WE can’t let the week close without another mention of council chief executive Moira Gibb’s leaving party at the German Gym in King’s Cross on Monday night. There you could see council officers and councillors, past and present, from the last eight years all raising a toast. (…although it is always more interesting at these events to scan the room to see who isn’t there – a few Holbornistas and department chiefs who left circa 2004/2005 might have been hiding under the tables, I couldn’t see them.)
It is indisputable that Moira is much admired in the world of local government. This was a warm, well pitched send off. Perhaps sensibly given the hurting times, the soiree, all over by 8ish, wasn’t as grand as when former councillor and Town Hall leader Dame Jane Roberts left the council back in 2006. Back then Dame Jane’s farewell made a headline or two for costing more than £10,000 and consisting of an evening at a historic hotel in Holborn. On Monday, people who were there for that made do this time with salmon bagels, olives and mini pizzas.
The setting of the German Gym, which, looking out of the windows northwards, felt like a symbol of the King’s Cross railwaylands redevelopment, was also perfectly chosen. While many locally may wonder what could have been made of the golden opportunity of Europe’s largest constructions site – *cough* more family sized affordable housing – it represents one of the things Moira and councillors who are around in this era will look back on in the future as a problem which others failed to tackle before they finally did. Buildings and boulevards in King’s Cross will be legacy pennants. It will no longer be a shameful crater of mud.
Moira delivered an affectionate speech, the funniest of the evening. We’ve been told of a wicked sense of humour before. Her dislike, long-suspected, for full council meetings came to the fore several times. There was a suggestion she sometimes snuck off for fish and chip suppers during the dullest sections. Still, she found space to predict bright things for Camden’s future despite the economic gloom. She has seen being its chief executive as the job of her career. So far.
But, but, were the speeches in the German Gym meant to be an A-listers party or a gathering of the ‘B’ guests? Last night, Moira and the top managers at the council had booked babysitters again for a separate get-together at Frederick’s, the rather exquisite restaurant in Camden Passage, which isn’t actually in Camden but off Upper Street in Islington. I’m told its pan-fried skate wing and chorizo is something to die for. No pre-prepared words, it was here no doubt that the really juicy tales of the last eight years were shared. I’d love to have been a fly on the wall.