CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Hands Off Our Farm campaign stands defiant as hundreds show their support at festival

Animals could be moved out of Cressfield Close if cuts plan goes ahead

12 May, 2019 — By Tom Foot

HUNDREDS of supporters packed Kentish Town City Farm for a record-breaking May Day festival where they backed staff threatened with redundancy.

Supporters flocked to the Hands Off Our Farm (HOOF) stall to sign up to the campaign to save the popular attraction in Cressfield Close. Sunday’s event brought in more than £5,000 for the cash-strapped farm – a record-breaking haul for the annual event.

Volunteer Di Beveridge, who took part in training schemes and got qualifications at the farm as a child, was helping out on Sunday with daughter Maizi.

She said: “The people who work there, they don’t just work there – it’s a passion for them. They are not just staff. They are, to the children who go there, mums, social workers, youth workers, friends. This is where I made my best friends when I was young, and this is where my daughter made her best friends. “I needed it. It taught me respons­ibility, that there were boundaries.”

“It teaches you to commun­icate with older people. It teaches you culture, it gives you abilities. She knows not to judge, not to turn our back on people. We want all the children living around here to have somewhere safe to go. If we can help guide some of them, then I think that’s really important.”

She added: “When you speak to the [city farm] board you have this real idea of them being up there, and us being so low down the scale of intelligence. But we are a strong bunch of people and we are sticking together.”

The board of trustees running the farm charity has warned staff they are all “at risk” of redundancy because of a lack of fundraising over the last two years.

Animals will be moved out of the farm under cost-saving plans which the farm’s former director, Rachel Schwartz, says are unnecessary. Ms Schwartz was at a meeting with farm staff, council officials and MP Keir Starmer on Thurs­day where alternative proposals were discus­sed. But staff say they were told their plan was just a “sticking plaster” and no resolution was reached.

Farm coordinator Melanie Roberts describ­ed the May Day event as “amazing”.

“We raised over £5,000, which is nuts. A record year,” she added. “Everyone’s being super-generous because they all know what’s going on.” The farm staff had considered forcing a vote of no confidence in the board by inviting supporters to become members of the charity.

But they have learned the list was closed at the beginning of this year, shortly after around 20 new mem­bers – most living outside London – were myster­iously added.

“It’s clearly wrong,” said Ms Roberts. “It’s clearly a tactic to protect themselves.”

Camden Council is due to review the funding it gives the farm.

In a statement from the city farm board, Mick Denton said: “It is with considerable regret that staff at Kentish Town City have been placed at risk of redundancy. Projected income for the current financial year indicates that, without significant reduction in expenditure, there will be a fourth year when the farm will operate a deficit. ”

It adde: “Considerable effort is being committed to fund­raising but there remains a risk of redund­ancies in order to reduce the farm’s financial exposure.”

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