Silver spoon from the Titanic sold at Chiswick Auctions

A tale of real pathos unfolded at Chiswick Auctions showroom last week. Under the hammer was a silver sugar sifter from the Titanic’s Café Parisienne. I met Bob Ballard, the underwater archaeologist who discovered the wreck of the Titanic in the 1980s and knew that he had intended to leave the wreck unsalvaged because he didn’t wish to desecrate a graveyard.

The parent company of the shipping line did authorise salvage operations and many artefacts have been recovered from the wreck, including a purser’s bag containing many pieces of jewellery which were exhibited to mark the centenary of RMS Titanic sinking in 2012.

I wondered how this random piece of silverware had made its way to auction. The answer is that the silver sifter was not on board when the ill-fated ship went down, but had been stolen along with a decanter and several other objects before she embarked on her maiden voyage. The thief was Reginald. L. Barker, a purser who had sailed with the ship from Belfast to Southampton.

He wanted to sail on the maiden voyage but couldn’t afford his uniform, so stole several items from the ship and used them to pay a tailor, Horace Bradshaw, in exchange for his dress uniform. He enlisted on the maiden voyage and lost his life when the ship went down. His body was not recovered. This postcard of him, signed by Miss Millvina Dean (1912-2009) the youngest survivor who was rescued from lifeboat No.13 by the crew of RMS Carpathia, was sold with the sugar sifter.

Consultation meetings on Heathrow third runway soon

Consultations with Department of Transport officials are expected to take place in around 20 venues in West London in February and early March on the controversial plans for a third runway at Heathrow. The public consultation is being overseen by Sir Jeremy Sullivan, the former senior president of tribunals and is independent of the government’s decision to back Heathrow expansion “in the national interest”.

The exact position of the new flight path has not been confirmed but as Chiswick lines up directly with the proposed third runway it is expected that the new flightpath will cut a path right across Chiswick and will have many feeder routes as planes turn onto this glide path for their final approach. As a result it is anticipated that the noise could have a severe impact on the whole area.

Our chance as a community to make our voices heard

Chiswick Against the Third Runway spokeswoman Deborah Cadbury says: “It is important that as many people as possible register their opposition. This is our chance as a community to let DoT know how strongly people feel about this issue that will transform life in Chiswick for generations”.

Where and when the meetings will be held has not yet been published, but Chiswick is a likely location as this area will almost certainly be very severely affected by the new flightpath, as well as increased flights on the existing flight path across Grove Park. We should know the exact dates and venues by end of next week so watch this space – as there is not much notice.

One Love

I was, as they say, feelin the love at our party last Wednesday. I am slightly amazed that we’ve been doing this website for two years and that it has become so successful. I don’t usually do soppy, but I blush at the compliments we received and am really touched by the emails we get from people saying how much they like the website / newsletter / videos / events we put on.

Photograph – Jon Perry www.arranginglight.com

The Chiswick Calendar came about because I was at a loose end, having left BBC news after 30 years. My business partner Nick Raikes had just finished a gap year working on a local website before going to university. So between us we reckoned we had the skills to set up a website and decided that we wanted to do something that is a celebration of life in Chiswick, a features website with lots of lovely pictures and videos which would complement the existing excellent news website we have in W4. We snuck it online with some nice pictures of Chiswick taken by my neighbour Marianne and a page per day showing what’s on, in what I believe is known as a ‘soft launch’, ie. nobody knew it was there for a while, which was good because it gave us a chance to iron out some of the kinks.

We now have about 2,000 people who look at it each month, 2,500 subscribers to the weekly newsletter and nearly 3,000 followers on Twitter. The website has a different home page picture of Chiswick each day. We now have about 20 people who give us their photographs to use, and we welcome them from anyone, but special mention goes to Jon Perry, who’s given us his photos almost from the start. The website has a calendar of events for the next six months, with one page showing the headline events for the whole year and a separate page for each day of the year with everything from the Magical Lantern Festival at Chiswick House to yoga classes and local history walks. Our Youtube channel has hundreds of videos on it now and we have the club card with some 50 businesses offering deals and discounts to our subscribers. We also put on our own events. We’ve done several political discussions, chaired by old mates of mine from the BBC Sarah Montague and Julian Worricker and an evening In Conversation with Wayne Sleep in the Tabard theatre, which I conducted myself. We’ve done book discussions and a gin tasting night and last October got together with three other businesses in Chiswick to run the Chiswick Talks Business event.

One of the great things about doing The Chiswick Calendar is the partnerships we’ve formed, among them with Artists at Home, who hold their open studio weekend in June, Super Saturday of Sport in July, and Arts Ed, the internationally renowned musical theatre school. Thanks to Joanna Brendon, Kirsten Lonsdale and Jane Harrison from those three organisations respectively, for their friendship and support and for standing up and saying lovely things about us: that our promotion and videos help hugely in publicising their events and in Art Ed’s case, offering discounted courses to club card holders enables them to fill their weekend and summer classes. People come from all over the country to take part in their courses and then look at The Chiswick Calendar website to see what else they could do in Chiswick and how else they could use their card. Thanks also to Ruth Cadbury MP for encouraging businesses to join the club card scheme and to John D Wood who are continuing their sponsorship for another year. And of course to Torin Douglas who provides us with endless copy and video making opportunities through the Bedford Park Festival and the Chiswick Book Festival.

Thanks to the Mississippi Swamp Dogs, a great New Orleans jazz band who I can thoroughly recommend for parties of any kind for their musicianship and ability to make people get up and dance.

TfL in a pickle over bridge mural

Transport for London find themselves in something of a quandary as to what to do about the railway bridge over Turnham Green Terrace.

In a scenario which plays out rather like a badly written panto, Babes in the Wood Karen Liebreich and Sarah Cruz (aka Abundance London) set out on a journey to raise funds to make a lovely mural depicting the history of Chiswick. A good fairy at TfL agreed that they could have the space (the grotty looking walls under the bridge on both sides of the road) and waved her magic wand to agree that TfL would install the mural and bear the cost of the installation. The Babes raised £21,141 from Hounslow Council (no mean feat), £5,000 from Ealing Council and gathered the support of the local community, including primary schools who are all set to do mural related educational projects and businesses such as Fullers which have offered sponsorship. They’ve commissioned original art works from internationally known local artists Peter Blake and Jan Pieńkowski. They’ve even got Hounslow to agree to take care of the mural’s future maintenance.

“What could go wrong at this point”? I hear you ask. Samples were produced in vitreous enamel (a thin layer of glass fused at high temperature on to the surface of a metal) of what the mural would look like. Everyone went off for Christmas happy that it was progressing so well. Work on the installation was expected to start in May.

Meanwhile in another part of the forest the evil stepmother at TfL was plotting their downfall.

Unbeknownst to the Babes or the Good Fairy someone in the advertising sales department had struck a deal selling the wall on the taxi rank side (ie. the better side – the side which everyone looks at while waiting at the bus stop) as ad space, presumably for many thousands of pounds. It was only when the advertising hoardings started going up that urgent enquiries were made, anxious emails sent and the uncomfortable truth uncovered that one part of TfL didn’t know what the other was doing. This is where the panto analogy falls down, as the ‘Wicked Stepmother’ was of course merely doing their job, rather well, blissfully unaware that the space had been promised to another. This is after all one site out of thousands probably, a line in a spreadsheet in an appendix. What’s more, TfL is under pressure to earn revenue at the moment, as the government has given notice that it will no longer be funding its operations. From 2018 TfL must become self-sufficient with its operating costs. So they now have something of a problem.

Sarah, the designer, and Karen, who jointly conceived the mural and have campaigned doggedly for it over several years, were devastated when they were told the deal was off as the wall was no longer available. After more urgent emails and phone calls they were invited to a meeting with TfL on Friday to discuss options. As of Friday, when various options were explored, the decision hangs in the balance as to what will happen next.

TfL has two choices: unpick a lucrative contract or renege on a promise which would make them a shining example of corporate social responsibility and bring them much love from the people of Chiswick. I like the panto analogy because in a pantomime the good guys always win. Evil is banished from the land and Chiswick would get its mural. So let’s hope that Those Who Will Decide at TfL are a fan of the genre, will find room in their £11.5 billion budget to forgo a little extra cash from our grimy, pigeon fouled wall in favour of improving the environment of our community. Maybe if we all clap our hands and say “I believe in the good faith of multi billion pound corporations” they will.

Plans for Dukes Meadows

Kathleen Healy of Dukes Meadows Trust will be responding to the council consultation and initial proposals for the development of Dukes Meadows at the Chiswick Area Forum at the Town Hall on Tuesday evening. Last year Hounslow Council commissioned a consultation and master plan for the Meadows. While they welcomed the interest “after many years of Dukes Meadows being a low priority”, now that they have seen the consultant’s report and plans the Trust is concerned about a number of issues.

Kathleen says issues such as the degraded roads, low level of maintenance and negative impact from large un-booked, unregulated events are not addressed. Nor is the £2.3 million of cuts to park budgets which were outlined in the council’s recent Leisure strategy and the impact that will have on Duke’s Meadows.

She says: “The Meadows is a large complex site and the consultation does not seem to show a good understanding of it. In November we organised a meeting of the various clubs on the meadows and people from local resident’s associations. It was well attended with representatives from just about all the clubs and neighbouring areas. We discussed our concerns and the case for the council making good the 40 plus years of neglected capital maintenance to the roads and other infrastructure. We also proposed a greater level of devolved management to improve maintenance and stewardship of the park and mitigate the effects of the parks budget cuts”.

Kathleen will be presenting their proposals to Chiswick councillors and the public on Tuesday and is hoping that lots of people will turn up at the meeting at 7.30 pm: “It would really strengthen our case to have lots of people there to show how valued the Meadows is”.

Killing the Goose that lays the Golden Eggs

Business rates on the High Rd are about to go up drastically and we will lose some much loved independent shops as a result. One of the main things we all love about this area, the fact that it is not the same as every other High street but has character because of the individuality of its shops, is very much under threat. Sara Stationers, who have been on the High Rd since 1993 will close when its lease runs out in September next year.

Owner Krina Khatri told me “Double high rent and rates is too much, it’s not worth it any more”. Oddbins, on the corner of the High Rd and Turnham Green Terrace, closed its doors on New Year’s Eve after 30 years in Chiswick and there are a stack of other businesses up for sale: 392a Chiswick High Road (currently Herbal Inn), 51 Turnham Green Terrace (which was the Frozen Yoghurt shop), 14a Sutton Court Road (used to be Badger & Earl and has been empty for a year), 24 Devonshire Road (Bagista), 42 Devonshire Road (Cardemon Indian restaurant, currently under offer), 206 Chiswick High Road (used to be Benetton)… I could go on. They may not all be selling up because of high rent and rates but that’s usually the reason businesses give when they shut up shop.

The business rate is pegged to the retail value of a property and this year it’s being re-evaluated after a gap of seven years. High Rd businesses are bracing themselves for increases of up to 50%. Mike Moran, owner of Top Hat in Devonshire Rd pays £21,500 in rent. He’s expecting a rate increase of around 47% based on a valuation in March 2015. “It’s ridiculous” he says. “I don’t have a property department to fight it for me. I have to waste time fighting it myself”. “It’s all the little things as well” says Krina Khatri, “having to pay for rubbish collection” (at 80p a bag), “having to pay for parking, the costs all mount up”.

Businesses won’t know for sure what their new rate will be until April but you can go on to the Valuation Office website and do a calculation which will give you a pretty good idea. Mike is celebrating 50 years of his family business this year and has a pretty shrewd understanding of the business landscape in West London. He says new businesses are partly to blame for the increases, as they “come in to the area without not doing their homework properly, accepting ludicrously high rent agreements and then going bust”, leaving a legacy of higher rents. It is also a fact that national and international companies can and will pay more. When the lease for hairdresser Armstrong & Cuthbert came up a few years ago, salon owner Wendy Nixon fought her corner with lawyers and won her case to keep her rent within a reasonable amount but a neighbouring chain just paid up without batting an eyelid. That is presumably why they’re asking £75,000 for the rent on the Benetton shop.

It’s not all bad news though. If you’re off the High Rd you’re not likely to face such a huge increase. In fact Andy Sands at Chiswick Cameras will see the amount he pays in rates go down from April. His rates are £12.500, which is currently £500 above the qualifying amount for rate relief, but from April the qualifying amount is going up to £15,000 so his rates will actually be cheaper.

Hounslow International Festival of Business

There will be a Festival of Business, celebrating the businesses of Hounslow and West London at Syon Park Hilton on Thursday 26 January.

Organised by Hounslow Chamber of Commerce and FHW Events & Marketing Ltd, the event is to promote business in this area.

“We have hundreds and hundreds of brilliant companies in Hounslow and we want to give them the opportunity to meet one another and showcase their products and services” says Stephen Fry, the Chamber’s Chief Executive. “This won’t be a soulless expo with rows of badly thought out stands” he says. “What you will find is a hive of creativity, ideas and inspiration to showcase your business”.

Among the stalls you will find The Chiswick Calendar, promoting the fact that we make commercial videos for websites. Should you wish to take part to promote your business, contact Isabelle Harding through the website: www.hounslowfestival.biz

If you’d like to just go and have a look, admission is free and it’s open from 10.00 am – 5.00 pm.

Charity Dinner in aid of Acton Homeless Concern

On the evening of Thursday 26 January, Foxlow restaurant is holding a charity dinner in aid of Acton Homeless Concern. The charity does brilliant work providing really nice hot meals cooked on the premises for rough sleepers and people in temporary accommodation.

They also collect clothing and provide for such basic needs as a postal address so that homeless people can correspond with the authorities. I was hugely impressed with the work they do.

Last year rough sleeping in London rose by 7%, with more than 8,000 people sleeping on our streets. Foxlow is one of those companies which pay their staff to work charity days as part of their social responsibility. They’ve chosen to support Acton Homeless Concern and manager David Stephen has persuaded their suppliers to offer their goods free or at cost price on the evening so they can maximise the money they raise. They’ve put together a three course menu paired with great wines, plus a Sipsmith cocktail on arrival. It costs £40 a head (or £35 for vegetarians), proceeds go directly to Acton Homeless Concern.
Menu: Starters – Beetroot & Baby Kale Salad / Kale, Avocado & Fresh Herb Salad. Mains – Hanger Steak, grilled over charcoal with roasted tomatoes and harissa yoghurt / South Coast Hake, with saffron white beans and roast tomatoes / Spice-Roasted Aubergine, with slow cooked tomatoes, harissa and goat’s cheese. Desserts – Victoria Plum Crumble / Sticky Toffee Pudding / A selection of seasonal cheeses from Neal’s Yard dairy. We are also promised “the best of the 60s and 70s with an all-vinyl selection of timeless disco classics and rare grooves” by way of an accompaniment to the meal. To book a table, please call Foxlow on 020 7680 2702. Credit card details will be required to secure your booking, with a £10 donation per person to Acton Homeless Concern should you cancel.

Happy New Year

The thing I really like about the Christmas / New Year period is that for a short, blissful time you can actually forget what day of the week it is and it doesn’t matter. This may seem like an odd thing for someone who runs a website called The Chiswick Calendar. Maybe that’s why I find it so liberating. For one stretch of watery sunlight to merge into the next without fear of missing an appointment or deadline, watching films late at night, Terry’s chocolate orange in hand, seems like the height of decadence, especially as we had the central heating and hot water restored just before Christmas by a very experienced guy from My Plumber, who worked out that the problem was something far less complicated and subsequently less expensive that I’d been told and fixed it within two hours.

I have been working though. I’ve been in website purdah, which is a bit like the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Budget purdah, only with more chocolate and without the hard maths. It involves killing off lots of old website pages and creating new ones full of promise for the new year: The Chinese Magical Lantern Festival and the Camellia show at Chiswick House; Watermans arts centre’s spring programme of children’s theatre; the Lyric’s brilliantly reviewed production of Roald Dahl’s story Fantastic Mr Fox. For adults, a chance to book for screenings of Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart in Pinter’s No Man’s Land and Lucian Msamati in Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus or regular arthouse and Hollywood fare such as Paterson or La La Land at Waterman’s cinema (NB club card holders can buy cinema tickets for £5 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays). There are some great talks coming up. The Chiswick Decorative and Fine Arts Society have one on David Hockney on 12 January. Chiswick Pier Trust have one on the architecture of the riverside from Putney to Chiswick on 24 January. There are some good food opportunities too. Fans of Hedone’s brand of simple but exquisite food made from the best ingredients will be pleased to know that the former Head Chef of the Michelin-starred restaurant is holding a pop-up supper club this Sunday, 8 January at Charlotte’s Place in Ealing. Lee Skeet left Hedone to set up his own place in Cornwall, but pops back now and then for a series of one offs and this is his only planned date in London. Dates for your diary later in the year: the Bedford Park Festival is 9 – 25 June and the Book Festival 14 – 18 September. You will find the main events in the Chiswick social calendar all on one page in our at glance guide to the year here.

181 beautiful photographs of Chiswick

If 181 seems an odd number of photographs for an exhibiiton, that’s because these are the pictures on the daily listings pages of The Chiswick Calendar website from January to June. Huge thanks to the following for their lovely photos: Marianne Mahaffey, Jon Perry, Anna Kunst, Barbara Chandler, Ian Wylie, John Clare, Mando Mendolicchio, Michael Nolan, Paul Chambers, Susan Lee Kerr, Kate Barlow, Lucinda MacPherson, Steven Melford, Michele Kalish, Rosie Leyden, Margaret Easter, Sue Parkes, Brian Boothby and Fiona Hanson.

If you have any lovely photos of Chiswick and would like to share them with us, email us at: info@chiswickcalendar.co.uk

Photograph above by Jon Perry – Enlightenshade