Old enough to…

DSC_5429Panel members Pearl and Bert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The old East End

Park-Lane,-Stratford_DSCF5660©Geoff Wilkinson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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, 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 For more information on Mama G, visit

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 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 To view the petition, visit For information on WCA, visit

How was that?


Wanstead and Snaresbrook Cricket Club players Nanette Kritzinger and Saba Nasim reflect on their experiences representing England at the Indoor Cricket Masters Series in 2019

The 2019 Indoor Cricket Masters Series proved one thing: the England women’s team made their mark on the international stage in every possible way; performance, team spirit, sportsmanship, determination, friendship and courage.

Heading into the World Series 2019, England was considered the underdog and very much a developing country in the sport of indoor cricket, about to square up against the well-established masters of the game, Australia, New Zealand and hosts South Africa.

The fighting spirit of the England team could not be dampened, and it was soon clear that we are now becoming a force to be reckoned with. In our fifth appearance, we beat the mighty New Zealand by sticking to our game plan and ensuring the basics of the game were done right.

This moment was made even more special when we realised it was not just us celebrating this historic moment (this was our first ever win at a World Series competition), but also the local crowds and teams from other countries. Everybody there had an unstoppable passion for the sport and were excited by the prospect of the sport growing and developing in England.

The experience gained by each and every player in such a high standard tournament is immeasurable. Indoor cricket has many skill sets that can transfer and improve the players’ outdoor game. Players learn more control over the shots they play while batting by finding the gaps and scoring faster; their fielding becomes faster and more accurate; bowling becomes smarter, having to react quickly to the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing   batsman; and fitness levels increase drastically. All things considered, this is the ideal sport to play during the winter months in preparation for the outdoor season in the summer.

Wanstead and Snaresbrook Cricket Club is proud to say we had four players in the England Indoor Cricket Women’s Masters squad (Nanette Kritzinger, Saba Nasim, Natasha Bourke and Jen Liu).

We are now looking forward to our 2020 outdoor season, where we will be playing in the Essex Women’s Premier League for the first time since the Women’s Southern League removed the regional divisions. This is to allow the counties to create their own leagues (so teams have less distances to travel for matches) with the winner of each league competing in a semi-final and final for a place to go up into the Southern League Championship Division in 2021.

For more information on Wanstead and Snaresbrook Cricket Club, visit

Wanstead and Woodford Marie Curie fundraising group reach £100,000 target

DSC_5178Marie Curie Fundraising on Wanstead High Street in 2013, the year the local group was formed. ©Geoff Wilkinson

The Wanstead and Woodford Marie Curie fundraising group has reached its target of raising £100,000 for the charity, which provides care and support to people with terminal illnesses and their families.

“This has taken six years to achieve, but we are finally there,” said a spokesperson for the group, which was formed in June 2013. To mark the achievement, a celebratory afternoon will take place at Wanstead House on 22 February from 2pm to 4pm. There will be a short talk on the work of Marie Curie, a cheque presentation and informal discussions over tea and biscuits.

“When we collect in the local area residents are so supportive and generous, and we would like to let them know how their small contributions add up and welcome them to celebrate with us if they want to drop in and meet us.”

Call 020 8989 2193


Restoring Wanstead Park

p2Untitled-1©Richard Arnopp

In the ninth of a series of articles looking at the developing plans for restoring Wanstead Park, Richard Arnopp of the Friends of Wanstead Parklands reflects on the recent River Roding flooding

This winter, nature gave Wanstead Park an unexpected but very welcome Christmas present. On 21 December, after days of very heavy rain, the water level in the River Roding rose to its highest level for some years and inundated the Ornamental Water. Within hours, the flood began to recede, but several years of low water levels had been resolved at a stroke, with the lake filled to capacity.

The River Roding sits in a huge valley, the relic of its past as a seasonal torrent during the last glaciation, carrying vast volumes of spring meltwater from the ice sheets just to the north. Nowadays, for most of the year, it is a placid little stream, but sometimes during the winter months, it shows something of its old mettle, with significant flooding occurring every decade or so.

The Roding and the Ornamental Water have a close historical relationship, which looks likely to be revived in a new form, as I shall explain.

Prior to the creation of the lake, the natural course of the river as it ran through Wanstead Park isn’t altogether certain, though an engraving of circa 1708 suggests that part of it roughly followed what became the eastern arm of the later Ornamental Water behind the islands. At this stage, there were also two artificial canals, which were later partly subsumed into the lake as it developed.

The Ornamental Water as we know it first appears on a plan of 1725, though construction may have begun up to a decade earlier. The new lake utilised elements of the water features already present and was directly fed by the river.

The water level was sustained by a system of weirs. The original plan of the lake was modified at various times, most radically by 2nd Earl Tylney of Castlemaine, but probably reached something like its present form around 1760.

Around this time, or slightly later, the Ornamental Water was severed from the river, which was canalised behind it. The average water level in the river is now about eight feet lower than in the lake when it is full, and the lake is retained by two brick-faced dams. The owners of Wanstead Park retained the right to temporarily dam the river to top up or flush out the Ornamental Water, and this right was exercised into the 20th century.

The purpose of canalising the River Roding may well have been to mitigate the flood risk upstream from the park. In 1768 a stone bridge, planned in 1752, had been built at Woodford. Almost immediately this was destroyed by floods and had to be rebuilt in 1771. Further canalisation of the river has taken place over the years, most recently in connection with construction of the Barking Relief Road.

As the Friends of Wanstead Parklands have explained in previous articles, discussions are being held with the Environment Agency to allow winter pumping from the River Roding into the Ornamental Water. However, as well as demonstrating the potential for winter spate pumping to manage lakes levels, the recent flood also fits into the evolving strategy of creating planned overflow areas to reduce potential flood risk for residents and businesses along the river.

For more information on Wanstead Park and to join or donate to the Friends of Wanstead Parklands, visit or email

Litter pick proves ‘community spirit in Wanstead is second to none’


Volunteers came out in strength this month to clean up Wanstead on the first litter pick of 2020.

“Some 12 adults and children gathered at Woodbine Place before fanning out to collect the debris and detritus of those who walk and drive around our streets. The result was a haul of 14 bags of rubbish collected… The turnout proves that the community spirit in Wanstead is second to none… This year will be a significant one, with new wheelie bins being rolled out and efforts increasing to clean things up,” said Councillor Jo Blackman.

Litter picks take place on the third Saturday of every month, meeting at corner of Woodbine Place and Wanstead High Street from 10am.

Additionally, litter pickers, bags and gloves are also available in the library for those wishing to pick in their own time.




Editor of leading floral art magazine to give talk at Wanstead Library

Screenshot 2020-01-27 13.23.57

The Woodford and District Floral Arrangement Group will hold its AGM and host the editor of the UK’s leading floral art magazine The Flower Arranger on 17 February from 7.30pm at Wanstead Library (visitors: £5).

“I will discuss the history of the magazine, how it has been inspiring floral artists for nearly 60 years and also its future now flower arranging has been taken up by the Instagram generation. Floral arrangements inspired by six decades of the magazine will also be on display,” said editor Chloë Bryan-Brown.

Call 020 8530 2427


Talk yourself better

ariene-1Ariane with Richard Dawkins at the launch of the Atheist Bus Campaign. © Zoe Margolis

Paul Kaufman, Chair of East London Humanists, introduces Ariane Sherine, writer, comedienne and woman of many parts who will feature at the group’s Wanstead meeting this month.

Ariane Sherine, who lives in Leytonstone, will be talking about her extraordinary and eventful life journey and signing copies of her latest book at Wanstead Library this January.

Expelled from school at 16, Ariane started hanging around with Duran Duran and played piano on two of their tracks. Her journalistic career started at 21, reviewing records for NME. She was soon contributing to TV shows,  including Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps and Countdown, and spent time on the stand-up comedy circuit. She has gone on to write several books and is a contributor to The Spectator, The Guardian, The Independent, The Sunday Times and Esquire magazine.

Ariane has a young daughter and is a patron of Humanists UK. In 2013 she published the ebook Give: How to be Happy. She wrote in The Guardian at its launch about her lack of religious belief and her wish for her daughter to grow up in a kinder world. The book describes 10 practical actions we can all take to help achieve this. Ariane sold half of her possessions as part of the campaign and donated the proceeds to Médecins Sans Frontières.

But perhaps the best-known achievement initiated by Ariane was the Atheist Bus Campaign. Launched in 2009, the campaign grew at an astonishing pace. A total of £100,000 was raised in four days. It was taken up in over a dozen countries. Ariane thought up the campaign in response to the use of bus advertising by the Jesus Said organisation to promote their message that all non-Christians would burn in hell for all eternity. Ariane’s message was: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Even this simple retort was too much for some. It was criticised by George Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury. Attempts to run similar campaigns in Russia, Italy and Australia were thwarted. And there was a backlash for Ariane. The hate mail she received from extreme Christians contributed to a breakdown.

The road to recovery prompted Ariane to write her book Talk Yourself Better: A Confused Person’s Guide to Therapy, Counselling and Self-Help. Reviews include: “What an excellent, long-overdue idea! A super-accessible guide, through the bewildering marketplace of modern therapy, to ease our noble search for help,” (Derren Brown); “How do we cope with this brutal world? In this witty, revealing book Ariane Sherine runs through the ways. An excellent, funny and thought-provoking read for all who seek answers,” (Arthur Smith).

There will be time for questions and discussion following Ariane’s presentation.

Ariane’s talk will take place at Wanstead Library on 27 January from 7.30pm (free; visitors welcome) – visit For more information on Ariane and her books, visit