Friends of Regent's Park

End of Season Review

Andy Locke, Marketing Director of Regent’s Park Theatre gave us a spirited talk about the theatre, its history, dating back to 1932, the challenges it faces and some of the great names who have graced its stage. Robert Helpmann, Lesley Garrett, Felicity Kendall, Judi Dench, Robert Stephens, Michael Gambon to name just a few. Did you know that 50% of its audience live within six miles of the park? That the whole concept of the theatre which is, by the way, the largest in London, is a result of a play written by Mussolini about Napoleon, which was a flop!
How do they cope with daylight, roaring lions or planes, drying costumes soaked by the rain or an actor with hay fever and, worst of all, a wet summer? 2010 was a very successful year with over 130,000 spectators during the 16-week season. The production aimed at children – Macbeth re-imagined - was a real hit and the Comedy of Errors, was its most successful Shakespeare production ever. Andy reminded us that the theatre gets no outside funding, relying on ticket sales, catering and its loyal Members. As we go to press, the programme for next year is still being decided. But we do know that the musical will be Gershwin’s Crazy for You, its first London revival, so get your dancing shoes repaired in anticipation.

Brian Coleman, London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden and member of the Conservative party, talked briefly about the plans to transfer control of the Royal Parks Agency to the GLA, a cause of concern to the Friends. The Queen herself is an interested party as Sovereign owner as it is believed she has said she knows many of the keepers personally. ‘Localism’ is the buzz word. Devolving the Royal Parks to the GLA will be more democratic. ‘Civil servants don’t listen – elected members do’. A reassuring point is that planning laws will still apply and that a board or board of directors will remain.

Full house for Romeo and Juliet at the Regent’s Park Theatre
Full house for Romeo and Juliet at the Regent’s Park Theatre

Proposed move to the GLA

Before the election the Conservative Party stated its intention to transfer The Royal Parks to the Greater London Authority if elected. The coalition government has carried that forward and the tourism and heritage minister, John Penrose, who is also responsible for the royal parks, is in favour of the transfer.
A scoping group for the proposed transfer is being led by the Department for Culture Media and Sport. It includes the GLA, the Department for Communities and Local Government, and TRP – although the proposed change is something for which TRP is not responsible. The process includes looking at the books as the Mayor, Boris Johnson, is insisting on adequate funding.
The transfer is likely to be included in the Localism Bill, which will probably take a year to go through Parliament. The TRP transfer is just a small part of this Bill.
If there are problems with the TRP transfer it is likely to be dropped from the Bill to avoid holding up other measures.
The Olympics complicate the matter somewhat. Transferring any organisation would best happen at the start of a financial year. Given that the first date when the transfer could go ahead after the Localism Bill would most likely be April 2012, which is just before the next election for Mayor and the London Olympics, it is difficult to guess when the transfer would in fact go forward.
Other complications include management of the gardens at No 10 and 11 Downing Street, pension transfers, possible overlapping of responsibilities for state visits and potential awkwardness when the GLA or government are controlled by different political parties.
The Friends’ Chairman, Malcolm Kafetz, attended a meeting between the Forum of Friends’ Chairmen and the GLA whose representative, Anthony Browne, stated that the GLA would not be interested unless the parks were properly funded. At the most recent meeting of the Royal Parks Forum the members were informed that the mayor himself will not be responsible for the Royal Parks as they will be run by a department of the GLA with the result that a change of mayor should have no effect on their administration. Full details will be available when the Localism Bill is made public on 22 December. The meeting was unique in the amount of general agreement.
TRP will keep Stakeholders informed.

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Comprehensive Spending Review

Publicity before the CSR prepared everyone for the 50% reduction in funding for the DCMS. Funding cuts to The Royal Parks will be 36% made up of 25% over and above the 10% already cut this year. Last year TRP received £18.8m government funding and raised an additional £15m on its own account from licenses, eg for catering and events. The projected figure for the year 2014/15 is £13.9m. The capital budget is also being reduced by about 45%. The broad nature of the cuts to public spending in general has buried the significance of the cuts to the Parks in terms of public profile. TRP will want to protect services to the public as far as possible but will not be able to operate at the same level. It may take between six and nine months to establish where the savings will be made and in which year, which is likely to affect much of the valuable work the parks have more recently been delivering including outreach into local communities, education, sport and the arts. In addition, our own workforce across the park will be reduced from 129 to around 100 staff. Seeking alternative sources of income is now an urgent priority, not only for these areas but also for the basic maintenance of both the built and green assets that make The Regent’s Park & Primrose Hill so special.

Nick Biddle, Park Manager

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Frieze Art Fair

Over 60,000 people visited the Fair in Regent’s Park this year and were able to view an extraordinary collection of work exhibited by 173 galleries from all over the world organised by the new curator, Sarah McCrory.
While many considered the showstopper to be Catch me should I fall by Elmgreen and Dragset from the Nicolai Wallner Gallery, Copenhagen, it was after all on the stand nearest the door, (pic 1) my money was on Frozen 2010, the newly-discovered underground Roman city in the course of excavation. Wandering around the stands we would encounter various parts of the dig and from time to time, the archaeologist himself at work! Half Japanese, half English, the artist, Simon Fujiwara, studied architecture at Cambridge, spent time at the Stâdelschule in Frankfurt and became an artist. Now based in Berlin and Mexico City, he was the winner of the Cartier award for this Frieze project. Open to non UK-based artists, the award provides substantial production costs, a fee and a 3-month residency at Gasworks in South London. (pic 2).

Pic1 - catch me
Pic1 - catch me
Pic 2 - Frozen 2010
Pic 2 - Frozen 2010

Pic 3 - ten young men
Pic 3 - ten young men
Pic 4 - Giant eggs
Pic 4 - Giant eggs

Some household names were there – Chris Ofilli with Trump, and Damien Hirst, whose The True Artist helps the world by revealing mystic truths, sold at the private view. If you were lucky you would have caught the weird but hilarious performance art of ten young men wandering around the fair, united by their shame! This was another Frieze project devised by Annika Strôm.(pic 3). Then there was the exhibit from MadeIn, a group of artists formed in Shanghai by Xu Zhen. A work crowded with haunting faces, figures of oriental gods screaming and shouting and a miserable Mickey in the centre, dominated this particular stand. The park itself hosted many more sculptures. I wonder what a genuine guinea fowl would have made of the giant egg by Gavin Turk(pic 4). And so the Frieze came down again after another hugely successful Fair.

Anne-Marie Craven Newsletter Editor

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Meet your committee

Diane Newman

DIANA NEWMAN is the secretary of the Friends of Regent’s Park & Primrose Hill. She took over as minutes secretary in March 1993, when Valerie St Johnston, later Chairman, became correspondence secretary, but she now combines both roles.
Diana was born in Wembley, but spent her childhood in Hastings. During the war the beach there was off limits, and many children were evacuated. However, Diana stayed although it limited her education as only twenty children, of all ages, remained in the school. She returned to London to do a residential secretarial course in Hampstead, and her first job was for the National Farmers’ Union.
For 32 years Diana worked in the classics division of EMI, working mostly for Peter Andry who is himself a member of the Friends. She retains her interest in classical music, enjoying concerts and also visits to the theatre and cinema. In 1990 she married a scientist, Arthur Newman, retired, and came to live in St John’s Wood, hence her interest in the park.
One of Diana’s retirement presents was an electronic typewriter, and for many years she resisted all our Chairman’s efforts to switch to a computer. However, about two years’ ago replacement ribbons for her machine were no longer available, so she was forced to purchase a computer, and took lessons on how to use it from Malcolm and his wife, Anna. Over the past twenty years Diana has seen the Friends expand enormously, although its aims remain the same. She fears that the park is now threatened more than ever, and worries where the money to maintain it will be found. She believes that the park should not be a venue for noisy events, but a quiet place where visitors can 'do their own thing'.

Margaret Elliott

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Camden railway walk

with Peter Darley

The horse hospital
The Horse Hospital now used as a music club

A tour with Camden railway expert Peter Darley is sure to introduce the walker to some unexpected delights and our morning on September 30 was no exception. First we explored the tunnels under the Roundhouse, originally the engine shed for goods locomotives, with the House Supervisor, Mick McGeethe, and then looked at the new build and the amazing theatre where preparations were being made for a concert. We proceeded through the complex of vaults and arches, the Horse Hospital and Stables Yard, causing much interest and amusement to the many shop owners in Camden Market. Dead Dog Hole, the Roving Bridge, the Ice House, Gilbey’s Yard all conjure up images of this part of Camden in the 19th and early 20th century. We continued along the canal towpath to Gloucester Avenue, past the site of the famous Chalk Farm Tavern and Brewery, now Limonia restaurant, and the Lansdowne pub. Those railway workers liked a drink or two. Into Primrose Hill we heard about the bombing during World War Two and rebuilding. The tour finished with us peering through the trees and undergrowth at the spectacular Primrose Hill East Portals, It is not surprising that they were a popular venue for 1840s sightseers. Nearly three hours had passed since the tour began but none of us wanted it to finish or to say farewell to Peter. See diary for another tour Peter is organising in December.

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Zoo news

Visit London awards

ZSL London Zoo has been shortlisted for the Evening Standard’s Best Family Fun Award. Voting is now open. Last year ZSL was awarded silver, so are hoping to make it to Gold this year! Please vote for ZSL by visiting and selecting ZSL London Zoo.

Seahorse births

Using new techniques and equipment, Sam Guillaume and her team have managed to breed 918 threatened shortsnouted seahorses, notoriously difficult to rear, which are all thriving behind the scenes at ZSL London Zoo’s Aquarium. “I first began work to breed our seahorses a year ago, which was quite a daunting task because they’re so fragile to work with,” Sam explains. “This year marks the very first time we’ve managed to rear shortsnouted seahorses to a stage where they’re eating live food and I’m absolutely thrilled.” Sam attributes the team’s success to the use of new feeding techniques and bio-orb tanks.

Birth of baby gorilla

Mjukuu and her babyMjukuu and her baby

First-time mother Mjukuu gave birth to healthy male baby on 26 October 2010, following a straightforward labour, which was closely monitored by the zoo’s vets and keepers. Zoological director David Field said: “Mother and baby are both doing brilliantly, although it’s still early days. ‘Aunties’ Zaire and Effie were at the birth and have remained with Mjukuu throughout.” Staff at ZSL London Zoo will now begin the sensitive process of introducing the newborn to his stepfather Kesho which can be a bit risky. Keepers are yet to name the tiny male, who could grow up to become a twentyfive stone silverback gorilla. Visitors to Gorilla Kingdom may be asked to wait a little while before they can see him, due to the sensitivity of the introduction process.

Friends of Regent’s Park membership offer

A reminder that the Friends of Regent’s Park are entitled to £5 off the zoo’s usual annual membership fees when you pay by direct debit. (Please note that you will need to provide proof of membership.)

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Zoo events

Monday 13 December

Carols at the Zoo 4.30 – 6.00pm and 6.00pm – 7.30pm ZSL Members rates: £13 adult, £11 concession, £9 child Non-members: £16 adult, £14 concession, £12 child

Saturday 22 January 2011

Animal Focus – Slender Loris Times: 2.00pm - 3.30pm Focus in on this fascinating animal, a tiny member of the primate family. Keepers will take you to meet ZSL London Zoo’s Slender Loris family, learn more about this hugely successful conservation breeding programme and learn about ZSL’s work with Slender Loris’ in the wild through the EDGE programme. Adult member/non member: £16/£19. Concession member/non member: £14/£17. Child member/non member: £12/£15

24 February 2011

Behind the scenes with the keepers 8:30 – 10am Find out what life is really like as a ZSL Keeper! Go behind the scenes at ZSL London zoo, help with food preparation and enrichment for our animals, learn how the conservation breeding programme is managed and experience the zoo as only the keepers do before it opens for the day. Adult member/non member: £16/£19. Concession member/non member: £14/£17. Child member/non member: £12/£15

The Friendly Spider Programme (FSP)

is an afternoon course, carefully designed to ease or eliminate the condition of arachnophobia – fear of spiders. The programme is a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy and hypnotherapy. The course takes place in the Zoological Society of London’s meeting rooms. Animals, photographs or illustrations are only used at the end of the course. 2011 course dates • 7 May 2011 • 4 June 2011 • 2 July 2011 • 30 July 2011 • 10 Sept 2011 • 8 Oct 2011 Adult member £130 Concession member £65.00

Events at ZSL London Zoo

to book any of these events, visit, call 020 7449 6263 or email

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In the Gardens

Rose Beds

Three new roses will be planted in beds which suffered from prolonged water logging in wet winters with the existing stock suffering and producing poor displays. The drainage issues have been addressed and the beds reinstated. The new varieties are Peace, Paul Shirville and Double Delight (last seen in the gardens in 2007).

New tree planting

This winter will see new stock planted within Queen Mary’s Garden including a small collection of ornamental Rowans, Katsura Tree, Snowy Mespilus and an Amur Maple. The Cherry Walk will be restocked along with the Golden Honey Locusts that frame the view behind the Jungle Border.

Goodbye to Polly, Welcome to Ben

Changes to Safer Parks Team (SPT): Ben Edwin has replaced Polly Rowell as Sergeant, as she has moved to the response team in Greenwich. Crime has remained steady over the summer. August was comparable to last year, unsecured property theft being a significant issue, with four cycle thefts from cycle racks and one theft of a pedal cycle in October. The Mayor’s Award for Safer Parks was launched at the end of September. To apply, see:

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Park update

The Hub and near the Hub Chainsaw Sculptures

The wooden sculptures are now in place, south of Monkey Gate and north of The Hub. Tom Harvey, the artist, used a chainsaw to carve the sculptures from oak sourced mainly from Richmond Park. Tom worked with a group of ten school children from St James’s and St Michael’s Primary School’s in Westminster to develop ideas for the sculptures. The children visited the proposed site and worked in The Hub to create drawings and clay models based on the theme of ‘play in nature.’ Tom then used these works to inspire his sculptural designs. Funding was provided by the national Playbuilder programme.

Tom and friends
Tom and students in creative form

The Hub’s last financial year was the busiest since its opening in 2005 and the renovation of the sports pitches, with over 195,000 participants, 156,000 of these under sixteen. Much of this success is associated with the development of the six junior sports clubs and leagues based in Regent’s Park and the priority booking given to these groups, teams and schools, ably supported by volunteers from the local community. The junior and adult leagues, running clubs, walking groups, disability youth games, an exercise referral scheme (exercise prescribed by doctors delivered by active sports officers at The Hub) and the Camden and Regent’s Park Youth League continue to flourish. All this work was recently recognised by an “Excellence in Parks” award from The Parks Forum, an international benchmarking group.

Activities available:

  • Queen’s Park Rangers are in the park every school holiday
  • Regent’s Park Football Club operate from the Hub on Saturday mornings 9.00-12.30pm
  • Regent’s & Camden Youth Football League operates Saturday mornings from 9.00am-3.00pm
  • Lacrosse, Saturday afternoons 8-15year old girls, 2-4pm
  • Chips in the park, running group for 8-14year olds 10.00am-12.00pm
  • Natural England, the park work with this organisation to set up a series of health walks across the Royal Parks and is actively recruiting volunteer Health Walk Leaders. If anyone is interested please contact
  • A range of exercise classes ranging from pilates and yoga to tai chi and cardio blast. Contact the Hub for the timetable.

The Allotment Garden

Andy Williams
Left to right: Andy Williams with a melon, Toni Assirati (TRP Head of Education),
Sarah Williams and Amy Solomons (Capital Growth) and Nick Biddle

The allotment Garden run by the Royal Parks in partnership with Capital Growth and Capel Manor College was a great success, culminating in The Harvest Festival event on Sunday 26 September which attracted about 500 people. Soup, bread and pizza were baked on site. The garden will remain open throughout the winter.

Primrose Hill

The Primrose Hill Viewpoint and the area outside the hardstanding on the top of the hill has been in need of attention for some years and illegal cyclists carve the track straight up the hill ever deeper and inadequate drainage causes further erosion around the edge. There has already been consultation and a new design will be displayed locally in the Library at Primrose Hill before a submission for planning permission to Camden is made.

TfL Cycle Hire Scheme

53 potential sites in the inner Parks were investigated and 12 accepted. It has been a great success in terms of use although concerns have been expressed over the regularity of restocking and the negative impact on the landscape of any additional stations.

Holford House:

landscaping works The return of the site of the former Golf and Tennis School to parkland is at last moving forward. The project focuses on integrating the area with the adjoining landscape, particularly the Holford House site, benefiting wildlife and providing public access. Demolition started on 4 October. The hard landscaping materials, including concrete, tarmac and gravels have been broken up and will be incorporated into existing soils along with composted green waste to create a diversity of soil types in order to support a variety of plant and animal communities. Planting will take place in the dormant winter season, sowing in the spring. The area will remain enclosed for the first growing season and the southern third of the site will remain enclosed for managed access to encourage wild life. See the Friends’ website for plan and further details.

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For your diary

Sunday 5 December

Another walk by Peter Darley. A must for those who missed his walk in September. We meet on the outside steps of the Roundhouse at 11.00. The walk takes about 2½ hours. Numbers will be limited to 20. The walk costs £5 per head. Illustrated Trail Guides will be on sale for £2. All proceeds to the Trust. Contact: Peter Darley, Secretary, Camden Railway Heritage Trust. Tel: 020 7586 6632 Mobile: 077 2565 9992. Email:

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Friends of Regent's Park & Primrose Hill

Contact Links

Chair: Malcolm Kafetz -
Treasurer: Richard E Portnoy -
Newsletter: Anne-Marie Craven -
Webmaster: Neil Manuel -

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Created on Tuesday 23rd November 2010, last edited Wednesday 24th November 2010.
Errors & Omissions excepted