This sort of co-operation is part of the park’s philosophy. Healey explains: "The council can’t do everything by itself and the community can’t do everything by itself. We have to work together."
Priory Park is a Victorian park in Crouch End — which is one of the most diverse areas of north London. Around the park there are £1m houses and the area also has some of the toughest estates in London.
"We like to think that the park brings everyone together,"
says Healey. "It’s a lovely safe place and we bring everyone in. There is plenty of provision for young and old, there are areas where youngsters can learn to ride bikes, there are lots of formal-bedding areas and there is a great organic café.
People respect the park and there is very little graffiti and vandalism. We like to crowd out potential crime."
The local authority has invested in the park — for example, repairs are done swiftly, new bike racks have been installed, seasonal bedding has been retained and two dedicated ‘park force’ rangers have been employed to tidy up and liaise with the public.
The park has encouraged a wide variety of users. There are regular bulb planting sessions, run with volunteers and local primary schools. And one of the local secondary schools uses the Philosopher’s Garden — a quiet area — for outdoor lessons. There are ‘Pushy Mums’ keep fit classes and every Wednesday a young man with a guitar leads young mothers in a sing-along.
"If you want to be peaceful, you can be peaceful," says Healey. "Everybody has their favourite bit."
The council will not allow commercial organisations to rent the park. "We get loads of requests from fairs and other events, but we allow only two events — the Fun Run and Carters Steam Fair. This is what local people want," says Healey. As a result of meeting local needs, the park is incredibly popular. "Last weekend it was very sunny. You could hardly find a blade of grass to sit on," according to Healey.
There is a very active friends group. But, more importantly, there is even a borough-wide forum of 36 friends groups, from most of the parks across the borough. This has forced the parks high up the political agenda. Healey concludes: "We support this kind of organisation. It means that the parks are really cared for and respected and that’s good for everyone."
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