13 October 2020

A new Chair for the Forest Hill Society

On 7th October the Forest Hill Society elected Claus Murmann as the new chairperson of the Society for the year ahead. Below is an interview with him to find out more about him.


 Q: How long have you lived in Forest Hill? 

My family and I moved here in 2011, so almost 10 years with 3 boys who all spent their teenage years here and all but the last one (17) have been happily dispatched out as adults.

We moved back to the UK after 11 years on the US East Coast where the kids grew up with a big backyard, a beach and schoolbus rides. Coming back to London was a crash course in city living and the 185. Prior to that I’d lived in Richmond for 10 years, grew up in Ealing from age 2 and rewinding right back to the beginning I was born in Germany. I do still speak German and my side of the family is all back over there now.

Q. What do you do when you are not running the Forest Hill Society?

I work in the City for a bank albeit more on the tech side in data, analytics and cloud adoption. I’ve done a variety of roles ranging from program management through product management, IT architecture and what I would describe as translating between the business and technology. Lots of facilitation between different parties to get stuff done basically. My background originally was an aerospace engineering degree so I like to joke with people who say ‘well it’s not rocket science’ when there are problems that need solving… to atone for my City job I volunteer a couple of times a week at the Lewisham Foodbank on the cycle delivery squad.

Q. What is your favourite thing about Forest Hill?

Well, it used to be Sugar Mountain I’m not ashamed to admit. I love the access to parks, open spaces and even nearby woodlands - from a location perspective you’re almost equidistant from the West End, City and Canary Wharf (especially on a bike). I think it’s a lovely diverse community: I’ve met people who will share everything from gardening tips to power tools or give up their time to help others and improve the area.

Q. What is your favourite cycle route from Forest Hill?

Ah, you know I’m an avid cyclist. Fear not, I am also a car enthusiast. But to answer the question, simply my commute: over the top of the hill, Wood Vale, Peckham Rye (the shopping street is great now it’s been closed to everything but bikes and pedestrians - there’s always someone signing or a band playing, street barbecues - transformational improvement), then past the Peckham library, up the old canal path and Old Kent Road, then over to London Bridge with it’s new segregated bike lane (yay) and into the City. I still do it regularly to get some lockdown exercise and often meet my wife after her work day up in Angel.

Q. What most impressed you about the Forest Hill Society?

Getting real things done. I see markets, people planting flowers, things changing for the better, support for local business and a general policy of positivity as well as keeping the history of the area alive through educational talks, support for the library etc.

Q. What is your top priority in the role?

I would look for ideas to solve the somewhat impossible problem of the Station access on both sides: pedestrian crossings & timings - I know it’s already on the list. Overall I’d describe myself as a good listener with no political affiliation meaning I’m not coming in with an agenda. I cycle but I also drive and also (used to) use the Overground regularly at weekends. Transport always seems to feature high up on the priority list for people. 

Aside from that I think we can help support local businesses as much as possible especially as we come out of lockdown - and back in again?

Q. If you could change one thing about Forest Hill, what would it be?

Apart from demanding Sugar Mountain re-open? I maybe hinted at it above, but I think rebuilding  the whole station complex as a workable town centre would help focus some regeneration of the area and remove a proper eyesore. Again I know there are plans for this so it would be great if we could make it a reality.

Q. What else would you like to confess?

Apparently I buy too many records and have too many bicycles. I hold the privileged position of being on the moderation team for one of the local forums and enjoy taking an active interest online. If I appear to be overly pro road safety campaigning it’s because I’ve had 2 free rides in an ambulance in the last 3 years after altercations with motor vehicles. And finally I’ve been married for over 20 years to my wife who is just the best.

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