HACKNEY COUNCIL HAS DENIED the family of a music-hall comedian the right to erect a simple wooden cross on his grave in Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington.
Fred Herbert (1864-1933) travelled the music-hall circuit, specialising in topical songs, and was for many years secretary of the Variety Artistes’ Federation trade union.
More than 200,000 people are buried in the cemetery, including theatrical stars; the founders of the Salvation Army; and six fallen police officers, among other unsung heroes. Many have huge memorials, certainly more prominent than a small cross rising up from a plot.
Brian Ekins, 73, of Kingston upon Thames, a great grandson of Herbert, asked the Music Hall Guild of Great Britain and America, which helps to care for theatrical graves in Abney Park Cemetery, to help him find and mark the grave with a plain wooden cross and engraved plaque, which is in line with the memorial guidelines on the volunteer group Abney Park Trust’s website.
The cemetery owner is Hackney council and its green spaces chief, Ian Holland, said that council policy was against any kind of memorials but added that ”in this instance, I am happy for a wooden cross — of the size specified — to be laid flat on the ground to mark the grave as suggested, first ensuring that it is the correct grave, obviously.”
The guild’s director, Adrian Barry: “I am appalled by Mr Holland’s insensitive response and we, along with many others who regularly contact us, are becoming increasing alarmed over Hackney council’s use of the cemetery.
“Not only do they issue permits for theatre productions and comedy club events to take place inside the cemetery, which we believe shows great disrespect to the dead and those who tend graves, but now this memorial policy raises very serious questions over Hackney’s management strategy and future proposals for Abney Park Cemetery.”
Hamish Scott 130818
* Abney Park is accessible via the art deco Egyptian-influence gates in Stoke Newington High Street, N16 0LH, and through the smaller gates in nearby Church Street.
* The photograph middle right is © Brian Ekins
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