By Sam Lomberg

I’ve just read Linus Rees’ article (Fitzrovia, Guy Ritchie, the Really Free School, and contempt for the media) and fail to understand the negative reaction from some readers (Fitzrovia neighbours clash in squatters’ free school row). I don’t know much about Guy Ritchie but after reading the article that created a rumpus, I can’t resist making some comments.

Fitzrovia News readers may recall my articles about my childhood when I lived in Charlotte Street and where I was born in 1920. We lived in number 111 in the north end just before Howland Street. The houses at our end were in very good shape, not as old as those at the other end and I think it’s correct to say that most of the inhabitants were considered at that time, as being middle class — at least they weren’t poor lower class. (How I hate that word “class”!).

The houses in Whitfield Street that ran parallel to Charlotte Street and in Chitty Street, a side turning off Charlotte Street, where Humphries film processing labs were located, were not exactly in good shape. Fitzroy Street was okay and Fitzroy Square “Very posh” and the square was only for key holders, like all the other squares. Great Titchfield Street, Saville Street (later called Hanson Street) and Tottenham Street were nothing to shout about.

To get to the point. Last September I visited London — the first visit for many years. I took a nostalgic walk around my old neighbourhood — I was shocked to see that the disparity of wealth (to use Linus’ words) still existed. That so many of the houses that I remembered from my childhood were still standing, but in very poor shape. Also that they stood amongst high-rises, some of them extremely ugly and garish. In fact I thought that much of the area was shabby. There didn’t seem to be any plan. I had expected to see many improvements, but the few improvements I did see were for the privileged.

There were “haves and have nots” when I was a child, but it seems to me there are now more “have nots” than ever. I’ve experienced squatters, hunger strikers and mass unemployment, so I can understand the present reaction to houses standing empty and poor housing, not to forget the increase of gated cities. And for me the most distressing part of my visit was the very sad sight of so many people sleeping on the streets – a lot of them so young.

What happened to the promise of better times?

To those that criticized Linus, I would like to say “Of course you’re entitled to your opinions, but if you were as old as I am and lived through the same bad times, I think you would be more understanding, especially when you read about all the other disturbing plans that are being made for Fitzrovia. I know there are some positive things, but as I see it, they’re outweighed by the negative ones”.