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March 18, 2013

North London newspapers in ‘rare’ show of unity as 5,000 march to save Whittington Hospital

By William Turvill

Four local newspapers from north London pulled together to organise a march of 5,000 people opposing controversial plans for Whittington Hospital on Saturday.

The Islington Tribune and Camden New Journal, part of the same independent group, and Archant’s Ham & High and Islington Gazette organised an hour-long protest against plans to sell off part of the hospital and axe more than 500 staff.

In a “rare” show of unity, the two newspaper groups each drove double-decker, open-top buses down the Holloway Road accompanied by protesters on foot.

According to the Camden New Journal, Islington Council leader Catherine West and MPs Emily Thornbury, Jeremy Corbyn and David Lammy were all present at the march.

Similar campaigns have previously been won in the area, including in 2010 when the closure of Whittingon Hopsital’s Accident and Emergency and maternity unit were halted.

Camden New Journal deputy editor Richard Osley said: "We vowed when we won assurances that the casualty department would not be shut down that we would keep a hawkeye watch on what happened next to the hospitals.

“Now, with cuts and sell-offs on the table, we are keeping our pledge to campaign once more and bring the battle bus back out of the garage."

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He added: "One of the things that have distressed the local community the most is the fact that these big changes to the hospital were hardly discussed in public.

“Our chief reporter Tom Foot uncovered the plans by the old fashioned graft of reading through board papers and turning up to meetings. Even the local MPs had not been told about the plans. It illustrates the importance of what local newspapers do."

Ham & High editor Geoff Martin told Press Gazette: “It was one of those rare examples of the local media pulling together. There was quite an impressive turnout considering the weather – it wasn’t the most pleasant morning.”

He predicted that the campaign will have an impact: “I think there definitely will be changes. What will change or when it will change remains to be seen.”

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