Cllr Paul Smith, Labour councillor for Holloway ward, writes about the transformation coming to Caledonian Park following a ground-breaking ceremony last week.

Work has begun to improve the Cally Clock Tower in Caledonian Park, including the building of a new heritage centre and café.

The scheme will benefit the local community with –

  • The Tolpuddle Café -; including an interior depicting the historic struggle to free workers;
  • Community volunteer facilities, an education room and much needed toilets;
  • A restored Clock Tower, with public access to the tower’s panoramic views of London.

The project demonstrates and celebrates the power of local people to achieve change, and to deliver a transformational project for the local neighbourhood.

People achieving change – In Caledonian Park in 1834, 150,000 people rallied to free the six men from the village of Tolpuddle who had been transported to Australia for being trade union members. It has been said that the demonstration was the first successful political demonstration in the world, with the sight of so many well organised people forcing the Government of the day to return the six men from Australia. This proud history will be marked in the new Tolpuddle Café.

Changing the local neighbourhood – When I was first elected as a local councillor in 2006, the park was underutilised by the public because of a reputation for anti-social behaviour and having very few facilities. Many people who lived in the surrounding estates had never been to the park and, quite frankly, had no reason to. Holloway’s Labour councillors have worked hard to change this and the project is the final step in achieving change in the neighbourhood.

In the future the park will have a full time ranger and CCTV to provide a feeling of safety for those who want to visit. People will be able to take their children to play knowing there are well maintained toilets. Local people will have a reason go in the park with friends and family to enjoy the panoramic views, as well as the fascinating interior of the Clock Tower itself. Volunteers will be encouraged to become involved in the park through volunteer facilities and programmes supported by a ranger and dedicated staff.

Getting people to enjoy the second largest park in Islington will be transformational to the lives of local people.

The emphasis on the park’s rich local history also includes its role as London’s cattle market, and the place where the world’s first four and half minute mile was run. By helping people to learn that the place where they live is where important things happen, and that it is people like them make them who make them happen, we will be giving them a new sense of pride in their community.

If people learn that they too can make history by affecting change, that would be truly transformational. 

Pictured – Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Cllr Paul Smith and Cllr Rakhia Ismail breaking ground at Caledonian Park. 

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