March 2020


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

Floating ideas

Aerial-photo4Aerial photographs of the River Roding flooding in December 2019, taken by a local resident

Rising at Molehill Green in Essex, the River Roding passes through the Wanstead and Woodford area en route to the Thames, bringing with it a very real flood risk to local homes. In the seventh of a series of articles, Nina Garner from the Environment Agency reports on the River Roding Project, which aims to reduce that risk. Photo by Geoff Wilkinson

On Saturday 21 December 2019, the Environment Agency issued flood alerts and warnings along the River Roding due to heavy rainfall. These informed local residents of a risk of flooding and covered areas including Woodford, Ilford, Barking, Loughton and East Ham.

Although no properties were flooded in 2019, the river peaked at 7am on 21 December, reaching 1.83m. This river level reached was the highest on record since the 2000 floods. The 2000 floods caused widespread disruption to major roads across Redbridge and approximately 400 properties were affected.

The recent flooding caused some disruption to local residents and the Roding Valley parkrun was cancelled as the route was flooded, leaving the local runners disappointed.

Prepare, act, survive
Whether you live on a hill, in a flat or in an area that’s never flooded before, flooding can still affect you. Flooding not only puts homes, possessions and families at risk but can cause serious disruption to commuting routes, whether that be to school, work or a place of worship.

Due to our changing climate, there is a chance that flood events will become more common and extreme. Knowing what to do in a flood is important to help reduce the impact of flooding to your loved ones, your property and your possessions. The good news is that there are some simple actions you can take to prepare for flooding. These small actions, outlined here, could help keep you and your family safe.

Knowing what to do in a flood could save your life. Find out if your home, business or local area is at risk of flooding ( or call Floodline on 0345 988 1188). If you live in a flood-risk area, do what you can now to prepare for a flood. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Sign up to our flood warning system (

Create a personal flood plan. This plan should include a list of things you should do (like moving sentimental items to safety) and provides space for you to note down important contact details, such as your utility companies and insurance.

Check the water level on the River Roding. You can do this by using the monitoring webcam (

2,000 homes better protected by 2080
We are progressing the River Roding Project to help Redbridge become more climate change resilient and reduce flooding to over 2,000 homes by 2080.

Subject to securing full funding, we hope to submit our planning application for the project in late summer. We will hold information events for you to comment on our final plans before we submit. We will invite you once we have a date, so please keep an eye out for more information.

For more information on the River Roding Project, visit or call 0370 850 6506

Too many toys? Sell them at NCT’s nearly new sale in Wanstead


Parents with too many children’s clothes and toys will have the chance to sell them to other local parents at NCT Redbridge’s nearly new sale at Christ Church hall on 25 April.

Stallholders keep 70% of their sale prices, with the rest supporting the charity’s work. Seller registration opens to the general public on 9 March (cost: £5).

“Keep an eye on our Facebook page so you don’t miss out when it goes live as seller spaces sold out within 24 hours for our November sale,” said a spokesperson.



£100k & counting

20200120_114103Members of the Wanstead, Woodford and Barkingside Marie Curie Fundraising Group

Members of the Wanstead, Woodford and Barkingside Marie Curie Fundraising Group have reached their £100,000 target. Jill Playford thanks local supporters and explains how the money will be used

A celebration was held in February to thank all supporters and collectors who helped us to raise the fantastic amount of £100,000 over the last few years, paying for 5,000 Marie Curie nursing hours.

We get wonderful support from our local communities with local businesses donating raffle prizes, Wanstead High School donating the proceeds from their annual charity cross country run, Wanstead House holding cake and coffee mornings to raise money and students from Forest School helping out at our Great Daffodil Appeal collections.

The group was formed in June 2013 with four members who had all been local supporters of the Marie Curie charity. The initial aim of the group was to raise awareness of the work of the charity in the local area as well as to fundraise. At that time, we did not set ourselves a target – this evolved as the amount of money raised increased each year.

Group membership has changed over the years, and we always welcome new members, as they bring new ideas and energy to our group. Members commit as little or as much time as they can, and the larger the group, the more money can be raised each year.

To raise money, the group now hosts about 20 street and store collections, runs two quiz evenings each year, has stalls at the Wanstead Festival and Disability Awareness day and holds tea and coffee afternoons. Residents have quickly come to recognise the bright yellow uniforms – especially the hats – of our collectors and can be seen proudly wearing Marie Curie stickers and daffodil pins.

The Marie Curie charity has, in recent years, widened its services to offer support to anyone with a life-threatening illness in the last few weeks of their life. A free support line (0800 090 2309) also offers help and advice to people with a terminal illness and to their families and friends. Marie Curie nurses and health care assistants work in the local area to provide free, overnight home nursing care, enabling people to make the choice to die in their own homes, knowing they and their family will be well supported and cared for. A rapid response service, as well as a day respite service, is also available in Redbridge. These are supported by the money raised by local groups. Feedback from local families acknowledges the important role nurses play in giving the patient dignity in dying.

People living in the local area have played their part too by volunteering as collectors or donating generously when they see our collectors at local venues. The street collections for the Great Daffodil Appeal will take place on 7 March, so expect to see a blaze of yellow on Wanstead High Street and on George Lane in South Woodford. If you feel you could offer two hours of your time to help at these collections, please get in touch.

For more information on the Wanstead, Woodford and Barkingside Marie Curie Fundraising Group, call 020 8989 2193

Relax & take control


Before being diagnosed with cancer in 2016, Wanstead Business Network member Lucy Howe ran a wellness clinic in South Woodford. Now in remission, she is keen to help others again

Being told you have cancer is one of the scariest things you can ever hear. I know, because I’ve heard the words: “You have cancer.” That was the day the world fell out of my bottom!

Being diagnosed with cancer four years ago shocked me to the core, but made me realise the environment of my body was out of balance and I was being warned something needed to be done.

What can cause cancer? Is it the toxicity around us or is it stress-related from a busy lifestyle? Who knows? Making choices to reduce the toxicity in your life, starting with the food you eat, targeted organic supplements and only using good quality organic skincare will help. As will keeping your stress levels down and being happy.

The choices I made helped me beat cancer and I now live without the fear of it returning. I didn’t want cancer to beat me and there is no way I want it to come back. Hippocrates said: “Illnesses do not come upon us out of the blue. They are developed from small daily sins against nature. When enough sins have accumulated, illness will suddenly appear.”

Three years into remission and I’m feeling stronger, healthier and more confident, having worked hard with various coaches to help me with techniques to stop feeling the fear of it returning. Now it’s my turn to give back, empowering people while they are going through treatment and beyond. Motivating, supporting and encouraging them on their journey to live life to the full, whether they’ve had cancer or not.

I ran my first retreat in Cyprus in 2019, and this year, for my Relax, Recharge and Take Control Retreat, I will be on the beautiful island of Mauritius. I can help you live your wildest dreams, achieve all you’ve ever wanted or desired and get back the confidence to be ‘you’ again. Hang out with me for the week in June and you are in danger of:

  • Learning how to put ‘you’ first – fixing your own oxygen mask before helping others!
  • Getting more confident every day and falling in love with yourself.
  • Feeling strong enough to make your dreams a reality and be your most invincible self.
  • Laughing every day and making time for fun in your life again.
  • Learning how to have ‘me time’.
  • I want you to live a healthier, happier life with more confidence, clarity and productivity.

For more information on Lucy’s cancer support group, coaching programmes, pamper days and Mauritius retreat in June, call 07770 666 429 or visit

Celebrating Purim: charity donations, gifts and triangular treats


Leytonstone and Wanstead Synagogue invite those interested in Jewish culture to celebrate Purim on 9 March.

“Purim is a festival marking the deliverance of the Jews of Persia from extermination 2,500 years ago… People eat triangular-shaped cakes filled with poppy seeds (Hamantashen), give each other small gifts of fruit and sweets and donate to charity. It is a really happy day!” said Martin Gaba.

Celebrations will take place at 2 Fillebrook Road, Leytonstone from 6.30pm, followed by a party with live music.

Call 07434 631 948