The Croom’s Hill Melee

I hadn’t expected to be writing a follow-up to last week’s post, but I’m sure many of you were just as shocked as I was by the terrible scenes here in Greenwich last Saturday after the firework display on Blackheath. In retrospect, it seems incredible that, at a time of day which can only be described as “night”, more than 100,000 people were not only allowed to make their own way from houses, pubs, stations and bus stops throughout the borough to a piece of largely unfenced and unprotected grass, but were then allowed to repeat this act of initiative when leaving afterwards, despite by this stage having had their emotions roused by impressive pyrotechnics and possibly a burger from the Blackheath Tea Hut (which, in what seems like an act of complete irresponsibility, remained open throughout the proceedings, despite having no council-certificated bouncers, trained first-aid staff, or information point with multilingual brochures).

At approximately fifteen minutes after the launch of the final firework, I can report, crowds were so thick on Croom’s Hill that cars attempting to drive up or down the road – which, in what would appear to be another inexplicable and potentially lethal oversight by Greenwich Council, had plainly NOT been closed off since midday with all parking bays suspended and traffic diverted via Norman Road, Deptford Church Street and Catford – were forced to proceed very slowly, possibly even in first gear, in order to avoid hitting people.

Remarkably, some participants in what can only be described as this high-spirited and chaotic melee had chosen to bring children with them, some clearly under the age of sixteen. Many of these youngsters were manifestly not being prevented from writing their name in the air with sparklers, despite the obvious risk of distracting the pilots of passing helicopters, while others, too young to walk for themselves, were being pushed in what can only be described as pushchairs. If the organisers had carried out even rudimentary preliminary surveys of Croom’s Hill, produced a detailed consultation document, and then held a properly publicised public meeting, they would have quickly been made aware that Croom’s Hill contains several speed bumps which, if not temporarily flattened or cordoned off, could cause a small child on wheels to temporarily lose control of its Mousey and/or Igglepiggle, with potentially catastrophic consequences.

I do not like to use phrases like “free-for-all” lightly but, as I passed the Greenwich Theatre, it became obvious that the Rose and Crown public house was full of people enjoying a spontaneous drink: no security staff or marshals appeared to be present, there were no safety railings in place for those who chose to smoke outside, and anybody wishing to enter in a wheelchair would have needed someone to hold the door open for them. Similar scenes could be observed further on at the Mitre, and I’ve since heard reports of people enjoying unpremeditated drinks in pubs of their own choosing all over Greenwich, Blackheath and Deptford.

I am now clear in my own mind that the events of last Saturday should be a wake-up call, as it is absolutely imperative that there be no repetition of these shamefully shambolic and dangerous scenes during next year’s Olympics, when the eyes of the world will be upon us. For the duration of the Games – and let’s not forget that up to 65,000 people may be trying to get to the Park in broad daylight on Cross Country Day – it is vital that, at the very least, all stations and bus stops in Greenwich be closed, and all spectators driven to the arena in specially adapted minibuses from holding pens behind North Greenwich station, where they can be efficiently checked for suitable footwear, given protective helmets, some Kendal Mint Cake and a whistle, and then allocated their own personal marshal who will escort them to their seat and buy them a soft drink and a choc ice, provided they have a signed letter from their GP confirming that it’s OK for them to eat dairy.

It’s not too late for this still to be an enjoyable and fun day out for all the family.

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