No hair bar here

I write in reply to Darcus Howe's article "Where apartheid still thrives - at the hair salon" (30 August). The salon Atlantics is a business newly opened by me, the official opening having taken place on 7 August. I should like to apologise for any offence that may have been caused to Mrs Howe by the comments made by a member of my staff. Certainly no offence was intended.

It is a fact that cutting Afro-Caribbean hair requires specific skills, skills not yet attained by either my staff or myself. Mrs Howe should have been informed that we would cut her hair if she so desired, but that, at that time, we had no one qualified to do so. She could then have decided whether to stay or to visit one of the many salons in the area that specialises in cutting Afro-Caribbean hair. We are certainly not refusing to cut anyone's hair.

I can also confirm that I have endeavoured to make appropriate arrangements regarding staff training so that we can offer Afro-Caribbean customers the services of a fully qualified member of staff. I recently interviewed and offered positions to two new trainees with a view to doing this. Sadly neither turned up.

I arranged a meeting with Mr Howe to discuss my position with him. I wanted to point out that this is also my Brixton, having lived here all my life (my grandparents lived here for 50 years), a Brixton that I love, with a vibrant community which I cherish. Unfortunately Mr Howe did not turn up for the meeting.

Jane Ernstzen
Proprietor, Atlantics
London SW2

This article first appeared in the 20 September 1999 issue of the New Statesman, Men vanish from the universities