VOCAL TONE - Wolfie Smith

When I were a lad, there was a comedy on the telly box starring Robert Lindsay called Citizen Smith.Being a Fulham fan, I identified with his character but although I have oft times worn a black and white scarf and sported a dubious haircut, there the similarities ended.


I’m more Twickenham than Tooting Popular Front and I’m not exactly what you’d call an urban guerrilla. If I place a beret jauntily upon my head, I tend to look more Frank Spencer than Che Guevara.


But more and more, I find myself adding my name to local online petitions trying to protect the rights of the citizens of this leafy part of London.


Local independent businesses need more protection from the bureaucrats than ever before.


I say this because I think in our rage against Brexit and Trump we are beginning to neglect what is happening right on our own doorsteps. We are more likely to get angry about what is unfolding in Washington DC or Brussels with an irate tweet or FB post than get behind something we can be constructively involved with right under our very noses.


I am not belittling the end of the world as we know it and I myself have replied on many of the opinion pieces surrounding ‘the Donald’ and the triggering of article 50, but it shouldn’t be all consuming of our inner Wolfie ire.


I recently added my name to a petition to save a local independent cafe in Teddington called The Fallow Deer, which is being subjected to a ridiculous law that says on that particular high street it is ‘not acceptable’ to have more than two restaurants/cafés in a row.


The owners claim they were misled by planners to believe that after two years, this wouldn’t be an issue. Now, after the owners have pumped considerable emotional and financial investment into building a thriving, vibrant, local following, the council are enforcing this bonkers rule.


I was reminded recently, during a walk along the Thames leading to Richmond Bridge, how pledges often get forgotten post development in this post-truth world.


As a child, possibly after watching Citizen Smith, I would go with my family or friends to Richmond Ice Rink, mostly to spend time on my backside on the ice.


It was a spectacular building put up in the late 1920’s as a large community space for people to exercise and congregate in the pursuit of a leisurely pastime. The largest building dedicated to ice skating in the world and the hub of Britain’s training when Torville and Dean, Robin Cousins and John Curry were amassing Olympic golds galore.


When this source of local pride was deemed ripe for development in the 90’s, protestors were placated with the promise of a new rink being built elsewhere in the area. They were also promised a piece of green land on the site free of buildings. Both promises were reneged on, surprise surprise.


But at least they’ve put up some nice history boards and a dodgy looking monument in front of the luxury gated development that now dominates the Riverside, reminding us of a pledge unfulfilled.


If we are to stop our high streets being homogenised to only represent big, non-tax paying chains and not the businesses of honest local people, we need to stand together shoulder to shoulder.


Why, you may ask, have I gone off-piste from my usual mental health slant in this Vocal Tone tirade?


Be patient my friends. Community, as I have pointed out, is the panacea to alleviate depression and anxiety. Shared local agendas can unite us and get us collecting together in church halls, clubs and societies.


We can create events, marches, fund-raisers and all sorts of Wolfie Smith style rallies. Believe it or not he was named after an Irish freedom fighter called Wolfe Tone (so he was a bit vocal too).


This isn’t an online community where we take on issues thousands of miles from home. It’s a real community down your road and in your neighbourhood needing your active involvement and support.


Sorry to say this, but a Police officer attending a local accident informed one of our staff that this area has more mental health issues than many other parts of London. So much so that they regularly take a Mental Health Nurse with them on car patrol.


Okay, we might be deemed to be a wealthy borough, but material wealth doesn’t necessarily equate to happy headspace.

So get stuck in Wolfie style. Cause a local rumpus and don’t be so polite. Ruffle some feathers, flock to the defence of an independent under attack. Let’s show that we stick together in this tribe and won’t be sold down the river we all live beside.

Clench a warrior like fist, hold it high and shout ‘POWER TO THE PEOPLE’.


Fallow Deer: www.change.org/p/lord-true-us-fight-the-councils-decision-to-close-our-family-business


Vocal Tone raises the battle cry for Rivertribers to stand behind local independent businesses in the face of archaic bureaucracy.