Violence out in the open

Labour MP Jess Phillips says she’s had it explained to her in graphic detail what some angry men would like to do to her. She gets messages like this one: ‘Unless you change your attitude, be afraid, be very afraid… Wherever you are, keep looking over your shoulder … You and your Remain friends have been warned’ and messages which are much more explicit than that.

Paula Sherrif MP says she gets death threats ‘every single day’. ‘I’ve received death threats, I’ve received rape threats, I’ve been shouted at in the streets, I’ve had abusive phone calls’. 23 year old Neo-Nazi Jack Renshaw was recently jailed for life for making preparations to kill his local MP Rosie Cooper and a female police officer. He’d bought a 19 inch blade to slit the MP’s throat. As he was sentenced, one of his supporters in the public gallery said ‘we are with you, Jack’.

When Jo Cox was murdered she was shot and stabbed multiple times by a man with far right views. He believed people with liberal and left wing views were the cause of the world’s problems. He saw her as a ‘collaborator’ and a ‘traitor’ against white people. He used those exact words. Trigger words like ‘surrender’, ‘collaborator’, ‘betrayal’ are used by Boris Johnson and his coterie and repeated back by the perpetrators of hate crime. Jess was told she would be ‘dead in a ditch’ if she carried on expressing her views.

What part of this is ‘humbug’? This is not a bunch of hysterical women having a fit of the vapours over nothing. There is clearly a direct link between the use of inflammatory language by politicians and the upswing in violence particularly directed against left wing women.

Jess Phillips spoke recently at the Chiswick Book Festival about this targeted violence against women. She was talking to Joan Smith, who has written a book about domestic abuse and terrorism. Her research shows that the perpetration of violence against their own families is a common trait among men who go on to become terrorists, yet it’s not something which has been considered to any great extent by those whose job it is to identify terrorist suspects and prevent acts of terrorism. What they both had to say about the extent to which violence against women is routinely ignored was shocking.

What do the attacks in London Bridge, Manchester and Westminster have in common with those at the Charlie Hebdo offices, the Finsbury Park Mosque attack and multiple US shootings? They were all carried out by men with histories of domestic violence. Yet ‘terrorism is seen as a special category of crime that has blinded us to the obvious’ said journalist Joan Smith, author of the book Home Grown. Joan has done extensive research into the backgrounds of terrorists and says we should be looking for the obvious. The men who commit acts of terror don’t suddenly become violent overnight; they have a history of violence. That violence isn’t evident to police and intelligence officers because it’s hidden, or rather it’s overlooked. There are no red flags because violence committed within the home isn’t taken seriously. ‘The extraordinary link between so many tragic recent attacks is that the perpetrators have practised in private before their public outbursts’ she says.

From the Manchester bomber to the Charlie Hebdo attackers, from angry white men to the Bethnal Green girls, from US school shootings to the London gang members who joined ISIS, Joan Smith has shown that, ‘time and time again, misogyny, trauma and abuse lurk beneath the ‘justifications’ of religion or politics’. Now she says her work is being taken seriously and criminology departments at universities are asking for copies of her book. “The reaction has been ‘Oh, we’d better come and talk to you’” she told the audience at the Chiswick Book Festival. But before she pointed it out in 2017, criminal authorities routinely missed this connection, which should have been staring them in the face, because violence against women has become dangerously normalised.

Jess Phillips’ exposure to male violence is not a new thing. She told the audience at Chiswick Book Festival that she had worked for many years with Rape Crisis centres and every year on International Women’s Day she had taken to reading out all the names of women & girls murdered by men. “There’s been an outcry about knife crime, but no corresponding outcry against domestic violence against women. There’s a big action being taken by the Centre for Women’s justice at the moment because the incidence of cases being passed from police to CPS has fallen by 22% in the last year… Men get away with it and women give up reporting it”.

Joan’s book looks at a number of case studies. Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, the man who drove a 19-tonne cargo truck into crowds of people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice in July 2016, killing 86 people and injuring 458 others, “was a horrific abuser” said Joan. “Only after they (his family) had managed to get him out of the house did he take any interest in religion or jihad. He hadn’t been to a mosque until three weeks before”.

Darren Osborne, who killed Makram Ali and injured twelve others in the attempt to kill as many muslims as he could by driving his van into them outside the mosque at Finsbury Park “hadn’t shown any interest in politics before he was thrown out of the family home in Cardiff”.

Jess’s conclusion: “the narcissistic wound of being thrown out of the family home causes them to take up a cause to continue to be violent”.  “A long tail of violence leads up to men becoming terrorists. They don’t just snap, any more then they do when they kill their wives. There’s usually been a reign of terror” said Joan.

Haron Monis, the Iranian-born refugee and Australian citizen. who took hostages in a siege at the Lindt Chocolate Café in Sydney in December 2014, was another example of the pattern, said Joan. He was a serial sex offender. He said he was acting for Islamic State, but the Iranian government told the Australian authorities he was a con man. “He’d been in Australia 15 years. They charged him with 43 counts of rape because they found his stash of videos where he’d filmed himself and he was still let out on bail”.

Salman Ramadan Abedi, the suicide bomber behind the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017 which killed 23 people and wounded 139 others, had previously punched a muslim woman unconscious because he thought the skirt she was wearing was too short. He had no criminal record for that; he was just given a ‘restorative justice’ sentence, where he had to sit down with his victim and talk about what he’d done – a reaction which is in any case not considered suitable by women’s groups for sex crimes.

In interviews with returnees from Syria, Joan found that about half of them had become involved in ISIS because they’d wanted to own sex slaves. Elliot Roger, the 22-year-old Elliot Rodger killed six people and injured fourteen others at Isla Vista, near the campus of University of California, Santa Barbara considered himself “the perfect gentleman” said Jess. “He had a thing about blondes and couldn’t understand why he was still a virgin. He decided to take revenge because he couldn’t get a girlfriend”.

Jess has been on the receiving end of “huge long diatribes explaining exactly how they’re going to hurt and rape me” from men who disagree with her politics, so she’s very well aware of “a culture of grooming young angry men online”. Her conclusion, from long association with the violence of men, was that “victimhood of women is not seen as being unimportant. 177 women murdered in their homes last year. If there were 177 men murdered at football matches, football would be banned”.

In terms of public policy, Joan, who sits as the independent chair of London crime reduction board, has suggested an offenders register for those who have been violent within the home. The response was that it would be impracticable because it would just be too long. Jess’s suggestion is for young men who have grown up in violent homes to be flagged up in the Prevent programme, designed to spot radicalised would-be terrorists early on. “We don’t want people being targeted unnecessarily, but can’t be squeamish about terrorism” she said.

It’s interesting that within two weeks of this discussion, our Prime Minister was dismissing the idea that the language of betrayal is linked to threats of violence against women MPs as ‘humbug’.

Home Grown: How Domestic Violence Turns Men Into Terrorists is available in bookshops or online

Art auction this weekend

St Nicholas Church, Chiswick, is holding an art auction this weekend in aid of the church’s programme of building work.

What is now described as ‘old Chiswick’ developed as a village around the church from c. 1181. The tower was built at some time between 1416 and 1435 and the stonework of the church is now crumbling.

Art specialist Adrian Biddell has put together a collection of paintings, works on paper and sculpture which will be available to view from 10.00am on Friday (27 September) and on Saturday morning from 10.00am, with the sale taking place at 2.00pm.

Adrian is Head of Paintings & Fine Art at Chiswick Auctions.

You can view the auction catalogue here.

Macmillan coffee morning

The annual Macmillan coffee morning, ‘the world’s biggest coffee morning’ takes place this Friday (27 September).

Macmillan supports people with cancer.

‘We understand how cancer can affect people’s whole lives – health, money, family, job; everything. And, after more than 100 years of caring, we understand that the most important thing is to treat people as individuals, not patients.

So we take the time to understand the support people need to live their lives as fully as they can. From the moment of diagnosis and whenever we’re most needed, we’re here to help people find their best way through. Our help is totally focused on each individual person, so everyone receives the support that’s best for them’

The Express Tavern, by Kew Bridge, is holding a Macmillan coffee morning on Friday from 10.00am – 1.00pm.

The London Literary pub crawl reaches international audiences

The fame of the London Literary pub crawl, brain child of Chiswick resident Nick Hennegan, has spread far and wide, with articles in this week’s New York Times, Washington Post and Japan Today.

Artfully designed to appeal to tourists, the pub crawls, which run twice a week most weeks, take in the Newman Arms, the pub where George Orwell drank and which featured as the “Proles” pub in 1984 and the haunts of writers such as Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork Orange), Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf and Dylan Thomas.

“I did it for the Olympics originally” Nick told me “and it has just taken off”. Actors playing the roles of writers get through a surprising amount of information, as well as a not inconsiderable amount of ale.

Tickets are £24 but Club Card holders get a 10% discount. Get in quick before the hordes descend from the US and Japan.

You can find out more about the London Literary pub crawl here.

Reaching the audiences that other productions don’t reach

Like the characters in Pals, the play he wrote which is currently on at the Tabard theatre, (until Friday 27 September) Nick grew up on a council estate in south Birmingham.

He left Wheelers Lane Secondary Modern without any qualifications and after an unsuccessful career start as a police cadet, went on to a highly successful career in radio, hosting the Saturday night late show on BRMB.

He launched his Maverick theatre company in 1994 and since then has produced plays in pubs and arts centres, bringing live drama to new audiences who haven’t grown up with the habit of going to the theatre.

His present company of four young actors is performing Pals and Romeo & Juliet on alternate nights. Book Tickets here, with a £4 reduction for Club Card members.

Chiswick Garden ‘most important in UK’

Chiswick was once the home of ‘the most important garden in Britain’ according to Fiona Davison, Head of Libraries and Exhibitions for the RHS.

In the 19th century the Horticultural Society (before it became the Royal Horticultural Society) chose Chiswick to be their nursery, to which they brought exotic plants from all over the Empire and worked out how they could thrive in our climate.

‘They scoured all of London’ she told an audience at the Chiswick Book Festival last week, ‘and chose Chiswick because it has the most fantastically fertile soil.’

The area had been a centre for market gardening for centuries for the same reason, ‘so residents of Chiswick really have no excuse not to have lovely gardens’ said Fiona.

The Hidden Horticulturalists

Her fascinating book The Hidden Horticulturalists, The Untold Story of the Men who Shaped Britain’s Gardens tells the tale of the working class young men who applied to work at the Horticultural Society’s garden in Chiswick, based on hand written notes she found in a book in the RHS library.

Among them was Joseph Paxton, who was in his early twenties when he met the Duke of Devonshire, whose land adjoined that of the Horticultural Society. So thoroughly did he charm the Duke that he offered him a job on the spot, as head gardener at Chatsworth.

That was the start of a rags to riches career. He designed Crystal Palace and through his association with Prince Albert over the Great Exhibition, made connections which enabled him to end his life as a millionaire and an MP.

‘This little patch, 30 acres in Chiswick, was the most important place in the world for gardening. The East India company sent people off to get new samples and gardeners in Chiswick had to work out whether they were able to grow here’.

Chrysanthemums from China caused tremendous excitement when they realised they could get them to grow, and also Chinese roses, which flowered for much longer than native Western European ones (of which Dog roses are a good example).

‘We should be very proud of the gardeners and what they achieved’ she says. They developed the technology for making glass houses too, ‘though they fried a lot of plants by accident’ in the process, she says.

The Hidden Horticulturalists is available in hardback in book shops and online.

Lovebox and Citadel back next year

The Lovebox and Citadel festivals which were held in Gunnersbury Park for the second time this year will definitely go ahead in the park again next summer, say the organisers.

It was rumoured that the festivals were moving back to Victoria Park in Hackney, but they say, this was due to mis-reporting.

Gunnersbury Park has a five year contract and the festivals will be back next year.

Limerick Competition

The Chiswick Calendar has been running a Limerick competition, in partnership with the Chiswick Book Festival and Dr Sara Lodge, who gave a talk about the celebrated writer of nonsense verse Edward Lear.

I say, what a great competition,
Our readers have been on a mission
To write us some twaddle
On the Limerick model
And thus satisfy their ambition

Thanks to all of you for sending us your verse. Most of you can’t write poems which scan for toffee! (You’re not alone in this. Torin told me mine didn’t scan properly either.) But they’re good fun, and we’re really chuffed you took the trouble.

This one from Moyra Ashford has to get top marks for topicality:
Said Boris, famed author and hack
‘Your Maj, let us try a new tack,
With a little recess                                             
I can fix this sad mess,
I’ll Brexit before they are back’.

I rather like this one from Dr Bob Turvey as well, which he promises is ‘nursery clean’!
Said a writer of limericks, “Wow!
I need to write one on a cow.”
So he tattooed the side
Of a cow, but it died.
So we’ll never know what he wrote now.       

We’ve had Limericks about Yeats, Donne and Burns, Herman Melville and Harold Pinter. This one by Mary Sidney I think should have pride of place on the Book Festival website:
Chiswick’s the in place to be,
If literature’s your cup of tea.
Bookshops, there are many.
Reading groups, ten a penny,
And a festival held annually.

Our winner is Roy Kelly, who gives us this verse on Harold Pinter:
A playwright called Harold Pinter
roomed in Chiswick summer and winter.
He espoused political causes,
and wrote plays full of pauses
as quick as a prize-winning sprinter.

A book token is on its way to you sir.

Arts Ed wins award for supporting students

Arts Ed has won an award for mental health awareness and for supporting their students.

The performing arts industry has only recently recognised the vulnerability of artists to mental health problems. Performers are in and out of work and their calculation of their own self worth often hangs on their ability to get the next role.

New mental health awards have been set up just this summer, with actor Rosalie Craig, choreographer Arlene Phillips and choreographer and director Stephen Mear (Mary Poppins, the Little Mermaid) among the judges.

On Sunday Arts Ed learned they’d won the award for the best training institute in this regard, in association with Stephen Mear.

Director of Arts Ed Chris Hocking said they were ‘honoured’ to win, and to all new students starting with them ‘we can support you’.

Have your say on traffic management in south Chiswick

Fed up with your road being used as a rat run? Too much traffic? Residents in south Chiswick – ie. below the A4 – are being asked to comment on how they want traffic in the area to be managed.

Those of us who live in this bit of Chiswick know well the effect of being boxed in by the river and three major roads, unable to get out by car when the traffic is in gridlock.

Money from the Mayor’s office is being managed by Hounslow to create a ‘liveable neighbourhood’. Measures will be taken to stop traffic using residential roads to bypass major roads and to promote walking, cycling and the use of public transport.

‘School streets’ may be introduced, involving the timed closures of streets around a school to encourage more walking and cycling and dissuade parents from driving their kids to school.

Step one is to measure the amount of traffic in the area. You may have noticed strips across some of the roads attached to boxes to measure traffic volumes.

Step two is for you to click on this link and comment.

‘We want to hear about the streets and spaces within the project area. This can be what works well, and areas that you like, as well as the issues and problems you experience on a day to day basis.

‘Examples could include roads you don’t feel safe to cross, areas where you struggle to access public transport, or streets where you feel there is too much traffic’.

The consultation continues till early November and there are several drop-in sessions with traffic officers at St Paul’s Church hall, 64 Grove Park Road, W4 3SB on the following dates:
– Tuesday 8th October: 5-7pm

– Saturday 12th October: 10am – 2pm

– Thursday 17th October: 5-7pm

The development of the Grove Park ‘piazza’ outside Grove park shops and the Dukes Meadows footbridge under Barnes railway bridge are also part of the project.

RNLI increases funding from Chiswick

The RNLI were among those to have had a stall at Sunday’s Dog Show at Chiswick House. Dog walkers are among the top five groups of people they are called out to help, along with rowers and drunken young men.

The RNLI’s advice is that if your dog gets in to trouble in the water, don’t go in after it. Call 999 and ask for the coastguard and they will come and rescue the dog.

The RNLI nationally has been criticised recently for spending money helping people abroad. Tory MP Nigel Evans said the charity was ‘putting its reputation at risk’ by spending £3.3 million on projects such as teaching children in Bangladesh to swim. 

Hundreds of people withdrew their support, which in turn created a backlash. Author and journalist Caitlin Moran posted on Twitter last week: ‘My timeline is now full of people donating to the RNLI, in response to the mad hatchet-piece about them in Britain’s most dolourous newspaper. Nice to see the narrative reversed overnight by lovely people’.

It seems the lovely people of Chiswick have no problem with the RNLI spending 2% their income on saving lives abroad either. 

Volunteers on the stall on Sunday report that people they talked to were 5-1 in favour of it and the donations they received on Sunday were more than double the amount they received last year. 

The RNLI has a base at Chiswick Pier, the second busiest station in the whole of the UK and Ireland. It is funded entirely by charitable donations.

They have a fundraising cruise coming up on Friday 11 October, leaving from Chiswick Pier,  with a fish supper on board. You can book tickets here

 

Livia Firth hosts ‘Green carpet’ fashion awards at Milan Fashion Week

Livia Firth’s company Eco-Age has just co-hosted the Green Carpet fashion awards in Milan, to celebrate the best in sustainable fashion.

The glittering event was attended by some of the biggest names in fashion, including Stella McCartney and Dame Anna Wintour, and celebrities Sophia Loren, Pixie Geldof and of course Livias’s husband , the actor Colin Firth.

Sophia Loren presented Valentino Garavani, founder of Valentino, with The GCFA Legacy Award ‘for his iconic work spanning over five decades, championing Italian talent, design and fashion’. The award recognised the quality and durability of his label’s creations and the legacy of these pieces being passed on for generations – the opposite of fast, disposable fashion.

“It’s a beautiful moment”

Eco-age is based in King St, Hammersmith and was set up by Livia ten years ago to ‘enable businesses to achieve growth by adding value through sustainability.’

They work with a wide range of brands, organisations and NGO’s ‘to find solutions that really make a difference to the people at the very beginning of the supply chain’ and to promote them with consumers.

Livia told the Guardian’s fashion editor Hannah Marriott that when she launched her consultancy a decade ago “it was something no one was talking about” but that now sustainable fashion had “turned a corner.”

“It is a beautiful moment” she said, “but it is also very dangerous. Fast fashion is the first offender in sustainability and there is greenwashing at a level there has never been before”.

If you want to avoid big companies making outrageous claims about their green credentials which are not true, two places to look for truly ethical fashion labels are Fair Trade International and b-corp.

The Chiswick Book Festival 2019

According to Time Out magazine, Chiswick “champions creativity and community spirit… and it’s home to a lovely literary festival each autumn”.

“This small-but-perfectly formed festival in a chic pocket of west London packs a punch when it comes to speaker calibre”: says Red magazine.

Chiswick Book Festival is “just as good as Hay – and a lot nearer!” says one local resident.

All of the above were proved true again this year. Programme director Jo James and overall Director of the festival Torin Douglas put together a very varied programme of hugely entertaining and informative speakers. While the names were maybe not quite as starry as some years, the quality of the sessions was superb.

Read about some of the sessions in this year’s festival and read Torin Douglas’s guest blog about how he thinks it all went here.

Trio Manouche – change of date

The date of our next jazz at George IV gig has changed – due to circumstances beyond our control.

Trio Manouche will now be on Wednesday 9 October at 7.30pm in the Boston Room of George IV, 185 Chiswick High Rd W4 2DR.

Hot swing and Gypsy Jazz. Classics from the legendary Gypsy Jazz guitarist, Django Reinhardt, music from swing greats such as Nat King Cole and the band’s own highly acclaimed material.

Huge apologies for any inconvenience cause for the change of date.

Book your tickets here.

Greens choose Victoria George

Hounslow Green Party has selected Victoria George as their parliamentary candidate for the Brentford and Isleworth constituency.

Victoria has experience in NHS management and has lived in Brentford for twenty years. Her background is in public health education and policy.

On Brexit she says: ‘The Green Party believes people should have a vote on the final deal including the option of remaining in the EU’

On the building of a third runway at Heathrow: ‘This is a crucial time to persist with our stand on Heathrow. The community should not have to put up with more noise and traffic, and expansion contradicts UK climate change commitments.’

Parties gearing up for a General Election

Lib Dems select Helen Cross

The Liberal Democrats have selected Helen Cross as their parliamentary candidate for Brentford & isleworth. She stood in the European elections.

A businesswoman who specialises in the application of robotics to the future of work, she joined the Lib Dems after the 2016 referendum because she wanted to  stop Brexit. 

Her party is now committed to revoking Article 50 if they won a general election.

An Open Letter to the Conservative party

In an Open Letter to Chiswick & Brentford Conservatives, the Chairman of the Liberal Democrats in Chiswick said this:

‘Many (of you in the local party) will be pro-European, socially liberal conservatives who are horrified by Boris Johnson’s embrace of a Hard Brexit and Dominic Cummings’ willingness to throw our constitution under a bus …

‘To these, I say join the Liberal Democrats as Dr Lee has done. Help fight the anti-democratic lurch of Johnson’s government, its No Deal Brexit and his plan to impose a Third Runway, which will pollute our air and damage our health’.

Re-Inventing Edward Lear

Edward Lear is famous for his Limericks and poems such as The Owl and the Pussycat, but the father of nonsense verse was also a naturalist, a brilliant landscape painter, an experimental travel writer, and an accomplished composer.

Dr Sara Lodge of St Andrew’s University gave a session at the Book festival in which she attempted to rehabilitate him in our eyes as a polymath, illustrating his passionate engagement in the intellectual, social, and cultural life of his times.

Limerick Competition

The Chiswick Calendar is running a Limerick competition, in partnership with the Chiswick Book Festival and Dr Sara Lodge.

Thanks to those of you who have sent in your entries so far. We’ve had some great ones. They’ll be appearing on our website shortly.

If you haven’t yet put pen to paper, see how to enter on The Chiswick Calendar website. Director of the Chiswick Book Festival Torin Douglas and I have both had a go, ‘pour encourager les autres’! I’m quite sure you can do better.

You have until midnight on Wednesday (18 September) to enter. Book tokens for prizes. Read more here.

Neighbours to the rescue

What do you do when you’re expecting 200 people for lunch and neither the chairs, the tables nor the marquee has been delivered?

Despair? Shout? Some of us might give in to a little hissy fit. Not Lucy Cufflin. The veteran caterer stayed completely calm and summoned up a Plan B.

Despite an email confirmation and talking to them on the phone last week she says, at 9.30am when they were meant to deliver the tables and chairs for Sunday’s Turnham Green Terrace street festival and the road was about to be closed, The Rocking Marquee Hire Co were nowhere to be seen.

Step forward the Master Sha Tao Centre, St Peter’s Church and Lucy’s neighbours Marty and Sarah Robinson. After a hasty phone call Marty and Sarah picked up 15 trestles and 30 chairs from St Peters while the team from Master Sha Tao Centre ferried chairs and tables from Lucy’s basement kitchen studio all the way up the road. Fortunately the sun shone and there was no need for the marquee.

Whitmans, who sponsored the day with a donation of £990 to cover 200 chairs, 30 tables and a 22m gazebo, have said they want no refund. They’d like the money to go to the Cookbook festival charities instead, and for some to go to St Peters Church for coming to the rescue.

Who says Londoners lack community spirit?!

Citizens rock

There’s a lot to be said for a bit of citizen power. We have a widely respected book festival, a unique Cookbook festival which is growing in reputation after only two years and a rolling programme of community events and environmental improvements organised by Abundance London, all of which take a phenomenal amount of work, an attitude of positivity and collaboration and a certain amount of vision.

Gifted to us by a beneficent local council? No. The product of entrepreneurship and market forces? No, not that either. Just the result a few clever and committed people who’ve decided they’d like to see how they can improve their community and a whole load of other people who give up their time and elbow grease to help.

Good on yer.

So many memorable moments, so many vivid memories

Can it be just a week since I went to pick up the prizes for the Festival’s annual ‘Quiz Night at Fullers’ from Foster Books, the oldest (and most photogenic) shop in Chiswick High Road? Stephen Foster had kindly donated four copies of ‘A Vicarage in the Blitz – The Wartime Diaries of Molly Rich’ to reward the winning team. It is beautifully illustrated by the late artist Anthea Craigmyle, who grew up in the Vicarage of St Nicholas Church, where her mother was the vicar’s wife.

As I walked in to the bookshop, who should I see but John Rowe, the Chiswick actor who has achieved new fame – and great reviews – in The Archers, as his character, Jim Lloyd, has moved centre-stage. I offered him a complimentary ticket to our Archers Academics session, to be chaired at the weekend by Jane Garvey, and he accepted with thanks.

The Quiz Night in the historic Hock Cellar at Fullers Brewery is technically a ‘pre-Festival event’ because the opening night is always held at Chiswick House. It still got the Festival off to a terrific start on Tuesday evening. Quizmaster Alan Connor (former editor of BBC Two’s Only Connect) was on entertainingly cryptic form, urging teams to shout out as soon as they identified Harold Pinter, Iris Murdoch, John Betjeman and other names on the Chiswick Writers Trail. The brewery’s new owners, Asahi of Japan, were as generous as their predecessors and, with finger food from the wonderful Cookbook Festival team, a great time was had by all.

On Wednesday evening, we were at Waterstones for the Local Authors Party, where 20 writers are each given two minutes to ‘sell’ their books – or be cut off in mid-flow by a loud blast on a horn from Jo James, the Festival’s charming and indefatigable author programme director. 150 people gathered to hear a wide and inspiring range of speakers, among them Maggie Pigott, whose new book ‘How To Age Joyfully’ has a foreword by Dame Judi Dench. As if to prove her point, she was followed by Pat Davies who, in her mid-90s, has just been awarded France’s highest award, the Legion of Honour, for her wartime service, and spoke eloquently about the wartime memoirs of her father. Another speaker in her 90s was Lotte Moore, grand-daughter of AP Herbert, who still visits schools talking about her childhood memories, Lotte’s War.

James O’Brien of LBC Radio, currently one of Chiswick’s most celebrated authors, took his 2-minute turn and signed books downstairs, generating a long queue down the High Road. Waterstones sold more than 75 copies of his book ‘How To Be Right’ – a proper reward for the hard work of manager James Barber and his team, who were to sell many more books over the next few days. Local distillery Sipsmith donated cans of gin and tonic, to mark the launch of its own book – ‘Sip: 100 Gin Cocktails’, and we also gave a platform to Better Mental Health in Chiswick to launch its new initiative, the Read Well Book Club, which attracted great interest.

On Thursday evening, some 250 people came to Chiswick House to hear one of the Festival’s favourite authors, AN Wilson, talking entertainingly about his new biography ‘Prince Albert: The Man Who Saved the Monarchy’ – a follow-up to his sparkling 2016 Festival appearance discussing Queen Victoria. An exhibition highlighted Albert’s own visits to Chiswick House, notably 175 years ago in 1844, when he hosted a fete for the Tsar of Russia and 700 of the great and the good – described at the time as one of the finest fetes ever seen in England.

On Friday evening, the focus switched to Bedford Park and St Michael & All Angels Church, where another Festival favourite, Max Hastings, spoke about his new book on The Dambusters to an audience of around 250. As a preamble, he showed a clip from the 1955 film which helped build the legend and he asked our new sound team to turn up the volume on their excellent equipment. The pews shook as the aircraft prepared to unleash Barnes Wallis’s deadly bouncing bomb – an unexpected precursor of life as it may sound in Bedford Park when the Third Runway gets underway and the flight paths change! Max was in his element – delivering a pitch-perfect lecture – to the delight of the audience. “Even better than last year” and “Max never disappoints” were two of the comments as people filed out into the night.

Meanwhile at the London Buddhist Vihara, 100 yards away, Cahal Dallat was giving a lecture about one of Chiswick’s two winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature – ‘WB Yeats in Utopian Bedford Park’. The building was, from 1877 to 1939, The Bedford Park Club, where Yeats’s father, painter John Butler Yeats, joined in debates with fellow artists, writers, critics & political thinkers; where the young WB Yeats witnessed the pageants that were to inspire his drama & co-founding of the Irish National Theatre; and particularly appropriate, Cahal said, because of Yeats’s search for a spiritual dimension, in Hindu & Buddhist literature & teachings.

At 8pm, we were in another of Chiswick’s iconic venues – the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation Theatre at ArtsEd in Bath Road. The session there was ‘Remembering Richard Briers’ – Chiswick’s own national treasure – with the actor’s daughter Lucy; his friend and Ever Decreasing Circles co-star Peter Egan; and Richard’s biographer James Hogg. It was a wonderful evening – warm and full of very funny anecdotes about Richard appearing in an commercial for his local garage and how Lucy first introduced him to Kenneth Branagh, who transformed his later career by casting him as Malvolio, then Lear and as the blind man in his film of Frankenstein with Robert de Niro. There were occasional tears too, as they recalled a last lunch with Richard just before he died – and we watched a TV clip (including black and white pictures of a very young married couple), in which Annie Briers recalled how she had to improve Richard’s diet, after discovering he used to fry everything, including scones!

And so to the weekend itself, where we were blessed with beautiful weather and made the most of the green space around St Michael’s. It was filled with marquees (for the Cookbook demonstrations and children’s events) and gazebos containing the famous Book Festival cakes (and sandwiches and savouries); valuers from Chiswick Auctions; books and merchandise from the Cookbook Festival and a raffle from The Chiswick Calendar; and representatives of the three Festival charities – InterAct Stroke Support, Doorstep Library and, for the first time, The Felix Project which distributes surplus food, that would otherwise go to waste, to charities and schools.

Plenty of room too for the queues that formed ahead of the most popular sessions – most notably for Cressida Cowell on the Sunday, when over 350 children and parents lapped up her inspiring talk and then queued again for well over an hour in the sunshine for her to sign their books.

Along the Bath Road, we had a new venue – the ‘early years annexe’ of Orchard House School in Rupert Road (famous for many years as the Wendy Wisbey Dance Studio). The first speaker there was local novelist and former Blue Peter presenter Janet Ellis (watched by daughter Sophie Ellis Bextor and family and many others). Later came the eagerly-anticipated session on Women In The Archers, chaired by Jane Garvey – and that was where I met up again with John Rowe. He was slightly late and Jane had begun her welcome as he arrived, so I escorted him to a seat in the front row. Apologising for interrupting her, I introduced him with four words – “John Rowe, Jim Lloyd” – and the whole audience erupted in spontaneous applause, to John’s great surprise.

Just one of the highlights of an unforgettable weekend, which helped reinforce the Observer’s recent verdict that ‘Chiswick may be Britain’s most literary location’. Thank you to everyone who helped make it happen.

An Ode to Localism

 Guest blog by Cllr Gary Busuttil

I have lived in Chiswick since I moved to London 11 years ago. When I moved here, I instantly fell in love with the place, for its tree lined streets, and for the vibrancy and variety of shops and local businesses along its high street. On reading an article in The Guardian on the 11/09/19 headlined Retailers urge ministers to step in as high street store closures soar, I identified with the problem. I have noticed in the past couple of years that many businesses, some of them who have been here many years, have left the area or suddenly closed, leaving more premises vacant than at any time in the 11 years I have lived in the locality.

Many years ago, there was talk about our dying high streets; this threat was from the growth and popularity of out of town shopping centres. Today, the threat to our high street comes from a whole multitude of factors: the prominence of online shopping, increasing rent and business rates, the squeeze to local government funding and the conversion of commercial premises into residential ones.

According to Centre For Cities, a leading think tank dedicated to improving the performance of UK city economies, “high streets are made up of businesses that serve the local market. When we talk about the state of our high streets, we tend to be talking about the visible health of the wide range of local businesses and services”.

In 2014, before I was elected Councillor for Southfield Ward, a much-loved local store was due to be turned into residential property. Marie’s Store on Cunnington Street is not just used as a place to buy food stuff, it is at the heart of community of which it serves. It provides a notice board which allows local residents to gain employment, to buy and sell unused items and find out about community events, and it acts as a place to collect parcels when people are out. But more importantly it provides a community service that large chain stores, online shopping, or out of town shopping centres cannot emulate: a local “ear” about vulnerable residents and ensuing they are safe and well. This reminded me the importance of attracting and maintaining businesses in our communities, and in many ways this is what local high streets do, all be it on a larger, perhaps slightly less personal scale.

Though some factors are beyond our control, Centre For Cities mentions some of the ways that can help facilitate improving the high street; and that is by improving the public realm. High Streets should be supported to revive their centres and empty spaces with different amenities to attract footfall, such as providing libraries, leisure centres, playgrounds and parkland. Southfield Lib Dem Councillors have recognise this, and over many years, we’ve campaigned to keep such amenities like libraries open, and have used funds provided by the ward forum to improve our parkland, to facilitate footfall to our high streets, as to keep our communities attractive, safe and vibrant.

 Cllr Gary Busuttil is a Lib Dem councillor for Southfield ward

Man in the Middle – Chapter 4: The Kettle

A middle aged man decides his elderly mother can no longer cope alone. Squeezed by the demands of the demographic time bomb and the requirements of the rest of the family, the Man in the Middle is bemused that life has become a hi-wire act, just when he thought it should start getting easier. How can he keep everyone happy and survive with his sanity intact?

If you’d like to begin at the beginning and missed the first instalment, you can read
No. 1: The Letter here

No. 4: The Kettle

Somewhere in the world, there is always a Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition about to open. Which means somewhere, someone is always blathering on about Da Vinci’s genius for imagining scuba gear, the helicopter or whatever, years before they actually became a reality. Mother is listening to one such review and she is not impressed. Mother values domestic things more highly than scuba gear or helicopters. She can see – theoretically – their value, but they’re not-of-her-world anymore.

‘If he was that smart he’d have invented the electric kettle.’

If the British Museum asked Mother to curate an exhibition, it would be about kettles and items which make life easier for older people. Scuba gear wouldn’t make her longlist and helicopters would only be considered if they were air ambulances because she can imagine a use for them. An electric kettle would be in her top ten because it delivers two quotidian essentials – Tea and Hot Water Bottles. It would rank a close third in her League of Useful Things close behind her Bed and the BBC.

Hot water bottles are important because she claims to be constantly cold, despite the fact her central heating is always full on. She wears a faded brown flannel dressing gown over her clothes and hugs a hot water bottle to her chest whenever we go round to make sure we get the point.

‘It’s like Siberia in here,’ she says. ‘I don’t think the boiler works properly. Can you get someone to fix it?’

There’s nothing wrong with the boiler. Its lights are green and its flame is lit.

Son, who is thinking of joining Extinction Rebellion, asks if she realizes how many polar bears she is killing with her selfish desire to avoid hypothermia while drinking flagons of tea. He suggests I tell her to put on more clothes and install a smart meter.

‘You can’t smart meter a person, darling,’ Wife says, only half listening. ‘Even if you could, I am not sure it would reduce her energy usage.’

‘And if she put on more clothes, she’d keel over,’ says Daughter. ‘She’s barely seven stone.’

‘Is she on a renewable energy tariff?’ says Son.

‘Of course,’ I say.

It’s a lie. She isn’t. But the next morning I change the utility contract to a renewable tariff scared that Son or Extinction Rebellion may single me out for accelerating the climate apocalypse. Unfortunately, the changeover will take a month. I wonder if Son will discover my lie before the contract changes.

‘Don’t be stupid,’ says wife. ‘He can’t find his shoes and socks most mornings. How is he going to find out what energy contract your mother has? All the same, let’s steer clear of David Attenborough programmes for a while in case it reminds him.’

Ultimately, I am more worried about Mother scalding herself than her kettle’s contribution to climate change. Every time she makes a cup of tea, I hold my breath. Her hand trembles like a gambler shaking dice. Her wrist is frail, her arms thin. Older people have the most fatal injuries from burns and scalds and boiling water is a big factor in this. Her kettle is a threat as well as a comfort.

Mother turns off the radio and goes to fill the kettle.

‘Do you need a hand with that?’ I ask.

‘No. I may not be Leonardo Da Vinci but I am perfectly capable of making a cup of tea,’ she says.

First published in Age Space

agespace.org

Read the next in the series – No.5 The Will here

2019 Cookbook Festival

Fact – we have to eat to survive, but the question is whether we eat to live or live to eat? I, of course am firmly from the second camp and have spent the last 30 odd years in the kitchen trying to persuade those from the first camp to join me in the second.

I come from a foodie family. When I was small enjoying an exotic lasagne my mother had made of minced beef, veal and chicken livers, my friends had never ventured beyond a fish finger, so I count myself lucky to be exposed to great food early on and it has stayed with me ever since. As I got older, I realised not everyone had been blessed with such a culinary start in life and began sharing recipes with everyone and anyone I met. I spent 14 years creating recipes for Skiworld and their ski chalets – recipes that would be achievable for even less experienced hosts, but still exciting to cook and delicious to eat – quite a challenge, but it led to 2 cookbooks and a belief that anyone, and I mean anyone, can fall in love with food and cooking it. To date I’ve helped over 5000 chalet hosts find their feet at the beginning of the season so when my friend and fellow cookbook author, Jo Pratt’ suggested we might start a cookbook festival to spread the love of cooking and of a good cookbook I jumped at the idea.

So here we are, year two, and we’re still as passionate about passing on our love on for food and recipes and, just as last year, we do it all for charity – every penny raised goes to local good causes. Jo and I, along with another eight amazing dynamic local women we are ‘The Cookbook Festival.’

Trine Hahnemann Copenhagen Food, Mira Manek Prajna. Photographs by Charmaine Greiger – charmainegrieger.co.uk

This year we kicked off with the outstanding festival launch supper hosted by Henry Harris at The Crown on Chiswick High Road on 4th September. He and his guest chefs – Rick Stein, Valentine Warner, Joe Trivelli, John Chantarasak, Oli Brown and Mitch Tonks! – gave their time and cooked their socks off. We salute you, Henry and we deeply thank our guests!

Moving on to this weekend, personally, I loved being a ‘lady who lunches’ when the Danish Food Revolution came to Chiswick in the form of Trine Hahnemann. She brought her hand-made rye bread and hand-cured salmon (among other delights) which elevate the sandwich to the heavens, a whole lot of hygge here at home! We LOVE local! We had two local foodie legends on Saturday: Beloved food writer Lindsey Bareham cajoled local butcher Rodney Macken of Macken Brothers into creating a festival sausage just for us. She gave us chapter and verse on how to serve it (3 ways!). Next up was Elisabeth Luard; she has lived all over the world and has come home to roost in West London! She shared her wealth of knowledge and experience as a botanical illustrator to travel and food writer to Chair, Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery. I was all ears and tastebuds!

Star TV baker Juliet Sear concocted a magnificent ‘Blousy Blooms Bunting Showstopper’ 2-tier cake on Saturday, 14th September and I for one learned a host of new cake decorating techniques – fabulous! Saturday night was real highlight for me with two of my favourite food writers square off against one another in our headlining Great British Food Off: UK food vs. EU food! Matthew Fort and Felicity Cloake didn’t settle any of the larger issues at hand but they both were possessed of a passion for British food and a love of travel to foodie destinations; it was a scrumptious evening. The Festival drinks party where the canapes were expertly created by local caterers, Truffle Hound, from Matthew and Felicity’s recipes they discovered on their travels round Sicily and France.

Photographs by Charmaine Greiger – charmainegrieger.co.uk

Sunday saw our very own local star, Jo Pratt, fresh from Pub in the Park, demonstrating recipes from her Flexible Pescatarian cookbook, a follow up to her sell-out, Flexible Vegetarian. Her recipes are always tasty and always work – my biggest pet peeve!

We got stuck in on Sunday, being part of the organisation team with Abundance London for the great Street Party on Turnham Green Terrace. All our months of preparation paid off with what was a fantastic event enjoyed by so many.

So I guess it is a big thank you to all of you who joined us at the Cookbook festival or the Street Party and what more is there to say other than roll on next year!

www.cookbookfestival.org

The Chiswick Calendar Raffle

These are the fabulous prizes ranging from bottles of champagne to a studio photoshoot:

Abundance London – Chiswick Timeline book (Claimed)
Aram Picture Framing – Small picture frame (Claimed)
Bayley and Sage – £20 Voucher (Claimed)
Chris’s Fish Bar – Voucher for 2 portions of fish and chips (Claimed)
Cookbook Festival – Books: The Flexible Pescatarian, Lucy’s Food 7 Lucy’s Bakes
Côte Brasserie – £80 Voucher (Claimed)
Covent Garden Fishmongers – Voucher for half a kilo of smoked salmon (Claimed)
Elias and Grandsons – Leather bag (Claimed)
Fudges Cycle store – Children’s scooter worth £83 (happy to swap for another colour!) (Claimed)
Good Boy cafe – £20 Voucher (Claimed)
Gourmet Burger Kitchen – 2 x Voucher worth £20 (Claimed)
Greige homeware – £30 Voucher (Claimed)
Hack and Veldt café – Voucher for a platter of food for 2 and a bottle of house wine (Claimed)
High Road Brasserie – £50 brunch voucher (Claimed)
John D Wood estate agent – Bottle of Champagne (Claimed)
LA Menswear – Three Chiswick W4 T shirts (man, woman and child) (Claimed)
L’Appetit Fou – Box of Belgian chocolates (Claimed)
Lemon and Limes – Fruit basket worth £35 (Claimed)
Lizard Fashion- £30 voucher (Claimed)
Luminis Beauty Salon – Voucher for 30 minute massage (Claimed)
Marmalade Jewellery – Silver necklace (Claimed)
Naturalmat organic bedding – 2 x Organic wool pillows (Claimed)
Oxana Fashion – Scarf (Claimed)
Pizza Treat – £20 voucher (Claimed)
Post Room Cafe – £20 voucher (Claimed)
Postmark cards –  £10 voucher (Claimed)
Snap Dragon Toys £15 voucher (Claimed)
Snappy Snaps – 1 x Voucher for custom framing worth £50, 1 x Voucher for studio photo shoot worth £120 (Claimed)
Spa and Massage – Voucher for 60-minute massage (Claimed)
Sushi Bar Makoto – £20 Voucher (Claimed)
Sweaty Betty – 1 x £25 Voucher (Claimed) 1 x £10 Voucher
The Massage Centre – Voucher for 60-minute massage (Claimed)
Thorgill’s estate agent – Bottle of Champagne (Claimed)
Turnham Arts and Crafts – 20 piece sketching kit and sketch book (Claimed)
Wheelers Garden Centre – Basket of Hydrangeas (Claimed)
Whitman & Co estate agent – Bottle of Champagne (Claimed)
Windfall Natural – Bag of eco-friendly goodies, containing a Chilly’s water bottle, beeswax food wraps, Richmond Park honey, Bambooth eco-friendly toothbrush (Claimed)
Zen Maitri Natural Health Apothecary – Voucher for hamper of natural health products – make your own choice (Claimed)

First green shoots appear at Brentford Community Stadium

The work on the pitch at our new home has progressed over the past few weeks and the first green shoots can now be seen. Brentford FC will be moving to a new stadium next summer and the final countdown to the departure from our historic Griffin Park home is now underway. The latest milestone to be ticked off is the first signs of the playing surface.

The structural work at the stadium was completed earlier this summer and the first seats have now been installed. Construction of the pitch started in June and is continuing quickly. The area that will become the pitch was cleared and levelled before drainage and undersoil heating was installed. The stitching of Artificial grass fibres have commenced and grass seed will soon be going down.

The pitch will be used to host football matches and also rugby union with London Irish having agreed a licence to play at Brentford Community Stadium. The latest technology is being used to construct a playing surface that can service both sports. Soon, the full green pitch will be in place and will be prepared for test events in 2020 before the official opening.

The 17,250-seater stadium and associated development commenced in Quarter Two of 2018 with the Club’s development partner – and new principal partner – EcoWorld London, and its stadium principal contractor Buckingham Construction Group Limited. The Brentford Community Stadium development is an important part of the wider regeneration of the area known as Brentford East. It will deliver a stadium together with more than 900 new homes, a new purpose-built location for Brentford FC Community Sports Trust, and a public square with shops and cafes.

 

Cookbook Festival offer

The Cookbook festival is offering holders of The Chiswick Calendar’s Club Card a fantastic deal – 50% off the events where there are spaces left, not including workshops.

As well as the Friday lunch and supper, that includes Persian cooking with Saliha Mahmood Ahmed, ‘Saffron in the Souks’ with John Gregory-Smith and Recipes and Stories from my Thai home with Kay Plunkett Hogge on Saturday 12 and The Flexible Pescatarian with Jo Pratt on Sunday.

Just enter the promo code COOK2019 when booking. The offer is available from today until midnight on Thursday 12 September.

Hounslow Greens fielding two candidates

Meanwhile the Greens have announced ‘Whilst Jacob Rees-Mogg lounges indolently on the government front benches Hounslow Green Party is preparing for a General Election.’

Hounslow Green Party will field two candidates, one in Brentford and Isleworth and one in Feltham and Heston, and expect to be announcing the candidate for Brentford on Isleworth on Sunday 15 September, ‘ready for the most important election for years’.

The Green Party is calling for a People’s Vote to settle the issue ‘once and for all’.

Chiswick Book Festival this week.

It used to be a weekend festival but it’s kinda spread. The Chiswick Book Festival kicks off tonight (Tuesday)  with the Quiz night at the Fuller’s Griffin Brewery. The ticket price of £25 per head (you need a team of four)  includes two pints of Fuller’s beer and finger food from the Cookbook Festival team. 

The Local Authors’ night is at Waterstones on Wednesday evening, with James O’Brien signing copies of his book How to be Right downstairs at 6.30pm.

Historian AN Wilson will speak about his book Prince Albert: The Man Who Saved the Monarchy at Chiswick House on Thursday evening at 7.00pm.

Then it’s into the full glorious mayhem of the weekend, with How to Train Your Dragon author Cressida Cowell heading up the Children’s festival, and a great line up of historians, politicians, journalists and novelists talking about their books on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

To name a few … Max Hastings on the Dam Busters Story; Tim Bouverie on Appeasing Hitler: Chamberlain, Churchill and the Road to War; Andrew Lownie on The Mountbattens; Lindsey Hilsum and Paul Conroy on Life and Death with Marie Colvin; Tom Mangold on The Profumo Affair; Ken Livingstone on Livingstone’s London and an illustrated talk by David Parker on Laurie Lee: The Lost Recordings to mark the 60th anniversary of the publication of Cider with Rosie.  

Next week there’s a session at Chiswick Library with crime writers Asia Mackay and Deborah O’Connor on Monday 16 September. The final event of this year’s festival How West London Rocked the World is on Wednesday 18 September at 7.00pm at Gunnersbury Park Museum.

Browse the Chiswick Book Festival website for details of these and many more events.

Man dies in fall from Kew Bridge

One man has died and another is in a serious condition after they fell from Kew Bridge Monday lunchtime. They went into the water at about 12.35pm.

The RNLI Chiswick crew pulled them from the river, but one was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after. The second man remains in a critical condition.