New film looks at Wanstead and Woodford during the Second World War

Screenshot 2020-05-07 at 14.01.16Air Raid Wardens, Herongate Road, Aldersbrook

To commemorate the 75th Anniversary of VE Day on 8 May, a new online film exploring Ilford, Wanstead and Woodford during the Second World War has been released.

Researched, written and produced by Redbridge Museum staff, the film (watch below) looks at the outbreak of the war, evacuation of local children, the Home Front, the contribution of local industries, the damage caused to the local area by air raids, victory celebrations and the bittersweet aftermath of the war.

Victory in Europe – VE Day – was declared on 8 May 1945, a day after Germany surrendered. The Prime Minister (and local MP for Woodford) Winston Churchill gave his iconic BBC radio broadcast to the nation announcing the German surrender. The news of Victory in Europe sparked street parties all over Ilford, Wanstead and Woodford.

“In our current challenging times it is poignant to commemorate the hardships of the wartime generation who fought so bravely for the freedoms we take for granted today. Redbridge Museum hopes the film will provide a unique insight into how the war affected the borough and will be both a valuable educational resource and a fitting tribute to local residents. We hope you enjoy the film and will share with friends and family,” said Gareth Morley, Head of Culture & Libraries for Vision RCL which manages the museum.

“I hope you all enjoy Friday’s celebrations. Let’s take time to remember those who risked their lives to protect our freedom and pay our respects to our Armed Forces community, past and present, by sharing two minutes silence on our doorsteps at 11am,” added the Leader of Redbridge Council, Cllr Jas Athwal.


Seeds of hope

IMG_0476The Crabtree family are creating raised vegetable beds in their garden on Overton Drive

Growing your own fruit and vegetables is good for the environment and, during these times of isolation, it’s good for the soul as well, says Jennifer Hawkes of Wanstead Climate Action

Grow Your Own, Dig for Victory! These ideas have been around for a long time and have played their part in our shared history. But, as I’m sitting here in self-isolation with the sun streaming through my windows, I’m struck by how much the idea of sowing seeds and growing food at home has to offer us at this point in history when we are facing a climate crisis, a deluge of plastic waste, a global pandemic and extreme isolation.

The simple act of sowing seeds and growing food has its part to play in supporting individuals, communities and society to grow hope in the midst of these crises.

As we face growing levels of carbon emissions, growing your own can reduce the carbon footprint of your fruit plate to almost zero. According to Mike Berners-Lee, in his book How Bad are Bananas, a garden-grown apple has a carbon footprint of zero, compared to 10g of greenhouse gasses caused by one locally grown apple and 150g per apple for those New Zealand apples sold in our local supermarkets. British grown strawberries have less than a tenth of the greenhouse gas emissions of their imported counterparts, and garden-grown strawberries again have none.

Even growing a small amount of your own fruit and veg can reduce your family’s carbon footprint significantly.

Pre-washed and packaged salad bags are a convenience food that has taken over vegetable shelves. Each bag is linked to 3g of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the pollution of our soils and oceans. There is no good way to dispose of plastic bags but we can use less of them! Growing your own lettuce leaves, rocket, herbs and salad is an easy first step into the world of growing your own. And, with each harvest you enjoy, you reduce your plastic footprint.

Growing fruit and vegetables is also good for the soul. In this time of isolation, growing plants provides a routine of tending, watering, harvesting and preparing. It gives individuals and families an opportunity to get outside and enjoy sunshine, exercise and activity. A glut of produce can be shared with neighbours and friends. Conversations can be had at safe distances over allotment boundaries or garden walls.

If you’re tempted to try growing your own for the first time, some easy starter vegetables are salad leaves, cherry tomatoes, courgettes or runner beans. All of these can be grown in containers on a sunny balcony or in a cleared part of a garden.

Give it a go and enjoy the benefits to you, your family and our larger world.

For advice on how to grow your own fruit and vegetables, visit

For more information on Wanstead Climate Action, visit


Helping kids afraid of the dark: publishing contract for young writer


Nine-year-old Wanstead resident Riku Fryderyk Borowczyk – who is a member of the South Woodford Young Writers Club – has signed a book deal with Pegasus to publish his story The Witching Hour.

“In this story, I want to help children who are afraid of the dark by making them think differently about what might be there that they cannot see,” explained Riku.

“We’re looking forward to the launch of the book in the next few months and seeing The Witching Hour on the shelves of our local bookstores,” said his mum.


Local artist offers free ‘relaxation through art’ classes online


Wanstead artist Brenda Coyle invites residents of all ages to take part in her online art classes during lockdown.

“I can’t keep still, so I decided to start running ‘relaxation through art’ classes for free online. I asked my students to pass on my email to friends and family so that they could join in, doing a bit of meditative art while self-isolating,” said Brenda, who had to suspend her classes at Wanstead House. Brenda’s tutorials cover a range of techniques, including crafts for children.

Email or click here.


Wanstead Social Distance Club: lockdown-friendly talks

Screenshot-2020-04-15-15.33.20Author John Rogers took part in the club’s first meeting

Local resident Giles Wilson – who runs the Wansteadium blog and organises the annual Wanstead Fringe – has launched the Wanstead Social Distance Club, offering a series of online talks.

“The inaugural meeting took place last month when author John Rogers spoke about some of the fascinating things he’s learned while walking around our bit of east London,” said Giles. Local crime writer Anya Lipska has also taken part in the club, which broadcasts its presentations using video conferencing app Zoom.



Redbridge and climate change


Redbridge Council is seeking the views of residents to help it become more environmentally friendly.

“We are responding to the climate crisis by developing a plan to make our operations net-zero by 2030… We know communities across Redbridge are taking action to reduce their emissions. That’s why we want to hear your ideas for how we can change,” said a spokesperson.

The consultation is open until 31 May.

Click here to take part.


Thank you NHS: rainbows across Wanstead and Woodford add colour to lockdown

Residents across Wanstead and Woodford have joined the international trend of displaying children’s rainbow art in their windows, to pay tribute to NHS staff during the coronavirus pandemic.

“A rainbow has a pot of gold at the end, but it seems the rainbows I see when walking around Woodford have two. At one end is the appreciation of all our front-line workers and at the other, the flowering of children’s art. From pavements to windows, it’s great to see their artistic involvement,” said Julia Brett, founder of Woodford Arts Group.

Rainbow-themed designs range from painted banners and illuminated balloons to Lego creations and pavement chalk drawings. It is thought the trend started in Italy and rapidly caught on in other countries, enabling children to go rainbow spotting on their daily walk.


Good evening

hc-1Sir Alfred Hitchcock

To honour 40 years since the death of Sir Alfred Hitchcock, local historian Gary Lewis tells the story of how his interest in the late director spawned a business offering guided tours in Leytonstone

Good evening (as Leytonstone’s favourite son himself would say). My name is Gary Lewis, I’m a local historian, public speaker and tour guide on the subject of the late, great film director Sir Alfred Hitchcock.

Hitchcock was born on 13 August 1899 in Leytonstone. Known as the Master of Suspense, he directed over 50 feature films before receiving an American Film Institute Life Achievement Award. He made his directorial debut with the silent film The Pleasure Garden in 1925. His first successful film, The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927), helped to shape the thriller genre, while his 1929 film, Blackmail, was the first British ‘talkie’. He died in California on 29 April 1980.

I’ve been a resident of Leytonstone for the past 41 years, but my fascination with Hitchcock really began when I was a teenager in the late 1970s. One Sunday night, I stayed up late to watch Psycho on TV. I remember jumping out of my chair at the shower scene, and the screeching violins have stayed with me to this day. After that, I was hooked.

Gary conducting his tour

Fast forward to October 2015, I was forced to take early retirement from London Underground as a Tube driver due to ill health. For the next year, I wondered where to turn for my next career move. Inspiration struck in September 2016 when I joined the Alfred Hitchcock of Leytonstone Society. At a meeting of the society in early 2018, I proposed presenting a slide show on the early life of Hitchcock, entitled ‘Hitchcock’s Leytonstone’. They enthusiastically agreed, and in May 2018, I gave my first talk at The Birds pub in Leytonstone. Three more talks followed and soon I was hired by local groups, keen to hear about Hitchcock’s roots. On 4 September 2019, I gave my biggest talk yet to over 100 people for the Leyton and Leytonstone Historical Society.

Having developed my illustrated talk on the early life of Alfred Hitchcock, the next logical step was to start a guided tour entitled ‘Walking in the Footsteps of Hitchcock’. On 29 September 2019, as part of Leytonstone Loves Film, I guided 60 people from all over the world – including six from Mexico, two ladies from Greece and a couple from Romania – on my first 90-minute tour.

Sadly, on 11 November 2019, I parted company with the Alfred Hitchcock of Leytonstone Society. I felt it was time to move on and I saw this as a golden opportunity to start my own business. On 12 January this year, the dream became a reality and Hitchcock Talks and Tours was born. As for the future, my talks and tours are generating interest not only from local residents and local clubs but from all over the globe. I look forward to bringing Hitchcock’s Leytonstone to the world!

For more information on Gary’s talks and tours, visit

We’re going on a bear hunt: 45 teddies to find across Wanstead


A bear hunt has been created in Wanstead to help keep children entertained on their daily walk.

“The bear hunt is all around Wanstead, centred around Leicester Road and Hereford Road, but goes as far as Warren Road, Gordon Road and Rodney Road,” explained Lorna Sparks.

There are 45 bears to find, each with an accompanying letter that spells out a secret message.

“There is even a certificate for completed entries. Good luck on your bear hunt!”

Download the Bear Hunt Form

were going on a bear hunt form


Council assures residents recyclable materials are not going to landfill

L1210473-2©Geoff Wilkinson

With kerbside recycling collections suspended, Redbridge Council is keen to assure residents that recyclable materials are not going to landfill.

“We can assure residents that recycling materials are not going to landfill. General waste collected from households goes to a waste processing plant, where it is initially shredded and dried. This process reduces the volume of the waste and minimises the production of methane…From the dried waste, recyclates can be extracted, such as metals, glass and organic material. The remaining material, known as Refuse Derived Fuel, can be used for energy generation. No waste from this process is sent to landfill,” said a spokesperson.


Kind words…


In the third 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 we can all effect change

I’ve always been someone who has dreamt of ways to make a positive difference and inspire even just a small change in the world. It’s important to me that I am able to have an impact and help others with issues I understand and feel passionately about shaping.

When I experienced bullying and struggled with my mental health, my desire and need to help others got stronger, and after struggling so much, I couldn’t stand by knowing that other people were experiencing similar difficulties. I knew and believed I could make a difference.

But I’ll be honest, taking the first few steps to speak out and stand up was one of the most terrifying things I have done. It hasn’t always been easy. I knew from the beginning I might get a little bit of backlash. I didn’t expect it to be easy, particularly because the issue was still very sensitive for me at the time. But that was never going to stop me. I knew however hard it was, it was completely necessary for me to do what I could to help others and be the change that I wanted to see in the world.

We all have something that we believe needs to change to achieve more equality, fairness and justice in the world we live in. But for real change to happen, hoping for the best and relying on others doesn’t lead to many results. We need to have the courage to act.

All too often, I hear people say their voice and their actions can’t make a significant difference, particularly other teens and young people around me. I’m constantly trying to communicate to others how valuable their actions are in making a difference. It could be the smallest change you want to see within your school or at work, something you believe would make a safer and happier environment for others. You don’t have to start a national campaign; you just have to believe that by taking some regular small actions, you will contribute towards making a big difference.

Ask yourself, what change do you want to see in the world? And how can you be a part of creating it?

We all have a responsibility to look out for one another and shape the future we want, because only we can decide what it holds.

So please, don’t underestimate the power you have to make a difference. Do your little bit to stand up for what you believe in and don’t rely on others, because we all need to help. If we all act more, we will achieve amazing things together, because change starts with us.

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

Driving the point home


Should you ditch your car? Kathy Taylor from Wanstead Climate Action assesses your options if you want to stop contributing to air pollution and reducing the lifespan of your neighbours

Did you know that a mile of congested urban diesel driving takes about 12 minutes off the life of the rest of the population? This stark fact is one of the many interesting ones to be found in the book There is no Planet B by Mike Berners-Lee. 

If you needed a reason to scrap your diesel (or give it to a country dweller) apart from the upcoming expanded Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) area, the fact that an estimated 40,000 people a year in the UK die prematurely from air pollution should persuade you. It’s the nitrogen dioxide and the small particles (PM 2.5s) that are the killers (including those from tyres and brakes).

So, what should you do? Of course, the most environmentally friendly alternative is to ditch the car. Living in London is perhaps the easiest place to live without one. If there were more club cars like Zip Car this would be convenient and make economical – as well as environmental – sense: most cars sit doing nothing for the majority of their lives, wasting resources (per mile use of resources in manufacture and maintenance) compared to a car that is used frequently.

Just think what could be done with all those car parking spaces if we all shared cars! But there are currently only two Zip Cars for rent in Wanstead (Drive Now has just folded due to lack of customers).

Pedal or electric bikes as an alternative may suit some people who do very few car miles, but it’s electric vehicles (EVs) that are getting all the media coverage right now, with both Redbridge Council and the UK government committing to increasing charging points. Should you invest in an electric car? Certainly, the running costs will be lower, but unless you do a lot of driving or have a diesel, it may make sense to keep a car for as long as possible (especially if you already have a hybrid). As with all consumer goods, make them last.

Currently, electricity is still produced mainly from fossil fuels, and until there’s enough green electricity to go around, your pollution will be displaced to power stations.

Carbon Brief – which aims to improve the understanding of climate change – has concluded: “In the UK in 2019, the lifetime emissions per kilometre of driving a Nissan Leaf EV were about a third of the average conventional car (even before accounting for the falling carbon intensity of electricity generation expected during the car’s lifetime).”

Taking all that into account, when it’s time to replace your petrol or hybrid car, and if you really need one, then it’s electric all the way.

For more information on how electric vehicles help to tackle climate change, visit

For information on the ULEZ boundary extension in 2021, visit