Vanessa Feltz’s Camden belly

A BIT of a familiar story is starting to sizzle in Islington: a row over whether you should be allowed to set up barbecues in the borough’s parks. London Mayor Boris Johnson is apparently angry that the council is lifting the ban because of the mess left behind in Highbury Fields. It all takes you back to a similar row in Camden in 2007 when the parks department became one of the first in London to enforce a ban and the then leisure chief Councillor Flick Rea, who had to front it up, crossed radiowaves with the gobmistress in chief, Vanessa Feltz. It wasn’t a pretty meeting:

Vanessa Feltz: I’m joined by Councillor Flick Rea. Good morning.

Flick Rea: Good morning.

VF: Why has this happened, please?

FR: Well, we are not banning people having sausages and burgers, just simply the method of cooking them. It’s part of the organisation of our community festivals, which we grant aid… one of the conditions of the grant is that coal-fired barbecues, we don’t want them used in community festivals.

VF: Has anyone ever been injured in Camden in a coal-fired barbecue?

FR: I’m sure there must have been hundreds, fortunately not at our festivals…

VF: Is this about people falling into the barbecue and suddenly finding themselves char-grilled with third degree burns in casualty because somebody thought they were a kebab? Or is this about somebody getting dysentery because somebody managing the barbecue hasn’t washed their hands after going to the loo…

FR: I think it is a bit of both. One is the fact that, with a gas barbecue, you can turn it off. With a coal-fired barbecue, when it looks like it’s died down it still remains hot. There have been occasions, there was one in Regent’s Park where a child was injured. This is a possibility. Even dogs can burn their feet if they walk across…

VF: Oh, for God’s sake. We have never had fried dog on a barbecue at a Camden festival, have we?

FR:… It isn’t just trying to stop people having fun, it is taking a serious sense of responsibility… Food preparation is a very serious risk. Gas-fired barbecues cook more easily and better than coal-fired barbecues. I don’t want to take the risk of a child being poisoned.

VF: But we have never ever heard of an outbreak in Camden of serious salmonella or dysentery or toilets being invaded or bombarded with people stricken with Camden Belly…

FR: Um… I think we have a responsibility to look after the health and safety of people where we are grant aiding a community festival…

VF: Is it or is it not true that you call yourself Camden’s minister for fun?

FR: I called myself that once. On one occasion. At one event. Now I’m as much in favour of fun as absolutely anybody. I hate being told I can’t do stuff but it’s not my call. It’s the call of responsible health and safety officers. Anybody who knows me knows I love a party. I love to have fun. I enjoy picnics… it’s a question of health and safety regulations and the fact that food preparation needs to be properly carried out.

3 Comments on Vanessa Feltz’s Camden belly

  1. David Douglas // June 6, 2011 at 4:34 pm //

    I Like Flick even more for this interview. Well done for stopping smelly, litter creating messy BBQs wrecking everyone else’s afternoon.

  2. Constantine Buhayer // June 6, 2011 at 5:19 pm //

    Do I sense there is a market in portable, solar powered microwave ovens? :-(

  3. Dave Collins // June 8, 2011 at 2:30 pm //

    I love it when Liberals turn out to be ardent cheerleaders for the nanny state …

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