Kirkdale Christmas Tree Cancelled

Lewisham has cancelled Christmas. At least as far as Kirkdale High Street is concerned, with a late decsion to cancel our popular Christmas tree and therefore our annual singalong around the lighting up festivities!

Here’s a little reminder of jollier days …

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:tired_face: That’s really crappy! Any idea why?

I’m told it’s due to cuts in ward assembly funding. The Kirkdale tree was paid for from the FH ward Councillors discretionary fund. Last year it cost £150. Well worth it I think for the joy and uplift it gave the community. Kirkdale is Sydenham’s original high street and has suffered years of neglect by the powers that be by being in SE26 yet coming under the FH political ward boundary. Cllrs Paul Upex and Maya Hilton were very supportive of Kirkdale, but with the new Councillors it seems as if things have changed. As recently as July I was told we would be getting a tree again this year. So it was a great disappointment to find out that there had been a change of heart. I don’t know who made that decision.

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This is very sad and disappointing.
Is there any kind of residents community group for Kirkdale high st area? It feels like we keep getting overlooked.

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From Cllr Leo Gibbons on

This is so rubbish. There are clearly funds for green spaces available so why not a small fund to bring a bit of joy to a community really trying to make its corner of Lewisham a little brighter. How can we campaign for this decision to be overturned?

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@Julia_M and @Ruth_Dwight
There used to be a traders group that was set up by the Wooster & Stock estate agents when they tried to rebrand the high street and wanted to call it Kirkdale Village. But I think the traders that were involved in that have all moved on. Janice in the beauty parlour might know if there is a current traders group. Or the lady in Mabel’s Five & Dime (whose name escapes me at the moment, sorry) she might know if the current traders are interested in setting something up It would be great if it could be inclusive so that residents could join too, not just traders.

We have the SEE3 organization, which is run by Clle Chris Best. Kirkdale high street is one of the 3 High streets that make up SEE3 - the other 2 being Forest Hill and Sydenham. Some years ago the 3 high streets got together as “SEE3” and successfully bid for Portas Pilot funding. But apart from a pop up shop at the then closed 161 Kirkdale (where the wine bar is now) and the two painted ghost signs (on the corners of Willow Way and Halifax Street) Kirkdale rather lost out.

SEE3 is still going but they were my first port of call five or so years back when I was first trying to get a tree for Kirkdale and Chris said no. After a bit of persuasion our then Forest Hill Councillors paid for the tree from their discretionary funds. They (Cllrs Maja Hilton, Paul Upex and Peter Bernards) were really supportive and have funded the tree until now, when the new Cllrs decided not to. Chris was surprised how successful that first year’s switch on event at Kirkdale was (to be fair, I think most people who weren’t part of the Kirkdale community were surprised!), and it’s just got better and better. So it might be that Chris may feel differently now and agree for SEE3 to fund it. I guess it’s worth a try.

Annabel McLaren, the Chair of Sydenham Society, has kindly written to the FH Councillors to ask them to reconsider funding our tree. Our part of Kirkdale is historically part of Sydenham. It was Sydenham’s original high street but though still in SE26 it’s now in the FH political ward, so we’re caught sort of betwixt and between.

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Just a pity that they didn’t give more notice once the decision was made .
That would have given time to seek alternative funding or lobby to get the decision reversed

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Maybe a suggestion would be to chose a site for a permanent tree that just needs light. Saves chopping down a tree every year and make a nice statement.


@LondonDRZ I think a living tree would be lovely. I did ask when we were planning the July FH Ward Assembly, where Assembly funds were discussed, if we could have a living Christmas tree for Kirkdale. That would mean a greening of the street scene all year plus it could be decorated for other celebrations not just Christmas. I offered to help find a sponsor but the Assembly coordinator said that the Kirkdale tree had already been budgeted for and agreed for 2019. So I said in the new year I’d try to look into it for the future. I think a living tree could go in the usual position, as long as it’s a variety that’s not going to get too huge. That’s the position Skanska agreed when I met them to set up the first tree, as it’s easily accessible for them to rig the lights and run a line from the adjacent lamppost.

Pavement parking is a problem there though - even on switch on day.

A good place might be on the corner with Fransfield Grove - either side of the road would work, but not as easy for Skanska.

The disadvantages of Fransfield Grove are that Skanska didn’t want it there because of the lights. Plus it’s not such a visible "welcome to Kirkdale High Street position on the approach from Dartmouth Road.

The advantages of Fransfield Grove would I think be that might be better for road safety/crowd control (depending on sightlines) and if the Thai restaurant (boarded up for 17 years now) were ever to be reopened as a cafe/bar, they have a good size curtilage for tables on the pavement. Plus it would be an added bit of screening/greenery for the school playground if on the school side of Fransfield.

But as Jenny says, a bit more notice and we could have had more of a chance for 2019.

(I hope this reads ok. I’m struggling with weird predictive text on my phone!)

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My other half was the person from Wooster and Stock that tried to help with the Kirkdale side of things. She is gutted about the tree.

You mention the problem parking, it was a bugbear of theirs and I am sure a lovey tree would discourage parking on that spot

Hi all, I’m Bryan from a design studio called Raised by Bears. I am about to become a Kirkdale/Sydenham resident in 2 weeks, and I’d be really interested in chatting with interested parties about the branding and locals engagement project.

Have been an East Dulwich resident for 7 years, I am part of the East Dulwich Action Group, a locals group set up to deliver a number of initiatives from the huge new mural at East Dulwich Train Station, to a local photography competition what now decorates the village in the form of colourful ED branded lampost banners. The project was funded by Southwark Council and was a huge success. The project website is here.

Elements like this are really valuable for communities, and it would be a shame to lose out this year. In the immediate short term, I’d be happy to contribute to any local fundraiser to get the Xmas tree put up this year. £200 ready to be donated to get the Kirkdale Xmas Tree up this year.


Very generous offer! CC @ChrisBestUK, @CllrLiamCurran, @SydenhamSociety

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If we “community fund” a large portion of the funds, would Skanska reduce the install costs? And would the fundraising be best as a formal Kickstarter or directly donated?
@ChrisBestUK, @CllrLiamCurran, @SydenhamSociety

Thrilled to see that there is an active Kirkdale High Street group. It appears to be a trader group - but hopefully will accept members from the community.

They look as if they’ve been organized for a while and are on Instagram here …

I don’t have an Instagram or Twitter account so can’t get in touch, but if anyone from the group sees this please can you PM me? I’d love to meet up but I have very limited and intermittent Internet access this week, so please bear with if it takes a while for me to respond.

@Chris and @raisedbybears - brilliant thank you! I don’t know that we can avoid Skanska as Lewisham Council entered into a contract with them. I’ll try to find out.


I hope we can avoid them, and avoid the ‘elf and safety nonsense too :grin:

(Photo from Crofton Park)

I was really sad to see this as well! I’d be happy to contribute to a crowdfunding effort, not sure it would be enough to meet the costs though. Lovely gesture from Raisedbybears :slight_smile: Kirkdale is a lovely community so it would be great to hang onto this small piece of festivity!


I asked the Assembly coordinator, who usually organizes the purchase and installation of the trees and the switch on, if we could use anyone other than the very expensive Skanska and what were the costs saved by the cancellation by Lewisham of the November FH Assembly. I thought as we’re not having an Assembly until February maybe that could help with costs. This is her reply …

"HI Mary

I’m afraid because of insurance , we can only use Skanska and it’s too late as all the bookings have been made

The cancelled assembly costs are as follows:

Hire of venue – Forest Hill Pools - £55
Refreshments- £20
Delivery of newsletter £490"

In the past we have been covered by Lewisham’s insurance not only for the safety of the tree but also for the event itself as the switch on has been attended by the local ward councillors. We only needed one to attend for it to be classed as a Council event, which meant we were insured.

But as our current Councillors aren’t interested - actually it is THEY @CllrDavis @peterbernards @leo gibbons who voted unanimously to cancel the event - we’d need to set up public liability insurance too.

@PaulUpex @MajaHilton Kirkdale misses you.

I will try Skanska direct but I am so cross at the attitude our elected representatives.

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I’ve been a resident in Sydenham for getting on for 6 years - 3.5 years off Kirkdale (Kelvin Grove) and now in between Syd and Penge High Street.

Don’t think I’m speaking out of turn or offending anyone but I don’t think anywhere in particular “missed out” compared to others with See3 in the 2 Sydenham locations (Kirkdale and High street) as from the outside it doesn’t seem See3 contributed that much to either (or perhaps they did contribute to short-lived unsuccessful things I missed entirely?) with their logo sporadically appearing on various posters for certain events (e.g.: the recent Halloween trail I think). No idea if they do actually do a lot behind the scenes or merely have funds that are only available and accessible by certain people who have the knowledge or ability to access?

I also have a weird funny feeling in the back of my head that the “ghost signs” ended up being done by someone off their own back as they were fed up with nothing happening regarding funding and organising of things etc. Something that keeps being seen time and time again across various other aspects of Sydenham re: councillors or society plans.

Again my memory is a bit rubbish so I may be misremembering the ghost sign thing.

To the new resident - Sydenham and it’s people are generally great and much like anywhere there are things that could be better or you wish would change a bit but I would honestly say the one thing I wish would change (and it’s related to the chat so far) is there is definitely less of a community feel/spirit compared to Penge and Forest Hill (not to say there isn’t one!). Again just from a person living here point of view (I don’t have a business or work in the area or anything) I wonder how much of that is to do with a lack of traders association (or similar) to which I believe both Penge (they have a BID - Business Improvement District) and Forest Hill have which seems to actively address the things that the traders/high street needs (or wants) to make things more attractive to shoppers and people coming to the area (whether it be paving, shop fronts, events etc.) which benefits all. Without this Sydenham appears to have councillors, society members or others choosing specific things they want or don’t want to do perhaps regardless of what shops/shoppers/residents as a whole might like to see.

Penge as an example had I think 29 local businesses signed up to the Halloween trail which was all mapped out for people to enjoy. They recently had Pengefest (Octoberfest) which served in part as a fundraiser for the BID and had local butchers doing sausages, local brewers and coffee roasters selling their product alongside other mostly locally based organisations. The whole community are backing all the street art there - giving permissions for walls etc for hundreds of changing art works to be on display etc.

We have other things in Syd which are great that places like Penge don’t (Events at Syd arts, Kirkdale books, poodle club, ignition taproom etc.) but these aren’t ongoing group things run by the community for the community; more individual organisations doing their own thing which would be nice/beneficial (eg: Poodle Club recently hosted a fundraiser to get some new Christmas lights for the high street - why isn’t that something that the whole community / traders /council / society should be bandying together to do [like the Kirkdale tree] rather than a single resident setting up a fundraiser and asking for help/organising things themselves)

Apologies for the long message - Just wanted to get my point across with a bit of evidence without looking like a ranty keyboard warrior or anything!


Hmmm, so is the general consensus that this is dead for 2019?

Regarding a traders association/community projects, I’d be really interested in participating in this. Once the dust settles with the move, I’ll be around to chat.