February 2020


Wild Wanstead


In the 20th of a series of articles charting the Wild Wanstead project, Susie Knox reports on a new initiative to stop the decline in British insects and encourages us all to help

Insects. Love them or loathe them, we certainly need to look after them – they are, after all, the foundation of life on Earth. That’s why one sunny lunchtime back in November, I nipped to the Museum of London to join the launch of a new report into the state of insect life in Britain.

It is known that insects are in calamitous decline across the world – ‘insectageddon’ as it has been termed by the newspapers. In 2017, a study reported that flying insects had declined by around 75% in the last 25 years on German nature reserves. But what is the situation in the UK and how should we all be responding? Those are the questions addressed by Insects and Why They Matter, a report by leading entomologist Professor Dave Goulson.

Considering their importance, there is remarkably little data monitoring insect populations. One of the best-studied groups in the world is British butterflies. Our common butterflies have declined by about half over the last 40 years, and despite conservation efforts, numbers of those needing specialist habitats have fallen by 77%. Over a similar period, the ranges of wild bees and hoverflies have shrunk dramatically. There are now large areas of the country where many species are no longer able to live.

This is bad news for birds, bats, lizards, amphibians, fishes and the many other creatures that rely on insects for food. And it’s bad news for us humans too. Insects perform an important function controlling pests on our crops. They help old material decay, recycling nutrients into the soil, and they pollinate the plants we eat. Three-quarters of food crops need insects. No insects mean no tomatoes, apples, coffee and even chocolate.

According to the report, there are three main reasons why insects are declining in Britain: loss of habitat, the intensification of farming and the use of pesticides. Nearly 17,000 tons of pesticides are sprayed on farms every year – not to mention all the chemicals used by councils and homeowners. According to DEFRA, every hectare of arable land in the UK receives 17 applications of pesticide each year.

With less habitats, fewer flowers and an environment contaminated with poison, it’s not surprising our insects are dying. But there is still time to make a difference. Many insects may have reduced range but they are still in existence, so there is scope to rejuvenate their populations. There are two main strategies proposed for addressing this: stopping all routine and unnecessary use of pesticides and creating more and better connected insect-friendly habitats in our gardens, towns, cities and countryside. So, with this in mind, what can individuals do to help? Here are a few ideas to consider:

Never apply pesticides in our gardens.

Use every bit of outdoor space we have to create a habitat for wildlife. Greening up driveways, installing green roofs, planting trees, shrubs and pollinator-friendly flowers in our gardens, and leaving some areas to get a bit wilder.

Email the council to ask them to stop using pesticides and support the creation of more wild areas (like the new Grow Zones, which are slowly being established on verges and parks in Wanstead).

Buy organic food where possible.

Sign petitions asking the government to act.

According to Insects and Why They Matter, ecosystem crashes due to a critical loss of insect abundance and diversity are a real and present threat to society, but they are not inevitable. Insect declines in the UK are mainly caused by a loss of habitat in which to thrive, and the use of pesticides on farmland, urban green spaces and gardens. These can be addressed without major economic or cultural cost. It just needs all of us to act.

To download the Insects and Why They Matter report, visit wnstd.com/iawtm. For more information on the Wild Wanstead project, visit wnstd.com/wild

Old enough to…

DSC_5429Panel members Pearl and Bert

In the seventh of a series of articles looking at the work of Age UK Redbridge, Barking and Havering, Janet West explains the operation of their user involvement service Voices of Experience

Voices of Experience is Age UK’s user involvement service, which has been established in Redbridge since 2004. It was set up to enable older people to have their say on a number of issues that affect their daily lives. The service consists of a questionnaire group and a citizens panel of 15 members, who meet monthly for discussion and to hear from speakers from the council, Clinical Commissioning Groups and other statutory and voluntary organisations.

The coordinator of the service engages with older people through questionnaires, face-to-face discussions with groups of older people, as well as one-to-one phone discussions, so people get the chance to have their views heard in a way that suits them. It might be about a current local authority consultation, for example, and their views can be given back to the council to ensure their voices are heard. Discussions are also held at the Allan Burgess Centre in Wanstead with older people who have popped in for a coffee and a chat or for lunch.

In fact, Alex Wilde and the Redbridge Rhymesters, who frequently attend the Allan Burgess Centre along with children from Snaresbrook Primary School, first got to know us through a chance discussion with me when I was the coordinator of the service. I had come across a poem of Alex’s and contacted her to ask permission for the poem to be used in the Voices of Experience newsletter. Alex was delighted and thereafter a wonderful relationship between Alex and Age UK Redbridge, Barking and Havering was established!

Sometimes, the group participates in Age UK’s campaigns, most notably on improving social care, accessible transport and tackling loneliness. The panel has met with MPs at Westminster and been given the chance to question them on their plans for social care. The photo shows panel members Pearl and Bert – both very active members of the group for many years – during the campaign ‘On the Buses’, which was aimed at making bus travel safer for older people by providing appropriate training for drivers to help prevent falls on buses. (Bert sadly passed away recently, but remained an active member up until the end of 2019.)

Members of the group have said it makes them feel valued and listened to and some have been with us for many years. There is now a new coordinator in post, Pat Fitzsimons, as I have moved on to another role in the organisation. Pat has some new and innovative ideas for the service and is looking forward to 2020 and new ways to include older people and give them a voice.

For more information on Age UK Redbridge, Barking and Havering, call 020 8220 6000 or visit wnstd.com/ageuk

The old East End

Park-Lane,-Stratford_DSCF5660©Geoff Wilkinson

In the fourth of a series of articles, local photographer Geoff Wilkinson discusses his new exhibition – entitled ‘Quick! Before it goes’ – depicting London’s East End, an area which resonates with many residents here

Preparing a new photography exhibition about London’s East End for my Wanstead gallery invariably involves a lot of walking. Cold, dark, wet nights are my preference as the light from street lamps, shops and traffic bounces in the rain and reflects on the pavements and roads, filling the pictures with energy and life, unlike daylight.

The other thing I can’t resist is an alleyway or a street with a curious name; in this case, it was Park Lane. The very name conjured up for me mental images of grand hotels and luxurious apartments overlooking London’s Hyde Park. This particular Park Lane, however, is just off Stratford High Street and is a wonderful example of the old and the new.

As you can see from the photograph, at the north end of this short road stands an old, small, white-painted building now used as a house of worship. Surrounded and dwarfed by its modern neighbours, the photograph shows a prime example of how change continues. Like the Thames that flows through it, the East End also changes continuously, albeit at a slower pace than the river.

The Huguenots, Jewish and Asian families have all passed through Spitalfields over generations. When the East India, West India and King George docks were working at their frenzied height, ships from all over the world were unloading passengers and cargo, adding to the mix of nationalities and languages. Not really surprising then that change continues, although at a faster pace, with architecture changing dramatically as well.

What I want to discover before they disappear are the buildings, streets and alleyways our parents and grandparents grew up in. There must be many more places for me to find, discover and photograph, so the search will continue.

Geoff’s exhibition of East End photographs runs until 1 March at Gallery 84 on Nightingale Lane, Wanstead, E11 2EZ. For more information, call 020 8530 1244 or visit wnstd.com/gw

Will it change?

Grandfather Lying In Bed At Home Looking After Baby GrandsonGrandfather Lying In Bed At Home Looking After Baby Grandson

Purchasing property and getting married are key events that prompt the need to update your will, but there are other circumstances you may not have considered, says Hollie Skipper of Wiseman Lee Solicitors

It is no surprise that many people only make one will during their lifetime. The prospect of discussing your personal affairs with a solicitor can be unsettling or you may simply not have the time. While changes to your address and changes to the names and addresses of beneficiaries do not often create a problem, why might you need to change your will?

The most popular reason is a change within a family relationship. Not including someone in your will who ought to reasonably expect to benefit is something to approach very carefully and proper drafting of the reason why is essential. You might want to add a new beneficiary to your will. Simply letting your family know that you would like to gift someone a sum of money or personal item on your death does not legally oblige them to do so. Indeed, they may forget and your intended beneficiary will go without.

Changes to your assets may also be a good time to review your will. Perhaps you have acquired an investment property jointly with another and you would like your interest to pass solely to them on your death. Perhaps you have made lifetime gifts to your children and would now like to benefit your grandchildren under your will instead. A family member passing away or the birth of new family members can prompt the need to change a will. With many people now living long enough to meet their great-grandchildren, you may wish to ensure they too benefit from your assets.

Choosing the right executors to administer your estate is very important. As time passes, you may consider the executors you originally chose are no longer suitable. They may be of a similar age to you and may not be around at the time of your death or their own circumstances may dictate they are unlikely to have the time to devote to the process. If you made your will when your children were young and they are now over 18, perhaps you would like to add them as executors.

With changes to the law, the terms of your will may mean you do not benefit from the recent increase in inheritance tax exemption or your will may contain an outdated or unworkable trust. You should ensure your assets pass in the most tax efficient way possible.

Small changes to your will can be made by executing a codicil, which is a supplementary document that modifies the terms of an existing will. This is often cheaper than starting from scratch. However, if the updates are substantial or the changes have a bearing on the other operative terms of your will, then it is best to make a new one. A properly drafted will can have a long shelf life and cover some foreseeable changes as your family grows. However, I recommend you review it regularly and seek advice if you consider there are any changes to be made.

Wiseman Lee is located at 9–13 Cambridge Park, Wanstead, E11 2PU. For more information, call 020 8215 1000

Line and wash street scenes: learn to paint quicker at art demonstration

1093687JjSPggAU©Keith Hornblower

Artists who feel unable to work quickly are invited to a demonstration at Wanstead House this month.

“Keith Hornblower is a professional architectural illustrator and artist. He empathises with artists who feel unable to confidently work quickly and experiment with style and methods. In his demonstration of painting street scenes in line and wash, Keith will show us how to overcome this reluctance,” said an Essex Art Club spokesperson.

The event will take place on 23 February from 2.30pm (visitors: £5).

Visit wnstd.com/eac


Assisted dying

pl-2Paul Lamb, 63, believes the current law, which bans assisted suicide under threat of up to 14 years' imprisonment, is discriminatory and breaches his human rights

Paul Kaufman, Chair of East London Humanists, sets the scene for the grim but important topic of assisted dying, which will be discussed at the group’s meeting this month with guest speaker Keiron McCabe

Keiron McCabe campaigns full time for reform of the law on assisted dying on behalf of Humanists UK. He works alongside pressure groups such as My Death, My Decision.

Keiron is young, energetic and passionate about his role. He cut his campaigning teeth working for the Hilary Clinton campaign in the 2016 US election. So, why choose to be involved in this of all areas of work?

Keiron explains that it is hard to exaggerate how important reform is to the individuals involved, and the positive difference reform would make to them and their peace of mind.

The sense of injustice is compounded by the fact that polls show overwhelming support for a change in the law. The largest such poll was commissioned by Dignity in Dying last year. It showed 84% of respondents support a change. Support is consistently strong across age, gender and class, and there is even stronger support among people who stated they had a disability. There is broad support for assisted dying across most faith groups, including more than 82% support amongst Christian respondents.

So, why is popular opinion, and the wish of the individuals concerned, being thwarted? The resistance to change is largely spearheaded by religious diehards, not least unelected bishops in the House of Lords. Objections are often rooted in a belief in an overriding ‘divine will.’

One individual affected is Paul Lamb. Keiron has worked closely with Paul in support of his recent high-profile High Court challenge. He was paralysed from the neck down following an accident 30 years ago. Paul enjoys the love and support of family and friends and enjoys a quality of life which he feels currently makes life worth living. But Paul is in constant and growing pain. His condition is incurable. He dreads life becoming intolerable and lacking the power to choose the time and place of his death. He has no religious belief or belief in a divine will. His wish is carefully thought through and rational. He simply wants the reassurance of knowing he will be able to die in his own home, surrounded by those he loves, at a time of his choosing.

Many progressive jurisdictions have passed reforms which would allow Paul’s wish to be granted. Fears of abuse and the ‘thin end of the wedge’ argument have proved groundless. For example, Portland, Oregon, where the law was changed in 1997, has exceptionally good hospice provision and palliative care. But now the terminally ill in Portland are able to make an informed choice.

Keiron’s talk will take place at Wanstead Library on 24 February from 7.30pm (free; visitors welcome). Visit wnstd.com/elh

Listen and learn: Charlotte Bowden


In the 21st of a series of articles, David Bird discusses the work of Redbridge Music Society and introduces us to soprano Charlotte Bowden, who will be performing at Wanstead Library this month

Two essential aims of Redbridge Music Society are to promote and support up-and-coming young musicians, especially those associated with the borough, and to bring high-quality live chamber recitals to the people of Redbridge at affordable prices. This month, outstanding young soprano Charlotte Bowden, together with award-winning pianist Ella O’Neill, will give a recital of music by Schumann, Brahms, Britten and others at Wanstead Library. 

Charlotte completed her undergraduate studies at the Royal Academy of Music and is currently studying on the Masters in Performance course under Rosa Mannion and Simon Lepper at the Royal College of Music, where she and her accompanist Ella first met. Charlotte is a Huffner Scholar, a Harriet Cohen Memorial Music Award holder and is currently a Philip and Dorothy Green Making Music Young Artist. She is also a Britten-Pears Young Artist having studied the title role of Handel’s oratorio Theodora with Sarah Connolly and Christian Curnyn in 2018; this was followed by an invitation to study at the Verbier Festival Atelier Lyrique in July 2019. She was awarded second prize and the audience prize in the 2018 Maureen Lehane Vocal Awards and first prizes in the Marjorie Thomas Art of Song Prize and the Michael Head Prize.

Charlotte has performed at prestigious venues such as Cadogan Hall, Snape Maltings and the Royal Festival Hall, and next month will make her Wigmore Hall debut as Orfeo in Handel’s Italian serenata Parnasso in Festa. She also has a keen interest in new music and created the role of Variable 4 in Bofan Ma’s chamber opera This Is No Opera. She is a Help Musicians UK Ian Fleming Award holder and is particularly grateful for the support of the Josephine Baker Trust. Charlotte went to Forest School in Snaresbrook and is delighted to be returning to the area to perform.

Accompanist Ella O’Neill is increasingly in demand across the UK as a song and chamber music pianist. Last April, she performed in the finals of the 64th Kathleen Ferrier Awards at the Wigmore Hall, where she was awarded the Help Musicians UK Accompanists’ Prize in memory of Arthur and Gwyneth Harrison. She returned to the venue in September to perform in the International Song Competition, and then in November for the finals of the Maureen Lehane Vocal Awards.

The collaboration of two such outstanding musicians promises to make the recital a particularly memorable occasion.

Charlotte and Ella will perform at Wanstead Library on 18 February from 8pm (tickets on the door: £10). For more information, call 07380 606 767. Redbridge Music Society is supported by Vision Redbridge Culture & Leisure and is affiliated to Making Music.

Kind words…


In the first of a series of articles documenting the thoughts and work of local anti-bullying ambassador Elsa Arnold, the founder of the Spreading Kindness Through E11 initiative explains her motivation

I’m Elsa. I’m 18 and an A level student. I have been an anti-bullying ambassador for The Diana Award charity since the age of 15, but this topic has always been close to my heart because of my own experiences, which led to me struggling a lot with my mental health.

I really value being able to turn my negative experiences into something positive, and I am so grateful to have had so many opportunities to have been able to do that.

I believe school is an experience you never forget and that everyone has the right to enjoy and make the most of it. I want to be a part of ensuring that happens for everyone.

In 2017, I started doing more work in the local community, teaming up with Redbridge Libraries to deliver anti-bullying workshops, which are honestly one of my favourite things to do. I’ve been lucky enough to have also worked with some local youth groups and schools.

I’ve experienced bullying at different times in my life, but the memories from primary school cross my mind most often. I was never really aware of what bullying was in primary school, so I didn’t identify what was happening at the time. I believed I deserved to feel the way that I did, and often, one of the hardest parts was trying to find a friend in myself. So, being able to work with children now, at the same age as I was when I struggled, means a lot because I see it as my duty to be a part of ensuring the same experiences don’t happen to anyone else.

I am also a member of the youth panel for the charity YoungMinds, who do amazing work for young people’s mental health and are an amazing, inspiring organisation to be a part of.

But one of the best and most heartwarming things I feel I have done is team up with Mark Mountney (owner of Zoology) in 2018 to launch a local initiative called Spreading Kindness Through E11, because that’s what has always been at the heart of everything I have aimed to do. I have also enjoyed teaming up with local businesses over the last couple of years to continue spreading the messages about which I am passionate.

My life is dedicated to helping other people and being part of making the world a better place. I can’t wait to see where I can take this and who I can work with next to help achieve this.

I’d like to thank the Wanstead Village Directory for giving me this platform to share a bit of my story and let you know how you can get involved. I hope you enjoy reading my articles.

For more information and to read Elsa’s blog, visit lostinthought-blog.com, or follow her on Instagram @elsa_arnold

Mama’s back!

d1931Mama G of Petite Pantos, which produces ‘pantomimes with a social conscience’, championing LGBTQ+ issues, feminism and positive representation of race and gender

After cementing herself as a family favourite during Fabula Festival 2019, Mama G is back in Wanstead for LGBT+ History Month celebrations. Here, the pantomime dame explains the importance of stories

Hello lovelies! I’m so excited to be visiting Wanstead Library in February that I absolutely insisted the editor let me write something for this delightful little tome, to make sure none of you miss out.

Some of you may have seen me last time I visited, and if you didn’t, let me tell you what I do. I do fabulous! I do it all the time! And I try and encourage everyone else to be fabulous too!

And I do all of this by telling stories. That’s right: I’m a pantomime dame storyteller! My stories are all about being who you are and loving who you want. They’re aimed at children and their families but everyone can enjoy them. I always try and make sure there’s some humour that the adults will enjoy, but mostly I want everyone to leave knowing that who they are is wonderful and that everyone else is wonderful too!

My stories are about all sorts of things. I have two fairies (Fran and Vera) who fight over who their friend Silly Billy should love. Then there’s Eunice the horse who goes on quite the farmyard adventure to discover who she really is (no spoilers, but it does involve eating glitter!). And my personal favourite story is about Little Roar, the fashionista dinosaur. If you come to hear my stories, you might also meet the firefly without any fire, Valentina Tereshkova (the first lady to go into space), some goats with a wind problem and even Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (well, maybe just at Christmas).

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Why would a panto dame want to tell stories?” Well, it’s kind of what we do. We always make sure you know what’s going on when it comes to Aladdin or Dick Whittington’s latest adventures and we love being in front of an audience. Wearing a fabulous frock and making every generation of a family laugh really is a wonderful way to make a living!

And I think it’s important to tell the stories I do because everyone has the right to know that who they are is valued and loved and appreciated. My stories also promote an understanding that you should respect and appreciate everyone else for who they are too. If children grow up understanding that everybody should be able to live their lives their way, don’t you think the world and our community will become a friendlier place?

It’s only a small act, but I can’t help feeling that the impact could be huge. So, why not come and join me for storytime? You never know, it could change your life!

Mama G will be sharing her tales at Wanstead Library on 12 February from 2pm to 2.30pm (free; suitable for children aged three and over). For details of other local performances, visit wnstd.com/mamag. For more information on Mama G, visit petitepantos.com

Moonlight and Romance: a concert for classical lovers


Following their popular performance of The Snowman soundtrack before Christmas, Redbridge Brass Band will return to St Gabriel’s Church in Aldersbrook on 8 February for an evening of music inspired by love and passion.

“It will be a fantastic programme that includes Beethoven’s iconic Moonlight Sonata and Debussy’s Clair de Lune, played by guest concert pianist David Silkoff together with talented violinist Chris Karwacinski,” said a spokesperson for the band. The event starts at 7.30pm (tickets: £12).

Visit wnstd.com/rbb