Launch of the Chiswick Oasis

The Chiswick Oasis – the wall of greenery alongside St Mary’s RC Primary School, designed to abosrbe some of the pollution from the A4, will be launched to the public this Saturday (29 June)

 Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, MP for Brentford and Isleworth Ruth Cadbury and Leader of Hounslow Council Steve Curran will all be in attendance.

Steve Curran has confirmed to the organiser Andrea Carnevali that the council will pay to strengthen the wall so it can be made higher. 

All are welcome, from 11.00am – 6.30pm, with games for children from the classic bouncy castle, to an inflatable football, free classes for adults and children (meditation, yoga, dances, Chinese medicine, pilates etc…).

Food and drinks of all kinds from BBQ, to Philippines food, hot chips and cakes offered by parents and businesses around Chiswick.

Duke Rd, Chiswick, W4 2DF

New riverside trail highlights West London’s rich artistic heritage

Arts & Crafts Hammersmith have launched an Arts & Crafts trail along the River Thames, so you can follow in the footsteps of poet, novelist, designer and socialist William Morris and his great friend Emery Walker, the founder of the Doves Press.

There are nine places of interest along the route, taking in the house of Phoebe Stabler, ceramicist and sculptor, Edward Johnston, calligrapher, Eric Gill, sculptor and engraver and Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson, book-binder and co-founder of the Doves Press, as well as those of Morris and Walker and of course the Dove pub. 

You can pick up the beautifully produced leaflet, which includes a map, at either The William Morris Society Museum or Emery Walker’s House, or download it here

Grove Park School benefits from innovative energy saving scheme 

The built environment contributes around 40% of the UK’s total carbon footprint. If we are to meet our climate change targets, a huge challenge is to decarbonise our existing building stock. Grove Park Primary has become one of the first schools in the borough of Hounslow to implement a programme of works designed significantly to reduce its carbon emissions. They would like to share their experience with other schools.

Reducing carbon emissions and saving money

The school worked with RE:FIT, an initiative backed by the Mayor of London, which helps public buildings to retrofit their existing buildings with energy saving measures, thereby reducing carbon emissions and also achieving substantial savings on their energy bills. The rising impact and cost of carbon emissions means that public sector organisations are under increasing pressure to reduce their emissions. With schools accounting for 70% of its total CO2 emissions, the London Borough of Hounslow was one of the first London boroughs to promote the scheme to its schools, and Grove Park Primary jumped at the chance to be involved.

“The opportunity to cut our carbon emissions and save money at the same time made the RE:FIT scheme an obvious decision for our school.The programme also offers schools an interest-free loan to pay for the improvement works, which we pay back from the savings we make through reduced energy consumption. So it really was a no-brainer on every level!’
Vicky Rodrigues, School Business Manager

As part of the programme, the school installed solar panels, which generate around 28,000 kw of energy per year. Approximately 80% of this energy is then used on site at the school, replacing the use of mains electricity and its associated carbon emissions. Other significant energy-saving measures at the school included replacing all lighting with energy-efficient LED panels, and insulating and optimising boiler and refrigeration units.

“Major works such as the installation of solar panels took place during the school holidays, with minimum disruption for pupils. Since the launch we’ve also noticed other benefits to the scheme: for example, the LED lighting provides a much better quality of light for reading and classroom work, plus reduced maintenance overall. I’d definitely recommend the scheme to other schools”.
Brian Hardman, School Facilities Manager

Using a measurement dashboard provided as part of the scheme, the school can now monitor its energy efficiency in detail, with consumption reviewed daily, even in school holidays. This live energy efficiency information is also displayed on a screen in the school reception area, and in classrooms, to enable pupils and staff to engage with the project, and see for themselves the benefits of sustainable energy sources. With the programme of works now complete, the school is celebrating the success of a scheme which has already saved 6,500kg of C02 – equivalent to planting 22 trees – and saved the school over 50% on its energy bills.

“I’m delighted with the work we’ve done to tackle our school’s carbon emissions. Staff and governors worked really hard to make this scheme such a success. Our pupils have been inspired by seeing their school setting such a good example; the project has engaged them in discussions about environmental issues and supported one of our school’s core aims: to develop children who make a positive impact on our society and the world around them. The project has increased both staff and pupil awareness of environmental issues and fostered a collective sense of wanting to make the school greener, so much so that additional plans are afoot to make the school even more eco-friendly in the future.’’
Darren Jones, Headteacher

Eighty years since the Kindertransport brought refugees from Nazi Germany here

Every now and then you come across tales of great bravery and altruism in the face of unimaginable evil. Such was the organisation of the Kindertransport to get Jewish children out of Nazi Germany in 1939. I discovered recently that one of the beneficiaries, Hans Danziger, lives in Chiswick, and he was kind enough to tell me the story of how he came here from Berlin as an eight year old boy, eighty years ago.

The Kindertransport was an organised rescue effort that took place during the nine months prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. The United Kingdom took in nearly 10,000 predominantly Jewish children from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the Free City of Danzig. Often the children who came here with the Kindertransport were the only members of their families to survive the Holocaust. The British Government facilitated this and were prepared to waive certain immigration formalities.

A network of organisers was established in Germany, and these volunteers worked around the clock to make priority lists of those most at risk: teenagers who were in concentration camps or in danger of arrest, Polish children or teenagers threatened with deportation, children in Jewish orphanages, children whose parents were too impoverished to keep them, or children with a parent in a concentration camp.

Kind Dutch ladies on the train

Hans of course knew none of this. He remembers the kindness of the Dutch women who offered him and his sister Marion biscuits and cakes on the train, and also the rucksack he carried. Marion’s doll with a china face was inside and her remembers vividly that he accidentally bashed the rucksack against a bollard and smashed it. Marion, he says, was sanguine about it, but at five years old, I somehow doubt that. The toy train engine he brought with him survives to this day. He remembers also arriving at Liverpool St station, with a tag round his neck like Paddington bear.

They were chosen because their mother’s uncle’s adopted daughter was secretary to Lord Rothschild, who was a friend of Alan Sainsbury. Alan Sainsbury paid for a house in Putney where they stayed for the first three months, learned English and made their first acquaintance of English society. “We went to a school nearby. The children were very poor” he told me. “I was disgusted when they asked me to give them piggy backs because their backsides were hanging out of their trousers”. Alan Sainsbury, later Lord Sainsbury, stood as guarantor to 21 children.

Hans and Marion were lucky to go on holiday to one of the Sainsburys’ country houses and from there to Alan Sainsbury’s father’s hunting stables in Leighton Buzzard, to live with the family’s groom. “They were quite Victorian in their outlook” he says “we children were not allowed to use knives and I remember running out one day to hold Mr Sainsbury’s horse when he came back from a hack. The groom, whose name was Clark, shouted at me not to come out in the yard and to remember my station, but Mr Sainsbury told him to let me be”.

Life after that became a bit more cheerful when he and Marion went to live with the groom’s grown up daughter in Harpenden. Eva Leaney was 26, she worked in the Sainsburys’ shop and her husband was away at war, so the three of them kept each other company.

Letters from Germany

Jewish and Quaker agencies did a lot of the organisation for the refugees. Hans remembers weekends meant going to Hebrew classes in the morning in St Albans, followed by Sunday school in the afternoon. The Jewish Refugee Committee saw to it that he took his Bar Mitzvah at 13 and as the war ended he moved to live in St Albans with a German Jew who had been invalided out of the Pioneer Corps, wounded at Dunkirk. Emil Vasen established a hotel and took Hans in with a boy two years older than him, William, who became like a brother to him. Marion was sent to boarding school run by old German women doctors, which fortunately she loved, says Hans. He himself had to relearn German to converse with Emil, having forgotten all his native language after five years in this country. “My father used to send me letters through the Red Cross which I couldn’t read” he said.

Remarkably Hans and Marion’s parents, Leopold and Charlotte, survived the war. They had good friends who hid them, then got false papers and lived above ground, hiding in plain sight in Berlin. “My father had nerves of steel” says Hans. ‘Father, who had given up his business on the first of April 1941, and was now performing forced labour by order of the Gestapo, was lucky in having a good friend in Herr Theodor Goerner. He was the owner of a large book printing works, who was willing to buy father’s now useless business for the proper value and to put that money into an account from which father could take out regular amounts.  He was later to store some house-hold pieces which were packed by father. A true friend, and like many others, not Jewish’.

He describes how his father managed to avoid being sent to the camps:

‘The day came when father was told to stay behind after work. It was the eighteenth of January nineteen forty three. He knew what that meant and so with his usual insouciant manner got dressed and sauntered out of the main gate. To the gatekeeper’s “what, going home early?” Father told him he was going to the dentist.  No one had instructed the gatekeeper to prevent his leaving. He then made his way home. On entering the door he saw that a cup was placed upside down on a saucer in a prominent position in the window of the porter’s lodge. This was a signal that had been arranged between my father and Herr Fischer the porter should the Gestapo be waiting for him. He immediately turned and walked off to ride the U-Bahn for a day’.

After the war their parents were able to repay the debt by sending food parcels and money where possible, both to Herr Fischer and to Herr Theodor Goerner. ‘Father always made light of everything and took nothing too seriously except the loss of his children. There he argued against splitting the family and had it not been for Mother’s foresight and strength we would all be dead’. Others in his extended family weren’t as lucky as they were. ‘It must also have been at this time that his cousin Georg was forced to give up the Patisserie in town in case he poisoned the ‘aryans’. His brother had shot his Alsatian and then himself, when he could see no future’.

Reunited in London

Hans and his sister weren’t reunited with their parents until several years after the war. It took them until 1948 to get visas. By then, equipped with his School Certificate, Hans was living with William, working in London as an apprentice to a tailor in Regent St who was also from Berlin. ‘Our parents and I lived together at my lodgings at Mrs. Weitz’s house in Stoke Newington. She was a good soul and made them welcome. Mother who was a most capable ‘hausfrau’ managed to make a homely atmosphere in their one room no bigger than my study. She always made meals on one gas ring and served them as if it was the Ritz.

‘Pops would make trips to Woburn House to collect their allowance and it was there, after an extension of a further six months arranged by Alan Sainsbury that they met Mrs. Hahn-Warburg who was working there. At that time she was looking for a married couple to run the family home in Middleton Cheney, near Oxford, and offered the job to our parents, affording them the means to stay in England’.

Hans is immensely grateful to Lord Sainsbury, who took him in and paid for not just his upkeep but his schooling. He remembers being summoned to Stamford House to show him his school reports, much as his own children had to do. He’s also grateful to his uncle Hans, who also survived the war being hidden in Holland, for pulling the strings to get them on board the train. Marion died a few years ago.

Although his immediate family survived, hans’ wider family did not. He has written an account of his life for his own two children: ‘The almost total destruction of the whole of your continental family should never be forgotten. These were people who had assimilated and were second and third generation German or Austrian, worked hard and raised loyal and moral bourgeoise families, and then had their trust in the state shattered when they were sent to their deaths. Why? The Nazis were determined that as Jews they had to be exterminated’.

Photograph above: Hans Danziger in the Therapeutic Garden of Grove Park Surgery, where he helps out.

A Haaaaand-Bag??

It’s a pity the Importance of Being Earnest is over at the Tabard. The producers would have had a lovely time looking for props among the catalogue of items on sale at Chiswick Auctions sale of luxury handbags on Tuesday 9 July. Possibly a little out of their league price-wise, as these three beauties are together expected to sell for a cool £70,000. How is that possible? Meg Randall, Head of Chiswick Auctions Designer Handbags & Fashion department, tried to explain it to me.

The story goes that Jane Birkin (she of the heavy breathing  in the French pop classic Je t’Aime with Serge Gainsborough in 1969) was on a plane and, reaching to get her bag out of the overhead locker, managed to tip its contents everywhere. What wouldn’t she give, she declared, for a decent handbag. It so happened that one of her fellow passengers was Hermes creative director Jean-Louis Dumas, who offered to design one for her. Legend has it that he knocked up a design there and then on a sick bag. The resulting handbag, which apparently takes 25 hours to make, went on to define Hermes.

The ‘Birkin bag’, beloved by film stars and princesses (not to mention Kim Kardashian West and models Miranda Kerr and Kate Moss) explains what makes a high value, luxury handbag. It’s the association with a famous name as much as the design, the quality of the leather or anything for which the designer might be responsible. The Birkin bag in Chiswick Auctions’ coming sale is ‘Mais Yellow’, made of crocodile skin and has a matte finish, which makes it a bit unusual apparently, enough for Meg to set the asking price at £22,000 – £26,000.

The ‘Kelly’ bag has a similar story. Also made by Hermes, this bag was in use long before the actress Grace Kelly took a shine to it. The late, great Hollywood designer Edith Head (who won a record eight Academy Awards for Best Costume Design) gave Kelly the bag to wear in To Catch A Thief (1854) and she asked to keep it after the filming. Famously, it appears in pictures of her shielding her pregnant outline from the paparazzi as she announced her engagement to Prince Rainier of Monaco two years later. The Kelly bag in the Chiswick Auctions is not ‘red’, but ‘geranium’ and is matte alligator. Its price is set at £26,000 – £32,000.

The ‘Constance’ (the blue one – and it is ‘blue’ in the catalogue) bears a special horseshoe stamp, indicating it has been custom made for somebody special. Its price is £8,000 – £12,000. The handbags on sale are brand new, never used, says Meg. So there are no discarded bus tickets in a hole in the lining in these bags. People buy them as investments. “They deserve to be taken out and shown off” she says.

You’d be gutted if you left one in a taxi though.

The Chiswick Auctions sale of luxury handbags, in association with Luxury Promise, is on Tuesday 9 July

chiswickauctions.co.uk

Constable drawing fetches £87,500 at Chiswick Auctions

A rediscovered landscape by the greatest English landscape painter, John Constable (1776-1837) sold for 14 times its pre-sale low estimate of £6,000 in Chiswick Auctions British & European Fine Art sale last week. The drawing is of a group of tall trees on a river bend, with willows on the far bank and a castle on a hill in the background, thought to be Framlingham Castle. The castle was thirty miles north of East Bergholt, where Constable lived, and was a subject he drew many times between 1800-1815.

This charming drawing was sold by Sotheby’s as part of the important sale of Dr. H.A.C Gregory’s John Constable collection in July 1949. The preface of the catalogue described the collection as: ‘The most important sale of Constable’s works that has ever taken place.’ According to the experts at Chiswick Auctions, Gregory was renowned for his discernment, only having the best works by Constable in his collection.

Among the clues which enabled Chiswick Auctions’ Head of British and European Fine Art, Suzanne Zack to identify it, were the paper on which it is drawn, made by Joseph Coles at Lower Wookey Mill in Somerset, which Coles ran from 1788-1833 and a watermark that was in use between 1805-1815.

Images above: Constable’s sketch of his wife Maria; Oil painting of John Constable, Daniel Gardner, 1796, Victoria and Albert Museum; The Cornfield, one of Constable’s most famous paintings, in the National Gallery collection

Another recently rediscovered Constable work in the sale was a pencil drawing of Constable’s wife, Maria Elizabeth Bicknell (1788-1828). She was the love of his life and she died at the relatively young age of 40, from tuberculosis. Constable preferred to do portraits of his friends and family, rather than commissions for strangers and when he painted their portraits the relationship between artist and sitter can be felt. He produced over 100 portraits in his lifetime.

The drawing is from the private collection of the family of art historian Ronald Brymer Beckett (1891-1970) and comes directly from them, by descent. Beckett pursued his interest in art for many years, collecting drawings by English artists. In 1956 he was instrumental in mounting and curating the exhibition John Constable 1776-1837, held at Manchester City Art Gallery. He loaned works from his own collection and researched and wrote the catalogue.

Commenting on the sale, Suzanne Zack  said: “It was thrilling to have the pleasure of researching and offering for sale such fascinating works by one of the finest English artists of all time. The result of the landscape shows just how popular they still are. We were also delighted to be able to have sold one of Constable’s most personal portraits, of his wife, which offers a direct insight into the artist and his works, beyond his well-known landscapes”.

The drawings had apparently been stored underneath the seller’s bed. Head of Valuations Liz Winnicott told me how prior to this sale, another woman had come in with two other small sketches which turned out to be by Constable and together sold for £90,000. You can see her video interview here.

 

Drive a car to mark Clean Air Day

There’s a war of attrition which continues almost daily on Twitter between cyclists (including Jeremy Vine with his 699K followers) and a couple of our local councillors. The subject matter is fairly niche, as it consists of skirmishes in the foothills of the Moral High Ground in the attempt to plant a flag on its summit concerning plans for the cycle path formerly known as Cycle Superhighway 9. It is occasionally quite funny though, as this week when Cllr Patrick Barr let slip on Twitter that he had driven his car to a meeting with other councillors to hand out leaflets about air pollution. He and Cllr Joanna Biddolph had both driven there (owing, they said, to their many commitments that day) to point out the error of their ways to other drivers over engine idling.

The cyclists had a field day.

The councillors were quick to explain.

But it was just too good an opportunity not to take the mick …

Mass clear up of the river

Comedian Bill Bailey was among those supporting a mass clear up of the river on Friday. More than 250 paddleboarders, organised by Active 360, the paddleboarding company based in the arches at Kew Bridge, fished all manner of plastic rubbish out of the Thames in what they think is the biggest clean up operation on a river by paddleboard.

Founder and director of Active 360. Paul Hyman, told me they organise regular clear-ups of the river and canals. They’re fully aware that as fast as they clear up, more plastic waste will be dropped and end up in the water, where it gets washed out to sea causing problems for wildlife, or gets snagged in the trees and bushes along the waterline, looking an unsightly mess. What they hope is that gradually people will change their behaviour and stop using single use plastics and chucking them away.

Active 360 are behind the In the Drink campaign which has been effective in persuading pubs, especially riverside pubs, to ditch plastic straws and single use plastic cups in favour of polypropylene ones which are more robust and can be returned for the repayment of a deposit. Environment Secretary Michael Gove recently announced the banning of plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds in England, except in specific circumstances for people with medical conditions. Paul welcomes this as a step in the right direction, but says it’s a tiny gesture which really only scratches the surface of what needs to be done.

Photographs by Robert Piwko –  robertpiwko.co.uk London Fire Brigade members stationed at Heston, casting a watchful eye over paddleboarders out for a bit of fun as well as a serious deep clean

Those who took part on Friday worked their way down to Richmond, where ‘Be Richmond’ – Richmond’s Business District – got behind the initiative and had organised pedestrians, including local school children, to help out by picking up litter from along the shore. Six of the pubs in the centre of Richmond have come together to use a shared cup, which can be returned to any of the bars, in a bid to reduce the amount of trash ending up in the river. That’s a great initiative says Paul. “Some people are really responsive. Others are just intransigent”. On his hit list are rugby fans who regularly invade Twickenham, leaving a mountain of plastic rubbish behind them, and some of the party boat operators in central London. We should all start demanding that the venues we use for entertainment stop using single use plastic, he says and gradually it will make a difference.

In the drink

active360

Active 360 are members of The Chiswick Calendar’s Club Card scheme. Should you fancy trying it out, take advantage of our discount here.

Great British Food Festival returns

After its successful debut last year, the Great British Food Festival is returning to the gardens of Chiswick House and once again they are offering holders of The Chiswick Calendar’s Club Card a great discount of 20% tickets.

Artisan producers, hot food, chef demos, Men v Food Challenges, Gin-Offs, Cheese-offs, Cake-Off, live music… All set in the lovely intimate walled garden area at Chiswick House, Friday 12 – Sunday 14 July.

To take advantage of the discount, just enter the promo code CAL20 when booking online here.

Event highlights of the week at the Bedford Park Festival.

Wednesday

The Bedford Park Festival continues this week with David Juritz’ Serenade and Supper on Wednesday (19 June). 

Internationally acclaimed flautist Paul Edmund-Davies joins fellow Chiswick resident David Juritz, Grammy-nominated guitarist Craig Ogden, and virtuoso cellist Adrian Bradbury for an evening of music by Bach, Paganini and Piazzolla.

Saturday

On Saturday John Scott and Dr Pamela Bickley lead a walk around Bedford Park with a commentary which takes in the history and the personalities of the area.

In the evening, London City Orchestra presents a D-Day Commemoration Concert with music including Walton ́s Spitfire Suite, HBO TV series Band of Brothers, Koussevitzky ́s Double Bass concerto with international soloist Valentina Scheldhofen Ciardelli and Prokofiev ́s breathtaking Symphony No. 6.

Sunday

On Sunday the festival concludes with Bedford Park Open gardens and afternoon tea at the Parish hall.

All this and more you can find in our weekly Highlights section here

Midsummer Jazz Cruise

Chiswick Pier Trust is celebrating the summer solstice, as they do every year, with a Jazz cruise on the River Thames. Enjoy a buffet supper and the sound of musicians Anacousis on your way down to Tower Bridge and back, this Friday (21 June). 

Leaving in daylight on a summers evening (7.15pm from Chiswick Pier) and returning watching the magic of London by night – could this be the perfect way to enjoy the River Thames on a midsummer evening? Tickets available here.

Brentford FC’s Farewell Griffin Park season backed by London Pride

Brentford Football Club’s final season at Griffin Park will be sponsored by London Pride. There is a longstanding connection between the club and the Griffin brewery, recently taken over by Asahi, going back more than a century. Fuller’s donated an apple orchard to the club in 1904 and the ground was given the name Griffin Park in recognition.

Pete Rowe, On Trade Sales Director at Asahi UK, said: “We are proud to be continuing our 115-year relationship with the club and to support the efforts of the team… We look forward to serving the flagship beer of Fuller’s Griffin Brewery to even more fans and visitors this season.”

London Pride is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, having been brewed at the Griffin brewery since 1959.

Fixtures for the Farewell Griffin Park season, presented by London Pride, will be released on Thursday (20th June).

Hammersmith & Fulham introduces free school meals

Too many children are going to school hungry and Hammersmith and Fulham council has decided to do something about it.

From September they will be offering free breakfasts and lunches to all primary school pupils and, in a move which is thought to be a first in England and Wales, they will also be offering free lunches in two secondary schools – Fulham College Boys’ School and Woodlane High School.

“It’s appalling that children are still going to school hungry in one of the world’s wealthiest capitals,” said council leader Cllr Stephen Cowan.

The cost will be covered by property developers ‘won by the council taking a tough approach in negotiations.’

Train strikes affect Chiswick services

Today is the first of five days of planned railway strikes on South Western Railway routes, including those into and out of Waterloo.

More than 3,000 trains are expected to be cancelled over the next five days, with further strikes threatened in the long running dispute between the RMT union and the train company.

The dispute is about the role of train guards and driver only operated trains. SWT says the union is causing ‘needless disruption’ while the union says the issue is one of passenger safety and it will not back down.

South West Trains say they’re hoping to run a half-hourly service between London Waterloo and Windsor & Eton Riverside (via Hounslow) between 08:00 – 20:00. (Trains leaving Chiswick at 29 and 59 minutes past the hour for Waterloo). An hourly service will run outside of these times. 

They also say there may be last minute changes which they will publicise on their information service here.

Pat Davies receives France’s highest honour

A Chiswick woman will receive the Légion d’Honneur, the highest French order of merit today (Tuesday 18 June) for her work during the Second World War. Pat Davies was one of the ‘Bletchley Girls’, working at listening stations around the coast, eavesdropping on German naval radio transmissions and relaying the content to the code breakers at Bletchley Park. “It was interesting work – exciting and serious in equal measure. We didn’t know the significance of the messages we passed on, but we knew the work we were doing was important” says Pat Davies (then Patricia Owtram).

Photographs above: Patricia Owtram in 1942; WRNS insignia; Patricia Davies as she is now

Pat joined the WRNS – the Women’s Royal Naval Service in 1942, as a volunteer when she was just 18. After a basic training course – “we learned to march and salute and learned the Admiralty rules. I remember it was during a heatwave and we had these heavy serge uniforms – not ideal”- she was chosen for special duties as a linguist. Pat had grown up in her grandfather’s house in rural Lancashire, with her parents and brother and sister and throughout the 1930s they had a succession of Austrian cooks and housemaids, Jewish refugees – “they couldn’t always cook, but they were escaping Hitler”. Pat spent a lot of time with one in particular, talking to her in the evenings, and as a result spoke fluent German, albeit with a slight Viennese accent, as she was told recently by a German radio host who interviewed her for the 75th anniversary of D Day.

Photographs above: Pat in her WRNS uniform; her photograph of WRNS colleagues tap-dancing; her photograph used for the cover of a book about The Bletchley Girls

Eavesdropping on the German navy

The navy had 26 listening stations dotted all round the east and south coast of England, in what had been small hotels and family homes. After initial training in Wimbledon, Pat started at Withernsea, one of the navy’s ‘Y’ stations in Yorkshire, listening to the conversations of German boats in the North Sea. “We had 12 German speaking WRNS, an officer in charge and one man – a naval signalman who looked after the equipment”. Working on shifts around the clock, their job was to transcribe messages on a teleprinter and send them to Bletchley Park. Most were in code – the famous Enigma code – and were conversations between the ships and their base or from a commander to a group of ships. The Enigma code was arranged in four letter groups, using a phonetic alphabet based mainly on names – Anton, Bertha, Caesar, Dora, Emil, Fritz and so on.

“We didn’t know what happened at Bletchley Park. We’d all signed the Official Secrets Act and we didn’t ask questions”. The first wartime Enigma messages were broken in January 1940, so all the time Pat was working, the messages she passed on were being decoded and added to the Allies’ information on German activities. The WRNS worked two at a time, writing down what they heard on a signaling pad, using radio receivers. “Mostly it was in code but some of it was ordinary speech. When they were in action they had no time to put it in code”. Even the mundane was potentially useful. “We knew everything could be important. Even one torpedo boat to another just saying they were going to be on shore leave next week”.

Pat learned Morse code and direction finding, so she could pinpoint the position of ships. She was promoted to Chief Petty Officer and passed the board for a commission, but was not allowed promotion as she was too useful where she was. She transferred to a station at Lyme Regis in the summer of 1943, where they listened to shipping off Normandy. “You could hear the German lighthouse keepers. They’d say things like ‘put your lights on at eight o’clock’ and you’d know there was a convoy expected”.

Photographs above: Notification that Pat had been accepted as a WRN; her WRNS identity tag; identity photos

From Lyme Regis she moved to Dover, where she had a grandstand view of the preparations for the Normandy landings from their clifftop perch. “We knew it was coming because Churchill was there. I saw him on the cliff top at eight o’clock one morning. He visited several times. They were trying to deceive the Germans into believing the attack would be at Calais, and it worked”. The WRNS watched as hundreds of empty landing craft and what looked like upturned tables, sections of the Mulberry harbour, a temporary harbour built to facilitate the offloading of cargo on to the beaches, passed by on their way up the Channel.

“We were not allowed to go more than 20 miles from base” she says. Despite heavy shelling of Dover and the adjacent anti-aircraft guns pounding away at the German bombers – “it was very noisy, rather annoying when you were desperate to get a night’s sleep” – she had what is termed ‘a good war’. “You were working with people your own age and we were invited to regimental dances. We saw a lot of the RAF”. Pat passed her 21st birthday at the Abbot’s Cliff station at Dover. The RAF popped over the Dublin to buy the gin. “I didn’t have a serious romance, though there were lots of them” she says.

When the German navy capitulated she transferred to London to work for the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force, under General Eisenhower. Her job there was to go through German official documents the army had sent back from mainland Europe, looking for potential war criminals. The British government recognised her service with the Victory medal. “I only got the Victory medal” she says, “there was another medal – the Defence medal for 1,000 days service. I’d done over 900, but not quite 1,000 so I didn’t get it. My sister got one. She was with the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (the FANYs) in Egypt, and she got one for serving abroad, even though she’d done less time than me, so I was rather aggrieved. I thought it was rather stingy”.

Photographs above: Pat’s Victory medal and Bletchley badge; friends in the WRNS; Churchill’s Spirit of Britain speech

The Labour government made amends in 2009 when Gordon Brown decided to award the Bletchley Girls with a Bletchley badge. Now Pat will be picking up an attractive metal star on a red ribbon from the French ambassador and celebrating with close friends and family by having tea at the Ritz. Pat Davies went on to work in the Norwegian embassy after the war and from there to Granada and the BBC. She worked for many years on The Sky At Night with Patrick Moore and it was she who developed ‘University Challenge’ into the popular quiz show it became. She retired in 1883 and lives by the river in Chiswick.

Photographs below: Pat wearing her Victory medal and Bletchley badge; Pat’s wartime photograph album; Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s recognition of her work; her album of photographs; Supreme Allied Command Intelligence Glossary; Pat’s name in a brick wall at Bletchley Park; Pat at her home in Chiswick; Pat with her WRNS friend Christian Lamb, author of a book on the WRNS; Pat and Christian with Huw Edwards, being interviewed for the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

Thanks to Pat for the use of her photographs.

Volunteer needed to run the 2019 fruit harvest

Abundance London is looking for a volunteer to run the 2019 Fruit Harvest (September-October) in Chiswick. The organisation has been putting together groups of fruit pickers with people who can’t cope with their garden’s bountiful harvest for several years. Now they need help.

Job Overview: A unique and wonderful opportunity to gain skills in management, horticulture and education whilst bringing joy to the local communityDBS certificate required. Several times a week you will take the tree picking equipment to the local primary school and escort a school group and their teacher to a tree owner’s garden, walking distance away. You will teach the children and supervise as they collect the harvest and bring all the fruit back to the school. You will be managing the online database of fruit tree owners (private individuals with a large fruit tree in their garden) and schedule tree picking sessions with several local school groups.

Interested? Contact Sarah Cruz at Abundance London: sarah@ddplus.net

Maxine Mawhinney interviews Finn and owner PC Dave Wardell

Police dog Finn has been in the news because a new law has been introduced, named after him. Finn protected his owner PC Dave Wardell from a knife attack and nearly died as a result. Ever since the attack three years ago, Dave has been campaigning for a change in the law to make it harder for those who harm service animals to claim they were acting in self-defence. The pair even went on Britain’s Got Talent to publicise the campaign. Last week the law was changed. “I’m immensely proud of him” Dave told journalists. Finn is now retired, but when he was working “he could be in a primary school for book readings one minute – and breaking up a pub fight the next”. Dave is probably alive to tell the tale because Finn defended him.

Maxine Mawhinney interviewed Dave for her online show ‘The Moment’ in October last year.

Getting back to fitness after childbirth

Guest blog by Cat Baxendale

I always dreamed of becoming a mother, but when the dream became reality, it certainly didn’t come easily. Monty’s grand entrance was 12 days late and at the end of a labour which stretched beyond 48 hours. With one dramatic, final big push and a pair of forceps, I found a strength I didn’t know I had and, having narrowly avoided a trip to theatre, I was holding my crying, healthy little bundle of joy.

As I lay there gazing in awe at the little miracle in my arms, little did I know of the brutal aftermath that would follow such a protracted and traumatic birth. I have been a personal trainer at the Hogarth for eight years and have specialised in pre and post-natal for nearly six. I had an idea of what was ahead of me on the journey to recovery and the safest ways to feel strong again, but what I learned through my own experience is that every single one of us is different and we all have a different story.

I was fit and strong and exercised throughout pregnancy, and I believe that gave me the strength and stamina to deliver Monty, yet my body took a very long time to recover. We all have a different birth experience, a different fourth trimester. When GPs give us a six week check up to confirm we are safe to exercise, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed if you don’t feel up to it physically or mentally. Our story needs to be considered. For me it took months.

My first step back into The Hogarth to exercise, I felt like a shell of the person I used to be. I feared people could see through my exterior exposing the weakness I felt. I lost all my strength. My core was none existent. When I coached other mums in the same position I would say “be patient, be kind to yourself, you have just created a human being! You pushed it out and now you’re keeping it alive. To top it off you’re dealing with a bucket load of hormones!” But I was much harder on myself. I was afraid that my body wouldn’t be able to do it again.

Yet I was greeted with such warmth, smiles and kindness. I felt a real sense of community which was such a beautiful reminder because at times, parenthood can feel incredibly isolating and lonely. Exercise has always been one of the key components of my week. Since having Monty it has given me that little bit of “me time” and helped me feel stronger and more energised to tackle a day of feeding, crying, winding and nappy changing! It is key to listen to your body, to not push your body before its ready. It takes nine months to make a baby it can take just as long to recover.

Photographs above: Cat’s fitness class and Cat with baby Monty

I began with gentle core-related exercises, staying clear of anything high impact. The cross trainer made me feel good and the bike helped gently raise my heart rate, which then brought that burst of natural endorphins. It was eight months before I felt ready to run again. When the time came to go back to work, finding child care that I trusted and felt comfortable with was the first anxiety-inducing task. Then there was the feeling of guilt for leaving my child. But I also felt excitement about having adult conversations again! I still feel waves of guilt for leaving Monty but now, as I wave goodbye to him he skips on in to see his child minder. Knowing he’s happy allows me to relax at work.

It took a few months to adjust to being back at work. I would feel an urge to check my phone a lot, and there were days when Monty waved me off with a smile and I would be crying inside. But this is parenthood for you. What is important is balance. I take so much joy from working in such a positive environment. I get to meet interesting people daily and help with their exercise needs. I get to talk to adults, finish a hot cup of tea on my lunch break and I also get a little me time. I always treasured the time I had with Monty but it has made me appreciate it so much more. My confidence has grown as each month has passed. I now enjoy teaching HIIT classes weekly, training my clients and teaching a mums’ class on the green. It’s a class for mums to exercise safely, with their child if need be, helping them to feel stronger and connect with other mums, knowing we are all in this together.

Cat is a Personal Trainer at The Hogarth. Follow Cat on Instagram @mummyfit_pt. Her mums’ fitness class on Acton Green Common every Monday at 10:15-11am for £10.

The Hogarth Club sponsors The Chiswick Calendar

The myths about breast cancer

Caroline Richardson is a breast surgeon at the Chiswick Medical Centre (private healthcare) and Kingston Hospital (NHS). She will be talking to women on Thursday from 6.30pm on 20 June at Chiswick Medical Centre, along with a dermatologist, a gynaecologist and a sports and medicine exercise specialist in a free session on Women’s health.

“We need to dispel some myths” Caroline told me. “One of those myths is that breast cancer is a disease which mainly affects young women. Not true”. 80% breast cancer cases occur in women who are over the age of 50 and in fact if you are under 30 and having regular periods and you go and see you GP, your GP may advise to wait until after your next period as the lump is likely to be due to hormonal changes.

“Another myth to be dispelled – most breast cancers are not treatable. Not true, they are” says Caroline. “People think they’re not, but they are”. Only 3-5% of women who present with symptoms of breast cancer at clinics actually have the disease. Sometimes women have growths called ‘fibroadenoma’ – an over growth of normal breast tissue – which are harmless. Of the tiny percentage who have cancer, the majority survive. According to survival statistics from Cancer Research UK, 78% women with breast cancer in England and Wales survive for 10 years or more after their diagnosis. The age group in which breast cancer survival is highest is 60 – 69 according to the latest figures (2009 – 2013). Other good news is that survival rates are increasing – survival rates have doubled in the last 40 years. So Caroline’s main message seems to be ‘don’t panic’, but obviously she recommends women to check their breasts for lumps regularly and act promptly if they find one.

Beyond that it is difficult to generalise. “Breast cancer is not just one disease” she says. “Some women are effectively cured. Some continue living with secondary disease and continue living for a long time with good quality of life”. There are some who die of course. There were 11, 563 deaths in 2016, the last full year for which Cancer Research UK has figures. That figure represents 7% of all cancer deaths in that year. The peak mortality rate for 2014 – 2016 was among the 90+ age group. These figures are comforting to a degree but should not inspire complacency. “Anyone with breast cancer needs a one on one conversation with their oncologist to understand the nature of their disease” says Caroline. My friend Diane, a fiercely intelligent American woman who died of breast cancer in her 50s comes to mind.

In other good news, the UK is apparently at the forefront of oncoplastic surgery, in which Caroline is a specialist. It means the reconstruction of breast tissue in an aesthetically pleasing way. “Apart from the scar you wouldn’t know I’d been in there” she says, with a measure of pride. Caroline doesn’t do reconstructive surgery on healthy breasts. That she leaves to others.

Why would people go private? I asked her. “The NHS do an amazing job but appointments are that bit quicker and more convenient” she says. We’re only talking a difference of maybe a couple of weeks, as the NHS target is two weeks from the GP’s referral to the first cancer clinic appointment, and there’s a drive at the moment to push that down to one week. Chiswick Medical Centre offers evening appointments, which the NHS don’t, and offers a one-stop clinic in which you can see Caroline or one of her colleagues, have imaging done immediately after, and go back and discuss the images all on the same day.

Why are survival rates improving? “Everything is getting better” she says – “better disease understanding, better surgical techniques and improved drug therapy – more effective drugs which are better targetted”.

What causes breast cancer? “We still don’t know the exact cause” she says but there is evidence of a an increased prevalence in post-menopausal women who are overweight. She doesn’t make any promises. Active, healthy, non-smoking, non-drinking women still get breast cancer. But there is evidence to suggest a link between breast cancer and fatty tissue. A healthy diet, regular physical exercise and moderating your alcohol intake are all to be advised. Yeah, they would be.

You can hear Caroline’s talk about breast cancer and meet her other colleagues talking about other women’s health issues on Thursday 20 June at 7.30pm at the Chiswick Medical Centre. (Free) tickets available here.

This article is content paid for by the Chiswick Medical Centre.

Letting Fees Banned

Guest blog by James Waight

Welcome to our latest Chiswick property market update. Despite the ongoing political saga and the complete uncertainty surrounding our departure from the European Union, the Chiswick property market has remained resilient. We recently sold a lovely three bedroom Victorian mid terrace on Seymour Road, receiving no less than six different offers. Instructing the correct Estate Agent and adopting a sensible pricing strategy are key if you wish to achieve similar results for your property. A bit like choosing the new Conservative leader, when instructing an Agent its best to avoid those who promise the world and stick with those who have a proven track record.

It is our pleasure to sponsor the Shakespeare in the Squares performance of a Midsummer Night’s Dream on the 6th July in St. Peters Square. For more information and to get tickets, please click here. We hope to see you all there. Last weekend we once again sponsored the beer tent at The Bedford Park Festival which took place on Chiswick Common. A great excuse to drink on the job and at the same time help support our local community.  All of these fantastic events are not distracting us from the job at hand – selling our lovely Chiswick properties. We have recently exchanged contracts on our 2nd house on St. Albans Avenue this year having received multiple bids on the property. From beginning marketing to exchanging contracts took a mere nine weeks!

The Tenant Fees Act 2019 commences from 1 June 2019 and bans most letting fees and caps tenancy deposits paid by tenants in the private rented sector in England. This should hopefully reduce the cost of renting for millions while causing a headache for thousands of Estate Agents, definitely a vote winning piece of legislation. If you are interested in more information about the Tenant Fees Act or interested in understanding more about the sales or lettings market, then please don’t hesitate to contact us, we can arrange for a complimentary Market Appraisal without obligation.

James Waight (third from the left in the photograph above) is Associate Director of John D Wood & Co estate agents in Chiswick. John D Wood sponsors The Chiswick Calendar.

johndwood.co.uk

Photograph below: House recently sold on Seymour Rd

Hounslow Council gets High Court injunction against Traveller encampments

Hounslow Council has attained a High Court injunction against Traveller encampments on council land throughout the borough. it will mean that police are able to move Travellers on much more quickly. Travellers have set up camp in Chiswick a number of times recently, in the car park of the Lendlease property at Empire House on Essex Place (pictured above), on Chiswick back Common, at Dukes Meadows and most recently (last weekend) at Stamford Brook car park at the end of Welstead Way.

Hounslow are following the example of Ealing Council, who managed to get an injunction granted after repeated incursions on Ealing Common; we have been seeing the result of the displacement of Travellers as a result. The current injunction is only temporary, for three months, so Hounslow is due back in court in three months’ time for a full hearing, to seek to extend it for a year.

Council leader Steve Curran told me that moving on the Travellers and clearing up after them costs Council Tax payers tens of thousands of pounds every year. It’s not just the caravans parking but a level of antisocial behaviour, criminality and illegal fly-tipping which has been a feature of the encampments also. “We are pleased on behalf of the residents and businesses who are adversely affected by these illegal encampments” he said.

There have been 38 incursions on council land throughout the borough of Hounslow over the past 12 months. The borough has a specially designated site for Travellers to camp, as it is required to do by law. This site is already occupied with a community of Travellers who Steve Curran says are well integrated in the local community and cause no problems.

 

 

 

Chiswick School Headteacher announces zero tolerance of bad behaviour

Head teacher of Chiswick School, Laura Ellener, has sent a letter home to parents promising a ‘new era’ for the school and has put both pupils and teachers on notice that she expects nothing but the best for the school. ‘This requires habit change and relentlessly focusing on behaviour’ she says.

Her declaration comes after sports teacher David Schramm was caught on camera in a drunken snog with a former pupil. The woman was 18 and had left the school two years previously, so he had done nothing illegal, but the release of the video on social media caused a flurry of disgusted comments. Laura, who took over the position of head at the beginning of this year, suspended him immediately and he has now left the school. He had been a popular member of staff and had worked at Chiswick School for more than ten years.

Here Laura sets out her vision for the school and what she expects from students and staff.

New Era for Chiswick School

Laura Ellener, Headteacher of Chiswick School

Chiswick School is at the start of a new chapter. I became Headteacher in January 2019, and I am committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure every student at Chiswick School achieves their full potential. Establishing excellence and demonstrating the highest standards of behaviour, teaching, and learning are non-negotiable, and will support Chiswick School to be a wonderful and exciting place for children. I have extremely high expectations, and just as there are no shortcuts, there are no excuses.

Our vision is to ensure that Chiswick School provides a high-quality education, so that all students can thrive in their chosen pathway. This requires habit change and relentlessly focusing on behaviour. Being respectful, learning kindness, and gratitude – this is what we expect from everyone. We expect children to line up in silence before entering the school. We expect every lesson to begin in total silence, and for children to be smart and well-equipped. I am proud to say that every visitor has remarked how different the school is and how calm our classrooms are.

These standards also apply to our staff: the way they present themselves, the language they use, and the way they interact with others. I understand that this has not always been the case in the past, and this is the beginning of a new era. I would like the community to be confident that I will not tolerate members of my team letting down the incredible children and parents at Chiswick School. A recent incident involving a member of staff was shared on social media. The incident has been dealt with very seriously, and we have made the relevant referrals and followed our procedure. As a consequence, this colleague has left the school with immediate effect. We won’t be commenting further on this matter on any other forum however I have personally responded to anyone who has contacted the school directly. I have also been overwhelmed by the support of existing parents who have seen the school’s progress over the last six months.

Being a teacher is one of the most important and rewarding jobs in the country. Teachers and parents need support and appreciation from society. Chiswick School now has a strong, direct, and no-nonsense Headteacher, and the staff and I are dedicated to making sure the school upholds the highest standards. I would ask that the community support us in our journey and understand that this will take time. Please have confidence that I and the rest of the staff will work tirelessly to provide Chiswick with the secondary school it deserves.

Everyone is welcome to come and see this change for themselves, and we are hosting open mornings in July. I am also available to the community, and love showing people around the school and talking about my vision that Chiswick School will be outstanding.

Open days are Wednesday 3 July, Tuesday 9 July, Thursday 26 September, Tuesday 1 October, Tuesday 8 October, Wednesday 16 October. There will also be an Open evening on Wednesday 9 October.

Rick Stein presents horticultural prizes

Celebrity chef, restaurateur and television presenter Rick Stein will present the prizes at the Chiswick Horticultural and Allotment Society annual Summer Show on Sunday 23 June. 

Held at the Trading Hut on Staveley Rd, opposite Chiswick School, entries are welcome from members and non-members, staging from 9.30am – 12.00pm and entry for exhibits is 25p. The show opens to the public at 2pm and prizes awarded at 3.45pm. There is barbecue at 1.00pm and tea and cakes in the afternoon. For more information go to www.growchiswick.org

Rick Stein, famous for his string of restaurants in Cornwall, Winchester and Sandbanks, is a supporter of the Chiswick Horticultural and Allotment Society, fresh local produce being key to his business.

New Chair of Chiswick House Trust

Sir Derek Myers has been appointed Chair of the Chiswick House and Gardens Trust. His background is public service, having worked in local government, including three years as Chief Executive at London Borough of Hounslow, and thirteen years in that role at Kensington and Chelsea.

Sir Derek is new to  the world of historic houses and said on his appointment: 

“I am pleased to be joining the Trust to work with all those who can help Chiswick House, as it approaches its 300th anniversary, to be recognised as the most beautiful, and most useful, Grade 1 listed House and Gardens in London.”

Chateau opens evenings for supper trade

Chateau, the cafe-restaurant in Chiswick High Rd which has gained a reputation for creating diverse and interesting salads and tasty healthy food, is opening in the evenings. 

The cafe will be offering Lebanese style mezze, Tuesdays – Saturdays from 6.00- 10.00pm (as well as their usual all day breakfasts from 8.00am and busy lunch trade) and as a special offer to The Chiswick Calendar’s Club Card holders, owner Anette Megyaszai is offering 50% off on evening bookings for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday of this week as long as you pre-book ad show up with your club card. 

Chateau is at 213 Chiswick High Road.

Reservations: 0208 742 2344

Bedford Park Festival Photography competition winner

This photograph of Eha by Sirli Raitma was the winning photograph in the Bedford Park Festival Photography competition this weekend.

The picture is one of a series of extraordinary portraits Sirli has taken of her mother. The project sees them scouring Chiswick car boot sale together for clothes and has benefitted both women in different ways.  Read more about Eha and Sirli on here

Photograph by Jon Perry

Silver and Bronze winners

Internationally acclaimed professional photographer Richard Bradbury chose the first, second and third prizes in the competition, selecting Jon Perry’s photograph of the Red Arrows fly-past as a close runner-up and Catherine Day’s image of a butterfly posed on a twig in third place.

 

Photograph by Catherine Day

This year for the first time you can see all 208 competition entries here on the website, including the winners in each category, chosen by members of the public.

 

Mastering Child Portrait Photography

The winners received vouchers from Snappy Snaps for printing and the overall winner also received a copy of Richard Bradbury’s brand new book ‘Mastering Child Portrait Photography’.

Richard, a former president of the Master Photographers Association, is one of the most sought-after photographers of children in the world and has raised more than £75,000 for Great Ormond Street Hospital with his ‘Children of London‘ books. 

‘Photographing children is not easy’ he says…’they move around, they look the wrong way, they dribble, sneeze and cry, and as any parent will tell you, they never do what you want them to do – at least not when you want them to do it’.

Richard’s book ‘Mastering Child Portrait Photography‘ takes the reader through the necessary: camera equipment, lighting, camera craft, composition, location and so on. I suspect it will be to future generations of portrait photographers the bible that Harold Evans’ ‘Pictures On a Page‘ was to my generation of photojournalists. Read more about Richard here.

From Corkscrews to Constables

Chiswick Auctions had a stall at Green Days. Their head of valuations, Liz Winnicott, told me the auction house on Bollo Lane now has more than twenty specialists in areas as diverse as handbags and Asian art. Over the weekend watches, jewellery, furniture and sculptures were among the items people brought them for valuation. They recently discovered two hitherto unknown sketches by John Constable among a dusty box of pictures brought to them.

The Importance of Being Earnest – Tabard theatre

I had the pleasure of attending the Tabard Theatre’s production of the Oscar Wilde classic The Importance of Being Earnest last Thursday night and I have to say I was not disappointed. The production chose to stay relatively true to the original play, staging the performance in a similar style to that of the 1895 Oscar Wilde performance, with the costumes and dialogue emulating the late Victorian style, a choice which I personally enjoyed and respected – after all why tamper with a classic?!

It must be hard to make your mark on a play which everybody knows: a farcical comedy following the story of Jack, who falls head-over-heels in love with his friend Algernon’s cousin, Gwendolen. However, in order to marry Gwendolen Jack must convince her mother, the formidable Lady Bracknell, that he is an appropriate suitor. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, given that Jack was abandoned as a baby and left in a handbag at Victoria Station!

The best known line in the play, which the whole audience is waiting for, comes when Jack reveals to Lady Bracknell how he started life. “A handbag!?” she exclaims in horror – now one of the most iconic lines in theatre history. However, in this production Lady Bracknell responds quietly, with her facial expressions conveying her disgust. This was a clever move, confounding expectations.

The play really took off in the second half for me. Despite the second act being almost twice as long as the first, time appeared to fly by, partly due to the introduction of Miss Prism and Canon Chasuble to the story. Jo Ashe and Dean Harris stole the show with their portrayal of these two characters, immediately grabbing the audience’s attention post-interval. Harris in particular brought in laughs even when he wasn’t speaking, from his reaction to other characters’  dialogue. His shivering and utterance of “brrrr” when the other characters were discussing cold chills was a particular highlight for me.

The cast kept the audience fully engaged throughout, not only with their line-delivery but with the breaking of the fourth wall to give bemusing looks tinged with dramatic irony. Samuel Oakes’ portrayal of Algeron added a further level of excitement to the play with his charming yet cheeky interpretation of the character, his exaggerated facial expressions and movement.

I would highly recommend seeing The Importance of Being Earnest, which is running until Sunday 23 June. The Tabard put on a fantastic true-to-script production of an Oscar Wilde classic, complete with tongue-in-cheek humour and excellent staging, making for an enjoyable and truly immersive viewing experience.

Behind the Art: Four new ‘Artists at Home’ explain why they’re opening their homes to the public

Every year for a weekend in June, Artists across West London open their homes and studios to the public. It’s a chance for visitors to discover new artists and speak to them about their work, and maybe find new art for their home. For artists, it presents an opportunity to expand their audience and perhaps sell some work. This year, four new artists take the total number of places for viewing to 77. I spoke to them about why they decided now was the time.

Sophie Aylward

Studio 54 (on the official map) is tucked away at the end of a residential street in Shepherds Bush. Steps down open onto a corridor revealing a modern open plan kitchen/living area… flooded with light and paintings. A sea of blues in a variety of tones and hues, predominantly oil paintings, but look carefully and you will find experimentations in gold leaf and charcoal too. Standing amongst the paintings is Sophie Aylward.

Sophie believes she’s always had an artistic leaning, but it fell to the wayside behind her career as a chartered surveyor. That all changed when she hit her early thirties. “I decided I wanted to set up my own business and have the time for something that isn’t purely one direction”, says Sophie. Being her own employer freed up time to dedicate to art work. When her partner directed her to a painting he’d seen and asked if she could create something similar, she created ‘Cubism’, which hangs behind the living room sofa, and a new era began. “Before I started my own company, I suffered a burn out from my former job, lots of stress and anxiety. The art works together with the business. I enjoy doing the work, but the art keeps me happy.”

There’s a reason why blue features so heavily in Sophie’s work too: “A lot of my holidays and experiences – as a child I lived down by the sea, that is why blue and water features a lot in my work.”  The skills behind Sophie’s seascapes have family roots. “My Grandma, Mary Oliver-Lawrence, has been an artist for decades, she is well known in Kent for her seascapes. I go down to her studio and she has taught me a lot of her techniques, she is the source of my inspiration.”

So why Artists at Home now? Sophie has sold work on commission, and would like to sell more. “I would love to go full time if it took off… if people wanted to buy the work. Taking part in Artists at Home allows me to test the waters.”

Saskia Daniel

Studio 50 on the map is not far away. On the first floor of the house is a small but efficient room which contains a shelf of completed work, a pottery wheel and a desk. It is home to potter Saskia Daniel. Fifteen years ago, when she was working full time with two children at home, an evening class kicked off a hobby, which helped bring a bit of peace to a busy life.

“I bought most of the equipment off Ebay… from a woman in Essex.” Saskia explains. But, she continues, as soon as she was set up, her motivation disappeared – “I sold things to my friends and at my daughter’s school. My studio became the place I dried my washing. Twelve years later, eighteen months ago, I decided it was time to see if I could still throw a pot.”

Saskia’s pottery is not about delicately carved figurines. That kind of work “leaves me completely cold” she says. “I like making things that people can use.” On her shelves are several mugs and jugs. “Pottery to me is tactile, about texture … I am more interested in a limited number of glazes … how I can make them look different, by applying them to different surfaces.” Saskia prefers a handmade look to her work, rather than Scandinavian-style pottery “so perfect it is almost indistinguishable from a machine”. For Saskia, a few imperfections that arise during the process can give the piece “a sense of uniqueness and character.”

Why Artists at Home? “I did not want to repeat my lack of motivation; if I have something to aim at … it might help” Saskia explains. She also hopes that her pricing – her mugs retail for £25 each – might be accessible. “People do not have to buy something, they can just come and look,” Saskia says, adding “often I don’t like my work … [when] someone else comes along and says they love it, it makes it all worthwhile.”

Eve Pettitt

Studio 40 is another Shepherds Bush flat, this one is decorated throughout with portraits and artworks, rich in colours, shapes and shadows. Eve took part in Sky Portrait Artist of the Year 2019, and while she didn’t win the series, she won her round and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson now owns the portrait Eve produced.

“I am passionate about colour,” Eve explains, “Even as a little child I wanted to wear bright coloured clothes and was painting with bright colours.” Shapes are important to Eve’s work – “the shapes create a rhythm around the canvas … your eye catches one shape first, then goes to another, and another.” She has no interest in simply making a photographical representation, her paintings are about shapes and patterns.

Eve doesn’t just paint other people – “My work is quite … biographical, it is emotive and about what I am feeling in the time … [that] is reflected in the colours I use.” Eve shows me a painting, “this piece with the three girls (gestures) … is about when I was at boarding school. It represents me as a girl growing up … locked away, looking to the outside world of nature and trees, but not being able to touch it.” Eve grew up in Dorset, but with a father in the Navy, they often lived all over the world. Painting, along with yoga, are where Eve is happiest and most present, she says, “ten hours can go by and you do not notice.”

With an established history as an artist, Eve tells us why she is undertaking Artists at Home: “I’ve lived here for a long time, I always go to Artists at Home as a visitor and I’ve loved it – I’ve always thought it would be fun to have a go and for local people to see my work.”

Jill Spearman

Studio 29 is a family home in Chiswick; the children are all grown up, but two in their twenties still reside with Jill. In a contemporary kitchen, where it is easy to imagine family dinners on weeknights, Jill takes me through her art work.

“In Washington DC, I went straight into painting landscapes… with oil and pastel… but never did portrait or figure painting.”, says Jill. After she returned to the UK, she attended London Fine Art Studios, and started doing portrait and figure work. She worked with the late Jason Bowyer, well known in Chiswick. “Working in Jason’s studio … was an inspiration … [previously] I had never done project associated art … or mark making with tools.” Jill explains. When it comes to her style, she tells me: “I am not in the camp of classical, I like to respond to things more instantly.”

I find myself drawn to a landscape depicting a scene in London. Big red buildings and buses contrast shadowy figures – commuters going about their daily business. A contemporary scene, painted in a timeless style where only the buses and traffic lights give away the date. Jill tells me the image came from a commute through Clapham Junction… “I walked home one night, the light was just amazing, so I took photographs. Through photographs and a combination of memory I made the picture, which is pastel on gouache.”

Jill now volunteers at the Blackfriars Settlement, working with visually impaired people; she is attempting to document the stories of the people she works with for her next project. Art is fast becoming a full time occupation, and she has a studio space down at Dukes Meadows. She poses for a picture, holding a painting of the local allotments.

So why Artists at Home, now? “I have spent three years as a visitor,” says Jill, “I previously didn’t feel I was confident enough”. But Jill has been honing her skills for a few years, and now it has given her “the confidence boost to have a go”.

Artists at Home takes place from Friday 14 to the Sunday 16 June. Details about the four artists above, and all others participating can be found on the website.

artistsathome.com

The Chiswick Calendar Raffle

Prizes

If you bought a raffle ticket from The Chiswick Calendar stall at Green Days and we’ve rung you to say you’ve one a prize, here are the fabulous prizes you can choose from, provided by our Club Card member businesses.

            • Active 360 – 2 hour paddle boarding lesson worth £59
            • Ballet 4 Life – 3 x dance classes of your choice worth £54
            • Casa Dino – 3 course meal for 2 with a glass of Prosecco
            • Chiswick Foot Clinic – Sports Pedicure worth £40
            • Clayton Hotel – £50 voucher for the Globe bar
            • Craig and Rose – Colour Consultancy worth £149
            • Decorexi –  Wine bucket with bottle of sparkling wine from The Good Wine Shop
            • Devco Fireworks – Box of fireworks
      • Greige – small indoor feature light
      • Hammonds – Food hamper
      • Hen Corner – Course of your choice (bread-making, jams and preserves, honey etc) worth £120
      • Mari Deli at Chiswick Mall – Coffee and croissant for you and a friend
      • One Over the Ait – £30 voucher
      • Sipsmith – Bottle of London Dry Gin
      • Sipsmith – Bottle of their new Orange and Cacao gin
      • Snappy snaps – Voucher for studio session plus print
      • Tabard theatre – Four tickets for a show of your choice
      • The Pilot – Two course meal for two and a bottle of house wine
      • Urban Pantry – a meal for two
      • Watermans – Two cinema tickets
      • Wheelers – A pink Hydrangea
      • Zen Maitri – Family Meditation class. 60-minute session with a maximum of 8 family members worth £120