Aimee Fuller and Katya Jones share their experience of Celebrity Hunted

Image above: Katya Jones and Aimee Fuller on stage at Chiswick Cinema

Raising money for Stand Up To Cancer

Aimee Fuller and Katya Jones were in Chiswick on Tuesday night (23 April). The Olympic snowboarding champion and Strictly Come Dancing dancer came to Chiswick Cinema to talk about their experience on Channel 4’s Celebrity Hunted before the live screening of episode five, to raise money for Stand Up To Cancer.

The current series is nearing its end. Celebrities ‘break out’ of a prison in pairs and travel the country trying to avoid capture. These two were on the run for two weeks and survived almost to the end of the series.

They appear to have had a blast. They burst onto the stage at Chiswick Cinema in satin and sequins, with a spectacular lift worthy of their athletic prowess, chucking random bits of clothing into the audience and spraying the place with confetti.

Images above: Making an entrance


They talked about how they had ‘survived’, showing clips of out-takes, and how they had become close friends and clearly loved every minute of it. The charity raised £1,230 on the night.

They also met the Hunters for the first time, many of whom were in the audience. The Hunters include professional police and a psychologist as well as the muscle who are sent to find them and grab them from wherever they have been hiding.

Also in the audience were other celebrity supporters: TV presenter Jenni Falconer, former World Cup alpine ski racer Chemmy Alcott, sports reporter Caroline De Moraes, and England cricketer and commentator Ebony Rainford-Brent.

Image above: The Hunters in the audience

Evading the Hunters

Aimee and Katya described how they broke out of Shrewsbury prison, losing “a couple of hair extensions, a couple of nails, a shoe, our grace and all our dignity” in the process, but beating comedians James Acaster and Ed Gamble by a full seven minutes working out how to get out.

They started out in a motorbike and sidecar, “living out our Dumb and Dumber dream” and were helped by Nigel Pritchard and his team at Pritchards garage to get out of Shrewsbury and on to Oxford.

The hardest thing was hitchhiking, they said, which you might think odd for two such attractive women. They also had to persuade people to put them up overnight. Two young men were happy to oblige but had to rescind their offer when their girlfriends vetoed it.

Image above: Celebrity Hunted Chiswick Cinema audience

The kindness of strangers

Several of the people who helped them were in the audience, including the Pritchards and the Flower family.

“The kindness and generosity of people was one of the best bits”.

Tory, who overheard a dejected conversation, popped her head out of a window and said: “you sound like you need help”.

“We stayed in her loft and had beautiful conversations.”

They went by motorbike on back roads to Carlisle and planned to stay with Katya’s Strictly Come Dancing partner Ed Balls, only the Hunters got to him first, so he had to head them off. It is quite refreshing to find a politician who is such a hopeless liar.

Images above: Aimee & Katya; Bobby Seagull

Getting caught

In the audience also was Bobby Seagull, the mathematician who became well known through University Challenge. In the episode he and his celebrity partner went to his college in Cambridge for refuge but had no chance as Youtuber Saffron Barker kept being recognised and posing for Instagram shots.

The live show saw Aimee and Katya caught in woodland, waiting for a lift from a man they had persuaded to help them. “We were gutted”.

“As a former athlete the ultimate goal is victory,” said Aimee.

The Hunters paid the compliment of telling them they had been different to catch: “You were off grid for days.”

Honour had been served. They survived until the penultimate episode. The show was fun, and quite emotional at times, but best of all their friendship remained intact.

If you would like to make a donation to Stand Up To Cancer, Aimee and Katya’s Just Giving page is still open here: cancerresearchuk

Celebrity Hunted for Stand Up to Cancer in on Channel 4 at 9pm on Tuesdays.

Image above: Channel 4 Celebrity Hunted guests

If you would like to find out about live events at Chiswick Cinema, the films they have coming up and live Q&As, sign up to their weekly newsletter here: Chiswick Cinema newsletter

Vertical farming comes to Chiswick

Image above: Greenhaus team Harrison Pritchard and Nick Stace

A response to climate change and the fragility of food production

“What is ‘vertical’ farming?” I hear you ask. Indoor farming, with controlled temperatures and lighting, simulating ideal growing conditions, but organised in such a way that you can stack crates of plants up a wall, so that many more are grown per square foot of land.

Why do we need it? So that growers can make the most of available space, leaving traditional growing on farmland (‘horizontal’ farming) for the crops that cannot be grown this way, such as wheat and barley and potatoes.

The thinking is that with climate change jeopardising the production of food, we will be more self-reliant, rather than being dependent on imported food. You only have to look at the temperatures in southern Spain this week, which has just recorded the hottest April temperature on record at 38.8C, with the prospect of forest fires and drought, to see the wisdom in this.

It also cuts down on food miles, providing food which is as local as it could be, as fresh as it could be, without all the associated transport costs.

Vertical farming has been tried and tested in America, where it is big business, and now it has reached Chiswick.

Greenhaus Farms is a small start-up company which has a shipping container full of plants in the car park at Chiswick Business Park. Harrison Pritchard and his two co-founders Nick Stace and Georgie Harper-Wilde have been operating there since last September. This is their pilot scheme, and if all goes well they are hoping to expand across London and throughout the UK.

“We are growing something which will be ready every week” Harrison told The Chiswick Calendar. “We realised during Covid how fragile the food system is. It is getting more difficult to import from Europe, so we want to bring things as local as possible.”

They produce a full harvest every week, which they plan to continue doing all year round.

Image above: Greenhaus basil and rocket, grown at Chsiwick Park

“As fresh and local as can be”, available from Sam’s Larder on Turnham Green Terrace

They started selling their produce two weeks ago, initially just to Sam’s Larder on Turnham Green Terrace, where you can find their rocket and basil and soon also their lettuces.

Harrison has a degree in Biology and a masters in Plant Science from Southampton University, and his career so far has been in renewable energy, working with solar power and on large scale battery projects for Tesla.

Is it not a waste of energy to be growing plants indoors, where you could be utilising sunshine and rain?

“Using energy is only bad if you are getting it from bad sources” he said. They use 100% renewable, courtesy of Octopus energy.

“Vertical farming uses a lot less water” he told me. “It uses 95% less water because we circulate the water on a closed loop.

They were attracted to Chiswick Business Park because of their green credentials:

“They are quite good at making sure there isn’t any waste where there doesn’t need to be and quite good also at energy efficiency”, although the business park does not have solar panels on their buildings to produce thier own energy.

Why the plastic packaging? “Packaging is a nightmare” said Harrison. “Ideally we would like to sell it without any packaging, but it doesn’t keep fresh and the biogradable alternatives aren’t airtight.”

At the moment Greenhaus Farms is growing basil, parsley, rocket and coriander, lettuces and red vein sorrel. Their produce is “price comparable with high end supermarkets”, by which he means about 20% more expensive than M&S or Waitrose, but he says it is very high quality.

They have chosen to partner with Sam’s Larder because of the reputation of Sam’s Riverside restaurant and Sam Harrison’s reputation for being a champion of community initiatives. He buys vegetables from Hammersmith Community Farm.

Image above: Herb trimming

Harvests every seven weeks

As the plants are permanently growing in optimal conditions, with the warmth and light of a perfect spring day, (20-21 degrees during the day) they tend to grow big, and he says you will notice the stronger flavours and brighter colours.

What happens if there is a power cut? That would be disastrous, he says, although the Business Park does have back-up generators. They have experienced some teething problems, which is why they are taking it slowly.

They have started selling to restaurants and in time they would like to sell direct to consumers from the Business Park. Meanwhile they are sometimes to be found at Chiswick Food Market in Dukes Meadows, but they are not there every week.

A couple of other questions I had. Why the purple light? They just provide the plants with the red and blue mix of the colours of the spectrum they use. And do plants need sleep? Yes, they do, so they turn off the lights for eight hours over night.

From seed to harvest the process only takes seven weeks and they will keep going all year round.

Sam’s Larder is a member of The Chiswick Calendar’s Club Card scheme. See their Club Card offer here: Sam’s Larder Club Card offer.

Chiswick School nominated for Secondary School of the Year award for second time

Image above: Chiswick School

Shortlisted for the prestigious TES School Awards

Chiswick School has been shortlisted as Secondary School of the Year in the prestigious TES School Awards 2023. It is the second year they have been nominated.

The school has been recognised for its exceptional performance and maintaining continued excellence over the past 12 months. This award looks beyond academic achievements, encompassing the wider life of the school, the community, and opportunities provided to students.

Headteacher Laura Ellener expressed her delight in being shortlisted again and said she considers it an honour to be included among the most outstanding individuals and institutions in the education sector.

Chiswick School has also been shortlisted for two other awards. The Excellence in Creative Arts award reflects the extraordinary reach of the Creative Arts department at the school and in the community.

Image above: Chiswick performing arts students at the opening of the footbridge underneath Barnes Railway Bridge

School projects have ranged from a sustainable garden to paintings on Chiswick High Street, and music performances at community events. The school’s Creative and Performing Arts Coordinator, Tommy Robinson, has been shortlisted for the Subject Lead of the Year award. He has led community outreach of the Creative Arts department and directed a number of plays and musicals in the previous year.

The judges of the TES School Awards look for innovation, imagination, and efforts to develop children beyond the league tables when shortlisting schools for the Secondary School of the Year category. The shortlisting is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the students, staff, and parents of Chiswick School.

The winners of the TES Schools Awards will be announced on 23 June at a gala ceremony at London’s Grosvenor Park Hotel. The awards aim to showcase the vital role played by education professionals in every facet of the country. Teachers, leaders, and support staff all play an essential role in schools, and the awards give them recognition for their contribution to the education sector.

Image above: Tweet from Chiswick School

“A real honour” says Headteacher Laura Ellener

Headteacher Laura Ellener said:

“To have been shortlisted for a second time is a real honour. I am so pleased that all the staff, students and the families at Chiswick School have been recognised for their achievements. The shortlisting looks beyond our excellent academic results and encompasses the wider life of the school, the incredible community that supports us and the opportunities provided to the amazing young people that come to Chiswick School.”

Image above: Students at Chsiwick School

“Incredibly high quality entries” – TES

TES editor and chief judge of the TES Schools Awards Jon Severs said:

“With these awards we honour the education community, whom we have served for over 112 years. This year has seen some incredibly high quality entries. So every teacher and school who has been named in this shortlist should be very proud – it’s a fantastic achievement.

“We are looking forward to showcasing, as we do every year, just how vital our education professionals are to every facet of this country. Teachers, leaders and support staff all play such an important role in schools: this is our chance to say thank you for all that they do.”

Sam Harrison nominated for a Catey award

Image above: Sam Harrison with Fanny Stocker

The Oscars of the hospitality industry

Sam Harrison, the owner of Sam’s Riverside restaurant in Hammersmith and Sam’s Larder in Turnham Green Terrace, has been nominated for a Catey award.

The prestigious awards, the Oscars of the hospitality industry, (so called because they are organised by The Caterer magazine) will be held in July at Grosvenor House and are celebrating 40 years this year.

Past winners include such luminaries as Gordon Ramsey, Rick Stein and Tom Kerridge in the Chef category. Like the Oscars, there are awards for every aspect of the industry, 20 categories covering everything from Best Marketing campaign to Lifetime Achievement. Sam has been nominated in the Independent Restaurant of the Year category.

“There is some pretty stiff competition” he told The Chiswick Calendar. He is up against Adam Handling, Adam Handling Group; Clare Smyth, CS Hospitality; Markus Thesleff, Thesleff Group; and Rebecca Mascarenhas, Elystan Street, Church Road, Kitchen W8, and Home SW15 and Flour + Water.

There are several Michelin starred establishments in that list.

“It’s a really nice thing to have been nominated” Sam told The Chiswick Calendar. “It’s recognition, a pat on the back.

“The Cateys send out an email to all their subscribers. I imagine people have nominated me for having survived. I’m a little fish amongst the big ones. It shows there’s some good stuff being done in the suburbs.”

Sam’s grocery store in Chiswick, Sam’s Larder, is a member of The Chiswick Calendar Club Card scheme.  See their Club Card offer here: Sam’s Larder Club Card offer.

Family friend makes documentary film about Ali Abucar Ali

Image above: Ali Abucar Ali proudly shows off his driving test certificate

‘Baby Brother’

It is a year and a half since Ali Abucar Ali was fatally stabbed on a street in Brentford, aged 20. A jury has just found he was killed by Norris Henry, a paranoid schizophrenic.

Ali’s brother Hassan is the subject of a documentary made by a friend of the family, Nail Adam, called Baby Brother, in which he speaks about how he first heard it was his younger brother who had been attacked and killed and what it had been like for him trying to come to terms with his loss.

Nail is submitting the documentary to film festivals all over the country over the summer and will then make the short film available to watch on YouTube in the autumn.

“Ali was 20 when he died”, Nail told the audience at the screening at the BFI on Friday (28 April). “Try and remember what you were doing at 20 and think about the time from then until now – the experiences, the people you’ve met, the laughter, the love. Ali’s story means he is not going to experience any of that.”

Image above: Hassan with Ali

The two started filming at the beginning of November, around the time of the first anniversary of Ali’s death. They did not go into how or why he died, not wishing to compromise the investigation, but concentrated instead on what Hassan was doing that day, how he had missed repeated calls from his mother and his sister, worried they could not get hold of Ali; how a friend called to say his grandmother Betty had also been attacked; and how it still had not sunk in that the reported stabbing in Brentford had anything to do with his ‘baby brother’.

He spoke movingly about their relationship, about his brother’s determination to do well in life, and the horror as it gradually dawned on him it was his brother who had been killed. Washing his brother’s body in preparation for the funeral was the hardest thing he had ever had to do, he said, but he wanted Ali to be cared for by someone who loved him.

Ali had been a student at Chiswick School and was studying accountancy at Kingston University, while working overnights at Amazon for money and coaching basketball in his spare time.

More than a thousand people turned out for the Janazah funeral prayers for Ali Abucar Ali at the Darussalam Masjid and Culture Centre in Southall on Friday 19 November 2021, among them students from Kingston, representatives of Chiswick Schools and members of his basketball club the Chiswick Gators.

The Go Fund Me page set up by Abdulsattar Abdi Aden raised more than £100,000 for projects in his memory.

Image aboe: Hassan; ‘My Baby Brother’

It was thought at first that Ali had gone to 82-year-old Elizabeth Walsh’s aid. At the court hearing in April, the court heard Henry had stabbed her with a 25cm knife and then as Ali approached, he said, “you want it as well?”, and stabbed him in the chest. Betty has since recovered from her physical injuries, but Ali was pronounced dead at the scene.

They were both just in the wrong place at the wrong time, said Hassan. They do not know whether Ali had been stabbed because he tried to help her, it was an idea put forward by a witness at the time, but the two attacks happened within two minutes of each other. The court heard Norris Henry, 38, attacked them without any provocation and that he suffered from delusions that people around him wished him harm.

The attack happened on the day he was due to receive a mental health assessment. Ruth Cadbury MP told the audience at the screening there were investigations currently on pause until the legal proceedings had concluded, which would look at why Henry was in the community in that state of mind. People in the local community had raised concerns about him before the attack happened and he was known to the police.

Ali’s sister Hawa said: “He was reported so many times”.

Images above: Ali’s family; mother Amina

Ali’s mother Amina told the audience the audience just as the wounds were beginning to heal, the court case had brought it all back again, “like a wound that’s opening up every time.”

She has not yet gone back to work, unable to face people and cope with their concern, and she is unable to sleep at night if any of her other grown up children are still out.

Elizabeth Walsh, a popular character well-known locally, has recovered physically, but is still suffering mentally from the attack and has lost her independence.

Hassan said their religion told them they must forgive, and he was striving to do that, but was not ready yet. The family hopes some good would come out of the investigations, resulting in better mental health care provision.

Roadwork changes A4 / A316 weekend of 29 April – 1 May

Grove Park railway bridge works postponed

The Traffic, Transport and Parking team at Hounslow said on Friday (28 April) they had received notice from Transport for London that the scheduled works this weekend on Grove Park Bridge are no longer able to proceed due to Network Rail permission issues.

Work started on 21 April on the Grove Park bridge, which carries the A316 Great Chertsey Road over the railway between Barnes Bridge and Chiswick train stations. The repair works will be carried out until early October 2023 by TfL staff on weekdays from 8.00am to 5.00pm, and on some weekends when the railway is closed, for 24 hours a day.

Traffic restrictions reinstated

“Given there will be no works to the Grove Park Bridge and no need for TfL to close the northbound side of the A316 this weekend, the Council no longer need to suspend enforcement of the Hartington Road, and Staveley Road access restrictions on Monday 01 May (8am – 7pm).”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

Nurses to hold 24 hour strike over pay after legal challenge cuts action short

Image above: nurses are set to strike in England; library image

“We cannot provide the care that patients deserve”

Nurses in England are set to hold a 24-hour strike starting from Sunday (30 April), in protest against what they say is an inadequate pay offer by the Government. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) organised the walkout in response to the Government’s ‘failure to provide reasonable wages’ to the nursing staff.

On Friday, a High Court judge ruled that the proposed 48 hour strike was partly unlawful, which led to the decision to shorten the strike by a day. As a result, the strike will now end on Monday rather than at 8.00pm on Tuesday.

Steve Barclay, the Health Secretary, took legal action after NHS Employers said the last day of the planned strike was not covered by the mandate as the ballots closed on 2 November at midday.

Sammi Fuller, a representative for the RCN working for Imperial College Healthcare Trust, told The Chiswick Calendar that the strike is “a last resort.” She said nurses are struggling to make ends meet, with some forced to rely on Universal Credit to get by. She added that nurses’ pay has decreased in real terms by 20% since 2010, leading to staff shortages and increased workloads, which affect patient care and safety.

“Short staffing is increasing workload and directly affects patient care and safety,” said Sammi.

“We cannot provide the care that we want to give our patients – the care they deserve. The stress is leading to burnout and sickness, and the rubbish pay is increasing the staff vacancies and compounding the problem.”

“I’ve had colleagues leave to work in budget supermarkets because the stress levels working there, and work-life balance, is much better. There are staff who don’t want to work nights and told they must. There are staff on the same wards who’d love to give up days and work those night shifts, and told they aren’t allowed.”

Image above: Sammi Fuller; Imperial College Healthcare Trust, Sammi (right) poses with nursing activists; Twitter

Current nurses’ pay offer covers “about a fifth” of cost of living increases

NHS nurses in emergency departments, intensive care, cancer wards, and other wards will be participating in the walkout. This is the third strike by nurses this year. On the previous two occasions, there were exemptions, and nursing cover was maintained in critical areas.

The RCN had originally planned for there to be no exemptions during this strike, but in apparent U-turn on Saturday, nurses are now due to work in an emergency capacity in dozens of hospitals across England.

The Government offered a 5% pay increase for 2023-24 and a one-off payment of at least £1,655 to top up last year’s salary, depending on staff grade, which was rejected by 54% of the RCN members.

“In the last 2 years my bills have gone up massively,” Sammi said. “Electricity costs have almost doubled, rent has gone up £300 per month. Council tax, internet, childcare, all gone up. But my pay offer, after tax, was about a fifth of that increase” she added.

The RCN has said that it will ballot members for further strike action once its current mandate expires. Other unions are also consulting members on the pay deal, which is being offered to all NHS staff, other than doctors and very senior managers.

Image above: Bill Bailey visits the Charing Cross RCN picket line in December 2022; Twitter

Legal challenge “a slap in the face” for nurses

After last Tuesday’s High Court judgement, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy announced that its members had accepted the deal by 65% to 35%. The biggest health union, Unison, has also backed the deal, as has the midwives’ union. But the union representing radiographers has rejected it, along with the Royal College of Podiatry.

RCN chief Pat Cullen expressed her disappointment over the decision to cut the strike short, saying that it was “the darkest day” of the dispute. She added that the Government needs to engage in meaningful negotiations with the nursing staff to address their concerns. Downing Street responded to the ruling, saying that it was “regrettable” that the Government had to go to court and that it had tried to avoid it.

Sammi said the Government’s legal challenge was a “slap in the face” and condemned what she described as the Government’s agenda for nurses. She said:

“Steve Barclay and NHS England have really shown nurses how little we mean to the Government, and this legal challenge is a slap in the face. He’s used a mandate that would only have expired 8 hours to bring out a whole challenge to prevent us striking at all.

“The Government’s agenda for us is pretty obvious, and whilst some people have a “don’t like it, leave” [attitude], you’re talking about nurses with 10-40 years experience in the NHS. You’re not going to replace them very easily. More people are leaving the register than joining, and overseas nurses, whilst incredibly valuable, still need people to train them!” 

All the health unions are scheduled to meet with ministers on Tuesday to reveal whether a majority of staff back the Agenda for Change pay deal. It is expected that the GMB, one of the biggest unions involved, will announce on Friday that its membership has accepted the Government’s pay offer. If the GMB accepts the offer, it is highly likely that a majority of health unions will back the deal.

Chiswick’s Conservative councillors demand rethink on Grove Park LTN decisions

Image above: Signage for the Grove Park traffic measures

Call-in will consider whether correct procedure was followed in implementing Grove Park LTN

Conservative councillors on Hounslow Council have requested a ‘call-in’ of the most recent decision on traffic measures in Grove Park, officially requesting the decision be reconsidered.

The call-in, signed by Chiswick’s eight Conservative councillors, requests a sub-committee of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee consider whether correct procedure was followed.

The Cabinet meeting of 18 April decided to abandon a proposal to reopen access at Burlington Lane, which Leader of the Conservative Group Peter Thompson welcomed in the meeting, but both the Conservative group and the Grove Park residents group are still unhappy with various aspects of the Low Traffic Neighbourhood restrictions.

They say the decision-making process was flawed due to inadequate consultation, absence of evidence upon which to base the decisions, and a lack of proportionality to the desired outcome. They want the measures implemented by the Cabinet Member responsible for transport, Cllr Katherine Dunne, to be rethought.

The call-in has been set for Thursday 4 May, and a panel of councillors will hear it. They may endorse the Council’s decision, refer the decision back to the full Council or ask the decision maker to reconsider.

Image above: Conservative Group Leader Peter Thompson

South Chiswick traffic measures have “undermined community cohesion” says Conservative Group Leader

Councillors argue the council’s consultation with residents has been “totally inadequate from the very outset.” The call-in submission goes on to argue there was an absence of adequate evidence on which to base decisions to make current schemes permanent. It states that data regarding improvement in air quality and increases in numbers cycling and walking in the area are marginal and statistically insignificant.

The Grove Park Group issued a statement after the council decided not to proceed with a proposal to reopen access through Burlington Lane, saying that the Council’s Leader, Cllr Shantanu Rajawat, aspires to being a ‘listening’ Council but continues to allow his Cabinet and Officers to obfuscate and delay. They urged Councillor Rajawat to assert his leadership now and resolve this once and for all.

Peter Thompson, Councillor for Chiswick Riverside and leader of the Conservative Group on Hounslow Council, said:

“We know that the so-called South Chiswick traffic measures are divisive and have undermined community cohesion, but they were also based on inadequate consultation, poor data and are totally disproportionate to the desired outcomes.”

Cllr Thompson also said the schemes have caused great distress to residents and businesses caught up in their complicated regulations.

The sub-committee will be made up of a cross-party panel of councillors who will decide whether the correct processes were followed by the Council when making these decisions.

Hounslow Council has not commented on the call-in.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Hounslow Council abandons proposal to reopen access from A316 to Burlington Lane

See also: Grove Park LTN decision pushed back after traffic officer’s view published

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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Woman saved from jumping off Barnes Bridge

Image above: Police and RNLI crew tend to woman on the bridge; Stephen Butler

Passers-by prevent woman from jumping

A woman was saved from jumping off Barnes Bridge on Thursday morning (27 April) after members of the public stopped her. The distressed woman had climbed over the railings on the railway bridge, but passers-by held onto her and pulled her back to safety.

Both the police and RNLI Lifeboat from Chiswick arrived at the scene, and the lifeboat positioned itself below the bridge. The woman was secured by the officers and given a medical assessment by the RNLI crew. She was then taken to Barnes Bridge Station where London Ambulance Service paramedics were waiting to attend to her.

The incident was witnessed by a local photographer, Stephen Butler who regularly walks between Richmond and Barnes.

Image above: The woman was brought by stretcher to Barnes Bridge Station, Police offcers and RNLI crew on Barnes Bridge; Stephen Butler

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

Chiswick House & Gardens take part in The Big Help Out

Image above: Chiswick House & Gardens; Jennifer Griffiths

‘Big Help Out’ to mark the coronation aims to raise awareness of the difference volunteers make to their local communities

Chiswick House & Gardens will be one of thousands of organisations across the UK welcoming volunteers as part of ‘The Big Help Out’ on Monday 8 May.

To mark King Charles’ Coronation, The Big Help Out aims to raise awareness of volunteering and provide opportunities for people to make a difference in their local community.

The Chiswick House & Gardens Trust say they rely on the generosity of its funders, members and patrons, “as well as the invaluable support of over 180 volunteers” to keep the gardens looking good for the thousands of people who use it each year.

Volunteers on Monday will be invited to work with the Chiswick House & Gardens Trust gardening team, weeding invasive species and developing habitat areas. Those who prefer to work indoors will be asked to help spring clean the Grade-I listed Neo-Palladian villa, either by dusting the interior using conservator-approved brushes and cloths or cleaning the stonework on the front and back exterior stairways.

The charity is also holding a Family Gardening ‘Speed Weeding’ Challenge, open to all ages. Rosie Fyles, Head of Gardens at Chiswick House & Gardens Trust, said:

“Volunteering is a brilliant way to get out and about, meet like-minded people and contribute to making your local neighbourhood a bit better. We can’t promise that on 8 May, but we can promise fresh air, good conversation and feeling like you’ve helped and achieved something.”

Also on Monday Chiswick House Dog Show will be organising a ‘Doggie Dash’ on the Western Lawn at 1.00pm. The Kitchen Garden will also be open from 11.00am to 4.00pm, with free entry for members.

Images above: Apple picking and gardening – two of Abundance London’s projects

Volunteers awarded by Mayor of Hounslow

The Mayor of Hounslow hosted an event on Friday celebrating the work of volunteers in the borough. Councillors were asked to nominate people for their work, from which the Mayor picked one from each ward.

In Chsiwick Karen Liebreich MBE, Richard Jennings and Jill Spencer were chosen. Karen runs Abundance London, the environmental group which organises gardening on bare patches of unused land, plants trees, organises schoolchildren to harvest fruit and provides community art projects.

Richard has helped many people in Chiswick challenge fines for parking or driving on roads with restrictions, who were either wrongly penalised or were unaware of the restrictions. Jill organises monthly litter picks on and around Turnham Green, and has been one of the organisers of the new Chiswick Repair Cafe.

Image above: Image above: Organisers of the Chiswick Repair Cafe,, Jill Spencer second from the right

Want to know where you can volunteer in Chiswick?

The Chiswick Calendar has a Volunteering Directory, in which we list as many of the organisations we know about in and around Chiswick who rely on volunteers to run their projects. Have a look at the various options here: Volunteering Directory.

Alan Titchmarsh to open 15th Chiswick Book Festival in September

Image above: Alan Titchmarsh, Gardeners’ World, BBC

The Gardens of Chatsworth House

Gardening writer and broadcaster Alan Titchmarsh will be the guest on the opening night of this year’s Chiswick Book Festival in the marquee at Chiswick House, talking about his new book on  the gardens at Chatsworth House.

The Dukes of Devonshire owned both Chatsworth House and Chiswick House. He will be talking to Rosie Fyles, Head of Gardens at the Chiswick House & Gardens Trust, about the links between the two.

Unusually, members of the Chiswick House & Gardens Trust will have priority booking for this event, for the first week. Tickets will be £15 and will go on sale in July.

Find out how to become a Chiswick House & Gardens Trust Member here.

Alan Titchmarsh was a professional gardener, who studied for his Diploma in Horticulture at Kew Gardens before becoming a TV personality presenting regular gardening slots on BBC programmes Nationwide and BBC Breakfast. He has hosted BBC coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show and Gardeners’ World and was one of the presenters of Ground Force which specialised in garden makeovers.

He has also presented Songs of Praise, Antiques Roadshow and a documentary series British Isles – A Natural History and done stints on Radio 2. His most recent TV series was Secrets of the National Trust for Channel 5.

In recent years he has spent more time writing novels and books about gardening, including the popular How to Garden series.

Image above: Chiswick House head gardener Rosie Fyles with her very well behaved eight year old Black Labrador, Dillys

“Couldn’t ask for a better combination”, says Chiswick H&G Director

“Chiswick and Chatsworth’s garden histories are very much entwined. I am looking forward to talking to Alan about his new book, his insights into Chatsworth’s gardens and asking him about his rich and varied career,” said Rosie Fyles.

Xanthe Arvanitakis, Director of Chiswick House & Gardens added:

“The combination of Alan’s passionate knowledge of the Chatsworth Estate, and his long-established relationship with the Cavendish family, together with Rosie’s hands-on knowledge and experience of Chiswick Gardens is sure to make for a lively conversation,”

“This will be the 15th Chiswick Book Festival and we couldn’t have a better combination of speakers and subjects for our Chiswick House & Gardens evening, which is always eagerly anticipated by book lovers in West London,” said Torin Douglas, Director of Chiswick Book Festival.

Council crackdown on Turnham Green Terrace shops frustrates traders

Image above: Owner Gary Diamond outside Covent Garden fishmongers

Shops with outdoor furniture fined or warned by council despite saying they have permission 

Enforcement officers from Hounslow Council have been cracking down on businesses along Turnham Green Terrace for having furniture or ‘A-boards’ outside their premises, handing out individual fines of up to £180 to some, while others have had no visits at all or have only been given warnings.

Some businesses are asking why their shops were fined and others were not, and protest that Hounslow Council is penalising businesses during a time when they are struggling to recover from the pandemic. The uneven enforcement has left some business owners frustrated and confused, because many of them went through a similar scenario about ten years ago, which resulted in the Council reimbursing traders.

Gary Diamond, the owner of Covent Garden Fishmongers, told The Chiswick Calendar he has been fined and is refusing to pay. “I’m really cheesed off,” he told us, “Look here, I’ve got a skylight, and my basement comes to about here [two metres from the shop front], so, my boundary is here, and it literally goes up into space. So this is my land and my space, theoretically I can do what I want with my space and I don’t need permission or to do anything.”

Gary led the fight against Hounslow Council in court over fines issued to the road’s traders nearly ten years ago. He intends to go to court over this fine too, which was handed to a junior member of staff while he was out of the building.

James Mathews, co-founder of Whitman & Co estate agents, said the Council came back recently and tried to slap them with a fine. “I contested it,” said James, “but I did notice somebody taking a picture and I know other shops have been issued with fines. We have a sort of basement and I think that may exclude us because they’ve asked for a copy of our lease.”

Whitman & Co were similarly fined about ten years ago for apparently breaching their licensing conditions for having a board outside. “They fined quite a number of shops,” James added, “But then the fishmongers took them to court over it and it was found in their favour”. Whitman & Co have since kept their display board outside.

Image above: Lewis Cox – Co-owner of plant shop Urban Tropicana, outside Urban Tropicana on Turnham Green Terrace

Some shops only get off with warnings, while others are reminded to renew licences

Some shops with outdoor furniture and boards have received fines, while others have been given only a warning or have received no visit from an enforcement officer at all.

Along with the fishmongers, Jimmy Fairly opticians, M&V vape shop and LA Menswear were also slapped with fines. Ruby B hair salon, Veld Cafe, Macken Brothers butchers and Grilandia restaurant have not been fined, while Urban Tropicana, eyewear shop Ollie Quinn, and Zen Matri only received warning letters.

The co-owner of Urban Tropicana Lewis Cox, who runs the plant business with his husband Steven Desouza, said applying for a licence would be “massive pain in the arse” and there was no point in having outdoor displays because of the hassle. When an enforcement officer visited, they were handed a warning explaining they weren’t allowed what little outdoor displays they were using.

Eszter Feher, general manager of Bayley and Sage, seemed to have caught an enforcement officer in a generous mood. She says someone from the Council came about a month ago and asked them to make sure their street trading license was renewed on time, as it was due to expire.

Images above: LA Menswear kept their A-board and clothes rack inside the day after they were fined; Timpson are allowed to keep their A-board outside

Enforcement officer visited same restaurant four times over last several weeks

LA Menswear were fined twice for having a clothing rack and an A-board outside. Each item cost the owners £90 because they paid the Fixed Penalty Notice early. If they had waited, they would have had to pay £300 in total.

Pizza restaurant Chill Since ’83 say they have received four visits from an enforcement officer over the last several weeks, each time they have pointed out their licensing terms in the window of the restaurant and avoided a fine, but the manager said he was confused as to why officers keep coming back.

Timpson were not fined either. They are a national chain, so when an enforcement officer called in, the franchisee immediately got on to their head office to discuss the licensing arrangement.

Maria Lo Dico, co-owner of Foubert’s, was less sympathetic to her neighbours’ receiving fines and warnings. “Good!”, she said, “It’s ridiculous, I would fine them as well. Lots of people who are elderly and handicapped have no space to walk”. Foubert’s have not had a visit from an enforcement officer. They have outdoor seating which is kept within a white line painted on the pavement.

Image above: Seating outside Foubert’s kept neatly within a white line

A boards ‘obstructing the pavement’ say Council

The Chiswick Calendar asked LB Hounslow why some businesses have received fines while others only got warnings, and why some businesses, who appear to have the right to put outdoor furniture outside their premises, have been fined. This is what they said:

“The Council has seen an increase in the number of A boards on our streets which can cause obstruction. We are seeking to ensure that A boards are out where there is room for them to do without causing problems.

“We are looking for businesses with A boards on the public highway to be licensed under street trading legislation to ensure they are located in an suitable location. Letters have been sent to businesses to advise them of the need to be licensed prior to enforcement action being taken.

“In the event that a business has been given a fixed penalty notice without such a letter, then please contact the Council at in order that this can be reviewed.

“In the meantime, if any business has an A board out without a street trading licence, then please download the street trading application form on the Council website at . Section five covers A boards.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

Beef – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

Beef ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – Review by Andrea Carnevali

Two people let a road rage incident burrow into their minds and slowly consume their every thought and action. Available to stream on Netflix.

I saw this a while ago, but since then this latest Netflix show has been on everyone’s lips as the one to watch these days.

It is a series as hard to define as it is to stop watching once you get going.

I have to admit it didn’t grab me straight away. The idea of watching hateful and obnoxious people behaving disgracefully is not really on top of my favourite hobbies, but undeniably there is something about the characters depicted here which made it strangely mesmerising.

Also, the way the series is structured, leaving you hanging and curious for “… just a bit more” at the end of each episode, made it a very bingeable experience, proving that once again, you don’t necessarily need to like or feel for characters to be able to watch and even enjoying something.

Indeed at the start of Beef it is easy to despise and even hate pretty much everyone on the screen and yet, the series skilfully grabs your attention with so many bendy twists that at some point you just have to give up guessing where it’s all going as, little by little, surprisingly, you find yourself shifting sympathies towards each of those people you were so ready to dismiss.

It all starts so simply, with a mundane road-rage encounter which quickly spirals out of control, pulling a couple of strangers on a trajectory which will change their lives and those of the people around them.

Steven Yeun and Ali Wong play the two twisty, mad characters at the centre of it beautifully: their anger, resentment, frustration and need for revenge is wild but always depicted with empathy and serious undertones, which is why the series in the end works so well and wins over your (well, at least my) initial reservations.

And as the plot escalates into utter madness and comedy bends into darkness and nastiness (including an unexpected turn into pure ‘splatter’), this multi-layered series digs deeper into the souls of the characters and becomes a study of human behaviour, loneliness and the need for human connections.

It might be slightly overstretched as a ten part series, but it will certainly make everyone think twice before they start having a row with the next stranger who just pulled out his or her car in front of them.

Beef is streaming on Netflix right now.

Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick, and a co-creator of the Chiswick In Film festival.

See all Andrea’s film reviews here: Film reviews by Andrea Carnevali

Chiswick In Film festival: Chiswick In Film festival will be back next year

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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The Chiswick Calendar CIC is a community resource. Please support us by buying us the equivalent of a monthly cup of coffee (or more, if you insist). Click here to support us.

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Ten people arrested after fatal stabbing in Brentford

Image above: Brentwick Gardens; Google Streetview

Police open murder inquiry

Police have detained seven men and three women after a man was fatally stabbed in Brentford during a reported break-in. The ten remain in custory.

The police were called to Brentwick Gardens, near Gunnersbury Park, at 5.15am on Thursday (26 April) following reports of intruders at the address. They found a man in the street with serious injuries. Despite the efforts of paramedics, he was pronounced dead at the scene.

The police cordoned off the scene and have conducted house to house inquiries, asking householders for security camera footage. Enquiries are underway to notify next of kin and a post-mortem examination will be scheduled.

Anyone with information should call police via 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Council issues statement 

Cllr Ajmer Grewal, Cabinet Member for Safety at Hounslow Council said:

“We are saddened to hear of the death of a man in Brentwick Gardens, Brentford this morning. We know police are making urgent inquiries and have made several arrests. If you have any information that could assist their ongoing investigation please contact police on 101 or Tweet @MetCC quoting 873/26APR.”

Brentford 1, Aston Villa 1

Image above: Frank Onyeka and Rico Henry driving forward

Second Season – It’s Football!

It was a heart in the mouth moment, especially for 21-year-old winger Kevin Schade. Stand-in goalkeeper Robin Olsen having spilled the ball as Schade bore down on him, the Brentford winger ran clear and – horrors! – clipped the ball wide of a gaping net.

Poor Schade. Until then he had been contributing his height, speed and ever-improving technique to a three-man attack that saw both Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbeumo benefit enormously as the winger caused havoc from the right flank.

Lucky Olsen. Having replaced Emiliano Martinez when the first-choice keeper and World Cup-winner was taken ill at the interval, he survived the incident that might have been enough for the Bees to collect all three points. As it was, although Brentford dominated play, with Toney putting them ahead after 65 minutes, a barnstorming finale saw Villa snatch the equaliser and help the visitors cement their position in the top six.

There ain’t no justice: after a dismal run of three consecutive defeats, the Bees found the form that served them so well earlier in the season and here deserved victory over a Villa side that displayed much of the quality that had seen them leapfrog up the Premier League table when nobody was looking.

Image above: Rough and…., Tumble

Fortunately, Ollie Watkins, previously of this parish, was shackled by a determined defence that rationed him to one solitary golden chance that wickedly swerved wide. At the other end, Toney and Schade both looked sharp and Mbeumo was giving the visitors no end of trouble – what a pity that he finds finishing the one element of his game that still needs work.

Martinez dealt competently with everything that came his way in a first half where honours were equally shared, but the old firm of Toney and Mbeumo combined once more in the second to put the Bees in front, Bryan flighting a perfect cross for Ivan, lurking at the far post, to score his nineteenth PL game neatly with his left foot.

It was as if the Bees had taken some nourishing magic tonic during the break, enabling them to move up a gear and launch a succession of raids on Martinez’s goal that caused panicky responses from the defence. Villa coach Unai Emery had already responded by making a triple substitution following the goal but it took a little time for the new legs to find their feet, so to speak, before the visitors joined their revitalised teammates.

Yoane Wissa – one of Thomas Frank’s own four subs – raced clear to rifle a shot past the advancing Olsen that was judged, sadly but correctly, offside. And Brentford remained on the offensive, and Toney dangerous until the end, but  the final ten minutes saw Villa subjecting the Bees to relentless pressure that resulted in one defensive error: failing to clear the ball before a ping-pong exchange saw the ball visit every inch of the penalty area without it being given the clout upfield it deserved. Then Douglas Luiz, possibly tired of the inaction, ended it with a fierce shot past the helpless Raya.

Images above: Brentford V Aston Villa, Meee….

Thomas Frank, positively glum post-match, although loyally expressing his pride in the side, pondered what might have been when declaring to the BBC, ‘It’s football!’. Loanee Kevin Schade, doubtless anticipating a disturbed night following his miss, is expected to sign from Bundesliga club SC Freiburg before the end of the season. His rapid improvement has suggested he will be an exciting addition to the squad.

With hopes fading of a top-seven finish in order to achieve European competition, Brentford will be looking to finish their remarkable season with a flourish. Nottingham Forest, battling with half-a-dozen other clubs to escape relegation, should provide determined opposition at the Gtech Community Stadium on Saturday.

‘Chelsea before after that,’ said my mate Charlie. ‘Bring them on!’

Brentford: Raya; Hickey, Pinnock, Mee, Henry; Jensen (sub Dasilva 90+2), Nørgaard (Onyeka 45), Janelt (Damsgaard 76); Mbeumo, Toney, Schade (Wissa 77).

Aston Villa: E Martinez (Olsen 45); Young (Chambers 66), Konsa, Mings, Moreno Lopera (Digne 66); Dendoncker (Traoré 66). Douglas Luiz; McGinn, Buendía, J Ramsey; Watkins.

Bill Hagerty is a contributing editor of Bees United supporters’ group.

Pictures by Liz Verscoe

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Brentford fan arrested for alleged use of racist language

See also: Fuller’s Griffin Brewery worker in bid to enter Guinness Book of Records for running a marathon dressed as a beer can

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

Support The Chiswick Calendar

The Chiswick Calendar CIC is a community resource. Please support us by buying us the equivalent of a monthly cup of coffee (or more, if you insist). Click here to support us.

We publish a weekly newsletter and update the website with local news and information daily. We are editorially independent.

To subscribe to the weekly newsletter, go here.

Riverside Studios up for sale

Image above: Riverside Studios

Savills estate agents managing sale of building, which will remain open as an arts venue

Riverside Studios, the prominent west London arts venue which was opened just four years ago, is up for sale after facing high energy and interest payments which have driven them into administration. Grant Thornton, a business management firm, has taken over the operations of the business, and the administrators have appointed an agent to sell the leasehold of the building.

The sale includes premises over three floors in the building, spanning over 95,000 sq ft and offered on a 191-year lease, excluding the residential component above. The building features three studios, two cinema screens, a café bar area, an events space, and associated rehearsal, dressing, and production rooms.

Sam’s Riverside restaurant, which is part of the building, will remain unaffected by the sale.

Despite the venue going into administration, Riverside Studios continues to operate and has a full programme of events scheduled until summer. Recently, it put on sale tickets for a Taratino Live stage show which will run until August. The venue has a long-standing history, and it reopened in its new facility just before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

Savills is handling the sale, and Paul Breen, director in the licensed leisure team at Savills, said:

“The Riverside Studios presents a unique opportunity to acquire a long leasehold property in a highly desirable riverside location in West London. It is a state of the art purpose-built facility with a uniquely central proposition in the arts and culture sector.

“With the scarcity of this type of opportunity and the incredibly high barriers of entry, we expect there will be significant and diverse demand in the market place from both potential occupiers and investors.”

The Riverside Trust, which has a long association with the venue, expressed its preference for the venue to continue being run by a charitable trust. But the administrators are not allowed to consider this when managing the sale.

Ruth Cadbury MP calls out inconsistent scrappage scheme ahead of ULEZ expansion

Image above: Ruth Cadbury in the House of Commons on Thursday 20 April

Brentford and Isleworth MP says current scrappage scheme “not fair”

Ruth Cadbury MP has called on the Government to provide financial support for Londoners looking to trade in or ‘scrap’ their vehicles before the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) expansion in August 2023.

During the Transport Questions in Parliament on Thursday 20 April, the Brentford and Isleworth MP pointed out the inconsistency in the Government’s funding for the scrappage scheme. While Birmingham has received financial support, Londoners have been left to rely on the £110 million funding provided by London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Ms. Cadbury stressed the importance of the Government doing more to support Londoners who wish to purchase low-emission ULEZ compliant vehicles, especially amid the current cost-of-living crisis. She also expressed her disappointment in the lack of investment and support for Londoners from the Government.

Speaking after the Parliamentary questions, Ms. Cadbury said:

‘‘I know from listening to people locally that they want to be able to trade in and use low emission ULEZ compliant vehicles- whether they’re businesses or people with a family car.

“The cost-of-living crisis however means that the Government need to be doing more to support Londoners looking to do this. The existing scrappage scheme introduced by London Mayor Sadiq Khan has already helped many Londoners, but it’s clear that the Government could be doing more.

‘‘It is not fair that the Government are refusing to fund a scrappage scheme for Londoners when they’ve funded scrappage schemes in other cities across the country.

‘‘This is yet another sign of the lack of investment and support that Londoners are getting from this Government. ”

Image above: Cllr Jack Emsley

Cllr Jack Emsley disagrees

Conservative Cllr Jack Emsley, who represents Homefield ward in Chiswick, responded to Ruth Cadbury’s comments on social media, saying the Government had been clear in its stance against the ULEZ expansion and would not provide funding.

Cllr Emsley also accused Labour of coming to the Government “cap in hand” after realising the policy was poorly thought out. Cllr Emsley said:

“The government was very clear it wouldn’t fund the latest ULEZ expansion as it’s not a policy it supports. Labour can’t come cap in hand now that it’s realised how poorly thought out the whole thing is.”

Sadiq Khan has insisted the ULEZ expansion needs to go ahead to reduce the illegal and toxic levels of air pollution in London, despite the potential economic consequences.

But the inconsistent funding for the scrappage scheme has left many Londoners feeling frustrated and uncertain about how to prepare for the upcoming ULEZ expansion and there has been significant backlash.

Tarantino Live: Fox Force Five & The Tyranny of Evil Men at Riverside Studios

Image above: Janel Parrish; Photographer Abel Armas

‘A one-of-a-kind, adrenaline-fuelled, genre-bending theatrical performance’

There is a peculiar phenomenon heading our way, a show at the Riverside Studios from Los Angeles-based live entertainment company For the Record, called Tarantino Live.The production takes songs and characters from Quentin Tarantino’s films and weaves them into a story in a live theatre event.

I talked to the show’s UK producer Paul Crewes, who tried to explain what exactly the show entailed. There ensued a guessing game.

Is it like Mamma Mia, which took a bunch of random songs and wove them into a story (very successfully in my view)? Is it like We Will Rock You? (Great music, but neglible story which appeared to have been sketched out on the back of an envelope, and quite boring I thought). Or is it like the Game of Thrones concerts where they play clips of the series on a huge screen and play the the soundtrack live with an orchestra with weird and wonderful instruments? (Fantastic experience).

None of the above, apparently. The production has grown out of performances in cabaret clubs where musicians performed the songs in the films. It has developed and changed into a big production number which takes characters from the various films and weaves them together into a story. “But it’s not like musical theatre” producer Paul Crewes told me. “It’s more a rock concert vibe.”

Image above: Dionne Gipson; Photograph Lawrence K. Ho

Tarantino has given it his seal of approval. “He saw it and he absolutely loved it”. At the Riverside Studios they are recreating the cabaret atmosphere with small tables where the audience sits in the room with the performers rather than sitting in rows in front of a stage.

“It’s not a traditional book with songs. It’s more about the songs.”

But it is led by five female characters, the Fox Force Five from the TV series: “Some characters you will recognise; some you won’t.”

Clips from the films? “There is video in this, but not taking scenes from the films… It’s exciting, energetic and really authentic musically.”

The PR team describe it as: ‘a one-of-a-kind, adrenaline-fuelled, genre-bending theatrical performance, combining Tarantino’s most iconic film scenes with live rock ‘n’ roll renditions of songs pulled straight from his legendary film albums; less a traditional movie-based musical, more a character driven concert that seamlessly merges the world of Hollywood and musical theatre into a 360-degree live-concert experience.’

Image above: Janel Parrish and Lindsey Gort; Photograph Rony’s Photobooth

The show encompasses Tarantino’s entire cinematic universe spanning over 30 years. His films are known for their vintage soundtracks – well primarily for the violence, (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, The Hateful Eight, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) but also for the iconic vintage soundtracks.

‘This rock ‘n’ soul concert is a spiderweb of hitmen, gangsters and assassins slaying vinyl classics like “Son of a Preacher Man,” “Stuck in the Middle With You,” “Bang Bang,” and many more.’

The audience will be seated in Reservoir Dogs coloured tiers – “Mr. Brown” and “Mr. Pink” for the most accessible levels (£29-£39), or “Mr. Black” for stage-side VIP table seating with drink service.

Tarantino Live is adapted by Anderson Davis and Sumie Maeda. It runs from 6 June – 13 August.

Image above: Lindsey Gort; Photograph Rony’s Photobooth

The Chiswick Calendar Freebie

We have two tickets to give away for the press night on Tuesday 13 June.

Please email us at with the answer to the following question:

In Pulp Fiction, Mia Wallace’s 15 minutes of fame was a TV pilot called “Fox Force Five”.  This group of female secret agents was the original inspiration for what group of killers in Kill Bill?

2 May 2023 Update: Congratulations J Grose – you have won two tickets to Tarantino Live on 13 June 2023 and our team will be in touch with you.

A year in the lives of Chiswick residents and the war in Ukraine

Image above: Roman Romanovich

A poignant and very moving piece by a Chiswick resident whose life has been deeply affected by the war in Ukraine

The war in Ukraine has predictably gone off the front pages. The longer it goes on the more it merges into the background of dreadful things going on in the world that you do not really want to know about, unless you have to.

Chiswick residens Stuart Kerr and his family have to. A year ago he wrote two guest blogs for The Chiswick Calendar telling the story of his 42 year old step-son Roman Romanovich, who had joined the volunteer army to fight against Russia.

His pieces reflect the Dad’s Army quality of a volunteer force – the camaraderie, the lack of equipment, and the ability to take your pet dog on manouvres.

READ ALSO: Watching the news knowing your stepson is there somewhere, fighting for the Ukrainian army

READ ALSO: A Chiswick resident, a stepson fighting in Ukraine and his dog, now also defending his country

Since then their lives have taken a much darker turn as they have inevitably been drawn into this brutal war. Stuart writes movingly here about how the war has affected his family over the past year.

Image above: Roman’s Band of Brothers – Roman front and centre, with the moustache, laying back smiling

No weddings, three children, one dog and a funeral

By Stuart Kerr    

A few days after the illegal Russian invasion, having quit his fabulous job with an American software company to volunteer for war, Romchick and his motley band of brothers, ably supported by Morty the tiny miniature Schnauzer, spent the rest of 2022 sitting safely in trenches guarding a small area in the north of Ukraine, about an hour’s drive from Lviv.

This was in case the Russians, who had initially invaded from Belarus before being repelled, should come back to have another go. Meanwhile the focus of the war was rapidly shifting – from the discovery of beyond-appalling Russian war crimes around Bucha and Izium to battlefields in the south and east of Ukraine, particularly the vast area known as the Donbas.

As the summer wore on and Russia continued shelling defenceless civilians and pummelling beautiful cities like Mariupol into blood-soaked dust, Romchick was growing increasingly worried about his five year old son. He had been badgering his mother (my wife Tatyana) since the previous year with news of the boy’s lack of normal progress, begging her to fly over from Chiswick and see for herself (impossible during Covid and rather dangerous since the invasion).

But now his pleading had a new urgency. The child was not simply undernourished, he couldn’t speak. He couldn’t communicate. All he did was make animal noises, order everyone to go away and throw tantrums.

The underlying truth and the cause of the poor boy’s problems slowly emerged. His mother Olya, who had been drinking since she abandoned breast feeding a few weeks after his birth, had now graduated to heavy binge drinking, disappearing for hours during the day and spending even more hours sleeping it off in an alcoholic stupor.

Roman’s son Yuri (not his real name) was spending his childhood watching cartoons on TV in pitch darkness with the sound turned down so as not to disturb his mum, who was rarely able to wake up and take him to kindergarten, or make him proper food, or read him stories, or brush his teeth.

He had never had a friend of his own age. He ate dry biscuits, formula milk and week-old warmed-up bits of boiled chicken and pasta from the fridge. Before the war his sister and brother were able to come to his aid and his father would come from Lviv at weekends. But once the war started his father was away and his siblings had lives of their own to lead, so Yuri became isolated. He became angry, very angry.

Image above: Roman with the two older children

Roman and Olya’s story

Roman and Olya had been childhood friends in Stryi (a small town 50 miles south of Lviv) and got together six or seven years ago after meeting again at a school reunion. Olya was a divorced single mother living with two young children, 10 year old Anastasia and Oleg aged 7. Their father, who had disappeared years earlier, had been a violent drunk.

By the time Yuri was born six years ago, Roman already knew he had no future with his mother, even though he was already closely bonded with her two children. A situation which was only clarified when Olya registered Yuri as the son of her drunken ex-husband. Single mothers of three children in Ukraine qualify for ‘heroine’ status, which comes with a very generous sum of monthly benefits.

As Roman was emotionally attached to her two older kids and had a well paid job, he paid for their clothes, their education, their hobbies and holidays with him abroad. Olya found herself independent and relatively well off.

Images above: Roman with Olya’s daughter Anastasia and his own son Yuri

For us in Chiswick it was hard to believe a mother could be quite so self-obsessed as to use her children as a meal-ticket over and above all other considerations, until about two years ago when something barely believable happened that changed our minds. Olya and her sister, visiting from Kiev, worked out a plan that if they could prove Yuri was mentally damaged or at least abnormally backward, then Olya would qualify for a lifetime of benefits as a caring mother bringing up a disabled child.

Yuri was taken for a brain scan, which revealed nothing physically wrong, but with no functioning Social Services in Ukraine, there was nobody in authority to detect that here was a child in limbo, unable to develop because of his mother’s gross negligence.

Soon after this disappointment Olya threatened Roman with a knife, then banned him permanently from entering the flat.

Image above: Anastasia

Anastasia’s story

Roman had quickly become the father Anastasia Romanivna never had.  As a little girl she remembered the drunken fights between Olya and her birth father, but not much more. Her life became far more peaceful once he disappeared, although being raised by a mother like Olya did little for her wider education or anything approaching ambitious thinking, beyond maternal advice to find herself a man, get married and have babies.

As a young teenager, Roman encouraged her talents for long distance running and swimming. He took her to competitions all over Ukraine where she would usually be a prize winner. They even travelled to Turkey to do a half marathon. She became a skilled mountain skier and often joined Romchick on adventure trips in heavy snow and swimming in freezing rivers and lakes.

Before she was 18 Roman had taught her to drive both his car and his powerful motorbike. Now, under Romchick’s guidance, she is at college studying sports medicine with a view to becoming either a nurse or a professional sports therapist.

Roman also told her about his trips to England, visiting the sites and the Tower of London and the times he spent in Chiswick. She heard about drinking draught Guinness in The Tabard, and picking blackberries on the railway bank on Acton Green.

Anastasia arrived to stay with us in Chiswick six months ago in September. She had spent the summer working in Hamburg where our daughter Iryna had picked her up and brought her to London. They then spent a week enjoying a luxury yoga retreat in St Ives, Cornwall (which Anastasia took to as ducks do to water) and a further three weeks cycling around the sites of London, dancing nights away in some trendy East London nightclub and doing plenty of clothes shopping.

She was a late summer regular in Foubert’s ice-cream parlour and by the time she left knew our High Road shops almost as well as any lifelong Chiswickian.

Images above: Roman with Oleg as a young boy and as a 16 year old

Oleg’s story

When Roman came on the scene, seven year old Oleg Romanovich was desperately in need of a father. Physically he was weak and quite poorly in health, an obvious target for schoolboy bullies.   Mentally his brain was under-developed. Fortunately it was just waiting for someone to turn the key.

Roman soon discovered Oleg had a natural talent for mathematics and that is the subject in which the lad soon began to shine. He became quite well known in Ukraine as an incredibly fast solver of a scrambled Rubik’s Cube, winning several prizes as one of the best in his age-group.  He also became a teenage computer boffin and began to tell everyone he wanted to become an expert like his dad.

Roman also fed the boy up and sent him to martial arts classes where he quickly gained confidence. Within a couple of years the school bullies had all been vanquished and Oleg had become leader of his own gang in which nobody was allowed to either drink or smoke. A wonderful transformation.

Image above: Roman Romanovich

Rescuing Yuri

In mid July last summer my wife Tatyana made the long and potentially dangerous journey to Western Ukraine to see for herself the state of her grandson, Roman’s five year old boy Yuri. Since the war began there have been no direct commercial flights to Ukraine, so she flew to Krakow in Poland then caught the overnight bus service across the border and onwards to Lviv and Stryi.

She found Roman had not exaggerated and the child was in a far worse state than she had imagined. Over the next three weeks she spent plenty of time with Yuri and began the process of forming a relationship, although she wasn’t convinced at this stage of what level of success she could hope to achieve.

She managed to persuade Olya to consider letting her bring the boy to England, which proved easy once she realised her benefits would not be affected. There was nothing Olya could do for Roman’s son and she was beginning to panic. They went to a solicitor and she signed papers giving Tanya permission to travel with Igor and take him into her care.

In early August 2022 Tanya returned to Chiswick and we began the process of applying to the Home Office for Yuri’s visa. As reported earlier, Anastasia was to join us in mid September but then, early the following month, all hell broke loose in Ukraine as Putin launched his massive nationwide missile attack on cities, aimed at destroying the electricity grid and terrifying the population into submission.

By mid-October my wife Tatyana lost her patience waiting for the Home Office to approve a travel visa for a five year old child in the midst of a cruise missile attack and decided to go back to Ukraine and care for the boy until the simple paperwork was completed. To the eternal shame of the UK government, that was to take a further nine weeks.

Throughout November Romchick and his Band of Brothers could see the cruise missiles, launched from Belarus, flying overhead and onwards to various cities in the west including Lviv. Tatyana and Yuri, when they were not at a small flat we have in Stryi, were sheltering in Roman’s Lviv flat and able to hear and see nearby explosions from their 8th floor windows.

Every day there were blackouts, electricity cuts, water cuts, curfews, sirens telling everyone to rush to air-raid shelters – all the stuff of 20th century Nazi warfare being played out, with them and thousands of others squatted beneath in a beautiful 21st century European city.

By the time the Ukraine counter-offensive had retaken hundreds of square miles in the south – and with Kherson successfully liberated – Putin was indiscriminately chucking hellfire in any and all directions in a furious attempt to finally break Ukraine’s deeply set will to survive.

Still no visa for Yuri. So in early December we gave up and daughter Iryna managed to rent a flat in Krakow for a month, enabling Tatyana, Yuri and Anastasia to get out of the country and wait for events to unfold in the safety of Poland.

On 9 December I flew to Krakow to spend a long weekend with the little boy heading our way. Anastasia, whose college was closed during Putin’s bombardment, flew in the opposite direction to spend Christmas with us in Chiswick.

By this time, Yurichick was already a delight. I told Tatyana that Romchick’s son just had to be a clever boy and I was not wrong.  He had been under Tatyana’s wing for just three weeks yet he was already reciting poems and nursery rhymes by heart and could count to ten in English, while keeping a close eye on the available pizza and milkshake.

The visa was eventually granted and a few days later on 21 December, just in time for Christmas, Yuri and Tatyana landed at Heathrow.

Image above: Roman Romanovich

Rescuing Morty and Yuri starts school

In early January Romchick and his fellow volunteers were told they would soon be moving to the east to help reinforce Ukraine’s regular army. Roman’s dog Morty, who had been with him in the trenches for most of the year, would have to be found another home.

Roman had tried having him stay in Olya’s flat in Stryi, but now, with Anastasia in London or otherwise at college in Lviv and with Oleg keeping far away from his mother and mostly staying with friends elsewhere, he thought it likely Morty would be kicked out to roam the streets, so Roman found a colleague with a young son to take him in.

Yuri started school in Chiswick this January, a few days after the beginning of the Spring term. He loved it immediately. By this time he was already catching up fast with his counting and early mathematics but now he faced a trickier problem – having to learn English.  Thankfully the school was wonderful in its support of this odd little refugee in the care of his granny, his grandad and his aunt.

Using the modern phonetic system Yuri is now picking up phrase after phrase and beginning to join things together. He recites English rhymes like Incy Wincy Spider and Baa Baa Black Sheep and it is a wonderful delight to open your eyes and see a cute Ukrainian kid leaning over your bed early in the morning asking in perfect English,  “Would you like a nice cup of tea?”

During this time Roman arrived in the Donbas.

Meanwhile Anastasia arrived back in Ukraine, with us begging her to rescue Morty, on the basis that Roman’s little dog was considered “family” in Chiswick and there was no way we would tolerate him ever being given away to strangers. As far as we were concerned he was Romchick’s dog and we would look after him until the war was over and he could be reunited with his boss.

Anastasia was brilliant.  She got on Romchick’s motorbike and managed to track down the family who had taken the dog. The man insisted he had been given Morty and that his young son had fallen in love with the dog, but Anastasia held her ground and insisted the dog still belonged to Roman and she was taking him away on his behalf.

She won.  Little Morty was stuffed into her rucksack (a safe nest he’d travelled in many times before) and they roared off together back to Roman’s flat in Lviv.  In three weeks time this heroic two  year old war veteran will be driven across Europe to Calais, en route to live the rest of his days happily with us in Chiswick.

Image above: Roman’s dugout with the photograph of his daughter Anastasia. The railway line is just 100 yards away with Russians on the other side

Roman was killed by Russians on 24 March 2023

He had told us several fibs. Firstly The American company he worked for had not fled from Ukraine on the outbreak of war.  Quite the opposite.  Roman had simply resigned to enlist.  Secondly, he wasn’t guarding a remote road junction in comparative safety, 50 miles behind the fighting in the Donbas. He had volunteered for the most dangerous of positions and was killed in his dugout on the front line in Bakhmut, scene of the ongoing and bloodiest battle fought since the Somme over 100 years earlier.

A Russian shell had landed just a bit too near where he lay. Three of his nearby mates were seriously wounded but Romchick took the full force.  A poignant photo of his dugout taken earlier in the day reveals he’d propped the photo of Anastasia with coffee on the muddy edge.

Image above:  The Light of the World (a self portrait); Roman saw Holman Hunt’s Light of the World in St Paul’s Cathedral 20 years ago and kept a framed print in his flat. Roman at rest.

Stop all the clocks

Tatyana flew out of Heathrow for Ukraine a couple of days later. His father (Tatyana’s ex), also called Yuri, flew from his home in Valencia followed by his wife and daughter. Friends, colleagues and admirers gathered from all areas of Ukraine for the funeral in Stryi on 30 March.

News of his death was broadcast across the Lviv area on radio, television and the internet. Hundreds of townsfolk lined the streets as the coffin was brought to the church for the requiem mass.  The mayor of the town and senior church officials gave speeches. The military played its part and saluted their warrior with gunfire. During the service and on the long parade from the church to the cemetery, a well known Ukrainian choir and full brass band played patriotic songs such as Plyve Kacha.

Back in Chiswick Roman’s name appeared on the St Michael & All Angels Palm Sunday list of the recently departed to be remembered in prayers, leaving no doubt that the heart and soul of Ukraine is still alive and beating loud in W4.  Our Romchick (army code/nickname Schweik) was buried in a new and quickly expanding memorial graveyard, Alley of Glory, reserved for national heroes.

Like thousands of others Roman was never a real soldier, more a devoted patriot prepared to sacrifice his life to save his beloved homeland. The day after his funeral the space next to him was being dug for yet another precious local killed by Russians, an only child.

Slava Ukraini

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Free ice cream, plus wine or beer when you spend £25 at Chiswick’s Coronation Flower Market

Image above: Chiswick Flower Market; Anna Kunst

George IV and Duci’s taking part in Coronation Flower Market promotion

Chiswick Flower Market has announced its Coronation Flower Market on Sunday 7 May will have a few extra inducements than normal.

The Old Market Place will be decked out in bunting, setting the scene for a traditional market, with free Punch & Judy performances, live music and the best of British flowers on sale.

With over 40 flower and plant stalls, it now has the largest selection of British-grown flowers in London. Local flower producers, including Chiswick House, EcoFlowers, Love Day Blooms, Holmbush Flowers, Bellers Blooms, and Stevens, will sell their produce directly in the market.

Children will receive free ice cream from Duci’s in Devonshire Road, while adult visitors who spend more than £25 at the market will receive a free London Pride or glass of house wine at the George IV pub, while . The London Borough of Hounslow sponsors the ice cream, while Fuller’s sponsors the pub’s drinks.

The market’s street entertainment will feature young performers from the local area, including the Urban Fox Steel Band, Chiswick School, W4 Youth, and the CTA Performing Arts School.

Visitors can also learn more about the work of the local charity Wild Chiswick, including the installation of swift nesting boxes.

Chiswick Flower Market, which was established in 2020 by local residents to revitalise Chiswick High Rd, is held on the first Sunday of each month from 9.00am to 4.00 pm in Old Market Place, Chiswick High Road, W4 2DR.

It has around 40 traders offering British-grown flowers, plants, and house plants and attracts up to 10,000 visitors. Visitors who wish to enjoy the free ice cream or drinks should come to the Chiswick Flower Market HQ gazebo, where tokens will be available.

Chiswick music group, the Addison Singers invited to Royal Garden Party

Image above: Addison choir

Invitation takes choirs by surprise

The Addison Singers, a group of musicians based in Chiswick, has received an unexpected invitation to the Royal Garden Party for twenty of their members.

The invite was extended by Judith Weir, the Master of the King’s Music, whose cantata Oh sweet spontaneous earth they commissioned for the choir’s fiftieth-anniversary celebration.

Weir offered ten tickets to the Royal Garden Party, which is held annually in May at Buckingham Palace, for two people each. Every year, she is asked by the Palace to invite musical guests to the event. She generally invites people from the ensembles and organisations she has worked with in the previous year.

The Addison Singers are sending their five long-standing music professionals and their guests, as well as four Addison Management Group volunteers, two former trustees, and four ordinary members who were chosen by ballot. The remaining 150 or so members of the choir will hold their own garden party – a bring-your-own picnic with a best hat award.

Image above: Addison Singers chair Fran O’Brien (standing) applauds David Wordsworth sitting on the garden bench given to him at his farewell concert – while the Oratorio and Chamber choir stand behind

Invitation a “historic” moment, says Addison Singers chair

Fran O’Brien, the chair of Addison Singers, told The Chiswick Calendar:

“We were totally bowled over to get the invite for the royal garden party. It was so exciting not least because we will be going to the garden party the day after the coronation. It’s historic. It made us realise just how pleased Judith was with the way we had sung her lovely cantata. And that’s a huge compliment coming from the Master of the King’s Music.

“We’ve just celebrated 50 years as a choir and when we sung this piece we were saying thank you and goodbye to our musical director, David Wordsworth, after 26 years. It was a great send off for him and this invitation is the icing on the cake!

“We’ve got a tradition of great amateur choral singing in this country and we’re very lucky in Chiswick with several really good amateur choirs.  It’s exhilarating to commission new music of this standard and sing it with amateurs who range from those who’ve sung all their life to those who can’t read music and just want to have a go.”

The Addison Singers consists of two classical choirs and two jazz choirs. They rehearse at POSK in Hammersmith and perform at St Peter’s on Southfield Road, as well as at St Andrews in Hammersmith and other venues. The choirs also offer classes at Arts Ed and in the Grove Neighbourhood Centre, both in-person and online.

Their upcoming performances include a classical summer concert at St Peter’s on July 8, led by their new musical director, Matthew Thomas Morgan, and Jazz at the Jazz Cellar at POSK on 26 June.

The group is open for enrolment, with free admission for individuals under 30 years of age. The group hopes news of their invitation to the Royal Garden Party will encourage more people to join.

Notorious serial killer Levi Bellfield to be questioned over girl who went missing from Ealing 24 years ago

Image above: Levi Bellfield; photograph Metropolitan Police

New alleged confession from Bellfield sheds new light on case

Levi Bellfield, the notorious serial killer and rapist, is to be questioned over a suspected murder that took place 24 years ago.

It is alleged that Bellfield has signed a written statement confessing to the murder of Elizabeth Chau, who disappeared one mile from her Ealing home in 1999. The 19-year-old was reportedly dragged into a van by Bellfield.

The 54-year-old is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for three murders, including the killing of 13-year-old Milly Dowler.

His confession is said to give details not only of her burial but also information on five other attempted murders. Solicitor Theresa Clark claims to have received the confession from Bellfield last month and has since passed it on to the police. Bellfield is now likely to be interviewed under caution.

This news comes less than a month after Bellfield threatened legal action after his request to marry his girlfriend in prison was blocked. The previous Justice Secretary Dominic Raab sought to ban those serving life sentences from marrying under a Victims Bill.

Bellfield’s letter to his legal team warned of legal action if they did not receive a response within two weeks. Raab spoke out against the proposal, stating that it was inappropriate to allow someone like Bellfield to marry and that it could pose a risk to vulnerable people.

The latest developments have brought renewed attention to Bellfield’s crimes and the criminal justice system’s handling of his case. Despite serving three life sentences, Bellfield’s confession could lead to further investigations and a new trial.

The families of Bellfield’s victims have expressed hope that this new information will finally provide them with some closure and justice for their loved ones.

Getting to know Andy Slaughter – probably our next MP

Image above: Andy Slaughter MP with Ruth Cadbury MP, Chiswick Calendar editor Bridget Osborne and others at the Private View for The Chiswick Calendar’s art and phhotography exhibition at the Clayton hotel

What manner of beastie is our (likely) next MP?

Andy Slaughter, MP for Hammersmith, has come to a couple of community events in Chiswick this week. First he was invited to the Private View to mark the opening of The Chiswick Calendar’s art & photography exhibition at the Clayton hotel on Tuesday, then to the unveiling of the new artwork for the W4th plinth on Sunday.

On both occasions he came with Ruth Cadbury, as there is every likelihood that after the next general election he will take over from her as our MP.

The constituency boundary changes which are due to be decided in July are widely expected to be accepted by parliament, which will put the part of Chiswick which is currently in Ruth Cadbury’s Brentford & Isleworth constituency into Andy’s. (Rupa Huq keeps the part which is currently in her constituency of Ealing Central and Acton).

This may be a little premature, as the boundary changes have still to become official, and he then has to win an election, but with that expectation, Ruth has gently begun the process of introducing him to her constituents in Chiswick, and we at The Chiswick Calendar have decided it was time we knew more about him.

Image above: Collecting food for the local foodbank

A Labour West Londoner

He is Labour, but has defied the Labour leadership three times in his career, he told The Chiswick Calendar, once over Heathrow, once over the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, and once over Brexit.  He was born and bred in Fulham, moving to Shepherd’s Bush in 1998, and was the Leader of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham before he became an MP in 2005. He campaigned against the closure of A&E facilities at Charing Cross Hospital.

He lives off Askew Rd in the triangle where the boroughs of Ealing, Hounslow and Hammersmith & Fulham meet. That, he told The Chiswick Calendar, is quite handy because when he was first elected to parliament it was to represent the constituency of Ealing, Acton and Shepherd’s Bush; then in the boundary changes of 2010 he was selected for the new constituency of Hammersmith, and now if all goes as expected, he will be acquiring the Chiswick part of Hounslow.

This is not, as the Americans say, his first rodeo.

We of course, will remain in the Borough of Hounslow, it’s just that our MP will represent Hammersmith & Chiswick, not Hounslow.

Image above: Counting wet wipes at ‘Wet Wipe Island’ along the Thames

“Hammersmith and Chiswick a good fit”

“I think Hammersmith and Chiswick are a very good fit” he told me. “I think it’s an exciting prospect; I feel we are renewing the constituency rather than changing it, and although it saddens me to lose areas I have represented in one way or another for nearly 40 years, I have never seen a boundary review with fewer objections.

“Geographically there is continuity from one to the other along the Goldhawk Road, from King Street into Chiswick High Rd and along the river. There are some interesting things in King Street which attract people from Chiswick. The introduction of IKEA has brought that whole end of King Street up and we will soon be opening the new civic centre which will have a cinema and cafes.”

Living where he does, Andy says he comes to Chiswick to do his food shopping.

“I tend to go to Mackens for meat and Covent Garden fishmongers, as I’m a big fish-eater. I go to Sainsburys and Waitrose in Chiswick High Rd and the delis in Turnham Green Terrace.”

Image above: The Refugee Tales walk along Hammersmith and Chiswick riverside, ending at the Wetlands Centre, to protest against Indefinite Detention

Three times resigned or sacked over differences of opinion with Labour leadership

His voting record is very similar to Ruth Cadbury’s. He served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to several ministers in Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s governments, in Transport and the Foreign Office, resigning in 2009 because of his opposition to the Government’s plans for a third runway at Heathrow.

A man of principle then?

“Well once you have made your position clear, you hope to take people with you, but if you don’t manage it, you have no option but to resign.”

What a delightfully old-fashioned view by today’s political standards.

Having started his professional career in the same law chambers as Keir Starmer, he was invited by Ed Miliband to join Labour’s front bench as Shadow Justice Minister in 2010, the portfolio which includes courts and tribunals, criminal law, freedom of information, the legal profession, civil justice reform and Legal Aid. He resigned in 2016 over Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

Appointed Shadow Minister for Housing in October 2016 he was sacked from the frontbench in June 2017 after he voted in favour of the amendment to the Queen’s Speech which called on the UK to remain in the European Single Market, in defiance of the Labour whip.

Should Labour make it a priority to rejoin the EU?

“Do I believe we would be better off in the EU or in a closer relationship with the EU? Yes I do.

“More than one in five of the population of Hammersmith were EU citizens at the time of the referendum, but you cannot just ignore decisions that have been democratically taken. We lost the referendum and then we lost the 2019 election, in which Brexit was the main issue, in spectacular form.

“We have to wait for the public to give us the cue – very clear indications over a long period of time that they want it to change. That’s not a position that any politician wants, you want to lead, but these are a very special set of circumstances, a referendum and an election.

“I think it has been a terrible mistake, but it has to be the public telling us that they want to change the decision.”

Image above: Andy Slaughter MP electioneering with the Shadow Foreign Secretary, David Lammy MP

Diane Abbott’s comments “totally inappropriate”

We spoke on the day Keir Starmer had suspended Diane Abbott over her comments on racism and prejudice. Commenting on Tomiwa Owolade’s piece Racism in Britain is not a black and white issue. It’s far more complicated, she wrote:

‘Tomiwa Owolade claims that Irish , Jewish and Traveller people all suffer from “racism”. They undoubtedly experience prejudice. This is similar to racism and the two words are often used as if they are interchangeable.

‘It is true that many types of white people with points of difference, such as redheads, can experience this prejudice. But they are not all their lives subject to racism. In pre-civil rights America, Irish people, Jewish people and Travellers were not required to sit at the back of the bus. In apartheid South Africa, these groups were allowed to vote. And at the height of slavery, there were no white-seeming people manacled on the slave ships.”

Andy Slaughter told The Chiswick Calendar:

“Hammersmith has one of the largest Irish populations of anywhere in the country. I have done a lot of work with Travellers, who are some of the poorest and worst treated people in the country, and there is a lot of anti-Irish and anti-Traveller racism.

“Her comments were poor. She was trying to differentiate between different types of racism and prejudice, which is a slippery slope.

“Diane was the first black woman to become an MP and she has put up with a lot of racism herself, but while I have sympathy with her as an individual, these were totally inappropriate comments to make. Totally tin-eared.”

Thoughts on Keir Starmer

Keir Starmer has taken a bit of a bashing of late, on whether he will be capable of leading the Labour Party to victory at the next election. What does Andy think?

“I worked with him 30 years ago and have such respect for him. He has done some big jobs. Director of Public Prosecutions means running a very important government department, the Crown Prosecution Service. He entered politics late. He became an MP in 2015 but he has learned very quickly how politics works.

“He has experience, energy and integrity. He is incredibly hard working. The country is in the worst mess it has been for a very long time, and we need all those attributes to sort it out.

“We’ve had the showman and the radical ideas. Now it’s time to rebuild and improve people’s quality of life.”

Image above: Chiswick Town Hall; Fulham Town Hall, now a luxury hotel for the Lamington Group

Thoughts on Chiswick Town Hall

I mentioned Chiswick Town Hall as being a lovely building in need of a little TLC and a ripe for opening up into a proper community hub. Might his experience be useful in making that happen?

He said rather ruefully that his first job in politics had been to do up Fulham town hall and restore it to its former beauty, only to see a change of leadership sell it off to a hotel chain. But yes, Chiswick Town Hall is a lovely old building, he has been to many meetings there, and Hammersmith and Chiswick have things they can learn from each other, including possibly how to develop our town hall.

Image above: C9 in Chiswick High Rd

Thoughts on C9

Cycleway 9 is an issue with which he is very familiar. What are his thoughts?

“I am in favour of cycleways. I have listened very carefully to arguments about C9. There have been teething problems. In Hammersmith there’s a logjam of buses at the entrance to King Street, backing up onto the roundabout because of the cycle lane.

“There are logistical problems which continue to need to be solved. I am sure we can resolve them, and I hope the councils will continue to listen. Partly it just needs to settle in. The main argument is about safety, but the cycling infrastructure has brought improvements to the infrastructure generally – the look of the place, with the improved work surfaces and freshly painted lines.”

Does he ride a bike?

“Not as often as I should. I’m an occasional cyclist. I’m no Ruth Cadbury.”

But will he be the next Ruth Cadbury?

“Not wishing to jump the gun”

This interview comes with a health warning. The next election is a while away and Ruth Cadbury continues to be the MP for most of Chiswick for the time being. But …

“We are expecting the changes to happen over the summer. I don’t want to appear to be jumping the gun, but we have been told unofficially that we won’t have to be reselected, having gone through the selection process six months ago.”

His majority at the last election was 18,000. The demographics are such that he will be losing strong Labour areas and gaining a more uncertain electoral area. (In Chiswick we tend to vote Tory in council elections but voted by a slight majority for Sadiq Khan in the London Mayoral elections and have voted in a Labour MP in the last two elections).

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

The Good Person of Szechwan – Lyric Hammersmith review

Image above: Ami Tredrea and Jon Chew in The Good Person of Szechwan at the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre; Manuel Harlan

The Good Person of Szechwan – There’s fun to be had

Review by Simon Thomsett

Bertolt Brecht’s The Good Person of Szechwan is the subject of a lively updating by Nina Segal at the Lyric Hammersmith and runs until 13 May.

Three Gods are strolling around Earth, having a look at the human race to try and determine if there is any good in the world.  By the time they reach Szechwan in China, their patience is wearing thin, (“it’s awful everywhere on Earth”), mankind has been found wanting and their inclination is to just order up the apocalypse and be done with it.  When sex worker Shen Te rather reluctantly offers them accommodation for the night, losing out on business while doing so, they wonder whether they have at last discovered in this gesture a glimmer of goodness.  Rewarding her with $1,000, she buys a tobacco shop in an effort to run a legitimate business, a rather less obviously ethical choice nowadays but faithfully retained from the original albeit with a wink to the audience.

What follows demonstrates Shen Te’s struggles to live a good life, summed up in the line: “Life’s a test that there’s no way to pass”.

Image above: Callum Coates, Nick Blakeley and Tim Samuels in The Good Person of Szechwan; Manuel Harlan 

There’s a lot to like about this show.  The 12 strong cast work well as an ensemble, doubling up in many cases and keeping the pace up.  Ami Tredrea is impressive as Shen Te, moving from living a hard life but one where she is coping into trying to please everyone as she runs a business and bring some kindness to a harsh and unforgiving world and increasingly giving up and just looking out for herself.  Nick Blakeley, Callum Coates and Tim Samuels have a lot of fun as the Gods, full of celestial pomp but underneath it all, a little inept and unable to avoid being hungry or getting sunburnt.

Georgia Lowe’s design is clever, with two steep slopes on either side of the stage from which characters are required to come and go, resulting in a lot of sliding entrances and only-just-made-it exits.  Jessica Hung Han Yun’s vivid lighting design is beautifully integrated into it all and rounding the look off, the costumes too are dazzling.

Image above: Leo Wan and Ami Tredrea in The Good Person of Szechwan; Manuel Harlan

It’s not subtle, and in true Brechtian style, emotional engagement is not the point.  Director Anthony Lau brings it all together and, whilst letting the anti-capitalist theme sit front and centre, particularly in the second half, throws in enough fun to hold our attention and keep us (yes) entertained.  Some of it works less well than the rest: the Gods amusement arcade inspired ascension isn’t half as funny as it might have seemed in rehearsal and there is a feeling of throwing everything into the mix: a giant frog pops up to no obvious purpose; a gimp suited client of Shen Te’s from the beginning reappears later, possibly just to get maximum value out of the costume.

Brecht purists may find it all a bit too much but for everyone else there’s fun to be had.

Simon Thomsett

Sadiq Khan says West London Orbital rail link will likely go ahead

Image above: Library image Overground train; TfL

Rail line planned to come into service in the 2030s

London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan has confirmed plans for a West London Orbital rail link between Hounslow and Hendon are still being actively considered despite the financial chaos caused by Covid and the recent rise in inflation.

The rail link would stop at Isleworth, Brentford, Acton, Harlesden, Neasden, Brent Cross and a station at Old Oak Common linking with the planned HS2 line to Birmingham, as well as a branch after Neasden off to West Hampstead via Cricklewood.

Mr Khan has now confirmed that engineering consultants are being chosen to work on a detailed design for the link, which could open within a decade. While train frequency has not been confirmed, the proposed service would include four trains an hour from Kew Bridge to Hendon, and a further four every hour from Hounslow to West Hampstead. This would provide a total of eight per hour on the main section between South Acton and Neasden.

Asked for an update on the project by Labour London Assembly Member Elly Baker last month, Mr Khan said:

“Following agreement of the feasibility funding last year, several studies, funded primarily by the west London boroughs, are underway or planned.

“Timetable assessment undertaken by Network Rail is nearing completion and has identified that a viable West London Orbital service is expected to be achievable.”

Images above: Map of the proposed train service, stations which the service will stop at

Scheme could cost well over £273million 

The 11-mile rail project from West to North West London would provide the Overground network with interchanges with Thameslink rail services in North London, as well as the Underground’s Jubilee line and existing Overground services on the Richmond/Clapham Junction to Stratford line.

Old Oak Common would provide a future interchange with the Elizabeth Line, where a station is being built between Acton Main Line and Paddington, as well as the proposed HS2 and the nearby Central line at North Acton.

The line would cut journey times from Hounslow to Hendon to 37 minutes – instead of the estimated 90 minutes it currently takes, which involves going into Central London and back out again.

The scheme involves using a little-known freight route called the Dudding Hill Line which has not been used for a scheduled passenger service since 1902. It has been in the planning phase since 2017 and would form part of the existing Overground network which was established in 2007.

A station would be built at Lionel Road next to Brentford Football Club’s Gtech community Stadium, near the site of disused Kew station, which shut in 1862. There would be a spur from South Acton connecting with Kew Bridge, where services could start or finish.

The most recent capital cost for the railway was calculated as £273million in 2017/18 prices, but an updated figure has not yet been provided. Transport for London states on its website:

‘If funding can be identified – and we get all approvals needed for the scheme – then services could start in the early 2030s. All proposals will be subject to future public consultation before any major decisions are made.’

Opening date announced for e-bike shop Fully Charged

Launch party for new store on Chiswick High Road will take place on 18 May

Fully Charged, the UK’s leading electric bike retailer, have announced the opening date for their second London branch. The Chiswick shop will open its doors on Thursday 18 May.

The new store, located at 147 Chiswick High Road, will offer 5,000 sq/ft of retail space, including customer parking, and will become the retailer’s sixth location in the country.

Test rides and bike buying consultations will be available six days a week, with the store offering six-week health checks, minor repairs, and technical support. Additionally, the store will be well-stocked with a range of front-loading and rear-loading family cargo bikes, catering to the residential neighbourhood surrounding the area, as well as commuter, fold-up, mixed-purpose, e-MTB and business cargo bikes.

The new store will be supported by a growing e-commerce site allowing customers to learn, explore and purchase electric bikes at

To celebrate the opening, the store will host an official launch party on Thursday, 18 May.

Founder hopes store will become e-bike enthusiast hub

Fully Charged believes that the timing of the store opening is perfect, with the development of the C9 Cycleway making cycling easier, safer, and more appealing on the roads of West Kensington, Hammersmith, Chiswick, and Brentford.

The proposed ULEZ expansion across all London boroughs is imminent, and Fully Charged aims to help individuals, families, and businesses make the switch to active travel.

The new Chiswick store hopes to become a hub for electric bike enthusiasts in West London, with the retailer’s ambition to help more Londoners “get charged and stay charged” through content, in-store experiences, and aftercare support.

Ben Jaconelli, founder of Fully Charged, said:

“We are thrilled to be opening our second store in London and expanding our network of stores across the UK. Our new Chiswick location is in a prime spot and we look forward to serving the local community and beyond with best-in-class electric bikes available.”

The business will be Chiswick’s fourth cycle shop, as we already have Balfe’s Bikes Chiswick, Fudges Cycles and Halfords, and there are two more Stamfor Brook and King’s Road in Hammersmith. The shop is directly opposite Fudges Cycles, which sells all sorts of bikes. Fully Charged do not sell traditional pedal power bikes.

Elizabeth Line announces new timetable with increased frequency and direct access to Heathrow Airport

Image above: Elizabeth Line signage; TfL

New timetable aimed at tackling overcrowding and long journey times

Transport for London (TfL) has announced the introduction of a new peak-time timetable for the Elizabeth line, which will increase train frequency between Paddington and Whitechapel to run roughly every two and a half minutes.

TfL will introduce the full peak Elizabeth line timetable on Sunday, 21 May and will increase the frequency to up to 24 trains per hour in both directions, with 16 trains per hour running off-peak.

This new schedule will also enable direct travel from Shenfield in Essex and east London to Heathrow Airport, without requiring passengers to change trains, for the first time. Additionally, train journey times from west London through Paddington Elizabeth line station are expected to decrease.

More trains will also be running at peak time between Liverpool Street National Rail station and Gidea Park, providing a faster route for commuters exiting to Bishopsgate. In the west, there will be an increase in peak services from Reading.

Many commuters have reported slower-than-expected Elizabeth Line journeys and overcrowded carriages since the service’s launch. The upgraded timetable will likely be welcomed by commuters.

The introduction of the new timetable marks one year since TfL began operating the Elizabeth line. Over 140 million customer journeys have taken place so far, with around 600,000 journeys being made each weekday.

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said that the Elizabeth line has been transformational for the city, with hundreds of thousands of Londoners and visitors enjoying fast and reliable trains each day. Andy Lord, London’s Transport Commissioner, also described the Elizabeth line as having transformed the lives of Londoners and the experience for visitors to the city in just under a year of TfL operating the service.

The introduction of this timetable will mark the final milestone of the Crossrail project.

Chiswick Calendar spring 2023 Art & Photography exhibition private view

Image above: ‘Prosecco’ by Naila Hazell

A very convivial evening

Thanks so much to all who came to the opening of our art and photography exhibition on Tuesday (18 April). If Naila Hazell’s picture is called ‘Prosecco’, I think all those below could justifiably be called ‘gin’. Thanks for the Clayton hotel for hosting, to Sipsmith for the gin, and to Snappy Snaps Chiswick for printing and framing.

You can read a little bit about all the artists taking part and see some of their work here:

Chiswick Calendar Art & Photography spring exhibition 2023

They are: Anna Kunst, Arabella Harcourt-Cooze, Arad Reisberg, Humphrey Bangham, Isobel Johnstone, Jane Price, Jennifer Abbott, Jennifer Griffiths, Jill Meager, Ljubima Woods, Madeleine Marsh, Naila Hazell, Polly Nuttall, Sally Grumbridge, Sarah Granville and Scott Margetts.

Among those who came were the artists and their friends, readers of The Chiswick Calendar’s newsletter and two MPs – Ruth Cadbury, MP for Brentford & Isleworth in whose constituency most of Chiswick is stiuated, and Andy Slaughter, MP for Hammersmith & Fulham, in whose constituency were are likely to be situated if the constuency boundary changes are confirmed in July.

We made a small donation to the hotel’s charity Leukemia Care, and even sold some paintings. Pictures below by Joanna Raikes and Madeleine Walker.

Images above: Chiswick Calendar editor Bridget Osborne with Ruth Cadbury MP and Andy Slaughter MP and others; photograph Joanna Raikes

Images above: Work by Polly Nuttall, Jennifer Griffiths & Sarah Granville; Ruth Cadbury MP contemplating the artwork; photograph Joanna Raikes

Images above: Private view; photograph Joanna Raikes; Paintings by Naila Hazell

Images above: Private view; photograph Joanna Raikes; Exhibition prints by Sally Grumbridge & photographs by Anna Kunst

Images above: Bridget Osborne, Dawn Wilson & Madeleine Walker; photograph Joanna Raikes; Exhibition photographs by Ljubima Woods

Images above: Arad Reisberg’s exhibition photographs being admired; photograph Madeleine Walker


Level crossing replaced at Grove Park

Image above – Workers for Aktins, contracted by Network Rail, replacing the crossing on Sunday 

Trains running again from Sunday night

The level crossing on Grove Park Terrace was replaced over the weekend. The road will remain closed until Monday 1 May while engineers test the new system, but trains have been going through since Sunday night (23 April).

Chris Farrant, project manager for Atkins, working for network rail, told The Chiswick Calendar:

“We are on track, in fact we are ahead of schedule. We have renewed all the level crossing control systems and replaced barrier.

“It will be a lot safer” he told us, “the technology is new, the barrier machines new, the way the barrier is protected is new.

“Over a period of time everything needs to be renewed. All the new signalling systems are being digitised. It’s faster and everything about it is more reliable.”

They are also repainting the lines and refreshing the look of it.

By Sunday afternoon they had done most of the heavy work and had moved on to testing. Trains started running again on Sunday night and will run during the week. The road remains closed until Monday 1 May bank holiday.

New artwork unveiled for the ‘W4th plinth’

Image above: ‘Ceiling in the Sky’ unveiled 

‘Ceiling in the Sky’ by Cristina Schek, unveiled by Dame Siân Phillips

A new piece of art has gone on display at the ‘W4th plinth’ on the railway embankment at Turnham Green Terrace.

Ceiling in the Sky by Cristina Schek was unveiled by Dame Siân Phillips on Sunday 23 April, before the actor went on to the Theatre at the Tabard for her ‘90th Birthday Conversation‘.

Roumanian artist Cristina, 44, told The Chiswick Calendar she had made the digital image after walking in the forest at Windsor.

Image above: Artist Cristina Schek

“There are wonderful layers of foliage and I thought how wonderful that we were worshipping at the altar of nature since the beginning of time, way before we had a roof over our heads.”

An homage to Michelangelo, the cherubs and heavenly creatures, symbols of life and hope, are taken from his work, from Versailles, Hampton Court, and some from Transylvania, Cristina told us.

Cristina lives near Hampton Court and has been in London for ten years, working as a professional photographer in the art world.

“Nature is at the heart of my work. I don’t really have artistic influences so much as influences from books, although I love surrealism.”

Image above: ‘Ceiling in the Sky’, by Cristina Schek

Chosen from nearly 500 entrants

Abundance London, who organise the choice and delivery of the community art works, received nearly 500 submissions from artists to show their work this time, which the jury whittled down to just 15. The 12 which met the technical requirements for the space were put to a public vote and they have received thousands of votes.

“It’s awesome to be recognised for something that feels quite a lonely process” Cristina told us. “You are alone with your work, working away at it. You submit it, you are rejected, and you just have to keep at it. I am pretty jazzed about being chosen because I wasn’t expecting it. It’s humbling.”

“We are very excited about our winner” the judges said. “And the runners up were also so good we will be featuring them in future installations”.

Image above: ‘Karen Liebreich, Director of Abundance London, addressing the crowd of onlookers

Community event

The event was organised by Abundance London. There was a good turn out from the local community. Ruth Cadbury MP, who came with her husband Nick, handed out an award to Sam Reynolds for his guerilla gardening of a patch of land in Wellesley Rd for Abundance London.

Ruth also introduced Andy Slaughter, MP for Hammersmith & Fulham to the assembled crowd, as he will be Chiswick’s next MP if the boundary changes go ahead in July and he is re-elected at the next general election.

Image above: Dame Siân Phillips with Simon McKay

Cllr Katherine Dunne, deputy leader of Hounslow Council, was there representing the Council. Jack Emsley and Ron Mushiso also turned up, representing our local councillors. Tommy Robinson, head of arts at Chiswick School, directed a couple of numbers from his performing arts students.

The vicar of St Michael & All Angels church, Fr Kevin Morris, came hotfoot from the church’s AGM meeting, with his fellow clergy and Torin Douglas, director of the Chiswick Book Festival.
Harriet Benton and her team of friends and helpers provided tasty and creative canapés, with wine from the Tabard pub and home made elderflower drinks made by the Abundance team.

Among the crowd were those with an interest in art, and those with an interest in gardening, a film crew from S4C making a documentary about Siân Phillips, and a few bemused passers-by with an interest in free food and drink.

They watched and clapped appreciatively as Siân tugged on the rope and the previous artwork, The earth from the Suomi NPP satellite, fell to the ground, to reveal the new art work underneath. The flawless disrobing, (ok maybe it took a couple of extra tugs), engineered by Steve Nutt and Rory Ferguson.

Image above: Sam Reynolds receiving an award for guerilla gardening from Ruth Cadbury MP

W4th Plinth project

The judging panel were Peter Burgess, who runs the Chiswick Art School, Sarah Cruz and Karen Liebreich, co-founders of Abundance London, Steve Nutt and Karen Wyatt, also of Abundance London, Tanya Saunders, who runs Make+Paint art clubs for children, and Georgia Simmonds, art and photography teacher at ArtsEd Day School and Sixth Form.Signed limited editions of the new artwork will be available for purchase. Harriet Benton Events will be providing drinks for the occasion.

The W4th Plinth art project was launched in September 2019 with an artwork by Sir Peter Blake, showing the Music Hall entertainers who had performed at the Chiswick Empire theatre. Since then, there have been several other community artworks chosen for the space.

Cristina’s work is shown by the Cynthia Corbett Gallery. She has shown her work with them recently at London Art Fair, Art Miami and Palm Beach Modern and Contemporary.

Her next big show will be at Hamptons Fine Art Fair 13-16 July.

Pictures below by Ljubima Wood.

Images above: Unveiling the new artwork; Cristina Schek; Karen Liebreich with Cristina Schek

Images above: Cristina Schek presents Dame Siân Phillips with a print of Ceiling in the Sky; Siân Phillips with Simon McKay; Ruth Cadbury with Sam Reynolds

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