Busy, busy day! First port of call – Haringey Police Open Day held at St Ann’s police station. Beautiful weather – so I wasn’t expecting many people to be there, but there were. How far we have come in terms of community relations and making the police part of the local vernacular! The police have worked bloody hard to achieve this. So in the courtyard there was face painting, police motorbikes, a police dog (gorgeous – a six month old pup called Oscar being trained); first aiders, a history of identity parades and much more. So it was fun!
Haringey is a hugely diverse area, and actually does very well in terms of integration. We have huge challenges – but as demonstrated after 7/7 the communications between our communities is there. There wasn’t a single incident or attack following the bombings in our area – and it is this work and all the work by the various faith, race and umbrella groups that achieved this. Full marks to Haringey Police for walking the talk!
Straight on to Campsbourne Community Residents’ Association where there is an open day for residents to look at the plans for the little square of grass on the estate. There are two alternatives – both very imaginatively designed – and people who come are asked to express their preference. There are also some alternatives for what should be painted onto the paving stones as play equipment is not to be installed. Amongst the choices are hopscotch, clocks and so on. I am reassured that the option of hopscotch is by far and away the most popular – thus proving that just sometimes the old ones are the best ones!
Straight on to Jacksons Lane Community Centre for a two-hour panel debate on Gun and Knife crime. It was a very interesting and lively debate. The officer in charge of Operation Blunt, two mothers from Mothers against Guns, a youth worker and myself, plus a chair.
The audience (which was small and only just outnumbered by the panel) was up for participation – so despite the small numbers I thought some valuable ideas were raised. The most interesting contribution was from a young guy at the back. We on the panel had been banging on about youth diversion etc – and he was saying that you needed to get in and show young people how to earn money (enterprise).
Coincidentally at the police station I talked for a long time to a guy who is running an enterprise effort called BusKids (excuse spelling, may not have got that quite right?). This is a programme to go into schools and teach teenagers money management and entrepreneurial skills to set up small businesses and so on.
The other ruck at the meeting was over reference (by me and others) to gangster rap and hip hop. There was a debate as to whether this was or was not in any way responsible for the rise in gun and knife crime. I think it has an influence but probably not a direct correlation. It sets an atmosphere rather than directly making someone go out and do something. In the end solutions have got to be about changing a whole culture and changing life chances.
Just time for a quick wash and change before it’s on to the 40th Anniversary Ball of the Highgate Society. I grab a dress I have never worn and shoes that are incredibly uncomfortable and off I go. The Highgate Society does and has done over many, many years, the most incredible job of working to improve and protect Highgate. It’s a grafting organisation. Day in day out, year in year out, good people work for the betterment of the local and local people – from planning issues to ensuring the future of Highgate Village.
It is much undervalued I believe, for the work it does. Highgate gets scant attention and support from either Haringey or Camden councils who both seem to write it off as being somehow not part of their borough. Reverse snobbishness – which abandons a large swathe of people who have a variety of incomes from indeed the very rich to quite frankly the very poor.
The Ball is held in Highgate School’s dining room on the side of one of the playing fields. It is so beautiful – the epitome of an English cricket green with the evening sun falling and sparkling. I dance once – with the new Chair of Highgate Society – and then just before midnight I decide enough is enough and walk home bear footed carrying my high heels in my hands and sink gratefully into bed.