Launch of the Harold Pinter season at Chiswick Cinema

Pinter on Screen

Chiswick Book Festival has launched a season of Harold Pinter films at Chiswick Cinema, curated by Pinter’s biographer, theatre critic Michael Billington, who lives in Chiswick.

One of Britain’s most successful playwrights, Harold Pinter wrote one of his best known plays, The Caretaker, while he was living in Chiswick.

It is rare that a screenwriter is celebrated with a season of their work, rather than an actor or a director,  Michael Billington told the audience on Saturday evening (27 April). The idea was born out of a chance conversation at the first Chiswick Book Festival.

Harold Pinter’s wife Lady Antonia Fraser was a speaker there and she told Book Festival director Torin Douglas that though her husband’s plays were widely acclaimed, she felt his film scripts received rather less attention than they deserved.

That is being remedied this summer, and Lady Antonia was in the audience to watch the first of the series, Accident (1967), preceded by a Q&A with Michael Billington and Torin Dougls, and a pre-recorded interview with Maxwell Caulfield, who had acted in the film as a child.

Image: Michael Billington and Torin Douglas discuss Harold Pinter’s talent as a screen writer

Maxwell told Michael he’d got the part because his mother was for a time Harold Pinter’s secretary. He was seven at the time and had almost missed the opportunity because he caught measles.

The film is quite sensual, about the erotic relationships an Oxford student has with another student and two of the dons. Michael York played the student, Dirk Bogarde and Stanley Baker the dons. Was he aware what the film was about? Michael Billington asked him.

“I was totally unaware of the theme, just happy to get off school” he said, but he did remember it was fun. Perhaps not so much for his fellow child actor, Carole Caplin (much later on to become Cherie Blair’s lifestyle coach), who was required to trip and fall on the gravel drive. When she failed to do it convincingly they set a trip wire.

Maxwell Caulfield went on to be an actor and married fellow actor Juliet Mills. Was he influenced by the experience of being directed by Joseph Losey?

“I will forever love Joseph Losey. He set my path … I’m sure the seed was planted, I don’t see how it could not have been, I had such a good time.”

Harold Pinter was interested in film before he became involved in theatre, Michael Billington told the audience.

“He got into it at a very early age. He was very committed to film.

“He told me he was much more exposed to cinema as a young man, his love of theatre came later.”

Harold Pinter made three films with Joseph Losey. Torin asked Michael Billington why he thought they worked so well together.

“They were both outsiders” said Michael. “Losey was blacklisted in the days of McCarthyism. Pinter was threatened with possible imprisonment for refusing to do National Service.”

When Michael interviewed Harold Pinter for his biography, he told him his first encounter with Joseph Losey had not gone well.

“He was invited to write The Servant in 1962. Joseph Losey had managed to get enough money to make it. He said ‘I like the script but I don’t like this and I don’t like that’.”

Harold Pinter said to him: “Well why don’t you do another movie?” and stormed off.

A few days later Losey phoned him and suggested they start over. “For the next 25 years they never had a cross word.

“Harold was very proud that the majority of his scripts were made into films. That’s very rare.”

Students of Pinter’s style will be interested to know his work in cinema influenced his work in theatre and vice versa.

“Harold’s work for the theatre permeates his work for film. He uses very sparse dialogue and there is always lots of subtext – endless things going on underneath the surface. Also I think his work in cinema influenced his work in theatre.”

Image: Lady Antonia Fraser (seated, right), talking to Michael Billington in the bar afterwards

The screening was rather a star studded occasion. Also in the audience were Dame Rosemary Squire and Sir Howard Panter, the owners of Trafalgar, who own the cinema, Dame Eileen Atkins, Dame Sheila Hancock and Valerie Leon, all older actors who live in this area and were contemporaries of Pinter.

Journalists Sir Peter Stothard and Matthew Reisz were there for the launch, as was the writer, historian and literary critic Ruth Scurr and director and producer Simon Curtis.

The season, which includes The Pumpkin Eater, The Quiller Memorandum, The Comfort of Strangers and The French Lieutenant’s Woman, will run until the Book Festival in September.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

Police promise ‘to spend more time in Chiswick’ despite chronic understaffing

Image: Borough Commander Sean Wilson addresses the public meeting at Gunnersbury Triangle Club; photograph A. Nawrocki

Borough Commander Sean Wilson tells Gunnersbury residents his priority is to go after drug dealers

Borough Commander Sean Wilson, the Chief Superintendent who is responsible for policing in the whole West Area Command Unit encompassing Hounslow, Ealing and Hillingdon, was at a public meeting with Chiswick residents on Tuesday night (23 April) organised by Cllr Ranjit Gill at the Gunnersbury Triangle Club.

He said his policing priority was to go after drug dealers. He was pursuing them “big style,” as they are driving violence across west London and are the number one cause of homicides in 2024.

Addressing the lack of police on our streets, he said the Metropolitan Police could not put police on every corner.

Drugs were inherent in society, he said, and any police commander who committed to eliminating drugs would be talking nonsense:

“Someone drives that market and policing alone will not eliminate it.”

Image: Public meeting at Gunnersbury Triangle Club

Sean Wilson praises use of Stop and Search powers

Chief Superintendent Wilson praised the use of ‘Stop and Search’ powers. In recent years the police have relied more on the power to stop people they judge to be suspicious and search them.

The tactic is controversial, as it opens the way for racist police to misuse their power. It was used less for a period after the Scarman Report into the Brixton riots in the 1980s found unquestionable evidence of the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of Stop and Search powers by the police against Black people.

The Borough Commander told residents at the meeting in Gunnersbury the use of Stop and Search was an important tool in tackling drug dealers.

Policing by consent

Cllr Ron Mushiso, a Black councillor who supports the use of Stop and Search, asked what the public, Police and Crime Commissioner and the Mayor of London could do to give police more authority to “do their jobs more effectively.”

“The best thing you can do is overt verbal support, policing is by consent but it’s also by confidence.” Superintendent Wilson said.

“The David Carrick, Wayne Couzens absolute horror, really undermined confidence in policing and really at one point I thought the consent was in jeopardy.”

Police officer David Carrick was found to be a serial rapist and Wayne Couzens a murderer.

“What happened was is you’ve got huge media focus, and it’s happened before. Let’s be honest, cops make mistakes every day, we all do. Can I ask has anyone made a mistake in the last week?

“Most hands will go up. We all do. But what doesn’t get published is the 98-99% of excellent work and the life-saving that does on by police work, by fire brigade, by ambulance workers every day. It simply is not front page of the Metro every morning.”

He went on to say more legislation was not necessary and asked for a “balanced opinion of what goes on in policing”, adding that most police work is now mental health related and much of it is based online – specifically around child sexual exploitation and indecent imagery.

Superintendent Wilson urged people not to make quick judgements on the competence of the Met and to refrain from critique before knowing the whole picture, as this contributes to the Met’s poor image.

He talked about a recent video of a police officer which went viral due to the comments he made about a person being “openly Jewish” at a pro-Palestinian march in central London.

“That officer is not anti-Semitic. That officer had run out of ways to try and get some common sense into this person who had come out with a full media team. And they’re good, those media teams are good at influencing public opinion.”

Image above: Inspector Michael Binns, responsible for Neighbourhood policing, addresses the meeting; photograph A. Nawrocki

Zero interest in joining the police force

Also at the meeting was Inspector Michael Binns, reposnsible for neighbourhood policing across the borough, who has addressed public meetings on policing in Chiswick before. He said officers have been “spread very thin across the borough and were sticking plasters on issues”.

The team in Chiswick were for a long time under strength and they are often called on to fill the rotas else where in west London so the police can meet their responsibility to answer 999 calls.

Now, since vacancies across the rest of LB Hounslow have been filled, he said neighbourhood police would be able to spend more time dealing with crime in Chiswick.

They have worked hard to bring the local team up to strength, but Inspector Binns added that the Metropolitan Police as a whole were understaffed in the “thousands” and that he would need more than double the number he has to operate much more efficiently.

The reason is not budgetary, he said. The issue is with recruitment because there is simply not enough interest from the public in joining the force. Last month, he said, no-one had applied locally, something which he said has not happened since 1882.

Image: Panel and audience

“Getting rid of  Chiswick Police station was ludicrous”

Inspector Binns acknowledged what many in Chiswick have said, when he told the meeting “getting rid of Chiswick Police station was ludicrous”.

The Chiswick Neighbourhood Police team does not have a base in Chiswick. They have to travel from their base in Acton to start their day’s work and they have nowhere secure in Chiswick to keep their weapons and gear, although they have made arangements with retailers such as M&S and Waitrose so officers can have spaces to work and leave personal effects when they can go out on patrol.

He explained that when Chiswick police do make an arrest, they are likely to be gone for the rest of the day, as they have to find a custody suite free to process the arrest and may have to travel to Heathrow or Wandsworth to process the arrest.

He acknowledged that victims of crime in Chiswick who have called 999 have been “let down” by travelling times of police making their way from Feltham.

One resident asked whether living near a police station has any impact on response times, as she lives closest to Acton Police Station.

“You would think so wouldn’t you?” said Inspector Binns. But because Acton Police Station is part of Ealing’s police force, it did not cover the area where she lived.

“Be more neighbourly”

As the meeting turned to discussion of burglaries, Inspector Binns encouraged residents to be “more neighbourly” and knowledgeable about the people they lived next door to. This he said would go a long way in preventing crime, as more involved neighbour would notice whether the people living next door are being burgled. He encouraged residents to report anything suspicious they see.

One resident was concerned that reporting crimes locally would make her insurance premiums increase, as insurance companies will come to view Chiswick “in a certain way”.

Inspector Binns sought to assure the resident this would not be the case, as insurance companies have their own mechanisms for tracking crime hotspots.

Image: Waterworks festival at Gunnersbury park was one event residents complained about, as they saw a spike in drug-dealing and laughing gas canisters in the streets

Residents grill officers on policing Gunnersbury Park festivals

Pushing back on the idea that the police were understaffed, one resident asked how the Met can say they’re understaffed when during festivals at Gunnersbury park where were “tons of police”, yet in Chiswick it is hard to find a single police officer near the A406 during an event, where she said dealers can be seen selling Nos (nitrous oxide or laughing gas) canisters.

“[This is] despte there being sales on the ridgeway, with a lot of Nos canisters littered in the road, including in front of a school,” the woman said.

She asked whether there were any plans for extra police coverage outside of Gunnersbury Park during festivals, rather than businesses operating festivals benefitting from extra policing of their events.

Inspector Binns said officers are brought in from local neighbourhood teams from all over London, including sometimes Chiswick, during events such as those at Gunnersbury Park. He said he did not agree with that process and is “constantly battling” his superiors to leave his officers to do what they need to do locally.

Asked whether some police could be spared at least to patrol around schools during festivals, Inspector Binns said:

“If we can, we will do, certainly outside the schools” but said he could not make any promises.

Another resident asked whether data on crime are being gathered in the run up, during, and after these festivals and whether this data can be used as evidence to cut new licences for future events. She said currently for 2024 there were over 50 planned events in Gunnersbury Park, which she described as “absolutely insane”.

The Chiswick Calendar has only been able to find ten days of music festivals in the scheduled programme for the park, so it is unclear how she arrived at the figure of 50.

Answering her point about data being gathered on specific crimes inside the festivals and at the periphery in the local neighbourhood, Inspector Binns said: “Yes, it happens all the time.”

Items confiscated from attendees are noted. Asked whether this information, if indicative of ongoing criminal patterns, could be sent to Hounslow’s licensing committee for consideration, Inspector Binns said:

“I could but I doubt they would listen… but it’s not getting ignored and does get discussed.”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

Courts for Rwanda hearings made available while other wait years for their cases to come to trial

Image: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak

PM finds 25 courts and 150 judges to deal with Rwanda legal challenges within weeks, while other people wait years for their ‘priority’ cases to come to trial

The Home Office has begun rounding up asylum seekers ready to deport them to Rwanda, where their asylum claim will be judged, but from where they will not be allowed to return to Britain. The Guardian editorial this week voiced the opinion that many people share, that this callous cruelty is taking our country to a very dark place.

There will be last ditch attempts by lawyers in a desperate attempt to stop it, but the Government has made it clear it is determined the first flights will take off in 10 to 12 weeks. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said 25 courtrooms & 150 judges available to deal with legal challenges from asylum seekers.

Defence barrister Joanna Hardy-Susskind, from the prestigious Red Lion Chambers commented:

“They had 25 spare courtrooms this entire time? Were they down the back of the sofa?”

Images: Map showing snapshot of 3 April, when 27% courts in England and Wales were not sitting; Joanna Hardy-Susskind

She recently highlighted that our court system is working at 75% capacity while people who have been waiting years for their cases to come to court are regularly told their hearings have been cancelled due to the pressure the justice system is under.

Barrister Ann Crighton says it’s all about money. She has been looking at some of the cases locally where people have had to wait years for their rape or assault case to come to court.

Guest blog by Ann Crighton

Joanna Hardy-Susskind recently highlighted that a quarter of court capacity was not being used, while people wait years for justice.

‘There will be complainants, witnesses and defendants told this week that there is no room to resolve the worst thing that happened to them until 2026’ she wrote on 3 April.

‘Some will walk past empty, locked courtrooms to be told that’.

As a working frontline barrister, I can confirm she is correct.

Unusually, I was recently in central London for an Employment Tribunal. The claimant brought his claim in June 2022 and the first date for the hearing of his case was October 2023, i.e. well over a year later, but we considered ourselves lucky to get such an early date.

Unfortunately it had to be adjourned. When we  went to court this month it was the only case being heard – all other hearing rooms were empty.

Why, when there is a long waiting list?  Why, when there is no shortage of fee paid Judges?  The answer as far as I can see is money – the Ministry of Justice not wanting to pay those Judges.

I asked a few friends (prosecutors) about waiting lists and this is what they said:

Our local Crown Court – Isleworth – is currently listing trials from January 2026. Bear in mind trials are only listed when they are trial ready, i.e. after months or even years of preparation.

Frequently defendants on bail turn up for their trial but their cases are adjourned because their cases are not considered a ‘priority’.  The reason given in ‘capacity’ – the Court simply does not have the capacity to hear the case.

A friend, who prosecutes rape trials only, did one recently in which the offence occurred in 2021 i.e. three years ago.

Another friend with years of experience prosecuting murders said there was a backlog of about a year for murders, i.e. the top ‘priority’ cases.

Bearing in mind that murders and rapes are treated as priority cases, what about waiting lists for other offences, for example GBH where the victim has received life changing injuries?

What about robberies and burglaries? (I suppose there are few of the latter because the Police have stopped investigating the majority of burglaries, but I am sure you will get my point).

My specialty is motoring offences – some are serious, involving death, but others can be considered minor. Nevertheless, a prosecution for speeding at 24 mph several times can put someone out of work, leaving them unable to pay their mortgage and so on.

Let me cite a good example of the backlog. The original offence was driving at 57 in a 50 mph zone but the driver was not nominated (client claims she did not receive the request) so the offence is failing to nominate the driver (client has a clean driving licence by the way).

Offence – 24 October 2022.  First trial date 14 December 2023, adjourned until  January because the court had no availability / capacity to hear the trial. On 12 January the client, her witness and barrister spent whole day in Southend Court only to be told the court had no time to hear her case. The earliest available trial date given was 18 October.

So the client has to wait until October, two years after the offence, for her case to be heard (and by the way the CPS refuse to drop the case).

I blame ALL of the delays on the Ministry of Injustice !!!  There are various reasons, which  include:

  • Selling off much needed Courts such as Hammersmith Court, which was a purpose-built court opened about 30 years ago. Not having that court available causes backlogs and trials are now held in Hendon (no tube station) for adults and Highbury Corner for youths.
  • Leaving court rooms empty because they don’t want to pay the judges.
  • Lack of court staff, for example legal advisors who do not want to use the latest computer system that ‘they’ have spent our money on (the Common Platform). In fact, at one point the court staff went on strike because of it.
  • Wasting money. I frequently travel to the Leonardo Hotel in Croydon to do Crown Court appeals because, having sold off the much-needed courts, ‘they’ use hotels for appeals. At what cost, I ask myself?

A very senior prosecutor said to me that even if we used all available court rooms and even if we still had some of the courts which ‘they’ sold (often for no good reason) we would still have a problem because there are now not enough criminal barristers to do the trials. Many have left because of poor pay, long hours and stress.

So if you, a member of your family or a friend is a victim of a serious crime you can be almost guaranteed that IF (and that is a big IF) they catch the perpetrator, the trial will not be listed for months or, more likely, years.

IF you are accused of a crime and you are innocent then not only will it cost you a lot of money, but it will all be made a lot worse because it will take months or years to clear your name.

Of course, ‘they’ will blame Covid but it is not Covid (although it did make it all a bit worse). It is because ‘they’ closed much needed courts and ‘they’ leave court rooms empty whilst the queue for justice grows longer.

As the Secret Barrister said ‘the law is broken’ and I believe it is because ‘they’ (some would describe as lunatics) have taken over. That is why claimants, witnesses and defendants will be told the worst thing that ever happened to them will not be resolved until 2026!

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

Bedford Park Festival tickets go on sale

Image: Green Days

New venues & partners give a fresh look to “Chiswick’s favourite fortnight”

Guest blog by Torin Douglas

Tickets have just gone on sale for this year’s Bedford Park Festival, one of West London’s longest-running and most popular arts and community events.  From June 7 to 23 June, the Festival will offer something for everyone, whatever their age, with a wide range of concerts, talks, walks, film & theatre performances, exhibitions and open-air events.

This year, new venues, partners and performers will give a fresh look to “Chiswick’s favourite fortnight”, alongside the familiar favourites – Green Days weekend, the Bedford Park Summer Exhibition & Photography Exhibition, the Festival Mass in St Michael & All Angels Church and the Open Gardens walk on the final Sunday.

We’re delighted to announce a new partnership with Sanderson Design Group, which is moving back to Chiswick, where its founder Arthur Sanderson set up his wallpaper factory in 1879. The company has refurbished Voysey House, Charles Voysey’s iconic office building in the centre of Chiswick, as its new headquarters.

READ ALSO: Sanderson set to return to Voysey House in Chiswick

Homecoming: Sanderson, Voysey & Chiswick

In ‘Homecoming: Sanderson, Voysey & Chiswick’ on Thursday 20 June, you’ll have the first chance to look inside and hear about the group’s ambitious plans, including its new “Bedford Park” collection of fabrics and wallpapers. Space is limited and tickets may sell out early – you can book here via TicketSource:

Book tickets – Homecoming: Sanderson, Voysey & Chiswick

We’re also pleased to partner for the first time with McVities (which opened its first shop in 1839) and its parent company Pladis, which moved into Chiswick Park in 2021. Their generous sponsorship has enabled the Festival to launch a series of concerts in St Michael & All Angels Church, and workshops in schools, aimed at a young and diverse audience to broaden local young people’s access to music.

Images: Apollo’s Cabinet; Elena Urioste & Tom Poster

Apollo’s Cabinet

They will feature the period performance group Apollo’s Cabinet; trumpeter Aaron Azunda Akugbo (Classic FM’s Rising Star nominee) & harpist Milo Harper; and violinist  Elena Urioste & pianist Tom Poster of the award-winning #UriPosteJukeBox, which features classical gems and an interactive concert experience!

Tickets are on sale for these and the other Festival events on TicketSource:

Book tickets – Apollo’s Cabinet

We also have a new venue and partner for the Bedford Park Photography Exhibition, co-sponsored for several years by The Chiswick Calendar and Snappy Snaps.

It’s moving into St Michael & All Angels Church, where the photos will be displayed on the south wall, sharing the church with the Bedford Park Summer Exhibition of artworks in the north aisle.

Image: last year’s Photography competition winner Cranes; photographer Steve Shotton

Photography exhibition and competition

The exhibition is extended to a full week, from Saturday 8 to Friday 14 June, and Chiswick Auctions becomes an additional co-sponsor, highlighting its sale of 19th and 20th Century Photographs on Thursday 6 June, and Photographica sale on Wednesday 10 July 2024.

So show off the photographs you are most proud of, make some money for charity and put yourself in the running for some very generous prizes from Snappy Snaps. See details of how to enter here:

READ ALSO: Bedford Park Festival Photography Competition – How to Enter & Rules for 2024

Murder on the Orient Express

Another new venue is The Chiswick Cinema, which will host a screening to mark the 50th anniversary of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, starring Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot.

It will be introduced by Andrea Carnevali of The Chiswick Cinema Film Club on Saturday 22 June. Tickets are available from Ticketsource:

Book tickets –

And another company that has returned to Chiswick – after a shorter gap than Sanderson – is the wealth management firm Killik & Co.

Throughout its time in Chiswick it was a significant partner of the Bedford Park Festival, and on its return it is sponsoring the Craft Fair on Green Days weekend (June 8 and 9), supporting 20 local creative businesses that will be exhibiting their wares.

Talks on wine, poetry and ballet

Other Festival highlights will include the Italian wine and travel writer Marc Masson, interviewed by Susannah Simons; a birthday celebration of Chiswick’s Nobel Prize-winning poet WB Yeats, with guest speaker Jeremy Vine; and “The Royal Ballet in 60 Minutes” by Sarah Lenton of BBC Radio 3, at the Theatre at the Tabard.

West End performer Rosemary Ashe returns to Theatre at the Tabard

The Festival will also include performances of Fondly Remembered by Gareth Armstrong at the Tabard, with West End performer Rosemary Ashe in the cast.

READ ALSO: West End performer Rosemary Ashe returns to Theatre at the Tabard

Image: Conrad Shawcross sculpture to commemorate W.B. Yeats

WB Yeats’ connections with Bedford Park will also be explored in a literary walk – Land of Heart’s Desire – led by Cahal Dallat, poet, broadcaster and founder of the WB Yeats Bedford Park Artwork Project – while the Festival’s longest-running event, the annual Bedford Park Walk will explore the area’s architectural and literary heritage led by Dr Pamela Bickley and John Scott.

Frank the Cat, Schubert’s Trout Quintet, and Faure’s Piano Quartet No 1

Further extending the Festival’s musical range, the hugely popular ten-piece band Frank the Cat will perform vibrant versions of ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s soul, disco and fun covers;  Danish/Hungarian organist David Bendix Nielsen will give a recital on the acclaimed organ in St Michael & All Angels Church; and Festival favourites David Juritz, violin, and Mark Viner, piano, and friends will perform Schubert’s Trout Quintet and Faure’s Piano Quartet No 1.

Fancy Dress – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

As well as the schools’ music workshops, events for children will include Building the St Michael’s Bug Church, to provide nesting sites and shelter for insects and wildlife in the church garden; a concert by the young choir The Choristers; and several events on Green Days weekend, where the Fancy Dress Competition, Children’s Corner and Turnham Green Treasure Hunt are all on the theme of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

The two-day Green Days Fete & Craft Fair is the Festival’s opening weekend and will feature the usual array of bands, refreshments, funfair and stalls, supported by many local companies headed by the Festival’s major partner Savills.

Returning sponsors include Andrew Nunn & Associates (Beer tent), ArtsEd (Bandstand), Knight Frank (Refreshments tent), Fudges Cycles & Whitman & Co (Cycle Zone), and BMW, Kia & MG(Electric Vehicle Zone). It’s not too late to join them – or to volunteer to help with this year’s Festival.

Profits will support St Michael & All Angels Church, which runs the Festival as part of its mission of community outreach, and its three 2024 charities:

The Upper Room, helping the needy in Shepherd’s Bush; Swinfen Telemedicine, which links specialist medical expertise to doctors and nurses in remote regions of the world; and Crosslight Chiswick, which provides face-to-face debt advice, together with money education and budgeting support to individuals and families in need.

Read more and book tickets at .

Torin Douglas is the partnership and community co-ordinator for the Bedford Park Festival, working with Fr Kevin Morris, the vicar and Festival director; Nicola Chater, Festival administrator; Tassy Russell, event manager; Vicky Brooke, Green Days site manager; Alyson Mitchell, Festival treasurer; and a large team of volunteers.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

Joanna Bird ceramics and glass exhibition opens at Pitzhanger Manor Gallery

Image: Duet – Emmanuel Boos

A Fine Line: Modern Makers at Pitzhanger

Chiswick gallery owner Joanna Bird has curated a new modern ceramics and glass show which opens at the Pitzhanger Manor Gallery in Ealing on Wednesday 8 May.

She has chosen work by ten established artists from four continents, whose work she thinks might have amused Sir John Soane, whose house it was. The show,  ‘A Fine Line: Modern Makers at Pitzhanger’, runs from Wednesday 8 May to Sunday 4 August.

“Soane was fascinated with materials and contemporary innovations” Joanna told The Chiswick Calendar.

“One of his gifts was the element of surprise: this will be the theme running through A Fine Line.”

Images above: Another Blue, Undo IV, Hanne Heuch

Sir John Soane was one of Britain’s most influential architects. He built Pitzhanger Manor between 1800 and 1804 as his dream country retreat, to show off his skills as an architect and house his eclectic collection of art and antiquities, which included Hogarth’s series of paintings titled A Rake’s Progress and four paintings by Canaletto.

Soane used the manor to entertain friends and used to go fishing in the local streams, but he only lived there a short while as his plans for it to be a family home fell apart. The Manor has recently been refurbished and the trustees regularly show modern art throughout the house and in the Gallery.

READ ALSO: Julian Opie’s LED sculpture Curly Hair bought by Pitzhanger Manor

READ ALSO: Two new art exhibitions for spring 2024 at Pitzhanger Manor in Ealing

Images: Green Remembrance, Nicholas Rena; The British Museum, William Empson, Prue Cooper

The artists featured in the new exhibition are: Emmanuel BoosPrue CooperSteffen DamJoseph HarringtonHanne HeuchTom PerkinsWilliam PlumptreNicholas RenaJudith RoweMatthew Warner and Gregory Warren Wilson.

Click on their names to read more about them and see more of their work on Joanna’s website.

Matthew Warner’s vases will be on display in the Breakfast Room of the Manor.

“Soane loved vases” says Joanna … “his prize possession being the Cawdor Vase. On his travels to Sicily andRome he would have seen a great many Greek and Roman vases.”

Images: Vases by Matthew Warner

Matthew has recently researched traditional forms from Greece, China and Korea sold to wealthy collectors in the 17th and 18th-century.

On either side of the fireplace are two vases by William Plumptre, decorated in a traditional Japanese style with rope inlay, learnt from Tatsuzo Shimaoka.

Images: Vases by William Plumtre

“I very much hope that you take pleasure in the moments we have endeavoured to capture in this exhibition for Sir John Soane, were he alive today” says Joanna.

“Soane owned Pitzhanger for only ten years, but transformed the entrance, house and grounds in that time. He used the rooms and gardens – which were the site of fictitious Roman ruins, a great talking point for his visitors –as examples of what he could do. His distinguished and unique contributions to architecture and design remain an inspiration for us to this day.”

The launch event In Conversation with Joanna Bird, will be on Thursday 16 May at 5pm.

Tickets: In Conversation with Joanna Bird

Images: Pacific Mist, Joseph Harrington; Complex Glass Panel, Steffen Dam

Image: Small vases, Judith Rowe

Images: Omega: Variations on the letter ‘O’; Holding Light, Tom Perkins

Images: The Chameleon’s Dreaming, Watching Clouds with Monsieur Braque, Gregory Warren Wilson, Gregory Warren Wilson

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The case for Ozempic: the next wonder drug?

The award winning wealth management and investment experts Killik & Co have opened a new space on Devonshire Road – House of Killik Chiswick. The Chiswick Calendar is pleased to share their guest blogs on how best to plan and save to acquire the wealth to achieve your goals.

Killik & Co won “Best Discretionary / Advisory Wealth Manager’ in the 2023 FT Investors Chronicle Awards.”

Could a new prescription medicine cause the greatest global disruption in 2024?

In this article, Phil Sole, Relationship Manager at House of Killik Chiswick shares his thoughts on why Ozempic provides an attractive opportunity for investors, and how its public launch could create ripples across financial markets.

What is Ozempic?

 Described by some as a weight loss “wonder drug”, Ozempic has been making headlines recently as more and more celebrities admit they have been using it to lose weight.

Officially, Ozempic is an injectable prescription medicine developed to help people living with type 2 diabetes, which suppresses the appetite to improve blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of major cardiovascular events.

Its parent company, Novo Nordisk, states that Ozempic may help those taking it to lose weight, and they have the results to prove it – the trial of the drug was so successful the FDA permitted Ozempic to stop it early, and make a public launch imminent.

Impact on the pharmaceutical industry

The global pharmaceutical industry is worth trillions of dollars, and the public launch of a drug like Ozempic could lead to significant shifts in the market.

Beyond significant savings on the costs to treat type 2 diabetes, this could also lead to greater operational efficiencies across the healthcare system. Ozempic also plans to release a pill version of the medicine, which could lead to distribution on a larger scale and more market share.

It is also worth noting that Ozempic is simply the first to achieve success in this industry, and if other pharmaceutical companies develop similar products, this could disrupt the entire industry.

The ripple effect

The impact of Ozempic’s public launch could ripple out even further, causing disruption across multiple industries. For example, how much of a decline would we see in the number of people signing up for gym memberships if an ‘easier’ way to lose weight existed?

Furthermore, how would the effects of Ozempic impact consumer behaviour in the food and beverage industry? Would sales of junk food plummet, and would we see less demand for convenience food like ready meals and takeaways?

Finally, how would this affect alcoholic beverage companies? With an increasing trend towards sobriety and growing market share of low to no alcohol product, would they stay competitive and profitable or be forced to pivot to justify space on retailer’s shelves?

Knowing where to invest next

While it is difficult to predict just how much impact a public launch of Ozempic could have on financial markets, it looks set to shake up the pharmaceutical industry at the very least.

However, having a dedicated Investment Manager to support you who can draw upon specialist market research can provide a competitive advantage when seeking to identify commercially attractive opportunities across various industries.

Future Healthcare is one of the themes we monitor under our Thematic Investing approach – we have covered companies like Lonza, who were involved in manufacturing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, and Edwards Lifesciences, who specialise in artificial heart valves. Our approach connects you directly to the trends, industries and companies shaping the future.

To learn more about how we can help with investing in this space and within other industries, please drop into House of Killik Chiswick for a complimentary chat or email

Please be aware that as with all investments, your capital is at risk and you may not receive back the same amount that you invest. This article is designed to throw an everyday lens on some of the issues being discussed and debated by investors across the world; it is not research, so please do not interpret it as a recommendation for your personal investments.

If you have any questions about this article, or wish to discuss your financial circumstances, please do not hesitate to contact Relationship Manager, Phil Sole and House & Community Coordinator, Emma Walker.

We welcome all Chiswick residents to House of Killik, no appointment necessary.  Pop in for a chat and a coffee at 13 Devonshire Road – we look forward to meeting you soon.

13 Devonshire Road
London W4 2EU
Nearest Tube:
Turnham Green
+44 (0) 207 337 0640
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8.30am– 5.30pm
Monday– Friday
Weekend and out of hours appointments available on request

One Over the Ait joins The Chiswick Calendar Club Card

One Over The Ait: Brentford’s live sport destination

We are delighted to say Fuller’s pub One Over the Ait has joined our Club Card scheme.

On match days it is one of the destinations of choice for Brentford football fans, and when there is no live sport to see in the flesh, General Manager Jerry tells us there is always some live sport to watch on their big screens.

Jerry has written us this guest blog, inviting you to pay them a visit.

Fabulous river views, and more importantly, a good view of the big TV screens from every table in the pub

Guest blog by Jerry Magloire

A striking pub perched on the Thames, One Over the Ait is the perfect spot to eat, drink and enjoy live sport with a perfect view of the action from every table.

Catch all the action at One Over The Ait, the best pub to watch live sport in Brentford and Kew. We screen action from the Premier League on Sky Sports and TNT Sports, as well as midweek Champions League and other European games.

From the Six Nations to the World Cup, you can of course catch every scrum with us as well whoever you follow.

So whether it’s football, rugby, cricket, tennis or Formula One, One Over The Ait is your go-to for watching live sport. Whether your downstairs in the main bar, or upstairs in the Players’ Lounge, you’ll have a great view from every seat on every table so you’ll never miss a goal, try, wicket or winner.

Come early or stay later and try some of the delicious items on our menu or have a game of pool or darts. There’s plenty of ways to be entertained with us.

Check out what’s coming up below and book ahead to secure your table for the next big game..

We can also do your private functions, in an excellent location, stylish setting and the best squad around – function hires in Brentford don’t get much better than this. One Over the Ait is the perfect location for your event.

Offering tray served sharer food and feast style menus, including finger food and buffet options, our kitchen can cater for team meetings, business meetings, dinner and drinks with friends or larger match-day bookings.

Come and check it all out for yourself and enjoy your 10% discount with your Chiswick Calendar Card.

We hope to see you soon! Jerry and Team OOTA

Images of the pub – Joanna Raikes

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There’s Still Tomorrow (2023) – Review by Andrea Carnevali

There’s Still Tomorrow (C’è ancora domani)  ⭐️⭐️⭐️½

Trying to escape from the patriarchy in the Italian post-war society, Delia plots an act of rebellion against her violent husband. On in cinemas now.

The film was released in Italy last year to a chorus of countless praises and after breaking all box office records, surpassing even the likes of Barbie and Oppenheimer (there’s talk already about an American remake with Lady Gaga), finally Paola Cortellesi’s black-and-white melodrama hits the British screens too.

For months I’d been listening to all my friends back home talking about what is not only one of Italy’s ten highest-grossing films of all time, but also the country’s most successful feature directed by a woman.

When expectations are so high, I know from experience that disappointment could be just around the corner. But, as always, it’s all a little bit more complex than just a simple star rating.

There are plenty of things to like about this overall thought-provoking film and I’m sure the international audience out there will be able to enjoy it immensely and can come out as touched as everybody else did in its home country.

For years Paola Cortellesi has been known in Italy as a comic actress. For over two decades she had appeared on several TV show, then in the year 2000 she had her debut role as a supporting actress by the most famous trio of comedians of the time, Aldo Giovanni and Giacomo (also born out of short TV sketches), which became the highest-grossing Italian comedy of the year.

Since then she has starred in over 20 movies, both on the big screen and on TV, winning several awards too, including the equivalent of the Italian Oscar, the ‘David di Donatello’ for Best Actress for her role in Escort in Love (Nessuno mi può giudicare) in 2011.

There’s Still Tomorrow is her triumphant directorial debut (she’s also written the film and she is starring in it too). Quite an achievement indeed. The fact alone that she was able to bring Italian masses back to the cinema (sadly this is an art form that in Italy, more than many other places, is really struggling), beat the Hollywood juggernauts at the box office and receive international releases across the globe is a great achievement that should be commended and lauded.

Beyond the box office numbers, the film itself is certainly not without its merits: Cortellese filmed it all black-and-white, emulating and, at the same time, paying homage to the style and feel of some of those great classics from the Italian neo-realism.

Directors like De Sica, or Rossellini (and films like Bicycle Thieves and Rome, Open City, just to mention a couple) who in the ‘40s and ‘50s told stories of ordinary people (many were non-actors, literally taken off the streets) living their everyday life and going through the harsh realities of post war Italy.

Even Cortellesi’s own performance in the film too seems to echo those of the great Anna Magnani or Sophia Loren (though, I have to say, without that he depth and natural spontaneity that those two had).

But while some of the images she creates are evocative and may seem well researched (courtesy of some good art direction and cinematography too) I found Cortellesi’s attempts at modernisation slightly ill-advised and tonally a bit disconcerting.

The addition of modern songs, having the characters mouthing the lyrics and the use of cinematic tricks, like slow-motion, took me completely out of the film, undermining not just all the work that had been done in recreating the perfect settings, but also taking away some of the emotional heft that the story could have had.

Cortellesi’s attempts to try to get into the main character’s head, transforming the beating into a dance (I guess to show her defence mechanism to cope with the abuse) was one of the worst offenders, as far as I’m concerned, making me suddenly very aware of the filmic artifices, when I was actually more in need of understanding the pain and suffering on a more emotional level (aside from the fact that it’s pretty much the same device Lars Von Trier used in Dancer in the Dark more than two decades ago).

In other words, instead of enhancing the message of the film and making it more contemporary, I thought it did the opposite and weakened it.

Also the depictions of the “husband beater” felt a little clichéd, almost cartoonish and a bit too superficial to me, and, however certainly inspired by the sadly too-many real stories out there, didn’t quite scratch beyond the surface.

In the end, despite the noble intentions, the film gives away to melodrama, more than actual real drama and many of the scenes feel more like a series of sketchy vignettes, and oversimplifications of family dynamic.

The film does work a lot better whenever Cortellesi uses her dry humour and comedy to shine a light in the darkness. Fortunately, that happens quite often throughout the film, making it overall a pleasant experience, which is possibly the reason beyond the crowd-pleasing effect that it had back in its own country.

The scene with the dead grandfather is a prime example of that, making us laugh in the midst of a potentially sad event, as well as the many well-observed details peppered throughout the film (a dog peeing by the main character’s front window, and the array of wonderful secondary characters) and the hilarious use on Roman dialect (which sadly gets a bit lost in subtitles).

The script is not as smooth as one would like and does require to make a couple of leaps of faiths too. A specific episode to do with a certain bomb exploding (I’m careful not to spoil anything here), comes out of nowhere and actually makes very little sense if you pause and think about it for more than two seconds.

As for the overly-praised ending, whilst on one hand is beautifully constructed, with some nail-biting suspense and nicely pulls the rug out of the audience’s feet, certainly makes it for a beautiful and rousing coda, but I must say, for me, that’s all it was. It felt a bit tagged-on, underdeveloped and coming out of the blue.

I just wished that side of the story had been better planted beforehand, making the film more cohesive, as opposed to just a surprising and clever twist in the tale.

It’s hard to talk about this without spoiling it for those who have not yet seen it.

But despite my reservations, the central message of resilience and hope for a brighter future comes across very well, and the film deserves to be seen by as many people as possible, giving that boost Italian cinema really deserves after its glorious past and a not-so-happy present. Just the fact that this has been seen by more Italians than Barbie, makes me hopeful for the future!

In Italy they are already talking about it as a possible candidate for the next best foreign language film, and while I do wish it all the best, I don’t think it has that broad appeal, charm and heart of previous Oscar winners like Cinema Paradiso or Life is Beautiful.

There’s Still Tomorrow is on at Chiswick Cinema now.

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

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

Chiswick In Film festival: Chiswick In Film festival 2023

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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‘Thank You Mr Crombie’ memoir by Mihir Bose – Review

‘Lessons in Guilt and Gratitude to the British’

Mihir’s memoir Thank You Mr Crombie is a unique take on what it is like to have grown up in privilege in post-independence India, to have come to Britain and been subjected to racism and yet to have succeeded in following one’s dreams.

From an inauspicious start in Britain, Mihir Bose has become one of our most successful and distinguished journalists.

As BBC journalist Clive Myrie says:

‘This is a memoir of a life transformed and a nation reinvented. Eye opening, funny and revealing …
A beautifully written person account of the birth of modern Britain’

Thank You Mr Crombie reads in the early part a bit like an Indian Cider with Rosie – the fond recollections of family life in a bygone era, before life got complicated.

As the books goes on the reader travels with him to the Britain of the 1960s, following his career as a journalist, writing for most of our national papers, including long stints at the Sunday Times and Daily Telegraph, authoring more than 50 books and becoming the BBC’s first Sports News editor.

It ends with some thoughts on Britishness and Empire and how multicultural Britain has changed from the days when he was spat on and chased, in fear for his life, as a rookie reporter, the only brown face in the press box and sometimes the whole sports stadium.

Image: Mihir talking to Matt Frei on Channel 4 News as a cricket pundit

Emulating the British

The Mr Crombie of the title was the Home Office official who wrote to him in 1975 telling him he was free to remain permanently in the United Kingdom.

‘That letter means so much to me that ever since I received it, I have taken great care to preserve it. As I write, it is spread before my computer, frayed at the edges but the paper still a lovely, light beige colour and the typing in very clear black letters.

‘I have kept it in a plastic cover and have carried it with me wherever I have gone.’

It is an anathema to later generations of Indians and second and third generation descendants of Indian immigrants to Britain, that someone like Mihir should so desperately have wanted to succeed in Britain.

He came after all from a privileged, wealthy family, growing up with a hierarchy of servants whose job was to ensure his childhood was like that of a little prince. He says, with irony:

‘It has always intrigued me that all the talk of immigration to the United Kingdom , which has been going on since I arrived here in 1969, is of people coming here to make money. In my case I sacrificed money and lived in a Maida Vale bedsit because of the intellectual riches this country provides.’

He could have made millions, as heir apparent to his father’s business, as India developed and prospered.

He trained initially as an engineer and then as an accountant, but really wanted to be a journalist, to fulfil the prediction of his teacher at St. Xavier’s Jesuit college in Mumbai and rub shoulders with the writers whose work he read as a teenager when he snuck into the library of the British Deputy High Commissioner, opposite his parental home, where the English broadsheet newspapers were laid out like an intellectual feast.

Images above: Some of Mihir’s many books

Midnight’s Children

He tries to explain why even though India had fought hard to throw off colonialism, as a teenager he tried desperately to be as British as he could:

‘We were part of the first generation of free Indians for two hundred years. It was 1961, only fourteen years since the British had left India, yet we craved things and ideas from Britain and desperately wanted British acceptance.”

The way they received news goes some way to explaining it:

‘In the summer, even the Times of India easily, effortlessly, allowed English sports like cricket and tennis to take over its sports pages. In general, foreign news always took precedence over domestic news – 500 deaths from cholera a small news item, 16 miners killed in Belgium meriting big headlines.

‘V.S. Naipaul has seen this as a sign of the displacement of Indians in their own land, people trying to mimic more mature societies. But this was an expression of our searching for what we considered best. And the best was in England.’

Mihir’s schooling was in English and he remembers having to learn how to set out a formal invitation to a dinner party – “Mr & Mrs So-and-so request the pleasure of Mr & Mrs So-and-so” and recite it by heart.

‘We despised those who did not speak English. Not all of the non-English speakers were poor, indeed some were very rich, and in despising them, we were proclaiming what we saw as civilised society.’

Though he speaks several Indian languages, it was decades before his English wife Caroline managed to persuade him he was actually multilingual and he should value the ability to speak them.

Images above: More of Mihir’s many books

Mihir, like Salman Rushdie, was one of ‘Midnight’s Children’, born not long before the Indian Independence Act came into force on 15 August 1947. He explains the significance of midnight. The date proposed for independence was considered inauspicious, but as the British day started at midnight and the Hindu day started at sunrise it was ok, because as far as Indians were concerned, independence was implemented the day after.

His childhood was governed by superstitions. He describes the lengths his mother went to appease the travel gods, and their annual holidays, taking a train journey that lasted two nights and a day, from Mumbai to his mother’s home in Kolkata, evoking the sights, the sounds and the smells of the land they passed through, observed from their private carriage, their ‘little house on wheels.’

He disappointed his parents by not choosing to stay in India and take over the family business. His father never understood his choice and there is a very moving chapter in which he describes how he felt that he was not there when he died, an experience many expats, exiled by their choices, will recognise.

Hence the subtitle to the book: ‘Lessons in Guilt and Gratitude to the British‘.

Learning about Britain the hard way

Part two of the story begins on a cold, wet day in January 1969 when Mihir arrived in London ‘wearing a three-piece suit, under which I had woolly long johns but with the bottom ends visible underneath my trousers.’

His father had also sewn a special pouch into his clothes so he could illegally export £800, more cash than was allowed by the Indian government at the time, and sufficient to keep him afloat in England for a while.

His arrival was six months after Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech. He found landladies wouldn’t rent him a room, white women would not have relationships for fear of having mixed race babies, and the bully boy skinheads of the National Front presented a physical threat.

Studying engineering at Loughborough University, he experienced working in an English factory and found himself doing the work of an untouchable – cleaning toilets – in London, to make ends meet.

When Mohammed Ali lost to Joe Frazier in 1971 he writes:

‘By losing to Frazier, Ali had dealt us a mortal blow, almost as if he had personally decided to cripple us…

‘In my final year at St Xavier’s, when Floyd Patterson, a black American, had fought Ingemar Johansson, a Swedish boxer, all of us wanted Johnsson to win. Now, after two years in England, I instinctively identified with people of colour.’

Images: Mihir writes on the history of India and the history of sport

Finding his tribe

Things began to look up when he fell in with a theatre crowd and he started writing and staging plays, then got his first break as a journalist with the new radio station LBC, who hired him to report on an Indian cricket tour of England.

If sport reporting was a passion, another area of expertise, his knowledge of accountancy, paid off in getting him jobs on the City pages. He got to know David Smith, now Economics Editor of the Sunday Times, and Nigel Dudley, now a political analyst, with whom he now makes the Three Old Hacks podcast.

As three young hacks they worked for Financial Weekly, where Mihir quickly became City editor and gave Peter Oborne his first job as a journalist. Though he has proved himself since in a stellar journalism career, all it took then for Peter to get a job in journalism (she says, grinding her teeth bitterly) was for him to have gone to school with Nigel Dudley at Sherborne and to have been a keen cricketer.

Others who have benefitted from Mihir’s managerial choices are the cartoonist Martin Rowson, whom he employed, and Charles Peattie and Russell Taylor whose “Alex” cartoons are to be found in the City pages of the Daily Telegraph. Mihir gave them their first start on the Daily London News, where he was City Features editor.

Once he had found his tribe in British journalism, who accepted him, Mihir was off and running. A prolific freelance, he persuaded editors to take his stories and, not only that, but to carve out a niche for him to write about sports business news. He persuaded the sports editor at the Telegraph, David Welch, to create an Inside Sports column which looked at sports stories in depth.

He later prevailed on the BBC to create the role of Sports News editor for the same reason. The world of sport was changing, becoming big business, and he was perfectly placed to seek out, and crucially to understand the stories which were emerging.

He made his name with a succession of stories about football bungs and how the decision-making process behind events such as the Olympics and the World Cup really worked. He always got his best scoops, he says, from the lawyers and administrators who were party to the big deals.

In the process he rubbed quite a few important people up the wrong way – Manchester United’s manager Alex Ferguson for one, Labour Sports Minister Tony Banks another. The latter refused to speak to Mihir because he had predicted, on good information, that England would not get to host the 2006 football World Cup. Banks responded by calling him “a little shit.”

‘Years later he was proposed for membership of the Reform Club,’ writes Mihir. ‘I could have blackballed him but I did not.’

Never one to miss an opportunity, he also enjoyed being the Indian food critic for Time Out magazine.

The memoir reflects Mihhir’s journey towards acceptance of himself as an Indian, and an Anglophile, and the curious double identity that has entailed for someone who has come to Britain as immigrant and found success here on his own terms. The account is candid and unvarnished, colourful and humorous, with some interesting home truths for Indian and British people.

Mihir will be talking about his book Thank You Mr CrombieLessons in Guilt and Gratitude to the British on Wednesday 29 May with Peter Oborne, in an event at George IV for The Chiswick Calendar’s Media Club.

Book tickets:

Bell and Crown pub apply for an orangery extension

Image above: Bell and Crown at Strand on the Green


Fuller’s have submitted a planning application to Hounslow Council for a single storey ‘orangery’ extension at the Bell and Crown pub, facing the river.

They plan to install a solid wood structure that will replace the existing conservatory to bring the line of the building out to same level as the left-hand side as viewed from the river. The aim is to provide additional restaurant space all year round and replace elements of poor quality within the current building.

The plans for the timber and glazed orangery show two roof lanterns on a flat roof, one of which will be above the existing structure. Originally the building at 73 Strand on the Green was a butchers. The estimated cost of the plan is up to £2 million, according to the documents submitted to Hounslow Council.

A Fullers spokesperson told The Chiswick Calendar:

“The Bell & Crown is a wonderful pub and this small, tasteful conservatory will allow us to better use the space available.”

Strand on the Green Association not planning to object

The pub tried once before to glass in their greenhouse area so it could be used in winter, but met opposition from the Strand on the Green Association, which was when they decided instead to have the present plastic covers then put over it in inclement weather, which has not proved satisfactory either from a warmth or an aesthetic perspective.

In a statement released last week, the Strand on the Green Association (SoGA) said they were not to object to the new plans:

“SoGA is not planning to object, since the style is in keeping with the style of the existing building.”

When they put in glass in 2019 the residents association accused the company of showing a ‘flagrant disregard for planning law’.

The controversial structure had been flagged by residents as not corresponding to plans which had been approved by the Council. The extension was dismantled after retrospective planning permission was refused.

Residents who complained about it said it’ was ‘unsightly’ and ‘uncharacteristic of the Strand on the Green Conservation Area’.

READ ALSO: Bell & Crown begin dismantling ‘unpopular’ extension

A visit from The London Alcove Company – creating order out of chaos

Image: Shelving design by The London Alcove Company

It sounds very grand, but I am creating a library

A friend of my daughter’s, visiting our house for the first time, texted her standing uncertainly outside, peering in from the street: ‘Is yours the house with the book wallpaper?’

Another boyfriend, venturing into the living room, asked me incredulously: “Have you actually read all these?”

Image: Novels culled by Mari Kondo and carefully alphetebised during Covid

A life in books

The books are real and yes, I have read them, mostly. What’s more, I can usually tell you where and when I read them and, in some cases, what impact they had on my life. Leon Uris’ novel Exodus played a big part in my decision to go and work on a kibbutz in Israel at the age of 18, while Avi Shlaim’s history The Iron Wall, Israel and the Arab World is the best explanation of Israel’s history I have come across.

I remember which ones I read on sleep deprived nights when my children were small, and the odd postcard or ticket tucked inside to serve as a bookmark reveals which I was reading on various holidays.

Image: My small collection of books on the history of Africa  from the the making of a documentary series

Some are by friends and colleagues – BBC presenter Tim Sebastian used to knock out ‘airport trash’ thrillers when travelling the world doing interviews for HARDtalk. Zeinab Badawi’s new book on the history of Africa came out of a documentary series we made together and evokes happy memories of jolting around in a 4×4 with camera crews from the coast of Senegal to the plains of the Serengeti, the pyramids of Sudan to the ancient settlements of Zimbabwe.

I have just read Rebecca Frayn’s new novel Lost in Ibiza and Mihir Bose’s memoir Thank you Mrs Crombie and have yet to read Peter Oborne’s book Islam: The Fate of Abraham.

I even appear in a few of these volumes, in the acknowledgements at the back. The thing about a collection is that you can chart your life by its acquisitions. A lot of my factual books are review copies collected over decades of producing TV and radio programmes – glossy coffee table books from my days on Midweek with Libby Purves on Radio 4 and political biographies from the years working on HARDtalk. They all evoke memories.

I find it hard to resist beautiful picture books, like the catalogues of art exhibitions l’ve visited, and the annual collections of photographs from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year. I still have the Giles cartoon annuals which were a traditional part of our family Christmases growing up, and the complete collection of the Knowledge encyclopaedias we collected as weekly magazines when we were children.

These enormous binders represented our window on the world in those pre-internet days. I also have some Ladybird books from that era, and travel guides for every country I have ever visited.

Most of these books are currently stacked in piles around the house, taking up floor space, creating knee-high obstacles, adding an even greater level of chaos to what at best could never be described as a tidy house. Having ripped out the homemade sagging bookshelves that have served the purpose for 30 odd years, and moved a radiator, with some excitement I am awaiting delivery of custom-made bookshelves. I am creating a library.

Image: Cameron & Oscar with Mungo the terrier at The London Alcove Company in Barnes

Creating a home fit for my treasures

Cameron Riddell, a New Zealander who fetched up in London 25 years ago as a musician, making ends meet by working with a company fitting out expensive residential housing developments in Belgravia and Kensington, now owns and runs The London Alcove Company, based in Barnes.

They do beautiful work. They create harmonious shelving and cupboards to fit any space, that look both solid and elegant, with smooth, rounded finishes in sumptuous colours. I can’t wait to arrange my books in their new home.

Having come round to talk about what I wanted and look at the space, Cameron made sketches and suggestions and then sent along Oscar, the designer, to translate his initial drawing into a 3D model you can move around on a computer screen to look at from different angles, using software he informs me is also used by NASA for their designs.

Image: Oscar creating my design using CAD – 3D Computer Aided Design

Once I’d signed it off, the design went to the master craftsmen  to make it into something practical, inspiring and aesthetically pleasing in their workshop. When they come to install it, I have been warned they will take over the whole room while they fit it exactly, hide away the wiring from the TV which will be the centrepiece (it is more of a den than a library if we are being strict about it) and decorate.

And then, oh joy, I will get to arrange my books. I read an article about a writer who designed her library to display her books coded by their colour. That seems a bizarre idea to me. Mine will be by theme. But also, practically, they will have to be ordered by size. That presents a conundrum. There may be tears before bedtime.

What if they don’t all fit? These are the survivors of a Mari Kondo session during Covid, but book collections are dynamic. They have a habit of growing. My novels are now displayed alphabetically by author, thanks to the pandemic, but even with strategic placeholders eventually the gaps are filled and piles of books start appearing where there shouldn’t be piles.

Image: Oscar & Cameron at The London Alcove Company in Barnes

The London Alcove Company has a fat compendium of lovely letters from appreciative clients. Most of their work is from repeat customers or by recommendation, (a friend recommended them to me). They are used to collectors; their cabinets have displayed everything from thimbles to very valuable violins.

“We have made display cases of a number of vintage guitars and an 18th century loot. It was for a chap in Clapham who was the original guitarist for Genesis” Cameron tells me.

The displays look great, but what if their owner is given another one that they can’t refuse? What then? Maybe they should set up a support group for distressed collectors to share their sorting problems. Or maybe before too long I will find myself inviting them back to remodel another part of the house to take up the slack.

One of their customers is a retired diplomat who moved from a house in Clapham to one in Deal, in Kent.

“We did his whole house”. I have been warned.

The London Alcove Company are at 5 Rocks Lane, Barnes, SW13 0DB. Tel: 0800 389 5724

Image: Above – Oscar & Cameron at The London Alcove Company in Barnes. Below – some more of their work

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Fuller’s launch plans to recruit neurodiverse staff

Image: George IV, Fuller’s pub

Fuller’s launch guidance working in partnership with LVS Hassocks – a specialist school for children with autism

Fuller’s has launched a guide to recruiting team members who are neurodiverse or have intellectual disabilities. The guide has been produced with help and support from LVS Hassocks – a specialist school for children with autism owned by the Licensed Trade Charity, and Fuller’s corporate charity Special Olympics Great Britain.

While Fuller’s say a handful of their pubs – in particular The Cabbage Patch in Twickenham – are already ‘active in this space’, Fuller’s have identified an opportunity to build on this work.

Team members who are neurodiverse with intellectual disabilities are perfectly capable of doing many of the tasks in pubs, but may need clearer, often visual, instruction. If they have  sensory needs they may need quiet spaces for respite, or to avoid of loud, busy sessions. Some may need to work shorter shifts.

But Fuller’s see the recruitment of people who are neurodiverse or have intellectual disabilities potentially as a win-win when the hospitality sector is struggling to recruit staff, and this is a group of people who find it particularly difficult to find employment.

‘Against the backdrop of these minor adjustments, the benefits of a more diverse team are huge – building camaraderie and pride while helping to enrich the life of the new team member and their family. It is also a step in tackling the 94% unemployment rate among the 1.5 million people with an ID in the UK.’

Image: Old Packhorse, Fuller’s pub

The guide covers all aspects of the employment process from the use of inclusive language and visual cues when recruiting, through interview, induction and making small, but suitable, changes to the working environment.

Fuller’s took direction from Special Olympics athletes with first-hand knowledge of good and bad workplace practices and the teaching aids used in the classrooms at LVS Hassocks.

Written by trade journalist Kate Oppenheim, the booklet is being rolled out to all Fuller’s Managed Pubs and will also be available to all Fuller’s Tenants. Moving forwards, the Licensed Trade Charity will take the work out to the wider industry later this year, as tackling unemployment among people with IDs should not, in Fuller’s view, be restricted to one company.

Image above: One Over the Ait, Fuller’s pub

Launching guidance is “fantastic”

Monique Samra, Fuller’s People Experience Manager with responsibility for DE&I, said:

“This is such a great booklet aimed at giving our General Managers the confidence and skills to recruit team members from a whole new, and vastly underrepresented, section of the community. We had a goal of recruiting 20 new team members with an ID – and we’ve already beaten that target. With the roll out of this guide, I hope that number will continue to grow.”

Chris Welham, CEO at the Licensed Trade Charity, commented:

“We have been working with children with intellectual disabilities through our schools LVS Hassocks and LVS Oxford for decades – and this collaboration with Fuller’s is just fantastic.

“The guide, and the collaboration, shows that the industry that has supported our students’ education is there to support their progression with pathways into work experience and a potential career in hospitality. Fuller’s is really leading the way here and setting a standard that we hope the rest of the industry will follow.”

Image: The Pilot, Fuller’s pub

Laura Baxter MBE, CEO of Special Olympics GB, added:

“The statistics around employment levels for people with an ID are exceptionally low. There are 1.5 million people living with an ID in Great Britain and only 6% are in paid employment. It is just fantastic to see Fuller’s – which has been a prolific fundraiser for Special Olympics GB since 2018 – taking a further step on its support for those with IDs.

“I can’t wait to see where this work goes next – and if more hospitality businesses can join this revolution, I will be absolutely delighted.”

Original Tabard Inn sign restored and on display in Chiswick

Image: The original Tabard Inn sign circa 1880 painted by TM Rooke – now on display in St. Michael All Angels church; photograph Maggy Piggott via Twitter (X)

Original sign from 19th century on display in Chiswick

The original sign which hung outside the Tabard Inn in the late 19th century has been restored and is now on display in Chiswick.

At an unveiling ceremony on Friday (26 April), the freshly restored sign found its new home in St. Michaels and All Angels Church in Bedford Park after ‘extensive conservation efforts.’ The church will be its permanent resting place.

During renovations at the Tabard in 2016, workers found the original Victorian pub sign, painted by TM Rooke in 1880, which was previously believed to have been lost. It was subsequently donated to theBedford Park Society, an organisation dedicated to preserving and enriching the local community’s heritage.

After undergoing restoration, the sign was unveiled at a special event hosted by the Bedford Park Society. Attendees included Bedford Park residents as well as staff from The Tabard pub and Theatre at the Tabard. The Tabard is a Grade II* listed building.

Theatre at The Tabard said:

“As we appraoch the theatre’s 40th anniversary and the founding of Bedford Park’s 150th anniversary, we are thrilled that this piece of local history has been rescued and preserved for future generations.”

Above: Tweet from Bedford Park Society member Maggy Piggott 

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

Acton primary school children win prestigious writing awards

Image: Left to right – Ark Byron pupils and winners of the Daunt Books Short Story Competition Clara Ong, Joey Everett and Zoe Bruce 

Ark Byron Primary school children win prestigious writing awards

Three pupils from Ark Byron Primary Academy in Action have won a prestigious writing award in the Daunt Books Short Story Competition.

The winners are five-year-old Joey Everett, six-year-old Zoe Bruce, and eight-year-old Clara Ong.

The competition is open to children aged between four and 15 years old, and each year it receives hundreds of entries from around the world. Fifteen stories are chosen to appear in a professionally published anthology sold in Daunt Books shops across London.

The winners have been invited to an award ceremony to celebrate the anthology’s publication on Wednesday 15 May. The book will include a foreword written by critically acclaimed author Sabine Adeyinka and illustrated by one of the UK’s foremost illustrators, David Roberts.

The school’s librarian, Jennifer Ong, played a pivotal role in encouraging children from the school to enter the competition for the first time last year, a decision that has led to remarkable success. She said:

“We were shocked to discover we had two winners last year. It’s incredible to have three winners this year. Our children are very enthusiastic readers, which plays a huge role in developing their imaginations and vocabulary.”

Joey Everett, one of the children who won the prestigious award last year, also won this year. Daunt Books commented:

“We will not be surprised if, in years to come, we see the winners’ names on the shelves of our fiction section. Very clearly, wonderful teaching, dedication, and support for young authors have produced a string of winning entries.”

Last year, Ms Ong also entered the children into the Chiswick Book Festival’s Young Person’s Poetry Competition. Seven children from the school won prizes for their poems, the highest number of winning entries from any school.

Deputy Head Rachel Mardenborough said:

“We are so proud of the creativity and thought behind the winning pieces, but we are most pleased that the pupils have chosen to do this in their own time. Learning the skill of writing happens within the school, but the creativity is always within; we provide the pupils with the right opportunities and medium to express it.”

Fresh designs for Gypsy Corner even taller than previous plans

Image: Visualisation of the two proposed towers as seen from North Acton Playing fields

Developers now propose a 58-storey building rather than 55

A new design proposal has been put forward for two tower blocks at 4 Portal Way, adjacent to the A40 Western Avenue near Gypsy Corner.

Aldau Development, an Egyptian property developer, has opted out of a prior plan that had secured planning approval to erect two towers on the same site. The taller tower, originally intended to span 55 storeys, has now been proposed to reach a height of 58 storeys in the latest submission.

The proposed building would surpass existing structures nearby and would be visible across parts of Acton and Chiswick, potentially becoming west London’s tallest residential tower.

In response to regulatory alterations mandating the inclusion of additional staircases in buildings of a certain height, the revised plans now integrate a second staircase in both towers.

The application for the development has been lodged with the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation, serving as the designated planning authority for the site. The proposal encompasses two mixed-use residential-led buildings, with the shorter tower standing at 44 storeys.

The development is projected to comprise a total of 669 flats, of which 35% would be classified as affordable, alongside a 90-room hotel and commercial and retail spaces on the ground floor.

The taller north tower would accommodate 451 flats, with the remaining 218 units situated in the south tower. Of the total units, 65% are slated for build-to-rent purposes, with 25% offered at Discounted Market Rent and 10% at London Living Rent, distributed across both towers.

The original design, sanctioned in 2020 and conceived by architectural firm KPF, envisioned two interconnected towers linked by a bridge at the ninth floor. This earlier scheme featured 702 flats and a 159-room hotel.

Image: A visualisation of the now abandoned tower proposal

Previous application received 167 objections

The 55-storey tower would already have been the tallest in this cluster of skyscrapers at 237 metres high but the new proposals drawn up by Apt could see an even taller main building although the second tower will be one storey shorter.

The Cairo-based developer is quoted in Building Design magazine as saying:

“Since the existing planning permission was approved in February 2020 there have been significant events nationally and globally that have affected developments across London.

“These include: the Covid-19 pandemic, changes to fire regulations, raw materials shortages, inflationary pressures on build costs, supply issues and rapidly rising energy costs.

“Whilst the existing scheme could be amended or adjusted, a wholesale approach to tackle the key items such as introducing two fire stairs, dual aspect façades and a more sustainable energy strategy warranted a holistic review.

“As such a redesign from the ground up was undertaken in 2022-2024 in close collaboration and consultation with the [Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation] since January 2023.

“The proposed scheme has evolved from a design lead approach with core principles retained throughout.”

Another scheme for a 56-storey three tower project by Pilbrow & Partners at 1 Portal Way was approved last November.

There were 167 objections to the earlier scheme at 4 Portal Way made mainly on the basis of height and inappropriateness for the area.

You can find out more details about the application and make comments on the OPDC website.

Author seeks tales of the Tabard in Chiswick

Image: The Tabard pub, with studio theatre above

Local historian seeks anecdotes from thespians and drinkers

A local historian is hoping to gather stories and sightings of well-known thespians who have frequented The Tabard pub and over the last 75 years and the studio theatre above it.

Wesley Henderson Roe is writing a brief history of The Tabard pub in Bedford Park and its theatrical links, which is set to be published in the 2025 Brentford & Chiswick Local History Journal.

A large number of prominent actors, playwrights, agents and directors have visited the pub since it opened in the late 19th century. Welsley says he is “particularly keen” to hear anecdotes from post-1950s or any sightings of people from the world of performing arts enjoying a “convivial beverage”.

If Wesley can gather enough material, he hopes to publish an illustrated booklet on the pub and the theatre, which celebrates 40 years in operation next year.

Working alongside Simon & Sarah Reilly, Theatre at the Tabard’s artistic director and executive director & creative producer respectively, Wesley seeks to create a historical archive from the time the theatre began in 1985.

If you have any tales from The Tabard, Wesley can be reached by email on or by phoning 07958 231035.

Chiswick street unanimously rejects EV charging points

Image: Pleydell Avenue; Google Maps

All 30 households on Pleydell Avenue sign petition protesting EV charge points

Residents of Pleydell Avenue in Chiswick are up in arms over new parking restrictions introduced to accommodate Electric Vehicle (EV) charging bays. All 30 households on the street have signed a petition protesting the move, which they say has led to the loss of up to eight parking spaces for non electric vehicles.

The residents claim there was no consultation prior to the implementation of the new bays, despite the fact they pay for resident parking. Hounslow Council has initiated the scheme on a trial basis, aiming to collect feedback before making a final decision.

Their main grievance is that the restricted bays are now exclusively for EV owners during charging sessions, leaving other residents without parking space. With only two EV owners on the street, the situation has exacerbated the scarcity of parking.

Residents are demanding clarity on plans for charging points in nearby streets, arguing that these areas could accommodate the bays without impacting parking on Pleydell Avenue.

They say some parking spaces on the street are affected by aphid infestations, further complicating the situation.

There are also concerns about the ambiguous enforcement of parking regulations in the new bays, with residents worried about potential disruptions from night time charging activities.

Image: A Hounslow Highways worker repurposing a parking space to an EV charge bay elsewhere in Chiswick

Council to respond to petition “within a fortnight”

In a letter to Hounslow Council the residents say they do not have a problem with electric vehicles:

‘In the long term, residents should play an active role in the planning of EV charging infrastructure to ensure consensus and promote the adoption of EVs. Alongside public chargers, residents should have the opportunity to establish and utilize their own charging points.

‘This option is significantly more cost-effective, typically half the price of public chargers, and enables the use of electricity from solar panels, offering both the most economical and environmentally friendly solution.

‘We propose an alternative solution that would address the need for EV charging infrastructure without inconveniencing residents. There is ample space at each end of our street where electric charging posts could be installed without obstructing parking for residents.

‘This arrangement would allow residents with EVs to charge their vehicles while freeing up parking spaces in front of their houses for other residents.

‘Additionally, we believe that post chargers would be a more efficient and faster alternative to lamppost chargers, further enhancing the convenience of EV charging for residents.’

A Hounslow Council spokesperson said:

“The Council would like to thank the residents of Pleydell Avenue for their petition, which we have received. We will review this and hope to respond to them within a fortnight.”

Police appeal for witnesses after man found dead on Tube tracks

Image above: East Acton station

Man in his 20s found dead on the tracks by East Acton station

Police are appealing for witnesses after the body of a man was found on the train tracks by East Acton tube station.

Officers were called to East Acton just after 11.00pm on Friday 19 April following reports of a casualty on the tracks. When they arrived, along with paramedics, they found a man in his 20s from the Waltham Forest area dead at the scene.

His family are being supported by specialist officers. A man in his 40s was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter and has since been bailed.

Police are appealing for any witnesses or anyone else with information to contact them by texting 61016 or by calling 0800 40 50 40, quoting reference 1000 of 19 April or to call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

E-bike bursts into flames damaging South Ealing flat

Image: The burnt out e-bike in South Ealing; London Fire Brigade

Firefighters from Chiswick fire station among 25 to attend blaze 

The London Fire Brigade have issued guidance after an e-bike which burst into flames damaged a flat in South Ealing on Friday (27 April).

Firefighters were called to South Road at 10.51pm and the incident was over by 00.05am. The blaze saw 25 firefighters with four fire engines from Ealing, Acton Chiswick and Heston fire stations attend.

A small part of a two room flat on the ground floor was damaged by fire. Two men left the flat before the Brigade arrived and were checked by London Ambulance Services while 20 other people also left the building before the Brigade arrived.

Following the incident, the LFB issued safety tips for all e-bike and e-scooter users to follow:

  • Never block your escape route with anything, including e-bikes and e-scooters. Store them somewhere away from a main through route. Our advice is to store these items in a safe location if possible, such as a garage or a shed.
  • Do not attempt to modify or tamper with your battery. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Converting pedal bikes into e-bikes using DIY kits bought online can be very dangerous. They pose a higher risk of fire.
  • Check your battery and charger meets UK safety standards. Watch out for signs that the battery or charger aren’t working as they should – if it’s hot to the touch or has changed shape.
  • Always use the correct charger and buy an official one from a reputable seller. We have particular concern where batteries have been purchased from online marketplaces and when they’ve been sourced on the internet, which may not meet the correct safety standards.
  • Let the battery cool before charging. Batteries can get warm during their use and it is advisable to allow them to cool down before attempting to re-charge as they could be more susceptible to failure. If you are charging batteries indoors, please follow our advice on safe charging.Unplug your charger once it’s finished charging. Always follow manufacturers’ instructions when charging and we would advise not to leave it unattended or while people are asleep.
  • Fit alarms where you charge. Ensure you have smoke alarms fitted in areas where e-bikes or e-scooters are being charged and make sure they are tested regularly. You can quickly and easily check your home by visiting the LFB’s free online home fire safety checker tool.

Police hunting west London for potentially dangerous convict

Officials believe convict detained under Mental Health Act could pose risk to the general public if not found soon

Image: Matthew Barnard

Police are still hunting for a dangerous convict a week after he ran off from his handlers in Ealing Broadway while on escorted leave.

Matthew Barnard, 43, absconded from Barclays bank in Ealing Broadway on 23 April shortly after midday. Barclays is his last known location.

Barnard is detained under Section 37 and Section 41 of the Mental Health Act following a conviction for assault.

Officers and medical professionals are concerned at his lack of access to medication and the risk he may pose without it. They want to return him to a secure unit at Ealing Hospital as soon as possible.

Members of the public are warned not to approach him. Instead they should call 999 immediately quoting the reference 2984/23APR24.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

Suspected burglar causes chaos in Grove Park street

Image above: Man stood on balcony with unknown female

Suspected burglar in Grove Park has police and paramedics attending as he stays on balcony for 24 hours

There was chaos on a Grove Park street over the last two days with a flurry of emergency services descending on Spencer Rd. Residents of Spencer Rd told The Chiswick Calendar the man in the photograph above had attempted to burgle a second floor flat, when he was startled and climbed down onto the balcony of an empty flat the level below.

Eye witnesses say they saw “twelve police cars, four fire engines and six ambulances parked on the street.”

The Chiswick Calendar were told by the London Ambulance Service:

“We sent an ambulance crew to this incident yesterday but they were stood down as we weren’t required.”

Image above: Police and paramedics at the scene; photograph Stephen Collett 

Residents left confused by incident

When I spoke to two residents on Friday (26 April), who wished not to be named, they told me:

“We first heard all the sirens around 3pm yesterday and saw out of our window a man on the balcony. The emergency services vehicles completely blocked the road but all they’ve done is talk to him. He said at one point he only wanted to speak to a female police officer.

“The police ended up leaving in their marked car around 9am this morning but their unmarked colleagues have been here since then just watching him.

“We are completely baffled by the incident. If he is a burglar and tried to steal then why hasn’t he been arrested?”

Another resident who lives opposite the block of flats said:

“It is clear the man is suffering and he’s been out in the cold all night long. The police must put an end to this incident so we can all get on with our lives and the chap can get the support he desperately needs.”

The Chiswick Calendar have approached the police for comment.

Former Chiswick Councillor Frank Field dies aged 81

Image: Frank Field 

Former Labour minister was Chiswick Councillor for four years

Former Labour minister Frank Field has died aged 81. As an MP he represented Birkenhead, who made a name for himself campaigning for welfare reform, but before he became an MP in 1979 he was a councillor in Chiswick.

Lord Field was a councillor in the Turnham Green ward on Hounslow Council in 1964 but lost the seat at the 1968 local elections. During his time as a councillor he lived in Dukes Avenue and then Barrowgate Rd.

While he was on the Council, he was appointed as a member of the Children Committee, the Consumer Protection Committee and the Housing Committee.

Lord Field was a minister for welfare reform under Tony Blair’s government and joined the House of Lords in 2020. He announced in 2021 that he was suffering from a terminal illness. He died in a London care home on Tuesday night.

In a statement released by his family they said:

“He will be mourned by admirers across politics but above all he will be greatly missed by those lucky enough to have enjoyed his laughter and friendship.

“Frank was an extraordinary individual who spent his life fighting poverty, injustice and environmental destruction His decency and faith in people’s self-interested altruism made a unique contribution to British politics.”

After Field had resigned as Tony Blair’s minister for welfare reform in 1998, former environment secretary John Gummer said he was “one of the really good men of politics”.

Council Leader pays tribute: “His contributions to Hounslow Council and the wider community have left an indelible mark”

Hounslow Council leader, Shantanu Rajawat said in a statement:

“Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family and loved ones of Lord Field. Lord Field’s dedication to public service, both locally and nationally, leaves behind a legacy of commitment and advocacy that will be remembered for generations to come. His contributions to Hounslow Council and the wider community have left an indelible mark, and he will be missed.”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

West London MPs hail Labour’s plan to renationalise rail

Image above: Library image of a London train

Ruth Cadbury and Rupa Huq celebrate Labour’s key election promise

The two MPs in whose constituencies Chiswick falls have gleefully posted on social media their support of Labour’s announcement that it will renationalise the railways if they win the next  General Election.

Ruth Cadbury, MO for Brentford & Isleworth, posted:

“Across the country we’ve had to put up with poor rail services for far too long. Today @LouHaigh set out Labour’s plan to reverse this decline & deliver Great British Railways.

Under Labour Britain’s railways will be

Passenger focused

Publicly owned

Fit for the future”

Rupa Huq, MP for Ealing Central and Acton,  wrote:

“Exciting bold, visionary pledge from @UKLabour to nationalise our railways within 5 years.

I’ve been arguing for this with others like @SamTarry for at least 10 years.”

Sam Tarry is the Labour MP for Ilford South and is a member of the Select Committee for Transport. Rupa was referring to her appearance on BBC News in 2014 when she spoke about Labour’s plans under Ed Miliband to cap prices on trains and declassify trains in order to make them “accessible for all.”

Labour plan for renationalising rail within five years

Louise Haigh, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Transport announced the plans yesterday (Thursday 26 April). They hope the plan will offer passengers the “cheapest fares.”

Speaking about the plans Louse Haigh said: “Labour’s plan means delivering a publicly owned railway within five years, putting passengers first, and bringing down costs for taxpayers.”

She went on to say: “Our railways have become a national symbol of decline, of a country that no longer works and a Government with no plan to fix it.”

Labour say a new public body would inherit existing contracts when they expire, taking on responsibility for running services. They also plan to introduce automatic refunds for train delays and better internet connection on trains. The new public body would be called the Great British Railways (GBR).

Responsibility for running train services has been the job of private companies since the 1990s.

RMT back Labour announcement

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) support the initiative. Their General Secretary, Mick Lynch said:

“Labour’s commitment to bring the train operating companies into a new unified and publicly owned rail network is in the best interests of railway workers, passengers and the taxpayer.

“We strongly welcome these bold steps to fix 14 years of Tory mismanagement of our privatised railways and Labour’s promise to complete a transition to public ownership within its first term in office.

“For too long private companies have made millions in profit from taxpayer subsidies and in return provided appalling levels of service.

“This announcement however should be a first step to completely integrating all of our railway into public ownership.

“It is time for a railway fit for the 21st century that serves the public, not the privateers and shareholders.”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

Chiswick pub offers chance to win 1878 edition of Vanity Fair

Images: 1878 edition of Vanity Fair by William Thackeray

Buy a ticket to the performance of Vanity Fair this weekend to have a chance of winning 1878 edition 

The George IV pub on Chiswick High Rd offering the chance to win a 1878 edition of William Thackeray’s classic novel Vanity Fair.

The prize, provided by the pub’s neighbour antiquarian bookseller Foster Books, can be won by anyone who buys a ticket for the theatrical performance of Vanity Fair at the pub this weekend.

Open Bar Theatre, which stages “awesome theatre” in pubs and pub gardens, will be running the performance at The George IV between 7.30pm and 10.00pm on Sunday 28 April.

Promoting the performance on their website, this is how the George IV describes the show:

‘Into this world of Vanity Fair steps Becky Sharp, a poor but ambitious orphan determined to raise her standing in Regency London.

‘Without a mother to make connections for her, Becky must make her own using only her brilliant wit and charm, first by taking advantage of her loveable (and gullible) friend Amelia, then Sir Pitt Crawley and his squabbling family. She wins over the higher ranks of the army as they battle Napoleon and returns to conquer the British aristocracy.

“Join us as we follow Becky and Amelia as they rise and fall and rise again in the eyes of society. Four of Open Bar’s finest performers will play all the colourful characters of William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, with original songs, beautiful costumes and, of course, some signature audience participation.”

You can buy tickets to the performance on The George IV’s website at:

Julian Opie’s LED sculpture Curly Hair bought by Pitzhanger Manor

Image: Julian Opie’s sculpture Curly Hair

Walking into the Pitzhanger Manor Gallery

Guest blog by Robert Eagle

A mysterious chap called ‘Curly Hair’ has been striding towards the entrance of the Pitzhanger gallery in Ealing for almost three years – but has never managed to get through the door. And it now looks as if he is going to continue doing the very same thing for ever and a day. With very little hope of ever reaching his apparent destination.  But does he care?

Old Curly Hair is certainly a bit of an enigma. He’s a piece of digital art, a two-dimensional LED display, an array of light-emitting diodes, standing two metres tall and made to mimic the movements of a man walking at a brisk pace from nowhere to nowhere.

I’m a great fan of contemporary electronic art and would love to see more of it outside art galleries everywhere. And there are citizens of Ealing and art-funding organisations who clearly agree because they have raised money and persuaded the artist who made him to sell him to the Pitzhanger for no more than it cost him to make him.

The artist in question is called Julian Opie, who, judging by his portrait, is curly haired himself.

Julian Opie self-portrait, Lisson Gallery

Opie is a leading light of the New British Sculpture Movement, a fashionable bunch of mostly blokes who work seriously hard at taking nothing too seriously. Others in the group you may have heard of include Anthony Gormley, who made the Angel of the North; Barry Flanagan, who does sculptures of flying hares; and Rachel Whiteread who creates inside-out houses.

Mr Opie loaned Old Curly (or New Curly as he then was) to the Pitzhanger in 2021 for an exhibition of his own work, and the sculpture has stayed there ever since. Curly is an eye-catching and amusing item to have standing outside your entrance, and since he qualifies as art (rather than just another flashing neon sign), it obviously made sense for the Pitzhanger to stump up the funds and make an Honest Curly of him.

While the fundraisers toast their success, it may be worth sparing a thought for what the original owner of Pitzhanger Manor might have thought of this contemporary art installation.

Sir John Soane was a leading art and classical antiquities collector, architect of the Bank of England, pioneer of the Neo-Classical style of architecture and owner of another fine house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields that is now one of the most delightful (and free!) period museums in London. What would such an admirer of classical Greek and Roman sculpture have made of this two-dimensional electronic logo heading with such vacuous determination towards his former front door?

The Pitzhanger doesn’t try to conceal the fact that Soane was a rather Marmite character.  Quotations posted on the gallery walls state that while he was “architect, artist, man of science, lover of his profession and benefactor” he was also said to be “irritable, impetuous and intractable – mad in his own way”.  These contradictions could of course mean that he was a brilliant bloke who didn’t suffer fools gladly. Whatever, Pitzhanger’s current management thinks Sir John would have been delighted by Curly Hair; their press release says:

Just as Sir John Soane used Pitzhanger to display his collection of classical art and sculpture alongside contemporary works by leading artists of his day such as JMW Turner and William Hogarth, so Curly Hair is testament to the ongoing dialogue between contemporary and historical art at Pitzhanger today.”

When I see the words “ongoing” and dialogue” juxtaposed in an art blurb I tend to go into catatonic spasm. But this time I think they are right. Just as Soane would have regarded the classical sculptures and moulds he brought back from Italy as true witnesses of a past age, I think he would have seen this getting-nowhere-quickly digital Curly as a true witness of ours.

Image: Pitzhanger Manor and Gallery, Ealing

Pitzhanger is worth a visit for the building alone, and if you only want to see Curly Hair standing outside, it won’t cost you a penny. But there are currently five other exhibitions inside the house, one of which, titled Chinwag, features some very engaging sort-of-humanoid sculptures by Alice Irwin, which complement Curly Hair rather well.

READ ALSO: Two new art exhibitions for spring 2024 at Pitzhanger Manor in Ealing

Robert Eagle is an art dealer who lives and works in Chiswick.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

Ripley (TV Miniseries 2024) – Review by Andrea Carnevali

Ripley ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A grifter named Ripley living in New York during the 1960s is hired by a wealthy man to bring his wayward son home from Italy. Ripley sees the opportunity of a lifetime to make a killing.

It’s probably a bit unfair, but also quite natural, to compare this miniseries on Netflix to the 1999 film The Talented Mr. Ripley by Anthony Minghella. After all, they are both adaptations from the same novel, written in 1955 by Patricia Highsmith; they both follow pretty much the same main plot points, they have (for the most part) the same characters, and they are filmed in the same Italian locations, and yet the two final products could not be further apart.

I won’t be going into which one is better because it’s a silly argument to have. Just the fact that one is a miniseries, and in eight hours or more can make the story breathe in a way that impossible in a film, makes the comparison pretty pointless from the start.

If anything, this Netflix series proves that there is definitely room for both: the lush technicolor Italy, where passions run wild, and jealousy can lead to murder on one side, and a much colder, darker, seedier version where Ripley, beautifully played with a hint of cold menace by Andrew Scott, who just disappears into this role, is a real sociopath, at times a bit weird and other times truly terrifying (he rarely ever blinks!), but always absolutely mesmerizing.

The choice of filming this in black and white is obviously key to the success of this series, offering the viewers a fresh and compelling perspective on the narrative and its characters. Of course, on the surface, it makes everything feel a lot darker, sinister, colder (it was also filmed during winter), but also more unsettling, and fits perfectly with this new depiction of Ripley. And as it happens, it also makes this one of the best-looking TV series I’ve seen in a long time.

You might not get that romanticism from Minghella’s vision of Italy, and yet every frame can still be hung on a wall: those wet cobbled streets looking so timeless, the southern towns built on stairs, ancient and evocative.

Andrew Scott plays Ripley as a real enigma, just as Highsmith had written about 70 years ago (and yet, it’s a book so modern and fresh that often feels like it could have been written just yesterday). Ripley is a man lacking morality, “a human vacuum,” as described by writer-director Steven Zaillian (the Oscar winning screenwriter of Schindler’s List). He is a much more difficult character to decipher and instantly like than Matt Damon ever was, yet the power of the story is such that pretty soon, we are with him wholeheartedly, and we just don’t want him to be caught.

I loved this series, and the more I think about it, the more I appreciate what it did.

I loved how the series took its time and did not want to rush things. I adored that one of the episodes was basically entirely spent watching somebody trying to get rid of a body (and that cat watching everything!! Brilliant!!).

I loved how it often focused on details that were just red herrings, basically placed there with the only purpose of making us feel jittery, anxious, unsettled, but nothing more than that (I’m talking about the suitcase with evidence against Ripley’s crime, the stains of blood in the bathtub, the ashtray as a weapon of possible murders to come).

These are things that only a TV series of more than eight hours can do. I also loved how authentic it all felt, even to an Italian like me. The locations are real, lived-in, the characters talk the way people really talk, with their different accents, depending on the region they are from, whether they are from the north or the south.

Yes, of course, there are a few clichés here and there, but hey, it’s an American product after all. In Rome, for example, they can’t help but have a nun or two walking in the background at every possible moment.

I was a bit annoyed by the signs at the train station showing names of cities in English as opposed to Italian (something that, especially in the ‘50s, would have never happened), but those are silly minor quibbles in the big scheme of things.

I was willing to get past those tiny faults. In fact, I was quite surprised by how much of the dialogue was in Italian (subtitled obviously). What did bother me a little bit more was the fact that I found Andrew Scott a little bit too old for the part: even though he carries his 50 years very well, Tom Ripley is supposed to be a twenty-something young man, with his whole life ahead and very little to lose, hence the reason why he decides to go to Italy in the first place anyway: because he’s so young.

As it is, both the beginning and the reasons for his decision to go to Italy still feel a bit contrived and slightly forced (as they did in Minghella’s version, to be honest). They only just about get away with it in the novel.

But there is so much to like here.

This is a meticulously crafted piece of filmmaking, the best of classic noir, Hitchcock, Italian cinema of the ‘50s, all in one. A piece of beauty that rewards your patience and is really one of the best things Netflix has ever produced. I binged it in two days and I can’t wait to revisit it again (and there’s a little bit of me that hopes they might adapt the next four Ripley books too!)

Ripley is streaming on Netflix right now.

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

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

Chiswick In Film festival: Chiswick In Film festival 2023

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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To subscribe to the weekly newsletter, go here.

The Talented Mr Ripley (1999) – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

The Talented Mr Ripley ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

In late 1950s New York, a young underachiever named Tom Ripley sees a once in a lifetime opportunity for enrichment when he is sent to Italy to retrieve Dickie Greenleaf, a rich and spoiled millionaire playboy. On at Chiswick Cinema Tuesday 23 April.

I’ll come out clean, right from the start: I love this film and always have, and the idea to be able to host a film club around it (this Tuesday, 23 April at 8.25pm at The Chiswick Cinema), show it to a crowd, talk about it, and share the dozens of stories behind the scenes, and its cinematic techniques, fills me with joy.

With the release of Ripley, the ultra-stylish TV series on Netflix, based on the same novel, and the 25th anniversary of the film itself, there seems to be no better time to revisit this gem.

Everything about this film screams ‘Alfred Hitchcock’ for me, and I mean that in the best possible way. From the way director Anthony Minghella manages to build tension, often even without the aid of additional music, to the attention to  detail for costumes and makeup (look at the way Gwyneth Paltrow reminds us of Grace Kelly, for example) and of course to the use of the locations, using the lush colours of sunlit Italy (which rarely looked more inviting), in stark contrast with the dark deeds taking place in the story.

And as Minghella takes us through this gorgeous-looking film, we slowly found ourselves sympathising with a criminal and hoping he doesn’t get caught,  just like we did in famous classics by Hitchcock, Psycho, Rope, Shadow of a Doubt and to a degree even Strangers on a Train, a film which incidentally was adapted from a novel by the same author as The Talented Mr Ripley, the American writer Patricia Highsmith.

Highsmith clearly loves writing about Ripley (she went on to write four more novels about the character), and her affection for the him is apparent from page one.

Minghella too understands that for a film to work, he’s got to humanise his main character of Tom Ripley, make us like him, despite his deceptions, questionable choices, and horrible actions, so as a screenwriter and director, he decided to add interesting layers of emotions to his persona  (the whole homosexual subtext in the film, for example, which is only briefly touched in the book).

His camera focuses on mirrors and distorted images all the time, constantly reflecting the inner conflicts, duplicity of his character. Minghella also loves toying with his audience, with clues and details, adding tension at every corner.

Minghella is great not just at filming Italy with its picture perfect postcard-like beauties, but the relationship between two main characters as well (see how his camera frames them mostly in two-shots when their friendship is blossoming, and in singles, once it begins to break down).

His cast plays it all to perfection. Matt Damon has never been better than this (perfect casting choice. Can you imagine if Minghella had gone for his original choice, Tom Cruise?). Jude Law has rarely been so attractive, Minghella’s camera flirts with him, seducing both Tom Ripley’s character and his audience into submission. Law was also nominated for an Oscar and won a BAFTA for this role.

The rest of the cast is just as strong and impressive, from the sleazy Philip Seymour Hoffman (How I miss that actor!), to the ever-so-splendid Cate Blanchett and of course the above-mentioned Gwyneth Paltrow, fresh from her Oscar win the year before for Shakespeare in Love, here confirming not just her beauty but her acting chops too (sadly, this might be her last strong performance).

All of this is topped by the wonderful soundtrack (which often plays on a loop in my house), which plays a huge part in the film adding a whole series of layers of readings.

Gabriel Yared’s original score is used sparingly but perfectly captures the beauty and romanticism of Italy, while at the same time blends haunting melodies and suspenseful motifs throughout the film, adding tension, mystery, intrigue, suspense, but also melancholy and longing.

And that’s not all. There’s also a series of jazz and classical cues. They infuse the film with a mixture of feelings which mirror those of the different characters as well as the complexity of the plot itself. So, on one hand we’ve got the impulsiveness and spontaneity of jazz, ready to improvise, change, and morph according to the circumstances. On the other hand, the much more rigid, rule-bound, classical music, representing that sophistication and refined  taste of the high society settings depicted in the film.

In one scene there is even a piece of opera by Monteverdi, beautifully used to highlight Ripley’s internal turmoil, his conflicting emotions, his sense of loss, longing, all of which enhances the poignancy that surrounds his character.

And whilst all this on paper might make it all sound quite brainy and full of itself, The Talented Mr. Ripley is anything but. Underneath all these layers (some more subtle than others), there is a cracking thriller, which keeps the audience on the edge of their seats, guessing at every corner and eventually makes them all want to go book our ticket for the next holiday as soon as possible.

There is a screening of The Talented Mr Ripley at Chiswick Cinema Tuesday 23 April for Andrea’s Film Club.

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

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

Chiswick In Film festival: Chiswick In Film festival 2023

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

Support The Chiswick Calendar

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

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

To subscribe to the weekly newsletter, go here.

FoodSt market – Sunday 28 April

Guest blog by Richard Johnson

Chiswick High Road will soon be bursting into song as Food St market gets set for a real family fun day out on April 28 11am-4pm. Apart from the fantastic food trucks selling everything from Australian Parmas to Japanese ice cream and New England lobster rolls – the Old Market Place will be treated to songs (and dances) from the shows as well as a visit from The Ice Queen herself.

The songs – and dances – from Matilda and Frozen will come from Chiswick Theatre Arts students aged 9-17. And the Ice Queen herself – from Little Dreamers Entertainment – has even promised to pop down and pose for some photographs. If she isn’t in a TERRIFYINGLY bad mood.

Kicking off proceedings will be Scott McMahon, Food St’s favourite busking balladeer. And a whole raft of new talent joining the amazing market of Brazilian barbecue, Egyptian falafel, Turkish goleme and the THIRTY other world cuisines.

This will be the first market for smokery giants Wood and Leg, plus our Ethiopian trader Delina – another exciting product of the collaboration between Food St and Shepherd’s Bush market.

“One of our signature dishes is Beyaynetu which is a simple combination of legumes, vegetables, spices and herbs” says Nazareth from Delina.

“This is always served on gluten-free fermented flatbread called Injera which is a superfood grain. Many of our ingredients we use are authentic from Ethiopia. Even if you are a meat lover, this dish changes your perception of naturally vegan food; how tasty it can be.”

Wood And Leg are excited to be joining our fresh produce section – there’s vegan and gluten-free treats from Sprouting Pea, fresh pasta from Pasta di Julia, artisan cheeses from Dispensamor, olives from The Olive Bar, Japanese patisserie from Kichiya, baked pies and quiches from Hush Hush and Portuguese tarts from Almada Bakery.

A producer of smoked meat, sausage, poultry, cheese, fish and more, Gintaras Kurtinaitis of Wood and Leg boasts that he is “the only London-based producer that specialises in such a wide variety of smoked products with recipes from all round the world.”

“My signature product is Lithuanian air dried sausage smoked over juniper. In the world of charcuterie makers it is known as Salame Lituano. The customers love its special flavour. It’s definitely rare to find authentic products that were invented in the 16th century.”

Lucky Chiswick.

Richard Johnson is the organiser of the FoodSt market which takes place on the last Sunday of the month at Old Market Place on Chiswick High Rd, oppostite Waterstones.

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Duet Review – Theatre at the Tabard

Image: (L) Wendy Morgan as Sarah Bernhardt; (R) Cynthia Straus as Eleanora Duse 

The ghost of Sarah Bernhardt appears

As she prepares for her performance as Marguerite in The Lady of the Camelias, internationally renowned actress Eleonora Duse is visited in her dressing room by the ghost of Sarah Bernhardt. The cause of this manifestation is a mystery.

Duse is in ill health, complaining of a bad cold and clearly suffering with ennui (an unfortunate theatre manager is told that “there will be no performance tonight”), has she unwittingly summoned her fellow acting legend or has Miss Bernhardt returned for her own reasons? We will find out as the evening progresses.

That is the set up of Duet, the new show at the Tabard, written by Otho Eskin and directed respectfully by Ludovica Villar-Hauser.

Images: (L) Wendy Morgan as Sarah Bernhardt; (R) Cynthia Straus as Eleanora Duse 

The bringing together of two of the most feted stars of the stage in the late Victorian era plays up their essential difference: Duse the rather dour and serious “suffering priestess of high art” as her companion calls her, and Bernhardt the diva, the show off, revelling in the adoration of the crowd.

As Duse, Cynthia Straus brings restraint to the role, allowing glimpses of the artist’s troubled soul; “I became obsessed with death” she says, reliving her past, her black dress reflecting her heavy gloom. Her art is “simple, unadorned”, in contrast to Bernhardt’s more showy moves.

Wendy Morgan as Bernhardt has altogether more fun, entering in the harshest of white spotlight, her more colourful patterned dress catching the light (Alice McNicholas costumes are particularly impressive), allowing her to hit poses designed to elicit enthusiastic applause.

Indeed, she takes the opportunity to demonstrate by way of a nifty masterclass, how to milk that applause and draw out a curtain call far beyond its normal length, bringing her far downstage, arms aloft, soaking up the love from her adoring audience.

The third cast member, Nick Waring, plays a series of male roles with enormous gusto, popping in and out of the action and often lifting scenes with his confident energy.

Overall, this is an absorbing evening. That said, the heavily accented language presented a challenge and feels to me, like a mistake; there is an obvious need to indicate the character’s nationalities, but it feels overdone.

“What ‘ave we ‘ere, where ‘ave you been ‘iding?” asks one of Bernhardt’s aristocratic suitors, teetering dangerously close to ‘Allo ‘Allo territory.

Villar-Hauser’s direction brings to the fore the two leads’ inner states. She is aided by Hazel Owen’s atmospheric, musty backstage setting and she uses the full width of the Tabard stage, often placing her characters at the extreme edges, leaving a vast emptiness in the middle, reflecting perhaps the distance between the two stars’ acting styles.

It does feel slightly too low key though, any real confrontation between these two huge personalities seems to be held back.

For serious students of theatre history, this is an absorbing story of two women who attained the sort of stardom that is no longer possible, it is a snapshot from a bygone age.

Duet runs until Saturday 11 May at the Theatre at the Tabard.

Tickets – Duet

Simon Thomsett

Simon Thomsett

Simon Thomsett has worked in the professional theatre for a number of years. He started out as a stage manager and technician then became a venue director and producer, notably at the Hackney Empire, Fairfield Halls and most recently the New Victoria Theatre in Woking.

Since leaving full time work last year, he is now working as a consultant and on some small scale producing projects. He is a Chiswick resident and a passionate advocate for great theatre.

West End performer Rosemary Ashe returns to Theatre at the Tabard

Image: Rosemary Ashe in Honeymoon in Vegas at the London Palladium in 2017

Rosemary Ashe joins the cast of Gareth Armstrong’s play ‘Fondly Remembered’

West End performer Rosemary Ashe is best known for her leading roles in opera and musical theatre, but she is as much an actor as she is a singer, and she returns to Theatre at the Tabard in May in an acting role.

“People are sometimes surprised. They say ‘oh I didn’t know you could act” she told The Chiswick Calendar, (without rancour).

Images: Rosemary Ashe in concert; in Call Me Madam

“It’s very funny and entertaining”

Her part in Fondly Remembered, in which she returns to Theatre at the Tabard on 22 May, is that of Zoe, an older actor who has been in a long-running soap on radio for 30 years.

The play, written by fellow Chiswick resident Gareth Armstrong, is about five older actors who worked together for many years, who meet up to plan the memorial service of a friend. The process of exchanging memories gets a bit out of hand and there are revelations which, on reflection, may have been better left unsaid.

“It’s very funny and entertaining” Rosemary told us. She has just played Olive in Broken Water at the Arcola Theatre: “a very serious subject” in which three women of different generations explore some dark periods in their lives, but chiefly Rosemary is known for parts and productions that are more on the lighter end of the theatrical spectrum.

Images above: (L) Rosemary Ashe in Committee at the Donmar Warehouse in 2017; (R) In When We Are Married at the Garrick Theatre, 2010

She has played almost every female part in musical theatre – from Maria in West Side Story to Sister Mary Lazarus in Sister Act

Rosemary trained at the Royal Academy of Music and the London Opera Centre, and after 40 years of performing, her CV requires several sheets of A4 to cover all the opera, musical theatre, theatre and TV productions she has taken part in, as well as the cabaret and concert performances she has given as one woman shows.

She has played and created many roles in some of the most popular musicals of the past 40 years, including The Boyfriend, The Phantom of the Opera, Forbidden Broadway, Oliver!, The Witches of Eastwick, Mary Poppins and Adrian Mole.

You can see her full biography here:

Images: With William Relton in West Side Story in Nottingham in 1983; Carlotta in Phantom of the Opera

Favourite role?

She is often asked which has been her favourite role.

“It’s very difficult to answer as I have played such a myriad of fantastic roles. Carlotta in Phantom stands out of course and is something I am extremely proud of. Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd which I did in Gothenburg.

“But I LOVED playing Felicia Gabriel in The Witches of Eastwick as I had to sing, dance, act and do sleight of hand. Learning magic ticks was a huge challenge, on a nightly basis I  had to produce all sorts of things out of my mouth mid song, including a spider, candle, coin and then vomit cherries!”

Images: Rosemary Ashe in The Witches of Eastwick

Creating the part of Carlotta as part of the original cast of Phantom of the Opera

Rosemary was nominated for an Olivier award for Best Supporting Performance in a Musical for her performance as Felicia Gabriel in The Witches of Eastwick, and she created the part of Carlotta in Phantom of the Opera – the opera company’s prima donna.

“I was in the original cast and made some changes with vocal coach Gerald Moore and embellished the part vocally. We put in a top E in alt. It’s stratospherically high and in those days I could do that eight times a week. Now all the other poor women who’ve come after have had to do it too.”

Images above: Rosemary Ashe in Broken Water at the Arcola Theatre, 2024

Most highly praised? Most prestigious? Most fun?

Which role has brought her the most praise?

“Well, Felicia Gabriel in The Witches of Eastwick as aforementioned, but recently playing Olive in the new play Broken Water. Many people thought it was the best thing I have ever done!”

Is that the same as the most prestigious role?

“No, I think the most prestigious role was definitely Carlotta in the Phantom of The Opera, particularly as I was in the original cast and could make it my own creation.”

In which production(s) have you had the most fun?

“Well, all of them probably!! I love what I do and the variety of it all. Being part of a company of like minded individuals is amazing and when you are doing eight shows a week (or 12 in pantomime), you need to have fun, but not so much that the audience know about it!

“Playing the nasty nanny Miss Andrew in Mary Poppins was huge fun. I love being a baddie! if you get booed at the curtain call you know you’ve done your job correctly!!”

Images: (L) Playing Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd in 2008; (R) Playing Miss Andrew in Mary Poppins in 2004

Hairy moments?

“I was playing Helene in La Belle Helene for Sadlers Wells Opera and was scantily dressed in a wrap around towel and g string. After a love duet (‘The Dream Duet’) the singer playing Paris laid me down on a big lacy cushion. (It should have been a bed, but that got cut due to budget restraints!).

“My husband Menelaus came on stage saying ‘Helene, I’m home’. My reply was shock horror ‘My husband!’ I then tried to get up quickly but my crown got caught in the lacy cushion and I was stuck.

“After several goes I eventually got disentangled and catapulted up only for my towel to slip down and reveal my naked bosoms which literally popped out and then went back in again. The show stopped. The cast and audience were helpless. We couldn’t continue for quite a while. So the audience certainly got their money’s worth that night!!”


” Being hit on the head by the curtain at the curtain call for Bitter Sweet in Aberdeen. I’m ashamed to say once I’d recovered I laughed so much I had a wee accident!!”

Greatest honour?

“Being nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for Best Supporting Performer in the Witches of Eastwick.”

Images: Rosemary Ashe giving a Noel Coward concert for the Bedford Park Festival, 2014; In her one woman show Adorable Dora

The benefits of living in Chiswick

Rosemary has lived in Chiswick for nearly 30 years, and loves living here.

“I wouldn’t live anywhere else” she told me.

She likes the idea of being at the Tabard again, not least because she can walk there.

Being part of the community around the Tabard and St Michael & All Angels Church has afforded her the opportunity to try out her one woman show Adorable Dora, about Dora Bryan, which she first performed in the church in front of a local audience, and she continues to perform in theatres around the country.

READ ALSO: Adorable Dora – Rosemary Ashe’s tribute to Dora Bryan

It is also how she met Gareth Armstrong – a theatre practitioner with five decades of experience as actor, director, voice artist, teacher, writer and playwright, and writer of Fondly Remembered – who also lives locally.

She will be reunited in the play with William Relton, who she has not worked wih since they played Maria and Tony in West Side Story in the 1980s.

“We always said we’d never work together again” she told us, “”because we laughed too much.”

Fortunately, Fondly Remembered is a comedy.

Video: The original production of Fondly Remembered at the Tabard in 2015

Fondly Remembered premiered at the Bedford Park Festival 2015

The play premiered as part of the Bedford Park Festival in 2015. Since then, sadly the actress who played Zoe, Josie Kidd, has died. She and Lucinda Curtis spoke to us about the play along with writer and director Gareth Armstrong, in this video we made of the initial production.

Rosemary Ashe, William Relton, Barbara Wilshere, Robin Kermode and Jeremy Booth take part in Fondly Remembered at the Tabard from Wednesday 22 May – Saturday 15 June.

Book tickets here: Theatre at the Tabard – Fondly Remembered

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