A week in Fitzrovia: Chavez, emotions, the tower and Brazilians

By Angela Lovely

Picture and flowers.

Remembering Hugo Chavez at the Bolivar Hall, Grafton Way.

This week the flag at the Bolivar Hall in Grafton Way was lowered to half mast after the announcement of the death of Hugo Chavez in Caracas. A book of condolence has been made available for members of the public who wish to show their respects to President Chavez. Flowers were also placed outside the building. 

Paddy O’Connell stirred a lot of comment about his emotional response to an item on the Broadcasting House programme on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday. The item Emily Blachere’s love letter to her boyfriend Remi Ochlik left Paddy overcome. Many people thought his response was moving and appropriate.

The BBC also had a feature on its Today programme this week about a group long associated with Fitzrovia: the Church of Scientology. Jenna Miscavage Hill was the third generation of a family of scientologists, born into it and raised in its disciplines. She told Today presenter James Naughtie about a life that was intimately bound up and directed by scientology.

Also on the airwaves, singer and guitarist Robyn Hitchcock gave a mention to Fitzrovia on a Boston radio station this week. Referring to the Telecom Tower:

Here we have some people wandering around Fitzrovia, which is the middle of London, dominated by the tower. As you come to the street corners you keep seeing sort of peering down at you, you know, like the cat in the old Monty Python film. And it seems to sort of follow you around.

Last week Sun reporters visited a converted gents toilet in Foley Street now known as The Attendant to see for themselves Fitzrovia’s new subterranean cafe. “While it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it sure beats the bog-standard coffee shop,” said the currant bun.

Am I the only one to notice that there is no customer toilet in this converted lavatory?

Meanwhile around the corner in Great Titchfield Street the pavement has become a battleground as cafes square up to each other in a war waged with chalk boards. Blogger Nick Johnstone has observed the exchange of messages in the Blackboard Wars On Great Titchfield Street.

Home secretary Tersea May is at odds with her own cabinet colleagues and drew a response from a Fitzrovia-based organisation this week after she proposed tougher immigration rules on Brazilians. The Evening Standard reported:

Theresa May has sparked a row with the Treasury and Foreign Office by attempting to impose tougher visa rules on Brazilian migrants.

Chancellor George Osborne and Foreign Secretary William Hague are both understood to be opposing her plans to clamp down on illegal immigration from one of the world’s fastest-growing economic powerhouses. The issue was due to be discussed this afternoon at the National Security Council, chaired by the Prime Minister.

Carlos Mellinger of Casa do Brasil in Foley Street which provides services for Brazilian migrants responded with a letter in the Evening Standard:

BRAZILIANS are already in the UK in great numbers — the Office for National Statistics puts the figure at 60,000 but based on passport renewals and Home Office applications we believe there are 260,000. For the Home Office to tighten up visa requirements at this stage isn’t going to control the illegal immigration in the form of overstaying that already happens. Indeed it’s ironic Theresa May is making this proposal now when current provision to enable voluntary return is much less effective than before 2010, when thanks to a specific department devoted to Brazil, Brazilians were the number one nationality returning home voluntarily.

Brazilians are here to find work and are successful at doing so across all sectors of the economy, with a 95 per cent employment rate. They are paying rent and council tax and buying in shops. Whereas there are justifiable security concerns around nationals from some other countries, Brazilians aren’t involved in gangs, rarely in organised crime and don’t have links with terrorist groups. The Home Secretary risks undermining the UK economy and pushing Brasilia into harsh reciprocal provisions for British visitors to Brazil — madness in the run up to the World Cup and Rio Olympics.

And finally I am pleased to hear that the saga over a young man who was threatened with eviction by Camden Council appears to be coming to a positive conclusion. The young man fell into four weeks’ rent arrears after his father’s housing benefit was stopped when he was transferred to a nursing home outside of London after suffering a serious illness last year.

When Fitzrovia News got in touch to suggest that it was a bit of a heartless response to the young man’s predicament the council, it seems, suddenly took a greater interest in resolving the problem I’m happy to report. But I do wonder why the NHS considers the nearest suitable care home has to be 70 miles from Fitzrovia, making it an expensive and time-consuming round trip for the young man to visit his father.

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