Win funding for the 2018 Walthamstow Village Festival

The Walthamstow Village Festival 2018 has been kindly nominated for funding by Almus Wealth.

However for the application to be successful it needs your vote, which will take just 1 minute of your time.

Please register on the Aviva Community Fund Website via the link below to get 10 votes which you can allocate for the 2018 Walthamstow Village Festival.

The festival organisers would be really grateful if you could share this with all your contacts via social media & email and help us to get as many votes as possible. Every vote counts!

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Village People: Becky Griffiths

Becky has been foraging fruit and making liqueurs for almost as long as she’s been on earth. Her Mother’s Ruin Gin Palace has helped turn the Ravenswood Industrial Estate from Village backwater into Village hotspot, while her award winning sloe and damson gins can now be found in cocktails and cupboards across the country. And inbetween she managed to become par t of the country’s social and political history…

“My family lived in the middle of nowhere, first in Wales and then in Ireland and eventually the Lake District. I’ve got two brothers and one sister, and living that isolated we roamed around. We would just disappear for the day and turn up four or five hours later. We’d have little adventures; foraging, lighting bonfires, just doing our own thing. Then you reach your teens and you’re desperate to be someplace interesting. It’s ‘Oh this is so boring!’ I thought London was a great paradise and was desperate to get to the city.

“But when I was 17, I got involved in the local CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament). I went with a group of women from the Kendal peace group to attend a big demonstration at the Greenham Common Peace Camp (set up by women protesting the government’s decision to allow the RAF base to house nuclear cruise missiles). I loved it and decided I wanted to stay. I suppose I was drawn to it because I was seeing women taking action and this whole other society that I found very fascinating. Plus I was politically convinced by it as well. I went home and told my mum what I wanted to do and she was a bit nervous but said: ‘Okay, but you have to tell your headmaster.’ It was a big thing because I was leaving school, so it was in the local TV and newspapers.

“I moved to Greenham Common in December 1982 and that New Year’s Eve about 40 women broke into the base and took over the missile silos. There’s a very famous picture of them dancing on top of the silos. And one of those women is me!

“It was totally liberating as a 17-year-old not to be at school every day, being part of an attempt to create a new type of society. Though we didn’t stop the nuclear missiles coming, we raised awareness massively. It was headline news all the time and got the country discussing the whole issue of nuclear weapons and disarmament.

“At the same time I was dealing with my sexuality – am I gay? What the hell’s going on?! But luckily I was in a place where a good percentage of people were gay. It wasn’t a big deal and there was a huge positive identity around being gay. I think it was a gift that it happened in that environment.

“I lived at Greenham Common for around four years, and when I left I joined the big squatting scene that existed in south London at the time, living in squats in Vauxhall and Stockwell for several years. Eventually when I was
25 I started training as a social worker, and followed that career for about 20 years.

“And then I started Mother’s Ruin. Just a small change of direction. But surprisingly transferable skills!

“I’ve always made damson and sloe gin at home, which I learned from my mum. Then I worked part time doing social work and producing my liqueurs part time. When I got the premises on the Ravenswood Estate I thought I need to throw myself at this or it’s going to be a disaster juggling the two things. Slowly it’s worked, and the retail and wholesale business has steadily grown. In fact, I’ve just had my biggest order yet – Booths, a small chain of stores with 28 shops around Manchester, bought 500 bottles – it was my first proper pallet sized order”

For information on Becky’s products and opening hours of her Gin Palace, visit

This article first appeared in the Autumn 2017 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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Let’s get ready to Jumble!

By Village Jumble Champion Carol ‘Molly’ Moloney

Village Jumble Trail stall






On a very sunny Sunday afternoon in June, residents of Walthamstow Village cleared out their lofts and cupboards, set up stalls in their front gardens and offered up unwanted treasures and lovingly created handmade crafts to the community at large. From Howard Road to Grove Road, and Shernhall Street to Folkestone Road, this year’s Village Jumble Trail saw more than 70 neighbours transform gardens, garages, shop fronts, pavements and even the village square, into a frenzy of jumbling activity.

Now in its third year, The Village Jumble Trail turns our beautiful streets into a hub of neighbourly activity. Artists, plant growers, cake makers, face painters, knitters, honey makers and carpenters were out attracting hundreds of treasure hunters. Founder Martina Randles said: “It was a huge success, bringing together a vibrant collection of people of all ages and backgrounds who had great fun while supporting sustainability.”

The whole event is coordinated by the Jumble Trail Champion (that was me this year!) who plots the route, advertises the event and invites jumblers to place their stalls on the on-line interactive map. It then allows treasure seekers to follow the colour-coded trail and wander from stall to stall, haggling and having fun.

Jumblers jumbling

Standing in Orford Road with the cafés and pubs bursting at the seams, watching hundreds of people meandering through  the Jumble Trail is a sight to behold. It’s great to see the kids getting involved, too, by making cakes, lemonade and getting their faces painted. Martina said: “Everyone really enjoyed coming together to celebrate community spirit and connect with each other, armed with an assortment of goodies to buy, sell and swap. Waltham Forest continues to be one of the leading areas for successful Jumble Trails, thanks to the support of its people.”

The first Jumble Trail was in Clapton in August 2013, set up by Martina herself with a 100 stalls, which now attracts 750 stalls and 7,000 visitors. So, the standard has been well and truly raised for next year’s E17 Village Jumble Trial.

This article first appeared in the Autumn 2017 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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Curtain-up! New community theatre space for Walthamstow

CentrE17 founder Max Peters in the new theatre space during renovations

The leader of a local theatre group frustrated with finding suitable places to rehearse and perform has taken matters into his own hands and opened CentrE17, a community theatre and performance space in Church Hill.

The man behind the plan, Max Peters, has been organising community theatre productions ever since moving to Waltham Forest a few years ago. So far they have put on successful productions of Oliver! and Little Shop of Horrors by drawing on the enthusiasm and talent of local people. “No one is turned away from taking part in the productions, no matter what their ability,” says Max. “It’s been a wonderful experience. We always knew that Waltham Forest had a wealth of really inventive and passionate performers, but didn’t realise there were not a huge amount of spaces to realise the potential.”

This lack of venues led Max to making a list and eventually drawing up a plan to establishing a dedicated theatre/ performance space that, while community
focused, could also run commercial productions to help fund itself. Between Max’s day job as project manager for online advertising projects and his experience running community theatre, he was the ideal person to do it.
Having a plan is one thing but, as Max knew, getting it up and running was a whole different ball game. Fortunately, Max bumped into someone from Waltham Forest Council at an event last year and asked them to take a look at his plan. One thing led to another and soon the council was contacting Max to say it had a space that was currently empty. It was trying to find the right tenant for it and perhaps Max and his plan was the right fit.

That was over a year ago and, after the council did essential maintenance, Max and his numerous volunteers got stuck in and put the finishing touches to the Ross Wyld Hall on Church Hill (near the junction with Hoe Street) to get it fit for purpose. “We are being charged a peppercorn rent and have been given a short-term lease for 18 months,” says Max. “The idea being that we use the space to not just put on our own community theatre productions but also rent it out for cabaret evenings, theatre performances, dance groups, cinema nights – a whole range of activities that will help us fund the running of the space.”

CentrE17 is now open and already has a diverse programme of performances, events and workshops, providing that much-needed community space for local groups to use for rehearsing. The Stow Film Lounge is also doing some screenings at the centre.

You can find a full schedule of events on the CentrE17 website:, and contact details if your group is interested in hiring the space.


This article first appeared in the Autumn 2017 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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Village in Bloom

By Helen Lerner

Wild Meadow, Orford Road

All in all, it’s been quite a year, but we think the Village is looking better than ever. A good thing really as in July and August we had both the regional and national Royal Horticultural Society judges visiting. In London we are a finalist in the London Village category, while nationally we are representing the capital in the Urban Community group.

The judges play their cards close to their chests and give very little away during their tour so it’s hard to tell how we did. What we do know is that everyone who has been involved throughout the year should be very proud of their efforts – many thanks to our Gardening Club, including those who have adopted planters, the Village Veg organisers and their team of weekly waterers, the Vestry House Museum Gardeners, Gerry Clegg and the Cherry Close Gardeners and all the volunteers who work so hard to keep the Village looking good.

And let’s not forget our schools, organisations, businesses, Hoe Street Councillors, Waltham Forest Council and Paul Tickner, and everyone who attended clean-ups, social and fund-raising events.

Cosmos blooming in Orford Road

The London in Bloom awards are in late September, while in October the Britain in Bloom awards in Llandudno will reveal the national winners. We are crossing all appendages in our quest for Gold. Once we get the news we’ll announce the results on our Twitter and Facebook feeds (@e17inbloom), and after that on the Walthamstow Village Residents’ Association website.

Whatever the outcome, we’ll have a Blooming big celebration at the WVRA AGM on Monday 6th November at 8pm at the Waltham Forest Community Hub when we announce the winners of our local Front Garden and Beautiful Premises Challenges and hand over the £100 prize for the Most Improved Front Garden.

This article first appeared in the Autumn 2017 edition of “The Village” magazine.


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Pumping new life into the Village‘s heart

How a lottery grant for St Mary’s is about more than bricks and mortar

St Mary’s commands your attention. Sitting atop the Village, surrounded by its leafy graveyard, it is impossible not to admire it even though you might not have ever attended a service there or been inside for an event. And that’s something that the Reverend Vanessa Conant and her husband Cameron want to change.

“Historically, churches have been places for gathering people – not just people who consider themselves Christians, but everyone,” says Vanessa. “And in the past couple of hundred years it’s become more like a private-interest club and so what we would like to say is: ‘This church belongs to you, the community, and you are welcome. There is something here for you whether that’s worship, art, music or just a place where you can be peaceful’.”

Vanessa and Cameron are very much on the same page when it comes to their vision for St Mary’s. And it’s not just a vision about making it a more inclusive centre of the community; it’s also about securing its future for generations to come. This vision has been given a boost recently when St Mary’s was awarded £1.67m by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) after applying for a grant a second time.

“The HLF said it could see a real development between the two applications, particularly in terms of the partnerships and local support. It could see there was a hunger for this kind of project and the church had really begun to build local links and connections, which gave it the confidence we could deliver,” says Vanessa.

As the application was in the London pool, it faced serious competition, and rumour has it even beat out one of city’s big museums. In other words, no mean feat. Now the task is to implement the plans: fixing the fabric of the building, which is in desperate need of repair (including a new roof ), a new entrance to the church in a cloister-like extension and programming activities that will broaden the diversity of people using the church.

The new entrance would be a single-storey extension into the car park and include a reception area, offices, lavatories and an industrial kitchen that would allow catering for events. Full plans still need to be completed and approved by Heritage England, the Diocese and Waltham Forest Council – but initial architectural drawings have been done by Matthew Lloyd, the firm the church intends to use for the project.

The award-winning pratice was chosen, says Cameron, because of its long history of successful and sympathetic work on historic churches and buildings such as the Royal Society of the Arts.

Vanessa says the extension would make the church more accessible in several ways. First, by having offices in the church rather than across the graveyard in the Welcome Centre, it could be open more frequently as people would actually be based in the building. And a broader range of events could be held in the church as the industrial kitchen would allow catering to be done on-site.

Inside the church, the proposed works also include plans that Vanessa and Cameron recognise could raise some eyebrows: removing the pews and replacing them with chairs.  “Beautiful, light, stackable chairs,” Cameron says. The idea being that this would allow the space to be used in many more ways and also do away with a persistent problem, says Vanessa: “With the pews, the sight lines are so limited. I am very aware that, whether for worship or a community event, there are a lot of people who can’t see anything. And if you come in a wheelchair you have to sit in the middle of an aisle. There’s something excluding about the pews.”

In terms of those people who might not want to see the character of the building changed, Cameron points out that, unlike the centuries old building, the pews are less than a hundred years old and would not have been there when the church was first built. “I also think not having them will accentuate the architecture of the building, especially if we can re-light the pillars. I think people will be surprised at how beautiful the space is if it is pared back.”

St Mary’s churchyard

The next 12 months will be spent getting full architectural drawings, surveys, consultations and planning permissions for the work. Then the actual building works can start. And the vision doesn’t stop there. Separate to the HLF project there are plans – that have been in the works for some time now – to turn the Welcome Centre into affordable housing with space for a children’s nursery. This project is also dependent on approval from the various bodies and finding a suitable development partner as the church can’t take on a capital project of that size on its own.

“We definitely don’t feel that it’s a money-making scheme but as a way of making sure the church has a sustainable future. And to ensure the future of the building itself. It’s historically interesting and locally listed but it hasn’t had a lot of investment for a number of years. We need to find ways of preserving it and making it do more for the community,” says Vanessa.

Both Vanessa and Cameron are very passionate about the ideas, and see them as a way for the church to be part of an ever-changing society.

“We have a possibility of not only dealing with our buildings that need work but serving our community. And we have a responsibility to do that,” says Vanessa. “I would like to have people walk past the church and feel fond of it, not just sentimental; that it’s made a connection with your life and your soul, whether that’s nourishing you spiritually or culturally. That it’s a place for everyone.”

Amen to that.

This article first appeared in the Autumn 2017 edition of “The Village” magazine.


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The Village Fest is the best

It was all there, and more. Sunshine, music drifting down Orford Road, the smell of street food in the air, a nice cold drink in hand and spontaneous dad dancing in the street. In a nutshell, this year’s Village Festival, brought to you by the Waltham Forest Community Hub and its army of volunteers, was the perfect way to mark the end of summer.

The Village Festival was revived three years ago by the Hub and, after a pause
last year, it was back and better than ever. A straw poll of those attending revealed an overwhelming majority loved the atmosphere, the community spirit, range of stalls and, of course, the live music.

In fact, the music stage in Orford Road summed up how it really was a festival with something for everyone; from the harmonious and enthusiastic sounds of the Natural Voices choir to the punk rock stylings of Chaos UK.

Festival organisers decided to concentrate the event in Orford Road (not extend it as in the past into Vestry Road), and with the music stage at the heart of the event in front of the Community Hub, the new layout helped create a vibrant mood with the crowds concentrated into a smaller, more intimate space. This year also saw a record number of local businesses stepping up to provide sponsorship, something organisers had been working on to help fund the event and make it a truly community day.

“It was a very special day,” said Edna Kim of Petals in Bloom, one of first sponsors to sign up this year. “It was a really fantastic way to raise the profile of the Village. There were lots of new faces and many of them didn’t know how much is happening here in our neighbourhood. Now they do!”

“I thought it was absolutely great,” said Mark Newby of Froth & Rind, another of the sponsors. “There seemed to be a lot more people than previous years. The weather helped and it was really well organised. It was great fun to be right in the middle of it. The bar has been set high for next year,” he added.

Festival organiser Monwara Ali said, “The festival was such a success due to so many hard-working individuals pulling together and working tirelessly to prove what is possible if the community unites through a common cause. It motivated us to live up to the expectations of all those who had put their trust in us.”

Monwara added, “Not only did The Walthamstow Toy Library plan and manage the Children’s Area, but 19 local businesses were sponsors and I think this showed their belief that the Hub could deliver a family-friendly community event that has a positive ripple effect on the entire neighbourhood.”

It’s estimated that over 2,000 people attended and Monwara hopes that the festival can return. “There is so much support locally for the festival to take place next year, not only as a great community event but as a marketing tool for the many businesses, artists and local groups.”

The final decision on whether the Hub puts on the festival again in 2018 now rests with the organisation’s Board of Trustees.

This article first appeared in the Autumn 2017 edition of “The Village” magazine.

The Waltham Forest Community Hub may be in a position to support future Walthamstow Village Festivals, so is keen to hear your feedback about the day and what improvements could be made.
Please complete their survey here:


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The Mall Development Plans

We are aware that some residents have a strong opposition to the new plans for the Mall in Walthamstow Town Centre.

If you do have strong views then we advise you to join the existing campaign run by David Gardiner. He has gathered some useful documents to guide you if you want to actively object. He has

You may also be interested to know that AE17, a group of Walthamstow architects, have lodged a formal objecti0n to the plans:


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Village People

Edna Kim

Edna Kim is not afraid of taking on a challenge. As a youngster in the Philippines she was determined to go to university, despite the fact it wasn’t the traditional path for young girls. In her twenties she left the bosom of her tight-knit family in Manila and moved to London, working for several years at an international satellite communications company.
Then around a decade ago, she gave up her high-flying career to open the florist – Petals in
Bloom – in Orford Road.

“In my previous life you would not have recognised me. I was in my high heels and make-up, nails done, power suit. Those were the days when you had to compete with men, and my job was as a commercial and development manager for Inmarsat (one of the pioneers of mobile satellite communications). My job was to find partners for the company, selling airtime, meeting with government ministers to get them to change policy and have us as the service provider.”

“I was head hunted in the Philippines to join the company in London. My dad was against it but I told him I was old enough to go. When I asked what I needed to bring for the interview, someone told me to bring a brolly. When I arrived it was snowing, and all I had was the brolly, so a friend of my sister’s kitted me out with some warm boots!”

“It was a very demanding job; I was travelling everywhere. I always had two suitcases packed ready to go – one for a hot climate one for cold – sometimes I would arrive home and would have to turn around and go out again. Eventually I was being asked to join other companies but the work was stressful – whenever I see the building I worked in
my acid starts coming up! I decided I needed to get out. I took two years off and did things on my artistic side; painting and jewellery. That was when my next plan was formulated in my mind – to open a florist. I got my business plan, I took courses and even went to the flower shop in Wood Street and told them, ‘I want to work here for a while even if you don’t pay me much. I just to want to learn’.”

“I was walking down Orford Road on my way to church when I saw a shop being done up and I asked if it was being let. There were not many shops in the road but I was encouraged by Penny Fielding (who then ran her own shop in the street) who said I should be here. I opened on Mother’s Day. I can’t forget that day; it was a great day. It even made it on to the TV in the Philippines. But after that I almost shut the shop. The first year was really bad – there would be whole weeks without a sale. The Village was different then – there weren’t as many shops, so not as many people came. The old owner of Mondragone was really, really nice. He was the one in the dark days who would console me and
say, ‘Even I have down times. Persevere.’ I am so thankful to him. Now it’s much different. I have very loyal customers. I can’t fault the loyalty of people.”

“I’ve always been interested in flowers and I like creating things. It’s something that makes you happy. I don’t have a favourite flower – I love them all. They’re my babies!”

This article first appeared in the Summer 2017 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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The outsider who got in

Leading British fashion designer moves into Ravenswood Industrial Estate

Over a decade ago, Simeon Farrar dragged suitcases full of clothes he had designed to London Fashion Week (LFW). As a painter who had studied fine art, Simeon admits he, “knew nothing about fashion; actually less than nothing”. But having started to use clothing as a canvas, and on the advice of a friend, he applied and gained entry to the capital’s biggest and most prestigious fashion event.

For someone who knew so little about fashion – he taught himself to sew – and the business of fashion, Simeon’s not done too badly. His clothes now sell in boutiques and department stores around the world, he shows four collections a year in Paris – two men’s and two women’s – and has launched a diffusion line called Blackscore that specialises in graphic T-shirts and sweatshirts. Oh, and he’s just moved into the neighbourhood, relocating his studio to the Ravenswood Industrial Estate making it even more fashionable than previously thought possible. “My first collection was cutting up old things and making dresses from them,” says Simeon. “I used old band tour T-shirts, cutting them in half, putting them with another T-shirt. I would sew on all these different objects I’d found – words, colours and patterns – and build up the layers. I really liked collage in painting so I used the same aesthetic in creating the fashion. I made this weird cobbledtogether collection of clothes that I could never reproduce.” But when the buyers at LFW saw his work, the orders started piling in; everyone from Japanese boutiques to the trendsetting NYC department store Barneys. “But the problem was they were one-offs,” says Simeon, “and they ordered it in all different sizes and colours so I had to go and just make it.”

After this baptism by fashion, Simeon didn’t even have an order book and had to quickly employ people to help him make the clothes. He soldiered on, got the hang of the business side of things and has never looked back. Twelve years later he’s an international success, but some things remain the same. Everything is still handprinted by him and his team in their studio, with the most of the clothes in his fashion line (Simeon Farrar) made by a small factory in north London. “I like to keep it close,” says Simeon. “Our units are small and, even though it’s more expensive to have it done here, it’s good to support small factories in the UK. It didn’t sit right with me having things made overseas with all the
shipping involved.”

Simeon has managed to strike a very delicate balance that works well for him – very much part of the fashion world, with his clothes featuring in Vogue and select stores, but also remaining an outsider. “I got totally accepted by the fashion world, and it was great. I think because I was a newcomer and got in through the side entrance they were really welcoming to me. But I’ve always stayed on the fringes of it. I’m not really the kind of person who plays the scene. I kind of do my own thing and fit in where I fit in.”

Simeon already feels right at home in the Ravenswood Industrial Estate; in fact it’s the type of place that he’s been searching for. Having spent the last 10 or so years in Shoreditch, it was time to leave the high rents and creeping corporatisation behind. “All the others places we rented were in office blocks, and the printing we do leaves a real mess behind. Plus, we were never really around our own people – lots of suits. Here, it was great to move into a unit that was rough and ready – where there was already paint on the floor, we could move everything around, push the doors back and be open to the outside world.”

The space works so well that, for the first time, Simeon now has a permanent store front to the world and will be opening the doors to his studio on Friday evenings and Saturday/Sunday during the day to sell direct to the public. The move has even inspired Simeon to start painting on canvas again after a hiatus of 12 years.

“I’ve felt very creative and really in the zone, and there’s something about this space – and I don’t want to get all trippy – but I am feeding off something. There’s an excitement. The estate has this real element of potential. That feeling that I can do anything I want.”

See Simeon’s fashion line at, and his T-shirt and sweatshirts at

This article first appeared in the Summer 2017 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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We came, we curried, we conquered

Annual WVRA Curry Supper Quiz

With the arrival of summer, March and the WVRA’s annual Curry Supper Quiz feels like another country, very far away. But it would be remiss not to thank everyone who made the event such a success; Shameem Mir who once again produced a veritable buffet fit for a king/queen/prince/princess, Neil Underwood, the inimitable quizmaster who tested everyone’s brains and retention of extraneous knowledge to just this side of breaking point and all the committee members and volunteers who ensured the food made it on to everyone’s plates, sold raffle tickets and received dish-pan hands at the end of the night for all the hard work. And a big nod to the local businesses who contributed the best selection of raffle prizes this side of the National Lottery: Orford Saloon, La Ruga, In Vino Veritas, Queen’s Arms, The Deli, Village Bakery, Froth & Rind, East London Sausage Co, The Village pub, E17 Village Market, Petals

The victors quietly celebrate

in Bloom, Here on Earth, Sean Pines Photography, Debbie Bliss, Blomst, Daryl and Jess Ablecroft and Nisa Local. Thank you!

Of course, congratulations to the winning team – Mini Hollandaise – who celebrated with just the right amount of gloating.

The event raised over £1,200 for the WVRA and the event will take place again in March 2018, when all the losers will get a chance for sweet revenge.

This article first appeared in the Summer 2017 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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The Village Festival is back

Event to return in September

Like a friend who suddenly makes an appearance just when you need them, the Village Festival is back on the calendar for 2017.

The event, organised by the Waltham Forest Community Hub, is being billed as ‘a day of community celebration’ and will run from noon to 6pm on Saturday 2nd of September. The festivities will take over Orford Road from the junction with East Avenue all the way around to The Nag’s Head, and it will feature street food, two music stages, arts
and crafts and a special children’s area – with an obligatory bouncy castle. Organisers are expecting there to be upwards of 50 stalls lining the street on the day, with another 20 or so setting up inside the Hub for an indoor market.

Hub manager and festival organiser Monwara Ali says the support from local businesses has been better than ever. So far, Petals in Bloom,The Nag’s Head, Eat17, Estates 17, The Village pub, The Castle, Pillars Brewery, In Vino Veritas, Orford Saloon, Gods Own Junkyard, the Village Market and Sean Pines Photography have all put their money where their mouth is with financial support. “And we certainly would not say no if anyone else
wants to contribute!” says Monwara.

The festival is also involved in the Tesco Bags for Help Scheme. Residents can help the organisers receive up to £4,000 of funding by voting for the Village Festival at Tesco Express stores in Walthamstow, Leyton, Leytonstone, Chingford and Highams Park until 30th June.

And if you don’t just want to attend, eat, drink and be merry, the festival is also looking for volunteers to help on the day. If that turns your crank, contact the organisers at or by calling 020 8223 0707.

This article first appeared in the Summer 2017 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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Walthamstow Village in Bloom

By Helen Lerner

  Walthamstow Village is representing London as a finalist in the prestigious Britain in Bloom national competition and things are really hotting up to get the Village looking stunning. We are joining 78 other Britain in Bloom finalists and are going allout to be crowned the cleanest, greenest and most beautiful Urban Community in the UK.

This year we will be up against Aldridge, Walsall (Heart of England), Clifton, Bristol (South West), Didsbury, Manchester (North West), Littleover, Derby (East Midlands), Starbeck, Harrogate (Yorkshire), and Uddingston, Glasgow (Scotland).

It’s our very last chance until 2022 to show the UK what makes us so special and to be awarded the UK’s best Urban Community with a Gold, so let’s really make it count!

There will be two judging days: the regional London in Bloom judges, Peter Holman and Lee Johnson, will visit for three hours on Friday 14 July from 10.45, and the national Britain in Bloom judges, Geraldine King and Darren Share, will visit for three hours on Tuesday 8 August from 9.30 am.

We will find out how we’ve done on 27 October at the national awards in Llandudno.

How you can help:

  • On judging days, by serving refreshments and/or lunch, taking photos or litter-picking ahead of the judging tour. Please let us know if you can help.
  • On judging days, please ensure that your garden, pots, baskets and window boxes are looking their best, that boundaries, walls and hedges are tidy and that bins are neatly placed or tucked away. It’s not too late, if you haven’t already, to get planting and potting, and to put up your hanging baskets. Please encourage your neighbours to join in, too, so we can make our area look fantastic.

WVRA Gardening Club – every Saturday in June and July and every Wednesday
evening until 2 August

Lots of help is needed to weed, plant and tidy in the run-up to judging, so we will be gardening every Saturday from 10.30am, and every Wednesday evening from 7pm. We meet at the Village Square; tools are provided or you can bring your own. No experience is necessary and all ages and abilities can join in. It’s good exercise, lots of fun and an ideal way to meet like-minded neighbours.

Saturday 1 July – Big Village Clean Up, from 10.30am

We are seeking volunteers to tidy, garden, paint and spruce up the Village. Please meet at the Village Square with gloves and sturdy shoes, and do wear old clothes if you want to paint!

Primp my Village

We’ll also be putting finishing touches to the gardening on the evenings before judging, on Thursday 13 July and Monday 7 August. Please meet at the Village Square at 7 pm. On the mornings of judging, please join us and Waltham Forest operatives from 6.30am for an early morning clear-up along the judging route. We will work till around 9am, removing stray weeds and litter, and sweeping any dirty nooks and crannies until we have to get clean and smart, ready for the judges’ arrival. You can, of course, come and go at any time.

Village Veg Plot Community Allotment

Our community allotment outside the Lifeline Project at 1 Beulah Road, sponsored by Fullers Builders and BEE17, goes from strength-to-strength, with vegetables and herbs being planted and harvested throughout the year. It is led by Darryl Abelscroft, with invaluable assistance from original organiser Caroline Barton and their team of ‘Weekly Waterers’. They have a Facebook page with information and photos (Walthamstow Village Veg Plot). Please contact for more information.


This year you can enter the Challenges or nominate gardens and displays of your neighbours.

This year we have added a new category with a cash prize of £100 for MOST IMPROVED FRONT GARDEN/FORECOURT, with £50 for second prize. This will be awarded to the resident, be it of a house or flat, who we think has done the most to beautify their front area.

This year, the national RHS theme is Greening the Grey for Wildlife, so we’ve a new category for frontages that are doing just that. Whatever the size of your space, there’s a range of things you can do to boost biodiversity.

There are the usual categories for front gardens, balconies, window boxes and containers. Your entry or nomination must be able to be seen from the street or be open to the public. Every entry will be awarded a Certificate of Participation that will be presented at the WVRA AGM in October.

Your Bloom team thoroughly enjoys looking at the gardens and displays of all entrants and showing them to the judges. The “best” garden and premises will be put forward into the London in Bloom 50 Favourite Front Gardens competition. All entries to be submitted, please, online at beautiful-premises by Friday 23 June.

Thank you!

We sincerely thank all our lovely volunteers – too many too mention – without whom none of this would be possible, and to everyone who has generously sponsored new plants, and those who are watering and caring for them. Waltham Forest’s Paul Tickner and his teams, including Community Payback, have been marvellous this year and provided invaluable assistance with the new meadow, supplying hanging baskets in Orford Road, painting railings and weed clearance. We especially thank Fullers Builders, Estates 17, The East London Sausage Company and BEE17 for ongoing sponsorship and support.

Join us! Support us! Let’s make Walthamstow Village even greater and even greener! Let’s make the most of our front gardens, forecourts and windowsills, improve the street scene and show your support for Walthamstow Village in Bloom by entering yourself or a neighbour in our 2017 Gardening Challenges:

Best wishes, good luck and many thanks from your Bloom team: Helen Lerner, Jakob Hartmann, Caroline Barton, Nick Springett, Darryl Abelscroft, John Chambers and Teresa Deacon.

For more info, search for the Facebook page “Walthamstow Village in Bloom”, email or call 07814 042499.

This article first appeared in the Summer 2017 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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A sting in the tale

How BEE17 and an EpiPen help bring honey to the masses

Imagine a red-hot sewing needle slowly pushed into your flesh.  And staying there. That’s the sensation when you get a bee sting on the nose. This is not exaggeration. It is factual reporting. Which is how I got the sting in the first place; while doing this story on BEE17, the Village’s local beekeepers and honey sellers. But more on that pain later.
BEE17 came about four years ago when local Richard Smith met local Helen Lerner while doing community gardening. Both, it turned out, had an interest in bees, and before you could say buzz, they had bought their first colony and set up a hive in Helen’s back garden.
That one colony has multiplied and the pair are now responsible for several hives, hundreds of thousands of bees and the attendant honey that’s produced. Not only do they bring joy to people’s toast, porridge and glazed carrots, but profit from the enterprise also buys pollen and nectar-friendly plants that end up populating the Village.

Since buying those first colonies – which on average contain 60,000 to 70,000 bees – Richard and Helen have raised their own colonies, which includes raising queens. “You want the queen to be hard-working, and a prolific layer, and you also want the colony to be easy to manage and not too aggressive,” says Richard. “They’re not pussycats – at the end of the day they are going to protect their home and queen, but compared to the ones we had at the start, which were quite mardy, they are a lot better now.”

“In the middle of a neighbourhood there is no point in having aggressive bees that are going to sting people willy nilly,” adds Helen who needs to be particularly careful after going into anaphylactic shock after being stung. She now always has an EpiPen (an injector that gives a shock of adrenaline) at the ready when doing any bee duty.

Besides Richard, the entire operation is really run by women, or rather the female bees. The males are only there for mating or hanging around the hive begging for food. It’s the females that do all the work. “When they ‘get their end away’,” explains Richard, “it pulls their willy off and they die. At the end of the summer if they haven’t served their purpose, the women kick them out. Once the food supply is drying up, and they are useless mouths to feed, they force them out of the colony and the guard bees won’t let them back in.”

BEE17 now has one of the biggest assets a beekeeper can have; the frames – that sit inside the hives – with the empty comb still intact. “With new frames the bees have to construct the wax comb, so 25% of your yield goes into wax production. If you have old ones, all that energy goes into processing the nectar so you get more honey,” says Richard.

The whole operation is incredibly labour intensive. All the hives need to be checked on a weekly basis; to make sure the queen is laying eggs, that the bees are not swarming (when the queen leaves with a large number of worker bees to set up a new colony elsewhere) and determine if the queens are producing female offspring not drones (those males who are simply work-shy, hungry reproductive machines). Then there’s the collection of the honey.

“The supers (the boxes containing the frames of comb containing the honey) need to be taken out – there are 10 in each hive – and the comb needs to be uncapped of wax using a heat gun,” explains Helen. “Then it needs to go into the extractor, which acts like a centrifuge and then drained through a double sieve into buckets to settle.

“Then all the scum comes to the top. This is primarily foam – oxygen really – and needs to be taken off before the honey is put into sterilised jars,” says Richard.
This year the weather has been mostly cooperative, so the pair are looking at real quality honey. Spring honey is more light and floral while the summer’s is dark and treacly because of the nectar collected from chestnut blossoms, blackberries and hebes.

After learning all of this fascinating information, I wanted to get a closer look and take some photos, so Richard and Helen got me all kitted up; the full suit with fine netting around the face so you can see what you’re doing. Only my doing included holding the camera so close to my eye that the netting was pressed against my face, giving one of the dozens of bees covering the netting the perfect opportunity to sting my nose, a considerably sized target. Despite the pain and tears, I will still be buying the pesky beggars’ delicious honey…

Next honey sale: 18 June, 12 – 4pm, 6 Beulah Rd

This article first appeared in the Summer 2017 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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A visit to Walthamstow Wetlands

By David Baker

On Sunday, 27 November, a small but hardy group of individuals led by the Residents’ Association, went on a guided tour of the Walthamstow Wetlands, just off Forest Rd, opposite the Ferry Boat Inn.

The project is to turn the Walthamstow reservoirs into a vast urban wetland nature reserve and centre for learning. It is due to open in September 2017 and will give visitors access to a wonderful natural area right on our doorstep.

The reservoirs that make up the 211-hectare site are internationally recognised as being important for over-wintering wildfowl and is the largest fishery in London as well as providing water supply for Thames Water.  The project is being led by LB Waltham Forest, along with the Environment Agency, Natural England, the Greater London Authority and the Heritage Lottery Fund as partners.

We had the opportunity of walking around the site, seeing the progress of the project during the construction phase. The plan is to turn the existing Victorian
Engine House into a refurbished Visitor Centre with cafe, viewing platform and education space for the project. New cycle routes and footpaths are being added, and habitats are being enhanced by the addition of new reed beds and waterside planting.

The walk around was guided by ‘Wetlands Steve’ Ayers, who pointed out the developments underway and the varied wild life we were observing. The highlight of the tour for me was the sighting of two Peregrine falcons that were high above us, sheltering in the pylons in front of the entrance! It was extremely cold, with the wind blowing across the site but despite the weather, it was great to see this wonderful wildlife project and to see what a great resource we will have on our doorstep when complete later this year. Watch out for when it will be opened to the public, it will be an opportunity not to be missed.

Many thanks to Vally Gesthuysen for organising this event and for Wetlands Steve for making a damp and cold day so interesting and entertaining!

This article first appeared in the Spring 2017 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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Walthamstow Village in Bloom

By Helen Lerner

We need your support in 2017!

Photograph by Caroline Barton

We are thrilled and proud to announce that in 2017, Walthamstow Village has again been invited to represent the London region in the prestigious RHS Britain in Bloom UK-wide competition. We are joining 78 other finalists competing to be crowned the cleanest, greenest and most beautiful Urban Community in the UK.

London in Bloom has a rule that we can only enter the nationals twice in five years, so this is our very last chance until 2022 at the earliest to show what makes the Village so special and to be awarded the UK’s best Urban Community with a Gold. So let’s really make it count! There will again be two judging days; London in Bloom in July and Britain in Bloom in August.

Waltham Forest, and especially Paul Tickner, are fully supporting us this year, and we’re getting lots of help from the Community Payback teams. Over the coming weeks you should notice real improvements happening in the street-scene, including the planting of new trees.

In 2017, the national RHS theme is Greening the Grey for Wildlife. This year, the areas we are targeting are:

The meadow

The meadow by the Ancient House was prepared and re-sown with a mix of annual and
perennial wildflower and grass seeds thanks to a generous donation by the Walthamstow Village Residents’ Association (WVRA). It should look fantastic, flowering from July to September, and will attract bees, butterflies and other beneficial pollinating insects. Please respect the new meadow by kindly not allowing dogs on it – the nitrogen in dog pee increases the soil fertility and allows courser grasses and weeds to choke out the flowers.

The Village Square

We have devised a new planting scheme for the flowerbed against the wall to complement the two other beds. Biodiversity is at the top of our agenda and the local honey beepopulation will love all the new pollen and nectar rich flowers.

Orford Road tree pits & lamposts

Waltham Forest will soon be installing double flower-baskets on all the new lampposts and we are securing donations from businesses to plant up the tree-pits with colourful flowers.

Chalmers House Orchard Project (CHOP)

The fruit trees along the Orford Road railings (opposite Orford House) have been full of blossom and we hope you enjoyed the carpet of 5,000 Purple Polio crocuses we planted.

Holmcroft House, Orford Road

After receiving permission from the WF Head of Housing Management, we started work on the front garden behind the new railings, improving the soil and adding new plants.

Village Veg Plots

Planting Day, Saturday 6 May, 2-4 pm
Our fantastic community Village Veg Plots outside the Lifeline Project at One Beulah Road, kindly sponsored by Fullers Builders, and run by Darryl Abelscroft and Caroline Barton, aided by Vally Gesthuysen, are designed to demonstrate how to grow veg, fruit and herbs on a small site and to look good in the street-scene. Residents and passers-by
can help themselves when the produce is ready.

We are holding a Veggie Planting Day on Saturday 6 May from 2 to 4pm. Hands big and small are needed to help!

Also needed are volunteers to join the Weekly Watering Team to water the veg plots one day a week with the on-site hose. Please contact for more information.


Our community beekeeping project, run by Richard Smith and Helen Lerner, has donated another £800, this time towards the replanting of the long flowerbed in the Village Square. To follow news of our two hives, see the BEE17 Facebook page or go to We urge you to choose seeds and plants with bees and beneficial insects in mind. For a list of bee-friendly plants, please go to and search ‘Perfect for Pollinators’.

Monthly Gardening Club

Come and join the Gardening Club on the first Saturday of each month at 10.30am in the Village Square and tend the flowerbeds in the area, tidy up, plant, prune and weed. We have lots of laughs and you don’t need any special gardening skills (but you may gain some!), plus you get to meet your neighbours. And a big thank you to lovely Holmcroft
House resident Marion Cooper who is always
bringing refreshments to sustain us!

Compost in Summit Road

We wanted to apologise for upsetting some Summit Road residents when the compost donated by North London Waste Authority was delivered in February. We hope the fantastic display of daffodils and the heady scent of hyacinths made up for the annoyance.

Front Garden & Beautiful Premises Challenge 2017 – Big Prizes!

We have decided this year that not only can you enter the Challenges yourself, but you can nominate the gardens and displays of your neighbours.

There are many unloved front gardens, so this year we are adding a new category to our Gardening Challenges with a cash prize of £100 for Most Improved Front Garden/Forecourt, with £50 for second prize. This will be awarded to the resident who we think has done the most to beautify their front area – it may be with plants, baskets, containers and/or window boxes – the choice is yours. Please contact us for advice and
suggestions if you need them.

There’s also a new category for frontages that are Greening the Grey for Wildlife. There’s a range of things you can do to boost biodiversity:

  • Add pollinator-friendly flowers to a lawn
  • Plant a small tree or hedge: they can support hundreds of species of insect
  • Put up bird boxes or feeders
  • Pull up a paver or add containers and sow seeds to create a pollinator-friendly mini garden
  • Add climbing plants to cover a wall

There are the usual categories for front gardens, balconies, window boxes and containers. Your entry must be able to be seen from the street or be open to the public. Every entry will be awarded a Certificate of Participation, presented at the WVRA AGM in October.

Your Bloom team thoroughly enjoys looking at the gardens and displays of all entrants and showing them to the judges. The ‘best’ garden and premises will be put forward into the London in Bloom 50 Favourite Front Gardens competition. All entries to be submitted using the form in our magazine, or online here by Friday 23 June. Let’s all make the most of our front gardens, forecourts and windowsills and show your support for Walthamstow Village in Bloom by entering yourself or a neighbour in our 2017 Gardening Challenges.

Follow us on Facebook (on our Walthamstow Village in Bloom page) and, if you would like to find out more, you can sponsor or help with any of the above, or would like to join the Bloom committee, please contact or call 07814 042499.

Best wishes, many thanks and good luck from your Bloom team: Helen Lerner, Jakob Hartmann, Caroline Barton, Nick Springett, John Chambers, Teresa Deacon, Darryl Abelscroft and Vally Gesthuysen.

This article first appeared in the Spring 2017 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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Ancient ruins uncovered in Village

First substantial Roman find in Walthamstow

It turns out the Village has been up and coming for longer than was previously thought after archeologists uncovered prehistoric and Roman remains in the grounds of a local school. The discovery – a first of its kind in the area – revealed the remains of a substantial Roman building or buildings that were probably part of a wealthy Roman farmstead.

“No prehistoric or Roman remains of any substance had previously been found in Walthamstow and so to get such a substantial building was very surprising,” according to archeologist and project manager, Helen Hawkins, who has been leading the excavation. Hawkins says the discovery was also unexpected as the site is not near any known Roman roads, the closest being at Leyton.

The possibility that the grounds of the Holy Family Catholic School – which abuts Vinegar Alley – might contain ancient secrets came to light in 2009 when a planning application for new buildings was submitted. Because the site was within an archeological priority area, trial trenching was carried out, which exposed tantalising clues.

“The trenching uncovered ditches and pits dating to prehistoric times, early Roman and late Roman periods, as well as a piece of Purbeck marble and some flue tiles, which suggested that a high status Roman building with underfloor heating was located on or near the site,” says Hawkins. But when the building project was cancelled, further investigations were put on hold. It wasn’t until last year when the school revived the building project that a ground penetrating radar survey was carried
out, which identified extensive remains on the site. That’s when the company Hawkins works for was brought in to continue the search. They didn’t have to dig very deep before making their startling find. “The remains were located about 30 to 40 centimetres below the ground,” says Hawkins, “so they have only survived because nothing was previously constructed on the site.”

The oldest remains were a prehistoric ring ditch, which Hawkins says was probably a defensive ditch and bank constructed around small roundhouse dwellings. But those remains were only the start.

“After the ring ditch went out of use,” says Hawkins, “a very large Roman building or group of buildings was then constructed on the site. The buildings, which would have had good views of the surrounding valleys, were made of timber, wattle and daub and probably comprised a large wealthy farmstead. We have found evidence of flue tiles, which may suggest that a bath house formed part of the complex, although we haven’t found any evidence for the bath house itself as yet.” And
while comparable isolated Roman farmsteads have been located at Leyton and Wanstead, this is a first for Walthamstow.

But Hawkins and her team have not just found the remains of buildings; the investigation has also yielded Roman and prehistoric pottery and so far, one Roman coin. And there could be more to come as the excavations are scheduled to continue on the site until later this spring.

This article first appeared in the Spring 2017 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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History matters – A life swapped for a pearl button …

… and a Darwinian connection in Walthamstow Village.

By Teresa Deacon







This bizarre and tragic story took place in the Village in the early 19th century, when Walthamstow was a rural parish in Essex. To put it in context, at this point in history slavery was still common around the world, the British were extending the Empire as never before and here in the Village, what’s now the local museum was a workhouse.

In 1829, Captain Robert Fitzroy, a scientist and officer in the Royal Navy, was on an exploration voyage on the HMS Beagle, navigating Tierra del Fuego, the southern-most tip of South America. A small whaling boat being used to survey narrow waters was allegedly stolen by locals. In retaliation, Fitzroy ordered several indigenous people to be taken hostage. Most managed to escape but four young Fuegians remained on board the Beagle.

Fitzroy decided to take the four Fuegians back to Britain as a social experiment to ‘teach them in the ways of Christianity and gentility’ and to return them back to their homeland so that they might ‘civilise’ their fellow natives.

They were renamed Fuegia Basket, a girl of 9, Jemmy Button, a boy of 14 (so-called as he had been ‘exchanged’ for a pearl button), Boat Memory, a male of 20, and York Minster, a male aged 26.

Boat Memory sadly died of smallpox on reaching Plymouth. Fitzroy paid for the remaining three to be driven by stage coach to Walthamstow, where he had a connection with the vicar of Walthamstow, the Reverend William Wilson. The three youngsters were apparently enthralled with the horses and carriages that took them on their journey and more so with the stone lion that once stood atop Northumberland House in central London, which they thought to be alive.

Rev. William Wilson had set up St. Mary’s Infant School in 1824 (pictured opposite – now the Welcome Community Centre at the back of the Squire’s almshouses), which is where they were educated. Rev Wilson lived in Grove House, a long-since demolished grand house on Grove Road, with grounds stretching back to Maynard Road. The young Fuegians may have lodged with him there and/or at The Chestnuts in Bishop’s Close, built in the early 19th century, which still stands today.

As well as learning about Christianity, the young Fuegians were taught English and practical skills, such as gardening, husbandry and carpentry. Fuegia Basket and Jemmy Button fitted into the community well and became very popular with the locals. Jemmy loved his western clothes, always wore gloves and became a bit of a ‘dandy’, never missing an opportunity to admire himself in any reflection. York Minster, the eldest of the group, didn’t fare so well as he had a very large physique and was unhappy being put in with infants.

Such was their celebrity that they were presented to the new King William IV and wife Queen Adelaide, who gave Fuegia Basket a bonnet
and other gifts.

A little more than a year after they’d arrived, it was discovered that the much older York Minster had become sexually interested in the much younger Fuegia Basket, who was still a child. In order to avoid a scandal and personal humiliation, Fitzroy decided to return them home. The locals had taken the three into their hearts and sent them off with a stash of gifts – including wine glasses, tea trays, butter dishes – all of which were unsuitable items for their home environment.

In December 1831, they returned home on the HMS Beagle, this time accompanied by the young Charles Darwin, an acquaintance of Captain Fitzroy, who was brought on board as a trainee pastor and naturalist. As it turned out, the research Darwin accumulated on this 5-year journey led to him writing Evolution of Species and later The Descent of Man.

In his account of The Voyage of the Beagle, Darwin remarks that ‘Jemmy was a “universal favourite” who comforted him when he was seasick’. He also writes that ‘Jemmy’s hair was neatly cut and he became distressed if his well-polished shoes were dirtied’.

Also on board was a trainee missionary who was to marry Fuegia Basket and York Minster as soon as they reached home. The repatriation didn’t go as Fitrzroy had planned. There was much looting of the Walthamstow gifts and the three soon reverted to their traditional way of life.

Reports filtered back over the years as to what had become of the trio. Jemmy married and had a son who made a trip to England in 1866. Reports also alleged Jemmy led a massacre of missionaries in 1859. York Minster was killed in a dispute, and his wife Fuegia died aged 44. Jemmy’s connection to Walthamstow has been recognised through a recent residential development in E17, which has been named ‘Button Lodge’ after him.

Sources: Walthamstow Past, David Mander, The Voyage of the Beagle, Charles Darwin, Local Studies Library, Vestry House, LBWF. St. Mary’s School image used with permission from Vestry House Museum, LBWF.

This article first appeared in the Winter 2016 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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A local market for local people

The traders who saved the day.

By Shameem Mir

trader1It’s there every Saturday, come rain or shine, at the Waltham Forest Community Hub, so most of you will be familiar with the E17 Village Market. But what you might not know is that it was saved from closure by a group of local traders who aim to turn it into a worker’s co-operative where a share of the takings will go to keeping it up and running.

The market had its beginnings in the grounds of Henry Maynard Primary School last year. Back then it was led by an entrepreneur from Hackney as a commercial enterprise, with most of the traders coming from outside of Walthamstow. It then moved to the Community Hub but things took an abrupt turn in early September when the market was suddenly disbanded by the original founder due to ‘a lack of footfall’. It stopped operating for a few weeks while a group of traders put their heads together to think of a way forward. This culminated in them taking over the market, getting it up and running again with the intention to make it more community focused with almost all local E17 businesses.

It’s clear that they make their products with flair and a great passion. Nick Lazarides from Cyprus Kitchen left his full- time job in the media to follow his dream of serving up fresh and authentic Cypriot food. “I wasn’t getting the interaction with people in my day job,” says Nick, “and I love face-to-face contact and chatting to my customers. Plus, I wanted to bring something new to the food scene.”

trader-2When talking to the traders you get the sense that they all have this deep passion driving them to make, bake and cook the absolute best to sell to our community. “I wanted to bring beautiful and natural patisserie to all families in Walthamstow,’ says Henrietta Inman, the pastry chef and author of Clean Cakes who is one of the traders at the market each week. “Mums are always coming back to buy cakes for their children, which is great as I love getting feedback. Being a trader is also a great way of promoting my cookery classes, which I hope to do more of in the New Year.”

Another heartfelt baker is Céline Lecoeur of Elderflower Cakes, who says, “I have always loved baking and always wanted to have my own business. Being a local trader is such a good start. The market has allowed me to test my product on the general public. What I also love is the sense of community between traders; we are like one big family that supports and encourages each other – the atmosphere is so lovely.”

For Alys Wood-Bibby from Blomst Flowers it’s been a great way of immersing herself into Village life. “As a newcomer to Walthamstow, both as a resident and trader, there was an overwhelming sense of community in terms of support and encouragement,” says Alys. “I believe the market is a great way to give back to the community as well as supporting new businesses which, like us, want to take the gamble and follow their hearts.”

trader-3Many of the traders have full-time jobs but cannot resist devoting their free time to sharing their love for what they produce. Kostas Anagnostou from the Greek Café works as a full-time chef in a local college and says, “My love of cooking came from watching my grandma in the kitchen back in our village in northern Greece and I am using those hand-me-down recipes today. All my cakes and pastries are made from scratch and what makes them stand out is my attention to detail.” And besides the savoury filo pies, Kosta has also introduced salads to his repertoire.

While many of the traders are just starting and juggling other commitments, others are more established. Take Perky Blenders, which recently won a much-coveted Time Out Love London Award.

“It was an astounding achievement for us and a real heartfelt thank you from our growing community of coffee lovers,” says Blender’s Tom Cozens. “People enjoy the fact we roast Perky Blenders beans fresh for the market.” Tom also points out that they offer free drinks with every order of fresh roasted coffee beans at trader-4the Village Market. And for those serious addicts, they even deliver free in E17.

Besides feeding and watering the local populace, the market wants to encourage growth within E17 microbusinesses and create a community among traders, as well as residents.
They especially want to reach out to other local traders and encourage new small operations. So to help build confidence, the group has introduced an ‘incubator scheme’ for local start-ups, offering a 4-week initial period and a reduced pitch fee. If this is just the opportunity you’ve been looking for, you can contact the group directly, at

The group sees an opportunity to make the market bigger and better so that Orford Road becomes a go-to destination, attracting visitors both locally and further afield, and increasing footfall even further so that all businesses can benefit, much like Broadway Market and Columbia Road.

This article first appeared in the Winter 2016 edition of “The Village” magazine.


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Come into the light

Art spectacle shines on the walls of St Mary’s

adventus-1Let’s face it. When one looks back at the past 12 months, it’s not exactly been a year full of hope and promise. There has been great divisiveness in society, both here and abroad. Enormous suffering that has forced millions of people to flee their homes, not to mention the departure of too many creative geniuses that, while leaving behind a great legacy, also left the world a poorer place.

So as 2016 draws to a close, there’s a choice. Give in to the gloom and doom or look towards coming together to create a more joyful, inclusive and optimistic future.

The latter is what Advent(us): Another World is Possible will be all about when it launches itself onto the Village in December. Or to put it more precisely, when it launches itself onto the exterior of St Mary’s Church each night until 24 of December.

adventus-2Advent(us) is an ambitious, and what promises to be spectacular, project where the work of artists – from those of world renown to school kids who are just starting out – will be projected onto the south facing wall of St Mary’s during advent.

“Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, which means something is coming. I liked that because it’s not just about the re-telling of the birth of Jesus, but about looking forward,” says Cameron Conant (pictured below right) the instigator of Advent(us) and a founding member of the St Mary’s Art Collective, the prime mover behind the project.

“The church has this season called advent,’ says Cameron, “and I thought about an advent calendar and what if you projected an advent calendar onto the church. But I didn’t just want it to be about camels and a star. What if we pushed past that and thought differently; created something to bring people from all backgrounds together to think about what other world is possible.”

The project will see an incredibly eclectic array of artwork being projected onto the church’s wall, facing the Ancient House, for 24 consecutive nights between 6pm and 10pm. There will be hot drinks to accompany the lumier spectacle as well as a host of activities inside the church, ranging from live music performances to workshops for families.

adventus-3The creative talent leading the project is prominent London based artist Gary Stewart (pictured left) who, besides creating visual work is also a sonic musician who as part of Dubmorphology, recently exhibited at the the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall.

“There were things about Advent(us) that resonated with my own interests. My projects are often making the space a part of the work and a lot of direct engagement with the people coming to see it,” says Gary. “I like this idea of the public spectacle, the shared social thing when people come together and what happens when people from different communities join up; people who might normally only ever pass by one another.”

Gary is charged with pulling all the artists and work together, surely a Herculean task when one considers the range of personalities and temperaments you get when working with a bunch of creatives. “It’s not working to just one voice,” says Gary, “so it’s not essential for everyone to agree what they want to communicate. Ego becomes less important because it’s a different headspace when you’re doing a group show like this.”

It’s extremely unlikely that St Mary’s has seen anything quite like this in its 900-year history. So it’s probably a very good idea to grab a warm coat, put on your woolly hat and open yourself to a new experience. It just might make you feel a lot brighter and expectant about the year ahead.

Advent(us): Another World is Possible runs until 24 December, every night from 6-10pm at St Mary’s Church. You can find a schedule for the artists who will be exhibiting and a list of associated events at:


This article first appeared in the Winter   2016 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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Coming into bloom

alys-1There’s a thing for all things Danish at the moment. From the reports – yet again – on how Denmark has the happiest citizens on the planet, to the notion of hygge, a word without a direct English translation that is about creating a welcoming, cosy atmosphere with the good things in life – family, friends, food and importantly the glow of candlelight. So Alys Wood-Bibby’s timing could not be more impeccable with her new Scandi inspired business Blomst, the Danish word for flower.

But she’s not just hitching herself to the zeitgeist without proper credentials.
Alys’ mother spent many years in the Scandinavian country so as a child the family would often spend summers there. The 32-year-old admits, “I am a girl who lost her heart in Denmark a long time ago. There is something so romantic about the country, the kindness of the people, the beautiful landscape, the style. I have always felt like Denmark is my second home and still now take every chance I can to go back and visit.” Her love of flowers can also be traced back to her childhood.

alys-2“Growing up, I remember the smell and presence of beautiful fresh blooms in our home. Each weekend we would get fresh flowers and I loved them lighting up the kitchen. I used to collect rose petals with my best friend Natalie and make beautiful rose perfume; something we thought smelled magnificent. Only, looking back now, I’m not so sure it was quite as magnificent as we thought!” says Alys.

The Danish aesthetic for simple yet sophisticated design runs through her products; from the delicate potted succulents and dainty terrariums to the arrangements that she offers on a subscription service. It’s that service which she says is the business’s USP and one she settled on to make her new start-up stand out.

“The customer can choose the frequency of their subscription and the size of the bouquets, a bit like your weekly food shop, or your fortnightly farm drop box.” Alongside this, Alys also does individual bouquets, weddings, funerals and special events, and has a regular stall at the E17 Village Market which runs every Saturday at the Community Hub in Orford Road.

Alys gave birth to Blomst shortly after literally giving birth, to her daughter Betsy earlier this year. It’s her first foray into the marketplace and she says she spent a long time researching and talking to friends and family, as well as taking advice from a business mentor.

alys-3What she didn’t expect was how it would feel putting her work in the public domain.“It’s hard to put yourself out there creatively and not feel disheartened if you don’t get the response you thought you would. Creativity can sometimes leave you feeling exposed. You might work hard to get things perfect but, like in all aspects of life, not everyone is going to have something positive to say. But you just need to keep on going and in the end it always pays off.”

The weekly market provided Alys with a good springboard for the company so she’s incredibly relieved that after the original organiser pulled out of the scheme, her and other local businesses have picked up the pieces and, after a very brief stoppage, the market is up and running again.

As for the flower that she’d chosen to bloom all around her on a desert island she immediately says, “Anemones, because they are such a beautiful and delicate flower, but so bold. They also featured heavily in my wedding flowers, so they will always have a special place in my heart.”

This article first appeared in the Autumn 2016 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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Carry on caravanning


The mobile homes set for Calais camp

For the past few months, local residents have been achieving remarkable things by bringing together piles of donated clothes, copious skeins of wool, the odd litre of Windolene and great big doses of compassion. It’s all part of an on-going and ever-expanding effort that’s sending refurbished caravans laden with provisions to help those stranded in the refugee camp at Calais.

Humanitarian groups estimate that close to 9,000 people live in the camp – that’s been dubbed ‘The jungle’ – half of which was demolished earlier this year. Heartbreakingly, it’s thought there are around 1,000 unaccompanied minors at the site.

calais-3The original local Wilcumstowe Wagon project aimed to send two caravans, but those two soon turned into three and spawned a new Village-based group led by Debbie Bliss that is also sending four-wheeled care packages across the Channel. Local resident Linsey Wynton coordinated the original Wilcumstowe Wagon with support from Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy after attending a meeting with Lord Alf Dubbs, who came to the UK as a child refugee during WWII from the former Czechoslovakia.

“As a mum of three young children, I am immensely concerned about the plight of child refugees,” says Linsey. “The idea of the caravans is to provide safe and secure accommodation for the most vulnerable child refugees – there are more than 800 unaccompanied minors in the Calais refugee camp. The caravans also offer a home to vulnerable families who have health problems or who have young children or babies.”

As many of the refugees’ temporary shelters were destroyed in a fire, and with winter approaching, Linsey says the caravans provide much needed secure accommodation.

A crowd-funding effort this summer provided enough money for the group to purchase three caravans from an organisation called Jungle Canopy, that buys them second-hand from places like eBay, gets them into shape to be used by groups like Wilcumestowe and then delivers them to the camps at Calais.

This summer the three were parked up in East Avenue where scores of volunteers armed with Hoovers, rubber gloves and cleaning products set to work making the caravans fit for purpose. But the effort wasn’t just spent on the inside. Wood Street Walls assisted in decorating two of the three caravans with the artist Elno, armed with her spray cans, transforming one into a work of art complete with white roses, all being done to honour the murdered Labour MP Jo Cox.

calais-2Meanwhile, over at the Waltham Forest Community Hub in Orford Road, other volunteers including MP Stella Creasy, who helped Linsey coordinate the entire project, set about sorting through the generous donations that came from across the borough; everything from pots and pans to children’s toys and bundles of clothing. In the end, there were enough donations to fill the three Wilcumstowe caravans, as well as one that a local church had purchased and another that local resident Natalie Sloane had funded. (Since then,Natalie has pulled together fundraising to send another as well.)

But the local caravan drive didn’t stop there. Enter Debbie Bliss, a gang of knitters and even more caravans. Debbie and her group were already making blankets to send to the refugees in Calais when they heard about the Wilcumstowe caravan project and decided that placing a blanket in each of those caravans was a perfect delivery system.

calais-4“With each of the blankets we attached a label that says, ‘every stich knitted with love for you.’ We wanted the people who got them to know that it hadn’t been knitted randomly; that we made them knowing where they were going and we are aware of their circumstances,” says Debbie. “Blankets are not just about warmth; there’s something very comforting and ‘hearth and home’ about them. They’re about security.” So far Debbie and her intrepid knitters have made 10 blankets for Calais and they are still clacking their needles at the Queen’s Arms every week to add to that number.

But it didn’t stop with the blankets. Debbie, working with other local residents, has now raised enough money to send two of their own fully stocked caravans to Calais.
“There are lots of rumours that they are going to close down the camps so the need is even more acute,” says Debbie. “The thing is they can be towed away very easily and there are lots of people involved in aiding the refugees who could help tow them away. They don’t know where to, but better than having no place to live at all.” That could prove important. Recently, France’s President, François Hollande, announced a plan to close the camp and move the camps’ inhabitants to reception centres where their cases would be examined over a period of four months.

Debbie recently returned from a visit to the camp and says,“It was incredibly moving. I went with my husband Barry and Stella Creasy. We visited the three Wilcumstowe caravans. We met a lady who now lives in one of them who was eight months pregnant and desperate to leave the camp and get to England. Stella was able to send a picture of the caravan decorated with white roses and dedicated to Jo Cox to Jo’s husband Brendan who was then able to show it to their children. What stays with you is the tragic stories, but also the resilience of the human spirit.”

And the group is not letting the momentum flag. After a successful curry quiz fundraiser for Help Refugees UK and Refugee Community Kitchen, the group is having another event. On Monday 21st November there will be an Art/ Design Auction in the Queens Arms, starting at 730pm sharp. So get ready to bid!

This article first appeared in the Autumn 2016 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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Young at heart – Hub gets funding for teens & seniors

img_4190The Waltham Forest Community Hub in Orford Road is extending its youth work in the borough thanks to a successful application to BBC Children in Need. The grant of almost £100,000 will be used to fund a three year youth empowerment programme dubbed ‘Stow Youth in Action’.

Hub manger Monwara Ali says the grant is a real coup for the centre. She says, “There is huge competition for funding from BBC Children in Need, which is why we were overjoyed. Waltham Forest as a borough fares badly in receiving grant funding from major funders such as Big Lottery, Heritage Lottery and Comic Relief, in comparison to other boroughs. It is very unusual for organisations of our size to be successful in getting such a substantial grant.”

The project will add to the hub’s youth work already taking place at its Orfrod Road centre by setting up youth groups in three new areas: Hoe Street Ward, William Morris Ward and the Priory Court. Monwara says the neighbourhoods served by the new project were chosen, “because they were identified as areas with high levels of deprivation, where there is very little provision for youth”.

The programmes will operate three days a week and use the expertise of youth workers to engage with people aged 11-18.

They will use one-to-one mentoring and structured activities such as life skills classes to try to reach people who are identified as troubled and requiring high levels of support. And as a way of steering the older kids aged 16 and over away from gang activity, there will be a focus on learning and volunteering opportunities.

The hub’s youth work is, according to Monwara, a result of increasing need. “Waltham Forest, like many other London boroughs, has had to make drastic cuts to its spending and sadly this has had a really big impact on youth services. Even though small charities like us don’t have huge capacity, we can often do the most meaningful  work with challenging young people who are struggling to survive.”

The Hub has also had funding approved that will be aimed at the other end of the age scale. Close to £14,000 from the Sport Relief – Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund is going to pay for weekly sessions for older people living in sheltered housing schemes. It was recently launched with a coach trip to Woburn Safari Park, and since September the hub has been running a weekly social club for seniors at the Vestry House Museum. The sessions – from 2-4pm every Thursday – are also involving young people from the area as volunteers so, as Monwara puts it, “stereotypes held by each generation about the other can be challenged”

As always in the age of funding applications, the money will only support the activities for a set amount of time but Monwara hopes “the project will encourage further support from the local community so that we can find a way of making it sustainable in the longer term”.

This article first appeared in the Autumn 2016 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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Flower power – How one man helped create an oasis

gerry-1Gerry Clegg was fed up. Fed up with looking out at the garden where he lives in Cherry Close – a tidy low-rise development of social housing off Beulah Road – and seeing nothing but shrubs. Boring, green shrubs.

“It was completely overgrown,” Gerry says. “The usual council ground cover they plant so it’s easy to maintain. It was just spreading out. It was depressing coming out in the morning and there in the garden, no colour at all. Just these bushes.”

Gerry, 65 years old and now retired from his job at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre, decided that unless he did something, the dull green shrubbery was going to outlive him. So he took it upon himself to contact the council and ask if they’d work with him to create a proper garden; somewhere he and the other residents might actually want to spend some time. Surprisingly, in these days of austerity and slashed budgets, the council agreed to help.

“It was a tremendous amount of work,” Gerry says, recalling that because the shrubs’ roots ran so deep, it was back-breaking work to get them out. But once that was started, the council team came out to help. “And to give the council their due, every bit I did the council did as much,” he says.

img_7453With Gerry leading the way, and the council providing staff and funding from its beautification scheme, the garden at Cherry Close has been transformed.
There’s now a fenced-in area that’s been laid to lawn, bordered with colourfully planted beds, seating areas as well as an adjacent raised bed housing a thriving vegetable plot. Since the makeover, Gerry says the residents – 80 per cent of whom are social housing tenants – are spending much more time in the garden and even helping keep things shipshape.

“It’s not always easy convincing people to help but in the end several of the tenants have pitched in and often it’s the people you least expect who lend a hand,” he says. “We even have a head slug catcher, a young boy named Pressley who can often be heard shouting out ‘I got another one for you today Gerry’.”

Besides buying new stock for the beds with money raised by selling wooden planters that Gerry makes, the garden has ended up being a home for ‘orphans’, with people donating plants that they don’t want or ones that just aren’t thriving in their current home.The garden has been such a success that Gerry already now has plans to replace more of the remaining ground cover shrubbery with new flower beds. And, according to Gerry, the new garden has been such a success, it was even used recently as a selling point when one of the privately owned flats went up for sale. Result!

This article first appeared in the Autumn 2016 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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Village people – Nikhil Patel

nikhil-1Forty-eight year-old Nikhil Patel has seen a lot of changes since taking over Desborough News in Orford Road over 20 years ago. His life’s journey has taken him from Kenya to India, back to Kenya and eventually here to the heart of the Village. Things might have been very different if it wasn’t for a life-changing moment in Nairobi that made him take stock and decide to forge a new life in the UK.

“My parents went to Kenya from India when it was a British colony, and I was born in Nairobi, the youngest of six children. Because I was the baby my family all spoiled me – too much! In the morning for school my sisters would fix my hair, gather my books and get my school bag sorted. Everything prepared for me. Growing up I learnt three languages, Gujarati, which we spoke at home and also English and Swahili.

My dad was a teacher and the principal at his school was Daniel Arap Moi who went on to become President of the country. He knew him very well. When I was a teenager, my father left teaching to open a building contractor business. They built schools, hospitals, radio stations, and a lot of work for the government. My Dad worked very hard and so we had a good education at a private school. Then I was sent to India to study civil engineering in Gujarat state and after six years got my diploma in civil engineering and went back to Kenya to work for my dad’s company.

When I was about 21, me and a friend went to a casino one night in Nairobi. At the end of the evening, as we were leaving, we got to our car and three men came at us. One of them put a gun to my friend’s head. He said, ‘Get in the car and just drive and when we say stop you must stop, otherwise we shoot you.’ I told my friend just do what they want. They took us to the outskirts of Kenya and made us drop them there. They didn’t take any money from us or the car. We thought maybe they had robbed somewhere and they needed a getaway car. That’s when I thought maybe it’s time to leave Kenya.

“I came to London and first worked in the family business before deciding to buy Desborough’s from a member of my family. She had been running it for 25 years. Since then it’s changed so much. Fifteen years ago there was me and Paul’s Food and Wine [what used to be the Spar]. On weekends back then it was a ghost town after 4pm. Now until midnight it’s full-on. It’s good. I like it.

It’s harder to run a newsagent now because of the drop in the newspaper industry. It’s not as strong and people get things online to read on their Ipads.

“I especially like this area because I still have lots of customers who are like family. If some of them are short a few pounds I say, ‘take it and give it to me another day’. And they do it.

“My brother is now running the family construction business in Nairobi and so I visit Kenya. But right now I don’t want to go back. I’ve been here a long time so first I feel British, then second Kenyan and then Indian which is my motherland. I respect this country. It’s taken care of us very well.”

This article first appeared in the Autumn 2016 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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United we stand

Behind the scenes at Trinity Church

Trinity 5Standing like a gatekeeper at the western edge of the Village, Trinity Church on Orford Road is a testament to just how much things have changed since its Kentish ragstone walls were erected in 1870. In its initial days as a Congregational church, the Sunday service would have been packed with the prospering families who were slowly moving into the new brick terraces being built in response to the expanding railways.

These days, as a United Reform Church (URC), there’s not just one Sunday service but four, with each catering to a distinct group. The URC holds two of its own services, one in the morning in English and another in the afternoon for the Asian congregation in Urdu. Sandwiched in-between, there’s a group of independent Christian Tamil worshipers in the church, while later in the day it’s home to a small evangelical group led by a minster everyone knows simply as Pastor Fred. And the building is just as busy the rest of the week. There’s two sessions of nursery school Monday to Friday, yoga on a Saturday, and on Thursday – if you’re passing or live nearby – you’ll hear the rallying sound of East London Brass as the band has its weekly rehearsal.

Trinity 8Today, Trinity is as much a community centre as a place of worship. That, according to church secretary Roger Davis means the URC stays connected to the community. “In addition,” Roger tells us, “the rental income we get from the various groups keeps the building going. The upkeep of a building as old as this is ongoing; there’s always something that needs attention.”

But it’s not just bricks and mortar that require care and attention. For the past six years the church has been managing without a dedicated minister, which Roger admits has been difficult. “You haven’t got that focal point; someone who people can get to know. And the minister helps get to know the congregation and help it to evolve.” Fortunately, that looks like it’s going to change, with the URC hoping to appoint someone in the next year.

The church knows what a difference a dedicated minister can make. Since the Rev Shabaz Javed moved from Pakistan in 2006 to take over the Asian congregation at the church, it’s given the group a real boost and it now stands at about 150 members. Rev Javed has also recently taken on the ministry of two other URC churches in Leyton and Wanstead.

Trinity 9So what exactly is the United Reform Church? Well, it came about as a result of the union between the Presbyterian Church of England and the Congregational Church in England and Wales in 1972. This was followed by additional unions with the Re-formed Association of Churches of Christ in 1981 and the Congregational Union of Scotland in 2000.

“The URC on a whole is an interpretive church,” says Roger. “We interpret the gospels and don’t take every word in the bible to be unchangeable. Life changes so much, and society changes as well, so the URC tends to look at the scriptures from a different angle. They tend to have more meaning if you can try to explain them in terms of modern life.”

Roger is eager to point out that Trinity is a very inclusive church, welcoming people regardless of age, ethnic origin, gender or sexual orientation, so new members are always welcome.

This article first appeared in the Summer 2016 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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A bitter pill to swallow

Local chemist campaigns about cuts

CHEMIST 1For over three decades, pharmacist Shashikant Ladva has been dispensing medicine, advice and good cheer from his chemist shop in Grove Road. But now he’s unsure about the future because of new government plans to cut funding to community pharmacies. In fact, Shashikant is so concerned, he’s joined hundreds of thousands of people around the country calling for the government to reconsider plans that could see thousands of neighbourhood chemists shut up shop.

“I understand the government wants to make savings,” says Shashikant, “but I think they are going about it the wrong way. For years they have been saying to people, ‘Go to your chemist; make the pharmacy your first stop, before your GP or A&E.’ And it has worked. A lot of people do come to us first for minor things, such as a cough or a cold, and we can often give them over-the-counter medicine and advice to help.”

But if small local pharmacies are forced to close, Shashikant says people who would normally pop into the chemist will return to making appointments with their GP, or heading to A&E. “Then there is no cost saving. It’s going to cost them more in the long run. It’s very shortsighted,” he says.

The Department of Health believes there are more pharmacies than are needed in some parts of the country, so as part of the move to make savings across the health service, it’s planning to reduce funding to these pharmacies. It’s estimated that somewhere between 1,000 and 3,000 could close as a result.

Shashikant came to London with his family from Kenya when he was a teenager. He studied in Portsmouth and, after qualifying, returned to London and eventually opened his own pharmacy here, in the Village, 33 years ago. Since then he’s been running the business alongside his wife Asmita.

CHEMIST 5He says it’s the smaller pharmacies like his that are under threat because the chains will be able to absorb the cuts, whereas independent local chemists will need to cut down on staff, and the services they provide, making it hard to survive. He says most of his customers have signed a petition that pharmacies across the country have been promoting; a petition that was recently presented to Downing Street with a staggering 1.8 million signatures.

“I don’t think the government appreciates the service we provide,” says Shasikant. “We provide a personal touch. We know many of our customers by name and that is the kind of service you don’t get when you go to the big chains. You’re just a number in those places.”

People who want to support the campaign should write to their MP. There’s also an online petition that is collecting signatures until the 29 June at

And if you want more information about the campaign you can visit:


This article first appeared in the Summer 2016 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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Come wine with me

Friends open wine shop and bar

WINE 2Many a plan has been hatched over a bottle of wine (or two): from plotting to get back at your horrible boss to devising a cunning strategy for world domination. Most end up lost in the fog of the morning after, but for a group of wine-loving friends in the Village, their late-night discussions actually led to starting a business… selling wine, of course.

Jamie Orchard-Lisle was born in Barclay Road and has been returning to the Village on and off all his life. Now he and partner Ellie Scarlett, along with friends Ben Williams and Rowan McIntyre have opened In Vino Veritas in Orford Road, realising the dream of turning their passion into a business.

“Ellie and I had invited Ben around for dinner and he turned up late,” explains Jamie. “We asked why he was late and he said he’d been delayed trying to buy a decent bottle of wine. We made a joke that somebody should open a wine shop in the Village. And after a few bottles of wine, we decided that it should be us.”

The group held out for a location in Orford Road and, after losing out on one shop, found their current premises at the east end of the street. And last summer opened In Vino Veritas (a Latin phrase meaning ‘In wine there is truth’ and often attributed to Pliny the Elder, an author and military commander in the early Roman Empire). They did a top-to-tail refurbishment and created two rooms so it’s not just a shop that sells wine to take home, but also a bar where you can drink wines by the glass or bottle, along with a selection of wine-friendly food like charcuterie/cheese boards and fondue.

WINE 3“I’m a sound engineer and record producer, “ says Jamie, “and spent quite a lot of time in Australia, and that’s where I came across the concept. In Melbourne you get quite a lot places where one side is a wine shop, but you can also grab a bottle off the shelf and go to the other side where there are tables. So you sit down, pay corkage and have a drink.”
Jamie, Ellie, who is a criminal defence lawyer, and Ben, who works in hospitality management, started the whole thing off. Then friend Rowan, who’s a journalist, joined the business. All four are wine lovers but it was Ellie who led the way when it came to stocking up the shop for opening. “She spent a lot of time in Europe, especially France, and knows her wine really well,” says Jamie. “We spent a couple of months trying lots of different wines, so our recycling bin was getting very well used.”

When it came to opening, Jamie says they wanted to make sure it was a place that was not snobbish or ‘up itself’. “That’s the problem with a lot of wine places – they feel elitist. We wanted to be approachable. One of the things we said from the beginning is that we want a place where you don’t have to know about wine to come in and feel comfortable, but equally if you know your wine, you’ll see we know our stuff.”

Jamie says they are making sure they stock wine you are not going to find on the supermarket shelves and are using a lot of small producers, some of whom will be travelling over from the continent to lead tasting nights.

And when it comes to the product on the shelves, does Jamie have any particular favourites? “We recently opened a 1990 magnum of vintage Billecart Salmon Champagne and nothing I’ve had really comes close to it. There’s a sense of ceremony, knowing it’s a vintage from a very good Champagne house. Just total pleasure.”

This article first appeared in the Spring 2016 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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Reaching out: Drug and alcohol dependency centre opens

Turning PointImagine what it would be like if every time you moved into a new neighbourhood, you had to worry about whether the community was going to reject you and tell you to go somewhere else. Those are some of the reactions Jean Pender has had to face during the 30 years she has been working in drug and alcohol dependency services.

Jean is now managing such a service here in the Village, called Lifeline. It’s based in Beulah Road where Turning Point used to run drug and alcohol treatment programmes. The difference is that Lifeline is supporting people who are at the start of their recovery journey or are still using. Along with counselling and support services, they provide prescriptions for opiate substitutes  – such as methadone – for people who are coming off heroin. It also operates a needle exchange. It’s these two services that often raise eyebrows and cause concern among local residents.

But Jean says, “The attitudes I’ve encountered from local businesses and residents about what we’re trying to achieve have been positive. But we realise there are anxieties about this kind of service and what may come with it. We remind our service users that we depend on the goodwill of the community and if they cause a nuisance or disruption, it comes back on us and affects the service they get.” Jean points out that the clients sign a care agreement that stipulates, “we will respect them, if they respect us.”

Jean knows not all the clients have been respecting the unwritten rule that they use the service and leave the area. She’s also aware there have been some issues with clients milling about in front of the centre on Beulah Road, so they are working to encourage people into the garden area. “We don’t want to be bad neighbours to anybody,” she says. And if residents are experiencing problems with clients, she encourages them to contact Lifeline so she can try to resolve any issues.

The service employs several doctors, mental-health nurses and counsellors who deal with the 600-plus people who are registered with the centre. Jeans says for those people who have been using opiates such as heroin, “We try to make the prescribing of opiate substitute medication, like methadone, just one element of the treatment. People need to be motivated to come off heroin, so it’s an aid to manage withdrawals as they reduce and come off altogether.”

“I think one of the fears I picked up was used needles and syringes being discarded in the area. But actually people tend to come here to take clean equipment to use somewhere else.”

Jean says clients have often faced a range of difficulties, from mental-health issues to physical and sexual abuse. “People have anxieties and broken lives and they start using drink or drugs because they just want to feel better.”

Lifeline 2A change Jean has noticed over the years is the approach to treatment. “In the past the big focus was on the actual medication and not on helping people change their lifestyle. Our approach now is very much that everyone has strengths, talents and skills. They might have been hidden for a very long time, but we try to help them get in touch with those skills. We really want to focus on things like music sessions and art workshops. It’s surprising how people really get engaged, and it helps them achieve something positive, because when they’re using, everything’s very negative.

“I meet a lot of people with so much potential,” she says. “When they stop drinking or taking drugs, that potential really comes out. And when you see people doing something really positive like that, it’s really rewarding.”

If you would like to contact Lifeline please phone 020 3826 9600, or email

This article first appeared in the Spring 2016 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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Ringing the changes: The bells of St Mary’s are on their way!

St Mary's bells 2On Monday 8 February, the long-awaited refurbishment work on the ancient church bells commenced and, after five days, the bells and fixings were finally removed from the tower and loaded on to a lorry and departed the churchyard, bound for Taylor’s Foundry in Loughborough for the refurbishment work to take place. This was a truly historic moment as it is the first time the bells have been outside London since they were cast and installed in 1778.

It took five days for Andrew, the engineer from Taylor’s, along with a small band of willing volunteers, to work out how to get the 10 bells from their tightly packed frame and cut large enough hatches through ceilings that have not been opened since 1896, when the set of bells were reinstalled. This was not an easy task and proved eventful as there was not a straight drop from the top of the tower. Three hatches had to be cut by hand, and a strategy for manually removing and lowering the bells through the hatches needed to be developed as the works took place.

St Mary's bells 3A previous hatch above the church porch was discovered underneath two layers of flooring in the ringing chamber, along with evidence of an accidental fire in the ringing chamber that was previously unknown. This may have been why the top floor to the ringing chamber was put in – to cover up the timbers damaged by the fire. It is quite possible the fire was caused by the accidental spillage of an oil lamp as the tower would have been lit by these at the time.

The bells and fittings (which sometimes weigh as much as the bells themselves) were all collected in the church porch, awaiting collection and transport to the foundry. A large group of interested well-wishers watched as the bells were removed from the church and loaded on to a flatbed lorry. Photos were taken and goodbyes were said as the bells left for their two hour journey to the foundry.

The tower is now silent and eerily empty, but this is the time for us to clear it of nearly 150 years of debris. Many of the old fitments have been left behind and we will recover such items as bell ropes, wheels, headstock fitments, stays and sliders, and make them presentable for display when church open days are held.

St Mary's bells 4During the time the bells are away, other works will be undertaken to make ringing a better experience. This will include adding new sound control boards to manage sound output during practices, rewiring the tower and improving lighting, making a new door and viewing area in the bell chamber, redecorating the ringing chamber and adding a new computer simulation system that will aid new and improving ringers.

It is expected the bells will be returned sometime in June, when Andrew will return to mastermind their re-installation back into the tower. This, in itself, will be a significant event and worth witnessing if you’re around!

Once the bells are back and all the pieces of work are completed, the bells will not only be easier to ring but will allow the tower to be used by visiting teams of ringers, host regional training events and local competitions. We are planning a series of open events when the bells are back, inviting local folk to come along, see the works and have a go at ringing – hopefully we’ve secured the future of the bell ringing in Walthamstow Village for the next 120 years at least!

St Mary's bells 1Finally, we are very grateful to Sarah (Spires Heritage) for her help in the grant application for Lottery funding, to Paul and John for their help in removing the bells, to Andrew of Taylor’s for remaining calm over five long days of removal and finally to the Heritage Lottery Fund for granting the funding that allowed this work to take place.

David Baker, on behalf of the ringers at St Mary’s Church


This article first appeared in the Spring 2016 edition of “The Village” magazine.

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