End of year letter from the editor

What a very peculiar year

Like lemmings we stockpiled loo rolls and started growing vegetables and then with one mind started making banana bread.

The self-improvement kick didn’t last long in this house. I have no more languages and am at least a stone heavier. On the upside we’ve had a huge chuck out (thank you Marie Kondo) and The Chiswick Calendar has survived the year.

That’s largely thanks to you. Like many another enterprise, we lost all our commercial sources of income in March. We launched a ‘Buy us a Cup of Coffee’ campaign and more than 500 people responded, which has enabled us to stay afloat. Thank you!

We still need support and if you would like to make a contribution, you can do so here:

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Image above: Strand on the Green; photograph David Clarke

Relaunch as a news / consumer website

Your donations have meant that we were able to relaunch The Chiswick Calendar as a consumer / news site, with a special section on Covid help & information and two newsletters a week during the first lockdown, keeping track of local changes.

We created lists of businesses doing food deliveries, restaurants and cafes providing takeaways and as the year went on, which pubs had outside seating and which ‘non-essential’ shops were doing click and collect.

We were also one of the first websites to feature things to do online, putting us on the first page of Google for ‘lockdown things to do’ in April.

Overnight we realised that producing an events listings website was suddenly about as useful as a chocolate tea pot and as outdated as printing encyclopedias, so instead of live theatre, music and comedy I’ve been writing about how you can get parcels posted and when and where to get Covid tests and flu jabs.

You gave us great feedback, saying how much you appreciated it:

‘Please keep up the great work supporting everyone in the local community’

‘Very helpful information during this crisis’.

Very rewardingly, engagement with the website went up 300% in April and has stayed high.

In the mid-1980s I produced You and Yours on BBC Radio 4, so it felt a bit like I was regaining my lost youth.

Images above: Julia Langdon; Keith Richards

Stellar writing team

I’d like to thank you and also the select band of journalists and writers who now contribute features and columns: Pam O’Toole, Barbara Chandler, Julia Langdon, James Thellusson (Man in the Middle), Keith Richards (Chiswick Confined), Anna Klerfalk (Books of the Month), Nicholas Rose (Mind Matters).

We’ve also ventured into making podcasts this year. Thanks to Peter Oborne & Richard Heller for making The Chiswick Calendar the home of their new cricket podcast, with recent guests including John Cleese, Ted Dexter and Henry Blofeld. And to Mihir Bose, David Smith and Nigel Dudley for the Three Old Hacks podcast.

Images above: Peter Oborne & Richard Heller; John Cleese

With a background as a radio producer, podcasts seemed like an obvious step and we were glad to help the Bedford Park Festival and the Chiswick Book Festival continue online this year, hosting the Photography Competition and the Summer Exhibition on The Chiswick Calendar website and producing podcasts, so they could continue to raise money for their charities.

We’ve managed a little bit of live music, with the Blues Engineers, Dom Pipkin, Edith Piaf Remembered and Stealing Dan & Don at George IV, thanks to Larry Pryce at Live Music To Go.

Our own art exhibition Chiswick In Pictures continues at the Clayton Hotel until 24 January, as and when it’s open.

Images above: Matt Smith; Larry Pryce, Live Music To Go

Huge thanks to our sponsors

It’s been a terrible year for businesses and hugely impressive to watch them jumping through hoops to meet every Covid requirement, changing their business models and reinventing themselves to keep going.

I must thank our sponsors John D Wood & Co, Asahi and the Hogarth Club. Thanks to their funding and their loyalty in supporting us again next year, I have been able to take on a trainee reporter, Matt Smith. Until this summer he was working in hospitality, when he was made redundant by the Savoy Hotel.

We usually have an annual party in January, which won’t be happening this year. This is the kind of thing I say in my speech, about what we’ve been doing over the past year. Normally it’s made more bearable because you’d have a drink in your hand.

Some people have had to cope with bereavement, grief and loneliness as a consequence of the pandemic.

The last couple of years I’ve done a role call of honour for some of those who have conspicuously helped the community of Chiswick. This year many people have pitched in to help those who have been particularly vulnerable during the pandemic. Special kudos to Philippa Griffin, who started the Chiswick Covid-19 Mutual Aid Facebook group in mid-March.

Image above: Chiswick Flower Market; photograph Frank Noon

A little spark of joy

I’m also very proud to have been involved with the Chiswick Flower Market, which I think is one very positive initiative which has brought a bit of colour and joy to Chiswick. Thanks to Ollie Saunders for having the idea, co-directors Karen Liebreich, Stephen Nutt and Kathleen Mitra; also Amanda Parker, Victoria Bailey-King, Hannah Winter-Levy, Ekaterina Harwood, Michael Robinson and Jeremy Day and all our marshals for all the hard work – all volunteers, giving their time and skills because they want to see Chiswick thrive.

In a year like the one we’ve just had, it feels good to be part of a community. We know we’ve been able to make a bit of a difference because of the feedback we get: from Macken Brothers last week for example when I published the piece about how 30% their Christmas turkey orders had been cancelled after we went into Tier 4.

Image above: Macken Brothers butchers; (library photograph not taken this year)

Nice to be appreciated

Rodney Macken sent us a lovely email saying:

‘I would like to show my gratitude for publishing an article on us. The people of Chiswick have been so supportive and the response has been amazing’.

Most gratifyingly, people are using The Chiswick Calendar website independently of reading the weekly newsletter.

Around a thousand people a day are looking at www.chiswickcalendar.co.uk and 6,500 receive the newsletter.

To see this week’s news stories please go to the news and features pages. Normal service will be resumed in next week’s newsletter.

All that remains is to thank The Chiswick Calendar team: Dawn Wilson, James Willcocks, Matt Smith, Alice Gilkes and Joanna Raikes.

And to wish you all a happy new year – let it be better than this one.

Bridget

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Latest Covid figures in Chiswick

See also: Watermans arts centre ‘saved’ by community support

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