|Clissold House; Who is it for?|
Now dubbed 'The House', Clissold House re-opened recently to a barrage of criticism from the great and the good. The twittering classes are tweeting with righteous indignation, the Guardian is up in arms, and even that arbiter of all that is right; Vanessa Feltz, has taken up the cudgels.
All jokes aside though, most of the debate seems to be based on the fact that since it opened its doors again many people believe that its pricing structure, menu and the fact that it is now table service only, seems to be a deliberate policy to exclude those residents of the area that one traditionally associates with local parks. i.e mothers with young children and replace them with what is euphemistically dubbed 'ladies that lunch'.
Another important issue, if one were to go by the abundance of lamp post and other adverts posted by the council, is their much vaunted Shop Local campaign. Being that the only companies allowed to tender for 'The House' had to have an annual turnover in excess of one million pounds, ths suggests that their idea of Shop Local isn't to do with helping small local companies in the area, but has more to do with helping themselves to what national chains and their like can give them in the short term, in what appears to be a national preoccupation by councils across the country to turn our high streets and local amenities into some sort of homogenised nightmare more reminiscent of Orwell's 1984. The Starbucks concession at the new C.L.R. James Library in Dalston is another high handed, self serving and anti Shop Local example of this.
This project was funded jointly by Hackney Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund and as such should be an amenity that everyone in the area can take advantage of. As it stands this certainly does not seem to be the case and I would imagine that any contract that the council has with the new proprietors would be very costly indeed to break, no matter what public opinion has to say.
Perhaps the council should licence another area of the park to a small local concern that can provide what a lot of people seem to want at a price that they afford. That is if of course they don't feel the need to charge an exorbitant rent for the privilege just to pretend that it's not financially viable. We, the public own this park, all of us. The council just look after it on our behalf.