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St Joseph’s gets a homely makeover

Who’s been making the news round your way this week?

20 January, 2017 — By Gabe Evans

Father Pat Fitzgerald: ‘It was a dirty dark green before’

THE main hall at St Joseph’s Church at the top of Highgate Hill has undergone a near £300,000 refurbishment. The walls, pillars, windows and beautiful organ have been restored and repainted in white, beige and gold, illuminating the grand space in its full glory. “It was a dirty dark green before, that had been there for around 63 years,” said Parish Priest Father Pat Fitzgerald. “Even just having the windows cleaned on the inside made such a huge difference.” In the process, which has been going on since early September, a motif from the church’s early days was uncovered. On the right interior wall, a Symbol of the Passions, The Crown of Thorns, now looks over the pew. Despite the fairly mediocre workmanship, it nonetheless reveals some of the church’s history. Built in 1878, St Josephs was and remains a Passionist Church – a faction of Catholicism which places emphasis on the Passion of Jesus – symbols of which take their most elegant form at the top of the pillars. However, Fr Pat explains that the uncovered Crown of Thorns was most probably done by Brothers layman – explaining the amateur craftwork – in the 19th century and at one point would have even covered the floors. The refurbishment has been welcomed by the church’s 2000-strong congregation. “They have been overwhelmingly happy,” says Father Pat “it’s now warm, bright and homely”.

Many happy returns, Mr IBC!

Ron Hagland with his grandson Reggie and son Lenny

RON Hagland, one of the founding members of Islington Boxing Club, celebrated his 85th birthday on Sunday. A former soldier in the Army Ordnance Corps – now known as the Bomb Disposal Unit – Ron originally started the club with six others in the mid-1970s. Within the space of about a month, however, one of his partners had died and four others dropped out, leaving Ron to earn a name for himself as Mr IBC. The legacy of the club, which remains a cornerstone of the community, has stayed within the family – Ron’s son and grandson, Lenny, 52, and Reggie, 25, continue to manage it. “We were brought up around the Club you know,” said Reggie. “It has been his life.” Despite suffering from various health issues over the years, including a stroke and heart attack, Ron – who also had a scrap metal business in Stoke Newington – has remained active in the running of IBC beyond his retirement 16 years ago. “I’ve just loved it really,” he said. “It’s all the reward I ever wanted out of life.” “When boys become grown men and say to you with tears rolling down their face, ‘thanks for all you’ve done for me Ron’… well, I’m welling up now just thinking about it.” Ron has helped many young boys in the area turn themselves around and keep away from trouble. He grew up during the Blitz next to Pentonville Prison, leaving school at 14, and he feels a lot of the lads thought he had something to teach them about the “rough road”. One boy in particular, who Ron preferred not to name, even went off to the London Olympics. “I turned him around marvellous” he said. “And now he still calls me on my birthday!” Though the IBC’s days of weekend discos to raise money for it maintenance in the 1980s may be over, Ron can safely say that the club’s community spirit and success continues. “I’m just please I’ve got to 85!” he says.

Algorithms can be amazing fun

St Mary’s Primary School pupils at the Emirates Stadium at the annual Celebration of Computing

AMID the 400 pupils from Islington who filled the Emirates Stadium last Friday for the fifth annual Celebration of Computing – the UK’s largest education technology showcase – were six lucky students from St Mary’s Primary School. Beau, Israel, Millie, Isabelle, Charlotte and Saheel had worked hard over Christmas constructing an algorithm for an Amazing Algorithm competition set by Holly Kennedy, computing leader at St Mary’s. Tested on their first day back at school, the six best entries secured their place at the Emirates event, where 30 schools were able to show off their technological skills and creations. “The children all had a brilliant time at the event and they even had a special mention from BT for their hard work,” said Miss Kennedy. The budding geniuses even had the quickest time on the robot programming challenge. “It was a great time,” said Year 4 pupil Israel Abbas. “I hope we go there again. We spent a long time programming a robot car and we tested it many times to get around a track.”

Joe’s protest to build bridges

Joe Sutherland. Photo: Helen Alazhar

REGULAR Angel Comedy Club stand-up Joe Sutherland, 28, has been doing his part for the many protest actions taking place this weekend in response to Donald Trump’s inauguration. Over the past two weeks, Joe has been busy banner-making at the Greenpeace UK headquarters in Canonbury Villas for the Bridges Not Walls UK movement, part of a global banner drop taking place this morning (Friday) from 8am across more than 120 bridges worldwide. Turning one of Trump’s election campaign pledges – to build an 1000 mile wall along the US border with Mexico – on its head, nine bridges along the River Thames will display messages from many social groups in a demonstration of solidarity and defiance. Although Joe’s dry humour at the Angel Comedy Club certainly has a political edge and he has been on a number of protests before, this will mark his first involvement in organised activism. “I suppose I felt a sort of queasiness in reaction to the seemingly very rapid rise of the far right which I couldn’t ignore,” he said. “I think it’s very easy to feel a bit hopeless or nihilistic at the moment…but I think the message of this project – which includes all sorts of people – can help that. It is not intended to stick a plaster on anything but be the first step in a much larger movement”. Joe will be part of the LGBTQ+ team on Vauxhall Bridge, dropping the banner “Queer Solidarity Smashes Borders”. To find out more visit https://bridgesnotwalls.uk/. Joe’s next show at the Angel Comedy Club is on January 27.

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