CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Gone Girl star Rosamund Pike joins campaign to save City Farm

Exclusive: Hollywood movie actor tells CNJ why Kentish Town City Farm is so 'magical'

06 June, 2019 — By Tom Foot

HOLLYWOOD actor Rosamund Pike has swung behind the campaign to save Kentish Town City Farm as threatened staff were hauled one-by-one into redundancy meetings.

The Oscar-nominated Gone Girl star said the farm in Cressfield Close was a “magical place that should be preserved at all costs”. Staff are due to learn their individual fates today (Thursday) after final details of drastic cutbacks were unveiled by the charity’s board of trustees.

Ms Pike told the New Journal: “Kentish Town City Farm represents everything London should be: unpredictable, surprising, inspiring and innovative. The farm makes space in our city work in an unexpected and organic way, and offers a window on a London rarely seen.  It is a magical place that should be preserved at all costs. Anyone who has lived in London all their life, as I have, knows that enchantment can always be found, if only you open yourself up to looking for it.”

The board of trustees running the city farm say financial uncertainty means they must slash the annual wage bill by almost £100,000.

Their new plan, shown to staff this week, will leave just one full-time adult member of staff.

There will be “significant reduction or suspension” of horse therapy, pony club and donkey rides at the farm, according to the board proposal. It warns for the first time that the farm will, from 2021-22, have to survive with an “absence of significant local authority financial support”.

Rosamund Pike with fellow movie star Ben Affleck in 2014 [Photo aphrodite-in-nyc]

Staff have responded by saying the cuts will have a catastrophic effect on the farm and force them to completely scrap or severely curtail a range of popular projects, including school holiday play, under-fives’ activities and horse-riding.

Rosamund Pike says the farm is ‘magical’ [Photo: Rebecca Miller]

Staff work as mentors for many young people in Camden with learning difficulties who require support. A statement from staff said: “Unfortunately, as suspected, the trustees’ proposal does not provide adequate staff cover to be able to continue all the services we offer at the current levels.”

They say that without staff there to look after them, animals will have to be removed, among them three horses who have been at the farm for more than 20 years.

Shirley the cow is also facing retirement, while chickens and birds will have to be caged. Despite the threat to their livelihoods, the farm’s devoted staff are organising an open day this Sunday, with arts classes for children and goat-grooming sessions.

They are taking the farm’s donkeys, Nora and Dora, to an Islip Street Play Street event in Kentish Town at 3pm on Saturday. The farm is in the Gospel Oak council ward, but Labour councillors have been noticeably absent when it comes to public comments on the threat to staff.


SEE ALSO KENTISH TOWN CITY FARM BOARD MEMBER QUITS FOLLOWING ‘SOCIAL MEDIA CRITICISM’


SEE ALSO MYSTERY OF CITY FARM’S 20 NEW RECRUITS


The council has said it is reviewing its current annual funding level of around £75,000. According to the board’s plan, 11 staff roles will be cut back to eight – six of these are-part time – with a fundraiser-director in charge on £45,000 a year. A teenage apprentice will be kept on full time. The board says it is looking to “outsource” or “partner with other organisations” to replace the current livery yard, which it says is “unsustainable”. Horse therapy sessions for the disabled and people with learning difficulties will be reduced to “a more manageable number”.

The board has responded to an alternative financial plan, backed by the farm’s former director Rachel Schwartz, which would have meant all staff remaining but taking a pay cut. It said this was “genuinely unsustainable” and would just “prolong the challenge”. It described the alternative plan as “wildly ambitious and lacking credibility”. The board, and its independent advisors, “believe that the trustees’ proposal is the only viable proposition, given the reduction in funding for 2019-20 to meet the cost savings required”.

Labour councillor Jonathan Simpson, Camden cabinet member for promoting culture and communities, said: “We know the trustees are having to make some challenging decisions. It is important to note that we will continue to assist them in coming years, through financial and other in-kind support. We have granted the farm over £800,000 in funding in the last six years, and will continue to fund £75,000 a year until January 2021, when appropriate funding for the following three years will be reviewed.”

He added: “We categorically refute the claim that we have been assisting the trustees to identify a private operator to take over the farm. We are offering continued, in-kind support to help them find a sustainable future.”

Ms Pike, who won widespread critical acclaim for the 2014 psychological thriller Gone Girl, was nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award, a Bafta award, Globe Award and Screen Actors Guild Award.

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