West End Extra
Publications by New Journal Enterprises
  Home Archive Competition Jobs Tickets Accommodation Dating Contact us
West End Extra - JAMIE WELHAM
Published: 6 February 2009

A deserted Frith StreetA deserted Frith Street
Frozen majesty of West End snow brings old political rivals together

Phone call from America sees Tory councillor enlist Labour lens to capture historic scenes

THE lions whimpered in Trafalgar Square, the wheels on the buses couldn’t even be seen let alone go around in Oxford Street, and it was snowball season in Soho.
While London descended into paralysis on Monday, more than 5,000 miles away in Houston, Texas, West End councillor Ian Wilder woke up to a blue sky and the smell of pancakes.
Cllr Wilder is in the United States receiving cancer treatment, but that didn’t stop him missing out on the historic occasion – made even more poignant because the last time Londoners saw significant amounts of the white stuff, in 1991, the West End was left out.
Aware of the forecast, the Tory councillor phoned London with strict instructions that should it snow in the West End, he wanted to be in the thick of it.
The man detailed with the mission was Dean Street’s very own Scott of Soho, David Bieda.
The call-up was made even more remarkable given that Mr Bieda is a dye-cast Labour supporter, who ran against and lost to Cllr Wilder at two local elections.
Mr Bieda said he sensed the flurry in his sleep. He said: “On the news they’ve been telling us about the heavy snowfall 18 years ago but last time it didn’t settle in the West End.
“I don’t know how I got up at 6am but it had been in my head that Ian [Wilder] had told me that if it snowed I must take some pictures.
“I just woke up and had that feeling it had been heavy – it was eerie and deadly quiet outside. I just knew I had to do it. 
“It was amazing to see snow in Soho Square, Chinatown and Picca­dilly Circus. The pavements were so slippery I had to walk on the road, and I ended up taking almost 200 pictures. This is probably a once in a lifetime thing. There were kids playing in the streets who had never seen snow before.”
Cllr Wilder was delighted with the pictures. “They are magical,” he said. “David did a very good job. I know it wouldn’t have been easy getting up in the middle of the night.
“We had a deal that if it snowed he would do it, and he stuck to his word. I can’t remember the last time it snowed. I think I was a boy and it makes me feel like I’m home again.
“Obviously I’d liked to have been there but I’ve got all the photos on my computer and I’m going to blow them up and stick them on my wall. It’s funny because David and I used to fight each other on opposite sides.”
Cllr Wilder said he was going to use the pictures as part of his campaign to save the eastern end of Oxford Street from redevelopment.

Westminster spared brunt of ‘grit-gate’

SCHOOLCHILDREN flocked to the parks armed with sledges and tea trays on Monday and Tuesday as all but three of the borough’s 50 schools were closed in the heaviest snowfall to hit the capital in 18 years.
A handful of schools were back on Tuesday but for most it was another day of snowman building. One School, Quintin Kynaston in St John’s Wood, was still partially closed on Wednesday because of health and safety fears surrounding an icy playground.
Hospitals said that while figures for snow-related casualties could not be calculated,
winter ailments were on the rise.
With central London transformed into a ghost town on Monday, parking wardens were sent home and all parking enforcement, including CCTV, was suspended.
Mayor Boris
Johnson also waived the congestion charge after much of public transport ground to a halt – with a skeleton service operating in the West End.
Seven gritting machines and 120 staff were deployed by the council to “keep London moving”. They worked day and night, over the weekend, and Monday and Tuesday evenings to spread over 300 tonnes of gritting salt on the roads.
Westminster was
one of the few local authorities in the
capital to be spared
the inquest into why the roads hadn’t been gritted in time.
Councillor Robert Davis, deputy leader of Westminster Council, said: “The main
problem we have faced is the sheet ice from temperatures falling to minus three and
causing melting snow to freeze.
“We are treating pavements but many will be hazardous. As we complete the gritting of the streets we will be transferring staff back to rubbish collection duties. We will ensure that every home in the city gets a collection this week.”

Comment on this article.
(You must supply your full name and email address for your comment to be published)







Theatre Music
Arts & Events Attractions