Rose Rouse rocks around Harlesden with Leeroy Simpson
Chairman of Harlesden Town Team is a ‘human dynamo’
Writer Rose Rouse is on an adventure – not in Cuba, Bali or the Outer Hebrides but in Harlesden where she lives. Every month, she walks and talks with friends, neighbours around busy NW10 and meets people you may have heard of living on your doorstep. This week she catches up Leeroy Simpson, the dynamic chairman of Harlesden Town Team.
The first time I met Leeroy Simpson, I mistook him for a vagrant. Looks are deceptive. The second time, he was chairing a Harlesden Town Team monthly meeting and it became apparent, he is a human dynamo. He likes to get things done.
Today, it’s raining and we are having a cup of tea at Akbar’s Jewel In The Crown near the Jubilee Clock.
Leeroy is not the retiring type. He announces loudly that he wants Harlesden residents to know that he doesn’t drive a Mercedes.
In fact, he and the 15 other HTT (Louis Theroux is one – the marvellously named Town Champions) members are all volunteers.
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Harlesden Town Team has a vision for a future that is very different to what we have now. They have drawings and a brochure.
More pavements, more street furniture, less traffic, more space to hang out communally. Sounds wonderful.
The trouble is they are desperate to consult with the community, especially the shopkeepers, and this is not easy. Leeroy cannot hide his feelings of frustration.
“We’re trying to have conversations with shopkeepers about Option A – refurbishing the streets, and Option B which includes pedestrianisation, but they haven’t got the time or the energy to find out about them. We really want them to be part of the decision-making process.”
Although HTT is impartial, I’m getting the distinct impression that Option B is the brave way forward.
There’s a common misconception, claims Leeroy, about shoppers coming from out of town.
“Shopkeepers think their customers arrive by car,” he says, “ but 45 per cent are local and walk in, and another 25 per cent come by bus.”
For a battle-weary commander, he still ebbs and flows with ideas for Harlesden and bringing the community together.
“We’re going to have a Love Harlesden Day on June 17, and a Clean Up Harlesden Day on April 14, and I want to organise a concert that includes pupils from all the Harlesden schools,” he says.
Oh and Harlesden Town Team needs an office space. “We’d like to procure a pop-up situation,” says Leeroy, “but funnily enough, there isn’t much of that kind of shop space around.”
Let’s cheer Leeroy up and get active.
For more on the Vision for Harlesden, go to brent.gov.uk/Harlesdentown or call 020 8937 5110.
For other walks – go to roserouse.wordpress.com