How phone mast victory sowed seeds of overhaul for unloved Cally patch

Kew Gardens students put designs forward for green space makeover

Friday, 27th May — By Charlotte Chambers

Delia King Eileen Christie Lorraine Riley and Helen Black with Hugo the dog

Delia King, Eileen Christie, Lorraine Riley and Helen Black with Hugo the dog

RESIDENTS off Caledonian Road are looking forward to unveiling plans for a makeover for their once unloved patch of green after they got Kew Gardens post-graduate students to compete over designs for the area.

The residents of the Nailour and Boston estate will reveal the designs next Friday when they host a party for the Queen’s Jubilee at the Frederica Street green space – and when the votes have been counted they will get to work on renovating it.

According to Eileen Christie, who has lived in the area all her life, the road has seen many changes, including once being the location of the famous Ealing comedy film The Ladykillers, starring Alec Guinness.

But in recent years the patch of green was used more as a dogs’ toilet and an area for fly-tipping rather than a beautiful tranquil space to enjoy some calm outside. And she, along with others, felt like it was time to change that.

It all began at the start of lockdown when the community banded together to fight a 5G phone mast – but once they had fended off the telecoms company they decided they enjoyed spending time together outside and wanted to make more of the space.

Since then, they have won funding from the council and have held a series of public events there, including a marquee for the Euros football tournament last year as well as a Halloween party for the children.

Next Friday there will be pony rides, barbecues and bouncy castles to celebrate the Queen’s 70 years of service, but it will also be when residents get the chance to pick the design for their new garden drawn up by the Kew students.

Ms Christie, who used to run The Prince pub on Caledonian Road, said the green space provided a real source of pride for the residents, which she described as “one of the only real communities left” in the area.

It follows on from a deep sense of disquiet for those who appeared in a Channel 5 documentary two years ago that compared the lives of those on either side of Caledonian Road – billed by the TV execs as the “haves and have-nots”.

She said: “Because this has been such a disgusting space, no one’s really taken any notice of what’s going on. But when we can change one space, then we can change all of Islington, in those poorer areas.

“We’re not Barnsbury, you’re not on the other side of the road, but because we’re on this side of the road, people have pride as well.”

Helen Black, also from the estate, said it had been “absolutely amazing” to see the children playing in the space and people getting to know their neighbours better.

Councillor Paul Convery said: “It’s a great example of what every­body in the Cally is doing, which is pulling together to make the Cally a better place – there’s lots the council can do but when residents get involved and do things themselves and nag the council, the place just gets better and that’s everybody’s goal.

“It’s gone through some struggles in the last 10 years but it’s a place that’s bouncing back and it’s a huge boost when residents club together and get things moving themselves.”

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