Northumberland Park isn't one of the major areas of Tottenham, and neither is it somewhere that many people would ever travel into the area to visit, but that's not for any negative reason – it's simply an area where housing dominates. Unless you know someone who lives there there is no reason to visit. Save for a few local shops and African churches dotted around the area, it's about 98% purpose built houses and maisonettes. It stretches from Landsdowne Rd to the South, up to the White Hart Lane stadium in the North, from Tottenham High Rd in the West, to the Tottenham Marshes in the East. It is the area that studio owners Francesca and Jimmy moved to from 2004 – 2006, and as we touched upon in another blog post, it is an area where high quality housing is much cheaper than most areas.
I have personally been in about 40-50 different properties in the surrounding areas, (while property hunting) and to my mind Northumberland Park has the best quality and best value housing in the area, by quite a way. And I mean by quite a way!! A few of the bands that use us live there, and for good reason. Firstly the maisonettes were built back in the Victorian and Edwardian eras when properties were not built to such stringent costs. They are also purpose built, as opposed to being converted from a house into a flat, so everyone gets their own front door and entrance to the garden. The gardens are big, and parking is plentiful. If you were looking at having a nice home in Tottenham and the quality of housing was more important than other factors, my advice would be to gravitate towards this area.
Look at some of the photos that are dotted around this page: all of these properties are based in Northumberland Park. These are properties from an era when people sat down and thought “How can we build properties that, as a result of living in them, will actually improve the quality of people's lives?” Naturally, all properties will increase the quality of someone's life from the point of view of having somewhere to call home, but having your own front door, having a lot more space to move around in, a large back and front garden, good storage, high ceilings, good soundproofing, ceiling roses and cornicing, open fire places, ample parking, and huge windows that let light flood in are all features that many of today's architects seem to have forgotten about. There is an abundance of schools and churches in the area, as well as lots of local shops. There are no huge supermarkets here, you have to do to Bruce Grove for that. There are alleyways running behind houses, such as the gothicly titled Carbuncle Passage, harking back to a day when such passages were used to hang washing up, as well as being a handy way to deliver coal to residents coal bunkers instead of traipsing it though the house. Sure, by today's standards such features waste space, but they are handy for wheelie bins and bicycles no doubt. And ultimately, any space that is handy to the people who live there can hardly be called a waste.
I have touched upon it in the above link to the previus blog post, and I still passionately feel that Northumberland Park is simply crying out for it's own tube station. (A mock up tube station map with the hypothetical station is below- thanks to http://www.brucecastlenews.com for the image) In short, there are already train sheds in Northumberland Park where the Victoria Line trains already go to get cleaned. The tracks are laid, and many people agree with me that if the government/London underground/council were to build an Underground Station there, not only would it create a boost to the local economy, it would reduce traffic, create better transport links to the residents, and also alleviate one of the major headaches that Tottenham Hotspur currently has; which is how to shepherd the 60,000 fans per game who will come to the new ground via public transport. Traffic can be bad enough as it is, and with the current stadium, which has 35,000 or so people at every game, it can descent into bedlam. Let alone nearly double that amount.
At present there is a mainland train station, which has trains approximately every 30-60 mins; not too bad, but still not up to the usual London standards. The bus routes are good however, with the 476 and the 341 both going to Angel Islington. The 476, which turns into the N76 at night to provide a 24 hour service, runs via Stamford Hill, Stoke Newington and Essex Rd, while the 341, which is also a 24 hour service, goes via Manor House and Green Lanes. Both of these buses merge when they reach Angel tube station, with the 476 going to Euston via Pentonville Rd, and the 341 heading to Waterloo Bridge via Holborn. This was the reason that Jimmy and Francesca moved there. They could get 24 hour access to the city centre, and more space to stretch out, on a budget. For 2 people working as club promoters, with the flat littered with demo CD's and guitars, it was great. Whilst the buses connect the area to great parts of London, they are quite slow journeys during the daytime, especially in the rush hour. It used to take me about 55 mins to get to Old Street when I was attending college there, and a lot of the regulars on the bus would come laden with books and iPods, preparing themselves for a long slog, so expect a long journey. However, many people get the bus to Seven Sisters Tube, and continue from there on the Victoria Line, which is also a good option, and would cut the journey by 20 mins, albeit at an extra cost.
Anyone seeking somewhere for local entertainment would have to travel out of the area to be satisfied. There used to be a pub called The Park right next to Northumberland Park station, but this was closed down to make way for even more housing. Right next to the football stadium there used to be a few pubs, like The Corner Pin, which has now closed down, as well as the Bootlaces, which has also closed down...... Now, if I wanted to, I could list them one by one, going into details for each of them in a journalistic method of dragging the article out, but I won't. The other pubs to close in Tottenham over recent years are **deep breath** The Bull, The Swan, The White Hart, The Robert E Lee, The Eagle, (which then became Eltons, which also closed), The Flower Pot, The Prince of Wales, The Beehive, The Plough, The Tory Club, The Pleasure Rooms, (which, technically, was a strip bar!) The Red Lion, Sam's, The Antwerp Arms, The Milford Tavern, The Pride of the Lane, The Park Tavern, British Queen, The Railway Tavern, The Compasses, The Cockerel Bar, Whitehall Tavern, The Bank, The Bootlaces, The Chequers, The Three Crowns, The Old Globe, The Golden Fleece, The Spurs, The White Hart on Devonshire Hill Lane, The Fox, Dagmar Arms, Poachers, and The Rising Sun.
Yeah, there have been a lot of them. Too many. And to be honest, I have no clue why. At the time when we were living in Tottenham we never had any money to go out to a pub, so we do not know if the pubs closed as they were not very good or for any other reason. Having said that, I have been in many pubs in London that were not great that still stay open, so that can't be the sole reason. Around Seven Sisters station, there does not seem to be many pubs either, and in Stamford Hill, there is a dirge of them.
Part of me thinks that it might be down to the demand of pubs from the local residents. Maybe there is not enough patronage in the area to make a pub viable? Stamford Hill is a mainly Jewish area, so there would be less demand from the Jewish community, but Tottenham has a comparable community to Brixton, and Brixton has a thriving pub scene. Maybe the lower than average wage of the local residents means they have less disposable income to spend in them, hence why the pubs find it so hard to survive? I'm not saying that is definitely the case, but simply musing out loud. It's a strange one. And, by all means maybe having less pubs in the area is a good thing, as maybe it shows that the people within the area have a good sense of priorities.
However, I will say this – Brixton, Bethnal Green and even Soho are all areas that were once seen as reasonably undesirable places to live, with mainly cheaper and in some areas even slum housing, and this void was soon filled with bars which enticed people into the area. Then, when people saw how well these places were located as well as the other good features such as the parks, the amenities and the local bars themselves, they decided to invest in property in the area. Therefore, while bars may not necessarily be used as a barometer of a great area, at least they give people a reason to enter the area and to check it out. If I gave you a list of areas you knew and have been to, and a list of places that you do not know and had not been to, which one are you more likely to move into, whether it be renting or purchasing? The area you know, of course. But in order to know an area you usually need a reason to go there. Apart from Tottenham Hotspur, there is no other real reason to go to Northumberland Park, which means that it is very hard to attract outside investment. And if there is one thing that Tottenham needs, it is outside investment.
Most pub workers are on, or are just above, minimum wage, and the relatively transient nature of the job means that many students are attracted to them. Pubs need cleaners, DJ's, promoters, and many students rank an area highly on it's pub facilities. No pubs in Tottenham means that Tottenham is a no go area for students. And that is the feedback that I have been given by many students that I talk to about the area. “There is nowhere to go out there. If you want a night out, you have to get the tube to Finsbury Park, or Highbury & Islington.” They're right , you know. A pub is not just somewhere to drink, it is a hub for the community. A place where you can gather in a room with the people who live in the same area as you, and without that it is harder to build up that sense of community. It doesn't even need to be a pub, anything will do. Tottenham has no cinema. No music venue, no bowling alley, no ice rink, no youth clubs. If you Goggle “Tottenham Youth Club” you get Mulberry Play Centre, which is a Kindergarten. Freedom's Arc, which is a church and The Sea Cadets centre on White Hart Lane - which, to be fair, actually looks great, and I had only just come across just now - but there are no other Youth Centres.
Tottenham, and Northumberland Park in particular, desperately needs a youth centre as a focus for the young people in the area. I'm not talking about a place with multi million pound backing, just a simple youth club. A big room with an XBOX and a TV in the corner, a few pool tables, a gym to one side with some punching bags, some dumbbells, a soundsystem with some decks set up where kids can practice D'jing, a few drumkits and guitars, sofas, WiFi and a shelter from the elements. Just a place where kids can sit, listen to music, and not bother anyone. If you're an adult and you want to meet up with some friends in a large group, where do you go? The pub, a restaurant, someones house, al of them are great locations for a get together. Now consider this. At your work you may have 40-50 people there, and you may get on with half of them enough to socialise with them. At an average school, there can be from 200 – 1000 students, and young people build up relationships at a rate that would put adults to shame.
When was the last time you saw 40 adults playing the same game of football? Never - but kids do it all the time. In terms of the size of their social circle, adults look like loner hermits compared to kids. My cousin, who is 17, has 3,200 Facebook friends. I asked him how many he knows, and he said that he knows all of them - “I mean, if I saw them in the street I would wave at them and stop to chat for a minute, if that's what you mean.” I barely know 500 people, and even that is stretching it. If these kids want to go out and socialise as part of a group, where can they go? Pubs won't let them in. They can't talk during a film, so the cinema is out. They can't afford to go to a football game, with £60 tickets. There are no local museums. If they went to a restaurant when they finished their meal they would be kicked out. Restaurant owners can't have someone occupying a table for 5 hours for one meal. So where do kids go? The park? The street corner? If that do that, they will instantly be derided as a group that is “trouble making” “a gang” or “ causing a nuisance.” I cannot think of anywhere that I would go if I were 16 years old without annoying adults by doing so.
Here's a crazy idea: Maybe, just maybe, they want to socialise, you know, like “normal” people do, but they don't have anywhere where they can do it? They can't do it around someone's house, as it is hard to get 40 kids in a terraced house's sitting room. And if they have so many friends, why should they not be able to socialise with them all at the same time? Do they not have this right? A place to meet, listen to loud music, chill out and discuss the issues that are affecting the day, at a time in their life when these issues come up a lot more regularly, and with a lot more intensity then at any other stage in their life. Like a night club, without the drinks? One of the reasons that music concerts, theatre, nightclubs and the cinema are such big business is because adults like to let their hair down and blow off a bit of steam. As a society, we have set places aside for adults, yet we have not done the same for our youth. For shame! I'm not saying that the current generation does not care for it's youth, but I can certainly see where young people get that idea from.
Some people say that adults can lay on a space for "structured relaxation". Football academy's, keep fit clubs and groups where "kids can learn in a fun environment", but here's the thing; As an adult, there are times that I finish a long working week and the last thing I want is anything structured. I just want to park myself in front of the television, and waste a few hours. I want to just have somewhere that I can be left alone, to do what I want to, even if that is nothing!! There are some days when a dream day is watching the football scores come in on the television on a Saturday. A day like that can be great. Not all the time, mind, just sometimes, and we can all relate to that. Maybe kids feel the same way? Maybe they just want to sit down somewhere and be left alone for a few hours, where they do not have to do something that is so structured? These are people that have a timetable for their whole week. "English at 9am, History at 10:30am, Science at 11:50am. Exams on this day, a field day on this day....." Even at home, they have homework, etc. "Structure, structure, structure". I think structure is great, to a point, but there comes a time you need to set time aside to just give people breathing space. A place to switch your mind off. Adults have it, it's called a pub; a football game; a holiday; their own flat. Kids have less choice. In Tottenham, they have none.
On the other side of the coin, if kids do want to get together, they still need a distraction. Something to do to break up the monotony, especially seeing as kids have a notoriously short attention span. Leave a kid somewhere with no distractions and they will get into mischief. (Hell, a lot of adults without distractions will get into trouble!) Setting aside a place where they can relax, and have the option of things to do, without being forced to do them, can be a great way to reduce "anti-social behavior"- another name for meeting in public to chat to their friends. Which, when I do it with my friends, is called "a night out", but when kids do it, is called "loitering". Maybe we should set a place aside where they can "loiter," without disturbing anyone?
When I was 15, I was in the same situation. There was nothing to do in my area. No youth clubs at all. Wherever we went as a group we were moved on, told to be quiet, and told to be respectful of our elders. I am of the opinion that respect is too precious a commodity to be distributed like confetti. For it to be truly valued, it needs to be earned, like anything in life. In fact, there is an irony in the fact that adults believe that today's youth should automatically respect them – if adults want respect, maybe they have to earn it? And when today's society values kids so little that they will not even provide them somewhere to meet up, and socialise, face to face, it is no wonder that so much of the youth of today are so glued to their computer and Facebook. I remember a period of time during the 1998 Football World Cup when me and my school friends used to go down to some old derelict changing rooms in Gladstone Park, Cricklewood, as there was nowhere else we could go without being told off, or made to feel like a nuisance. In truth, all we wanted was somewhere to chew the cud and socialise. One of us bought a stereo, and we would add chip in for D batteries to power it. Long hours passed listening to The Beatles Red and Blue Albums, Oasis's “(What's the Story) Morning Glory?” Blur's “Parklife” and Supergrass's "In It For The Money." Pretty soon, with no supervision, people started bringing drink in the form of White Lightning, ThunderBird and Blue Nun.
This was followed by drugs, in the form of LSD, Hash and Amphetamines. You get 30 kids in a room together and they will have fun, but soon some of them get bored. When this happened with us, girls and boys in the group used to pop off to the individual showers to have sex with each other. One day, a man in his 40's came around giving out free samples of “Smack”, as he called it. Heroin. Thankfully, we all avoided it. (Ironically enough, we had learned about "Smack" the year before in the film Trainspotting. All of the characters in that film that took heroin either died, or went to prison, whereas the main character that got clean ended up being the hero. Based on that alone, it made sense to avoid it. Looking back, it sends a chill up my spine that we were in that situation. I actually had to give up playing guitar for 3 months when I had my fingers on my left hand were broken in 5 places by a man who came to rob us, armed with a crowbar. I wasn't a tearaway kid. I was just bored. I literally had no-where to go. I couldn't afford to go anywhere as I did not have a job. When I started working as a butcher on the 16th birthday, I could afford to go to a boxing club in Golder Green with my wage, but before that, I had little money, and little choice.
I can't help but feel that if young kids had somewhere they could go to socialise, under a roof, where they can be as loud as they want without a cover charge, in a safe environment with adults watching over them from afar, then maybe they would not be so bored, so frustrated, so angry and so disillusioned that they might.......... I don't know........ go on a rampage and start a riot in the area. Their parents could call up the Youth Club to make sure that their kids are there, and not on a street corner. Many people say, “the thing with kids these days, is that they don't care about their community” In fact, the problem with kids these days is that they do not feel part of their community. They feel that their community does not care about them, and is it any wonder – how can you belong to an area where you literally do not have somewhere designated for you to go to meet friends? No place set aside to relax. Maybe when the people with the power in this area decide to set funds and space aside for the kids of this area to have a place for themselves, maybe the kids in this area will start to build up respect for the area and the people within it. Maybe the problem is that adults think that respect is an automatic right? They want respect from the local youth, but what are they giving them in return? Despite Northumberland Park being one of the cheapest areas in London housing prices are still way out of control, and so many children are being born into a world where the basic expectations of the baby boomer generation - of one day owning you own home and having relative job security - are but a pipe dream, and that is not their fault. Considering the the current generation who is running the country caused this situation, is it any wonder that children have such a lack of respect for them? I don't blame them, not one bit. Respect should never be automatic, it needs to be earned, and maybe now it the time for the local government to earn it. It is not as if there are not enough possible locations - they could just pick one of the many derelict pubs.
The Best Parts:
Northumberland Park train station. (If it was turned into a tube station, it would be the best thing in the area by a country mile).
Room For Improvement:
Lack of Tube.
Lack Of Pubs.
Lack of anything but houses.