Richard North

Related Topics
The bandstand in Hereford's most-used public park is going to be pulled down. It has been vandalised so often that a nice bed of thorny bushes seems more appropriate.

It was hardly surprising that Will "The State We're In" Hutton took up the theme, researched and articulated by Demos, the think-tank, that urban parks are in crisis. It may be true, but it certainly fits a standard liberal idea: the Tories hate local government, and cities, and love forcing cost-savings. So authorities eveywhere have taken away park-keepers and either not replaced them or done so with "A Man in a Van". The party of suburbanites living intensely private lives in private spaces was at war with the social provisions which reinforce communities.

It may well be true that parks need more money, and ought to be looked after by people in brown suits (as keepers) rather than men in tattoos (as private armies). Hackney spies tell me that Clissold Park, where all my young did a lot of their early adventuring and where, God help us, they were "socialised", needs its loos re-opening, and the return of the doughty women in blue nylon coats who formed a fairly effective UN peacekeeping force in the playground.

That same spy says the place remains vigorous and largely cheerful. Besides, I can remember, even in palmier days, I was excoriated by liberal types for writing in the Times that Hackney's public spaces were in need of busybodies - middle class or not - who could assert that swiping little Jewish children wasn't on.

We ought to beware of thinking that everything was good "then" and is bad now. Irn Bru has an ad depicting an irate Victorian or Edwardian park- keeper chasing urchins down a lakeside, waving - one is delighted to see - a stick. Surely this makes the point that gangs of boys (highly socialised, in their way, as Bea Campbell points out) have always been a curse. I regret to note the subtext that arming park-keepers may not have been wholly effective.

Birkenhead Park, Britain's first public park and an inspiration for New York's Central Park, was the subject of a good deal of anxiety in the 1920s and 1930s on the same sort of security grounds as it has been more recently. It is good news that its lowest point was 20 years ago, before That Bitch is supposed to have scuppered everything. As is the case with many other parks, a lot of money is now being spent to improve it, and wardens will be "on the beat" rather than turning up sporadically.

But do we really believe that armies of underpaid old codgers are going to return to our public spaces? Isn't it just as likely that volunteer wardens (such as Cheshire County Council is encouraging in some of its urban woodlands) will have to do the trick?

The security problem may not be what it seems, anyway. Most users of Birkenhead Park, when asked, stated how much they enjoyed the place. Yes, when they listed their worries, security was a concern: yet the park has not, apparently, been the scene of many crimes. Demos's own report is in something of a cleft stick here: it goes on about people's feelings of insecurity, but states as a key finding: "Most park users claimed to feel safe in their parks in daylight hours".

There is evidence that it is not underfunding so much as young people's quite new, or newly revived, unpleasantness which matters. Hereford's parks chief says that this city got rid of park-keepers 20 or 30 years ago. Yet it is only in the last few years that the parks have suffered much vandalism.

Pity the young. They will have to become self-motivating entrepreneurs. They will have to take out pension plans almost before they stop repaying their FE tuition fees. Now, God help them, they will have to learn to behave nicely in public because we can't afford to have swarms of people keeping them in line.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron's 'compassionate conservatism' is now lying on its back  

Tory modernisation has failed under David Cameron

Michael Dugher
Russian President Vladimir Putin 'hits his foes where it hurts'  

Dominic Raab: If Western politicians’ vested interests protect Putin, take punishment out of their hands

Dominic Raab
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform