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So what about our expectations?

This paragraph  logically belongs at the end of the piece, but in case you don't get that far ....

The substantial increase in charges to use the Town Hall Square  looks to me like a conscious and deliberate attempt to make it perfectly plain that the community has to buy the right to use the Town Hall Square , now and in the future, and that one of the ways of doing this is by getting into bed with the usurpers, a business with deep pockets and a wide range of contacts

Haringey Subtlety

There are people who say that Haringey is not a subtle organisation. That it does what it does and lets the consequences roll on. I'm not so sure. i think there is an eye to the future when actions are taken and notes published. More than a hint of subtlety.


Take the changes going on in Hornsey Town Hall Square, for instance. We are repeatedly told that there will be 'improvements' to the the Square when the Far East Consortium hotelier Dorsett Hospitality takes over the running of the hotel. But we've all experienced 'improvements' in various spheres, haven't we. The piece of software that no longer provides that favourite function, in favour of 'improvements' in features you never use. The bank that provides 'improvements' by leaving off a key piece of information from your statement, in favour  of looking it up on the 'improved' website, requiring just that bit of extra effort from the customer. The smart meter 'improvements' that will make not one jot of difference to you or me, but will massively improve the utility company's ability to gather information. All offered at  'no extra cost' - that's right, just the extra cost of providing smart meters, which will be shared out across all our bills, which is no cost at all to the providers.

So what's happening in the Town Hall Square?

I'm thinking mainly of the cost of holding an event. A huge number of people enjoyed the Crouch End Festival Christmas Fair on 3rd December. I did. I was there at 10am to set up a stall, I had to leave for a few hours for a prior engagement, but got back in time to join the crowd watching the Christmas Tree light up.

But this event so nearly didn't take place because of a Haringey subtlety. Last year the Festival had to pay modest licence fees to Haringey to gain permission to use the square. Seems only fair really, that there should be some sort of local authority oversight, things can go badly wrong when issues of safety are ignored. But this year the Square was reclassified as a Park. Haringey has a list of Parks in the borough, and just at present (7/12/2016) Hornsey Town Hall Square does not appear on that alphabetical list. Yet, it is for the hire of a park that the Festival had to pay charges, through the outsourced Parks management website based on the Haringey Outdoor Events scale of charges . This bumped the fees up from a few hundred pounds to £2,800. If you have a Facebook account you can read more about the details on the Real Crouch End Appreciation Society group including the shameful attempt by our councillors to foist £5,000 of Far East Consortium money onto the Festival, surely hugely inappropriate, when Haringey is in the midst of negotiating a huge, Crouch End changing lease with them.

So what about our expectations?

This looks to me like a conscious and deliberate attempt to make it perfectly plain that the community has to buy the right to use the Town Hall Square , now and in the future, and that one of the ways of doing this is by getting into bed with the usurpers, a business with deep pockets and a wide range of contacts

Tags: dorsett, far east consortium, hornsey town hall, hornsey town hall square, ojeu, tax haven

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It would be nice to know what they had in store for the Square.

Of course it's a pity (understatement) the space is included in the great sell-off at all. It's entirely unnecessary as Haringey could simply have asked for a 'contribution' from the new owners of the Town Hall, 'improved' the Square themselves, and kept it publicly owned. Unfortunately I don't think any mechanism is possible for this, as every penny raised in the west of the borough for capital projects has to spent on schemes in the east. There's a list you know.

So, we await new designs. Which are currently being developed in secret.

And we're told that the community will enjoy continued use and access... though we don't know the terms, how often, which bits, or how much, but we do know that negotiations about community use are currently being held. In secret.

As to the current new, 'improved' fee structure - it isn't beyond the realms of possibility that the new owners will set a rate less than the council (it wouldn't be hard), to curry favour. Though any future charges are entirely up to them. It will be a privately owned Square after all.

There is a darker possibility though. One where the hotel doesn't quite happen, or goes bust, or gets sold on, and the 'arts centre' doesn't happen, or goes bust, or becomes something else entirely (not many safeguards as far as I can see). In fact the whole Town Hall could become a grand version of Middeys. Always promised, but never opened. The Festival would have to dance amongst the ruins.

Speaking of dancing amongst the ruins.  One of the aspects I treasure about HTH at present is that you can actually see, smell and touch the history and of the community's presence there for generations.  Everything has this invaluable patina. Putting aside the criminal neglect from LBH over decades, I still overhear snatches of conversations of people rediscovering the Town Hall.  Either from their distant youth or from 20 years ago - the last period when it was open to the public. And they love seeing it now come back to life.  Generations have shared that space in all manner of ways.  And have left their print in layers all over the building.  It is saturated with community memories.

Last Saturday in the Town Hall I dropped into a choir rehearsal in the first floor foyer, a bride was about to be married and burst into tears hearing the amazing voices and in that acoustic as she ascended the stairs. I attended a meeting in one of the rooms together with the daughter of a friend, a three year old girl whose dad has an small studio office in the building.  We had hot chocolate in the cafe and put our head around the Assembly Hall  door where the big Bavarian party was still in construction and preparation.  Later that evening I had one of the best evenings ever at the same Bavarian Christmas bash.  All of those threads in a few short hours all connecting with friends and neighbours and colleagues.

My fear is that with a hotel and 'improvements' it will become a shiny shell. The magic will be gone, the patina disappeared. Sell it by all means but to the right bidder who knows what an arts centre (not venue) means and keeps the beating heart of the building the workspaces intact. And keeps the community at the centre.  

Panto plots of geese and golden eggs come to mind.  Haringey knows the price of the Town Hall but not its true value.


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