Small business, big problem


Local resident Rachel Jarvis is a business coach for ActionCOACH and is keen to make Wanstead’s business owners aware of the support available to them during the current crisis

As you know, the UK is in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak and many small and medium-sized businesses are already feeling the effects. I encourage all business owners to read HMRC’s guidance for employers and business owners, which can found at

Some of my clients have already contacted HMRC, who have been very understanding and have offered to defer all tax payments (including VAT) for two months. In effect, this is free credit to help with potential cash flow issues. Many businesses are following suit, and I would encourage others to do the same. The simple principle here is: once you’ve paid it, you won’t get it back! HMRC are likely to have to give further concessions if the effect of coronavirus is as severe as expected.

Banks are also said to be increasing credit lines and overdrafts, and in some cases, they may even offer repayment holidays on loans. And many of my clients are contacting all of their suppliers to ask about relaxing payments.

The government has launched a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, which will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to a per-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the scheme will support loans of up to £5m in value. Companies can access the first six months of that finance interest-free.

For businesses with fewer than 250 employees, the cost of providing 14 days of statutory sick pay per employee will be refunded by the government in full. This will provide two million businesses with up to £2bn to cover the costs of large-scale sick leave. Coronavirus statutory sick pay is expected to be in the form of a refund.

For the self-employed not eligible for statutory sick pay, contributory Employment and Support Allowance will be payable, at a rate of £73.10 a week if you are over 25, for eligible people affected by coronavirus.

There are also cash grants of up to £10,000 for our smallest businesses, which will be delivered by local authorities. The council will have further information on this as the scheme is rolled out.

And a business rates holiday has been introduced for 2020–21 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with a rateable value of over £51,000. A £25,000 grant will be provided to businesses in this sector operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000. This will also be implemented through your local council.

Rachel is offering free coaching sessions to local businesses impacted by coronavirus. Email or call 07711 193 998
For more information on support available for small businesses, visit

Old enough to…


In the ninth of a series of articles looking at the work of Age UK Redbridge, Barking and Havering, Janet West summarises the impact of coronavirus on their services and explains what they can still offer

Due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, here at Age UK Redbridge, Barking and Havering we are busy adapting our services so we can continue supporting older people in the three boroughs we serve.

Whilst some services will continue as near to normal as possible for the time being, some will inevitably be more affected as we strive to follow the government’s advice to help keep people safe.

Unfortunately, this means that since 17 March, we have had to close the Allan Burgess Centre – our activity hub in Wanstead – to comply with the current guidelines, meaning we cannot provide lunch or activities for the foreseeable future.

The activities carried out at the Cherry Tree Cafe (Zumba and art classes) will also cease as the centre has to close its doors as well. We will be offering telephone communication to service users affected if they would like it, so we can at least give them someone to talk to and offer advice if they need it.

The situation is changing all the time, so we will be updating our website as the weeks progress, or people can phone the office for more information.

Here at our offices in Ilford, we will still be running a limited advice and information service, and our telephone befriending service, with some changes to how these are delivered as more staff and volunteers need to work from home.

Social activities make up a lot of our services, allowing people to socialise together in groups. With current advice, we can sadly no longer organise these gatherings until further notice.

On the bright side, we are receiving many kind offers from the public who want to help and we are looking at ways we can use this extra resource whilst being mindful of our duty to safeguard older people.

In the meantime, we would like to encourage older people to ask for help if they need it, firstly turning to their families, friends or neighbours, but if they don’t have any support networks, then do contact us and we will try to help where we can.

Please be aware, during this difficult time, there will be delays in answering calls.

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

Age UK has a fact sheet on the coronavirus. Visit


A community that delivers

DSC_0182©Andy Nutter

Volunteers across Wanstead have been delivering leaflets to their neighbours, offering help and support during the uncertain times ahead. Charlie Renwick explains why she got involved. Pictured here is fellow volunteer Mei Moore (Charlie was self-isolating and unable to be photographed at the time of writing). Photo by Andy Nutter

By mid-March, I started to feel anxious about coronavirus; initially what it would mean for my family and me, but more importantly, what would happen to those older people who don’t have a support network in place.

I knew other people must be feeling the same way, so I turned to Facebook and within minutes found the Redbridge COVID-19 Mutual Aid group, an organisation set up by three others to connect us all at this time.

At the time of writing, the group has over 1,500 members and is growing daily. It offers clear information on Redbridge wards (areas within the borough) and recommendations on how we can all get involved in supporting our local community.

I live in Wanstead Village, where we now have a WhatsApp group with 135 members and counting. Our priority to date has been reaching out to the elderly and those considered to be at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus, to ensure everyone has someone to turn to if they need to self-isolate.

A leaflet template was created, volunteers selected their local streets and printed copies. Our aim was to post one through all letterboxes in the area so everyone has contact details for their local volunteers.

The response has been incredible, from people joining the group as volunteers to messages thanking us for reaching out to them. Another Wanstead volunteer shared a messaged she received from an elderly neighbour: “I just wanted to thank you and Tasha for your lovely offer in my letterbox today. I am 81 but fairly fit, and just now have all that I need. But it is so reassuring to know you are there. I am so grateful for your kindness.”

For me, this is what it’s all about, knowing everyone feels they have someone to turn to during these difficult times.

Our objective is to create a web of support for the village, whether that means a grocery shop, a prescription collection or a chat on the phone to brighten up a lonely day. No request is too small! I’m here, and so is our ever-growing volunteer network.

So, pick up the phone and let’s support each other.

If you need help and you didn’t receive a leaflet, contact Charlie, who will connect you with someone local. No request is too small. Call 07851 632 613

To join the Redbridge COVID-19 Mutual Aid Facebook group, visit

To join the Wanstead Village or Wanstead Park ward WhatsApp group and for a list of other groups across Redbridge, visit


Wanstead swimming pool remains on track for opening in 2021

Proposed-street-view-looking-south-westVisualisation of the new facility on Redbridge Lane West. ©Stanley Bragg Architects

Plans for the construction of a new public swimming pool at Wanstead High School are progressing.

“Works are currently underway at Wanstead High to deliver temporary school accommodation and on-going access to the Multi-User Games Areas during the main school works. Once these current works have been completed, the school will decant into the new accommodation, allowing access to the main works contractor to undertake the programming for the demolition works. A preferred contractor has been identified for the main work, and we are currently concluding contracts. The contractor will be obliged, among other things, to meet a set of agreed ‘social value’ targets, which should include apprenticeship opportunities and construction vacancies for local people. There will be regular contact with residents in the immediate surrounding area throughout the project,” said Councillor Sheila Bain.


‘Largely positive’ feedback for council wheelie bin trial in Wanstead


Redbridge Council has received ‘largely positive’ feedback from residents currently trialling wheelie bins for their household rubbish collection.

“There are 1,530 properties taking part in the pilot in Wanstead. There is no specified length of time for the pilot while we monitor how it’s working, and resolve any issues,” said a spokesperson. The trial began in February and has seen 7,000 households across the borough receive a new 180-litre grey bin.

“Wheelie bins will prevent animals from accessing waste and deters fly-tipping.”


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

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

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


refugee-1Syrian refugees

In the first of a series of articles by Refugee Welcome Wanstead – a community group planning to welcome a Syrian refugee family to Wanstead – Eleanor Taylor explains how local residents can help

I’m sure you will recall the dreadful scenes in the news in recent years of buildings flattened, people killed or injured and families torn apart as a result of the war in Syria. For eight years, the war has raged, creating the world’s largest refugee crisis, and forcing people into camps in Lebanon and Jordan.

Life in these refugee camps is precarious, and most families dream of being able to settle down somewhere to start afresh and rebuild their lives.

It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed when we see these stories, to feel there’s nothing we can do to help. The events are happening so far away, and we don’t make the decisions about how many families are rescued from these terrible conditions.

But there is something we can do. In addition to the standard number of refugee families taken in by the UK government and resettled in this country, the Home Office operates a programme called the Community Sponsorship Scheme. Communities can come together and offer the housing, support and friendship needed to welcome a refugee family into life in the UK. The scheme has already worked successfully across the country, and is currently in action in Dagenham, where a group similar to ours welcomed a family last year.

That’s where we come in. Refugee Welcome Wanstead, established by volunteers from five local parishes in and around Wanstead, is a group set up to apply to welcome a Syrian refugee family into our community through the Community Sponsorship Scheme. Together, we will provide accommodation, advice and support to a family, as well as welcoming them into our wonderful Wanstead community.

If we are to succeed, we need your help. To take part in the scheme, the Home Office requires us to raise money, which is why we have set up a crowdfunding campaign. In time, we will also need volunteers, as well as donations of items of furniture, so please keep an eye on our Twitter page to see how you can help.

With your help, we can make all the difference in the world to one family. We can’t solve all the conflicts of the world, but we believe that if we can help one family, we should.

It takes a community to welcome a family, and we know Wanstead can rise to the challenge. Please help us succeed together.

To donate to Refugee Welcome Wanstead, visit For more information, follow the group on Twitter @RefugeeWanstead or email

For more information on the Community Sponsorship Scheme, visit


Celebrate local wild flowers with the Aldersbrook Horticultural Society


Local wild flowers will be the subject of this month’s Aldersbrook Horticultural Society meeting.

My talk will explain how historical records give clues about the native flowers that grew in the Wanstead area and their uses… I will suggest reasons why many wild flowers are under threat and how careful management of wild flower areas should be able to enhance local biodiversity,” said Tricia Moxey, whose presentation will take place at Aldersbrook Bowls Club on 10 March from 7.30pm (visitors: £5).



Watch out for pop-up art in Wanstead as art trail organisers take a break

IMG_E2351©Alison Stenhouse

The volunteer team of organisers of Art Trail Wanstead are having a well-deserved rest this September after 10 years of running the large, community visual art event.

But, to keep the local art scene alive, there are likely to be some pop-up art displays to enjoy this year instead, with details to be announced at a later date. And Art Group Wanstead members are again set to have a strong presence at September’s Wanstead Festival. “Having a break will give us time to plan for the years ahead,” said a statement from the organisers.

Last September, about 150 artists showed work at 70 venues.

The group, which has over 300 members, is continuing to offer free membership to artists – professionals and amateurs who have a strong connection to the local area – for its future plans.



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 For more information on the Wild Wanstead project, visit