The new coalition government talks positively about the ‘big society’ which, according to David Cameron at the last Tory Party Conference, is all about empowering communities, redistributing power and fostering a culture of volunteerism.
Some cynics may see this as a government ploy to save money but it seems that some Dulwich area residents think differently. They have taken the idea of local empowerment to heart and are working together to save the Herne Hill Velodrome - the home of cycling events in both the 1908 and 1948 Olympic Games.
Unfortunately it is now in a very run down condition and despite the valiant attempts of the current tenants, British Cycling and Velo Club de Londres, it is possible that it may have to close as there are insufficient funds to maintain the track. The ground landlord is the Dulwich Estate and it was let for many years to the GLC and, on its demise, to Southwark Council. The latter did secure funds to resurface the track in the early 1990s, but they did very little else, and were ejected from the site in 2003. British Cycling and the Velo Club de Londres took over the lease and have tried very hard to generate interest through cultivating programmes for local children and local schools.
Their low key approach has paid off as, just when it seemed that there was no real future, a group of local residents has come together and set up an active group to save it. A public meeting was held at Dulwich College on 6th October and over 600 people attended. A large amount of money was pledged by local residents and interested cyclists, underpinned by a generous grant from Southwark Council.
There is a positive feeling in the air and tremendous enthusiasm to go forward. It shows what can be done in a very short time with volunteers who are prepared to put in the effort. As I said in the last Journal, nobody is forced to live in Dulwich; these volunteers have thought why they like living in the area and have done something about it. They deserve our support.