KEMP is as Pretty as a Picture, a Seurat one, to be precise

The beauty of our Park is undeniable. There is the aesthetic factor: the glorious views, the flowers, the mature trees and the well kept lawns. But Kemp is  not only easy on the eye, it is easy on the soul.  It is our reset button, our shared and yet individual sigh of relief, the place we go to clear our heads each in our own way.

This business with Thames Water is a mess. They do not get us although they say they try. They do not get that their plans are a personal affront to each and every one of us. To be fair, we do not get them either. They blindingly march through their preset stages, following sterile, impersonal sets of rules and regulations, totally oblivious of the particular and the personal.  These consultations (or lack thereof) are the triumph of the general, which is rather ironic given that they should be a chance for individuals to voice their individual concerns. But I digress…

All the wonderful Kempers…

KEMP is as pretty as a picture, that’s our title. But do not take my word for it. We are lucky enough to have the most fantastic array of people involved in saving our precious park. Lately with struck gold, having the chance to pick Prof Dick Ross’s brain about it. You probably remember him in his capacity of BBC journalist, award-winning documentary producer, Professor at several universities and the Royal College of Art. But to us Kempers he is “just” Dick, our neighbour with the most wonderful anecdotes, the warm smile and the sharp sense of humour, always accompanied but the lovely and formidable Phyllis.

Here is what he wrote:

“I consider that the Stage 1 of the consultation process was handled less than efficently by Thames Water, giving ambiguous messages, and demonstrating a lack of interest in the lives and environment of those Londoners unfortunate enough to live in the proximity of territory being claimed by the company for its project. It is  naive to view the intentions of Thames Water without taking the massive profit motive into account as a prime motivation.

The reluctance to consider the Heckford Street option is possibly also rooted in financial realities. That site is currently designated “brown fields” – covered in warehousing-type constructions. However the leases on much of the site are due to come due shortly. The financial rewards for developers with be immense. To them, all-consuming greed is a virtue.
Tower Hamlets residents have already paid a high price for the greed of developers. The Council’s environmental concerns have only gained some semblence of concern and vision in the recent past. We need to give them every support in their opposition to this scheme.
However there are other, more commonplace concerns being trampled in the race to secure the riverside site.
They are best illustrated by the before and after drawings of the park submitted by Thames Water. These show the present park lanscaping and use, with its classical arrangements of paths and gardens, shade trees for picnicers, and areas designated for games, exercising pets, and secure playgrounds. Compare this amenity with the future appearance as envisioned by Thames Water. Concrete, trees stuck in holes without any sensitive evolution of planting, a foreshore promenade with few, if any, distinctive characteristics.
KEMP brings the sensitivity of village life to the people of Wapping. This is an area where class, wealth and priviledge are irrelevant. When I first visited the park, I was struck by the close resemblance to the famous painting by Georges Seurat “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jette”.

One art historian noted:

“Seurat spent two years painting this picture, concentrating painstakingly on the landscape of the park before focusing on the people…The park was quite a noisy place: a man blows his bugle, children run around, there are dogs. Yet the impression we receive is of silence, of control, of nothing disordered. I think it is this that makes La Grande Jatte so moving to us who live in such a disordered world…There is an intellectual clarity here that sets him free to paint this small park with an astonishing poetry. Even if the people in the park are pairs or groups, they still seem alone in their concision of form – alone but not lonely. No figure encroaches on another’s space: all coexist in peace.”This is a world both real and unreal – a sacred world. We are often harried by life’s pressures and its speed, and many of us think at times: Stop the world, I want to get off! In this painting, Seurat has “stopped the world,” and it reveals itself as beautiful, sunlit, and silent.”

And that, in a nutshell is precisely what we will lose, if Thames Water proceeds with the destruction of this site. By my amateur calculations, and reading the available documentation – it will be more than a decade if ever, before the KEMP replacement resembles a fertile, growing and evolving garden again.
Even then, the site and the homes around it will be blighted, and the high rise homes of New Heckford will look down on a concrete monument to the avarice of Thames Water moneymen.”

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