A Very Merry Muswell

xmastree2-w-textChristmas shopping in Muswell Hill has always been fun – independent food and wine shops, places to find unique gifts and a wide choice of cafes and restaurants where you can take a break.  But there’s been one thing missing – a Christmas tree! 

This year will be different!  The Friends of St James Square have successfully bid for Council funding to build a pit for a large Christmas tree in the new heart of Muswell Hill, close by the Everyman Cinema and Planet Organic.  Our energetic community group, who brought you Midsummer Muswell and the Geisterfest, submitted a bid for the Muswell Hill ward budget.  This money is allocated every year by Haringey Council to each ward, with councillors choosing the successful bids. Local councillors for Muswell Hill, Gail Engert, Pippa Connor and Mark Blake all supported the bid by the Friends of St James Square.

The plan is that we will have a gorgeous tree each year, lit up throughout the holiday season.  On Saturday 3rd December  1pm-5pm the tree will be lit up for the first time at a celebration in St James Square – which we are calling A Very Merry Muswell.  The event will take place on the same day as Small Business Saturday – a UK wide initiative to encourage people to ‘shop local’.

xmastreeDeanna Bogdanovic, of the BonaFideStudio and Friends of St James Square, said “after the success of our Midsummer Muswell and Geisterfest events, we are really excited about A Very Merry Muswell – just the thing to get everyone in a festive mood!”

A Very Merry Muswell will feature choirs and singers and plenty of seasonal food and drink. (Check out our stage running order: avmm-stage-timetable and our Entertainment Page). We will kick off at 1pm with the St James Square mosaic unveiling.

Father Christmas will be there of course, in his grotto.  As part of the event, we will also be encouraging local shops and residents to donate food and presents to the Community Soup Kitchen project. We’ll be setting up a collection point a couple of weeks in advance, so that we can get as many donations as possible.

Councillor Gail Engert said “we have been pushing to get a Christmas tree in Muswell Hill for many years, and I’m so proud it’s finally happening.”

We would also like to add that LCCCP will be running their annual Santa Dash at 10am.  Find out more details here.

As part of A Very Merry Muswell, we will be holding a market where visitors will be able to purchase goods made or sold by the good people of Muswell Hill.  There are many creative businesses in N10 who do not have a shop front.  We are offering them the opportunity to share their talents with North London in our Christmas market.  We are also hoping that the local traders will participate with discounts on this “shop local” day.

For those who want to know more about Small Business Saturday, then we suggest you visit their website: Small Business Saturday.  As a small independent business, you are able to register a special offer in the small business finder section. As a customer, you are able to use the same business finder to type in your postcode to see which businesses are participating.

Small Business Saturday events have been held in Crouch End (Christmas market) and Wood Green (Love Wood Green, Shop Wood Green) and we feel that it is only natural that Muswell Hill should join in.  We are hoping that Haringey will be offering free parking on this day, as in previous years.

If you are a local business who wants to get involved, be it as part of the market, a business offering a discount or giveaway or a general supporter then please email us at muswellife@gmail.com.


Cllr Gail Engert, the force behind our Christmas Tree

I have lived in Muswell Hill for 28 years. My Husband, Cllr Martin Newton, and I moved to Muswell Hill from Holloway because we thought it would be a wonderful place to raise our son. We were proved right and have been here ever since.

Martin and I had our own graphic design business for 30 years and designed logos, books, brochures and even stamps for Royal Mail.

I have been a Lib Dem councillor for Muswell Hill for over 12 years and before that was a local campaigner including helping to save a library from closure in Islington and setting up one of the first Neighbourhood Watch schemes. I am the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Urban Environment & Transport and recently became the Leader of the Opposition too. However, I always make sure that I have plenty of time to spend helping local people with their problems in Muswell Hill from planning applications and housing problems to making sure rubbish is collected and pot holes are filled!

There have been some questions raised about our Christmas tree.
When we heard last year that the Council was offering £10K grants to every ward in the Borough we decided to bid for enough money to put up a Christmas tree for an event we decided to call A Very Merry Muswell.  We knew it would be expensive because it involved digging a hole in the Council’s pavement.  We were amazed to find that it would cost £10,000 and when we saw the costings and the extent to which the work was taken out of our hands and put with council-nominated contractors, we decided to bid for the full £10,000.  The major item is circa £7000 for digging the hole using Council nominated contractors and the electrical work needed for the lighting.  The purchase, delivery, decoration and planting of the tree (again involving Council-approved contractors) costs a further circa £2000.  Some of the figures the Council gave us did not allow for VAT and we are unlikely to have anything over out of the £10,000 but if we do it will be applied in providing an enjoyable community event and meeting the overheads of insurance, licensing and so on.  It is hard work and we are delighted  that so many local residents have supported us by giving their time and skills for nothing and, in many instances, signed up to become members of our non-profit-making company FRIENDS OF ST JAMES SQUARE LIMITED to whom we, as directors are accountable.

Peter Thompson,  Company Secretary