Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Hammersmith Park Needs Friends

Japanese Garden at Hammersmith Park
Hammersmith Park is a small but precious scrap of green space in a very urban part of our borough. 

Located in White City, next to the former BBC TV centre, it has been the subject of some local controversy in recent years.

The 2015 plans to install a series of football pitches run by Play Football, was a big concern for many local residents, especially the lack of consultation with residents' groups. 

More recently, a proposed expansion of the Japanese Garden has ruffled a number of feathers. We asked John Gordon-Smith, Chair of the Friends of The Japanese Garden at Hammersmith Park, to explain what is being planned. 

Who are the Friends of the Japanese Garden, Hammersmith Park?
John Gordon-Smith: The Friends of the Japanese Garden, Hammersmith Park, is a committee of people whose primary interest is in the history, maintenance and development of the Japanese Garden.

The Committee includes an expert in Japanese Gardens, an influential member of the Japanese Community and a number of local people.

We believe the Japanese Garden is the oldest publicly owned garden of its kind in the UK. The current park covers part of the area of the original 1910 Japan - British Exhibition, which lasted for six months and included a large display of arts and crafts, sumo wrestling, two theatres, a funfair, acrobats, and dancers.

More than 8 million people visited the Festival. Two gardens were created specially for the festival and one - the Garden of Peace - was on roughly the same site as the current Japanese Garden.

What is this new proposal to install lanterns and a gate?
John Gordon-Smith: Since the 2010 renovation of the Japanese Garden and the subsequent festival in the park celebrating the centenary of the Exhibition, we have been producing plans - with the assistance of specialist Japanese landscape architects - to further develop the Garden.

The Committee have been working on these plans for the last five years, in particular a Japanese Gate, leading into the Japanese Garden, such as the Japanese Gate in the Japanese Garden in Kew Gardens - which was recreated from the original gate in Hammersmith Park.  Until now, our plans have been thwarted by the lack of public funding.  However, after approaching the Japanese community, and Japanese business organisations, though the Japanese Embassy, they have agreed to sponsor a new Japanese Gate and a row of traditional Japanese stone lanterns.

There is still outstanding work needed to be done to the Japanese Garden, but we cannot pursue this without further funding. There may however be further opportunities for funding, as next year is the year of Anglo-Japanese Cultural Co-operation.

Proposed Ornamental Gate and Lanterns
Why are the plans controversial?
John Gordon-Smith: I believe that with better communication the plan may not have been seen as controversial.

However, the current objections include: not wanting sponsors names on the stone lanterns, arguing that they are too big, and also concerns that the original idea of a row of stone lanterns leading into the Japanese Garden is seen as intruding into the main area of the park.

How can local people get involved and help make the park a better place?
John Gordon-Smith: Currently the Japanese Community, with some help from local people, organise a regular annual clear up of the Japanese Garden, and help for this is very welcome.

Ideas we currently have include:

  •  Online presence about the history of the Japanese Garden and the work of the Friends of the Japanese Garden
  • "Young Friends" group with links to schools
  • Newsletter

We need assistance with producing on line and written information. We welcome new members, so do please join our committee if you are interested in our work, and - of course - please do volunteer to work in the Japanese Garden.

There is a Japanese Festival in Hammersmith Park on Sunday 29 July from 1pm onwards, which will include dancers , drummers and Japanese food. The Friends of the Japanese Garden will be sharing a stall with the Japanese Garden Society so please come and say hello.

Editor's note: LBHF is holding a community meeting to discuss the future of the Park on 13th July from 5pm until 7pm in the community room at PlayFootball. 

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