Since the singer George Michael’s death on Christmas Day 2016, fans from all over the world have created a garden of remembrance outside his London home at The Grove in Highgate.
Now, his family has released a statement asking fans who want to collect their tributes before the last weekend in May. After that, the corner will return to its ‘former simple state’.
Sophie Jimenez, who grew up in Highgate, is sad to see the memorial go. She likes to visit the green to remember a special birthday gift she got from the late popstar George Michael:
When I was 21 my parents took me to a restaurant in Highgate and he happened to be there and when the restaurant owner brought my cake out he sang me happy birthday. That’s a nice memory and I like to keep that.
Katie Margolis is a George Michael fan who comes to the memorial garden a few times a week.
Instead of collecting gifts from the site, she has just made a shrine for the pop star’s dog Abby who died in April and tells me that not only was he a ‘fantastic artist who brought so much happiness to people’, he was also a ‘great animal lover’:
The first time I came here to pay tribute, Abby was being brought out for a walk. I looked at her and she didn’t register me, but I just noticed how sad she looked. It’s sad that she’s no longer here, but she’s with him now.
Almost like a funeral, the church bells start ringing as I ask what she’ll do with the toy dogs she has just put down, as the garden is to be cleared after May 27th:
I kind of feel it’s sad to take them away at the moment. If somebody else wants to take them that’s fine but I’m leaving them for him and Abby. I’m not going to remove them.
Even though Katie Margolis is sad that the star’s family has decided to clear the site, she respects their decision to restore the garden.
She witnessed how too many visitors and bad weather turned the ground into mud during winter.
The statement also declares that George Michael valued his privacy and that he would’ve appreciated the ‘quiet neighbourhoods he so loved’ not to be disturbed.
But disappointed fans question if clearing the area really is what the singer would’ve wanted, including Sofie Jimenez:
I know he was a private man but I’m sure all pop stars want to live on in some way and I’m not sure that would’ve been his request. I think he would’ve wanted what the fans wanted. And it’s a bit of a shame because what else is this green for, no one uses it for anything.
On Saturday May 26th Tonia Katsantonis, the founder of the Facebook group ‘Freedom for George Michael’, is organising a celebration at the memorial garden.
Before George’s Garden in #Highgate closes, we will celebrate! Be PROUD lovelies of what we have achieved, our ‘mini-Graceland’ devoted to George 😍Come and join us 💜 #GeorgeMichael #Freedom4GM #idol #icon #lovelies #loyal #tribute #LoveAlwaysWins pic.twitter.com/nl2cxpMJzu
— Tonia Kats #Freedom4GM (@ToniaKats17) 1 May 2018
She says it will give fans ‘the opportunity to be in George’s Garden once more together’.
After that, the remembrance corner will be missed not only by old fans, but also by the younger generation who have yet to discover his music.
One of them is Sophie Jimenez’s daughter Ava. She calles herself ‘sort of a fan’ and likes to look at the tributes in the garden – especially the hearts:
I think its quite nice and beautiful, and its nice to remember George Michael. The hearts show that the fans really loved George Michael.