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Pink Floyd star Nick Mason bangs drum for music museum at old Hampstead police station

Abacus Primary School still battling to move into Rosslyn Hill site

26 June, 2020 — By Helen Chapman

One of Jill Fumanovsky’s photos of Nick Mason

PINK Floyd drummer Nick Mason has swung behind a photographer’s bid to open a music heritage centre in the old Hampstead police station.

Speaking about his home neighbourhood, he told the New Journal: “We have Keats House and Fenton House. There are already some things to do but, in a way, the more the merrier. It would be good to have something a little more contemporary rather than Georgian.”

The idea of a new museum celebrating music history has been put forward by photographer Jill Furmanovsky, who has been snapping music artists for more than 40 years and is known for her shots of Pink Floyd, Bob Marley and Oasis.

But it would have to compete with the Abacus Belsize primary school which also wants the building and is appealing against the council’s refusal to grant planning consent to convert it. Its pupils are being bused to a temporary site in King’s Cross as a long-running planning row continues.

Ms Furmanovsky said she wants the building to be a centre for exhibitions but also provide a platform for younger artists.

Mr Mason said: “With Jill’s idea it is about recognising the past but also the opportunity for young bands to earn a living. I think there was a golden age when it was much easier for bands to make a living. It is really tough now. People think music tends to mean you can have a Rolls-Royce but there are a lot of people out there who would just like to make a living.”

He added: “Selling tickets is really tricky because the web is really stuffed with music. The Roundhouse does a fantastic job. Some think it is simply a venue and are unaware of what goes on underneath it. It is a place where kids can learn instruments and can practice. You can’t have too much of something like that.”

Police station in Rosslyn Hill

The police station has stood empty since being shut down during Boris Johnson’s time as Mayor of London.

Mr Mason recalled having to show his licence there “50-odd years ago” after being stopped for speeding. “I was stopped but never charged,” he said. “It was never that much excitement – I was never arrested.”

Since the coronavirus lockdown, a planned Saucerful of Secrets tour has been put on hold and Mr Mason says the band are waiting to get back to work. Supporters of the Abacus plan say the school would answer a long-term need for places for families who do not want “pay or pray” options – private education or religious schools.

The Department of Education bought the police station site but one set of plans – for a larger school and a rooftop playground – has already been rejected. The latest version was recommended for approval by Camden’s planning department before being rejected by councillors last year.

The school said it is awaiting a date for the appeal to be heard, adding in a statement: “It was particularly frustrating, after working with the many professional officers of the council and other agencies such as Historic England for the past two years, to have such a strong recommendation to permit our application, backed up by further evidence. . . at the meeting, rejected by councillors.”

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