Alexandra Park has had record visitor numbers over the past 12 months. At 196 acres it has plenty to offer, but it also takes quite a lot of looking after. Michael Conway and his team are responsible for doing so, and in this blog we’ve chatted to Michael to find more:
Hi Michael, what is job in the Park? I am Contract Manager for John O’Conner, who are contracted by the Park and Palace Charitable Trust to manage the maintenance of the park. Day-to-day this takes a team of six (plus one more in the summer) and together we work 365 days-a-year to keep the park in top condition.
What is a typical day for you? I’m usually in at 7am. My first job is to check whether there were any incidents over night that need to be sorted. We’ll then work through our weekly work schedule. This means doing all the essential jobs like cutting the grass, clearing litter, tree care, monitoring the wildlife, we repair gates, fences and potholes in the road. You name it we do it.
How long have you worked at Alexandra Park? It’ll be 25 years this year. It’s gone by in a flash. I came from a construction background, but the work dried up during the recession in the 90s, so when I saw the chance to come up to the Palace I jumped at it. I fell in love with the greenery and park life so have never left!
How much has the park changed in that time? Over the past two decades the park has gone from strength to strength. When I first started I remember abandoned cars being left here and shopping trolleys in the boating lake. The comparison to now is vast. We’ve achieved Green Flag status 13 years in a row and recently picked up three golds at the London in Bloom Awards. We’ve got so much wildlife thriving here too, among my favourites are two peregrine falcons who are regular visitors. So we’re not doing too bad! People are using the park differently, it’s a lot more family orientated now, more safe and inviting.
What’s the best thing about your job? Working with a great bunch of people. Everyone loves the outdoors and nature and want to look after it. It’s also great to watch the seasons change and the park changing with them. Autumn is probably my favourite. It’s the colours and it also quietens down a little, so we can catch our breath and plan the renovation jobs for the winter.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your job? For all of us, it’s the endless litter. With so many extra visitors to the park over the last few months, the amount of litter has properly increased. We’ve even seen birds using plastic bags to build their nests. Keeping on top of it is a constant struggle, and we’re grateful to all the support we get from local people and volunteers. It’s a shame that modern society seems such a throw away culture, despite knowing so much more about the environment.
What’s your favourite fact, rumour, or story about the park? The story of there being Nazi gold under the boating lake comes up every so often. One day we’ll have to drain the lake and find out for sure!
How do events in the Park impact your work – and do you have a favourite event in the park? It’s a lot of planning but all the teams at the Park and Palace work very closely together. I did like the Secret Cinema event here a few years ago, we had people riding horses around the park dressed as Lawrence of Arabia. You do see it all working here. I saw Jay Z by the cash machine in Palm Court once. Perhaps my favourite was one morning bumping into Arnold Schwarzenegger who had landed in a helicopter in the park for a film interview.
If someone has never been to the park, what would you tell them to encourage them to visit? Sometimes we have teams from other parks visit for one reason or other and the thing that always strikes them is the view. Who needs the London Eye when you can get views over the capital, day and night, like this.
What’s your favourite park in (a) London (b) the world? In the world it’s People’s Park in Limerick City where I was born and raised. I’ve so many fond memories there with friends and family. I do like Regent’s Park if I had to choose another one in London. But it’s still Ally Pally for me…
Alexandra Palace is the People’s Palace – run by a charity for the benefit of everyone. 2020 has been tough, and our very survival has been at stake. Whatever the future holds, we are working harder than ever to be here for you and future generations. Click here to find out how you can support. Thank you x