Ram FM

When I blogged the other week about the Palestine/Israeli problem getting worse I didn’t even imagine then that it could get as bad as it is. But this morning just as I was going into Brixton station I caught, on my iPOd, the beginning of a piece on the Today Programme on a relatively new radio station, Ram FM and for the first time in days I can see something that might, possibly create something good over there.

One of the big problems in any area where there is conflict is the difficulty of getting a balanced view of what is going on. Even when there is access to balanced programming it is perceived by many as unbalanced – note the number of complaints that go into the BBC of equal number that accuse the BBC of being either anti-Semitic or pro-Israeli in their coverage. Ram FM is trying to be different; it is reaching out to Israeli’s and Palestinians using pop music and balanced news bulletins.

It was started up by a South African company that did a similar thing in the dying days of apartheid. And it seems to be working with listeners from both communities. One of the most important messages that I took away from the LIBG Fringe Meeting on Palestine last year was the need, in order to create peace, the people had to start seeing each other as human beings. Changing habits, getting the kids to stop throwing stones at each other in the street, as they do in the West Bank, is a pre-requisite of not a dividend from peace.

I am in awe of those like Ram FM who get in and start doing the right stuff on the ground. It is small, things may get worse before they get better but someone somewhere is trying to reconcile ordinary people to each other.

It is hard though even to attempt to look positive; a Bedouin friend was visiting his family farm last week, which is on the main road from Egypt to Israel in north Sinai. He tells me that the guns, tanks and explosions from Gaza made his family house shudder. They have there own problems. Egypt, so often portrayed as a benevolent host of peace talks in the Middle East is particularly harsh on the Bedouins in north Sinai. there have been demostrations against the governemnt and he tells me there are so many Bedouin in prison now from the north, they are literally full up.

As I write to my friend, telling him how worried I am about Gaza and how sad it makes me, he replies that I must stop worrying about the whole world; that this is the life and that it is only by seeing the evil that you can understand the good. I can even see in my mind his shoulders being shrugged!

Crystal Palace Park: the masterplan

I went to a very interesting meeting at the Penge Forum on the LDA masterplan for Crystal Palace Park last night.

The plans for the park look really exciting – I’m particularly interested in the ‘rooms’ and tree planting at the top space (where the park is all scrubby and horrible now), the removal of the massive car park which is just a honey pot for car thieves and vandals at the moment but most of all by the Energy Towers, the glasshouses which might have a cafĂ© in them and the tree top walk around my end of the park. I am intrigued by the idea of removing the fencing from the park and having it open, a la Blackheath, but only if it is adequately policed. I’m a little disappointed about the vagueness of the plans for the sports centre; the only mention of the Olympics that was made that there would be more money available afterwards and nothing about the potential for the site to be used as a training ground.

If we can get all this funded, it will be so exciting. It will make the park a local, regional and national resource. Such things as the energy towers and the tree top walkway would bring in international tourists – it could become a stop of the London mini-break trail and that would help not just the CP triangle but the economies and high streets of Penge, Anerley and Sydenham as well.

Of course, there is a possible price to pay in that a potential funding stream of £12m will mean that 1 acre of land where the current caravan club is (currently taking up about 4 acres) will have flats built on it and another three blocks of flats will be built on the site of the St John’s Ambulance building and the Rangers big ugly shed on Crystal Palace Park Road. My concern is that some of this land is technically Metropolitan Open Land and then the whole ‘thin end of the wedge’ turns into a slippery slope and before we know it there’ll be no park land at all. If I am honest, the land they are looking to build on is not parkland at the moment, is not really providing good value to Londoners and local people – I just wish it wasn’t MOL.

Frankly I won’t be sorry to see the Caravan site go – far from being any sort of resource for local people it has always seemed to me to be filled with tourists from outside of London getting straight on the No3 bus and heading into town. I’m not sure they spend any money in the CP triangle and certainly not in Sydenham or Penge!

If we can fund the improvements without building the flats then so be it, but only today, there has been discussion on the radio about the affordability of housing and the desperate shortage which is most acutely felt in London. I think, frankly, that more housing would be a better resource for London than a caravan park. I suspect the conclusion that I am coming to is that the land under question should not really be designated as MOL.

But what frustrated and irritated me most was the internecine warfare and arguments between the various groups claiming to represent various residents and interests, who took up half the audience and the vast majority of questions. Most of which were not questions but rants that they’d already given in a meeting the previous Friday and seemed to be concentrating on arguments that went on around who really defeated the multiplex and with how little money i.e. the past!!!! So, I only got time to ask a question on security measures if the park was opened up (as I chair the Crystal Palace Safer Neighbourhoods Residents Panel, it was my priority) and no time for a question about how we could contribute as a training ground for the Olympics.

Crystal Palace Park has been waiting for redevelopment for 80 years, let’s look to the future and please, please let’s get on with it!!!

Stranger Danger

It is not every day that I agree with Anne Atkins but I agreed with her absolutely on the Today programme this morning in discussion with Esther Ransom. It was following The Children’s Society findings that although many of today’s adults were allowed out for unsupervised play as children they are not giving their own children the same freedoms.

Anne’s argument was that this approach is illogical because children are at no higher risk of stranger danger than we were ourselves, the risk that our children won’t learn independence and grow up is far higher than anything untoward; that parks are in fact safe places. Esther Ransom’s argument in return was that letting children out wasn’t worth it because you would feel very bad if it turned out to be your child (one of the approximately 12 a year) that was killed by stranger.

This, I find an entirely parent rather than ‘child centric’ view from Esther Ransom, it is incredibly selfish, not to mention illogical.

Firstly, it should not be how the parent feels about something that is important; it is about what is best for the child. So a parent worries; well, big deal, that’s part of being a parent and it is not right to try and deal your own fear by attempting to remove any risk to your children. There is risk in life and there is a balance.

And that is why it is illogical to be so fearful of stranger danger when in fact more children are killed by their carers, by being in a car or by accidents at home than by strangers. And yet, we ignore all that and harm their development by keeping them tied to our apron strings until they are 14. There is no balance in that.

It seems to me that we have got too used to being able to control so much that we are unable to cope with the ambiguity and lack of control in providing our children with the freedom they need to develop,

When I was 9 or 10 I had a friend that I used to go out to play with and we would maybe come back for lunch or maybe at the end of the day. I was probably always pretty independent but it gave me a belief in my ability to negotiate my way through life that has been the most valuable thing in my life. From an early age I have travelled all over the UK and all over the world, taking sensible precautions but never in fear. I really do feel for the teenagers, that I know, whom are not even allowed to go on an hours journey by themselves because of their parents’ rather than their own fears.

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