Meeting Bob the Builder

Lynne Featherstone with the 101 Play Group101 Play Group are celebrating with Bob the Builder – having got £5,000 squid as one of twelve winners of the ‘Project: Renovate’ competition this playgroup is the Greater London finalist.

Their prize was to win an Eco-Makeover for the building. They have used the money on splendid new doors onto the outside play area, insulation and other eco-improvements.

The children originally had to do a whole series of activities about eco-friendly improvements – so they learned loads. Then photos of the children doing the projects and a 200 word submission were sent off. Travis Perkins were one of the companies sponsoring the competition.

So congrats to everyone. It’s not easy finding funding to get repairs or improvements done – and this prize money was much needed.

As you can see in the picture – although my Liberal Democrat councillor colleagues Monica Whyte (on my right) and Errol Reid on the far left (the only man in the picture) and myself were all there to support the Celebration Day – it was Bob the Builder who was definitely the main attraction – no contest!

Our secret vice

That’s the topic of my latest column for the local Muswell Hill and Highgate magazines.

As to what the vice is?

Well, you’ll have to read on…

Our secret vice
But Lynne Featherstone with Highgate councillor Bob Hare's prize winning golden pears at the recent horticulural show in the Moravian Church, Hornseyit’s a wonderful vice – it’s growing things! Having attended a number of horticultural shows this summer, including the Highgate, Muswell Hill and Hornsey Horticultural Societies – I have been staggered not only by the produce and exhibits – but the commitment and participation by so very many local people to this raging passion.

Now a veteran of a number of local shows – I am wise to the fact that most of the First in Show honours are collected either by Gary Sycamore or Eric Gurman – who basically clean up on each occasion. However, as one woman who kept coming second to Eric said to me at the Muswell Hill show – that when she does get a First Prize and beats him – it really means something to beat such a master. And there are so many categories – that others do get their chance to shine.

A tremendous amount of effort goes into organising and arranging these shows – and they are all incredibly well attended and very much enjoyed by everyone. Personally, I love them. I cannot grow things myself – for two reasons: a) incapable and b) time poor! But one day, when I have time – it’s on my list – because it is such a joyous thing to do.

I am always amazed at how such beautiful flowers and vegetables come into being – despite last summer with no rain and this summer with nothing but rain. Over my two years of shows, I am learning about what makes a perfect vegetable or bloom and that the National Horticultural Society judging has very strict, high and testing criteria.

It is also clear that there is a wonderful community that grows up around allotments and horticultural societies. This year I ‘launched’ the new ‘shed’ for the ‘Golf Course’ allotments – the result of lots and lots of work in terms of bidding for a lottery grant. Now we have a splendid shed – and a community who all know each other, where the kids can play and where actual food is grown! This isn’t just about shows – this is a real opportunity to bring people together, make people feel part of a community – and to produce wonderful vegetables which save a lot of money.

I was given a basket of vegetables to take home from the Muswell Hill show – and the vegetables just tasted heavenly – completely different from the ones I buy. It makes you think! And it is not just the taste that appeals – it is knowing that there is a vibrant community behind the growing of the fruit and veg that appeals too – because so often, especially in our urban areas, community ties are so weak and hardly anyone knows anyone else.

Anyway, this is just one of the best of local community activities and individual pastimes that you can get. I ran into one of my Liberal Democrat colleagues at the Hornsey show, Cllr Errol Reid (Hornsey) who is now campaigning to expand horticultural horizons. Errol wants to get the National Horticultural Society to extend its judging categories to window flower boxes and stuff grown inside – so that not lucky enough to have access to an allotment or garden can join in the fun!


Whist the by-elections play out on the political stage, long before they were called – I had arranged the inaugural meeting of my Haringey Local Darfur Action Group (HLDAG) today. (Read here for my earlier posting on why such a local group is needed).

I had been amazed by the response to my initial email – and to the number of people who wanted to join me in this pressure group. My idea is to set up an organising group to lobby and put pressure on the sensitive political spots that might prompt the Government of Sudan to stop the genocide and let the African Union / United Nations troops be deployed before 2008 – the current best estimate following President Bashir’s promise to finally allow them in.

But there are many other things that need doing – including the extension of the UN arms embargo across the whole of Sudan as weapons are coming into Darfur from there. The difficulty of getting the UN resolution through is I guess because China and Russia have a veto and they both earned well over £20 million each on arms sales to Sudan in 2005. So – an example of what I hope the group will do (and the group will grow in size) is to all send emails to the Chinese Ambassador asking him not to use the veto, for example – as it would be a shame if the Olympics in Beijing were to become a political football, etc etc.

I invited a Darfuri refugee to come and speak to the Group, and Ishmail Jarbo, whose parents were murdered and he himself injured before fleeing to this country, told us his tale. This was very powerful and brought home the reality of the genocide. My Lib Dem councillor colleague, Errol Reid (Hornsey ward), then spoke. Errol has long been involved with Sudan and is also the secretary for the International African Lawyers, fighting on human rights and anti-slavery.

We all then contributed a great range of ideas and a number of those attending stepped forward to take this campaign forward.

I know, I know – how can what we do in Haringey affect Darfur? Well – I totally believe in people power. I also believe, that at this particular juncture, China will be sensitive to world opinion and as China is the most influential foreign power in terms of Sudan – pressure on China is one way forward. And there is divestment – as we pressure groups not to invest in companies who are supporting the genocide. And, this is my pilot, and I will be trying to extend this nationwide in due course.

Being impotent and doing nothing is why dreadful things continue for decades in this world. This is a complex situation and in the end, only a negotiated peace will bring real peace to the area – and both Arabs and Black Darfuris will have to come around the table with all the groups and militias and rebel bands. But that cannot happen until the killing is stopped. So first deployment and stopping arms.

The communication for this group will be primarily by email – and if you live in Haringey and you want to join in what will be a relatively simple exercise in targeted lobbying – then let me know. You can also join the Facebook group.

The group will hopefully have its first organisational meeting to decide the action program in the next two weeks and then we will email out the first proposed action; after all – this is an action group!


Saturday 23rd September saw the sun shining on the first St Mary’s Estate Lightfoot Road Fun Day, which took place in Greig City Academy. The event was initiated and promoted by leading local residents and Nadya Enver and Jeannette, and featured food provided by Conrad Clarke of Bonding PHRU Food, a wide variety of children’s activities and football coaching.

Hornsey Liberal Democrat Councillor Errol Reid was successful in corralling support from both the Council’s Neighbourhood Management team and London & Quadrant Housing Trust.

Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone showed her support by coming along to see the facilities being set up. Resisting the temptation to climb the rigging of the children’s pirate ship, Lynne Featherstone said:

“This is a fantastic example of local residents celebrating and enjoying their local area. The organisers have worked very hard to put this event on, and the day shows what a great community spirit thrives here.”

Councillor Reid comments:

“I am very pleased to have been able to drum up support from both the Council and London and Quadrant. This was a great success for the local residents which we hope to build on and repeat next year. A huge thank you is due to all who helped to organise the event.”

Haringey Council results

Well – it was very close! Massive Lib Dem gains, but not quite enough to take control of Haringey Council – Labour majority cut to just three (30-27 – no other parties have any councillors) with Lib Dems making 11 gains.

We also topped the vote across the borough – adding up the top votes in each ward – and actually now have councillors in a majority of the wards in Haringey. So – very close! Best every Lib Dem result, including our first councillors in Tottenham, many in Wood Green etc.

Lib Dem highlights:

Alexandra – 3 Lib Dem holds – Dave Beacham, Wayne Hoban and Susan Oatway re-elected

Bounds Green – 2 Lib Dem gains – Ali Demirci and John Oakes

Crouch End – 3 Lib Dem holds – Ron Aitken and David Winskill re-elected, joined by Lyn Weber

Fortis Green – 3 Lib Dem holds – Matt Davies and Martin Newton re-elected, joined by Sara Beynon

Harringay – 2 Lib Dem gains – Karen Alexander and Carolyn Baker

Highgate – 3 Lib Dem holds – Bob Hare and Neil Williams re-elected, joined by Justin Portess

Hornsey – 3 Lib Dem gains – Robert Gorrie, Errol Reid and Monica Whyte elected

Muswell Hill – 3 Lib Dem holds – Jonathan Bloch and Gail Engert re-elected, joined by Sheila Rainger (who has taken over my old council seat)

Noel Park – 2 Lib Dem gains – Catherine Harris and Fiyaz Mughal elected

Stroud Green – 1 Lib Dem hold and 2 Lib Dem gains – Laura Edge re-elected and Ed Butcher and Richard Wilson elected

Congratulations and commiseration to all candidates and helpers – both those who made it and those who didn’t, in all parties.

UPDATE: There are now further election result details on Haringey Council’s website.