so much more than the sum of their parts.

After 10 years we are still going strong, with some ambitious ideas to further improve Forest Hill and to keep Making Forest Hill an even better place to live. A massive thank you to everybody who has been involved and supported us through the years.

26 February 2016

Time of the Signs

At the end of January the Forest Hill Traders Association unveiled a new notice board and trade directory for the town centre.

Strategically positioned at the entrance to the station it provides a place to find out about shops and community events, and we even know who has the key (unlike the previous notice board).

The notice board was designed by Cyrus Colquitt from Stag & Bow and The Framing Salon, and includes a collection of local buildings rising up above the ’Welcome to Forest Hill’. Funding was provided by SEE3 Portas Pilot, Forest Hill ward assembly, and traders themselves.

25 February 2016

Dinosaurs at The Horniman

From February the Horniman Museum has a special exhibition entitled Dinosaurs: Monster Families.

This exhibition reveals the fascinating family life of dinosaurs through interactive exhibits, authentic specimens from around the world and life-size models.

The exhibition examines how dinosaurs cared for their eggs, nests and babies. Visitors can step back in time and meet ‘Baby Louie’, the near-complete skeleton of a dinosaur embryo; dig in the discovery pit; touch a real dinosaur leg bone; view an amazing collection of fossils including the longest dinosaur eggs ever discovered; and come face-to-face with T-Rex’s relative – a life-size Tarbosaurus skeleton cast. Dinosaurs will ‘fill’ the exhibition in vivid illustrations by artist Luis V Rey, and stunning photographs show some of the world’s renowned dinosaur hunters and their discoveries.

Jo Hatton, Keeper of Natural History at the Horniman says: ‘We may think of dinosaurs as “monsters” but this exhibition reveals they were actually excellent parents who cared for their young. By studying fossils of dinosaur nests, eggs and babies, and comparing them to their living descendants such as birds and crocodiles, we can gain a new insight to the family lives of these creatures which continue to fascinate and enthral us.’

Alongside bird and crocodile specimens from the Horniman’s collection, visitors can also see a fossilised egg of the extinct Elephant Bird, on loan from Sir David Attenborough’s private collection.

An exciting programme of dinosaur-themed events and activities will also run throughout the year to complement the exhibition.

Dinosaurs: Monster Families is open at the Horniman Museum and Gardens from Saturday 13 February to Sunday 30 October 2016.
See www.horniman.ac.uk/dinosaurs for more information. Horniman Members enjoy free, unlimited visits to the exhibition.
For information on how to become a Member see www.horniman.ac.uk/visit/membership.

15 February 2016

Trash Mob / Flash Mop - Saturday 5th March

Saturday March 5th Trash Mob/Flash Mop, 2.00pm in the station forecourt:

The Forest Hill Society is joining the national "Clean for the Queen" weekend with a litter pick up and wash down of the underpass in Forest Hill town centre. We have the pick up grippers, the protective gloves and the attractive plastic tabards and collecting sacks. 

We just need people to lend a hand for about an hour to make our town centre a pleasanter place to work and shop. If helping on the underpass feel free to bring along sponges, buckets, and any household cleaning liquids.