The ‘revitalisation’ of Burgess Park

“Back in the early 1980s I worked for the GLC as a playleader (don’t laugh), and reported to the department that ran adventure playgrounds from a ratty prefab office at Burgess Park in Camberwell.

“I thought Burgess Park pretty much the arse-end of the universe, an oppressively thin ribbon of an open space which still showed the scars of the houses and factories that had been cleared to create it. A mere stripling, I had yet to appreciate the necessity of a park for urban dwellers, nor how even the most unprepossessing and debatable of lands can be a source of pride and joy.

“Thirty years, four children and a dog later, I know my London parks; and when a friend who’s a local resident called to tell me she was concerned about Southwark Council’s plans to “revitalise” Burgess Park I happily agreed to take a tour with her, confident that nothing – and I mean nothing – that could be done to the place could fail to improve it.

“How wrong I was. The Mayor – who I often think looks a little like a tree himself, what with his impressive blond canopy – has divvied up £2million of our money to add to the £4million (also, of course, ours) that Southwark is spending. Boris isn’t only dendriform but he also spent more tax money on a pamphlet called The Canopy: London’s Urban Forest in which he urged: ‘We must also ensure that we reverse the decline of existing mature trees that has occurred over recent years and seek opportunities to increase their numbers.’

Read the rest of Will Self’s piece on Burgess Park at the Evening Standard website here.