Saturday, 7 July 2012

NOLYMPICS: some thoughts on Olympic exclusion

You can smell it but you're not getting any

TfL and London 2012 have issued the following advice to ensure people enjoy ‘the best possible Games-time experience’. Read between the lines:

‘be prepared to wait for several hours and think carefully about bringing small children’
‘For some, it may be better to view the event … on TV at home, with friends, at a pub or local community centre’
‘TfL also repeated its advice to motorists and urged those in road event areas not to get caught out by the road closures necessary to stage the event’
‘Motorists are advised to avoid central London’
‘Don't get caught out - you will not be able to cross the race route by road’
On road event days road closures will be in place from early morning;
Instead, please use public transport, cycle or walk’

What they really mean is –

In K&C, ‘an Olympic borough’ we have had that advice in bucketloads. The tickets are far too expensive for mere mortals so we can’t think of attending. We have the volleyball competition but residents of Earl’s Court are afraid that local transport will be fit to bursting, possibly dangerously so. Many people have no idea how they will get to work.

So what’s in it for the citizens of North Kensington? Well the Council has cut the school sports budget by £750,000 over the past two years, so if any local young people are inspired by watching the Games obediently on telly they can forget it, there’s little or no funding out there to encourage you. There is allegedly a huge programme of performances on Exhibition Road costing a humungous £1m, but you’ll never get there as the buses will be even more log-jammed than usual. Anyway the Council doesn’t seem to want the proletariat down there, as there is nothing on the Council website to let you know what’s going on. Even residents local to South Kensington have no idea what’s going on right on their doorsteps, so evidently that’s going to be just for tourists too.

And if the poor dears wander up to North Ken to sample the delights of Portobello Market, they will be met with this sign just outside Ladbroke Grove station.

OK not really, but it’s beginning to feel like that.

So is the Council organising any Olympic-themed fun days for residents who can’t afford tickets?

No they are not.

Have they put on any fun events for children to encourage them to get involved in sports?

No they have not.

So what are they doing for the great unwashed masses of N Ken? Well it’s ‘a riotous feast of culture’ called InTransit, comprising ‘artist-led walks, interventions, promenade performances and commissions’, or an ‘unexpected programme of site-responsive events’. You really have to see this:

Apparently they will be taking Grade F polluted water from the canal, parading it around and then throwing it in the Thames.

This is so utterly barmy it not only appeared in our own dear Hornet’s Nest, but also in Private Eye Rotten Boroughs. Some days I am embarrassed to be a Councillor in RBKC, and this was one of them.

You know, I love the arts, and some of the events they are putting on are not bonkers, they are fine. This isn’t an issue about ART. This is an issue about where the Council prioritises its spending in straitened times.

In 2012/13 the Council cut £40,000 from voluntary organisations, over £300,000 from learning disability services, £279,000 from sports for schools (to add to the £500,000 last year), £200,000 from high need adolescents etc etc. Yet they managed to find £1m for ten days of ‘site-responsive events’ on Exhibition Road for tourists, an alleged £30,000 for the launch event party for the select few, and of course the legendary whopping £25m for paving the street – which gets so mucky it needs an extra £175,000 year on special cleaning, which they will need if the ten bars selling booze until late are allowed to open.

My advice to you is, judge the Council not by what they say, but what they do. Their priorities are very clear, and the good people of North Kensington are very far down the list. What is obvious is that there is money to be found for fun activities in the south and middle of the borough, and cuts to be found for the north. The divide between rich and poor in the ‘richest borough in Europe’ is getting wider. Some children go to school hungry, while overpaid executive directors and senior Councillors dream up ever more bizarre ways to spend Council taxpayers’ money ‘saved’ from supporting the vulnerable. This map might give you an indication:

Two Years of Brutal Cuts

A group of local churches, Faith in the City, will be holding an Olympic-themed event for children on Friday 27th at Emslie Horniman Park with stalls and games. I’m sure it will be lovely. For many, it will be the only Olympic event they will experience. In our Royal Borough this is a true reflection of just how much certain people in the Council, elected or employed, care about its poorest residents, and it's shameful.


  1. Louise Ashcroft is a business woman of course not an artist (of"Departure"
    "a London based Charity")
    The imposition of "In Transit" K&C's
    notion of creative events is indeed squirmingly embarrassing in an area of such high density genuine talent ! - all part of the plan I guess to tidy up and make bland and hand to PR / corporate control - with whom these girls sadly collude ! (Fritha Jenkins, ex-Goldsmiths should know better!
    "a large boat shaped vessel"(Boris?)

  2. her backer was Valad- real estate group (naturally) But her shenanigans with other peoples lives has got her a place at RCA for Sculpture this year ! wonder how she can afford that ? !

  3. Actually, we didn't get any funding for Vessel - we spent our own money on it. The borough just kindly agreed to add us to the press releases and website they were doing anyway. Private Eye should have done more research. I do think, Emma, you raise some important points on this blog but this one is factually inaccurate. Fellow commenter d.mcardle sounds quite bitter. I suppose you're right that I have an entrepreneurial outlook, but I'm rewarded by art not money. Through my freelance work curating Departure's projects I help out hundreds of great artists by giving them free studio and exhibition space, which means I get to work with some really amazing people - this is enough reward for me. Never been much of a money-maker unfortunately - some business acumen would definitely help me pay the extortionate RCA fees! x

  4. Apologies for passing on inaccurate information from the Council, who told us this was part of their £70,000 programme, so we had no reason to doubt them.

    I do stick by my comments Louise, sorry, it's about priorities, and I think school sports and physical activities for children are more important at this moment.

    One local landlord is threatening to demolish a children's playground on the very day the Olympics opens, and the Council is so far refusing to stop them.

    This says it all, no further comment necessary.


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