20 years of Highbury Community Association: A voice on everything from Arsenal FC to greedy goldfish

The Highbury Community Association AGM at Christ Church Highbury on Saturday. Picture: Polly Hancock

The Highbury Community Association AGM at Christ Church Highbury on Saturday. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

“The Arsenal wants to knock down homes and expand its capacity by nearly a third. Most people in the community, even if they are fervent Gunners fans, don’t want to see homes demolished to make the people who own the Arsenal even richer. We can stop our community being wrecked if we begin a campaign now.”

It was a call to arms in the first newsletter of the Highbury Community Association. On Saturday, it celebrated its 20th anniversary with a bash at Christ Church Highbury.

What started off as a single-issue protest movement – to stop Arsenal redeveloping Highbury Stadium – became a 1,000-member community group for the people of Highbury, Finsbury Park and Lower Holloway.

“It was a very well-supported campaign,” says committee member Will Parkes. “We would like to think we had a key influence in the decision that was eventually made.”

The association quickly moved on. A scroll through its newsletter archives show it has tackled everything from the regeneration of Finsbury Park (1999) to greedy goldfish threatening the Gillespie Park pond (2009).

Will says: “After the Arsenal battle in the late ’90s, the people started talking about other issues. How could we support local independent businesses? How could we protect green spaces? [Islington as a borough has the least amount of green space in the country.] And how could we keep our eye on planning applications?

“Those objectives remain to this day. We definitely have a positive influence – the council listens to our views on any issues, and Jeremy Corbyn has always been very supportive. It’s almost like we are another layer of representation, separate from the politicians.

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“I think stopping Arsenal knocking down those homes remains our greatest achievement. Highbury didn’t have a community association then, and us lasting for 20 years is a real postive for the area.”

One hundred people turned out for the 20th birthday celebration on Saturday night. And Will stresses: “We are as much a social group as campaigners.”

For more information, visit highburycommunity.org