thumbnail_KOVE new Logo single Oct 2020_

Community Benches

- a KOVE history 

 

A cornerstone of KOVE’s philosophy is that community benches are vitally important to local residents. Benches offer respite to people in need of a rest whilst out and about and also aid the independence of those with limited mobility. They are symbols of a caring neighbourhood.  Consequently, lobbying for benches became one of KOVE's earliest campaigns.

 

Feedback from our consultation with older Kilburn residents in 2003 showed a significant number wanted a rest whilst out shopping on Kilburn High Road (KHR). Later, when an application for a community grant from Camden Council to install three benches on KHR succeeded, it proved a galvanising moment. We started to become an organisation that could get things done.

 

Once installed the benches proved very popular, although there were always sceptics – fears of attracting anti-social behaviour and 'street drinkers' falling asleep full length on the seats! These worries were countered by choosing benches with arm rest dividers and placing them in busy visible areas. Consultation with local community groups, residents’ associations and partnership with community safety and local police officers ensured support for bench facilities. On the whole, KOVE’s benches on KHR have survived a challenging two decades of drama: two were stolen (replaced) and one vandalised (restored).

 

The installation of a bench is a long process; it can take several years from the beginning until agreement and permissions are given. KOVE is currently trying to negotiate with Brent and Camden councils to install three more on Kilburn High Road. Funding was awarded by Brent in 2018 but Covid social distancing considerations have had a severe impact on both councils’ plans for KHR, increasing the usual delays.

 

KOVE has twelve benches in Kilburn and West Hampstead: three on KHR on the Camden side; one at Shoot Up Hill; two at West End Lane; one on Hemstal Road; two at West Hampstead Thameslink Station, and one on Finchley Road - plus several refurbished benches at West End Green.

Three KOVE benches - left: dedicated to 'Efes' cafe owner, KHR, 2018; centre: members test Amberol bench, April 2019 (both Lynda Stuart); right: West Hampstead Thameslink station, February 2019 (Anna Bowman)

Benches on film

A short film made was made in 2016 by local filmmaker Anna Bowman, Behind the Scenes, about the launch of a KOVE bench at West Hampstead Thameslink Station: https://vimeo.com/175567232

 

KOVE's film Living Seats https://koveweb.wordpress.com/livingseats tells the story of our bench campaigns and KOVE's Bench to Bench walks programme  is based on visiting places of interest and being able to have a rest en route.

Our most recent success

Early in 2020, two KOVE members and West Hampstead residents, Anne-Marie Rivers and Phyllis Young, raised the issue of the disrepair of benches at West End Green. This was reported to Camden, supported by the argument that benches – always required by older people (and others) who need a rest whilst out – was given greater emphasis by COVID restrictions. The need for daily exercise meant places to stop and rest had become essential.  

The project manager of the Green Space Investment programme was persuaded and £50,000 was allocated to West End Green, with refurbishment of benches amongst identified works. Happily, the original ironwork of the old benches was retained and the wood replaced. All credit to Anne-Marie and Phyllis, along with former KOVE Co-ordinator and volunteer, Mel Wright, for making this a council priority.

Left: Anne-Marie, Lynda and Phyllis at West End Green, 2020 (Lynda Stuart); right: KOVE and West Hampstead Amenity and Transport (WHAT) bench at Shoot Up Hill, 2019 (Lydia Shellian-Walker)   

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