Pub in the Park has some new features this year

Image above: Pub in the Park Chiswick

‘The tastiest Pub in the Park yet’

Pub in the Park returns 1 – 3 September. They promise ‘a weekend of feasting and partying bigger and better than ever before.’

Hosting the weekend will be chef and broadcaster Andi Oliver on the Friday night, the Hairy Bikers’ Si King for the Saturday sessions and the man behind Pub in the Park, chef-owner of the Hand and Flowers and several other establishments in Marlow, Tom Kerridge, on the Sunday.

On the music front, McFly heads the line-up, which also includes Hoosiers, La Roux and Jamie Reynolds DJ Set, Ronan Keating and Squeeze, amongst others.

Here’s a little taster of what the organisers say we can expect this year….

? ‘Hand-picked selection of restaurants serving exclusive dishes. Think classic British pub food with a twist!

? ‘Bars galore – you’ll be spoilt for choice!

? ‘Fast queues – thanks to their brand-new payment system, Square! They’ll have you eating and boogying in no time.

?️ ‘Shopping Village full of tasty treats & gifts (keep an eye out for your local favourites)

? ‘Bangin’ music line-up – The headliners are Ronan Keating, Hoosiers, McFly and Squeeze.

?‍? ‘Tasty chef demos with celebrity chefs & culinary masters.

? ‘Kids’ activities – let the little ones loose with the Super Pirates gang who will keep them entertained with games, activities, and their fabulous inflatable playground.’

Brand new features

This is the third year Pub in the Park has taken place in the gardens of Chiswick House and each year they add something new. This year you will find:

  • Pop-up Parties
    ‘The best kept secret at Pub in the Park! Head to the tequila bar, Pimentae or Equiano Rum bar for pop-up parties.’
  • Silent Disco
    ‘Get ready to be transported to the ultimate boogie wonderland at their silent disco.’
  • The band-stand Acoustic Show
    ‘Soak up the atmosphere by the relaxing bandstand and enjoy being serenaded by local acts throughout the day.’

Book tickets here:

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

Children’s author Lotte Moore – obituary

Image above: Lotte Moore, who died, aged 87 on 12 July

Best known for her wartime memoir Lotte Moore – A Child’s War

Obituary by Nicholas Bromley

Though Lotte Moore only took up her pen in 2006 at the age of 70, she managed to write and publish over 25 children’s books in her lifetime as well as novels, poetry collections and a biography.

Ink ran in the family. Her grandfather was the writer and humourist A.P. Herbert and her father John Pudney, besides being a novelist and journalist, was one of the foremost poets of his generation. Lotte’s early childhood was spent as an evacuee during World War Two and this experience was embedded in her memory.

Alan Herbert and his wife Gwen lived on Hammersmith Terrace and it was in this house both during and after the War that Lotte felt truly at home.

Encouraged and supported by her grandmother, she trained at the Royal Ballet School and had a career with the Royal Opera Ballet before becoming an actress on film and stage. Her family connections meant that she encountered the Good and Great from Churchill downwards but she would never play that card intentionally. It was the humour of the occasions that sparked her reminiscences and she delighted in relating the puncture of famous egos. She had an infectious personality, was a born raconteur and lived life to the full.

She returned to Hammersmith Terrace when she married Chris Moore and it was there, after raising their family, that she began her writing career. Her enthusiasm and love of children and childhood was channelled into music teaching and story telling. Her work such as The Invisible Elephant, Balloon Fun and The Teaspoon Family were witty and imaginative and her passionate belief that they should learn of the realities of the past helped her create her most famous book:  Lotte Moore A Child’s War.

Its success led to her giving talks to thousands of young schoolchildren throughout London and in 2018 she commissioned Take Note Theatre to dramatise her book. The play’s first outing was followed by seasonal productions both at the Theatre at the Tabard and at The Corinthian Sailing Club and it was a delight to watch the reaction of the audiences to the play and their fascination in meeting Lotte afterwards.

Her kindness and concern spanned any age gap for the lady was truly young at heart. She will be missed by so very many.

Lotte Moore’s funeral is at 11.00 am on Wednesday 16 August at St Nicholas Church, Church Street, Chiswick W4 2PH. If you would like to make a donation to the Just Giving page her faimly has set up in aid of the children’s charity Tommy’s, the link is here:

Nicholas Bromley adapted Lotte Moore: A Child’s War for stage and directed it at the Tabard Theatre.

Chiswick Cinema’s IT system goes down on the busiest weekend of the year

Image above: Chiswick Cinema on Chiswick High Rd

The culmination of weeks of “crippling” IT problems

Chiswick Cinema has faced crippling IT problems over the past few weeks, culminating in a total shut down on one of the busiest weekends of the year.

For weeks now cinema-goers have faced problems trying to renew their annual memberships online. Last weekend (21 – 23 July) the much vaunted ‘Barbenheimer’ weekend launching both Barbie and Oppenheimer, there were website problems. Some people found they were met with ‘service unavailable’ or ‘server error’ messages when they tried to book online, although there were seats still available.

This weekend (28 – 30 July), when the appetite for both films was still very high, the website shut down totally and staff found they were not even able to process sales on the tills.

“It has been crippling and so disappointing” general manager Keiichi Furuya told The Chiswick Calendar. “The previous weekend and throughout the week people have been getting frustrated.”

An indication that things were getting worse came at 9.35 am on Saturday morning when the cinema’s marketing manager Chris Parker published this on social media:

“The Chiswick public has been incredibly understanding”

Although it is immensely frustrating to try and book a film and find ‘the Computer says No’, the Chiswick public has been incredibly understanding, says Chris, in part because they have not tried to disguise the fact that they have been having computer problems, but have chosen candour and problem-solving as their response.

“There have been times when we couldn’t process things but we will always look after people when they come in. Even when everything went down we had a Plan B and a Plan C. I think people have appreciated that we have been doing our best and have been honest that we are having problems.”

“The staff has been amazing” added Keiichi, who has been focused on trying to fix the problems ever since he took over as manager at the end of May.

Speaking to cinema customers, one told The Chiswick Calendar they had been furious with the cinema for not being able to book online and having to go in to try and get tickets, but their fury dissipated when they talked to the staff.

“They were so nice and so apologetic. They are obviously having such a horrible time, we couldn’t stay angry.”

Images above: Audience for this weekend’s showing of The Great Escape as part of the Richard Attenborough retrospective season; Michael Attenborough introducing the film

Chiswick Cinema is owned by Trafalgar Cinemas, whose senior management team – heads of Operations, Finance and IT – have all become involved. The problem is apparently a server issue and they need to update their systems and maybe change servers, which they are planning to look at this week.

“The problem has manifested itself in different ways. As soon as we fixed one thing, it cropped up somewhere else as a new problem, and it’s been intermittent, so you think you’ve solved it but you haven’t” said Chris.

“There is some sort of core corrupt file or data affecting the servers and not letting our systems load” said Keiichi.

The system they are using belongs to Vista, the biggest provider of cinema booking systems worldwide.

Image above: Cinema-goers; Chiswick Cinema staff

Why don’t you put in a hot line so people can ring you?

The biggest piece of negative feedback the cinema has received since it opened is the lack of a phone number on which the public can ring them. I have asked the question before and asked it again, this time getting a more comprehensive answer: Why don’t you give out a phone line so people can ring you?

Chris has some experience of this as he used to manage a call centre for 27 cinemas, and he says, it is not straightforward. It is costly to have staff fielding calls (the answer he has given me before), but more than that, there would be no point having someone answering the phone if they were not able to take bookings.

To take phone bookings there has to be a paperless office where certain conditions are met to safeguard the security of data, because the staff would be handling people’s financial details.

“You’re talking about taking on a whole new team of people, almost as many as it takes to run the cinema, and if the computer system is not working, the staff member on the phone still would not be able to make a booking, so that would be even more frustrating.”

They probably do not want to provide a means whereby furious punters can shout at their staff, either.

What they ask instead is that punters experiencing problems email them on Their service level agreement says they will answer within 72 hours which, I pointed out, is extremely offputting to someone who just wants to know if there are seats left to see a film that same afternoon.

“Generally the duty manager is able to answer much more quickly than that, but if you can see on the website that there are seats and you just can’t book online, just come in and we will help you at the cinema.”

In our household (representing three different surnames) we have found they have got back to us on email within ten minutes.

Image above: Chiswick Cinema’s marketing manager Chris Parker

Full server update due on Wednesday

They heard this morning that the company will do a full server update this Wednesday (2 August), to fix the issues.

“We have a plan now, so by this weekend customers can expect the full proper service” said Chris.

Fingers crossed. (If I had a penny for every time a teckie had said ‘that should work now’ …)

Meanwhile the cinema will remain open. At time of writing the website is back up, showing a full slate of films: Barbie, Oppenheimer, Elemental, Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning, and reflecting the fact that we are now in school summer holidays: Shrek, Beauty and the Beast, Shrek 2, Mulan, Shrek the Third, and Hercules.

They are currently programming next week’s films, as they usually do on a Monday, and are pleased to announce that despite all the computer issues over the two days of the ‘Barbenheimer’ launch they still took 3,449 admissions, beating all the nearby cinemas: The Olympic in Barnes, Everyman Chelsea, Electric Cinema White City and The Gate Notting Hill.

“I only hope that people will just bear with us. We just don’t want customers put off booking by an issue outside of our control and not to come and enjoy the cinema.

“We are looking forward to being able to get back to concentrating on making sure it’s a really exciting cultural venue.”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

George IV nominated for City Pub of The Year 

The George IV pub on Chiswick High Rd has been nominated for City Pub of The Year in the Great British Pub Awards

The pub, a Fuller’s pub, hosts live music and pub quizes in the main bar, and everything from private corporate events and weddings to the Fiesta Flamenca in the Boston Room, including The Chiswick Calendar’s weekly Thursday night Jazz nights. The Boston Room has also been the Friday and Saturday night home of Headliners comedy club for the past 20 years.

Ben Bullman, who has run the pub as general manager for several years, is always open to ideas for bringing people into the pub. The Chiswick Calendar has worked closely with Ben over the past five years. He is always unfailingly courteous and helpful and willing to try out new things. His staff are also hugely supportive and professional.

George IV is part of The Chiswick Calendar’s Club Card scheme and offers our Club Card holders a generous 20% off all food and drink at all times. The food is good too.

Image above: Fiesta Flamenca in the Boston Room at George IV

Anita la Maltesa and Ramon Ruiz have been packing out the Boston Room several times a year with their Fiesta Flamenca – a wonderful display of flamenco dance, song, castanets, footwork, percussion and guitar.

‘Pint of Science’ hold talks on all manner of scientific subjects (how AI can predict our personalities was one of the most recent). The ‘Ooh La La’ burlesque show makes a regular appearance, as does a Dungeons and Dragons group.

The Chiswick Book Festival uses the space for some of its sessions and the Chiswick Flower Market and Chiswick Cheese Market have also used it for associated activities such as flower workshops and wine and cheese sessions. The West London Queer Project hold events there too.

Image above: The Chiswick Calendar’s Jazz Night – The Blues Engineers

In the courtyard they have put on live theatre and opera and in the mezzanine area above the main bar the pub provides games for children to keep them occupied when families come in for Sunday lunch. And of course whenever there is a big sporting occasion the pub is full of sports fans watching it on the big TV screens.

In this way Ben has been seeking to introduce people from all sections of the Chiswick community to the pub, making it a hub of social life at the centre of the High Rd.

They are up against stiff competition, as the 2023 Great British Pub Awards has a record number of entrants this year. In their category for ‘the very best the nation has to offer’ by way of a city / urban pub, their rivals are The Kings Arms at Bexleyheath, The Audley in Mayfair, The Bridewell in Liverpool, The Coach House at Stratford-upon-Avon and the Turk’s Head in Twickenham.

Other categories include the best country / rural pub, the best pub for dogs, the best pub for entertainment, the best pub for families, the best pub for food, best pub garden, best young pub chef, best sustainable pub and the best pub to watch sport.

Ben will find out if they have won on Tuesday 19 September, when the awards are made at a gala night in Manchester.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

ULEZ monitoring equipment vandalised in Chiswick

Images above: ULEZ cameras on Milnthrope Road and Park Road with their wires cut

Eight cameras broken by “Blade Runners” vandals

A group calling themselves the “Blade Runners” has significantly disrupted enforcement of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in Chiswick by cutting the cables of eight cameras used to monitor non-compliant vehicles. The group has claimed responsibility for the act on TikTok, where they boast of having 100 members across the country.

Images shared on social media show the vandalism, with the wires at the back of the cameras deliberately cut. Cables were cut on Eastbourne Road, Milnthorpe Road, Park Road, Devonshire Road, Dorchester Grove, Church Street, Burlington Lane, and Palladian Gardens.

Chiswick is equipped with a higher number of ULEZ cameras than most areas due to the exclusion of the section of the A4 between Chiswick Roundabout and Hogarth Roundabout. This exclusion creates additional entry points to the ULEZ, making monitoring crucial for maintaining air quality standards in the area.

The cameras use Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology to identify and levy charges on non-compliant vehicles.

Despite a recent unsuccessful challenge in the High Court against the expansion of the ULEZ to the M25 on August 29, the Blade Runners remain determined to halt the expansion of ULEZ one way or another. The group similarly vandalised cameras in Chiswick in April, leading to two men being arrested. There have been 96 reported incidents of camera damage in the London area alone this year.

Image above: Trashed ULEZ cameras; via Twitter

“It’s a way to try to… restrict our movements”, says self-proclaimed Blade Runners member

A self-proclaimed member of the Blade Runners gave an interview to Mail Online, donning a balaclava to conceal his identity. He claimed responsibility for personally removing 34 ANPR devices, while the group as a whole has disabled or taken down hundreds more.

“In terms of damage, it’s way more than what [Sadiq Khan and TfL] have stated. It’s at least a couple of hundred,” the masked man said. He added:

“Snipping, damaging with hammers, painting, disabling on a circuit level, and removing. They are unbolted and they are snipped. The tools they use to install them are the ones we use to remove it. We don’t want this. It’s a way to try to… restrict our movements.”

Transport for London (TfL) and the Metropolitan Police have urged the public to report any suspicious activities related to the ULEZ cameras and vowed to take swift action against those involved in the vandalism.

Meanwhile, discussions are ongoing to explore additional measures to safeguard the ULEZ infrastructure and maintain its efficacy in combating air pollution in the city.

Image above: ULEZ expansion map

“Vandalism on our network is unacceptable”, says TfL

A spokesperson for TfL said:

‘Vandalism on our network is unacceptable. All incidents are reported to the police for investigation.’

The Mayor of London remains committed to expanding the scheme despite reservations about it within his own party following Labour’s defeat at the Uxbridge by-election. He said:

“We know every day that there are people dying prematurely. There are children with stunted lungs because of air pollution, adults with a whole load of health issues. So we’re going to carry on doing what we can to support Londoners [with the expansion].

“But the reality is that actually 95 per cent of Londoners who drive a car in inner London have a compliant vehicle. In outer London, it’s around 90 per cent. Clearly, we need to make sure that more Londoners with non-compliant vehicles have the support they need.’

PlumDuff bakery ‘closing imminently’

Image above: PlumDuff bakery; photograph Matt Smith

Staff and customers told the bakery will close ‘soon’

Staff and customers at PlumDuff, the popular bakery at 62 Southfield Road in Chiswick, have been told it will be ‘closing imminently’.

The bakery has served Chiswick for over two decades with a combination of freshly baked bread, croissants, continental pastries, cakes and hot drinks, but the owners have reportedly decided to close the business for personal reasons.

Owner Ian Moore first joined the bakery in 1989 before becoming the main man in 2004.

PlumDuff had been a cash-only business since it opened its doors in 1989. But Ian took it to 21st century by embracing digital payments in 2018.

He had previously worked at the world renowned Bahnhof buffet in Zurich, as well as alongside world famous chef Anton Mosimann at the Dorchester Hotel in London’s Park Lane.

Ian also includes Harrods amongst his previous employers but after travelling Europe, where he picked up new ideas and techniques, eventually he found himself at Plum Duff and the rest is history.

On Saturday (29 July), one member of staff confirmed to The Chiswick Calendar that the business would soon be closing, but was not able to confirm the date.

Jane Davies, a local resident who has visited PlumDuff for years, said:

“Ian who runs it was amazing in the Covid lockdown, staying open and delivering bread and food basics. We are going to miss them all terribly. Ian and his wife used to paint their own shopfront as well, a lovely couple.”

‘Pandora’ the camper van stolen from Woodstock Road

Image above: Pandora the camper van during King Charles III’s coronation celebrations

Vehicle was stolen between Wednesday 26 and Friday 28 July

A resident of Woodstock Rd in Chiswick has had her cherished camper van, affectionately named “Pandora,” stolen from her driveway last week. The van, which holds over a decade’s worth of memories and adventures, went missing between Wednesday 26 and Friday 28 July, leaving Judith Parker and her partner devastated.

Speaking to The Chiswick Calendar, Judith said:

“I drove home in it last Wednesday, but I was ill. So I kind of came in and didn’t go out of the house again until my partner came on Friday evening and asked “Where’s Pandora?”. I thought he was joking, but then I came out and found out he definitely wasn’t.”

She contacted people in the neighbourhood through WhatsApp to share the disheartening news.

“Pandora” holds a special place in Judith’s heart as she has owned the camper van for around 13 years. The van has been on various adventures across France and Spain, accompanying Judith and her partner to festivals and other memorable journeys.

Image above: Pandora the camper van during King Charles III’s coronation celebrations

Judith said she had reported the theft to the police:

“Yes, I did straight away… I reported it online to the police and hilariously in the paper on Saturday [the police said]:  ‘We are going to follow up on every lead and cut down on car crime’ but I haven’t heard anything”.

There have been no substantial leads regarding the van’s whereabouts since.

Describing the unique features of her beloved camper van, Judith said:

“It’s a California conversion, it’s called a ‘Westphalia California conversion’ – but that conversion is quite unusual.”

Judith likened the experience of owning the van to “owning a dolphin,” explaining how people often approach her to talk about the van, and even the local children recognise and adore it, with it recently being the centrepiece of King Charles III’s coronation celebrations in thier street.

Judith said Driving the camper van has always been like embarking on an adventure, an experience that can’t be replicated when driving a regular car.

“Pandora’s” licence plate is PAN 584L.

As the search for the camper van continues, Judith remains hopeful that the van will be found and returned to her. She urges anyone with information regarding the stolen camper van to come forward and assist the police in their investigation.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

Chiswick Gators basketball team confirm move to Hammersmith

Image above: Chiswick Gators basketball team; photograph Chiswick Gators

Local basketball team to relocate to Hammersmith for better facilities 

The Chiswick Gators basketball club has officially announced its decision to move out of Chiswick, confirming it will be relocating to the Hammersmith Academy on Cathnor Road, just north of the Goldhawk Road.

Starting this September, the weekly basketball sessions for children aged 6-15 will be held at the Hammersmith Academy every Wednesday during term time, from 6 pm to 7.30pm (replacing the  Tuesday sessions). Friday sessions will take place from 6.00pm to 8.00pm at the Gunnersbury Sports Hub.

The Club said:

“Hammersmith Academy promises to be a good location with brand-new sports facilities, better basketball hoops, and more space to play on. The venue has great parking and is easily accessible by public transport.”

Image above: Chiswick School, where the Gators were based

Better facilities and… easier to get there

The coaching staff for the new session will be led by Richard Maye, the head coach & senior development officer. Joining him will be national league head coach Lara Hassan, Kayode Piper with Friya Colaco, and Michael Kwentoh, further enriching the training experience for the young athletes.

The decision to relocate comes after a series of issues at the previous venue, Chiswick Sports Hall on Staveley Road. The Club said the lack of maintenance, leading to persistent leaks, made the facilities potentially dangerous for club members.

Some had complained about staff arriving late to open the hall, causing delays in the sessions. The club and Head Teacher Laura Ellener held several meetings to address these problems, with the school promising to provide support. Despite these efforts, the club says the challenges remained unresolved.

Parents of club members have welcomed the move, as some have received penalty charge notices for using Staveley Road when dropping off their children. The proposal to reopen Burlington Lane as an alternative route was recently dropped by Hounslow Council. As a result, some members said attending Friday evening sessions had become impractical if they wished to drive, leading them to quit the club.

Image above: Ali Abucar Ali plaque

Sadness about leaving, as Chiswick venue has memories of Ali Abucar Ali

While many parents support the relocation to Hammersmith Academy for the improved facilities and accessibility, there is a tinge of sadness as the Chiswick venue holds a plaque commemorating Ali Abucar Ali, a former player and volunteer coach at Chiswick Gators. Ali was killed in 2021 after being fatally stabbed in Brentford shortly after leaving a Friday training session.

Michael Kwentoh, founder of the club, said:

“Chiswick School has been the home of Chiswick Gators since we started out in 2016 with a wonderful group of Chiswick School students, and the school will always have a special place in our hearts.

“I started coaching basketball at Chiswick school back in 2011 just before the London 2012 Olympics games. However, with the club’s promotion to Basketball England’s Premier division this year (competing now as West London Gators), the time was right to move to new facilities with competition-standard basketball courts.

“We hope to welcome young people from Chiswick School – and from across West London – to train with us and to enjoy the fantastic game of basketball at our new venues- Hammersmith Academy and Gunnersbury Sports Hub.

“We would like to express our sincere thanks to Chiswick School and to head teacher Laura Ellener for all the support we’ve had through our years training in Chiswick School Sports Hall.

“We do one day hope to return to Chiswick School as it’s home to the club. It’s the place Ali Abucar Ali and myself Mike Kwentoh first founded the Chiswick Gators club. So it holds a special place in all of our hearts.”

The Great Escape – possibly the best war film ever made – 60 years on

Image above: Steve McQueen in The Great Escape; photograph IMDb / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. 

Richard Attenborough’s son and Donald Pleasence’s nephew share their memories at a screening of the 1963 classic

I could have sworn I’d seen The Great Escape in the cinema when it first came out. I can’t have done because I would have been four years old, so it must just have been the power of the film, even on television, which imprinted it with such clarity because it stands out in remarkable detail in my memory: the plot, the humour, the tension, the breathtaking ending.

There was not a dry eye in the house when it was screened on Sunday (30 July), introduced by Michael Attenborough, son of Richard Attenborough, one of the lead actors, as part of the Richard Attenborough retrospective season at Chiswick Cinema.

The film tells the true story of Allied airmen in Stalag Luft III – prisoners who had caused the Germans trouble by repeatedly trying to escape from other camps all housed together in the same high security camp – “all the rotten eggs in one basket” as the German Commandant said. They regarded it as their mission to tie up as much German manpower as possible in guarding them, to keep them away from the front.

The film commemorates the 50 Allied prisoners who were executed by the Germans when they were caught after a mass escape.

READ ALSO: The Great Escape(1963) – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

Images above: Steven McQueen, James Garner, James Coburn, Charles Bronson; photographs IMDb / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. 

Actors who had served in the war bringing their real life experience to the screen

The Great Escape had an all-star cast: Steven McQueen, James Garner, James Coburn, Charles Bronson representing the Americans – tall, handsome, strong – and the Brits: Richard Attenborough, Donald Pleasence, James Donald, David McCallum, Gordon Jackson, John Leyton, Angus Lennie – English and Scottish character actors of assorted shapes and sizes and regional accents representing the chippy, subversive mix that were the RAF officers.

Made 60 years ago, many of the actors were of an age to have been called up to fight. Richard Attenborough served in the RAF and so did Donald Pleasence, whose nephew Christian Howgill joined Michael Attenborough to introduce the film. Christian told the audience how his uncle had been a wireless operator with No. 166 Squadron in Bomber Command and had spent time in a prisoner of war camp for real.

“He flew over 60 missions in a Lancaster bomber, many times over Berlin. He just managed to parachute out in time when his plane was downed and he spent three years in the prisoner of war camp Stalag 1.

“He was a pain in the neck for [director] John Sturges because Donald would pipe up: ‘No, that wouldn’t have happened’. They made him technical adviser and gave him a bit of extra cash and years later John Sturges admitted: ‘the only reason we did that was to get you off set and shut you the hell up.’

The Great Escape was the film he was most proud of and the one for which he got his best reviews.”

Images above: Richard Attenborough, Donald Pleasence, David McCallum; photographs IMDb / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. 

Chiswick connections

Donald Pleasence lived in Chiswick and there is a plaque on the house next to the Bull’s Head at Strand on the Green to commemorate him.

“Donald would have so loved to have been here to honour his friend” said Christian. “He loved Chiswick and would have loved this cinema. He would have been a founder member for sure.”

Best known for this film and for his role as James Bond villain Blofeld in You Only Live Twice, Donald Pleasence made some 250 films and he and Richard Attenborough were often up for the same parts.

“Richard was astonished how many he’d done. ‘Have you ever turned down a role?’ he asked him. ‘I can’t afford to be as choosy as you’ said Donald, ‘I have four wives and five children to support. I always feel when I get a script that it still has your fingerprints on’.”

Donald bonded with David McCallum (The Man from U.N.C.L.E, NCIS) on this film, said Christian, as they were both going through messy divorces.

“Donald was always going through a messy divorce.”

He was, said Christian, rather in awe of Steve McQueen at the start of the picture. McQueen was by then a huge Hollywood star, and impossibly cool. (“Heaven for a 13 year old” said Michael Attenborough, who got to hang out with him on set. “He was every bit as cool in person as he was on film”).

McQueen and Pleasence bonded, said Christian, because they found common ground in their love of fast cars. His uncle had an E-type Jaguar, of which he was inordinately proud.

McQueen had also served, after the end of the war, in the US Marine Corps, where he had spent time in a military prison for and unauthorized absence, failing to return after a weekend pass expired, but also saved the lives of five other Marines during an Arctic exercise, pulling them from a tank before it broke through ice into the sea.

I think that is what makes this film so special: not only is it a true story, but the lived experience of some of the cast matches the heroism in the film.

Image above: Gordon Jackson, Donald Pleasence, Richard Attenborough, James Garner in the tunnel waiting to escape; photograph IMDb / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. 

A lasting friendship between Richard Attenborough and Steve McQueen

“I remember dad doing this film as a kid” said Michael Attenborough. “It was his first Hollywood film. He had turned down other films before because he didn’t want to work in America, so far away from his wife and family, but this one was ok because it was shot in Germany, in Bavaria.

“Dad struck up a close friendship with Steve McQueen and they stayed in touch. Dad was in LA and Steve rang him at his hotel and said: ‘so glad you’re in town, come and have a drink’.”

Walking out of the blinding LA sunshine into a downtown bar, as his eyes accustomed to the darkness he saw a figure at the far end of the bar wearing a baseball cap, and it was Steve McQueen. They spent time together drinking and chatting and eventually Richard had to go.

“As he walked out, Steve McQueen said: ‘Dickie I love you’. ‘I know you do’, dad said, ‘I love you too’.

“Four days later Steve died and that was his way of saying goodbye. It was an incredibly selfless thing to do, not to tell him he was dying, but he had cancer and the baseball cap was to hide the hair loss from the chemotherapy.

“One of my fondest memories of Steve McQueen was when they were filming The Sand Pebbles. I went to hang out with him and found him playing cards with the electricians between his scenes. He wasn’t a method actor at all but he was completely professional. Bonkers about cars, he was the Tom Cruise of his day, he did all his own stunts.”

Including the incredible scene in The Great Escape where he is pursued by German soldiers across the foothills of the Alps, riding a motorbike he has stolen from them, increasingly desperate to get across the barbed wire double fence that marks the border with Switzerland, and he makes that death defying leap.

Funding secured for a ‘creative campus’ at Chiswick House

Image above: The Kitchen Garden at Chiswick House & Gardens 

£180,000 grant to fund energy-efficient measures and collaborative artist workspace

Chiswick House Gardens is set to undergo a transformative change with the successful bid for a sustainability grant from the Mayor of London’s Creative Enterprise Zone Sustainability Capital Grant Fund.

The £180,000 grant will pave the way for the establishment of an energy-efficient creative campus, providing a collaborative workspace for up to 100 local artists and makers within the estate’s grounds.

The campus is to be built in what is currently a large car park beside the Kitchen Garden and the estate offices, which stands virtually empty most of the time.

The grant is part of the Mayor’s £1.2 million fund aimed at supporting creative projects throughout the city. In addition to assisting the creation of the creative campus, the funds will be used to implement key energy efficiency improvements to some of the estate’s historic heritage buildings, enabling them to be brought back to community use.

The green improvement works will focus on enhancing the buildings’ energy efficiency by installing new roof insulation, reducing heat losses and gains and therefore minimising energy demand. The grant will also finance essential facilities such as cycle storage and showers for users, promoting sustainable transport options and a greener approach.

Image above: Plans for the ‘creative campus’; Chiswick House & Gardens Trust

Funding is ‘a bold step to repurpose unused and underused historic buildings’

Xanthe Arvanitakis, Director of Chiswick House & Gardens Trust said:

“As well as caring for our Grade-I listed 18th century buildings and keeping our 65-acre gardens free to visit 365 days a year, we’re passionate about supporting our Hounslow community through skills development and by creating employment opportunities.

“Thanks to this Creative Enterprise Zone Sustainability Capital Grant Funding from the Mayor of London, we’re taking bold steps to repurpose unused and underused historic buildings and solving some of the environmental challenges to establish an ambitious new Creative Campus for up to 100 local artists, makers and artisans.”

Councillor Shantanu Rajawat, Leader of Hounslow Council, said:

“This grant is a fantastic opportunity for us to bring historic buildings at a local heritage site back into community use. The Creative Campus will help us to continue to expand our network of creative workspaces and provide more support to residents wanting to build up their skills in this exciting and expanding industry.

“Expanding access to sustainable and affordable workspaces is an integral part of our support for businesses to start, grow and thrive in the borough. Through these spaces the Council can continue to deliver and commission enterprise support that helps businesses overcome the ever-increasing challenges due to rising costs and inflation.

“We are committed to supporting residents by improving access to good quality local jobs, in particular our young people through our Youth Skills and Employment Guarantee (YSEG) and this is another mechanism for us to achieve this ambitious goal.”

The Creative Campus will also collaborate with other creative spaces within CREW, including the Digital Dock Brentford, the creative arts market at Boston Manor under the M4, the Jimmy Choo London Fashion Academy at Boston Manor House, and artists at Johnson’s Island. Additionally, future projects in the borough include the expansion of the Gillette Factory into nine studios, the Sky campus, and global media companies based at Chiswick Business Park.

Hounslow Council also receives money for its Creative Enterprise West initiative

The successful bid by Chiswick House was one of nine projects that secured funding, alongside Hounslow Council’s Creative Enterprise West (CREW) initiative. The latter aims to establish West London as a prominent screen capital, housing nearly half of London’s television broadcasting jobs.

Within the CREW project, the Cedar Yards programme will create spaces ‘dedicated to community, creativity, and learning’. These new spaces encompass the Creative Campus, Community Garden, Volunteer Welfare, and Learning Hub, ‘providing a comprehensive platform for local artists and artisans to flourish’.

The Mayor’s announcement of the grant award occurred at the London Made Me event, where the capital’s newest Creative Enterprise Zones were unveiled. As part of the event, small creative businesses from Hounslow were offered an opportunity to showcase their products at a central London venue during the lead-up to Christmas, facilitated by the London Made Me Pop-Up Shop and Retail Training programme.

Acton man jailed for causing death of woman and her three dogs

Image above: Laszlo Dancs

Laszl0 Dancs jailed for six years and eight months

A man from Acton has been jailed for causing the death of a woman and her three dogs by dangerous driving.

Laszlo Dancs, 28, of Heathfield Road, W3 appeared at the Old Bailey on Friday 28 July where he was sentenced to six years and eight months’ imprisonment for causing the death of Olivia Helen Riley by dangerous driving, drink driving, drug driving and failing to provide a breath sample. He was also disqualified from driving for five years.

Dancs had previously pleaded guilty at the same court on Tuesday 23 May.

On 14th May 2022, Olivia Riley, who was aged 41 and from Suffolk, was walking her dogs on Cheyne Walk, SW3 when she was struck by a car being driven by Dancs.

Officers attended with paramedics from the London Ambulance Service, despite their efforts, Olivia was pronounced dead at the scene. Olivia’s three dogs – two Labradors called Lily and Maia and a Golden Retriever puppy called Darcy – were also killed in the collision.

Dancs, then aged 26, was arrested at the scene on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving and was taken into police custody. He was charged on 14 November 2022 with causing death by dangerous driving, drink driving, drug driving and failing to provide a breath sample.

Detective Sergeant Dale Luke of the Met’s Roads and Transport Policing Command said:

“Olivia Riley’s life was cut short by the reckless actions of Laszlo Dancs. Were it not for his actions she would still be enjoying walks with her beloved dogs today.

“My thoughts are very much with Olivia’s family today as this long legal process comes to a close – it is my heartfelt hope that they may find a measure of closure and are able to remember Olivia in happier times, before this terrible incident took her from them.”

Images above: Olivia Riley, Olivia and two of her dogs 

No sentence can bring Olivia back, says family 

A spokesperson for Olivia Riley’s family said:

“On behalf of our family and those loved by Olivia, we are grateful to the team of prosecutors, Met Police Road Death Investigation team and all those who attended the unimaginable scene of Olivia’s death and have supported us so well through the maze of the English justice system, through to today’s sentence of Lazlo Dancs, 440 days after Olivia’s light was extinguished from all our lives.

“No sentence can restore that light or the mental health of all of us who will mourn her loss for the rest of our lives. We could only hope that the sentence passed would be appropriate and relevant to the circumstances of Olivia’s sudden death.

“I find it impossible to reconcile that a person who chooses to drive with a lethal cocktail of illegal drugs and alcohol at 6.15am on a Saturday morning has not intentionally decided to endanger the lives of innocent people and their loved ones.

“Today’s sentence should reflect Mr Dancs’ abdication of responsibility for the lethal consequences of his actions.

“This is insignificant compared with the final tragedy of justice, that Mr Dancs should have escaped the current tariff of life imprisonment for causing death by dangerous driving because he ended Olivia’s life six weeks before this relevant and appropriate sentence was introduced to law.

“We hope and pray that Mr Dancs will dedicate the rest of his life to personal repentance and preventing others from following his life destroying choices.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

Train strikes: August update

Image above: Cancelled trains at Chiswick Station

Industrial action and overtime bans to affect rail services 

Major industrial action on London’s railways is due to take place this week. The strike action, organised by the RMT and ASLEF, is part of their ongoing fight for a pay rise and better working conditions. Here’s everything we know about the situation right now.

ASLEF has announced a week-long overtime ban from July 31 until August 5, which will seriously disrupt services at 15 rail companies. Following this, an additional overtime ban for ASLEF train drivers will take place from Monday, August 7, to Saturday, August 12.

As of now, there are no tube strikes planned for London in August, but the ongoing train strikes could still cause disruptions to some services – especially at Gunnersbury Station which is used by both rail and Tube services.

The Elizabeth line is not set to be affected by the next round of strike action.

The ASLEF overtime ban will affect a wide range of train lines in and around London. The lines that will be impacted are:

  • Avanti West Coast
  • Chiltern Railways
  • Cross Country
  • East Midlands Railway
  • Greater Anglia
  • Great Western Railway
  • GTR Great Northern Thameslink
  • Island Line
  • LNER
  • Northern Trains
  • Southeastern
  • Southern/Gatwick Express
  • South Western Railway main line
  • TransPennine Express
  • West Midlands Trains

Image above: RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch, ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan

Why are UK train workers striking?

The RMT and ASLEF have been fighting for a pay rise and better working conditions for more than a year.

Mick Whelan, Aslef’s general secretary, said:

“We do not want to go on strike – we do not want to inconvenience passengers, we have families and friends who use the railway, too, and we believe in investing in rail for the future of this country – but the blame for this action lies, fairly and squarely, at the feet of the employers who have forced our hand over this by their intransigence.

“It is now up to them to come up with a more sensible, and realistic, offer and we ask the government not to hinder this process.”

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said:

“This latest phase of action will show the country just how important railway staff are to the running of the rail industry. My team of negotiators and I are available 24/7 for talks with the train operating companies and government ministers.

“Yet quite incredibly neither party has made any attempt whatsoever to arrange any meetings or put forward a decent offer that can help us reach a negotiated solution. The government continues to shackle the companies and will not allow them to put forward a package that can settle this dispute.

“Our members have now voted 3 times to take strike action over the last 12 months – the most of recent of which coincided with having the full details of the substandard offer from the rail operators.

‘They voted by 9-1 to renew their strike mandate and RMT will continue its industrial campaign until we reach a negotiated settlement on pay, working conditions and job security.”

What will the government’s proposed anti-strike laws mean for London?

The government is considering anti-strike legislation that would require striking workers to meet ‘minimum service levels.’ This legislation could make strike actions less severe, as it would ensure essential services like trains continue to operate during strikes.

Critics say these laws will infringe on workers’ fundamental right to strike. The bill is currently in its final stages before being passed, and many are closely watching its implications for the future of industrial action in the UK.

The law would allow managers in rail, health, fire, ambulance, education and nuclear commissioning to sue unions and even sack employees if minimum services are not met during strikes.

As for London trains, the legislation could make strike action less severe. With a minimum service, it would be less likely for there to be absolutely no tubes, Overground services or trains running.

Chiswick Flower Market – a home for British flowers?

Image above: British flowers at Chiswick Flower Market; photograph Anna Kunst

A focus on British grown flowers at the next Chiswick Flower Market, Sunday 6 August 

Guest Blog by Ollie Saunders

Summer is the perfect time for British grown flowers – they are at the height of their beauty as we enter the season of dahlias, sunflowers and sweet peas.

When we open this Sunday, Chiswick Flower Market will have the largest selection of British grown flowers available in London.  You can buy directly from ten different flower farmers at our market; some of the flowers have been grown within walking distance of the High Road.  They will have been cut the night before our market.

Now you can’t get fresher than that!

Image above: Dahlias; photograph W6 photography

Where do Britain’s flowers come from?

The global flower industry for the last 200 years has been centred in the Netherlands – from where more than 80% of Britain’s flowers are imported.  It is an industry worth £1.5bn each year.

A vast majority of those flowers are grown in Kenya – where greenhouses don’t need artificial heating, and have plenty of daylight as they sit on the equator. Plus there is an abundance of cheap labour.

The mathematics shows that it is less carbon intensive and more profitable to grow the flowers there, and then to refrigerate them and fly them to Amsterdam before driving them  to London, than it is to grow them here in heated and artificially lit greenhouses.

There are 100 flights a week on Valentine’s week between Africa and Europe.  Many of the flowers are also grown with intensive farming practices.

Image above: Chiswick Flower Market; photograph W6 Photography

Where do Chiswick’s flowers come from?

At Chiswick Flower Market, we wanted to have as many British flowers as we could and to give our visitors a choice. Not only are British flowers the most seasonal and scented flowers around, but they are considerably more sustainable.

Half of the visitors to our market now come from outside W4, according to our most recent visitor survey.  Can we continue to attract more visitors to Chiswick by making sure we offer British flowers and become known for that, rather than just offering the same imported flowers found in supermarkets and at Columbia Road?

With the rising consumer awareness about where flowers come from, can we tap into the renaissance in British flowers that could be just around the corner?

In the early days of the market, we could easily find plants that were from British nurseries and that were grown peat-free, but finding British grown cut flowers was much harder.

Part of that is due to our weather of course – but it is also due to economics.

The centre of the British flower growing industry is in Lincolnshire. The flower farmers try to supply the supermarkets in competition with the plane loads of flowers grown in Africa and imported via Amsterdam. Being a large British flower grower is hard in the face of cheap imports and against an industry in the Netherlands which is so large that it is now 10% of their GDP.

Images above: Holmbush flowers; photographs Anna Kunst

As a result of those economics, the vast majority of the British industry is made up of small flower farmers, many of whom connect through the membership association Flowers from The Farm. I found that many flower farmers are really cottage industries or farm on small plots of land, with a few notable exceptions. Getting the volumes and quality of British flowers is certainly a challenge.

One of our market traders – LoveDay Blooms –  grows their flowers on 60 sq m of land in Acton; EcoFlowers use small areas of land around Chiswick. We are also fortunate to have Chiswick House and Kitchen Garden down the road where they grow flowers for our market.

This Sunday, we welcome Homestead Flowers, Hook Health Flower Farm and Chobham Farm to W4 for the first time, and  florist Amelia Darcey who will be selling British flowers from Wolves Lane in Wood Green and Kernel Spikes in Bromley.

We welcome back Holmbush Flowers, Sitopia Farm,  Flowers By Holly and Bellers Blooms – all of whom grow their flowers in London or the home counties. Our ever popular Lincolnshire flower farmer George Stevens is having a well-deserved holiday – being a flower farmer is certainly hard work!

Image above: Chiswick Flower Market Collective stall; photograph Chiswick Flower Market

We run a Chiswick Flower Market Collective stall where small growers can supply the market, even though they may not have the volume of stock to take a full stall.  We have worked with Capel Manor College in Gunnersbury and other small growers who produce either three bunches or twenty.

So spread the word and tell your friends about British flowers at Chiswick Flower Market.

Come and enjoy the High Road, and meet the flower farmers and traders who will fill Old Market Place with the most seasonal, scented and sustainable flowers around.

We are open from 9.00am this Sunday (6 August).

Ollie Saunders is Director and Co-Founder of Chiswick Flower Market

Gunnersbury Park hits sci-fi exhibition fundraising target

Image above: Cybermen from Doctor Who

Campaign raises over £16,000 from 100+ supporters

Gunnersbury Park Museum has successfully reached its crowdfunding target through Art Happens with Art Fund to put on the first ever exhibition celebrating Sci-Fi on screen and its links to west London.

In May the museum launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for a free-to-visit exhibition, Set to Stun: A celebration of Sci-Fi film and television design, which turns the camera onto the West London creatives who brought it all to life.

The campaign is due to close on Friday 28 July with over £16,000 raised from 100+ supporters. Supporters were able to pick from a selection of rewards ranging from Sci-Fi inspired tote bag to tickets for a reading and Q&A with David Learner, aka Marvin the Paranoid Android of BBC’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

With the match funding provided from the Art Fund, Gunnersbury Park Museum will have over £32,000 to help launch the exhibition.

Set to Stun, which will open in October 2023, will be Gunnersbury Park Museum’s first large-scale exhibition. Organisers will be building on its previous successful exhibitions celebrating everything from Women’s Football to the Acton Top Quilt.

Having surpassed the target, the organisers say visitors to the exhibition will enjoy an engaging and interactive showcase of the costumes, sets, work and imagination that has gone into building their favourite Sci-Fi moment on screen. Original Daleks, Cybermen and other well-known villains plus interactive mirrors, community curated art, smoke machines and more can be expected.

Image above: Gunnersbury Park Museum

“Delighted” says Chair of Gunnersbury Museum PD Trust

Professor James Knowles, Chair of Gunnersbury Museum and Park Development Trust said:

“We’re absolutely delighted to have reached our funding target! It’s been inspiring to watch our local communities get behind our exhibition, and we can’t wait to welcome you all when we open in October.

“I’d also like to thank Art Fund, in particular, for their support for our campaign and for match funding the money raised. All the sums will contribute towards creating a dynamic, galaxy-crossing celebration of Sci-Fi and local creativity for everyone to enjoy.”

The Great Escape (1963) – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

The Great Escape ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Allied prisoners of war plan for several hundred of their number to escape from a German camp during World War II. The Great Escape is being screened at Chiswick Cinema on Sunday 30 July as part of the retrospective season celebrating the films of Richard Attenborough.

I’ll keep it short, mainly because it seems pretty pointless to stand here telling you what a timeless classic this film is, but once in a while it’s good to state the obvious.

And what a perfect excuse to revisit this masterpiece than a new special screening for its 60th anniversary, this Sunday (30 July) at The Chiswick Cinema at 4pm, introduced by Michael Attenborough?

It will serve as a reminder that this film is so much more than Steve McQueen jumping on his motorbike to the notes of Elmer Bernstein, in one the most iconic pieces of music in cinema history.

Directed by John Sturges, The Great Escape is not just possibly the greatest war film ever made (yet without a single battle), but it also has one of the greatest cast ever assembled: Steven McQueen (as cool as ever), James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasence, James Coburn… just to mention a few.

It is a long film, of course. It has to be, to fit all those people in. But even though it  is close to three hours (peanuts by today’s standards) it’s actually incredibly well-paced, considering when it was made and it masterfully builds to the nail-biting last act.

If you have not seen it in while, you might have forgotten how funny the first part actually is (all the failed escape attempts in the opening act for example), and how dark it all slowly turns, all the way down to that very last dedication to the 50 men who were essentially murdered by the Nazis. The Great Escape manages to be a exciting action film, a defiant testament to war and a poignant tribute to those who did not make it, without ever being cheesy, silly, heavy-handed or preachy.

Its sharp and seemingly simple script works beautifully, laying down all the details and the mechanics of the escape in the first half, while at the same time building the relationships among all the characters in the film, so that actually we end up caring about every single one of them, as they attempt to escape.

And yes of course, they are all men. Indeed, there is not a single woman in sight. One wonders if they could get away with it today…

Captivating, stirring, thrilling, tense as hell and still wonderfully entertaining sixty years after it was made.

High Court dismisses ULEZ challenge

Sadiq Khan welcomes the decision as “good news” for London’s air quality

The high court has dismissed a legal challenge by five Conservative-led councils against the expansion of London’s ultra-low emission zone.

The Ulez zone, which includes Chiswick, is due to be expanded to the boundary of Greater London on 29 August. Owners of older, more polluting cars which do not meet the emissions criteria, will find they have to pay £12.50 a day to use their vehicles.

The five local authorities: the London boroughs of Hillingdon, Bexley, Bromley, Harrow and Surrey County Council, argued the Mayor of London had overstepped his authority by extending the zone further. Mr Justice Swift rejected their case, ruling Sadiq Khan’s policy to tackle toxic air lawful.

Sadiq Khan, who was not in court, said after the judgement:

“This landmark decision is good news as it means we can proceed with cleaning up the air in outer London on August 29.

“The decision to expand the Ulez was very difficult and not something I took lightly and I continue to do everything possible to address any concerns Londoners may have.”

The policy is widely seen as having lost Labour the recent Uxbridge by-election. Labour Leader Keir Starmer said the Mayor should ‘reflect’ on the policy and the Major has responded that he was willing to consider new ideas for ways to mitigate the financial impact on Londoners.

Details of the scrappage scheme are on Transport for London’s website:

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

Chiswick Park summer programme of outdoor films

Image above: Chairs set for Lights. Camera. Action! at Chiswick Park

First film in the programme is Ratatouille this Thursday (3 August) at 5.45pm

Chiswick Park’s summer programme of films, Lights. Camera. Action! is set to begin this week, with Ratatouille on Thursday (3 August) and new films screened every Thursday throughout August.

The films will be shown in the Events Plaza and the organisers at the business park say the public are welcome.

The line-up of films for August is:

  • Thursday 3 August – Ratatouille
  • Thursday 10 August – Top Gun Maverick
  • Thursday 17 August – Life of Pi
  • Thursday 24 August – Mamma Mia!
  • Thursday 31 August – Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

The summer film screenings form part of the year-round Enjoy-Work programme of events, sports and workshops designed to make the business park a happy place to work and to provide some engagement with the local community.

Enjoy-Work is also home to a monthly food market which takes place on the Events Plaza at Chiswick Park, with park guests, residents and the local community welcome to enjoy the food on offer.

The dates for the food markets for remainder of the year are 24 August, 28 September, 19 October and 14 December.

Grove Park church welcomes new vicar

Image above: Rev Caroline Halmshaw (fourth from the right in front row ) with the Bishop of Kensington and other clergy

New vicar welcomed by local community leaders

Grove Park Church congregation have welcomed their new vicar, after a well-attended ceremony inducting Reverend Caroline Halmshaw as the new vicar took place on Monday, (24 July).

The event was presided over by the Right Reverend Dr Emma Ineson, the Bishop of Kensington. Assisting her was the Venerable Richard Frank, the Archdeacon of Middlesex. Numerous distinguished guests and community members were also present to celebrate the occasion.

The Rev’d Simon Brandes, Patron, and Vicar of St Nicholas’s Church in Chiswick, extended his support, as did the Area Dean, Rev’d Martine Oborne, Vicar of St Michael’s Church, Elmwood Road. Ruth Cadbury, the MP for Brentford and Isleworth, was also present.

Representatives from various faiths were there. Charanjit Arit Singh, Chair of Hounslow Friends of Faith, and Father Michael Dunne of Our Lady of Grace & St Edwards attended, along with Bessie Woods, representing the local Quaker community.

Local councillors also took part in the induction ceremony. Councillor Gabriella Giles from Riverside Ward, London Borough of Hounslow, was present, along with Councillor Gerald McGregor and former councillors Paul Lynch and Sam Hearn. Jeremy Day, Commercial Director of Whitman & Co., represented Chiswick’s business community.

Images above: Rev Caroline Halmshaw during the ceremony, Rev Caroline Halmshaw

Getting to know her new parish

The ceremony was complemented by singing of the choir of St Paul’s Grove Park, with assistance from choir members from St Nicholas and St Michael’s Elmwood Road. They were under the direction of St Paul’s organist, Tom Torley. However, a personal touch was added to the occasion when soloist Miranda Johnson, a dear friend of Rev’d Halmshaw and her husband, sang the hymn As The Deer Pants for the Water.

The Reverend Caroline Halmshaw brings a wealth of experience to her new role. Before taking up the position at St Paul’s, she served as the Associate Vicar at St Mary with St Alban in Teddington. Additionally, she worked as the part-time Director of Post-Ordination Training for the Kensington Area of the London Diocese, supporting newly ordained curates as they embarked on their parish life journey.

Rev’d Halmshaw was ordained in 2018 and trained at St Mellitus College to become a priest. Prior to her ministry training, she had a successful career in nursing and midwifery. After further studies, she contributed to International Development in the charity sector, with a focus on health programme, especially maternal health and reproductive rights.

With her husband Rick and their 15-year-old son Alec, Rev’d Halmshaw has lived mainly in London and Brighton, although they both grew up in Radlett, Hertfordshire. It was in Radlett during her teenage years that she began her journey of faith, with her mother, Stella, being ordained in 1987.

Rev’d Halmshaw’s predecessor, Reverend Michael Riley, dedicated more than 33 years of service to St. Paul’s Church before retiring last July.

As the new vicar, Reverend Caroline Halmshaw says she is eager to immerse herself in her new community. Over the summer the family will settle into the vicarage, and she is set to conduct her first Sunday Eucharist service on 3 September at 10.00 am.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

Planning Inspector hears arguments in appeal over plans to build luxury riverside houses

Image above: The Victorian house at 17 Hartington Rd

Planning Inspector’s decision could have a wide-reaching effect on where else developers will be allowed to build

A planning appeal hearing took place on Wednesday (26 July) over the development of the site at 17 Hartington Rd in Chiswick. Developers Residence One were refused planning permission by Hounslow Council’s planning committee last year to build four new luxury houses in the garden of the riverside Victorian property, despite the Council’s own planning officers advocating the development should go ahead.

At issue was the risk of flooding, both from the river and from surface water. Local residents persuaded the councillors on the planning committee that the risk was too high, while the developers, backed by council officers, maintained it was not.

The Planning Inspector’s decision on this appeal, expected it a few weeks’ time, could have a wide-reaching effect on where else developers will be allowed to build by the river.

Council planning office now supports local residents in opposing the development

At the appeal hearing Planning Inspector Jeremy Sargent heard from the developers’ team of experts on why they considered it safe to build there, and from local residents, who have engaged their own experts, their arguments on why they disagreed.

Since the Council’s planning committee, made up of councillors, had turned down the application, the Council’s planning office, represented by Jassie Rotrane, this time supported refusing the appeal. The officer said she was new to the case and had not been party to the previous decision making or present at the previous appeal hearing in June.

READ ALSO: Grove Park residents “outraged” about handling of developers’ appeal over 17 Hartington Rd

Image above: Thames foreshore next to the garden being considered as the site of four new luxury houses, showing the river wall

Developers argue the existence of a river wall means the land should not be considered as ‘functional flood plain’

There is a river wall which runs along the bottom of the gardens beside the river. Local historian Val Bott, who lives in nearby riverside house, explained the dyke around the meander was installed by the Duke of Devonshire by the 1870s to enable him to develop the land.

The wall along the top was added to the top of the dyke by the GLC in the early 1980s, just before the Thames Barrier was completed, to protect riverside properties. In their most recent assessment the Environment Agency assessed the condition of the wall as ‘fair’.

The developers contend that as the wall is there, intended to offer protection from flooding, the area cannot be considered as a ‘functional floodplain’, land left not built on purposefully to absorb the overflow of the river in the event of a flood.

The land is designated as 3B, a functional floodplain, in the West London Strategic Flood Assessment, despite the presence of the wall, which the developers say is a mistake.

If the assessment is wrong “it’s wrong for the whole of west London”

Paul Nessling, whose house is on Hartington Rd near the proposed development said:

“If [consultants to the SFRA] Metis is wrong, then it’s wrong for the whole of west London.”

The developers’ team responded:

“The answer is yes. If the modelling has been done incorrectly, the answer is yes. It is up to the local authority to determine what is functional floodplain. There is no evidence why it should be 3B” [functional floodplain].

Addressing the Planning Inspector, Me Nessling said:

“It’s a big call for you to override it.”

Image above: Overgrown garden where the developers would like to build

Not for an individual planning application to challenge the definition of the land’s flood status, says residents’ lawyer

The team for the developers argued the presence of the wall meant it could not be considered as functional flood plain.

The area is described as ‘defended flood zone 3B’ in the plan, said residents’ lawyer Michael Krantz. Just because it was described as ‘defended’ did mean it could not also be considered floodplain. It was not up to an individual planning application to challenge the definition of the land as to whether it was or was not functional flood plain, he said.

“You can’t have the situation where the whole area is 3B except for one little carved out piece. It becomes a nonsense”.

“So nothing they say should make any difference?” asked Mr Sargent.

“No” said Mr Krantz.

Liz Manville, who lives at 21 Chiswick Staithe, said:

“The appellants made strenuous efforts to persuade the SFRS to change the designation and that didn’t happen.”

Developers’ cases rests on whether the river defence works

Mr Sargant asked the developers’ team whether their case depended on the river defences working.

“Yes” they said.

Given the expectation of sea water levels rising and volatile weather because of climate change, the wall would need to be raised during the lifetime of the development they said.

“Whether the appeal goes ahead or not, that will be the case.”

Condition of the wall downgraded from ‘good’ to ‘fair’

The Planning Inspector said the state of the wall had been downgraded by the Environment Agency in 2021 from ‘good’ to ‘fair’. He asked if the wall had been breached and was told there was no evidence that it had been at this point.

Mukti Jain Campion, who lives in the end of terrace house at 1 Chiswick Staithe, adjacent to the proposed development, pointed out there was presently a dip in the land at the bottom of the riverside gardens:

“The definition of 3B on a map matches the topography. If the tidal defences are over-topped it [the river water] can go into the basin and be stored and drain away.”

With four houses built in the garden that would not be the case, she argued, and that the outfall for the drainage for the new houses would damage the mound supporting the wall.

Chartered engineer Jonathan Cage, a specialist in flood protection and drainage engaged by the local residents, told the hearing the developers should investigate the mound on which the wall stood, not just the state of the wall built on top of it.

Mr Brady, structural engineer for the developers, said: “although the embankment shows signs of wear and tear and needs some maintenance, I would not go as far as to say it was ‘dilapidated’. It has not washed away in 250 years.”

Mr Krantz, arguing for the residents said:

“There has been an enormous amount of effort into assessing the structural integrity of the wall and virtually none on the embankment.

“If you haven’t looked at the embankment you can’t say anything about the integrity of the defence.”

The hearing went on to discuss how the developers planned to deal with surface water from a downpour of rain, describing tests they had done to show the land was porous and the water would drain away.

The team for the residents counter-argued that the majority of the land was clay and that when flash flood occurred water would build up.

The Planning Inspector put it to the developers’ team that their scheme was perhaps overly reliant on technical solutions to pump out water, which they answered by saying technical or not, it was also proven and entirely normal as a drainage solution.

Mr Sargant asked for any additional information to be sent to him by the end of next week and said he would make his decision in a few weeks.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

Plans to close ticket offices part of ‘managed decline’ says Ruth Cadbury

Image above: The ticket office at Chiswick Station, Ruth Cadbury MP

Proposals ‘could be the beginning of no staffing at smaller stations’

Ruth Cadbury MP has written to South Western Rail to express her “serious concern” over plans to close ticket offices and reduce staffing hours on rail stations across London.

In her letter, Ms. Cadbury said the proposed cuts in staffing hours at Brentford, Chiswick and Hounslow and the complete closure of the ticket office at London Waterloo would affect many passengers especially those who travel by train occasionally, are disabled or are not able to buy tickets online.

The Brentford and Isleworth MP warned that this could mean the end of staffing at most suburban stations and was yet another step in the ‘managed decline’ of our railways which is being led by the Government.

Speaking about the planned closures, Ms. Cadbury said:

‘‘I know from listening to people locally that they are rightly concerned and worried about the impact that these changes will have. So many people rely on the trains to get to work, to see family and friends and to go into London to shop, eat and relax. These changes will have a huge impact on rail passengers, especially those who need extra support and assistance to buy tickets, to get timetable information and to get on and off the train.

“Hounslow and Chiswick stations will have no staffing at all on Mondays, and Brentford on Fridays. Meanwhile staffing at Hounslow is to be cut by almost four hours a day. My worry is that these proposals are the thin end of the wedge and we could see no staffing at stations apart from the main terminals.

“These cuts to staffing at local stations could pose a risk to passenger safety and also impact on the job security of station staff, many of whom worked extremely hard throughout the pandemic to keep our trains running and passengers supported. Over the past two years rail passengers have experienced a poor service from South Western Rail with longer waits, more cancellations and overcrowded trains. With the Government now controlling all aspects of rail funding, I suspect this is yet another step towards the managed decline of our railways.

“I will continue to campaign locally to ensure that public transport is accessible and available to all.’’

Image above: Broken ticket machines at Chiswick Station

Over 170,000 take part in SWR consultation so far

Michael Roberts, Chief Executive of London TravelWatch, said:

“We’ve received more than 170,000 comments already. This feedback is currently being logged and reviewed alongside individual train operator proposals for their stations. It is important that a diverse range of views from all parts of the community are heard in this consultation.”

You can email your response to:

Or write to:

London TravelWatch
PO Box 5594

Proposed changes for Chiswick station

Day Current ticket office opening hours Proposed station staffing hours
Monday 6.15am – 10.15am Unstaffed
Tuesday 6.15am – 10.15am 6.00am – 10.00am
Wednesday 6.15am – 10.15am 6.00am – 10.00am
Thursday 6.15am – 10.15am 6.00am – 10.00am
Friday 6.15am – 10.15am 6.00am – 10.00am
Saturday Unstaffed 9.00am – 1.00pm
Sunday Unstaffed Unstaffed

Proposed changes for Brentford station

Day Current ticket office opening hours Proposed station staffing hours
Monday 6.30am – 10.30am 6.00am – 10.00am
Tuesday 6.30am – 10.30am 6.00am – 10.00am
Wednesday 6.30am – 10.30am 6.00am – 10.00am
Thursday 6.30am – 10.30am 6.00am – 10.00am
Friday 6.30am – 10.30am Unstaffed
Saturday Unstaffed Unstaffed
Sunday Unstaffed 9.00am – 1.00pm

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

Thousands of pounds worth of illicit substances seized in Ealing

Image above: Cllr Louise Brett poses with sniffer dogs Piper and Wilson and seized counterfeit goods

Thousands of pounds of illicit goods seized in multi-agency operation

Thousands of illicit prescription medications, tobacco and vapes have been seized in Ealing, after a multi-agency operation codenamed ‘Operation Cece’ was carried out last Tuesday (18 July).

The operation was led by Ealing Council’s Trading Standards team and supported by the Metropolitan Police and licensing colleagues, and sniffer dogs Piper and Wilson.

During the meticulously planned operation, thirteen premises were targeted, leading to the discovery and seizure of a considerable amount of contraband goods. Among the most shocking findings were the alarming quantities of prescription-only medications uncovered during the raid.

A staggering 2,920 tablets and 37 packs of oral jelly, all unregulated, were confiscated, highlighting the presence of illegal pharmaceuticals circulating in the area.

A substantial haul of illegal tobacco products were also seized by officers. A total of 534 pouches of loose tobacco, 266 packs of chewing tobacco, and 700 grams (equivalent to 14 packets) of illegal rolling tobacco were confiscated. The raid also netted 19,100 illicit cigarettes (equivalent to 955 packets), which pose “severe health risks” to consumers due to the lack of necessary safety checks and quality controls.

“Getting these products off the streets is crucial” 

Ealing Cabinet Member Councillor Louise Brett, said:

“The success of Operation Cece can be attributed to the collaboration of the Trading Standards team, the Metropolitan Police, sniffer dogs Piper and Wilson, and licensing colleagues. Getting these products off the streets is crucial for residents and consumers and is one of the council’s top priorities. Reporting suspicious or unscrupulous behaviour to the authorities can play a vital role in combating illicit trade and ensuring a safer environment.

“The operation serves as a strong deterrent to those involved in the illicit trade of goods, sending a clear message that their actions will not be tolerated. It also highlights the commitment of local authorities to safeguard public health and safety and protect consumers from harmful and unregulated products.”

The operation further revealed the presence of counterfeit vapes and non-compliant packaging. Authorities seized 692 oversized vapes and nine units of non-compliant packaging, addressing concerns about the quality and safety of vaping products in the market.

Also found were 18 nitrous oxide canisters which are used legitimately for inflating balloons and commonly used recreationally. Additionally, 135 packages of poppy seeds raised suspicions of intended illicit uses.

The seized contraband goods will now be thoroughly examined as part of ongoing investigations. It’s unclear whether there have been any arrests made following Operation Cece.

Two jailed after huge drug stashes found in Chiswick and Acton

Image above: Luke Skeete and Gabriella Anderson; Photographs Met Police

£25 million worth of stashed drugs seized 

Two people have been jailed after police raided storage units in Chiswick and Acton, uncovering a staggering £25 million worth of stashed drugs.

The investigation began on 21 July 2022 when officers intercepted a hire car entering London. During the subsequent search, a significant discovery was made: a large black holdall concealed in the vehicle’s trunk, containing 25 kilograms of high purity cocaine.

The occupants of the car, 27-year-old Gabriella Anderson of Hercies Road, Uxbridge, and the driver, were apprehended on the spot and charged with possession with intent to supply the very next day. The driver was later acquitted at Harrow Crown Court on 1 March 2023.

As the investigation deepened, officers were led to a crucial link in the drug chain, 25-year-old Luke Skeete of Evergreen Drive in West Drayton. Detectives revealed that Skeete had met with Anderson on the day the car was intercepted and allegedly provided her with the holdall filled with drugs.

The trail heated up on 20 October 2022 when police surveillance observed Skeete driving a hire van in the Richmond area, heading towards Chiswick. Officers then intercepted the van and discovered three kilograms of cocaine in the front passenger footwell, along with an additional five kilograms in the rear.

Image above: Drugs seized during the raid, Photograph via Met Police

Cocaine and ketamine among drugs stashed

Specialist Crime officers were led to a storage unit rented by Skeete in Acton. There, a well-organised distribution centre was uncovered, containing a massive 123 kilograms of high purity cocaine.

The investigation did not stop there, as officers also identified another self-storage location in Chiswick that Skeete was headed to when he was arrested. The contents of this locker included 244 kilograms of ketamine and 11 kilograms of a hybrid drug mixture containing both cocaine and ketamine.

Facing a mountain of evidence against him, Skeete had little choice but to plead guilty to possession with intent to supply 131 kilograms of cocaine and 225 kilograms of ketamine.

The 27-year-old also faced additional charges of driving while disqualified and multiple fraud offences committed while working for Audi UK in 2020, totalling £127,029. On Thursday, 25 May, Skeete pleaded guilty to these charges at Isleworth Crown Court, and on Monday 24 July he was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Earlier, on Monday, 20 March, Gabriella Anderson, who was implicated in the initial discovery of cocaine in the hire car, received her sentence. The 27-year-old was sentenced to six years and nine months’ imprisonment at Harrow Crown Court for possession with intent to supply.

Met hopes sentences will deter similar offences

PC Dave Selwood, from the Met’s Specialist Crime Command, said:

“Skeete and Anderson thought that by using hire vehicles and minicabs they could move, with impunity, a significant amount of drugs into London for their own financial gain.

“Drugs as a whole but especially on this scale, are inextricably linked to violence and other crimes that cause misery for the people of London. The meticulous investigative work carried out by my team shows our commitment to taking these controlled substances off London’s streets.

“We hope that this result sends a clear message to those involved in illicit activities that the Met does not welcome this kind of enterprise in London, and our Specialist Crime officers will work determinedly to catch individuals such as this.”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

Will Poulter makes surprise visit to Chiswick School

Image above: Will Poulter in Chiswick School’s sports hall

Guardians of the Galaxy star talks to students in Chiswick School’s sports hall

Hollywood actor Will Poulter made a surprise visit during Chiswick School’s end-of-year assembly.

The local branch of Mind, the mental health charity, organised the actor’s appearance. Will, who grew up in Chiswick, serves as an ambassador for Mind in Hammersmith, Fulham, Ealing, and Hounslow, which is one of the school’s chosen charities.

Known for his recent role as Adam Warlock in Marvel’s Guardians of The Galaxy, Will expressed gratitude to the school for its support.

Another notable guest at the event was celebrity chef Temi Tyrese, who boasts over 50 thousand followers on Tik Tok. He delivered cookery workshops at the school, sharing insights from his career, which includes cooking for famous celebrities.

Image above: Temi Tyrese grabs from his TikTok cooking videos; taking part in ITV’s Next Level Chef with Gordon Ramsey

Temi, also an ambassador for Hammersmith, Fulham, Ealing, and Hounslow Mind, spoke about Will’s efforts in promoting positive mental health before introducing him to the assembly.

Both celebrities discussed the significance of maintaining good mental well-being and provided the students with helpful tips. They also highlighted the services offered by Mind during the summer break and beyond.

The event was hosted by Andy Apraku and Meg Zeenat Wamithi, who are associated with the charity. Chiswick School’s students had chosen Hammersmith, Fulham, Ealing, and Hounslow Mind as their preferred charity. The school actively facilitates opportunities for students to learn about physical and mental health through guest speakers and collaborations with other organisations.

Image above: Hammersmith, Fulham, Ealing and Hounslow’s Mind with Chiswick School Head Teacher Laura Ellener (centre)

“I think the teachers were as excited as the students”

Headteacher Laura Ellener said:

‘I think the teachers were as excited as the students, Will and Temi are amazing ambassadors for Mind which is a brilliant organisation doing some fantastic work in the local community’.

Nana Owusu, Clinical Lead and Director of Youth Services at Hammersmith, Fulham, Ealing and Hounslow Mind added:

“We are grateful to partner with and support Chiswick School on this vital issue and their engagement in mental health conversations brought us great joy. We commend the school’s dedication to educating young minds about physical and mental health, and we are proud to be their charity of choice for the next academic year.

“Hammersmith, Fulham, Ealing, and Hounslow Mind tirelessly advocate for mental health services for young people, and this event exemplified that commitment. As we approach the summer break and beyond, Mind remains steadfast in providing support and resources for young people’s mental well-being.

“We want to remind young people, children, and schools across Hammersmith, Fulham, Ealing, and Hounslow that we at Mind is here for them, even during the break. We see them, we hear them, and we support them.”

Mayor willing to consider ways to reduce financial impact of Ulez expansion

Image above: London Mayor Sadiq Khan

Pressure Grows on City Hall from Labour following Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election

Sadiq Khan says he is still be committed to expanding the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), but is thought to be considering new ideas for ways to mitigate the financial impact on Londoners after Labour lost the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election last Thursday (20 July)

The London mayor is understood to be willing to consider measures as long as they do not reduce the policy’s effectiveness at improving air quality.

Mr Khan’s plans to expand Ulez to encompass the outer boroughs of London from 29 August have been blamed for Labour failing to take Boris Johnson’s old seat.

The change means drivers across the capital will face a £12.50 daily charge unless their car meets stringent emissions rules.

Image above: Map of Ulez expansion

Mayor is “listening to Londoners”

A source close to the Labour mayor told Sky News:

“Sadiq has been clear he is listening to Londoners following this by-election.”

Labour Leader Keir Starmer blamed Labour’s failure to win the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election on the Mayor’s flagship policy and said he should ‘reflect’ on it.

Critics argue the scheme disproportionately affects poorer people who need to drive for work and discourages sole traders from outside London taking work inside the city.

Mr Khan’s team defended his Ulez plan, saying only one out of ten cars driving in outer London would face the charge, with a £110m scrappage scheme to help lower earners upgrade their vehicles.

London has the highest percentage of deaths attributable to particulate air pollution of all English regions (7.1 per cent) with an estimated 4,000 deaths caused by air pollution each year.

Grenadian national cricket team to play in Chiswick this week

Image above: Grenada’s cricket team in training; via Facebook

Match to take place at Chiswick Cricket Club at 5.30pm on Wednesday 26 July

The Grenadian National cricket team will be playing a T20 match in Chiswick this week.

Currently touring the UK, they have added a short notice fixture against Chiswick Cricket Club on Wednesday (26 July) at 5.30pm.

The game comes from a close association between the club and the island based on several players of Grenadian origin playing at Riverside Drive over the years. The Chiswick club has visited the island and supported youth cricket there through its charitable activities.

READ ALSO: This Sporting Chiswick – Chiswick Cricket Club

The Grenadian team is not a member of the International Cricket Council, but the Grenada Cricket Association is a member of the Windward Islands Cricket Board of Control, which itself is a member association of the West Indies Cricket Board, and players from Grenada generally represent the Windward Islands cricket team at domestic level and the West Indies at international level.

Grenada has played as a separate entity in matches which held T20 status, but has not appeared in first-class or List A cricket. The team’s coach, as of November 2013, is Ricky Williams. The team currently has two captains: Devon Smith, who captains the two-day team, and Andre Fletcher who captains the 20-over team.

Chiswick Cricket Club is at Riverside Drive, W4 2SP, off the A316,opposite Chiswick School. The Pavilion doubles as the Duck & Ball pub, which serves food, and happen to be members of The Chiswick Calendar’s Club Card scheme, offering a discount to our subscribers.

It’s a wrap! A long and very busy year in performimg arts at Chiswick School

Image: From the school’s dance production Aberfan

It’s a wrap!

Guest blog by Tommy Robinson

It’s been a long year. Well actually it’s been as long as any other year: 195 days 39 weeks, four full terms. However, when you fill an empty bag with as much as we do, it somehow feels fuller.
In a year that has seen industrial action that has limited the reach of extracurricular, both by schools and transport, we could have been excused for taking our foot off the accelerator, and students losing impetus.

Keeping the students in school in our priority and Chiswick school does that particularly well, we are well above average for attendance and this year was recognised with an FFT National school Attendance Award, which puts us in the top 10% in the country!

Image above: End of year production CHARLIE

So why do students go to school?

The answer is simple, to make a better life for themselves, to get an education and to use this education to ensure they have opportunities. This would be the case across the spectrum and in all schools, so what makes Chiswick School so different?

We see ourselves as a community, and each person in the community is treated with fairness and respect. Every time a student enters the school, they are reminded of this, and every student is given the same opportunities as the rest.

It is up to the individual student to take these opportunities and run with them. In the end it is the experience of school that will be reflected in their experience of adult life, If you had a good, positive and enriching school experience the likelihood is that you will feel more confident, and do better in later life.

Image above: TES award – Winner, Excellence in Creative Arts, Chiswick School

Of course, opportunities are something the performing arts excel at! 2022/23 has been our biggest year EVER! And the opportunities to perform have been wider than we could have ever imagined. The end of this academic year has reflected this.

It started at the end of June with our TES Education Award success. We were pleased at first to be shortlisted, not for one but two awards for the arts (excellence in the creative arts and department head).

On the day of the awards we made our way into central London, all suited and booted, took our seats and cheered our collective heads off as we were announced as winners of the Creative Arts award!

Images above: Summer Music 

We didn’t rest however. Next on the ever-increasing diary was our summer concert which took place at St Nicholas Church. The evening was a combination of orchestral pieces and choral songs. The church was full, and very appreciative.

Next was our Summer Arts festival. In the pouring rain our bands and steel pans performed to an audience full of wraps and crepes. In addition to this for the first time we invited our primaries along to perform some dances.

Images above: End of year production CHARLIE

Less than a week later was our main school production CHARLIE. The production, adapted by Mr Robinson (yours truly) was a riot of colour and craziness. The biggest surprise for the audience however was the interval.

During this time they were treated to chocolates, sweets, chocolate drinks and marshmallows. On their return the entire hall had magically transformed from a dull and grey school and Bucket house into a magical space, full of sweets, inflatables and Umpah Lumpahs running around and causing absolute chaos!

Image above: Dance production of Aberfan

The next performance was a song and dance show. The main piece was a dance interpretation of the story Aberfan. Many of the audience members had family from South Wales or were from the area itself. Through a specially mixed sound track of Karl Jenkins music and archive footage of survivors and contemporary news reports the story was told with delicacy, maturity and talent. This was a truly remarkable performance, by some extremely talented dancers.

Finally in the same week, we celebrated our students. We as a department had been celebrated at a number of award ceremonies already so it was our turn to give the students their well-deserved awards.

Image above: Classic cars and Champagne were the order of the day

Classic cars and champagne were the order of the evening, the students arrived in their best suits and frocks and a quartet played them into the hall. Awards were given for dance, drama and music and performances from each area held the evening together.

We also gave our Arts Champion award to one deserving winner, who had shown remarkable commitment and dedication for the whole year. Ruth Cadbury MP was our guest. She gave a speech about the importance of the creative industries, and the relevance of their artistic endeavours to the students’ lives.

Images above: Ruth Cadbury MP, guest speaker at a special awards ceremony for students

And it’s not over yet! As I am writing this, we are planning a trip to see Wicked and Pineapple Dance studio in the final week of term, and also being harassed by the students for plans for September.

What is clear from this year, in the performing arts at least, is that yes students come to school to learn. They come to school to better their lives and give them the keys to open the door to success. But keeping them engaged, happy, enriched, entertained and giving them a sense of well-being and importance is what we in the performing arts do best.

Images above: Special awards ceremony for students

We are now looking forward to a new term in September, and a new bunch of over enthusiastic, energetic and noisy students …..but not before a nice long break!

Tommy Robinson is Coordinator for Creative and Performing Arts at Chiswick School. In May he won a prestigious ‘Pearson National Teaching Award’ for his “outstanding work” as the school’s Head of Drama and in June the school was presented with the Tes Excellence in Creative Arts Award.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

Theatre at the Tabard celebrates its first year

Image above: Simon and Sarah Reilly; Theatre at the Tabard

80 productions, two Off West End nominations and a fridge full of melted ice cream

Theatre at the Tabard is celebrating its first year. Sunday 23 June marked twelve months since performances restarted at the Tabard, after Take Note Theatre took over the running of the theatre.

They have a lot to celebrate: More than 80 productions during the past year, including five in-house productions which ran for several weeks, four of which were nominated for London Pub Theatres Standing Ovation Awards, and two for ‘Offies’ – Off West End awards. They have also had some big names in the entertainment world dropping in to perform – Jenny Eclair and Siân Phillips to name but two.

But, rather irritatingly, they still have people coming to shows who say: “I thought this theatre had closed down.”

There has been an independently run studio theatre upstairs at the Tabard pub in Chiswick since 1985, but performances came to an abrupt halt last spring, when the pub landlord Greene King decided not to renew the lease to the last incumbent and offered the space out for tender.

After a hiatus of several months, Simon Reilly, who had managed the space several years previously, took over running it again with his wife Sarah, under the company name Take Note Theatre. They have to call it ‘Theatre at the Tabard’ rather than the ‘Tabard Theatre’ because the previous incumbent still owns the name, and they have had to start building up the business again from scratch. People who were on the mailing list for the Chiswick Playhouse suddenly stopped receiving emails and many have just assumed that was the end of the theatre.

A big thank-you to benefactors and volunteers

Their first challenge was to redecorate and restock the empty building.

“We had no lights, no theatre black drapes. We needed to replace all the fixtures and fittings, to fit out the dressing room and buy sound equipment.”

They are hugely grateful to benefactors who have made donations and volunteers who have come and helped them get the space into shape. I met Pat McMahon, a professional painter and decorator who came across the theatre by chance, some years ago, having never set foot in a theatre before.

“I was waiting for a mate in the pub and didn’t want to just get drunk waiting for him, so I wandered in to kill a couple of hours. I think it’s fabulous.”

So fabulous, that he has painted the premises throughout for them. The office we were sitting in was much nicer than it used to be too, largely thanks to Sarah’s influence and the fact that their ten-year-old daughter spends quite a lot of time there. There are now home comforts such as a comfy sofa, a television, and a fridge.

It reflects the long days Simon and Sarah both work, setting up productions in the mornings, doing the website, sorting out admin, overseeing rehearsals in the afternoons and front of house for live performances in the evenings.

Image above: Mark Kitto’s one man show Chinese Boxing 

One-nighters put money in the bank but their own in-house productions are more fun

The majority of their shows (80%) are on for just one night, or for two or three nights only. This week is typical, with The Emily Robinson-Hardy Experience on Tuesday 25 July – a magic show which won four big ‘Yeses’ on America’s Got Talent and earned standing ovations in Los Angles & New York.

Comedian Simon Brodkin is trying out new material in his show Xavier on Thursday 27 July. Chinese Boxing (sold out) on Friday, is a one man show about the Boxer Rebellion and China’s attitude to the West, and Sunday sees The Birth of Frankenstein, an Edinburgh Fringe preview from the Maverick Theatre Company.

It is hard work keeping up that sort of turn-around, and much more fun to produce and direct your own shows, but they need both the revenue it brings in and the variety. They want to offer their Chiswick audience a broad range of shows so they keep coming back.

“We want the theatre to be busy and full, with lots on all the time” Simon told The Chiswick Calendar.

“What we want is people coming regularly and being in the habit of checking out what’s on at the Tabard this week.”

The trouble with live theatre is that the audience psychology is the opposite of going to the cinema, where punters want to be one of the first to see a new film as soon as it has been released.

“With theatre people wait”, said Sarah. If a show is on for three or four weeks, people put off coming until the last week, by which time they think the cast will be at their best.

“The trouble is we don’t go to video after,” said Simon. “Once the curtain comes down on the last performance, that’s it.”

Attendance-wise, they are happy if the theatre is 60% full for the one-nighters and 50% full for the long running shows. Money-wise they are doing better than they thought they would be at this point, but they are not exactly flush with cash.

Image above: Cast of Five Children and It

Support from local playwrites and actors

While the one-nighters pay the bills, it is the long running productions which add reputation and give them creative satisfaction. Their in-house productions have been The Last Laugh, Five Children and It, Bell, Book & Candle, Next Door’s Baby and A Critical Stage.

The Last Laugh, about a young director trying to get a play past a censor, was adapted by adapted by playwright Richard Harris, a Chiswick resident who had huge success with the musical Stepping Out in 1984.

Theatre at the Tabard is supported by Richard and other local playwrights Gareth Armstrong, Nick Bromley and Keith Strachan. The Last Laugh was nominated for an Offie for the set design and Five Children & It was nominated for production.

They are up against long-established theatres such as The Roundhouse, the Hackney Empire and the Theatre Royal Stratford East, and specialist children’s theatres such as the Unicorn theatre, the Little Angel theatre and the Polka in Wimbledon, so it is no mean feat to receive a nomination.

Image above: The Last Laugh after party

“Chiswick School students were better behaved than many of the professionals”

They are also re-creating old links and forging new links in the community. Actors Phyllis Logan and Kevin McNally, who live locally, are big supporters. Torin Douglas, director of the Chiswick Book Festival, will be hosting a Q&A after a performance of September’s big show, a production based on Jane Austin’s novel Persuasion, as part of this year’s book festival. And they have welcomed Chiswick School and ArtsEd students into the theatre to perform.

“Chiswick School were great. Better behaved than many of the professionals. They left the dressing room spick and span.”

They have had a few disasters during the year. The worst was that they had to cancel A Little Light Murder after actor Stephen Greif died suddenly after Christmas. The one-man show Britcom was cancelled because of a train strike and one of Avalon’s new comedy talent shows was cancelled because they had only sold a handful of tickets.

Then there was the time when the technicians conscientiously turned off all the electrical switches, including the one for the fridge, so they had to throw away all the ice creams.

Image above: Jenny Eclair; Simon Brodkin

Getting lost on the way from Camberwell

A couple of times comedians have turned up late. I happened to be there for both Jenny Eclair, who explained how she had got lost on her way here, having driven from Camberwell, and Simon Brodkin. Jenny was genuinely distressed to have kept the audience waiting, and full of apology. She was quite thrown by it. Simon seemed like he couldn’t have cared less, almost as if we should expect to have to wait for such a big name to condescend to take the stage.

Jenny doesn’t seem to have much luck in this regard. She Tweeted this week:

“If anyone is coming to my gig tonight could you tell the staff I seem to have locked myself in the dressing room.”

But for the most part the year has gone swimmingly. I am looking forward to Persuasion and to the Christmas show this year, The Secret Garden.

Images above: Kim Ismay in About Bill; Persuasion

Half price tickets

The good news on our part is that Theatre at the Tabard has now joined our Club Card scheme and we will be able to offer half-price tickets for selected dates.

Simon and Sarah are taking a well-earned rest and plan to lie semi-comatose by a pool for a couple of weeks, before restarting with About Bill on Wednesday 30 August, starring Kim Ismay who has starred in countless West End and national tour productions including Wicked, Mamma Mia, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Saturday Night Fever, Acorn Antiques, Singing In The Rain, Lautrec and The Rocky Horror Show as well as appearing in numerous TV dramas.

Subscribers to The Chiswick Calendar newsletter can buy half-price tickets for About Bill on Thursday 31 August and Friday 1 September, using promo code CLUBCARD. Take your club card with you to show at the door.

Subscribers to The Chiswick Calendar newsletter can also buy half-price tickets for Persuasion on Thursday 14 and Friday 15 September, using promo code CLUBCARD. Take your club card with you to show at the door.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

How do you know the Fuller’s griffin is female?

Answer to The Chiswick Calendar Freebie question from Tuesday 18 July

Last week we offered a free case of Fuller’s beers – the ’Classic Collection’ – as our Chiswick Calendar giveaway, to the first person to email us with the correct answer a Fuller’s related question.

This was the question:

In the picture of the brewery logo above, how can you tell the griffin is female?

We had some interesting answers.

Allen Cousens suggested the griffin was female because: ‘she has got her claw on the barrel thus preventing the male griffins from drinking it’.

Jenny de Montfort was thinking along the same lines:

‘Think the griffin must be female as she displays having clear control of the barrel and not guzzling the contents!’

Several people thought it had to do with the mane around her neck – that a male griffin would have a bigger mane.

There were a few other suggestions, some predictably lewd, but most people sent us the right answer – you can tell the griffin is female because she had wings.

Images above: Heraldic images of male griffins

The griffin, majestic creatures portrayed in medieval times as a symbol of power, has the body and back legs of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle, with talons on its front feet.

In British heraldry, a male griffin is shown without wings, its body covered in spikes, while the female griffin has wings.

Since classical antiquity, griffins were known for guarding treasures and priceless possessions.

Images above: Heraldic images of female griffins

Darius Panahy is our winner. He now has to nip into the brewery shop to claim his prize while the griffin’s back is turned.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

Tickets on sale now for 15th annual Chiswick Book Festival

Image above: Some of the famous faces who will join the festival

Nadiya Hussain, Marcus Brigstocke and Jess Phillips MP just some of the famous names at this year’s festival

Tickets are now on sale for the 15th annual Chiswick Book Festival, offering book lovers a chance to indulge in 75 events over eight exciting days in September.

The festival, held from 6-13 September, promises a diverse and an engaging programme, featuring renowned authors, talks, workshops, children’s events, film and theatre performances, and even a quiz evening. The Festival aims to support reading charities and St Michael & All Angels Church, the host of the event.

Top names headlining the event include impressive lineup of notable authors from various genres. Among them are Alan Titchmarsh, Jacqueline Wilson, AN Wilson, Clive Myrie, Nadiya Hussain, Marcus Brigstocke, and Jess Phillips MP.

The festival has recently added more exciting names to the lineup too, including Phyllis Logan, Janet Ellis, Andy Nyman, Jeremy Vine, Chris Tarrant, and Louise Minchin.

Chiswick Book Festival prides itself on offering something for all literary enthusiasts. With a carefully curated program encompassing history, biography, creative writing, fiction, thrillers, food, wine, politics, children’s books, and much more, the event provides a well-rounded and engaging experience for attendees.

Image above: Wonky

A rich programme

The festival’s comprehensive eight-day programme includes a variety of events that cater to different interests. There will be talks, discussions, walks, workshops, children’s events, film and theatre performances, and a lively quiz evening.

In addition to acclaimed authors from around the world, the festival also celebrates local talent. Several authors from Chiswick will participate in the newly updated Chiswick Writers Trail, honouring notable dramatists, novelists, and poets who once called Chiswick home. The festival will also commemorate the centenary of Chiswick, the history by Warwick Draper, with a discussion led by Val Bott and James Wisdom of the Brentford & Chiswick Local History Society.

Young readers and their families will also find plenty to enjoy at the festival. The talented Daisy Goodwin will present prizes for the Festival’s 13th Young People’s Poetry Competition, and Jacqueline Wilson are hosting The Best Sleepover In The World. The Really Big Pants Theatre Company will return with an exciting new show, Wonky, while a Fashion Upcycling Workshop for teenagers with Tash Bell is likely to be popular.

To celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s First Folio, the festival will screen six short films featuring some of the Bard’s most famous lines, followed by a Q&A session. In collaboration with The Chiswick Cinema, a screening of Shadowlands, a film about CS Lewis, will honor the renowned creator of the Narnia books. Additionally, the Theatre at the Tabard will showcase a new production of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, followed by a Q&A with the writer and cast.

Image above: Jess Phillips MP, Marcus Brigstocke and Nadiya Hussain (L to R)

Star-studded events at ArtsEd

ArtsEd, the prestigious performing arts school, will host five events featuring stars from TV, radio, and theatre. Attendees can look forward to a lively evening with comedian Marcus Brigstocke and MP Jess Phillips, as well as captivating talks by Michael Frayn, Chris Tarrant, Oliver Soden, Phyllis Logan, and Janet Ellis, who will be recording the podcast Twice Upon A Time.

The Chiswick Book Festival is not just a celebration of literature but also a community-focused event that raises funds for charitable causes. Beneficiaries include St Michael & All Angels Church, the host of the festival, as well as three reading charities: Read for Good, Koestler Arts, and Read Easy Ealing.

The Festival’s Programme Director, Jo James, expressed her excitement for the 15th edition, saying:

“To celebrate our 15th birthday, we’re delighted that two distinguished authors from our first ever festival are returning – Jacqueline Wilson and Michael Frayn. But we have a wealth of new and exciting voices too, reflecting the best of the autumn publishing and the wealth of talent we have within the area. There is definitely something for everyone!”

For more information and to secure tickets, click here.

Two men arrested at Heathrow charged with terrorism offences appear in court

Image above: Westminster Magistrates Court

Two men appear at court charged with terrorism offences

Two men charged with terrorism offences who were arrested on arrival at Heathrow Airport recently have appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court today (Monday, 24 July).

Anjem Choudary, 56, of east London appeared charged with:

  • membership of a proscribed organisation, contrary to section 11 of the Terrorism Act 2000;
  • addressing meetings to encourage support for a proscribed organisation, contrary to sections 12(3) of the Terrorism Act 2000;
  • directing a terrorist organisation, contrary to section 56 of the Terrorism Act 2000

Khaled Hussein, 28 (17.03.95) of Canada appeared charged with:

  • membership of a proscribed organisation, contrary to section 11 of the Terrorism Act 2000;

Both men have been remanded in custody to appear at the Old Bailey on 4 August.