Greenwich’s regal connections will come to the fore next year when it becomes a royal borough. As the man in charge of the council’s culture portfolio, is Cllr Fahy proud of this honour?
“I am very proud of it - notwithstanding Henry VIII’s activities in Ireland and all of that, forget all that,” the County Cork-born councillor says, “It’s just an enormous benefit for the borough. It’s long overdue.
“We are a World Heritage Site, home of time and all of that. It’s a joy that we’ve been able to get it, and again it’s because of the hard work of the leadership of the council in pushing that agenda forward.”
Is a new logo for the borough in the offing?
“I think there’s some work going on but that’s under wraps at the moment. We have to fit into the palace agenda.”
But the bigger story for 2012 is the Olympics. Cllr Fahy is himself looking forward to the swimming, equestrian and shooting events and is in the lottery for tickets.
How does he think preparations for the events being staged in Greenwich are going?
“Absolutely terrific. It’s interesting that the silent majority are totally enthused about the Olympics and I just find it fascinating that there’s this hard core of objectors around Greenwich Park who are a serious minority.
“It’ll just be amazing... the millions of people that will see the iconic vista from the top of the Wolfe statue right down, it will just be amazing.”
One of the angriest press releases I’ve seen from Greenwich Council, I tell him, came when the ticket allocation for local children was announced. Was he disappointed with what was available for local kids?
“In reality, we continue to press... our ambition is to secure a ticket to some event during the Olympics for every school child in the borough.
“Whether we achieve that or not will depend on a whole range of things. They’d be able to tell their children and grandchildren ‘I was there in 2012’. As people were saying in 1948, ‘I was there’.”
Cllr Fahy raises the idea of staging a concert in Greenwich Park in August, between the Olympic and Paralympic games.
“There is an opportunity between the Olympics and Paralympics to use Greenwich Park. There’ll be a stadium in there which will be kitted out so what the hell, why can’t we use it?
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had Bono in Greenwich Park in 2012? It’s a space that’s there and we need to talk to LOCOG and the police and all that about it to see if it’s possible to use it. It’s a thought.
“It would be a promoter coming in and we would be helping to facilitate it. We wouldn’t be dipping into our pockets.”
With next year set to be huge for Greenwich’s Mr 2012, there’s still a few highlights in this year’s cultural calendar to discuss.
News of a new addition to the Greenwich Festival season, the Peninsula Festival, first surfaced on the 853 blog. It is the brainchild of entrepreneur Frank Dekker and is due to run on the peninsula for several years, including the creation of a temporary beach.
Fahy welcomes the start-up’s plans.
“We are engaged in facilitating and enabling organisations and companies to flourish, and giving a helping hand.”
“I think it’s helped where private sector organisations come in, set themselves up in Greenwich and establish the peninsula as a cultural destination of choice for people who want to enjoy themselves. I think it will be just great.”
Cllr Fahy is especially interested in plans to bring tall ships to Greenwich in 2012, having been to a tall ships festival himself in Amsterdam – “it wasn’t a council jolly”, he is quick to point out.
“There was something like two million people in Amsterdam during that weekend. Absolutely amazing. If we can create that kind of opportunity within the Peninsula, it could become a vibrant place.”
Cllr Fahy tells me he is “very excited” by the National Maritime Museum’s new Sammy Ofer wing, which is due to open later this year.
“Full credit to Kevin Fewster and the team for achieving their objective of getting the building on time and it will be bring enormous additional value to Greenwich.”
But what does he think of the NMM’s decision to charge £10 to stand on the Meridian Line at the Old Royal Observatory?
“Well, I think it’s a bit of an overkill.”
Would he pay £10 to stand on the Meridian Line?
Could a £10 charge to stand on the Meridian Line damage Greenwich’s reputation in the eyes of visitors?
He is clearly not comfortable criticising the decision and his answers are noticeably shorter. He does, however, say he understands that “what they’re trying to do is increase their income”.
The missing link for visitors to Greenwich at the moment is the Cutty Sark. The restoration of the famous tea clipper is nearing completion. But the council has had to find £3million to help rescue the project.
Is he convinced there would be sufficient return on the council’s investment?
“Absolutely. You guys may get a sense that the council sometimes feels like a cash machine and we just give away money. There’s lots of discussion and debate and analysis before we make any decision.
“It needs to be recognised that we have high levels of deprivation and unemployment, so the council has a role to provide opportunities though investment to maximise employment opportunities.
“The £3 million will have achieved an important development in terms of the Cutty Sark in the longer term. It will stabilise the town centre and increase tourism income and everybody will benefit. That’s the role of the council as it attempts to regenerate its areas.”
What came through during the interview was Fahy’s enthusiasm and optimism for Greenwich’s cultural offerings over the next 18 months and beyond.
With his cabinet responsibilities touching upon many of the issues that local people care most passionately about, he will be under the spotlight to ensure that the end results match his optimism.