Editor’s comment: Fire engine at town hall no cause for panic

Firefighters from Islington and Holloway stations were awarded the freedom of the borough last Thurs

Firefighters from Islington and Holloway stations were awarded the freedom of the borough last Thursday. Picture: EM FITZGERALD - Credit: Archant

Onlookers may well have feared the worst when two dozen firefighters were scrambled to Islington town hall on Thursday night.

For once, though, there really was smoke (or, rather, a big fire engine and lots of people in uniform) without fire.

They were there to receive the freedom of Islington, a historic ceremonial honour that confers little practical benefit to anyone without a flock of sheep to their name, but at least means the heroes of the London Fire Brigade can legitimately start walking around like they own the place.

They, and the Pearly King and Prince of Finsbury, were very worthy recipients of the title, a fact I entirely neglected to mention in my nervous speech to mark the civic awards that immediately followed. I apologise unreservedly to any of them who haven’t now boycotted the Gazette.

I was in fact lucky enough to have helped judge the civic awards, and it was an utter delight to hear the winners’ stories and see their smiles. As I said on the night, journalism can be a bleak job (though not nearly so bleak as firefighting, I expect, which is something else I failed to say), so it’s wonderful to have genuine “good news” stories like these to cheer us up once in a while.

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Like the fire engine, it might seem a little strange to onlookers to see the local council and the local paper working together on something.

And sure, we don’t always see eye-to-eye, but I like to think we are on occasion motivated by the same impulse: to make a difference and serve Islington.

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Reading about the winners of these awards reminded me there are a thousand ways to do that, most of which don’t involve a newspaper. So perhaps the most sincere way we can thank these people is to follow their example: not just when we turn up to work, but every day in the community.

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