London Mayor Sadiq Khan has backed a campaign to have Kensington Palace Gardens – home to the Russian Embassy – renamed Zelensky Avenue in honour of Ukrainian comedian and voice of Paddington Bear*, Volodymyr Zelensky. He is better known, of course, as President of Ukraine, currently leading the fightback against one man’s imperialist vision to colonise his country.
Over the past 20 years, Kensington has become a Russian magnate magnet and many of its Putin-admiring residents have close ties to local and national government, which makes it hard to believe this renaming attempt can succeed. Russians are not known for having progressive attitudes to race, so it’s probably no coincidence that after its takeover by Evgeny Lebedev, The Evening Standard’s editorial attitude towards Notting Hill Carnival rapidly cooled.
Renaming streets and buildings is nothing new, while removing statues and other reminders of offensive people has gained momentum from the Black Lives Matter campaign. But how exactly do you get a street renamed?
The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea has a street (re)naming pack, which you can request by emailing SNN@rbkc.gov.uk. First, of course, you need to lobby the council. If you manage to persuade it that a new name is desirable (that’s the hard part), the legal process seems straightforward.
According to Local Government Lawyer, the council makes an order to change the name. It has to post up a notice about the proposed name change in some conspicuous position in the street or delivering the notice to every building on that street. The council should normally hold some sort of public consultation, giving residents a chance to comment on the proposed name. If there are no serious objections, the name change is registered with official bodies, utilities, emergency services, Royal Mail, mapmakers etc.
So, Soca News readers, which street or building would you like to name or rename and what name would you choose? Perhaps there’s a community hero or heroine who deserves recognition, a triumph or disaster that ought to be commemorated, or a location that should be linked to our cultural history (Calypso Grove, Carnival Crescent, Soca Square, Steelpan Place…?).
Do let us know – we’ll share the most interesting responses in a later article.
* As recounted in Michael Bond’s children’s books, Paddington Bear, a marmalade-loving immigrant from Peru, was an RBKC resident, living at 32 Windsor Gardens, off Harrow Road. It’s very close to the Yaa Centre and almost next door to Paddington Arts’ base in Woodfield Road ‑ which sometimes holds Peruvian dance classes!