My shiny little online spot to help y'all keep track of me while I galavant around London.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Blackheath Council Meeting

It's been a busy week; I have a lot of school work and assignments this week, and a friend of mine (Ryan) is coming into town tomorrow.

This week, I've sat through a murder trial at the Old Bailey, attended a Blackheath council meeting, and visited the National Gallery, again.

I promise good entries for the first and the last of those later this weekend, but will tackle the council meeting now.

One of two assignment's for my News Writing class this week is to cover a local council meeting (or committee meeting). So, tonight I (and a few others from my class) bused out to Blackheath, a neighbouring ward in our borough of Lewisham. (I live in New Cross, which is another part of Lewisham.)

Blackheath ward/village takes it's name from a massive open park area. Historically, it was known for highwaymen; now, it's a middle-class oasis in a generally lower-class borough. I've never seen it in daylight, though I imagine the area--especially the heath--is gorgeous. The park is patrolled by mounted police--one local today called them the "cavalry"--so I definitely need to check it out.

The meeting was hosted by the mayor of Lewisham, and wasn't a council meeting so much as a meeting with neighbourhood folks to find out what they think about issues. I met the mayor, Steve Bullock, after, and he's quite a nice man. Aside from friendly personality, he's also quite honest about his politics, and willing to tell people where he stands on certain issues. So far, I like him, but to be honest, I don't yet know much about politics in this area.

The usual topics of crime (my beat), education, traffic and housing dominated the discussion. The audience was surprisingly active and eloquent--although maybe only when compared to Canadians, and especially Calgarians, when it comes to political debate. Disapointingly, the meeting shared one feature with Canadian equivilents: it was entirely dominated by older, white people. In Calgary, that is the base population. Here, there's such a large immigrant population--mostly the Carribean, West Africa and Vietnam--and there was just one black person in the entire hall (out of 50 attendees). That might be a reflection of the more expensive housing in Blackheath (compared to other areas), but London doesn't divide areas into rich/poor housing; it's all very mixed, so I'm not sure that explanation holds.

Either way, it was much more interesting than I thought, and I've now met the mayor, something I never did manage in Calgary.


Blogger -A. said...

Hey Nicole, I think your take on town-hall-democracy is spot on. It seems to be dominated by those with plenty of time on their hands and those who wish to have a whinge. People who are stuggling to put food on the table, or who feel out of place at a public forum, or are simply satisfied with the status quo will all remain quiet. I'm sure there's a metaphor about oil and squeaky wheels which could be used.

Sounds like you've having a top time in London - make sure you check out the Camden markets.



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