Venue is more than “cow shed”

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Yourviews -

I was de­lighted that Jeremy Cor­byn made his New Year ad­dress in the con­stituency of Peter­bor­ough that I was proud to rep­re­sent as a Labour MP from 1997-2005.

I was even hap­pier that Jeremy spoke in the ward of Pas­ton where peo­ple work hard for them­selves and their fam­i­lies with­out nec­es­sar­ily en­joy­ing an af­flu­ent life­style.

How­ever, I was an­gered that for­mer na­tional West­min­ster lobby jour­nal­ist, Paul Richards chose to sneer at Pas­ton and its res­i­dents by means of a cheap jibe at the leader, say­ing that in speak­ing at Pas­ton Farm, Jeremy Cor­byn had picked a venue that was a ‘painted cow­shed.’ Let’ s set the record straight. Past on Farm was orig­i­nally a com­mu­nity fa­cil­ity with ex­cel­lent out­door sports equip­ment; the brain­child of lo­cal peo­ple who raised funds to build it.

The fa­cil­ity was sit­u­ated in Pas­ton Farm­house yard; it­self pre­served from re­de­vel­op­ment when Pas­ton Rid­ings Road and Com­mon Land were built upon by the then Labour Gov­ern­ment’s Peter­bor­ough De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion.

When the Con­ser­va­tives gained con­trol of Peter­bor­ough City Coun­cil, the play equip­ment was ne­glected, with just a small chil­dren’s play cen­tre re­main­ing.

When that Coun­cil adopted an aus­ter­ity bud­get, it was sold off al­to­gether, thereby de­priv­ing Pas­ton chil­dren of in­door play fa­cil­i­ties.

Past on Labour Coun­cil­lors, John Knowles, Jonas Yong a and oth­ers then came to the res­cue and to­gether with lo­cal res­i­dents, set up the Pas­ton Farm Com­mu­nity Foun­da­tion Trust.

The Con­ser­va­tive Po­lice and Crime Com­mis­sioner do­nated money for a Po­lice Box­ing club, fi­nan­cially matched from Cllr Knowles’ Com­mu­nity Fund.

The Cen­tre is open for pub­lic book­ing sand in­cludes a nu­tri­tious and af­ford­able café. This Cen­tre is a valu­able pub­lic re­source.

Other groups us­ing it in­clude the Voy­ager Acad­emy which has a full time ed­u­ca­tional fa­cil­ity for pupils who are un­suited to main­stream ed­u­ca­tion.

It also host a learn­ing dif­fer­ent cul­ties group in­clud­ing peo­ple with RTA brain in­juries; the U3A Arts group, a Keep Fit class, a mixed abil­ity Karate group and a wider Arts group.

The Cen­tre also has an area used to screen films with a film club for dis­abled peo­ple and this space has been used also for live theatre per­for­mances.

Per­haps best of all, the orig­i­nal out­door ac­tiv­ity equip­ment has been re­placed and at the sug­ges­tion of for­mer Labour Coun­cil­lor Knowles, the area is cur­rently let out to a com­pany spe­cial­is­ing in out­door ac­tiv­ity cour­ses.

The en­tire cen­tre has been re­fur­bished with the help of some of Peter­bor­ough’s phil­an­thropic lo­cal busi­nesses.

All this su­perb and pub­lic spir­ited com­mu­nity ef­fort has been in ef­fect, rub­bished by a

jour­nal­ist who knows noth­ing of Peter­bor­ough and its peo­ple and cares less.

Paul Richards just wanted to find a cheap way to den­i­grate the Labour leader and say­ing that he makes im­por­tant speeches in a cow­shed served the pur­pose.

In con­trast, as Peter­bor­ough’s last Labour MP, I am de­lighted that Jeremy made his keynote speech in Pas­ton.

He could, of course, have in­sisted that he spoke from the lav­ish back­drop of the Town Hall and caroused in the Mayor’s Par­lour with its an­cient and im­pos­ing ar­ray of pho­to­graphs and mem­o­ra­bilia.

The fact that he chose Pas­ton speaks vol­umes about the man.

As Prime Min­is­ter he will rep­re­sent the many and not the few and gov­ern in the in­ter­ests of the whole na­tion and not a mon­eyed and priv­i­leged ‘en­ti­tled’ elite.

He­len Clark Labour MP for Peter­bor­ough 1997-2005

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