Just how can an organisation like the Dulwich Society with its 1200 members, all undoubtedly with different views on different subjects arrive at decisions which will please every one of them? Of course it cannot.
This has been brought sharply into focus recently by two major disruptions to some of its members.
The first centres around the action of the Dulwich Picture Gallery in promoting an architectural competition to provide a temporary pavilion in its grounds as a means of widening the Gallery’s appeal and also acting as signpost to its presence in remote suburbia. According to who you talk to, it was a great success. The design won architectural awards and plaudits and encouraged a small South London based company to keep up its good work. The events staged in the pavilion were attended by many people, not least the Dulwich Society which as you will recall, invited members to enjoy two evenings of talks, wine, conversation and (unamplified) singing.
Problems to those residents living near the Gallery arose when there was amplified music at some events and a generally, noisy, pub-like atmosphere in the open air on the much vaunted ‘Friday Night Lates’, an exercise intended to attract younger people to the Gallery. There were also complaints that the licensing applications for three events staged in the Pavilion were slipped in at the last minute, not giving those residents the opportunity to object. Let us hope lessons are learnt because we hear that an application may be made in 2019 for a further pavilion installation.
If this is so, there will be another Southwark planning application to be complied with and local residents who feel aggrieved with the situation will be able to voice their concerns. But is the concept of temporary Pavilion flawed ? (critics will argue that a 6 month tenure is hardly temporary) As far as a view of the Dulwich Society as a whole is concerned, such powers are delegated to its executive committee, a body elected annually at the AGM. (note the date next AGM will take place on 30th April at the Crown & Greyhound see page 6 for details) In a show of hands at its meeting in January there was overwhelming support for the concept of a pavilion in the grounds of the Gallery in 2019 provided safeguards against loud music and late finishes were put in place. Thus, unfortunate to some members as it is, Francis Hutcheson’s famous seventeenth century quote does make sense - The action is best, which procures the greatest happiness for the greatest numbers.
Where local residents will no doubt receive much sympathy is over the Gallery’s re-acquisition of the field behind its garden and backing onto College Gardens. The field was leased to the residents and that arrangement has now ceased. It is now sometimes used as a space to let out for weddings. It is no wonder that local residents are upset; they are entitled to peace and quiet just as much as another resident. Some form of limitation to the number of such events which can be staged in any one year should be arrived at. This has worked satisfactorily at the Velodrome
Some of these residents are also alarmed that Bell House, the large Georgian house opposite College Gardens might also have noisy open-air events. These concerns relate to a blanket application to open seven days a week with events continuing until 10pm. The trustees of Bell House insist that they are very sensitive to neighbours’ concerns and are not seeking to stage noisy outdoor events. The reality is that the house has gone to a worthwhile endeavour which will support the understanding of dyslexia while at the same time provide a locale for community events - this large house might easily have been sold to a hotel or wedding venue group, as a care home or a private school, all of which would have presented a much greater disruption to the surrounding area.
A major disruption to the tranquillity of the Village (was it, ever tranquil?) arose over the construction of cycle ‘Quietways’ and the alteration to the complicated crossroads which lasted from late August until a day or two before Christmas. The Court Lane Residents’ Association has held a survey of the effects of the scheme which may be found on page 13.