Storytime with a difference: family drag queen performance at local libraries

d1931Mama G of Petite Pantos, which produces ‘pantomimes with a social conscience’, championing LGBTQ+ issues, feminism and positive representation of race and gender

The magic of panto and storytelling will come to local libraries this autumn with a series of performances by drag queen Mama G.

“Created by popular panto dame Robert Pearce, Mama G tells stories about being who you are and loving who you want, to children and their families, and anyone who’ll listen! She has spread her message all over the UK at libraries, theatres, museums and festivals, as well as making appearances in America and Canada,” said a spokesperson for Petite Pantos.

The ‘storytime with a difference’ will take place in Wanstead (2 October, 2pm), Woodford Green (4 October, 10.30am) and South Woodford (8 October, 2.30pm) as part of Redbridge’s annual Fabula Festival, which celebrates the arts and libraries and their power to transform lives. Suitable for children aged three and over, all shows are free to attend.

“These performances will feature published works and new writing that will make you laugh, think and love.”

Click here for more information.


First-ever large-scale history of Wanstead House

hosue-1Wanstead House, by Richard Westall ©Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

The Friends of Wanstead Parklands has commissioned Dr Hannah Armstrong – an expert in 18th-century architecture and landscape design – to write the first-ever large-scale history of Wanstead House.

“In existence for just 100 years, Wanstead House was regarded as one of the most magnificent palaces in Europe and the estate originally stretched nearly as far as Woodford. Tragically, in June 1822, every item within the house was sold at auction, prior to the house being demolished,” said a group spokesperson.

Due for publication in 2022 to mark the 200th anniversary of the ‘grand sale’, the book will tell the story of the house, its grounds and its larger-than-life owners, complemented by over 70 illustrations, some of which will be published for the first time.


The Railway Children: search for local child actor


The producers of The Railway Children – to be performed at Forest School in Snaresbrook as part of the Wanstead Fringe festival – are searching for a local actor to play the role of Jim.

“It would suit a young person with acting and singing ability, who wants to work with a professional theatre company,” said producer Katherine Mount.

Rehearsals commence 9 September, with performances on 14 and 15 September. If the successful candidate requires time off school, the company will apply for licences and supply a registered chaperone.

“For audience members, this will be an opportunity to see a West End-style musical on your doorstep… This heart-warming tale is set to a new musical soundtrack, bringing a touch of magic to the stage.”



Family event: learn how to identify trees in Wanstead Park

Wanstead+Park+1©Geoff Wilkinson

The Field Studies Council (FSC) in partnership with the Friends of Wanstead Parklands will be running a tree identification course for families in Wanstead Park this month.

“Join us on a walk and learn how to identify our trees using their leaves, bark and seeds… Discover how trees contribute to our environment,” said an FSC spokesperson. Suitable for children aged 18 months to 11 years, the workshop will run from 10am to 12 noon and from 1pm to 3pm on 21 August (meet at the Temple; adults: free; kids: £5).



Wanstead Fringe 2019 will be ‘bigger, better and more fringe-worthy than ever’

kinemaOpen-air cinema, a popular Wanstead Fringe event. ©Geoff Wilkinson

Organisers of the seventh annual Wanstead Fringe – which will run from 7 to 15 September – say this year’s event will be ‘bigger than ever’.

“The week-long Fringe will include more live professional theatre, comedy, music, demonstrations, talks and assorted cultural activities than ever before. Not to mention established favourites like the open-air Wanstead Kinema and the jumble trail,” said a spokesperson.

Last year, the Fringe attracted thousands of local residents as well as visitors from further afield. This time, organisers are expecting an even higher level of interest – especially with more events taking place in Aldersbrook, including a new play to be staged at the Aldersbrook Community Centre. A musical production of The Railway Children at Forest School promises to be another highlight.



Trouble above


London City Airport’s Master Plan, released on 28 June, proposes to double the number of flights each year. Steve Wilks looks at the effects of the new proposals on Wanstead and its environs

With an increasingly global and networked world, travelling in our jobs is becoming more commonplace. At London City Airport, in the last five years, its passenger numbers have grown by 40%, hitting 4.8 million in 2018. It expects demand to rise to 11 million by 2035, but its current capacity is limited to 6.5 million passengers, according to the London Borough of Newham.

London City CEO Robert Sinclair has stated the airport does not plan to build a new runway, extend the length of it or expand beyond its current site boundary. The airport wants to emphasise that it will focus on sustainability while expanding and using fuel-efficient aircraft and making its grounds operations carbon neutral.

The airport has tabled a Draft Master Plan 2020–2035 – it proposes to double the number of flights from 75k to 151k by 2035. It is also looking to relax a restriction that sees it close between 1pm on Saturdays and 12.30pm on Sundays, as well as an eight-hour overnight curfew and greater flexibility in its operations in the first and last 30 minutes of weekdays, meaning more early morning and late evening flights. A feedback form has been released for public comment until 20 September.

With this in mind, the plans are likely to face some opposition from environmental groups and neighbouring residents in the outer boroughs. John Stewart, chair of campaign group Hacan East, has warned that “flight numbers could almost double from today’s total.” Local communities will be concerned about the huge increase in the number of planes proposed and in the early hours of the morning and late at night when many people find aircraft most intrusive. Even the safeguards the airport will put in place to reduce noise will have only a marginal effect by 2035. There are also the increased environmental effects – a 2010 MIT study suggests you are more likely to die from exposure to toxic sulphur dioxide pollutants from plane exhausts than in a plane crash.

There is also very limited consultation by the airport – no consultation events are being held in some of the most heavily overflown boroughs, like Redbridge. This risks ignoring a significant proportion of residents who will be most affected by the proposals and this does not bode well for transparency in its dealings with key stakeholders.

While we have to accept the commercial realities of business, and the fact people need to travel, it is essential trips are only made if they are necessary. Technology now allows us to have conference calls online, thus enabling people from different locations around the world to connect. This surely must be cheaper for companies to invest in and less disruptive to employees and their lifestyles.

A public meeting on the proposed changes will take place at Buxton School, Cann Hall Road on 30 July from 7.30pm.

To take part in the consultation, visit or call 020 3858 9911


Work underway to upgrade water network in Wanstead

L1220044©Geoff Wilkinson

Work to replace 5.3km of water pipes across 20 roads in Wanstead began last week and is expected to continue until March.

“This is an important piece of work and we’re investing £2.2 million in the scheme to provide a safe and reliable supply for future generations… A range of techniques which do not require open trenches will be used to lay the new pipes, with trenches being used only as a last resort… We don’t plan to remove any trees, but any that do have to be removed will be replaced,” said a Thames Water spokesperson.


Photographic memories (part 10)

WWPS-Social-MeetingV2©David Tyrrell

In the 10th – and last – of a series of articles celebrating the Woodford and Wanstead Photographic Society – which is now in its 126th year – club member Alan Simpson continues to offer an insight into the group’s history. Photo by club member David Tyrrell.

When the opportunity came to move club meetings to Wanstead House Community Centre in 2014 – only 70 years after it was first suggested – the chance was taken. Once there, it was not long before the club had outgrown its ground-floor meeting room and moved into the much larger room in the attic (once the home of the defunct Leytonstone and Wanstead Camera Club). The only downside of the move to Wanstead House was that the change of evening (from Tuesday to Monday) meant several members could no longer attend, including Peter Smith, a long-standing member and former chairman.

Meeting only twice a month, and not at all in some holiday periods, left some members wanting a more regular programme. With this in mind, in 2015, informal get-togethers in the Wanstead House bar were introduced on Tuesday evenings in the weeks with no formal club meeting. Workshops were also organised on the use of Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. In addition, David Tachauer, and then Brian McCarthy, took on the role of organising outings to places with photographic potential. These extra activities all proved to be successful and truly meet one of the society’s early aims, viz ‘the discussion of the subjects connected with photography in a social manner and the encouragement of photographic research practice among the members by mutual and friendly assistance’.

The move to Wanstead House, a presence on social media (notably Flickr and Facebook) and an injection of new blood and new ideas into the committee all helped to revive the society’s fortunes, and membership numbers began to rise again – in mid-2018, there were 38 paid-up members (membership now costing £65 per annum; £45 for concessions). Many of the newer members had no background in ‘traditional’ photography, their photographic interest having formed in a world of camera phones, selfies and transient online images. To help these and others develop a wider skills base, the society now places less emphasis on competitions and its programme regularly includes practical hands-on sessions and outings. This is in some way a return to the motives of the society’s early years when the founder members gave instruction and demonstration sessions, but now with greater participation.

To celebrate the club’s 125th anniversary, Dave Tyrell organised an 1893 Foundation Cup inter-club competition. This was held in October 2018, with WWPS battling against local rivals from Loughton Camera Club, Romford Camera Club, Barking Photographic Society, Chingford Photographic Society and Chigwell Camera Club. Alongside the competition, an exhibition of members’ work was on display at Wanstead House for a two-week period.

The society’s founders would be amazed at the developments that have taken place since they formed their club for ‘the advancement of photography, technically and artistically’, in the modern methods of producing photographs and in the ease with which photographs can now be mass-produced. They would no doubt also be amazed that the club they founded 125 years ago is still meeting regularly and fulfilling their original aims.

A History of Woodford and Wanstead Photographic Society was originally written in 1968 by George Hunt and updated in 2002 by Gillian Hutchinson. Alan Simpson updated the text again for the group’s 125th anniversary. Visit

‘This is an emergency’: local meeting on climate change (and what to do about it)

Climate ChangeThis is an emergency

A public meeting on climate change will take place at Wanstead House this month. Featuring speakers from Extinction Rebellion – an international social movement that aims to bring about change through non-violent resistance – the event on 26 March (7pm to 9pm; free) will share the latest climate science findings, discuss some of the current psychology around climate change and offer solutions through the study of social movements. “The planet is in ecological crisis: we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction event this planet has experienced. Scientists believe we may have entered a period of abrupt climate breakdown. This is an emergency,” said event organiser Kathy Taylor. “Everyone is welcome, and there will be time to ask questions and discuss afterwards.”