Environmentalist from Chiswick presented with MBE at Windsor Castle

Image above: David Shreeve (centre right) with his family at Windsor

David Shreeve accepts honour awarded in King’s Birthday Honours List

David Shreeve, the environmentalist who lives in Chiswick, has collected the MBE awarded to him in the King’s Birthday Honours List.

As King Charles was recuperating from his hospital treatment, the Prince of Wales stepped in to present David with the award, for his services to the environment in setting up and running the Conservation Foundation, and for his role of environmental advisor to the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England.

David is the Conservation Foundation’s co-founder and Director. He established it in 1982 with the late Professor David Bellamy, TV personality, educator and environmental campaigner.

The Foundation has created and managed a large number of programmes, projects and award schemes covering a wide range of environmental issues in association with businesses, the media, prisons, trade associations and official bodies.

Over the years it collected a unique archive of environmental books and publications which was presented to the University of Kent as part of the Foundation’s 40th anniversary celebrations.

David was one of the first to be awarded an honour by the new King, as he was included in King Charles’ Birthday Honours announced last June. He was joined at the ceremony by his wife Jacqui, his daughter Alice-Louise and son Rupert.

David told the Prince how fitting it was to be given the award at Windsor, as a planting organised by him in 1980 of a disease resistant elm led to the launch of the Foundation two years later. The tree continues to thrive.

‘Great British Elms’, which David has co-written with Mark Seddon, will be published by Kew Publishing this autumn.

At the end of their discussion the Prince said how much he had appreciated David’s good wishes for the health of both the Princess of Wales and the King.

Ealing Councillors agree £150m funds to buy housing stock

Image above: New housing units similar to those built in Acton not enough to meet demand

Rising interests rates have exacerbated the homeless crisis in Ealing

Ealing Council’s Cabinet has unanimously approved a £150 million initiative aimed at addressing escalating homelessness within the borough. The worrying surge in homelessness rates is placing an increasing burden on the Council’s resources as more people, including families, seek help with housing.

Rising interest rates have prompted landlords to either sell their properties or hike rental prices, exacerbating the homelessness crisis. At a recent Cabinet meeting, Councillor Shital Manro emphasised the urgent need for decisive action, warning that the burgeoning numbers threatened to strain the Council’s budget beyond what they could sustain. Explaining the situation facing the Council he said:

“The cost of homelessness is massive, for instance, using hotel rooms costs us £4,000 a month plus, that’s £50,000 a year and we are currently using 169.”

The Council’s use of 389 bed and breakfasts as temporary housing incurs monthly expenses of £1,300 per unit, with potential overspending projected to reach £5 million without intervention.

The Council is proposing to buy £150m worth of housing stock. Presenting the acquisition plan to his colleagues, Cllr Manro said that any purchase made by the Council would have to be ‘financially sound’ with revenue from rent covering the costs over time.

The proposed initiative aims to bolster the Council’s housing stock, providing struggling people with access to quality accommodation. Cllr Manro said he and his colleague Cllr Bassam Mahfouz receive emails from distressed families who are ‘being moved from one hotel to another every week with their children’.

He added, “This is not the life we want our residents to live and we have to send them all over the country as well.”

As part of the comprehensive plan, the Council will establish a housing resettlement team tasked with helping people to secure alternative housing options. Council Leader Peter Mason praised the plan, pointing out that it made financial sense and citing the council’s £7.5m purchase of Aspect House which provided 31 housing units the council can now use for people struggling with accommodation.

He said that the Council was well placed to buy up property as grants and money from bodies like the Greater London Authority and dips in foreign speculation in the London housing market meant that homes could be acquired at a ‘deep, deep discount’.

Chiswick’s Hothouse Cafe owner has drinks licence revoked for employing illegal workers

Image above: The Hothouse Cafe

Cafe likely to close

Samy Amer, the owner of the Hothouse cafe on Chiswick High Road, has lost his licence to sell alcohol. He told The Chiswick Calendar it is now doubtful he will be able to keep the cafe open.

The Home Office asked Hounslow Council to revoke his licence because they had raided the cafe twice, and on both occasions found people working there illegally. They found he was also paying his staff less than the minimum wage. Mr Amer has paid £55,000 in fines following the two raids.

On the first occasion the cafe was raided, in 2019, immigration officers found four women working there illegally. In the second raid, in June 2023, they found an Algerian chef who did not have permission to work in this country. Several of the workers told immigration officers they were being paid £7 an hour. Officers worked out that another was being paid £4.58 an hour.

READ ALSO: The Home Office wants Chiswick Hothouse Cafe’s license revoked for employing illegal workers

Hounslow Council’s Licensing Panel, chaired by Chiswick Riverside councillor Amy Croft (Labour), made the decision to revoke Mr Amer’s licence, saying there had been a significant breach of the licence conditions, which was quite clear and had been repeated.

Cllr Croft told us:

“Although the panel was sympathetic to the effect this will have on the business, it wasn’t able to condone such significant breaches of the law.”

Cllr Joanna Biddolph defends Hothouse owner

The Panel received more than twenty representations from the public supporting Mr Amer, and one representation from his local councillor, Joanna Biddolph. None of his supporters were at the panel to speak up for him in person except Cllr Biddolph, who supported him in his bid for the licence not to be revoked.

The Home Office put forward three immigration officers to argue for the licence to be revoked. They said not only had Mr Amer employed workers illegally and paid them illegally on two occasions, but he had been “aggressive” when they questioned him and his staff. Senior immigration officer Jamie Foster said:

“The licence holder became very hostile. He was marching around, raising his voice, filming officers on his phone. I would have expected him to act in a professional manner.”

Cllr Biddolph said that while she could not condone Mr Amer’s behaviour as outlined by the Home Office officers:

“I find him honest with me. He is adamant that the report is inaccurate.”

Mr Amer said he had checked documents and denied paying his staff illegally.

Speaking about the difficulties faced by businesses in the hospitality industry post Covid, Cllr Biddolph was sympathetic to Mr Amer’s situation, saying:

“In desperate times people make desperate decisions.”

Mr Foster said:

“There needs to be some remedy for wrongdoing, and a clear message sent to other businesses.

“The ability to work illegally is a key driver of immigration. It encourages people to take risks and negatively impacts on wages in this country.”

“If I had been fined £40,000 and had to mortgage my house to pay the fine, I think I’d have made very sure it didn’t happen again” – Cllr Daanish Saeed

Mr Amer’s lawyer Jon Payne wanted the panel to renew his licence with conditions. The first condition he suggested was that Me Amer should carry out proper checks on whether potential staff had the right to work, which senior Home Office immigration officer Jamie Foster pointed out he should have been doing anyway, by law.

Another suggested condition was that Mr Amer should have a secure place to store copies of paperwork proving his staff’s right to work.

Mr Payne told the panel Mr Amer had checked his staff had the right paperwork but he had not had a sufficient system in place for making checks and record keeping, but after being fined twice, 40,000 for the first offence and £15,000 for the second, he now had.

Cllr Daanish Saeed asked why he had not put a proper system in place after the first fine:

“If I had been fined £40,000 and had to mortgage my house to pay the fine, I think I’d have made very sure it didn’t happen again”, she said.

Mr Amer could not explain why he did not have a copy of the French passport he claimed he was shown by the Algerian chef. He also claimed to be paying a living wage.

Cllr Croft asked why he had not produced any payslips dated earlier than December 2023, ie. after he found out the Home Office had applied to review his licence:

“I’m sure your solicitor would have advised you to produce payslips from the relevant period”, she said.

Again, Mr Amer failed to give the panel a convincing answer.

The three councillors on the panel were Cllr Amy Croft, Chair, (Chiswick Riverside), Cllr Daanish Saeed (Hounslow East) and Cllr Richard Foote (Hanworth Village). The panel met on Tuesday 6 February. MrAmer has the right to appeal the decision within 21 days.

Sam’s Larder in Chiswick to reopen as a Sam’s Kitchen in March

Image above: Sam’s Kitchen in Hammersmith

Not closing, just re-branding

Chiswick is getting a Sam’s Kitchen. Owner Sam Harrison, who has the Sam’s Riverside restaurant in Hammersmith and Sam’s Waterside in Brentford, is expanding his brand with Sam’s Larder deli-groceries and Sam’s Kitchens.

Brentford has a Sam’s Larder to accompany the recently opened Waterside restaurant. Hammersmith has a Kitchen and a Larder, to accompany the highly successful Riverside restaurant.

Chiswick has had a Larder in Turnham Green Terrace for over a year, but it has been closed since Christmas, much to the alarm of local residents. It is being given a makeover and will be reopening as a Kitchen in March.

Images above: Brunch is served

“We served breakfast and brunch for ten years at Sam’s Brasserie in Chiswick and so it feels right be doing this offering again”

Sam told The Chiswick Calendar:

“I am very excited to be bringing Sam’s Kitchen to Turnham Green Terrace,” Sam told The Chiswick Calendar.

“Our first Sam’s Kitchen opened in Hammersmith last June and has been very well received. I think our regulars like our twist on breakfast/ brunch classics and knowing that we use the same quality of produce as at Sam’s Riverside.

“We served breakfast and brunch for ten years at Sam’s Brasserie in Chiswick and so it feels right be doing this offering again. Also going out for brunch is my favourite treat of the week!”

The food business in Chiswick is very competitive, with several high-end grocers and many cafes. Several people have commented to The Chiswick Calendar that they didn’t feel he had got the offer right with Sam’s Larder in Chiswick and, clearly, Sam felt the same himself.

Sam’s Larder offered some food to eat on the premises, but with all the shelving and fridges selling produce, there was not much room for tables. Having ditched all the groceries and containers, the space is quite big.

“Hammersmith has 24 seats. This will have twice as many.”

Even though Chiswick has so many cafes, Sam’s will be a cut above, by the sound of it:

“There are so many places you can get coffee and a pastry, but restaurants is what we do”, says Sam.

Looking at the menu in Sam’s Kitchen in Hammersmith we can expect some really tempting and different takes on brunch. The website explains the vision:

‘For the longest time I have wanted to find the perfect little local corner cafe. Somewhere you can pop in with friends and family or just hide away in a little nook with a good book, a fresh cup of coffee and some terrific food.‍ Sam’s Kitchen is just that place.

‘With a variety of hot drinks, freshly squeezed juices, breakfast, brunch and lunch. Taking inspiration from my time working in Australia, we will be serving breakfast dishes carefully developed by our head chef at Sam’s Riverside. Think crab crumpets, bacon & egg muffin, as well as Sam’s Granola with coconut yoghurt & seasonal fruit, and so much more.’

Roll on March.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

ArtsEd graduate Leo Woodall has huge success with new Netflix series One Day

Image above: Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall in One Day; photograph Ludovic Robert / Netflix

Leo Woodall (White Lotus) and Ambika Mod (This Is Going to Hurt) play Dexter and Emma

In the world of television and drama all eyes are on One Day, the adaptation of David Nicholls’ best-selling novel, which started streaming in the UK on Thursday (8 February) on Netflix as a 14 episode series.

The book, and then the 2011 film of the book starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess, have been huge hits, partly because the format of the romantic drama breaks with the usual format and instead of the cliches, revisits the relationship as snapshots of their lives on the same day – St Swithin’s Day, 15 July – as they grow older.

The Netflix series has Leo Woodall as Dexter Mayhew and Ambika Mod as Emma Morley, the two students who first meet at Edinburgh University, become good friends and eventually fall in love over a decade later.

The character Dexter has a good start in life, coming from a wealthy background, but his path once he leaves university is not easy, and those who have already watched the new series have expressed their shock at the devastating plot twists he has to negotiate.

The actor playing the part, on the other hand, has seen a meteoric rise since he graduated from ArtsEd’s drama school in 2019. Leo Goodall’s breakthrough part was in the season of White Lotus set in Sicily, where he played the part of Jack, a working class British lad who helps his non-biological uncle Quentin (Tom Hollander) plan a murder.

“We are very excited to see Leo Woodall cast as Dexter Mayhew” said Kim Vithana, Director of the School of Acting at ArtsEd.

“His success is reflective of his hard work and how the BA Acting Course prepares our students for a professional career in the performing arts.”

Image above: ArtsEd graduate Stevie Doc; photograph ITV pictures

Musical theatre graduate Stevie Doc wins Mamma Mia! I Have A Dream

The Musical Theatre school has also had some recent successes. Esme Bowdler and Stevie Doc emerged as finalists in the flagship ITV programme, Mamma Mia! I Have A Dream, which Stevie went on to win, with Esme as runner up.

The eight-part series, which aired on ITV in the autumn, sought to find next generation of musical theatre stars to play the roles of Sophie and Sky in the London production of MAMMA MIA! Filming involved ‘boot camp’ on a Greek island, and the competition ended with a live final broadcast from a theatre in the West End.

Stevie won the role of Sophie and Tobias Turley won the role of Sky.

Scarlet Grace (Day school and Sixth form class of 2021) lands role in Disney + short film The Shepherd

Not to be outshone by the graduate schools, the Day school and Sixth form are also celebrating the success of their graduate Scarlet Grace, who landed a part in the Disney+ short film The Shepherd, from the book by Frederick Forsyth. Scarlet plays one of the main characters, Sally.

On Christmas Eve 1957, a young RAF pilot flying home across the North Sea finds himself in peril when his radio and electric power cut out, leaving him stranded and running out of fuel. Just when it appears his luck is about to run out, a mysterious good Samaritan appears through the fog.

The 39 minute film stars John Travolta, with Ben Radcliffe as Freddie Hook.

Images above: Leo Woodall; Scarlet Grace; Stevie Doc

Orchid festival opens at Kew Gardens

Image above: The orchid festival at Kew Gardens, in the Princess of Wales Conservatory

Featuring the orchids of Madagascar

The annual orchid festival has opened at the Princess of Wales Conservatory in Kew Gardens, this year featuring the orchids of Madagascar. The flowers are always gorgeous, that’s a given, but this year the fun creations of lemurs and chameleons out of dried plant matter in amongst the tropical plants and the Malagasy music give it a fun festival atmosphere.

The organisers choose a different country each year to feature, and while the focus is on the island of Madagascar, there are orchids from all over the world on display, divided into temperate and tropical zones.

The association between Madagascar and the botanical gardens at Kew is as old as the gardens themselves. The plants grown mainly in tropical forests, but others can be found in semi-desert regions, near the seashore and in the tundra. Madagascar has both tropical forest and desert areas and as such has many different species.

The models include a particular type of moth which pollinates orchids, which is remarkable for its four foot proboscis. The models were designed by Solene Dequiret, who supervises the Princess of Wales Conservatory. The music accompanying the display is by the Malagasy band the Boriza Brothers.

There is also a mock-up of a botanists’ camp. Madagascar is home to one of the Royal Botanic Gardens’ research site, situated in the country’s capital, Antananarivo. At the Kew Madagascar Conservation Centre, a team of 60 Malagasy scientists, students and support staff work with collaborators, local partners, and communities to safeguard rare plant species.

Their work also helps to protect grasslands, to improve livelihoods, and conserve wild yams to increase food security.

‘This crucial outpost plays an important role in enabling us to expand and share our knowledge and build capacity in-country to aid global efforts to protect and restore biodiversity’ say Kew’s scientists.

Display Conservatories Manager Tom Pickering told us orchids grow on every continent except Antarctica and plants range in size from the size of a fingernail to the size of a bus. Most of the orchids they bring in for the display are cultivated in Holland.

The display will be deconstructed on Sunday 3 March and the plants sold to volunteers and staff.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

Hounslow Council announces ‘no cuts’ budget for 2024-2025

Image above: Hounslow House, headquarters of Hounslow Council

No cuts ‘despite Tory economic mismanagement over the last 14 years’

Hounslow Council has released proposals for its 2024/25 Budget.

The Labour Council says it has managed to continue to ‘support hard pressed residents and protects front line services, despite Tory economic mismanagement over the last 14 years.’

Promoting this budget as a ‘No cuts budget’, Leader of Hounslow Council, Councillor Shantanu Rajawat said:

“I’m proud to announce that we will be proposing no cuts to services in our Budget proposals, to ensure we can continue to deliver a real difference to residents’ lives and outcomes.”

This may not sound like much of an achievement, but he is attempting to balance this year’s budget at a time when councils across the political spectrum and of varying levels of financial stability have increasingly been speaking openly about nearing effective bankruptcy. The Labour council of Barking and Dagenham is in debt to the tune of £1bn. Conservative Woking council effectively went bust last summer with debts of £1.2bn.

‘Tory Government managed decline has brought public services to crisis point, with a wave of damage being caused by an absent Government unwilling to reform and invest in key policies such as health, social care, asylum and housing’ say Hounslow.

‘Local Government has been hit the hardest and Councils across the UK are facing challenging financial times as funding goes down and demand for vital services goes up. However, despite these challenges, your Labour-run Hounslow Council has proposed an ambitious and responsible budget which continues to deliver on your aspirations for a better and more prosperous future for all residents and businesses in Hounslow.’

The Council has made housing its priority, and has built hundreds of energy efficient new houses over the past year.

It has a statuary obligation to provide for social care needs and special education needs. The Council says it has supported 4,100 adults with social care needs and 3,000 children and young people with special education needs.

It says it has also planted more than 8,000 trees, recycled the household waste of 103,000 households, set up Community and Family hubs, to deliver services closer to home for residents, and provided £1.2 million in funding for community and voluntary groups.

Council Tax up by 4.99%

In order to continue delivering services, the proposals the Leader is putting forward to Cabinet to sign off include increasing Council Tax by 4.99% – 2% ringfenced for social care:

‘a critical investment to help meet the rising costs and demand for these services whilst supporting some of the most vulnerable in our society’.

Image above: Council Tax breakdown by band

Cllr Rajawat said:

“After 14 years of Tory Government, there is no doubt to us all that our public services have been decimated and it is our local services that have been bearing the brunt.

“Despite these challenges, our Labour administration here in Hounslow have ensured a balanced budget year after year, but also worked hard to protect our residents who rely on public services from the worst of the ravages of Tory decline.

“Whether it be our Council Tax Support Scheme which aims to provide 100% support to those most vulnerable in the borough, our support for the poorest families across Hounslow during the school holidays, our Cost of Living workshops or our Warm Homes initiative, we are a Council which is here for you, thinking outside of the box in order to help you and strengthen our services in the face of Tory mismanagement.

“Raising council tax is never an easy decision, however the sad fact is that Government funding has been reducing over the last 14 years whilst demand and costs have increased. Inflation is still rampant and outpaces any income from Council Tax meaning that we have to continue thinking about how best to offer the services you rely on whilst delivering value for money.

“Due to the funding situation, many Councils are finding themselves unable to offer vital services. Hounslow Labour has very carefully managed your money over the years and as a result is able to protect front line services at a time when they are needed the most.

“This is why I’m proud to announce that we will be proposing no cuts to services in our Budget proposals, to ensure we can continue to deliver a real difference to residents’ lives and outcomes.”

The Budget proposals will go to Hounslow Council’s Cabinet meeting on Tuesday 20 February, before being debated by Full Council on Tuesday 27 February when Hounslow Council’s Budget for 2024/25 will be set.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

De La Soul latest band to be announced for Pub in the Park Chiswick

Tickets now on sale – second release

Tickets are now on sale again for Pub in the Park Chiswick, taking place in the gardens of Chiswick House from Friday 28 – Sunday 30 June. It’s a pretty good line-up: De La Soul are playing on Friday night; Scouting for Girls and Busted on Saturday and Jules Holland on Sunday. It may be the festival’s best line-up yet.

De La Soul – Friday night

De La Soul will be bringing their eclectic sampling, eccentric lyrics, and contributions to jazz rap and alternative hip hop to the party on Friday 28 June.

The band packed out Manchester’s Albert Hall last summer and operated ‘at a level of high octane energy and enthusiasm that acts half their age struggle to maintain’, according to the Manchester Evening News’s Kristofer Thomas.

This summer it will be 35 years since their landmark album 3 Feet High and Rising was unleashed. Those of us old enough to remember are already sold, but last year a whole new generation was introduced to the hip hop legends when their whole back catalogue finally appeared on streaming services.

The reviewer from the Manchester paper reckoned the ‘sincere joy and exuberance that the group carries in both its music and its stage presence that brings tonight closer to a bouncing gospel party than a concert’.

I think Chiswick will be up for that.

Scouting for Girls – Saturday afternoon

The West London band Scouting for Girls will be playing on Saturday afternoon. Since they were formed in 2005 the three piece indie pop band, who have known each other since primary school, have notched up eight top 40 singles, sold over four million records in the UK and received over one billion global streams. They have been nominated for four Brit Awards and one Ivor Novello Award.

They became successful when their 2007 self-titled debut went on to become triple platinum and created the generation-bridging anthems of She’s So Lovely,  Elvis Ain’t Dead and Heartbeat. They have never looked back. Scouting For Girls went on to release Everybody Wants To Be On TV (2010), The Light Between Us (2012), Still Thinking About You (2015), The Trouble With Boys (2019) plus the mega number 1 hit single This Ain’t A Love Song.

They are one of those bands where you find you know the words, whether you realised it or not.

Busted – Saturday night

Busted reunited and announced their ’20th Anniversary’ tour last year and released their ‘Greatest Hits 2.0’ album. They are now back touring, having spilt up and come back together,  spent time working as solo artists in between

Busted bounced into the charts with the irrepressible pop-punk energy of their debut single What I Go To School For. It kickstarted a succession of hits for the trio, including the #1 smashes Crashed The Wedding, Who’s David, Thunderbirds Are Go, You Said No and the Top 3 singles Year 3000, Air Hostess and Sleeping With The Light On.

They will be playing Pub in teh Park Chiswick on the Saturday night.

Jules Holland – Lazy Sunday

Jules Holland and his Rythm & Blues Orchestra will outlast them all. He’s played more New Years Eve Hootenannys than the others have had hot breakfasts.

Jools is constantly touring. He was awarded an OBE in 2003 for his services to the British music industry. From playing pubs in the East End docks as a teenage greaser, to leading his rhythm and blues orchestra and selling millions of records this century, it is his passion for music that has made him such a master and so much liked an revered within the British music industry.

The ‘About Jools’ section of his website says: ‘He is married with four children and lives in a world of his own’ !

On the food front …

On the food front we are looking at celebrity chefs Tom Kerridge, Andi Oliver, Simon Rimmer, Big Has, Gennaro Contaldo, Emily Scott, Tom & Robert Aikens, Jeremy Chan, Mursal Saiq and Josh Moroney.

They promise: ‘Our carefully curated line-up of award-winning and Michelin-starred eateries will make your festival feasting dreams come true.’

Book tickets:  pubintheparkuk.com

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

Chiswick Police focus on the High Rd after spike in robberies and an assault at Boots

Image above: Captured on camera – thieves assault the security guard in Boots on Chiswick High Rd

Boots branch suffers thefts on almost a daily basis

Boots in Chiswick High Rd is receiving extra support from the police, having recently seen a spike in brazen robberies, with thousands of pounds worth of products stolen.

Last Monday (5 February) violent thieves punched a security guard at the high street chemist so hard that his glasses broke, his dentures fell out and his arm was cut open.

READ ALSO: Violent thieves punch and threaten security guard in Chiswick Boots

This theft and assault follows a robbery at the store at the end of January where two young men emptied the contents of shelves into bags, singing as they did so, with one of them looking unconcernedly into the camera as a shopper videoed him on their phone.

Last weekend the shop was robbed on Friday 2, Sunday 5 and Monday 5, with thousands of pounds’ worth of merchandise taken. Now there are two PCSOs – PCSO Randles and PCSO Andrade making frequent visits to the shop whenever they are on duty.

The offender who assaulted the security guard has been identified by a Surrey Police Officer who saw the incident on social media, The Chiswick Calendar has learned, and they have been linked to similar offences in Richmond & Twickenham.

“The Officer investigating has circulated them as being ‘Wanted’, and it will only be a matter of time before they are arrested” Sergeant Jim Cope, responsible for neighbouthood policing in Chiswick, told us.

His team focused on the High Road on Saturday (10 February) and one person was arrested from Tesco’s for a large theft of alcohol. They were charged an remanded to appear at Court on Monday morning.

We also passed on the video which was sent to us of the earlier robber in Boots. Sergeant Cope’s comment on the offender clearly identified in that video was:

“We are fully aware of this offender and working towards identifying them.. hopefully will not take long.”


Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

Chiswick Lifeboat crew join search for Clapham chemical attack suspect

Image above: CCTV image of Abdul Ezedi

Two ‘unexpected’ bodies found in search

Chiswick’s RNLI’s Lifeboat station is taking part in the extensive search for Abdul Ezedi, the 35-year-old Clapham chemical attack suspect believed to have gone into the River Thames at Chelsea Bridge. The lifeboat crew, alongside multiple vessels from the Marine Policing Unit, have been searching the river foreshore downstream from where he is believed to have jumped in.

Ezedi has been subject to a nationwide manhunt after he was seen assaulting a woman and two children with a toxic substance. Investigations revealed that Ezedi was last seen on CCTV footage on 31 January, four hours after the reported attack, as he approached Chelsea Bridge. Despite exhaustive efforts, his whereabouts remain unknown.

Two ‘unexpected’ bodies have been found in separate locations during the search, one near HMS Belfast, adjacent to Tower Bridge, and another in the Limehouse area of east London. Neither of these bodies has been identified as Ezedi.

The emergency services face quite a challenge, as the swift currents at this time of the year raise the possibility that Ezedi’s remains may never be recovered, if they are snagged on the riverbed.

Ezedi, a convicted sex offender who sought asylum in the UK after fleeing Afghanistan and converting to Christianity, had a prior relationship with the woman he allegedly attacked in Clapham the previous month.

While she continues to receive treatment in hospital, there are fears that she may permanently lose vision in one eye, though the children involved are expected to fully recover from their physical injuries.

Last seen footage of Ezedi was on Chelsea Bridge

The Met’s Commander Jon Savell said:

“We have looked at all of the available cameras and angles, and with the assistance of Transport for London and CCTV from buses that were travelling over the bridge at the relevant time, and there is no sighting of him coming off the bridge.”

Detective Superintendent Rick Sewart added:

“When he got to the area of Chelsea Bridge, his behaviour visibly appeared to change in so much as he walked up and down the bridge, he pauses in the mid-point of the bridge, and he walks sort of to and from the side of the bridge and can be seen to lean over the railings before there is a loss of sight.”

Ivan Toney ‘likely’ to leave Brentford in summer

Image above: Ivan Toney

Fee of £75m rumoured for Brentford’s top striker

Brentford FC’s head coach Thomas Frank has confirmed that striker Ivan Toney is likely to leave Brentford in the summer.

Speaking to Danish media outlet Tipsbladet, Frank said Toney’s contract situation has left the club with little choice regarding the top striker’s future.

“He’ll only have a year left on contract with us, so it’s quite obvious”.

Toney has been the subject of interest from London rivals Arsenal and Chelsea, though Frank said no bids arrived for the striker in January.

“This winter, we actually had no bids for him”, Frank said of Toney, who has scored two goals in three games since returning from an eight-month ban for gambling offences.

Speaking to Match of the Day, Toney was questioned on whether he would spend the next six months as a time to prove himself useful to Brentford. He said:

“I see that as he [Thomas Frank] doesn’t want me. Nah, the manager’s said what he’s said. Listen, I can’t make clubs come and get me but I just gotta keep doing what I do and that’s score goals, and, like I said, what will be will be.”

A fee for Toney of around £75m has been reported by several media outlets, but as he is open about his desire to leave and just one year left on his contract, Brentford may have to negotiate on their asking price.

Flying Under the Radar – autobiography by Tony Inwood

Images above: Tony Inwood and his biography ‘Flying Under the Radar’

Children need love and affection, and the consequences can be devastating if they don’t receive it

Reading Tony Inwood’s biography Flying Under the Radar brings to mind the Philip Larkin poem This be the verse, which starts with the famous first lines:

‘They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

‘They may not mean to, but they do.’

An apposite poem, not only because of its sentiments but because Tony also turned to writing poetry to express him feelings, having had rough start in life because of his parents.

Tony and his partner Simon Rodway are well known in Chiswick. They have lived here more than thirty years, have lots of friends and play an important part of the life of Christ Church on Turnham Green. Tony is also known to many people in Chiswick for his gardening and decorating skills, having worked at both for many years.

Those years have been happy and settled, but it was not always so, as he recounts with honesty and clarity. Both parents had mental health problems and both went on to suffer what used to be called  a ‘nervous breakdown,’ his father also attempting suicide.

Life on a small family farm was tough going in the 1950s. They did not have friends, so there was no social life to speak of. During Tony’s first six years there wasn’t much on offer in the way of affection from his parents and the relationship between them was increasingly strained, his childhood overshadowed by tension and rows.

When he was six his mother left, taking Tony and his two brothers with her, but she soon found she could not cope on her own and arranged for them to be taken into care. What followed was a succession of care arrangements – fostering, a period in an assessment centre and eight years in a children’s home, meanwhile changing school eight times.

Craving love, he clearly found it difficult to fit in to foster homes, resenting the love the foster parents gave their own children:

“What I wanted … was an unrealistic kind of inclusion into the family unit, but far more powerfully, I was subconsciously crying out for physical warmth and affection. I now regard the lack of this as the most destructive force in my early life.”

School holidays were always a problem. There was always a negotiation about where the boys would go.

“Each time the end of term drew near I used to dread the upheaval of having to try and sort out with the staff and the children’s department where exactly I was going to stay that particular holiday … I felt like a useless piece of luggage that had to be deposited somewhere for six weeks.”

Both parents vied for their children’s attention, visiting at unscheduled and unhelpful hours, messing up their relationships with their foster families so in the end they were not able to continue fostering the children. In accounts from social workers Tony’s parents come across as seeing the world only from the perspective of how they are affected – not how their behaviour might have an impact on their children.

When he left school, with no sense of purpose or self-worth, he drifted into living in hippy squats and taking drugs. The way in which he was chucked out of local authority care to fend for himself as an adult, with no help or support, was brutal.

Fortunately for Tony, Simon Rodway had been a Child Care Officer who had worked at Caldecott Community Children’s Home. He had known Tony and one of his brothers since they were children. Colin found the transition to the adult world easier and managed to set himself up with work and a social life, while Tony appeared to be spiralling.

The account is very matter of fact, but it is quite clear that Simon rescued Tony. He took him in to his flat in Shepherd’s Bush, giving him a home and over time their relationship has grown into a mutual friendship, and partnership.

That is one relationship which ‘saved’ Tony. The other was his relationship with God, whom he also credits with helping him find happiness and tranquility.

To those who have stability and love growing up, it’s something which is a given, which they take for granted – and should be able to. But Tony’s biography spells out just how devastating the consequences can be for children whose childhood lacks love.

Flying under the Radar: A Story of Hope and Healing is available from Amazon, and from Bookcase at 268 Chiswick High Road.

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Brentford 1 Manchester City 3

De Bruyne lines up an attacking triangle with hat-trick-scoring Foden on the left and newly returned Haarland

Third season: City bounce back

Great, scintillating football for the first 45 minutes, with a splendid goal and every hope that the Bees could pull three much-needed points from what has developed into a troublesome second half of the season. But, as all Brentford faithful supporters know, one shouldn’t count their points before the final whistle, and even then it’s worth double-checking in case the opposition scored once or twice when we aren’t looking.

The opening of the game, once the Bees realised they were not playing the big bad wolf, just one of the best sides in the game, saw the Gtech scratch-eleven responding with gumption and do-or-die energy, preferably that of the ‘do’ variety. It was a pleasure to watch therm.

Facing one of the favourites to win the Premier League championship – Manchester’s most powerful side and Liverpool are currently jostling for leadership at the top of the table – Brentford were too frequently knocked out of their stride. But soon Ivan Toney and Neal Maupay hunting deep in a City defence that gave every impression they were having a stroll in the park spoiled, looked capable of seizing one or two of the chances on offer, while Mark Flekken hit a form we didn’t know he possessed and, indeed, had criticised lack of on various occasions.

It was difficult to count how many times Flekken saved from the raiding parties of Erling Haaland, Julian Alvarez and Phil Foden – more of him later – but around 21 minutes in, Flekken, presumably deciding to take matters into his own hands, thumped a long, well-aimed goal-kick up-field.

Toney saw it coming and so did two City rearguard defenders, but Toney’s muscle won the contest and the ball raced on at the feet of Maupay, who judged perfectly the rush from his goalmouth of Ederson and slotted past him a shot that clipped the inside of a post on its way and into the net.

Celebrating his fifth goal in as many games, Maupay, became engulfed by his team-mates. City look as if there must have been a mistake, but the home supporters’ gleeful chorus of ‘There’s one only one Mark Flekken’ proved it was real.

Maupay attempts to repeat his audacious run at goal

Brentford rode the wave of success until the minutes added by referee Jerrad Gillett, were running out, by which time City had shaken themselves back into shape and Flekken made what retrospectively seems his first error. De Bruyne sent a polished 40-yard ball that was only part cleared by Ethan Pinnock and Foden pounced to equalise for the visitors.

It was that man again – only 23 years old but of special maturity – who made space to guide his header past Flekken and, as it turned out, settle the game. And it was this remarkable player who popped up after seventy minutes to evade the attentions of Pinnock and other defenders before turning what had been a fine first-half for Flekken became very much a so-so one for the second.

Bees attack in added time sees Manchester City’s goalkeeper Ederson race out to clear the ball

Overall, Flekken produced the best performance seen from him since the season’s opener. He can be proud of his afternoon’s work, especially the meticulous assist he supplied with the superkick that allowed Maupay to get among the goals again with a panache that might keep quiet the hyper-critics among his own supporters.

Toney was not quite the force we have seen since remerging from his suspension – two of the chances that came his way also came to nothing, a special shame as the fierce volley that sailed over Ederson’s bar would have given the final score a healthier respectability.

Of the others running themselves into the ground, Mikkel Damsgaard, a substitute sent on with fifteen minutes to go, impressed once again in midfield – long may he continue to do so.

They are still smarting from the injuries that have seen the Bees slip to fifteenth in the table, I observed to my mate Charlie. When will they get a rest?

‘Not next week,’ said Charlie. ‘That’s when we play away to Wolves, who’ve beaten us twice and drawn the other game so far this season.’

And next? ‘Liverpool,’ he said.

Brentford: Flekken; Roerslev, Collins, Pinnock, Mee, Reguilón (substitute Ajer 79); Jensen (Damsgaard 76), Nørgaard, Janelt (Yarmoliuk 76); Maupay (Baptiste 90), Toney.

Manchester City: Ederson; Walker, Dias, Ake, Gvardiol; Rodrig\o, Alvarez; Bernardo (Doku 71); Foden; De Bruyne, Haaland (Kovacic 86).

Bill Hagerty is a contributing editor to the Bees United website. Photographs by Liz Vercoe.

Bill, who lives in Chiswick and is a former Fleet Street editor, was named Journalist Laureate 2023 the London Press Club awards:

READ ALSO: Former Fleet Street editor, Chiswick resident Bill Hagerty, is named Journalist Laureate 2023

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Mrs Joshi retires after forty years at Strand on the Green Post Office

Image above: Strand on the Green Post Office; image Google streetview

Postmistress has seen off robbers and weathered the pandemic

Strand on the Green postmistress Mrs Daksha Joshi BEM has retired, after forty years running the sub-post office next to the primary school. It is unclear whether the shop will reopen as a Post Office under new management.

The popular postmistress, originally from Gujarat, moved to the UK from India in 1980 with her husband Dilip and son, Milan, who was then aged two. They found Strand on the Green School while looking for a primary school for him, and noticed the post office next to it was up for sale.

Dilip died in 1990, whcn Milan was just 12, and Mrs Joshi was left to run the post office by herself. She is fortunate not to have fallen victim to the faulty accounting software, Horizon, but she was robbed, twice.

On one of those occasions she witnessed a robber put a gun to her customer’s head. She considered giving the post office up, but was persuaded not to by members of the local community, who had also been very supportive also when her husband died.

She kept the post office open as long as she could during Covid, finally closing it in April 2020. Her son Milan published a notice saying:

‘Last week I think her post office was the only post office open in the whole of West London. As a result she was extremely busy and she stayed open long after the official closing time in order to help all customers. Unfortunately this has taken a toll on her health. She needs to be very careful given her underlying condition.’

It is ill health which has finally forced her to retire.

Mrs Joshi was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in 2013, after being nominated by Robert Colvill, former Chairman of the Strand on the Green Association, and Julia Korner. She was included in the New Years Honours List of 2013 and given her medal by Sir David Brewer, then Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London.

The Strand on the Green Association (SoGA) have released the following statement:

“Many of you will already know the sad news that Mrs Joshi has had to retire from the Post Office at the end of January, due to extreme ill health.  Strand on the Green Association has sent some flowers to Mrs Joshi, before the end of January.

“This was on behalf of all our community, as a ‘thank you’ for all the many services and kindnesses she has given to our community over so many years. Several members have expressed the wish to give Mrs Joshi something more permanent as a thank you for the extraordinary service she has given, over such a long time.

Anyone wanting to contribute is asked to contact Julia Korner (julia@juliakorner.com) and John Giles (johngiles746@gmail.com) and make their donations by Sunday 18 February.

Another fundraiser from local residents

Local resident Ruth Gandhi has also organised a collection page with the aim of raising enough money to buy a bench, with a plaque, to go outside the Post Office ‘and perhaps a local picture of Strand on the Green’.

Man charged with attempted murder after two people stabbed in Ealing

Image above: Met Police; library image

Man charged after two people in their 70s found with stab injuries

A man has been charged with attempted murder after two people were injured in a stabbing in Ealing.

The Metropolitan Police were called at 8.14am on Wednesday (7 February) to reports of a man with a knife in Gordon Road.

Officers responded and found a man and a woman in their 70s with stab injuries. They were taken to hospital where their injuries were assessed as not life-threatening.

A 31-year-old man was arrested at the scene.

Following an investigation, Reece McLean, 31 (19.12.92), of Gordon Road, was charged on Friday, 9 February with two counts of attempted murder, one count of wounding with intent and one count of possession of a knife.

He appeared at Ealing Magistrates’ Court on Friday (9 February).

Man wanted for indecent exposure in Chiswick

Image above: Police picture of location of incident

Man wanted for 5 February incident

Police are investigating an incident of indecent exposure in Chiswick. It took place in the alleyway that runs alongside the A4 and the end of Oxford Road South/ beginning of Chiswick Village.

In a police appeal they say:

“We are investigating a male who exposed himself in an alleyway in Chiswick at 08.10hrs on 05/02/2024.

“He’s described as a white male, late 20s, wearing glasses, a black cap, black jacket, blue hoodie and black trousers. If you can help please call 101. CAD 1405/05FEB24 refers.”

Flood alert issued for Chiswick Mall and Strand on the Green

Image above: Previous flooding in Chiswick Mall

Environment Agency warns that flooding is possible in Chiswick Mall and Strand on the Green

An Environment Agency alert has been issued to two areas in Chiswick. Due to torrential rain overnight, Chiswick Mall and Strand on the Green have been highlighted as two areas where flooding is possible.

The Environment Agency statement reads:

“We believe there is a possibility of flooding for Putney Embankment,  Chiswick Mall and Strand on the Green, Thames Bank at Mortlake, Ranelagh Drive, Friars Lane and Water Lane, Riverside and The Embankment at Twickenham, and the Towpath below Teddington Lock.”

Image above: Flood alert for South West London. Image: Environment Agency

Weather is due to improve this weekend and it is predicted to be dry with temperatures to reach 12 degrees celsius.

For more information on flood alerts and what to do in an event of a flood: Environment Agency.

Andy Slaughter MP calls for greater action on sexual health access

Image above: Andy Slaughter MP in the House of Commons on Thursday

Hammersmith MP says all pharmacies should have the drug in stock

The MP for Hammersmith Andy Slaughter has called for greater action on sexual health access, HIV testing and Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to be available in pharmacies.

Speaking in The House of Commons on Thursday (8 February), as part of session marking HIV testing week in the UK, Mr. Slaughter used his time to call for greater access to the drug, which prevents HIV infection if a person comes into contact with the virus.

In his speech, Mr. Slaughter commended the efforts of healthcare professionals and organisations dedicated to HIV prevention and treatment. He specifically acknowledged the vital role played by clinics such as the one in his constituency at 10 Hammersmith Broadway, stating:

“They offer a fantastic service and they are engineering testing and comprehensive treatment under very difficult circumstances and with very limited resources.”

Reflecting on the advancements in HIV prevention and treatment, Mr. Slaughter highlighted the importance of early diagnosis and effective treatment, commenting:

“We know now that early diagnosis is important but, after diagnosis, those who are infected can live normal lives of normal duration. That would have been unthinkable even 20 years ago.”

Despite these advancements, Mr. Slaughter highlighted persistent challenges, particularly regarding testing accessibility and the availability of preventive measures like PrEP. He emphasised the need for expanded opt-out testing, saying:

“One of the solutions, which the Government are expanding, is opt-out testing in A&E and other locations. That needs to be embedded and extended.”

Mr. Slaughter also raised concerns about the strain on sexual health clinics and the resulting delays in PrEP prescriptions, adding:

“The waiting times are still far too long, but at one stage they were being measured in months rather than weeks. It is clearly a missed opportunity if people are willing to be prescribed PrEP and understand its advantages, but are not receiving prescriptions because they simply cannot get an appointment at their local clinic.”

In his closing remarks, Mr Slaughter urged the government to take decisive action, calling for increased resources for sexual health clinics and further commitments to opt-out testing. He proposed exploring alternative avenues for PrEP prescription, including pharmacies.

“It has been suggested that, given the expansion in services now provided by pharmacies, PrEP could be added to them. I see no reason why that cannot be the case”

Safe zone around Mattock Lane abortion clinic to be retained

Image above: Mattock Lane clinic

Ealing Cabinet vote to retain buffer zone to protect women seeking abortions

The safe zone around the Mattock Lane abortion clinic in Ealing will remain in place until at least 2027, following a vote by Ealing Council’s cabinet on Wednesday (7 February).

The Mattock Lane Safe Zone public spaces protection order (PSPO) was due to end in April, but this decision allows it to run for another three years, until April 2027.

The PSPO, introduced in 2018, was the first of its kind outside a clinic in the UK and breaches of it can result in a fine or lead to prosecution.

It was put in place after evidence showed that the activities of pro-life and pro-choice protest groups outside the clinic had been having a persistent and continuing detrimental effect on the quality of life of local people, including residents, visitors to the clinic, clinic staff, and those passing through the area.

An eight-week formal consultation started on 23 November 2023 and finished on 15 January 2024. There were 2,165 responses. 97% of those who responded to the question about the future of the order said the order should be renewed for three years.

A designated area created by the PSPO to the west of the clinic was created to enable protesters and counter-protesters to continue their activities subject to certain restrictions. Outside the area covered by the PSPO there are no restrictions in place.

A full copy of the PSPO and a high-resolution map detailing the area it covers, the location of the clinic and the designated zone is available to view online.

Safe zone has “significantly improved the lives of local people”

Councillor Jasbir Anand, Ealing Council’s Cabinet Member for Tackling Inequality, said:

“The PSPO has most definitely had the effect of significantly improving the quality of life of local people.

“It continues to protect our residents, clinic staff and users of the clinic from the kind of unacceptable intimidation and interference they previously had to endure.”

Ealing Council Leader Peter Mason added:

“The decision to extend the public space protection order at Mattock Lane we took this week will ensure that we continue to ensure the safety and freedom of local residents. Women should feel safe in the borough.

“The Mattock Lane safe zone was introduced in response to detailed evidence that the activities of protesters outside the clinic had a detrimental effect on the quality of life and meant that women using the clinic, its staff and local people felt unsafe.”

Planning application submitted for humanitarian aid sculpture in Gunnersbury Park

Image above: Visualisation of the sculpture in Gunnersbury Park

Hounslow Council receives planning application for humanitarian aid memorial 

Hounslow Council has received a planning application for the installation of a humanitarian aid memorial in Gunnersbury Park. The proposed memorial would consist of a circle of 15 human-scale figures, seven metres in diameter, positioned to the south east of the Round Pond.

The figures, intended to symbolise unity and solidarity, would feature text and images on their surfaces, depicting the narrative of humanitarian aid efforts and honouring the contributions of aid workers worldwide. To deter vandalism, the figures would be coated with a clear protective finish.

A new pathway leading from the existing pedestrian footpath to the centre of the memorial is part of the proposal. Additionally, a wooden bench is planned for the entrance of the pathway, offering seating for visitors. The bench would be accompanied by a brass plaque containing information about the memorial’s purpose, as well as a QR code linking to webpages hosted by Gunnersbury Park.

Collaborating with the organising committee and the Contemporary Arts Society Consultancy (CAS*C), the park’s managing trust is spearheading the initiative to establish the first dedicated humanitarian aid memorial.

Renowned artist Michael Landy, associated with the Young British Artists movement of the late eighties, has designed the memorial. Landy, known for his notable works such as Breakdown (2001) and Acts of Kindness (2011), was commissioned by Art on the Underground.

In addition to serving as a commemorative site, the memorial could be used as an educational site for local schools, complementing the existing museum education service.

Image above: The sculpture “looked like gingerbread men” according to critics of previous proposals

Memorial, “like gingerbread men” has been turned down elsewhere

Previous proposals for the sculpture, including one for Kenwood estate and another for a location in Manchester, were ultimately rejected on aesthetic grounds.

When the sculpture was under consideration in Kenwood, Ellen Solomans, who represents the Vale of Health Society on the Hampstead Heath Consultative Committee said she felt the designs “looked like gingerbread men”.

Others warned it would attract vandalism, with one member stating he believed the “instinct would be for someone to reach for a felt-tip pen and draw a face on them, and then lower down to draw something not so respectful”.

Others complained that the sculpture represented a man-made structure on a site which has traditionally been a natural area.

Heath and Hampstead Society’s Thomas Radice said:

“We look very critically on any impacts development might have on the Heath and we feel this memorial would set important precedents. We wish to be constructive – nobody questions that this is a worthy cause – but we do suggest they should try and find another site.”

For more details of the appplication you can find the planning application documents on Hounslow’s website – search for planning application P/2024/0324.

After All These Years review – Theatre at the Tabard

Image above: L to R – Graham Pountney, Judy Buxton, Jeffrey Holland, Carol Ball in After All These Years, Theatre at the Tabard

Review by Bridget Osborne

Theatre at the Tabard Wednesday 9 – Saturday 24 February

After All These Years is a play that will resonate with people who have been married a long time. Who, in the course of a thirty or forty year marriage, has not come to that stick or twist moment – the point where they think:

‘Is this it? Is this really all there is? Should I leave and find a more exciting life? Or maybe I should stay put, maybe I would be jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. Maybe, for all the minor frustrations and irritations, this marriage is good enough.’

Image above: Act One – Two old guys in the pub

What starts as a very funny dialogue between two older men in a pub, the daily banter of two old friends who have known each other for years, working in showbusiness together with their wives who were both chorus girls, turns darker in the second act where the two women get together to compare notes, and even more so in the last act when they all come together two years later after the dynamics have changed.

Image above: The two wives – Act Two

Jeffrey Holland is particularly good as Alfred – the one of the four who is most showing the signs of age. As the play begins, he is agitated because he has spent the past day and a half trying to remember the name of a TV weatherman.

His mate winds him up, in the guise of trying to help, and it transpires his wife had known straight away what the presenter was called but had just preferred to let him stew. Such are the petty provocations of long relationships.

The play, by Giles Cole, is set about twenty years ago, before everyone started to be on their phones all the time and memory became obsolete. As Alf searches for the words he wants to use, with evident frustration, it’s hard not to shout out the answer, to put him out of his misery.

Images above: Marianne; Alfred

His mate Charlie (Graham Pountney) is a bit of a weasel. Jovial and affable as he appears at first sight, he’s not quite the supportive friend he would have you believe, while Alf’s beloved Joanie (Judy Buxton) is also a bit suspect.

It is Marianne (Carol Ball), who at first appears lost in a haze of white wine and gin, who has the courage to make waves and change the dynamic of this comfortable foursome.

Image above: Jeffrey Holland and Carol Ball

It’s good to see such accomplished actors in close proximity. The Tabard is nothing if not snug.

Jeffrey Holland is probably still best known for his TV appearances as Spike in Hi-De-Hi and James Twelvetrees in You Rang M’Lord, though he has appeared in It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, Dad’s Army, Are You Being Served and The Mayor of Casterbridge on TV and more recently presented his own one man show about Stan Laurel, which played three sell-out seasons at the Edinburgh Fringe. He is also one of the country’s leading pantomime dames, having appeared in over 40 pantomimes.

Judy Buxton is also a very well-known face from her television appearances in Lovejoy, Bergerac, Blake’s Seven, Diary of a Nobody and Rising Damp, though she is also known for a number of Shakespeare roles in theatre – Juliet in Romeo & Juliet for the Royal Shakespeare Company and Jessica in The Merchant of Venice, as well as roles in West End productions such as Baggage, The School for Scandal, Run for your Wife and The Last of the Red Hot Lovers.

Image above: Graham Pountney and Judy Buxton

Graham Pountney has worked in the West End as well as in rep in the UK and on international tours, as an actor, direct and producer. He is the director of After All These Years as well as playing the character of Charlie. He founded the British Actors Theatre Company in the late 1980s with Kate O’Mara and was a founder and director of The Original Shakespeare Company in the 1990s. He has recently started his own theatre company, Theatre Revival. His popular TV credits as an actor include Howard’s Way, Life Begins, New Tricks and Hustle.

Carol Ball really is a chorus girl. In the West End she appeared in the original productions of Chicago, Hello Dolly! and more recently Guys and Dolls, The Goodbye Girl and Thoroughly Modern Millie, as well as playing Anytime Annie for five years in 42nd Street. Her TV credits include The Bill, The Trip, Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, and she also appeared in two Ken Russell films: The Boyfriend and Valentino.

The play won the Outstanding Theatre award at the Brighton Fringe Festival in 2013. It runs until Saturday 24 February.

Image above: Judy Buxton and Carol Ball

Photography by Charles Flint.

Book tickets: tabard.org.uk

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Sara Ward on Living the Good Life February 2024

Image above: Sara Ward

Some you lose…

Guest blog by Sara Ward

One day last month when I was checking that the chickens had food and water, I did a quick head count and discovered one missing from the middle flock. I worked out which one by process of elimination and when I opened up the hen house, found her cold and dead.

It’s always sad, but I reassured myself that she’d had a long life, most dates seem to be classified as pre or post pandemic nowadays, and can’t have been very ill or in much pain as she’d been running around the garden just the day before.

‘Was it one with a name?’ was the response of my friend when I told her, of course we’d never talk about our children like that, but as we are now in our 17th year of keeping chickens, I confess that not all of the 20+ that we have at any one time are referred to on such personal terms.

Of course, there’s Barbara and Margot the Gold Partridge Brahmas, Butternut our Buff Orpington, Lillibet the Pekin Bantam – so named on the Platinum Jubilee weekend, Killer Queen (but that’s not really a story for publishing) and Snowy the Salmon Faverolle – she’s my favourite. Whereas the others are referred to by colour, breed or simply as ‘that one’.

My mourning was short lived as the very next day brought a larger shock. I was preparing to treat our honey bees, all seven colonies, with a syrup containing oxalic acid which helps kill the parasitic varroa mite whilst being harmless to the bees themselves.

I prepared the solution, lit my smoker, pulled over my veil and zipped up my bee suit. As I opened the first hive, all was quiet. No surprise for a very cold winter’s day – they would be huddling around the queen conserving energy and prioritising warmth. Though as I looked closer, down between each frame, I discovered that apart from a shallow carpet of corpses on the bottom of the hive, there were no bees to be seen at all.

Whilst this brought a deep sorrow, it was made worse as I discovered that hives two and three were in identical states. My goodness, what had happened? All was well when I prepared them for winter on 25th November, how can the whole colony, in fact all three of them, have completely died out in just six weeks?

Fortunately, all the others across my three apiaries are looking good, so from nine colonies last May, we are now down to four but if the weather is kind we should see some rapid expansion over the next couple of months allowing me to split larger colonies, collect swarms and repopulate those empty hives.

Although it’s sad, ‘the circle of life’, as I said last month we can always learn from our lessons and look forward. I’ve lost a little of that enthusiastic expectation on high harvest yields, as I don’t think we’ll get that much honey this year, but the priority will be building up the colonies again to support the wider biodiversity of the area.

On to brighter news…

As the days lengthen, bit by bit, it’s like a curtain slowly being drawn open revealing all that spring has in store. Easter is early this year bringing Pancake Day into Half Term to add to the holiday vibe. We love to welcome families to Hen Corner when school is out, and are introducing a brand new course sharing some of my new favourite skills.

Subscribers of my blog at HenCorner.com will know that I’ve become quite obsessed with making cheese, so we now have two different courses for adults and a family course for children to understand the magic of separating curds from whey.

Before winter has taken her final bow, do take the opportunity to check your trees. Now is a good time for a final bit of winter pruning and planting new trees whilst they are dormant. I’m adding a Kiwi fruit vine and Victoria Plum to the garden at Hen Corner and we’ve got three new trees from Hounslow Council to plant in the Eco Garden at St Paul’s Church, Brentford.

Another tip for this time of year is to look out for Mistletoe, they’ve got loads in the gardens of Chiswick House, not only can you steal a kiss underneath on Valentine’s Day, but any remaining berries can be used to propagate new bouquets on your own trees at home. Do plan this carefully as mistletoe is a parasitic plant that feeds from the host tree, but if kept in check brings beautiful green chandeliers to bare dormant trees in the coldest months.

As for me, I’m planning to use a few dry days this month to spring clean the empty hives, getting them ready for their new inhabitants, wherever they’ll come from.

‘Be prepared’ is a great motto that has stood the test of time!

Coming up at Hen Corner:


Half Term Family Courses:

Bread and cheese:

Wednesday 21st Introduction to Making Cheese

Thursday 22nd Introduction to Making Bread

Tuesday 27th Full Day Making Sourdough

All courses, virtual & face to face, can be found at HenCorner.com

Sara Ward is the founder and owner of Hen Corner in Brentford and author of Living the Good Life in the City

Hen Corner is a member of The Chiswick Calendar’s Club Card scheme, offering discounts on her courses and on her book Living the Good Life in the City.

See her Club Card offers here: Hen Corner Club Card offers

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Will Poulter drops into The Circle mental health cafe

Image above: Will Poulter talking at the roundtable event; The Circle

Mental Health cafe celebrated its one year anniversary with a visit from Will Poulter

The Circle, which provides a safe haven for young people to address their mental health concerns, celebrated its inaugural year with a visit from Hollywood celebrity Will Poulter.

Hosted by Hammersmith, Fulham, Ealing and Hounslow Mind (HFEH), The Circle marked the occasion with a roundtable gathering, coinciding with Children’s Mental Health Week which is running from 5-11 February.

Originally from Chiswick, Will Poulter has been a staunch advocate for The Circle since its inception, advocating for increased assistance for young people grappling with mental health challenges.

In his capacity as the HFEH Mind Youth Services Ambassador, Will took part in the session alongside Nana Owusu, HFEH Mind’s Clinical Lead & Director of Children and Young People’s Services.

They were joined at the event at 46 South Ealing Road on Monday (5 February) by local MP Dr Rupa Huq as well as NHS Clinical Directors and Leads, campaigners, former government special advisors, service users and staff to discuss the work carried out by The Circle and what its future holds.

Circle is a first of its kind hub space and café that offers support for young people who are at, or near crisis point with their mental health. Over 500 children and young people have accessed the Circle in the last year. Most of the young people attending A&E for mental health support are dealing with anxiety, depression, self-harming behaviour and suicidal thoughts.

Children and Young People aged 5-18 who are in active mental distress can access the service for advice, support, or just to talk, with drop-in or appointment-based services available. The Circle team is made up of a variety of multidisciplinary professionals, including mental health nurses, art psychotherapists, mental health therapists, mental health practitioners and occupational therapists.

Image above: Will Poulter with children at The Circle, Rupa Huq joins the roundtable

Work carried out at The Circle is “lifesaving” says Will Poulter

Will Poulter said:

“I’m so happy this space exists and really excited about the many ways the Circle can expand its services and locations. I want to see more of these because of the lives we are saving, and the work being carried out here is lifesaving.”

Nana Owusu said:

“I’m incredibly proud of what we have achieved in such a short space of time here at the Circle. We are a vital part of wrap around care and together we will continue to destigmatise mental health and help children and young people access the help they so desperately need.”

Johan Redelinghuys, Clinical Director for Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services, West London NHS Trust added:

“Over the last year we have observed the impact The Circle has had, which shows that making earlier mental health support available to children and young people at risk of going into crisis, increases the chances of a positive outcome for them and their families.”

Dr Rupa Huq said:

“The success of the Circle underlines just how important it is that open-access mental health hubs are made available to all young children and young people in every community across the UK.”

You can find out more information about the Circle crisis café here.

Hammersmith Bridge to reopen to cyclists

Image above: Hammersmith Bridge

Cyclists may have access for up to 10 weeks

Cyclists, cargo bikes and e-scooters will be be able to cross Hammersmith Bridge from next Tuesday (13 February), after a new two-way central lane has been created to ‘allow greater access to residents, visitors and businesses on both sides of the river’.

Spanning three metres wide, the cycle lane is likely to remain open for around 10 weeks, meaning cyclists will no longer have to dismount and walk their bikes across, freeing up footways for pedestrians.

Motorbikes and mopeds will still be banned. Marshals will be on duty 24/7 to handle traffic management.

Hammersmith & Fulham Council say the decision to repair and reopen the carriageway comes because of a pause in stabilisation works on the Grade II* listed bridge.

Completion of stabilisation had to be suspended due to the requirement for some prefabricated steel plates for the pedestals, while damage caused to the bridge’s gantry by a boat carrying football fans has made it difficult to carry out safety checks.

The accident in December caused significant damage to the bridge. A boat carrying West Ham United football fans to Fulham FC’s Craven Cottage severed the 130-metre-long steel gantry running under the bridge. This platform is required for maintenance workers to access the underside of the bridge.

The gantry is now being repaired and the new steel plates being manufactured. Until those works are completed and stabilisation can resume, the Council has taken the opportunity to create a temporary central cycle lane on the bridge.

Image above: Hammersmith Bridge

Other vehicles will have to wait

The final stage of the stabilisation project is the jacking up of the four corner pedestals to enable the replacement of the bridge’s bearings.

Following that, H&F will review e-mobility options to shuttle residents across the bridge, notably the elderly or disabled, subject to a 1.5-tonne weight limit imposed by safety experts.

Hammersmith Bridge – made out of wood and wrought iron with the suspension held in place by cast iron pedestals – is one of the world’s oldest suspension bridges. That is why, at £250m, it is also one of Britain’s most expensive and complex to repair.

H&F Council say the Department for Transport (DfT) has ‘delayed consideration of their business case for the full restoration of the bridge, which would allow full use by motor vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians’.

It was submitted to the Department of Transport last year and had been expected to be agreed before Christmas.

Cllr Sharon Holder, H&F Cabinet Member for the Public Realm, said:

“Hammersmith Bridge is a major regional transport asset that will cost a massive £250m to repair. This is a national and a London issue with most users of the bridge coming from south London and the A3 corridor. Fixing this historic bridge requires the support of both national and regional government.

“We are committed to the full re-opening of Hammersmith Bridge to motor vehicles including buses, and we are doing all in our powers to deliver on that commitment. But we are a small local authority, and we must have the financial support of the DfT and Transport for London, as well as an agreement to fund our share via a toll.”

Piccadilly Line to be closed west of Hammersmith for five days

Image above: Northfields Train Depot

Part-closure will begin on Saturday 10 February and last until Wednesday 14 February

A partial closure will affect Piccadilly line customers from Saturday 10 February until Wednesday 14 February for ‘important engineering work’, Transport for London have announced.

Vital upgrade works to points at Northfields will be completed during the closure, improving the line infrastructure alongside the introduction of ‘transformative’ new trains from 2025. Other important work will also be completed, including infrastructure work at Heathrow Airport stations.

The Piccadilly line will be closed between Hammersmith and Heathrow Airport from 12.45am to 5.00am on Saturday 10 February, meaning there will be no Night Tube west of Hammersmith station. From Sunday until the start of normal service on Thursday 15 February there will be no trains between Acton Town and Heathrow.

The points at Northfields are on a complicated stretch of track where trains come out of Northfields depot to enter service. The track in this area features some components from the 1930s and must be replaced as the assets are unreliable and maintenance is costly.

TfL say the closure will take five days because it is not a like-for-like renewal, which means that once the first section is removed, the rest of the track in the area must be removed and replaced. Replacing the track will not only address the ongoing issues but will also mean a better, smoother ride once the new Piccadilly line trains are introduced.

London Underground customers are encouraged to plan ahead during the works, using real time travel tools such as TfL Go and Journey Planner, to check before travelling and to allow more time for their journeys.

Customers travelling to Heathrow Airport should use Elizabeth line services. There will be rail replacement buses serving local stations from Acton Town to Heathrow Airport, as well as many local buses.

Image above: New Piccadilly Line train leaving the Siemens factory in Germany

Closure crucial to make way for upgrades to Piccadilly Line due in 2025

The new Piccadilly line trains are part of a £2.9bn investment to modernise the Piccadilly line, rolling out 94 brand new trains from 2025 onwards to help the line run more reliably, safely, inclusively and sustainably.

The new trains will feature walk-through carriages, air-conditioning, wider all-double doorways to help customers get on and off more easily, enhanced digital display screens for customer information, on-train CCTV cameras for additional customer security and will, for the first time on a Deep Tube train, provide air conditioning. They will increase capacity by 10 per cent and will also improve energy efficiency and accessibility.

READ ALSO: New Piccadilly Line trains begin testing in Germany

The points are located beneath a bridge, which means they cannot be replaced quickly during engineering hours. This has meant the need for a closure of the line to carry out the work. With the line closed, infrastructure work will also take place around Hounslow and at stations at Heathrow Airport so that TfL can minimise future disruption.

Richard Jones, Director of Asset Performance Delivery for TfL, said:

“We thank customers in advance for their patience during this vital closure of the Piccadilly line. The track at Northfields has to be replaced and doing so will make journeys smoother and more reliable, as well as enable us to deliver as much of the improvements made by the upgrade to the Piccadilly line as possible.

“The Elizabeth line will help customers reach Heathrow Airport during this closure but we will also be operating rail replacement buses in Hounslow and the surrounding areas. Customers should check before they travel and leave more time for their journeys during this work.”

Violent thieves punch and threaten security guard in Chiswick Boots

Image above: Thieves caught on camera emptying the cabinets and attacking the security guard

Spike in violent robberies since the new year 

Violent thieves punched a security guard at Boots in Chiswick so hard that his glasses broke, his dentures fell out and his arm was cut open.

In CCTV footage of the incident, seen by The Chiswick Calendar, three men all dressed in black can be seen entering the shop at 332 Chiswick High Road at 6.05pm on Monday (5 February).

While attempting to break into two protective glass cabinets, which house high-value fragrances, one thief attacked a member of Boots’ security team who attempted to intervene. The security guard fell to the ground, and was punched in the face by one of the men.

Staff said the thieves threatened the guard while he was down. As the security guard got back to his feet, the thieves ignored him and usde a specialised glass-breaking tool to smash open the  cabinets. In total, the men make off with roughly £5,000 worth of items.

This follows a brazen robbery at the store at the end of January where two young men emptied the contents of shelves into bags.

READ ALSO: “Utterly brazen” thief sings while stealing products worth £5000 from Chiswick Boots

Image above: Thieves have stolen three cabinets worth of fragrances from Boots in under a week

Staff say they feel unsafe going into work

“They paid no attention to [the security guard] at all” the manager on duty told The Chiswick Calendar.

“When he was down on the floor [the thieves] said he was lucky they weren’t carrying knives” they added. An eyewitness told The Chiswick Calendar:

“I saw two men ripping the glass panels off the perfume displays. The security guard was cut and bleeding. One of them said ‘you’re lucky it was just a tap.’ There was a commotion, with people trying to ring the police and the police not responding.”

This is the seventh significant, and the most violent robbery the shop has experienced since the start of January. Last Friday, another thief acting alone broke into a different fragrance cabinet and emptied its contents and on Sunday a teenage girl told The Chiswick Calendar she witnessed another robbery:

“I was in Boots looking through things and there’s a Ted Baker section. I saw one dude stuff a load of Ted Baker stuff into his rucksack and just walk out.”

Management at Chiswick Boots told The Chiswick Calendar they felt increasingly unsafe going into work. While shoplifting is a daily occurrence in this branch of the beauty and pharmacy retailer, staff said violent robberies of this nature were becoming more frequent, organised and brazen.

What can security guards actually do? And what are police doing?

Thieves seem to be aware, staff said, that it is unlikely they will be caught or even investigated, and so are becoming increasingly confident with each raid, despite Boots increasing security at the Chiswick site because of the spike in thefts.

But security guards generally have limited authority to touch people, acting largely as a visible deterrent only. On this occasion the security guard was heard shouting at the men to get out, but was just ignored.

Security guards may use “reasonable force” including physical contact, to protect themselves, others, or property from immediate harm or danger. Security guards can also, like any UK citizen, perform a citizens arrest. Under s 24A of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, an arrest can be made for most indictable offences if:

  • someone is in the act of committing an offence, or who you have reasonable grounds for suspecting them to be in the act of committing an offence; and
  • an offence has been committed and the person you want to arrest is guilty of that offence or who you have reasonable grounds for suspecting they are guilty of it

But intervening almost certainly comes with the risk of putting security guards, other staff members and the public in greater danger.

Despite thieves becoming more organised and violent, there have been no arrests so far from the incidents at Boots this year. While police routinely collect CCTV footage from the store and a crime reference number is provided to the company for insurance purposes, incidents of shoplifting and robberies have only increased and police do not respond quickly enough when called, staff said.

After the last incident which The Chiswick Calendar reported, when the thief’s face was clearly identified in the video, local police told us:

“We are fully aware of this offender and working towards identifying them.. hopefully will not take long.”

UPDATE: We approached them for an update and a comment on this latest incident. Sergeant Jim Cope, responsible for neighbourhood policing in Chiswick, told us the offender who had attacked the guard had been identified and Boots is receiving more support from the police.

READ ALSO: Chiswick Police focus on the High Rd after spike in robberies and an assault at Boots

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

Chiswick’s Crêpeaffaire closes

Image above: Crêpeaffaire on Wednesday 7 February

No notice, except a notice from the landlord posted on the door

Chiswick’s branch of Crêpeaffaire has closed permanently.

The local branch of the international business, which provides freshly made crêpes, waffles, coffees, smoothies and milkshakes, has been closed since January.

A notice in the window states the landlord re-entered the premises on Friday (2 February). It says the building is no longer associated with Crêpeaffaire, but furniture from the business remains inside.

Crêpeaffaire did not issue a statement about the site’s closure. Some branches are run directly from the company’s headquarters, while others are run by franchisees.

The branch is Westfield shopping centre in Shepherd’s Bush, which is run centrally, has been getting enquiries about the closure of the Chiswick branch, but the manager there told us the Chiswick branch had been run as a franchise, so he had no further information about it.

The site’s landlord agency Equivo has been approached for comment.

Crêpeaffaire has recently entered a partnership with Tesco, offering space for concessions in its bigger branches. They started with one in Borehamwood for a trial period last August, so it may be that the company it shifting its focus away from the high street and towards bigger sites.

Old police station development in Chiswick approved by Hounslow Council’s Planning Committee

Image above: Computer generated image of the Birchgrove development from the west

“I think it’s really great for Chiswick” – Cllr Ranjit Gill

The plans to develop the old police station premises in the centre of Chiswick as rental apartments for elderly people have been approved by Hounslow Council’s Planning Committee.

Two Chiswick councillors on the committee abstained – Riverside councillor Amy Croft (Labour) and Homefields councillor John Todd (Conservative). Chiswick Gunnersbury ward councillor Ranjit Gill was at the meeting (but not on the committee) to support the development.

“I think it’s really great for Chiswick” he told The Chiswick Calendar.

“The existing building is an eyesore. It’s just a concrete block and it’s been empty for some time. The new building, from what I’ve seen, looks great. I know there are some people who don’ t like it because they don’t like the colour of the bricks or whatever, but the developer Birchgrove has lowered the roof level so it’s in line with neighbouring buildings and they’re giving space to the community so people can come in from outside and use it.

“I was there to support Honor [Birchgrove Chief Executive]  because they’re going to regenerate the place. It’s been two years and there is no guarantee that anyone else would come up with anything better.”

Ranjit’s ward colleague Cllr Joanna Biddolph opposed the development plans, as did some of the residents in Linden Gardens.

Image above: Computer generated image of the Birchgrove development from the west

“We’re disappointed but not surprised” – Linden Gardens residents

Roula Konzotis, Chair of the Linden Gardens Residents Association, told us:

“I’m not surprised, but I am disappointed. Birchgrove said all the so-called light regulations had been met, but our architect showed that they hadn’t and I feel sorry for our residents who live in the basement flats opposite, who will have far less light.”

Images above: The view from a basement opposite (L) now and (R) as the residents expect it to be

Garth Huxley, Vice Chair of the Association, the retired architect to whom she was referring, told us their objections were mainly to do with the perception of height and the availability of daylight for Linden Gardens residents living opposite.

In particular the developer had changed the plans, so that a step down to the level of the houses in Linden Gardens had been lost, in favour of a uniform block, to meet the target number of units they wanted to build.

Image above: Computer generated image of the plans showing the stepped down design towards the houses in Linden Gardens

“We were hoping to get a deferment so that more time could be spent on the design. We feel the developer hasn’t taken the time to look at it properly.”

Cllr Croft told The Chiswick Calendar she had abstained because she was uncomfortable about whether or not the neighbouring building facing the High Road at number 203 would get less light. She had been persuaded by the argument for deferment, but had decided not to vote against it because her vote would not have made a difference, as there was already a majority in favour.

Police will have a base in the apartment block

Birchgrove has offered Chiswick Police a base in the apartment block. Since the old police station was sold they have been operating without a base in Chiswick, which has been unsatisfactory for both the officers and local residents.

“The most important thing is the presence of the police” Cllr Gill told us. “They are giving two rooms to use for the police to use so they have a base in Chiswick again, instead of having to come from Acton and waste all that time, their time can be spent in Chiswick.

“As councillors we have spent so much time talking to the owners of different premises – the Fire Station, Sainsburys – to try and find them a base and nothing has worked out. People will be reassured by their presence.”

READ ALSO: Police offered a base in the old police station in Chiswick

Cllr Gill told us he had been talking to the Police Superintendent Anil Puri at the public meeting on policing he arranged last year. As a result of their conversation, he put them in touch with Honor Barratt, Chief Executive of Birchgrove.

“I knew from previous discussions that they were willing to provide accommodation for the police.”

Image above: Initial plans for the apartments

First set of plans met with criticism

The first plans the developer published in December 2022 were met with considerable opposition. Birchgrove described the plans as “bold” and “modern”, but the critics described them as “deeply disappointing” and “a wasted opportunity”, out of keeping with the character of the High Rd.

READ ALSO: Design proposals for police station redevelopment unveiled

When the police station was sold to Birchgrove, who specialise in residential apartments for older people, their brief was to design a ‘statement’ building for the centre of Chiswick. Cllr Biddolph said then:

“I think the design is deeply disappointing and it’s being driven by planners who are not connected to Chiswick. It just doesn’t do Chiswick justice.”

Image above: Birchgrove’s proposed garden landscaping

Second set of plans mollified some but still attracted criticism from nearby residents

Birchgrove made a number of changes to the design in response to the feedback.

READ ALSO: Developers publish revised plans for Chiswick Police station site

Ron Fernee, who lives directly opposite the old Police station in Linden Gardens and has lived in Chiswick since 1986, told The Chiswick Calendar the revised design used a different style of bricks and had been moved back further from the pavement facing Linden Gardens so it would be in line with an existing block of apartments, but the building was still planned to be higher than the residential houses in the street and the apartments alongside, and higher than the existing police station is now, so it would affect their privacy and their light.

“As far as we can see the changes are just superficial. At the moment there is only one window overlooking us from what was the police canteen. Now there will be 35 windows, with people potentially looking down into our living rooms, so it is an infringement of privacy as well as a loss of light.”

Before the Planning Committee meeting, Chief Executive Honor Barratt told The Chiswick Calendar:

“We are very excited after waiting two years.

“There has been a massive process of consultation, but the residents of Linden Gardens have been so helpful making suggestions and I think they take the view that if anyone’s going to develop the site, it might as well be us.

“It will be disruptive and there will be lots of dust while we’re building it, but we are in it for the long term. ”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

Firefighters affected by Grenfell Tower fire settle for £20m in damages

Image above: Firefighters join a Justice For Grenfell march in central London

Firefighters unable to work again due to severe trauma

The union representing firefighters across the UK has announced that the claims for its members injured in the Grenfell tragedy have been settled for £20m in the High Court.

The claims were brought by 114 firefighters, some of whom have been unable to work again due to severe trauma, for personal injury and loss caused by alleged negligence and breach of statutory duty when they attended the blaze on 14 June 2017 in the 24-story Grenfell Tower block of flats in west London.

National law firm Thompsons Solicitors represented the firefighters supported by The Fire Brigades Union (FBU).

The defendants in the claim included Arconic Architectural Products, Celotex and Rydon Maintenance Limited, who were the companies which made the combustible cladding and designed and built the refurbishment to the exterior of the building, which contributed to the fire’s spread. Other defendants included the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the London Fire Commissioner.

The blaze was the deadliest in the United Kingdom since World War II, resulting in 72 deaths and leaving many residents injured and homeless. The Public Inquiry into the blaze will provide its final report this year.

The settlement for the firefighters follows the High Court settlement earlier this year for nearly 900 cases on behalf of the bereaved, survivors and residents affected by the tragedy.

The High Court clarified that these settlements pertained only to civil court damages claims and did not impact the ongoing Public Inquiry or the potential for any criminal charges in the future.

Image above: Chiswick Fire Station

Crew from Chiswick one of the first on the scene

A crew from Chiswick was one of the first on the scene when the Grenfell tower block caught fire. Alan Moore, the watch manager on the night, told The Chiswick Calendar that initially the order was ‘make 10 pumps’ – ie. 10 fire engines needed.

That had changed to 20 before they left the station and 25 before they got to the end of the road, indicating the severity of the fire and how quickly it escalated. In the end there were 40 crews in attendance from all over London.

When they got there their first job was to bring up the hoses and breathing equipment to a combined equipment dump and to secure water for the ariel platform. Then almost immediately on arrival they went in. He described the one staircase as “not wide, full of smoke and pitch black.”

Alan was then made safety officer for sector one, the main door, the one way in and out. The rest of his crew – two pairs of two – made it to the 9th and 20th floors respectively, bringing down a family of three from the 9th floor and four people from the 20th floor. You can read a full account from an interview five days after the fire here:

READ ALSO: Chiswick fire station crew rescued 14 people from Grenfell tower block

Image above: The burned remains of Grenfell Tower – photograph Ben Sutherland; Grenfell Tower with the fire damage covered over – photograph Loz Pycock

Firefighters have been “deeply affected by the horrors they witnessed”

Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union general secretary, said:

“The aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy is a stark reminder of the systemic failings of building safety and government accountability. Firefighters, many of whom have been deeply affected by the horrors they witnessed, continue to advocate for those living in unsafe conditions.

“This was a crime of deregulation and negligence – a consequence of private profit being prioritised over public safety. Nearly seven years later, the fight for justice and change goes on. The Fire Brigades Union stands shoulder to shoulder with the victims and survivors of Grenfell Tower, and with leaseholders and campaign groups across the UK.

“We demand that the government takes urgent action to ensure such a disaster never recurs, and that there is meaningful accountability for a tragedy born out of disregard for human life.”

Vincent Reynolds from the personal injury team at Thompsons Solicitors, who represented the firefighters, said:

“The Grenfell Tower fire left an indelible mark on the firefighters who responded to the call. Many bear the psychological scars of that night, struggling with trauma from the harrowing experience. Their testimonies reveal the profound personal sacrifice of showing such extraordinary courage in the face of an impossible situation.

“The incident exposed them to unimaginable scenes and sparked a deeper reflection on fire and building safety policy. Their experiences on that night and in its aftermath highlight the human element of firefighting, underscoring their commitment to their duty despite the immense risks and emotional toll.

“We hope this settlement brings closure of a sort for these firefighters, although we know that for many, the injuries will last a lifetime.”

British musicians pin their hopes on a Labour government

Image above: Independent Society of Musicians

“We were lied to”

It is now three years since the EU–UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement came into force. Three years since the Independent Society of Musicians, which represents more than 11,000 musicians, discovered with horror that despite all the assurances they had been given that their ability to tour EU countries freely would not be affected, there was not a single mention of the creative industries in the agreement. No visa waiver, no nothing.

“We had been lied to” the Chief Executive Officer of the society, Deborah Annetts, told The Chiswick Calendar. “There were provisions for other sectors of the economy, but for the creative industries it has been a hard Brexit.”

It has meant that they do not have freedom of movement. Musicians and other artists in the creative industries – theatre, dance, modelling, fashion – as well as their support crews: sound engineers, lighting technicians and stage managers, have to get visas and work permits, fill out complicated forms and pay fees to take their instruments, equipment, trucks and merchandise across borders, to meet regulations which change from country to country within the EU. It makes touring from one country to another a nightmare.

Images above: Library image of musicians

Musicians unable to tour in Europe

There are so many obstacles in the way of touring that the complications and the costs make it prohibitive for many musicians and artists to perform in continental Europe any more, closing off a huge pool of opportunity which they used to be able to take for granted. The ISM has lobbied continuously to get this changed:

“We have sent letters, made representations, written reports, delivered a petition with more than 100,000 signatures that generated a debate in parliament, and … nothing,” Deborah told us, so now they have given up hope of this government ever doing anything about it.

The obvious solution would be a reciprocal arrangement with EU countries to allow performers to travel without visas.

“They won’t tackle it because they are worried about how the mobility issue would play in the Red Wall seats,” said Deborah. “I was told that in a meeting with the Cabinet Office. They could not get past the concern that it wouldn’t fly with the Red Wall.”

The Labour Party lost 47 seats in England in the 2019 General Election, all of which had voted to leave the EU by a substantial margin, voting against freedom of movement within Europe.

Image above: Hilary Benn MP

“Labour have been much more positive”

Instead the musicians’ association has put its faith in Labour. An august and usually conservative (with a small ‘c’) organisation, which has represented many well-known classical musicians,  including Edward Elgar in its early days, it is disgusted by the government’s unwillingness to support the creative industries.

“Labour have been much more positive,” said Deborah. “They know the creative industries are an important part of the economy [£116 billion pre-pandemic, more in a year than the aerospace, automotive, life sciences and oil and gas sectors combined]. They have signalled that they will commit to a visa waiver agreement.”

There could be a reciprocal visa-free travel arrangement with the EU for performers without unpicking the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, she says. She was at a Fabian Society conference recently at which Shadow Cabinet member Hilary Benn MP said Labour would be pursuing a visa waiver agreement.

Hilary Benn was the chairman of the Select Committee on Brexit from October 2016 – January 2021. He wrote to Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg to extend the committee’s lifespan in order to evaluate the impact of the EU–UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement on the UK; a request which was denied.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Independent Society of Musicians now wants the members of her professional association, their relatives and friends, to lobby their member of parliament and, when it comes to it, all the candidates in their local constituency on the issue.

Image above: Independent Society of Musicians’ Paying the Price report, August 2023

Society’s report shows almost half their members have had less work in Europe since January 2021 than they had before Brexit

The Society brought out a landmark report last August, ‘Paying the Price’, detailing their members’ experiences of trying to tour post Brexit – the first since the COVID-19 travel restrictions were lifted.

Their members had experienced fewer job opportunities because of Brexit, they had lost work, they had to spend more time and pay more money to deal with the increase in red tape. They had also come up against a lack of consistency from border staff as they tried to navigate the new rules.

Almost half (47.4%) of the respondents to their survey said that they had less work in the EU after January 2021 than they did before Brexit. Over a quarter (27.8%) said that they had none at all. Some had left the industry altogether. Others (39%) had to turn down work because of the difficulties.

“European opera companies are reluctant to audition UK singers since the changes” said one respondent to the survey.

“Having previously taught regularly on many courses all over Europe, since Brexit I have not been invited to teach anywhere” said another.

“Work has come to a halt” said another. “The offer of European gigs simply dried up completely… my band simply can’t make any kind of living in the tiny UK market, so we basically have folded as a working band.”

‘The issues are particularly problematic for solo and emerging artists’ the report said.

One of their members commented: ‘The larger artists I work for can absorb the extra cost of the red tape, but smaller ones won’t tour there now.’

The report called for the government “to take responsibility for its role in damaging the music and creative industries and take the steps which are well known to them to make Brexit work.”

Now they have given up on this government and are looking to the next one.