Friends of Regent's Park Newsletter 78
Annual General Meeting
St John’s Wood Church Hall, Lords Roundabout, London NW8 7NE.
Tuesday 18 March 6.30 for 7pm.
We shall be welcoming Linda Lennon, the Chief Executive of the Royal Parks,
to the meeting.

Stop Press

Friends Chairman to retire
A big thank you

For Malcolm Kafetz, sadly soon to retire from being chairman of the Friends of Regent’s Park & Primrose Hill, the weeks when the park was threatened with the very urban development of fenced-in five-a-side footballs courts were his toughest and finest.

Malcolm quickly built up detailed knowledge of experts in and out of the field including likely decibels (noise levels). He galvanised understanding of the many issues involved and ensured, through a wide mail shot, that Westminster City Council received more objections to the planning application than had ever been received before. It had to be rejected on limited planning grounds and it was - with the chairman’s casting vote. As a result, the park lost the small but popular golf and tennis school but at least the area’s role as open space with trees and grass has been retained.

Malcolm and Anna The controversial episode was dramatic, as was the fairly brief possibility of a World Cup Fan Fest on Gloucester Green and consequent disturbance to local residents, the open air theatre and the health and happiness of animals (let alone visitors) at the zoo. However no one should doubt the painstaking work, effort and skills which Malcolm as chairman has put in over the past eight years, and prior to that as treasurer. Before many people became reasonably adept on computers, he had set up systems which made his role (and that of his successor) possible. He has a sharp mind and happy sense of humour and, through his previous working life, is an excellent photographer.

Malcolm networks easily and effectively and has attended countless meetings with the police, the Royal Parks itself, the Forum of the Friends of the different Royal Parks (of which at one point he was chairman), the Zoo, the Greater London Authority and Whitehall. His perseverance and skills at networking have been invaluable.

He loves Regent’s Park and automatically expects similar enthusiasm, especially from the Friends, of its complex role in the life of local people, Londoners more generally and visitors to this great city. It will be difficult to replace him and, while any replacement will be different, he or she will need to be equally passionate about the park and enjoy the role. In his role as chairman, Malcolm has had the constant and able support of Anna, who has also regularly provided a warm welcome at what has become an annual party for committee members as well as the more regular committee meetings, which take place in turn at people’s homes around the area.

Judy Hillman,


Long-serving park stalwart honoured with tree

Malcolms tree planting
Malcolm helps to plant a tree.
Picture: Jonathan Goldberg

Few people can claim as long an association to Regent's Park and Primrose Hill as The Friends of Regent's Park and Primrose Hill's outgoing chairman.

Malcolm Kafetz, who spent most of his youth living near the park, is stepping down from the role having served in the group since it was conceived in 1991.

Mr Kafetz's years of dedication and his passion for preserving the beauty and tranquillity of the park were recognised last week when the Friends planted a tree in Queen Mary's Garden in his honour.

“He was chairman of the Friends for 12 years and was treasurer before that,” said new Friends' chairman Conall Macfarlane. “He is certainly worthy of a long-term medal.”


Frieze Masters

Frieze, the international art market held in Regent’s Park was once again a huge success with Frieze Masters, the sister show, mixing ancient and modern in a very stylish way. There were 70,000 visitors who explored the stands belonging to 282 exhibitors.

Census at Bethlehem
Census at Bethlehem

The painting exhibited by the Johnny van Haften Gallery by Pieter Brueghel the Younger of the Census at Bethlehem certainly drew a lot of media interest. Was it a copy of the same painting by his father?


Outside in the sculpture park the work Chloe by Jaume Plensa 2013 stood enigmatically on the grass. It was seven metres high and made from cast iron and according to his gallery the artist creates ‘a contemporary sculpture with a timeless aesthetic which has become a hallmark of his unique practice.’ Plensa was born in Barcelona in 1955 and his sculptures are exhibited all over the world. You may have come across him at the sculpture Park in Yorkshire

Love by Gimhongsok
Love by Gimhongsok

I defy you to recognise the lettering in Love by Gimhongsok 2012. The viewer is persuaded to walk around it and through it. Gimhongsok says he is used to “experiencing the world secondhand”: reading Korean translations of English texts or watching Korean interpretations of western television shows. He takes the imperfections and pitfalls of such translations as the starting point for his sculptures, installations, videos, and performances. Most works begin with a piece of text as indeed does this piece - but it is a piece of text!

Frieze takes around two weeks to build and under two weeks to break down. But reinstatement of the turf is very dependent on the weather and the damp autumn was not very helpful.

Galloping guns

The horses of the King’s Troop often give as long a service to the Queen as the men and many women nowadays who ride and control them and their highly polished and immaculately painted gun carriages.

Stable feed
Lunchtime in the stables

At Woolwich, their new home since leaving St. John’s Wood, a small collection of grey worn tomb stones records the age and performances of a number of the greats, such as Wonder. He was a mere 40 years old when he died in 1806.
In September, the Friends, on a special visit south of the river could explore stables, the indoor arena, the saddlery, leather workshop and blacksmith or forge. Master Farrier, Alan Bould, led and wittily informed about 20 Regent’s Park enthusiasts of facts and figures.
There are, for example, 120 horses; their lunch, served in what looks like a washing up bowl, includes a large apple; one gun carriage on show served in world war one; in world war two, the guns were switched from shelling troops to anti-aircraft; the horses involved in Lady Thatcher’s funeral had rubber nails in their shoes to ensure no slipping outside St. Paul’s Cathedral; the troop is almost equally men and women and all undergo up to 14 weeks army training before they get near a horse; some have to learn to ride, others to abandon existing habits; the weight of the gun carriage can be used to help slow down horses which are galloping too fast; the horses love performing and trot friskily into their boxes for away visits and demonstrations; their morning ride is slightly later in Woolwich than St. John’s Wood as they no longer have to negotiate roads; the recruits learn an associated trade such as saddlery or blacksmithing which can be useful when they leave the troop; the new buildings already show signs of wear...

Exercising her charge
One of the female members of the King's Troop exercising her charge. In the background is the Rotunda designed by John Nash

Lunch followed at the museum cafe at the nearby former Woolwich Arsenal, now very much a site for new homes sprouting fast among the Georgian heritage. Then it was the turn of the museum itself, led by Brigadier Ken Timbers, to see guns galore. Over the centuries they showed a basic similarity of design absorbing any improvements, with a central cannon which projects missiles, cannon balls or shells from its position between two massive wheels. The original curator of the museum, Brigadier Timbers, detailed the development and use of gun powder and methods of causing maximum damage and death to a unit of enemy troops lined up shoulder to shoulder. Basically this involved horizontal shooting not dissimilar to skipping pebbles across a pond.

Finally there was a visit to the medal room with its tales of individual heroism before the chance to inspect large modern rocket launchers. This was a sobering reminder that guns are built to render devastation and that the skill and friendliness of the King’s Troop is part of an army which is still engaged in fighting to keep the peace.

Judy Hillman,

End of Season Review

Malcolm Kafetz welcomed about 35 people to the Review on October 8, 2013. He thanked Nick Biddle and his staff for keeping the park in good “nick” - a very Malcolm-like double entendre which raised both good-humoured groans and laughs! He said that the fine weather had helped the park this year, but that the financial situation was very difficult and likely to remain so. In 2003, the Royal Parks budget was the equivalent of £29.4m in today’s money. This year it was just £14.3m, so just under half of what it was a decade ago. However, the Royal Parks were on target to bridge this deficit and a recent visitor survey had shown that 98% of the public rated the Royal Parks as good or excellent. He also commended the Safer Parks Police Team now based in Paddington and outlined their achievements including 676 Fixed Penalty Notices. Malcolm also spoke about the success of the Hub Sports facility; of recent films made using the park as a location; of the new baby tiger in the zoo (who has since died); of an anonymous donor who was to fund weekend bandstand concerts and of the need to attract younger people to join the Friends.

Capel Manor - Regent's ParkCapel Manor - Regent's Park

He then introduced Glynis Maynard, Co-ordinator of Capel Manor College, who spoke about the college’s origins and history as well as the wide range of courses currently offered by the centre. The Enfield main site, located on an estate with 13th century origins was privately owned until 1958. It took in its first group of fifteen students in 1968 and had now grown to a working estate with five subsidiary locations around London, including Regents Park, with 3500 students aged from 14 to 65+, including some people with learning disabilities. Subjects taught include animal science, arboriculture, horticulture, landscaping, floristry, garden design and countryside management.

The Regent’s Park Centre opened in 2003 and was now housed in the old stable block converted into a garden design studio. It had 750 students by 2012. It offered City and Guilds levels 1-3 and Royal Horticultural Society levels 2 and 3 in plant growth, garden design and horticulture, as well as one-off short workshops in subjects such as botanical illustration.

Glynis finished by explaining about the Centre’s work in Regent’s Park such as coppicing and lawn maintenance, and she reminded people to look out for them at the London Green Fair, the Ideal Home Exhibition (where they won a gold medal in 2013), and also the RHS Chelsea and Hampton Court Palace shows where they had also won medals.

Local historian, Martin Sheppard then spoke about Primrose Hill and its history, based on his recently published book on the hill. He gave the audience a whistle-stop tour of facts about the hill: its geology, its 18th century origins as a park, the seven deaths on the hill which resulted from its use as a location for duelling from 1790 to 1837 and its WW2 anti-aircraft battery. He concluded with a selection from a fascinating list of twenty building projects which were proposed for the hill - some very bizarre indeed - including a pyramid-shaped vertical burial space, higher than St. Paul’s Cathedral, which would have held over five million bodies and was proposed in the 1830s by the architect Thomas Wilson.

Lastly, Peter Jones gave a short summary of the current state of play regarding the HS2 proposals for Euston and the likely massive effects on Camden Town, Primrose Hill and North-West London in general - especially during the 10-year construction period with 600 lorry movements a day. He highlighted some of the extensive misuse of statistics that HS2 Ltd and the government had both used to justify the proposals and, among others, quoted the 18th century political philosopher, Adam Smith, as someone who knew only too well the disasters that can result when individual politicians or administrators over-enthusiastically promote their lasting legacies by indulging in unnecessary mega-projects:

“The proud minister of an ostentatious court may frequently take pleasure in executing a work of splendour and magnificence, such as a great highway ... But to execute a great number of little works [that] ... have little to recommend them but their extreme utility, is a business which appears too mean and paltry to merit the attention of so great a magistrate. ... such works are almost always entirely neglected.”

Malcolm then closed the evening by thanking the speakers and the audience and encouraged them to recruit new Friends of Regent’s Park & Primrose Hill in order to safeguard the future of these wonderful local open spaces.

Linda Johnson,

In the Gardens

Water, Water Everywhere.

There is no such thing as the right weather when managing green space - a park is never finished. And last year generated some extraordinary challenges for us, not least of which were the rain and the wind. This had a particular impact on our workload and planning. The high clay content of the soil causes problems as water tends to sit on this impermeable layer and the March rains and cold winds and then the snow in April made work on the lawns and sports pitches extremely difficult. Renovations were planned in the autumn for work in late March and I am currently looking back at the wet weather of December and the New Year and hoping that it will start to dry out - we are currently saturated everywhere, and some of last spring’s renovations had to be postponed to late April.

Storm damage
Storm damage

The year was also very stormy. St Jude came and went in October leaving a trail of destruction. Fortunately, the wind came through in the early hours of the morning and so with advance warning of the severe weather we were able to delay opening the park until we were confident that it was safe. In hindsight, this was a very wise decision; several very large trees were toppled completely, including a huge London plane near Longbridge.

All 5000 trees were surveyed for damage which was no small task, and the clearup, which was started almost immediately, lasted several weeks. St John’s Lodge gardens had to remain closed for nearly three weeks due to two very large trees that were windthrown, fortunately missing the urns and shrub beds. A further tree, which was damaged in the garden of St John’s Lodge, was left in a hazardous state and the gardens could not be opened until it had been sorted out. The tree loss is distressing but has some advantages in that canopies are opened up thus improving the light in the wild areas and encouraging colonisation by wild flora. The trees will be replaced along with shrubs, reflecting the newly-adopted tree strategy ensuring that the ‘right tree is in the right place’. In this mild weather some of the trees are bursting into bud. Let’s hope the mild weather continues and the park dries out.

Mike Turner,
Assistant Park Manager

The Allotment Garden

2014 will be the fourth year of the allotment garden which has proved such a success. Funding for the garden co-ordinator who works for two days a week has been provided by the Royal Parks Foundation, the Friends of Regent’s Park and Capital Growth. The aims for the coming year are:

  • Manage and maintain the team of volunteers
  • Run four open days per year to celebrate food growing at different stages of the season
  • Run food growing sessions for five local schools and use the Allotment Garden as an outdoor classroom
  • Purchase seeds for each growing year
  • Promote wildlife gardening
  • Oversee Capital Growth food growing training sessions
  • Use printed and online material to promote the Allotment Garden
  • Explore new ways to reconnect people to food growing by creating links with catering colleges and get future chefs involved in the garden
  • Maintain the garden and develop news way to protect the crops, especially from pigeons and squirrels
  • Develop a productive salad garden
  • Keep recording our harvest and work on growing more food while using and showcasing growing techniques adapted to the urban environment

A grant from the Ripple Fund (from the Royal Parks Foundation), will enable the volunteers to re-do all the beds, change our composting area to make it more productive and build a cob oven for cooking pizzas, thus reducing the cost of oven hire

Julie Riehl,
Allotment Garden volunteer co-ordinator

It’s all change for food and drink in the Park

Benugo has taken over catering and has ambitious plans to update and improve the restaurant and cafés in the park. To start with Regent’s Bar and Kitchen (the old Garden café) will have a wood-fired oven and so will offer pizzas and oven baked dishes as well as classics such as fish and chips. Simple, fresh and uncomplicated is the watchword here. There will be a large take-away area and for those long summer evenings, a gelato bar will be a particular attraction.


The Honest Sausage will be transformed into The Smokehouse with a rustic look created using aged timber and brass for the bar and convivial tables. The menu will feature ribs, burgers and ‘Smokehouse’ sides such as corn on the cob, slaws, beans and fries, not to mention tasty puds. There will be a Shake Bar at the Hub with smoothies, crushes, yogurts as well as sandwiches, salads and wraps.

The Espresso bar, which has already been refurbished (formerly Cow and Bean) features Benugo coffee and loose leaf teas with homemade cakes - not forgetting the obligatory ice-cream bike outside. There are also plans to re-fit the kiosks to offer coffee, cakes and sandwiches, throughout the park and finally, a food truck on Primrose Hill will serve light snacks, hot dogs and drinks.

Zoo News

Royals and Conservation

The Duke of Cambridge and The Prince of Wales met with global conservation leaders at ZSL London Zoo to discuss how new technology will help put an end to wildlife poaching. After making their way through the Zoo’s Tiger Territory exhibit and meeting its pair of critically endangered sumatran tigers, their Royal Highnesses joined the seven leading conservation organisations - including the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) - that form United for Wildlife.

Duke of Cambridge and Prince of Wales
Duke of Cambridge and Prince of Wales

The meeting was an important opportunity to discuss the progress made since United for Wildlife was founded by its President the Duke of Cambridge in September to tackle major conservation crises. And from next-generation cameras with special sensors to new software that will enable park rangers to better detect and fight back against poachers, their Royal Highnesses were able to see first-hand the innovative tools under development.

Plans were also discussed for how these vital tools would be ready for large-scale deployment in just a few months’ time.


ZSL London Zoo stoked the fires to welcome 72 fearless firewalkers through its gates in November, alongside over 170 spectators who came to cheer on their friends and family.

ZSL Fire Walk
ZSL Fire Walk

While the spectators got to enjoy a late night tour of the zoo, our firewalkers were braced for the challenge ahead of them with an inspiring ‘Nothing Is Impossible’ seminar. Instructed by Survivorbility and their professional Fire Masters, our fundraisers were in capable hands when they were later led out to face their fears against the roaring hot coal pits.

One by one our firewalkers strolled over the coals - some more calmly than others. And in return for their brave efforts, ZSL was delighted to announce that collectively our firewalkers had raised over £18,000!

Birthday Boy

ZSL London Zoo’s silverback gorilla has been celebrating his sweet sixteenth at a birthday bash with a difference. Kumbuka, a 29-stone western lowland gorilla, who arrived at ZSL London Zoo in May last year, marked his milestone birthday in January and keepers made the most of the special occasion.


With specially-prepared birthday presents stuffed with his favourite treats and themed decorations for Kumbuka’s Gorilla Kingdom home, the seven-foot-tall male has been celebrating in style.

James Wren,
Development Director, ZSL London

The Library on the Hill

What happens when the local authority decides to close down a much-needed and much-loved service, the local library (and in this case, three libraries - Chalk Farm, Belsize Park and Heath library). Sharon Ridsdale, who has been involved with the library for many years, and who is the volunteer coordinator, told me the story. It all started seventeen years ago when the Council first mooted the possibility of closure. There was a stay of execution until the summer of 2011 when the threat of budget costs was just too great. So a group from the Primrose Hill Community Associaton, got together and pursued a prolonged and difficult campaign to obtain a lease from the council and to raise enough money, around £500,000, to fund the management and running costs.

Primrose Hill Community Library
Primrose Hill Community Library

With the help of the Friends of Primrose Hill Library and with a number of high-profile local supporters like Alan Bennett and Dame Joan Bakewell the official opening of the Primrose Hill Community Library took place on Monday 22 October 2011 and now, just under two years after the closure of the Chalk Farm library (as it was known then) in Sharpleshall Street, the library is going from strength to strength, staffed almost entirely by a team of around 100 devoted volunteers.
Numerous regular events are organised in the library for both adults and children and these generally take place on the days when the library for reading is closed. The library just around the corner from the shops in Regent’s Park Road is open: Monday 10:00-18.00; Wednesday 14.00-20.00; Friday 10.00-18.00; Saturday 10.00-16.00. It costs nothing to join and borrow books provided they are returned by the due date.

January was a busy month with film club, book club readings, an Afrikan Yoga session and the author Anne Karpf talking about her new book How to Age in February.

For other events in February and later months either visit the library in person or visit their website on

For the bookshelf

Primrose Hill a history

Martin Sheppard, Primrose Hill: A History, Carnegie Publishing

Paul Rabbits, London’s Royal Parks Shire Publications


New Loos

The loos in the park have been refurbished and reconfigured with the one in Queen Mary’s Gardens looking particularly stylish. Still free but probably for not much longer.


Humble apologies from your editor for the delay in producing this edition which you should have received in December. My best friend, my husband Jock, died in early October which has caused upset to timetables and deadlines.


Link Change

At Malcolm's request the email link (below) to 'Chair at friends of Regents Park org' has now been changed to link to the new Chairman - Conall Macfarlane.


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Use the touch-friendly grey navigation buttons in the left column to jump directly to sections within this page and any of the buttons to return the to top of this page or the to visit the main index page which provides information on how to join the Friends of Regent's Park. The next section provides contact links for committee members...

Friends of Regent's Park & Primrose Hill

Contact Links

Conall Macfarlane -
Linda Johnson -
Richard E Portnoy -
Anne-Marie Craven -
Neil Manuel -

Site created on Friday 25th February 2011, last edited Monday 14th April 2014.
Errors & Omissions excepted