In recent years most of the local churches have been obliged to launch fund raising appeals to offset massive building costs. Both St. Barnabas and All Saints had to contemplate totally rebuilding their churches following destruction by fire. St. Stephen's and St.John's discovered serious roof and spire deterioration which called for immediate remedial action and for both these churches this was quite soon after earlier appeals to build new hall facilities. St. Paul's and Christ Church both launched appeals to adapt the interiors of their churches to meet changing needs.

At the time, each of the churches was faced with the daunting prospect of a massive financial cliff to be climbed yet each has succeeded in either erasing the debt or now has that end in sight. And all this has been realised at a time when we are told that church attendance is falling away. It has partly been achieved (with a satisfying increase in attendance) by making the churches more accessible to non church-going people though a wide variety of concerts, lunch clubs, drop-in coffee shops and playgroups.

The number and quality of the concerts performed for the various appeals has been staggering. Not only have talented local performers found venues and audiences, but enterprising organisers have persuaded national and even international artistes to perform. The entire community has thus benefited from these appeals and apparent disasters have been turned into success stories.

For lovers of church music another benefit is accruing. A number of the churches are installing new pipe organs at a time when churches elsewhere are, because of rising costs, turning to electronic organs. For those who appreciate the clearer tones of the pipe organs this is good news. Soon, Dulwich will be able to boast a splendid array of such new or restored instruments at St. Stephens, St John's, St. Barnabas, All Saints and Christ's Chapel. Time for an Organathon perhaps?

The 42nd Annual General Meeting of the Dulwich Society will be held at 7.30pm (please note new time) Thursday 17 March 2005, at St. Barnabas Centre, Calton Avenue, SE 21.

In order that more time can be spent discussing any matters of concern to members, all committee and sub-committee reports (with the exception of the Treasurer's Report) will be published in advance on the Society's website Members unable to access the website can obtain a printed copy by contacting the Secretary in advance. Copies will be available at the meeting.

Following the meeting, Greville Havenhand will present a complimentary Tutored Wine Tasting for those members attending. Greville has chosen a selection of interesting, but less common wines. (see page 33).

Map of Remarkable Trees in Dulwich

The Trees Committee has compiled a map showing the position of over seventy good examples of uncommon trees in the parks and front gardens of Dulwich. A complimentary copy is being distributed with this newsletter. It will be on sale locally for £3.50. It has been beautifully illustrated by Rosemary Lindsay, a local botanical artist. We would be very interested to receive comments from members.

A view on the work of the Community Council by Bill Higman

The Dulwich Community Council has been a popular recent innovation towards achieving more effective local democracy, and its meetings have been well attended. It works because it comes close to a New England -style 'town meeting', is open to all local residents, and regularly attended by our local councillors and the Southwark Council officers who carry the work out on our behalf. The officers can be asked to report on specific matters and are present to receive comments and account publicly for what they do. Meetings of the Community Council have been effectively chaired by Kim Humphreys.

During its first year, the Community Council has inevitably had a 'fire-fighting' role to perform with a backlog of some topics overdue for attention. There have also been some major new proposals to report on and discuss, including large cash investments in Dulwich Park and the Dulwich Community Hospital. There have been some memorable protests to Transport for London over changes in bus routes and services.

Local residents have also been going through a learning process about how to increase the effectiveness of their representations, and in realizing increasingly what the Community Council is able to achieve. One novel feature is that it does have local decision-making powers and the finance to actually achieve local amenity improvement. As residents, this is where we may be able to organise our approach more effectively. We could, for example, keep before us a more coherent picture of where we should like money to be spent in Dulwich.

In the autumn Southwark Council did in fact declare that it had a useful sum of money available to spend on improvements in Dulwich * and asked the Community Council to make proposals. Residents then took some time to decide what their amenity priorities for the area actually were, and to piece these together into an expenditure programme. The Dulwich Society presented its own shopping list but the Community Council probably did not give itself time to evaluate these items in relation to suggestions made from other sources. There were many remaining uncertainties as to the total of what could be afforded, the length of time projects would take to complete, possible overlaps or duplication of existing projects and the existence of other public funds which could be more effectively used. The complexity of decision making was added to by traditional pressures on the Council to budget expenditure within a particular financial year.

Some of this could be simplified if we were to draw up, in advance, a more considered expenditure 'wish list', properly costed, to be taken in stages if some items were to large to be carried out all at once. This would enable us and Southwark Council to make and keep current a more coherent medium-term plan for what would materially improve the amenity of Dulwich area. Major items which require detailed co-ordination, such as road and traffic improvements, probably require the longest advance planning period and consequently the most difficult to implement. For example, although we have been successful in getting a number of traffic calming schemes, we still need to make better provision for protected cycle routes as well as reducing unsightly road and signage clutter.

Fitting all this into one sensible plan and carrying it out in the right stages will require closer co-ordination among all the parties and different interests involved. A local plan presided over by the Community Council would help this process. Our response should be to encourage this and to use the Community Council as a tool to enable this to be done more effectively. Everybody stands to benefit.

* Dulwich Community Council was awarded £316,000 in July 2004. Grants made to projects in the Dulwich Society's area include:- £10,000 to improve Dulwich Library Gardens, £25,000 to Streatham & Marlborough Cricket Club for ground improvements and community access, four grants to Kingswood Estate for art & recreation,health and youth projects totalling £35,000, £5000 for signage rationalisation between Stradella and Burbage Roads, £4000 for handrails and traffic speed restrictors at Giles Coppice, £25,000 for new security fence at Sydenam Hill Wood, £18,000 for pedestrian safety around the Court Lane entrance to Dulwich Park, £23,000 for Jasper Road traffic calming, £18,000 for traffic calming in Dulwich Wood Avenue, £13,750 for additional lighting in front of Dulwich Village shops, £3000 for safety improvements at Court Lane/Calton Avenue, £2000 for renovation of the historic bus stop on Alleyn Road.

(Source - Dulwich Community Fund Progress update January 2005)

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