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20190518_150015“Are you busy tomorrow?” If not why not meet me down the park? Just the sort of unsolicited email from a stranger that we are always warned to be on the lookout for! So you can imagine our surprise when we discovered it was from prospective parliamentary candidate Mario Creatura. The fact that this virtual junk mail was publicising a litter-pick made it all the more ironic. There are very strict laws governing the use of personal information, so the idea that Mr Creatura might be spamming his constituents personal email addresses is somewhat surprising – but apparently not altogether without precedent. We’ll be asking the Information Commissioner’s Office whether this is in keeping with data protection legislation or not.

But although the execution might have been somewhat clumsy surely it was well-intended? Well maybe… or maybe there might be an election in the offing? Who can tell? Probably the people who turn out every week to litter pick. The good people who do this week in, week out. Rain or shine. Without fanfare and without spam emails. The people who pick up the dog shit from the Sensible Garden. The people who tend the gardens at Love Lane, the garden at South Norwood Leisure Centre and the Country Park and so on. We see them every week. We don’t need spam emails to remind us that they are there.

But this begs a bigger question; should they have to do it at all? The Government’s programme of austerity has seen around 40% cut to the central government funding for local services. Councils are left with the option of either raising council tax or cutting services – in most cases they have had to do both. Still the average council spend per person has fallen by 30%. Spending on the environment has fallen by 20%. We’ve all seen the number of park keepers fall. We’ve seen our hard-working refuse collectors almost running down the street. Small wonder they end up dropping things. Last year the local hardware shops were running out of rat poison, such was the demand, in the face of the biggest rat infestation in living memory. Now we’re the South Norwood Tourist Board and we know how to spin a story – but that’s a bit of a fucking stretch, even for us! And with the best will in the world, a couple of hours with a bin bag on a Saturday afternoon is not going to fill the gap. What we’re talking about are the essentials of public health, which are being systematically denied.

It’s not the Big Society when we’re expected to go out and do the things that we pay income tax and council tax for. It’s a con. We are lucky to have a community of neighbours who all chip in to try and make South Norwood a nicer place to live. They are wonderful people and it is a pleasure to be part of such a community. That does not give government carte blanche to waltz in and cut our services while their casino-banking mates live it up in the Caymans. So don’t come to us, talking about how much you love the area when you have presided over its decimation.

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Acting The Goat

Girl & Goat

Some of you may know that there were plans afoot for a Spring Yearning Festival next weekend. Unfortunately, for reasons to numerous yet too trivial to name, we will be unable to do this.

We do however, have absolute faith in the people of South Norwood to act the goat in whatever you choose to do this weekend.

All power to you!

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SNDOC2

South Norwood Tourist Board proudly announce that, throughout 2019, South Norwood will be London District of Culture.

This is no plucky bid for corporate or European funding, which all too often comes hand-in-hand with the wrecking ball of gentrification. This is what we WILL be doing this year.

Cultural Quarters are not something that can be plonked down on the map by town planners. Culture is the beating heart of the community. It is all of us coming together and sharing our experiences, our ideas and our knowledge. We don’t need anyone’s money. We don’t need anyone’s permission. We just need to get up and get on with it.

There will be an evolving programme of events over the year, which we are inviting EVERYONE to get involved in. This is your opportunity to set up your own event. If it is badged as part of the South Norwood District of Culture we will add it to our programme and help you to publicise it.

Keep your eyes open for future updates. Follow South Norwood Tourist Board on Facebook and Twitter @SN_TouristBoard. Download the logo – and “Don’t think about it, Do it!”

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46308153_10160835677215411_6670784483630776320_oNever have we felt so proud to be a part of the South Norwood community as we did on Wednesday night. Over 300 people turned out to show that half a dozen half-wits with a cardboard box do not speak for us.

The media like to look for leaders and talk about organisers, but Wednesday nights silent march in solidarity with Grenfell was a result of the spontaneous mass outpouring of feeling across the community that something had to be done – and the people of South Norwood got out there and made it happen.

It was a sombre event but it was also a beautiful event. To be surrounded by so much love and solidarity is a reminder of what humanity can and should be. So many different people helped out, doing what they could. It showed what we are capable of as a community when we come together.

It was small mindedness, self-interest and spite that led to the terrible events of Grenfell. The idea that some people’s lives are somehow worth less than others. We will not forget those who died because someone thought that it was “reasonable” to cut corners; because our leaders put fiscal “prudence” before prudence with people’s lives.

We will continue to stand in solidarity with Grenfell. We will stand with them in their fight for justice. As long as it takes.

And maybe one day we will live in a world where lives matter more than spreadhseets. The people of North Kensington and now the people of South Norwood have shown that many of us already do. Perhaps one day our leaders will too.

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Stands With Grenfell

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Storm In A Chip Shop

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Port in a storm? (Photo by Learning Lark)

Last week a throw away comment on social media regarding the relative pricing of fish and chips in pubs caused quite a stir. We were accused of being negative. “Why are you talking down local businesses?” we were asked, “Surely the point of the tourist board is to promote business in the area?”

Indeed we have promoted businesses in the area. When people have made thinly veiled complaints about the number of barbers and chicken shops in the area we have been happy to celebrate South Norwood as the place where you can get a good haircut, a bellyful of chicken and still go home with change in your pocket. We celebrate South Norwood in all its wonderful diversity.

We also aim to be inclusive – which is why, to date, we have never charged a penny for any of the events we have organised. We understand that businesses operate in a different environment and that they might have different strategies to achieve their bottom line. We also understand from the proposed strike action by Wetherspoon’s staff that cheap beer and food can often be bought on the backs of the workers. But we also know people in the local community who genuinely can’t afford to come out and drink with us; wonderful community spirited people who we would happily stand a few drinks for – but if they can’t afford to buy a round they won’t come.

It is a difficult knot to untangle. Capital poisons the relationships of all it touches. Pubs in particular like to be seen as more than businesses; the centre of the community. We love a pub. We love our community. It is the people who are the heart of South Norwood. From the outset, we have been clear with pubs about our belief in inclusive pricing structures. We know this is just one of many pressures that pubs face, especially independents. We will continue to support them all to the best of our ability (and capacity) – but we make no apologies for also encouraging businesses to consider the whole community. We might be the tourist board but no-one should feel like a tourist in their own community – not unless it’s part of our grand plan to make everyday a holiday – for everyone.

Velázquez_-_El_Triunfo_de_Baco_o_Los_Borrachos_(Museo_del_Prado,_1628-29)

The Triumph of Bacchus by  Diego Velázquez

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All Aboard!

Trip Around South Norwood

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