IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

‘Regardless of money raised, Bandstand is coming down’

Mums slam Town Hall over plans to axe home of popular ‘stay and play’ service in Highbury Fields

14 February, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

Highbury Bandstand users, from left, Teresa Jeakins, Vicky Lawson and son Alfie, and Emma Dumbelton with her daughter Harper

MOTHERS who have used a “stay and play” service in Highbury Fields for generations have lashed out at the council as Town Hall chiefs confirmed this week that no matter how much money is raised the Highbury Bandstand will not be restored.

Sam Parrington and Lorraine O’Leary, who are the club’s only paid staff members at the council-owned building, put together a crowdfunding page last week after they were told by council officers that regenerating their building would be too expensive and that it was to be demolished. Their popular One O’Clock Club will have to move into a nearby church hall.

The pair say that this will effectively kill off the stay and play service as it has been for the past 50 years, offering a lifeline to families from lower-income backgrounds, as they will be unable to supplement the council funding they receive by sub-letting the building.

Ms Parrington and Ms O’Leary said they cannot afford to continue running the service if they have to split nine hours of paid work between them a week, as the council is proposing.

The Bandstand at Highbury Fields

The council has now slammed the door shut on the Bandstand’s plans to crowdfund whatever money is needed to make regeneration a possibility.

Blackstock Road mother-of-two Vicky Lawson, who was brought to the bandstand as a child by her parents, said: “It’s so upsetting. There are no other places around here like this. The others charge an extortionate amount for an hour. You can come in here and there have been times where I don’t have the money to pay and they say don’t worry about it. I don’t understand how the council can’t see how im­portant this place is to us?”

Madeleine Aimee Niel, another parent, said: “This is a hugely valued part of our community. Sometimes as a new mum you just don’t know what to do with your child or where to go but it’s always been amazing to have the bandstand. I’ve met lovely people and my son always finds a friend there. Now him and my nephew love coming together. We also hired it out for a party and would love to do so again. The proposed plans would in no way match what we have available now.”

The council has grouped the Bandstand together with the Oasis café and park-keeper’s hut as buildings in need of refurbishment. They all stand in close proximity at the north-west section of the park.

Sam Parrington and Lorraine O’Leary

But as the Tribune revealed last week, the council have decided to plough money into regenerating and expanding the café service and they are now fundraising for this project.

Ms O’Reilly said: “If the council can raise money to rebuild the café, why can’t they help us with our fundraising for the bandstand?”

Mother-of-two Emma Dumbleton, who lives in Hornsey Rise, said: “Lorraine and Sam provide amazing support. I’m not with the dad, and they gave me the support I needed when I wasn’t feeling confident.”

Teresa Jeakins, who has brought about 30 children to the Bandstand over 10 years as a childminder and mother of two, said: “I live around this area and work with a lot of families. Wealthier families have plenty of groups they can join, but the money they ask for makes that impossible for many families around here. These parents struggle and I always tell them about the Bandstand. They need this place.”

Ms Parrington and Ms O’Leary have said that they will continue to crowdfund in case the council changes its mind on whether they will support the Bandstand.

The council declined the opportunity to comment.

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