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Sunday, 1 June 2008

Going to the dogs: well not actually

I'm afraid I feel rather guilty about the news that the 'Stow is to close in August. This week's Guardian has it as the front page story. "Anger and Disbelief over Stow closure" we're told - even though as the paper points out they reported it last week. Well I suppose it takes a while for such feelings to kick in.

I've never been to the dogs. I've passed it on numerous occasions on my way to Sainsbury's, but it never caught my eye. Frankly I was more interested in the Harley Davison dealer just up the Chingford Road; or fascinated by the learner motor cyclists taking lessons in the Stow's car park opposite the stadium.

You can just imagine them progressing from a 50cc phutt phutt to a growling 1300 cc monster - and all because of the Stow - or at least its car park.

The Stow has been around for 75 years. There's an aerial photograph in the Vestry Museum taken around that time showing open fields (farms) and the Stow. I suppose the stadium was the interloper then and people like me would be writing in copper plate to the local journal protesting about this vandalism.

The irony is that the Stow might have survived had the Marks and Spencer's store planned for the car park gone ahead - but I suspect Billet's Corner wasn't up market enough.

I'm afraid for me greyhound stadiums conjure up cloth caps, Wills Woodbines and stout; and an association with American Greyhound coaches. I once crossed the States that way - each terminus was in the poorest part of town; and I lived on a diet of Herschey bars and coke.

Even so I'm unsettled that a not very attractive greyhound stadium is going to close to be replaced by social housing.

It's listed you know. According to the Council's web-site, it's an "Iconic art deco style greyhound stadium erected in 1931 on the site of Walthamstow Grange football club. The best surviving and most architecturally interesting vintage greyhound stadium in the country."

It'll be a close call - saving a listed building or knocking it down for "social housing". I think not. No doubt there'll be an imaginative proposal to "retain the best of Walthamstow's heritage whilst boldly challenging the issues in the 21st century."

By the way the Veggies Catering Campaign (Nottingham Branch) were planning a demo on Saturday 8th June. I suppose that'll be cancelled now. Although it's interesting to see that one of the pieces in this week's Guardian reassured us that no greyhounds would be harmed by the closure. Demos do work.

So why am I unsettled? It’s not that, to me, an unattractive building is to go. It’s not that a less popular past time will disappear. It’s a sense that a part of the fabric of this place is fading, decaying without a chance to be replaced or repaired. There’s no going back, there’s no pause in the relentless march of fill it in.

Which brings me to today’s demonstration by the “Fight the Height” group. I haver about calling it a demonstration. It was more “ let’s meet after the Sunday service” sort of gathering. Hugely imaginative. People dressed as tower blocks – I didn’t count whether they’d got the number of storeys right. Children drawing placards (and not spelling correctly) and photographers keenly snapping the little angels’ creative doodles.

The trouble is it was so middle class and so ...nice. Everyone greeted each other. “have you seen our leaflet...Oh you have .. how nice.” I must have photographed at least ten not so well known actors.

But where were the stallholders? The people who the campaigners say will lose out from the building of “Primark Tower”. Unless the campaign extends its reach the Council can ignore it.

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