King's Cross Voices
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On 14th May, 2004, King's Cross Voices Oral Historian Alan Dein spoke to Barbara Hughes about her early experiences as a Councillor on the London Borough Camden Council. Born in 1931, Barbara was first elected to Camden Council in 1981. She was Mayor of Camden in 1984-85 and 1989-90 and is currently Deputy Mayor (2004-05). Other than for four years (1994-1998) Barbara has continuously served on Camden Council. In 2002 she was awarded the MBE (Member of the British Empire).

Barbara Hughes
Barbara Hughes in Camden Council Chamber.
Photo Credit: Sarah Weal.

Duration: 3 minutes 40 Seconds. Size: 3.36mb

Alan Dein: Just to go back, when you became a councillor, were there any particular issues that you were personally interested in, you know did you have specific ...?

Barbara Hughes: Well what brought me in was King's Cross. In those days we had all this prostitution - terrible, terrible vice. And there was that, I mean it was King's Cross, clearing up King's Cross, that's what I came in with, making it a better place to live basically. So I think that was me theme when I came in and you know, it has never gone away in a way, there is all sorts of other things that I'm interested in - particularly women, you know, getting women to stand up for themselves and doing things and following that, you know, diversity I suppose really.

Alan Dein: You talk about the vice, which I presume back then.

Barbara Hughes: Well that was in the 80s, mid 80s, where we had terrible problems, I mean people says that a lot of the reason was, it was the Yorkshire Ripper and lots of Coming Away Days the girls but then there were a lot of very young women and there was no, very little drugs involved with it but nasty heavy pimps, there was some very serious pimps stuff and it sort of took over, it got so that you had you know the area was packed with people soliciting, loitering, pimps ran lots of ... very frightened women lived in the area including my younger daughter-in-law I remember, it got to that state. And we got so fed up with it we sort of ... well what happened was we had a group called the English, the King's Cross Women's Centre they've now gone up to Kentish Town thank goodness and it was a group called English Collective Prostitutes or one or two others, but to be honest there were mostly very middle class women and very articulate who didn't listen to anybody else's point of view and the local women decided that they were fed up with that so between us all residents we got a lot of women together. We used to have 50 women at meetings, we wouldn't let the others in and we, in the end, we lobbied we got Frank ... the Church was very involved with us, they were very good this Holy Cross Church and we got Frank Dobson to take us to meet. it was the first time anybody ever, first time any London Commissioner, Police Commissioner had met residents as we understood from anywhere, it was Kenneth Newman, little guy he was, I was quite surprised. And we walked out to Scotland Yard to the top to meet him and we took all these parents and mums saying shutting their front doors and there was a prostitute with her client there and you know, it was dreadful stuff. And the policing was different. We had a kind of northwest commander, an elderly guy who said he couldn't do anything about it basically and we all went off up there and said our peace and things were done, they happened. We got a new, very good Commander who came ... and a lot of things were done. The Borough changed the way the cars circled around you can't circle round because we did a thing and it worked out that 1:00 in the morning it was as busy as Oxford Street in the day. People coming in curb crawling, the police did the curb crawlers and lots of arrests and lots, 2 or 3 pimps went away for a long time because there was real nasty violence, we had a guy was an Inspector Bill Nelson he went on to be a police constable somewhere, so we had people came in and changed it. But I think what we did there, we let our eye off the ball. I've always felt that King's Cross and I've often said to people like Pam Mansi and people like that, that we went through the situation, things got better the refurbishment got done, work got done and then people just settled down and took their eye off the ball and next thing you know you've got this drug, this terrible drug situation with sex and everything that goes with it.

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ай2004 King's Cross Voices Oral History Project