March 2020


Coronavirus (COVID-19) and community support in Wanstead


Like so many up and down the country, our community can be proud of how it is responding the coronavirus pandemic. These are extraordinary times, but we can all be thankful we are part of a community that cares.

People you can phone:

Redbridge Council Wellbeing Service, open seven days a week, 8am to 8pm 020 8708 5555
Redbridge CVS, an umbrella body for local charities and community groups 020 8553 1004
Talking Therapies, helping those feeling distressed 0300 300 1554
The Samaritans, for people who need someone to listen 116 123
Citizens Advice Redbridge, for free, confidential and impartial advice 0300 330 9063
Age UK Redbridge, Barking & Havering, for advice or information 020 8220 6000

Facebook Groups

Redbridge Joins Together 
Redbridge Covid-19 Mutual Aid
Wanstead Community Hub
Woodford, South Woodford and Wanstead Parents 
Wanstead Community Forum

WhatsApp Groups

Churchfields ward
South Woodford ward
Wanstead Village ward
Wanstead Park ward
List of groups across Redbridge


A message from the editor regarding coronavirus (COVID-19)


Like so many other businesses that are impacted by the increasing restrictions designed to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, we must also make changes to how we operate.

For the first time since March 2006 – when the first issue of the Wanstead Village Directory was published – our magazine will cease to be delivered door to door until further notice. All 6,500 copies of our April 2020 issue will be printed as normal, but instead of delivering 5,500 of them to homes in the area as we normally do, we will be distributing them all via our display stands instead.

The reasons for doing this are twofold. Most importantly, we all have a responsibility to adhere to social distancing guidelines, so I believe it would be wrong to ask my delivery team to walk the streets of Wanstead and risk interacting with others. In addition to this, a recent study by the US National Institutes of Health (as reported by the BBC here) has found the virus can survive on cardboard for up to 24 hours. So I can’t, in all good conscience, allow our magazines to be posted through letterboxes on a mass scale when there is a potential risk that this may be contributing to the spread of the virus. Instead, we will allow those who wish to pick up a copy to do so from our stands (by virtue of our normal processes, a period of at least 24 hours will elapse between our magazines being packed at the printers and placed in our stands).

A decision on the publication of future issues will be taken in the coming weeks.


Happy voices

Wembley-Arena-2011Rock Choir members at Wembley Arena

Classically trained soprano Nicola Cain is leader of the Wanstead and Woodford Rock Choir. With scientific proof singing makes you happier, is it time to open your mind – and vocal cords – to the power of music?

Rock Choir has over 30,000 members participating in approximately 400 local communities. We offer all ages an alternative experience to the traditional classical or community choir, introducing members to feel-good pop, rock and contemporary chart songs. 

Rock Choir has an uplifting ethos of fun, and friendship and community spirit is a huge part of our attraction, with members enjoying a dynamic and busy new social life whilst connecting with their community. At an individual level, it helps improve people’s wellbeing by building their self-confidence, self-esteem and, in turn, improving their mental and general health.

This was scientifically proven in 2018 when the BBC programme Trust Me I’m a Doctor used members of Rock Choir for an experiment to find out if singing, cycling and dancing boosted our levels of endocannabinoids – neurotransmitters thought to be the cause of the ‘natural high’. These chemicals are similar in structure to the chemicals found in the cannabis plant. As well as giving a ‘buzz’, they are also linked to improving mood and reducing anxiety and stress. Under the direction of physiologist Dr Saoirse O’Sullivan, the group of Rock Choir members were tested in each activity over four days with interviews and blood taken to monitor their levels of endocannabinoids. The end result was extremely exciting. Whilst dancing and cycling raised their happiness levels by 20%, singing raised them by an extraordinary 40%, a discovery that could help enormously with our approach to mental health.

“Rock Choir has made a huge impact on the wellbeing of its members… I’ve seen first-hand how being part of Rock Choir has improved lives; some of our members have reported that they’ve come off anti-depressants, found new confidence in themselves and found pure happiness again. Their wellbeing has impacted their relationships around them too, their family, friends and colleagues, and they will continue to feel better and stronger the longer they sing!” said Rock Choir founder Caroline Redman Lusher.

The Rock Choir team consists of over 140 individuals, including 80 professional musicians and performers, The Leaders, who deliver weekly rehearsals in their communities.

Leading the Wanstead and Woodford Rock Choir is a privilege – the choirs become an extension of our families and I am proud of how much the members have bonded. We are always looking for new members and we hope to welcome some new faces – and voices – this year.

Wanstead and Woodford Rock Choir meets at Wanstead High School on Monday evenings from 7.30pm to 9pm (free taster session; £100 per term). For more information, visit

Conveying professionalism

Screenshot 2020-03-02 16.44.45

Conveyancing is a vital part of the process of buying or selling a property. Here, Debra Rose from Wiseman Lee Solicitors explains the steps and why it is important to choose a professional to do the job

Conveyancing refers to the legal work that is carried out when ownership of a property is transferred. Most conveyancing is carried out professionally, but sometimes, buyers and sellers ask whether it is possible to do it themselves.

Conveyancing without the use of professional help is risky because you may not be protected in the event you miss something which could have been revealed by conveyancers, meaning your property is not worth the purchase price. The other party to the transaction may demand you use a professional for the transfer of funds to ensure the appropriate money laundering checks are carried out and they have the protection afforded by the Law Society’s Completion Code. Additionally, many mortgage lenders will require you use a conveyancer to protect their investment.

Once you decide you want to buy or sell, you will need to instruct a conveyancer. The estate agent will prepare a memorandum confirming the terms of the sale, which will be sent to the person representing you. This includes the party’s details, the price and any special conditions, such as other items being included in the price. The sale is not legally binding until the contracts are formally exchanged.

The seller’s representative sends the contract pack to the buyer. This contains copies of the title to the property, questionnaires completed by the sellers about the property and the contract itself. Upon receipt of the contract pack, your conveyancer will then undertake a series of searches with the local authority and other agencies to find out if there are any issues that could affect the property. Searches such as planning, environmental and drainage and water are carried out in almost all transactions.  Depending on where your property is located, it may also be necessary to conduct other searches. If you are happy to proceed, contracts are exchanged and the completion date is fixed. At this stage, the sale is legally binding to complete on the agreed date.

Your conveyancer undertakes the post-exchange work in anticipation of completion, which involves reporting to your lender to ensure mortgage funds are available for completion. Conveyancers on both sides produce completion statements which show all payments made and received and request any further monies required for the purchase to complete. The conveyancer will undertake final searches and on the day of completion sends the purchase money to the seller.

Once the seller’s conveyancer receives the funds, they will confirm completion and the agent will release the keys to you. Your conveyancer will then deal with the registration formalities and you will be sent a copy of the Land Registry entries that confirm your ownership.

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

Kind words…


In the second of a series of articles documenting the thoughts of local anti-bullying ambassador Elsa Arnold, the founder of the Spreading Kindness Through E11 initiative explains how dance has helped her

I battled with myself for a long time after being knocked down by bullying and I didn’t see myself getting back up again. Bullying knocked my confidence and made me feel worthless. I honestly didn’t see a very bright future for myself. But something changed for me.

I have always loved to dance, starting ballet and tap at the age of three and dreaming of being a ballerina. But this was always just a childhood dream. I never thought after losing my passion for years that I would find it again during the most difficult time of my life. I never liked dance from Year 7 to 9 (we studied it at school as a compulsory lesson), and I couldn’t wait to get rid of it. When I started secondary school, it was a lot easier to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others and I always feared being judged. But at the end of Year 9, I decided to join our school’s dance club and ended up taking it at GCSE, which was definitely the best decision I made.

Going into GCSEs was a difficult transition for me and coming out of a difficult year made it even harder. Year 10 wasn’t much easier, but I started therapy after things became too much and I was struggling with everyday life. My motivation dropped a lot and my world continued to get darker. But having dance classes to go to every day gave me something to focus on. It was a place where I could let go and express myself. My love of dance only grew throughout Years 10 and 11, helping me through the stress of exams and overcoming battles with myself. I suddenly felt in control of my feelings and finally felt like I had some sort of connection with myself in the dance studio.

I would encourage anyone with a mental health illness to find something they can do that they enjoy and can express themselves through. Sometimes, talking can be really hard, and it’s such a difficult first step to take. But I know that dance helped me feel more able to communicate with others about how I was feeling and accept help rather than resist it. It changed my whole perspective of life and allowed me to reach a brighter future, which I am thoroughly enjoying.

Creativity isn’t limited and creative subjects like the performing arts really do have an enormous amount of power to help us change our perspective on life.

You can overcome any mental health illness, but please don’t put pressure on yourself if you’re struggling to express yourself through words. There are so many things that can help you overcome difficulties in your life. This passion might be clear for some people and more hidden for others, but it is there. The words will come… you just have to give them time.

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

Their Master’s Voice

1102457_10152349631672565_1617590813_oAlison as Mary Anning in Fossils and Monsters

Residents are invited to join the audience as eight professional singers take part in a masterclass with Royal College of Music vocal studies professor Alison Wells at St Mary’s Church this month

This month, I will be giving a masterclass to eight professional and advanced student singers at St Mary’s Church in Wanstead. The event last year was a great success. Over 170 people came along to watch what is a fascinating process. I worked with each singer for 30 minutes to help them find more technical ease in their singing, and also to help them develop an imaginative approach to the interpretation of the pieces they were singing.

Several people remarked they had thought the singers were brilliant anyway, and how wonderful it was to see that there was always a little bit more magic they could find.

For me, this is such a rewarding process. These singers are already out there in the profession, or at an advanced stage of study, but even in 30 minutes, they can gain a lot of confidence from working with an experienced teacher, and, crucially, from singing to a lovely audience in a beautiful environment. So, do please come along! Entry is free for audience members, though, of course, we welcome donations. Refreshments will be available.

It’s very special to me to be doing this event in St Mary’s, where I am a regular worshipper.  There is a spirit of positivity there, with the congregation growing in numbers. On the third Sunday of the month, we join the whole parish at Christ Church, but on the second and fourth Sundays, we now have Services of the Word led by lay worship leaders (of whom I am proud to be one).

We’ve worked hard on these services and I have been involved with others, including our director of music at Wanstead Parish Joe Waggott, to add music into them. We now sing Responsorial Psalms, with several members of our congregation acting as Cantors, and we recently did the world premiere of a new Te Deum setting for congregation and organ by Graham Titus, a dear friend of long standing.

As many members of the congregation said, the piece is not easy, but they did a wonderful job on the first performance and I’m sure it filled them with confidence so the next time we use it will be even better! The service at St Mary’s starts at 11.15am each Sunday, except the third Sunday of the month. Everyone is welcome, and if you get there a little earlier, then we have social time and tea and coffee before the service.

I’ve only lived in Wanstead for less than three years, but the community here is so friendly and supportive that I feel I’ve been here much longer, thanks to the people at St Mary’s and the wider Wanstead Parish, and, of course, the wonderful Wanstead Village Directory.

Alison’s masterclass will take place at St Mary’s Church, Overton Drive, Wanstead on 21 March from 11am to 3.30pm (free; donations welcome). For more information, call 020 8530 8743

Reasons to write about the seasons: Frankie Valli, Vivaldi or the weather?


Over-50s poetry group the Redbridge Rhymesters will be joined by Snaresbrook Primary School pupils on 24 March as they host a creative writing session at the Allan Burgess Centre with a theme of ‘The Four Seasons’.

“Apart from the obvious summer, autumn, winter and spring ideas, I am hoping writers might come up with something about Frankie Valli, or even one of Vivaldi’s concertos. We shall see what imaginations are fired up,” said event organiser Alexandra Wilde.

Visitors are welcome.

Call 020 8989 6338


Old enough to…

IMG_1594A Di’s Diamonds outing to Purfleet Heritage & Military Centre on a private bus

In the eighth of a series of articles looking at the work of Age UK Redbridge, Barking and Havering, Janet West introduces Di’s Diamonds, which is now offering a social calendar of events for local over-50s

Di’s Diamonds is a group of men and women, single or partnered and aged 50-plus, from all walks of life and backgrounds, who want to get out and about, socialise and make friends.

We understand that doing these things on your own can sometimes be daunting, especially if you haven’t socialised in a while.

The group was originally set up by two ladies – Diane and Cathy – on a voluntary basis in Havering, organising coffee mornings, lunches and outings, but as the numbers grew, it became difficult to manage. Age UK Redbridge, Barking and Havering took it over and, thanks to funding from the London Borough of Havering and the Big Lottery Community fund, we have been able to employ three coordinators, Kim, Fiona and Kate. This means we can now organise activities in Redbridge, Havering and Barking and Dagenham. We offer a number of opportunities, including:

  • Coffee mornings
  • Lunches
  • Bowling
  • Irish dancing
  • Museum and exhibition outings
  • Creative arts and crafts
  • Chair exercise and tai chi
  • Music sessions
  • Walks, and lots more

Volunteers host many of the events and also join in the fun. We pride ourselves on welcoming everyone, and members and volunteers tell us what other activities they would like and we do our best to accommodate them on a monthly calendar of events.

The calendar also lists events which are already in place across the three boroughs, as well as events we have arranged ourselves. This gives a much bigger choice of activities, and members can access activities in any of the three areas.

Spring is in reach, and with longer days to look forward to, and hopefully warmer temperatures, it’s the ideal time to think about the months ahead, so why not try out a new activity and take the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends?

You simply need to sign up to become a member to access the activities and joining is free! Perhaps you would like to host an activity as one of our volunteers? Please do give us a call or send an email if you would like further information.

For more information on Age UK Redbridge, Barking and Havering and Di’s Diamonds, call 020 8220 6000, email or visit

The inside story


An emerging home trend could change the quality of your life, explains local interior designer and Art Group Wanstead member Anna Wicslo

It might not trip off your tongue yet, but the word on the lips of the biggest movers and shakers in home design is biophilia. And it’s fast becoming one of the most important factors in the worlds of interior design and architecture.

Biophilic design aims to increase our connection with nature, contributing to good health and wellbeing. Countless studies show its effects can be relaxing, while in home workspaces it can be stimulating, boosting focus and productivity, and helping to spark creativity while lowering stress hormones and blood pressure.

Humans are understood to have an innate connection to nature and natural processes, built through genetic processes over hundreds of thousands of years. Biophilia was popularised by American biologist Edward O Wilson in the 1980s when he observed how increasing rates of urbanisation were leading to a disconnection with the natural world.

There is now a stream of endless ideas to connect interior design with nature.  Here are some that you’ll notice:

Furniture and lights mimicking nature in their shapes and forms of design.

Spaces becoming more open and increased natural light being used.

Pattern and the colour palette being connected to nature – blues, greens, earthy tones, popularity of animal prints and varied natural textures.

Materials chosen being sustainable and having no adverse effects on health – during their production or use.

A focus on improved air quality, with the help of plants and technology devices.

A greater use of indoor plants for their qualities and outdoor looks.

The power of plants has led to the popularity of living walls made of moss or succulents. Because of the expense involved, these striking green walls have been used more in corporate spaces, yet even there they successfully promote physical and mental wellbeing for staff and visitors. But, gradually, vertical planting and green walls are likely to become more popular outside our own homes as our exterior spaces become smaller in order to be affordable.

Biophilia will take many fresh directions and is set to be a trend that will grow and grow.

For information about Anna’s work, visit or email

For more information on Art Group Wanstead, visit


The Hobbs Album


In the first of a series of articles looking at historic photos of the local area found in a 100-year-old family album, historian Richard Arnopp  presents a selection of images of Wanstead Park

Since 2007, I’ve been involved in the campaign to raise public awareness of Wanstead Park, an important and historic open space. I’ve also been an active researcher into various aspects of the park’s history, to inform the development of plans for the future by shedding light on its past.

One of my projects has been to build up a collection of historic images of Wanstead Park, Bush Wood and Wanstead Flats. In 2017, I acquired an album of photographs taken by members of the Hobbs family, some of whom lived locally. The album is dated 1896–1907 on the cover. There are just over 100 photos, of which at least seven are of Wanstead Park, which was what piqued my interest.

A related album sadly escaped, as bidding pushed the price beyond what I was willing to pay. Many of the photographs in the collection were faded, degraded or damaged to varying degrees, and it took a good deal of time and effort to restore them to the extent I was able.

Over the coming months, I’m going to give you a taste of this treasure trove of unique, original images. As well as local scenes, they incidentally shed light on social history, recreational activities, costume and some interesting personalities.

What makes the Hobbs album fascinating is that most of the people depicted are identifiable individuals. Finding the album was my first stroke of luck; the second was when I was contacted by a relative of the Hobbs family, Alys Wade, from Australia. Ms Wade had come across a selection of photos from the album which I had posted on my Wanstead Image Archive.

Ms Wade told me: “George Wilson Hobbs was born in Newport, Isle of Wight, in 1838. He, with his wife Fanny and their family, moved to Forest Gate around 1880 and resided at 35 Bignold Road for many years. They had previously been resident in Market Harborough, Leicestershire. Three of George and Fanny’s children became self-employed artists like their father and worked from a studio at home. Florence Emily married Frederick Dawe, a commercial artist, in 1901 and they had one son, Cedric, who became an artist and an art director in the film industry. A large silk embroidery was worked by at least one of the daughters, possibly Fanny Marian, on a Singer sewing machine and won first prize for the Singer Sewing Machine Company in the 1900 Paris Exposition. George Edward wrote and illustrated several children’s books on the theme of brownies (elves) and also stories and illustrations for children’s annuals. He painted landscapes and portraits and illustrated cards for the publisher Raphael Tuck.”

I’ll begin the series with some photographs taken in Wanstead Park.

To view Richard’s Wanstead Image Archive, visit