February 2020


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


Stories Great & Small

Screenshot 2020-01-27 13.45.07

Author, retired vet, ex-racing cyclist and head injury victim Julian Earl has many stories to tell, and residents are invited to hear them at an event in Aldersbrook this month. Gill James reports

As pet owners, a trip to the vets is all part and parcel of owning a pet. But have you ever wondered what it is actually like to work as a vet?

Such a profession is often seen as a glamorous occupation, but the reality is mess, noise, dealing with the public, being called out for an emergency in the middle of the night and long hours. Plus, there is the constant threat of injuries and accidents from large, unruly animals. You need a sense of humour to be a vet, and the author of Cows in Trees, vet Julian Earl, certainly has that essential attribute.

His book is written in a warm and light-hearted style, and yes, the cow in the tree story as depicted on the front cover of this hardback book really did happen! And this month, you have the chance to hear Julian telling us about a vet’s life in person.

Julian dreamed of working as a vet from his childhood. He worked in Lancashire and Lincolnshire with both domestic pets and farm livestock for many years.

He was a keen competitive cyclist before suffering life-threatening injuries during a cycle race in 2012 that brought his clinical work to an end. He was left with skull fractures and multiple brain haemorrhages. He was placed into an induced coma and underwent multiple operations. He was not expected to survive.

But not only did this remarkable man survive, he now – due to his head injury – competes as a para-cyclist.

Julian recovered well from his head injury thanks to the work of a remarkable surgeon. Sadly, many brain injury survivors are not so lucky. Headway East London is a local charity, based in Hackney, supporting people affected by brain injuries. It offers specialist support and services to survivors and their family, while also campaigning for greater public awareness.

We all think ‘it will never happen to me’, but every year around 350,000 people are admitted to hospital with an acquired brain injury. That’s one every 90 seconds.

Like Julian, Aldersbrook resident Oli Herz suffered a serious injury caused by a cycling accident. He is grateful for the support he received from Headway East London and now volunteers for them every week. He will also be at the event this month to tell us a little about his own experience and the work of the charity.

Julian and Oli’s talk will take place at Aldersbrook Bowls Club, 34 Aldersbrook Road, E12 5DY on 13 February from 7.30pm (tickets: £5 on the door or £4 in advance; under-16s: free). Email gilljames@btinternet.com. For more information on Headway East London, visit  headwayeastlondon.org

Wanstead to take part in council’s wheelie bin pilot

L1210473-2©Geoff Wilkinson

Some households in Wanstead Village will join four other wards across Redbridge in trialling wheelie bins for rubbish collection this month.

“The pilot areas have been chosen to be representative of the borough so the bins can be tested… before considering whether to introduce them more widely,” said a Redbridge Council spokesperson. Introducing wheelie bins across the borough could potentially reduce some of the £18m the council currently spends each year on collecting 22 million black sacks.

Visit wnstd.com/wheelie


Wanstead Night Shelter


The Wanstead Winter Night Shelter launched at Christ Church hall last month. Revd Canon Ann Clarke reports on the largely volunteer work that has made it such a useful resource for their weekly guests

Steven Timms, MP for East Ham, acknowledged recently that if it were not for Faith Group Night Shelters, 2,200 more people would be sleeping on the streets of London each night.

As part of Forest Churches Emergency Night Shelter (FCENS), Wanstead Parish opened its parish hall doors on 7 January to guests for the very first time. We were able to provide our visitors with a welcoming hot drink, a nourishing hot meal, shelter and breakfast,  and a listening ear and a smile.

Thanks to the financial support from our crowdfunding supporters and Aviva employees, £8,491 was the official sum raised, including £2,000 from the Aviva Community Fund. We were able to purchase a dedicated warming oven, fridge, new dishwasher, oven and microwave in time for the opening of the shelter, as well as room dividers, sleeping bags, food, storage equipment and a key fire safety system – a mandatory requirement for having guests sleep overnight.

The generosity of the local community has been overwhelming: in volunteering (40-plus people on the current rota); in donations from our Christmas services; and in donations of clothing and food from our Reverse Advent Calendar. Special thanks to Lizi at The Cuckfield and John at Petty Son and Prestwich for collecting so much and for supporting this venture.

Wanstead Parish has joined FCENS, which has a well-established scheme. A full-time worker, Tunde, works all year round with the homeless men and women in Waltham Forest and beyond. All guests are known by him and he attends each shelter to register them. There is also a paid worker, Anthony, who attends each shelter to help run the night shift with a volunteer. All other workers are volunteers.

Our team begins at 6pm each Tuesday to set up the hall, putting out the bedding and tables and being there to greet and engage with the guests. Teams of three or four people provide a nourishing hot meal and another group of volunteers serve and clear up. The volunteer night watch person arrives at 9pm. At 5.50am the breakfast team arrive and the guests leave by 7am. Due to the amazing amount of good quality clothing and new items, such as underpants, socks, hats, shoes and toiletries donated by the community, we have also been able to send our guests on their way with a much-needed care package.

Wanstead Parish considers it a privilege to be running this shelter once a week during the winter months. We see it as being part of our Christian duty to home the homeless, feed the hungry and clothe the naked. We would like to thank so many members of our wider community for helping us to offer this important community resource.

The Wanstead Winter Night Shelter is open at Christ Church hall every Tuesday until 31 March. Call 020 8530 8743

Swan lakes

4bbo9©Tracey Adebowale-Jones

In the first of a series of articles celebrating the swans that reside on the lakes of Wanstead Park and Wanstead Flats, Tracey Adebowale-Jones explains her love for these graceful birds.

After some years of being captivated by and photographing the swans of Wanstead Park, I was walking one day around the Heronry Pond when I spotted a very forlorn-looking swan sitting in the reeds of a muddy, shallow estuary. I was struck by its sadness, condition and reluctance to come over to me for food (unusual for most swans).

After that first encounter, I started to take bread and seed, eventually coaxing it across the water so she would eat. Each day I went at the same time and each day she began to wait on the bank, but she seemed unable to preen, remaining dirty and unkempt and thin.  I happened to see a friend who was carrying bags of bird food and I expressed my concern to her. Immediately, she told me about Gill Walker, who rescues swans and other birds and takes them to The Swan Sanctuary in Shepperton, Middlesex for care, healing and, hopefully, a return to the water. I contacted Gill and a day or so later, my swan was carried off in an Ikea bag (just the right size) to the sanctuary, where she remains to this day.

Since that swan encounter, I have become an avid swan watcher. Still taking photographs, but now much more aware of their behaviour and needs. Learning all the time about them, and wanting to impart everything I have learnt, I have begun to develop a network of swan watchers in the park so that we can all keep them safe.

Swans are vulnerable to uncontrolled dogs, foxes, abandoned fishing line and floats, and when very small, the cygnets can be carried away by hungry crows or terrapins that lurk in the waters. Their nests are sometimes ransacked by humans who smash the eggs, and we believe our swan population in the park last year was depleted because of this cruelty.

We have four lakes in the park and usually, there is an adult pair on three of them – one greedy pair takes two lakes as their own and often you will see a territorial of great drama when another pair attempts to intrude. Already this year, we have been able to rescue a juvenile from the Shoulder of Mutton Pond who was driven off by an adult pair.

Through our growing network, we are able to tell each other when we have concerns about a swan’s health or safety, and we thank the many people of Wanstead who share a love for these birds for their support in looking after our beloved swans.

For more information on The Swan Sanctuary, visit wnstd.com/swans. To report any concerns about the health and safety of a local swan, call 01932 240 790

Future for Whipps

Whipps Cross Hospital

In the fourth of a series of articles looking at the redevelopment of Whipps Cross Hospital, Gordon Drakes is pleased to report that being environmentally friendly will be a key design principle in the new build

Campaigners were informed last month that an environmentally friendly hospital and the lowest possible carbon footprint will be a key design principle in the new Whipps Cross Hospital, and that the redevelopment team want this to go further and enable the whole of the site to achieve a carbon neutral footprint.

To cover additional costs, a 3% uplift to the capital bid for building the hospital is to be included. They are aiming to achieve the ‘Excellent’ level of BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method). Alastair Finney, the Whipps Redevelopment Director, said they will appoint a dedicated sustainability consultant to the team for the next phase: “We will also make sure there are opportunities for expert stakeholders and local people to be engaged and involved in the work as it progresses.”

The recent election has demonstrated that, aside from the ‘B’ word, securing a sustainable future for the NHS and the planet are perhaps the two most important issues for the British public. So, this is welcome news indeed.

In the summer of 2019, the government enshrined into law a commitment to reach net zero carbon by 2050 (not soon enough, but a positive starting point), and it is clear that if governments of the future are to achieve this target, it will be because of action taken now and over the coming years. Given the scale of the task, the principle of net zero carbon needs to infuse and influence all government decision-making going forward.

How the government spends tax revenue on large-scale land development projects must surely be a prime area for implementing this new environmental modus operandi. Indeed, in the government’s response to a recent report issued by the Climate Change Commission, it acknowledged that the built environment accounts for 40% of national energy use and around one-third of emissions.

Whipps Cross is one of the six hospital developments the government has announced will benefit from a share of a £2.7bn funding allocation. The plans are still in flux and the amount of funding for Whipps is still not confirmed – do sign and share the Waltham Forest Save Our NHS petition to the Secretary of State for Health, which is to be handed in on 14 February. But by putting the environment at the centre of the plans, there is an opportunity to reap many benefits.

Members of Wanstead Climate Action (WCA)joined with local health campaigners to urge Barts Health Trust to ensure that low carbon or net zero carbon is a core principal of the Whipps redevelopment plans. Now that we have a positive response to this plea, we need to keep on the case. There are many hurdles to go through yet.

For information on the future of Whipps, visit wnstd.com/whipps. To view the petition, visit wnstd.com/wxp. For information on WCA, visit wnstd.com/wca