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Community Reporters: Novel approaches at the Harrow Club…

Piece by Stan Moorcroft. 

On a sunny morning in April a group of enthusiastic young people are waving a collecting tin and operating a market stall. Yet however are not receiving commission to collect for charity nor receiving any sort of financial reward, their enthusiasm and commitment are a product of The Harrow Club, the organisation for which they are collecting money.

Eamonn O’Keeffe, Senior Youth Worker at the Harrow Club explained that the stall was not just about raising funds but developing skills from salesmanship to money management. With experience in the retail sector himself Eamonn was passionate about passing on his skills to the young people attending the club. He explained how the club was “seeking to empower young people, to improve their lives to try new things and provide new opportunities and improve their prospects.” Having been donated some books they had come up with the idea of the stall to sell the books to raise funds and raise awareness of the club. Shamera, one of the young sales team, explained that she wanted to explain to people how important the club was for local young people.

At a time when youth services are being cut across the country it is vital to support the work of organizations like The Harrow Club.

More information about The Harrow Club can be found at http://harrowclubw10.org/

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Community Reporters: London Belongs To Me…

Community Reporter, Stan Moorcroft is back with an excellent piece for the Institute of Community Reporters. The original post can be found on the ICR website.

I have lived in London now just over thirty years, having moved here on 4th July 1983. I don’t know how long you normally must wait to claim squatter’s rights, but thirty plus years seems a good enough period to me. So, let me state my claim now, London belongs to me.

The glory of London is its parks and open spaces, you are rarely ever far away from a London park, common or heath. I am within fifteen minutes’ walk of Kensington Gardens or Holland Park, much closer to several smaller areas with grass and flowers and benches on which to sit, all maintained by Kensington and Chelsea Council who also still believe in the value of trees. Those who would see what they call ‘the state’ shrink rarely mention such items in their calculations. What does it cost to maintain a tree? Too much for some, who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Holland Park is one of the less known London parks – and one of my favourite – combining as it does areas of uncultivated and semi wild ground, with the ordered gardens around Holland House. Like most London parks it too is mercifully well provided with wooden benches, the metal ones being considerably inferior. I think leaving a park bench as a memorial is as great a gift to the world as the planting of a tree. Sitting on one of the park benches in Holland Park in the Autumn of last year I was moved to pen a poem.

Each one chooses its moment
then a letting go,
the moment of separation
Falling slowly through the damp autumn air.
No, not fluttering
more acceptance,
a closing of the eyelids.
In choosing your moment
you chose less carefully.
For Caspar Ringrose 11/1/71 – 26/6/94

As you can see I dedicated it to Caspar Ringrose on whose bench I was sitting when I composed the poem. I never knew him, but hope he would approve.

Kensington Gardens is a different sort of open space to Holland Park, providing passage for cyclists and joggers between Bayswater and South Kensington. Kensington Gardens isn’t a separate park at all, but is an adjunct to Hyde Park. I used to walk to work taking a route through Kensington Gardens, then Hyde Park, Green Park and finally St James Park before finally reaching my office just around the corner from New Scotland Yard. The geography of each park brushing against the other allowing for such a pleasant journey into the heart of London.

… continued on the Institute of Community Reporters website

 

Community Reporters: I Call My Brothers at the Gate Theatre…

A big Thank You to our Community Reporter, Stan Moorcroft for his review of the Gate Theatre’s I Call My Brothers…

What happens when fear and paranoia become as suffocating and pervasive as hunger or pain? This is the theme of the Gate’s new production, I Call My Brothers by Jonas Hassen Khemiri. In the wake of a terrorist attack in Central London anyone of Arabic, Middle Eastern or Pakistani appearance both feel and become suspect. For highly secular and western oriented individuals like Amor, -sharply and empathetically played by Richard Sumitro – the central character of the play, this can be particularly bewildering, alienating and a deeply oppressive experience.

The stark minimalist set accentuates this sense of a world of alienation and disconnect. This is further underlined by the fact that, as in contemporary life, so much of the dialogue is largely conducted, – disconnected, broken up, at cross purposes, – on mobile phone.

Drunk coming home from a dance Amor is just another late-night reveller, or so he assumes, but there has been an explosion, a terrorist attack, and a description has been circulated. Amor has now become a suspect.

What to cling to in a world divorced from real community? We fall back on memory and the ubiquitous mobile phone. Which is what Amor does. His past struggling to remain coherent in the face of a chaotic threatening present.

His cousin, the daunting Ahlem, (Lana Joffrey), thinks she has a better answer in a feel-good new age philosophy. This peppers her conversation with an unconvinced Amor. Shavi, (Jonas Khan), his friend whom ‘he loves like a brother,’ on the other hand wraps himself in his new born baby, in family and friendship. It is Shavi whose calls to alert him are ignored by Amor, and Shavi who is there for him when Amor needs him.

There are several sub plots, some of which work better than others. Though all the time the play crackles with wit and dark humour, of which Amor being tracked by a Met surveillance team stands out, a mix of suspicion, comedy and menace.

I Call My Brothers is a gripping and stimulating play that examines dark side of community politics, the fear and oppressive anxiety that underlies being part of a ‘suspect’ community.

Stand out performances by Lanna Joffrey and Richard Sumitro with Jonas Khan and Nadia Albina adding both passion and humour to the performance.

Photo credit Ikin Yum

Guest blog: Ecology Centre is wild with activity this summer

Thanks to Trevor Bowyer, Forest School Officer,  for the words and Bumblebee Trust for the image!

Matthew and I are the two education officers at Holland Park Ecology Centre – a varied and rewarding job teaching local children about nature. If you are a regular visitor to the park during term time, we have probably passed you leading a group of excited school children to do hands on exploring in our wildlife area.

During school holidays our focus shifts to running a full and fun-packed programme of 2-hour workshops for children between the ages of 5 and 10 and longer 4-hour sessions for older children in the Easter and Summer holidays. The sessions run nearly every weekday throughout all state school holidays except Christmas when we have a well earned rest!

The workshops always have an environmental theme, from the perennially popular pond dipping through to hunting for minibeasts and looking for signs of autumn out and about in the park.

In one session we challenged the children to make a tree troll…

Everyone carefully chose a small log which later would be turned into their fantastical creature. After explaining the real wildlife we might encounter in the woods and the likelihood of meeting a real troll we set off for our adventure in the park. Armed with rucksacks for collecting things, the children were tasked in finding suitable natural material to make their trolls.

As we journeyed through the park, eagle eyed children gathered special objects like berries, twigs and a kaleidoscope of autumn leaves for their craft creations. Our nature trek took us through the woods and some of the other enclosures in the park. Near the walking man statue some of the group found jewels like delicate leaf skeletons and precious peacock feathers. Thankfully (or perhaps not) no real trolls or gruffalos were spotted!

The next stage of the session was creation. The children spread their finds out on their tables and started making their characters. Juicy holly berries were stuck on to become beady eyes or shiny noses, sticks were now limbs, and large red leaves become cloaks. Headdresses were made from the feathers carefully glued together.

Within 20 minutes or so a whole tribe of trolls emerged and the children had great fun naming them and describing their trolls’ special powers and personalities. One enterprising boy turned his log into a galleon with red billowing sails for the trolls to set sail in.

Sadly time was soon up and after a photo call the trolls with their proud new owners departed. “Time for a cup of tea,” Matthew said and after that we tidied away ready for the next session.

I hope this article gives you a flavour of the holiday activities we run. Over the years we have made all sorts of crafts from paper bag owls to journey sticks and carried out lots of pond dipping and minibeast hunting sessions.

Our sessions have proved very popular and we have a growing band of regulars. We hope everyone who attends, including the parents, enjoys themselves and learns about the wildlife that calls Holland Park its home.

It is not all for children though; why let them have all the fun? We also run a varied programme of talks and walks for adults. Upcoming events include walks on trees, bats and butterflies. Or you can join us in October for a fungi foray.

Details of upcoming events including our holiday activities can be found at www.rbkc.gov.uk/ecology

Tel: 0207 938 8186

Email: ecology.centre@rbkc.gov.uk

 

Community Reporters Review: The Iphigenia Quarter at Gate Theatre

Thanks to resident reporter Stan Moorcroft for the following review!

Four plays over two nights presenting a multi-dimensional tragedy, seen from a variety of angles, exploring fundamental issues of violence, sacrifice, and civic duty, vanity and motherhood. And all of this concerning events that occurred more than 2000 years ago. Nobody could ever accuse the Gate of lacking ambition. That it all works so powerfully is a credit to the cast who manage to fully convey the immediacy and terrible implications of the crisis faced by the primary protagonists, Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, and Iphigenia.

“I am a good man in a dreadful situation….” The drunken Agamemnon declares in the first of the four plays, Agamemnon.

“Is that ‘the line’ you’ll use?” Clytemnestra, his wife shoots back as she dissects his self-image with home truths about as devastating as home truths come. Indeed, for me, it was the performance of Andrew French as the drunken self-pitying Agamemnon and Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Clytemnestra, that provided the core of the two nights’ performances. French, as Agamemnon, a giant presence dominating the stage – though a giant suddenly exposed to the full scale of his own fragility and weakness. Whilst Sharon Duncan-Brewster, whose sassy self-confident Clytemnestra we see suddenly transformed, as she discovers her husband’s true intentions. To descend into cliché, this was going to be a hard act to follow. And so it proved, but I will return to this shortly.

On the second night in Iphigenia, Agamemnon, now played by Anthony Barclay, presents as a far less tortured figure, a brutal wife beater, intent on dominating his family and the wider world. Clytemnestra, Suzie Trayling, now much more fragile, nervy, a woman on the edge, seeking to placate him. Iphigenia, Shannon Tarbet, a moody, sulking anorexic teenager who has come to despise her own mother.

As the Drama plays out however it is Iphigenia who faces, clearly and coldly, the reality of the predicament they now confront, in the process demolishing the pomposity of Achilles, Dwane Walcott, the temporizing of her mother and the hypocrisy of Agamemnon. That the speech Agamemnon then goes on to make to the assembled Athenian Polis:

“And then people of Greece a miracle…”

Sounds as phony as a Hallmark greetings card is in no small part due to the passionate authenticity of Iphigenia’s words that preceded it.

Clytemnestra and Chorus both seek to connect the plays with contemporary life by lifting them firstly from the academic and scholarly, and then from the passivity of ‘spectacle.’ Both of these plays about plays poke and prod and provide stimulus for wider discussion. However, for this spectator, it was the play that was the thing in which my conscience was caught.

It would be seriously remiss of me not to mention Nigel Barrett, as Agamemnon’s singularly unpleasant brother, Menelaus and Louise McMenemy as the ‘only obeying orders,’ Messenger. They both powerfully conveyed the duplicity and treachery into which the protagonists had sunk.

To fully achieve the full impact all four plays need to be seen; two memorable nights, one highly charged drama.

Then and Now: Talbot Road, W11 by Stan Moorcroft

Then

A man, clad in an apron stands in the doorway of a shop that sells, amongst other things, Hungarian wines. The proprietor or merely an assistant? A boy dressed as a man, in a time before ‘teenagers,’ stands looking amused, hands on hips. A milkman adopts the same stance, though along with a passer-by he looks curiously toward us, as we look at him, for we are the future and they are the past, and it is only natural that we should be curious. Only the old woman crossing the road is oblivious to the ceremony of having one’s photograph taken.

That ceremony is now gone, or perhaps has become so ubiquitous that it has dissolved into other ceremonies, the artificial tourist pose, the gurning face made to indicate crazy fun or the trophy child held up to the camera. The passport photo now the last refuge of the formal ceremony of posing for one’s photograph.

Now

But now the street is empty, but for the blurred image of a man[?], sitting at a cafe table who, if he were aware that he was being included in this picture, would regard the prospect with indifference. What is astonishing here is not change but continuity, how so much has remained the same. Though in the droll joke of time the corner shop, so carefully framed in the photograph, now no longer deals in wines and groceries, but in photography.

Community Reporters: Catching up with Tom Vague ahead of Sufragette City Talk, March 8 2016…

For avid blog readers, two worlds have collided as our excellent Community Reporter, Stan Moorcroft caught up with Tom Vague, Colville Community History Project, to talk all things North Ken and in particular, Tom’s talk on March 8 on the struggle for voting rights for women. Tickets are free and can be booked online.

At the top end of All Saints Road there is a refuge, an enclave in which a local Bohemian culture retains a foothold, this is the Book & Kitchen, a café/bookshop with adjoining terrace. Here the bustle of the nearby market gives way to conversation, conversation in the presence of images of the recent, and not so recent, past. The past of an area that has contributed so much to the life and culture of the city.

I was there to meet local historian Mr Tom Vague a man intimately familiar with so much of this history. What Tom doesn’t know about the recent history of the area probably is not worth knowing. With Tom’s energy and effort Colville Community Forum, supported by City Living Local Life, recently held a gathering at The Book and Kitchen to celebrate this rich history. February 16 6-9 Pm, with Film Screening and Readings Exhibition February 16-26 2016. Featuring 30 Classic Westway Photographs and Posters. This represents one of a number of initiatives of the City Living Local Life funded, Colville Community History Project, – again step forward Tom Vague.

Tom’s connection to the area dates from the mid 1970’s when the sudden cultural surge that was Punk broke upon the streets of North Kensington to mingle and cross fertilise the vibrant reggae culture of Ladbroke Grove. The dynamism of punk providing an energy every bit as exciting and creative as the hippy ‘counter-culture’ that preceded it. Out of this dynamism multiple projects emerged, infused with other influences such as Situationist psychogeography, all with the emphasis on participation rather than passivity, anyone could make music, write poetry, start a magazine. Tom Vague was at the heart of these developments as a new chapter in Notting Hill’s Bohemian history was written. Engaged in freelance music journalism Tom was always close to the ever changing music scene in the area, from the Clash to Transvision Vamp.

Tom’s interests these days are very much focused on celebrating and preserving the memory of this period of the recent past, as well as the wider cultural and demographic history of the area. Tom is no pessimist and believes that vibrant currents still electrify the streets of this magical area of North London.

Tom will be speaking on March 8, 2016 from 6:30pm to 7:45pm, at North Kensington Library, Ladbroke Grove SUFFRAGETTE CITY, promoted by Colville Community Forum on the struggle for voting rights for women.

For further information on forthcoming talks by Tom contact: tomvague@gmail.com

Discount Theatre Tickets and review of ‘In the Night Time (before the sun rises)’ at the Notting Hill Gate Theatre

Another excellent review from our local reporter, Stan Moorcroft.   All photos by Bill Knight

Before we go there, check out this offer from the City Living Local Life funded, Gate Theatre.

“Gate Local” is a fantastic new initiative for anyone working or living in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. If you’ve never been to the Gate Theatre before, we are offering you £7.50 tickets to any of our productions. Come along and try us out! Quote GATELOCAL when booking tickets online, over the phone or at the counter. You may be asked for proof of address at the Box Office.

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Following in the footsteps of the extraordinarily powerful Medea, The Gate have again produced an exceptionally intense and powerful drama centred upon the intimacy and claustrophobia of the nuclear family in Nina Segal’s In the Night Time, ‘proper night time, proper middle of the night, night time…’ For when we have ceased all activity darkness falls and a space is created for the fears to flood in.

Segal presents a world of agonised sleeplessness, of a man and woman driven to the edge by the cries of their new born baby. Outside it is dark, but the couple are only too aware of both all the banal, and terrible, Alex Waldmann, Adelle Leonce In the Night Time (Before the Sun Rises) by Nina Segal Gate Theatre 2016 c. Bill Knight 4things that are going on in the vast outer world surrounding their tortured intimacy. The crying child is central to the room, to the relationship, to the action that threatens to destroy their relationship. For the child’s cries deprive the couple not only of sleep but their sense of security and confidence in the strength of the two-person relationship they have stablished in the face of external threats and the needs of the child. Though the play is replete with enough wit and irony to lighten the intensity of the experience.

Alex Waldmann, Adelle Leonce, In the Night Time (Before the Sun Rises) by Nina Segal Gate Theatre 2016 c. Bill Knight 7.jpgThe idea that it is possible to escape the existential threats presented by the modern world into the safety and security of intimate romantic love is perhaps the most potent myth of the last hundred years.  “He’ll build a little home, that’s meant for two, from which I’ll never roam, who would, would you?” *

Few events are likely to challenge this ideal as much as the responsibility of bringing a child into this world. Segal’s play explores both the strengths and weaknesses of this model of human relationships in this context, with great humour and intelligence. The play raises important questions about responsibility and commitment, providing no easy or pat answers.

Adelle Leonoe as Woman provides a performance of great intensity exploring both her own fragility and hunger for life, both for herself and her child. Whilst Alex Waldmann as Man presents his struggle with the real and imagined expectations of masculinity and his inability to control the situation.

This is a play that packs a great deal into 80 minutes and will leave you departing into Pembridge Road reeling under the impact of a profound and sometimes disturbing play.

*Gershwin, The Man I Love.

A community Christmas in Earl’s Court

It’s already looking a lot like Christmas in Earl’s Court, with the roads decked out with City Living, Local Life supported Christmas Lights and St. Cuthbert with St Matthias holding their Christmas Carol Service.  We’re delighted to showcase these festive events with local resident Anne Green’s look back at the Carol Service and a video documenting the first Earl’s Court Christmas Light switch-on…

Community Christmas Carol Service, Saturday 12th December – Anne Green

What better way to get into the spirit of Christmas than by joining in a Community Christmas Carol Service and that is just what I did at the beautiful gothic church of St Cuthbert with St Matthias, nestled in the Victorian terraces of Philbeach Gardens, Earl’s Court, the way guided by hanging baskets from lamp posts adorned with twinkling lights in the crescent and everyone was welcomed at the door by Father Paul Bagott, the Vicar.

In between much loved carols such as O Come All Ye Faithful with the wonderful accompaniment of the Kensington Singers there were festive and biblical readings,  old favourites such as White Christmas and performances by students, both past and present, of the Royal College of Music.  Guests of Honour were the Mayor and Mayoress of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Councillor and Mrs Robert Freeman.

Mulled wine and mince pies were served afterwards, as well as tea and coffee, although it wasn’t needed to stave off the cold – this must be the first church I have been into where it was warm enough to take off your hat and coat in winter time.

Thanks Anne! And you can see how City Living, Local Life helped transform St. Cuthbert’s here.

Earl’s Court’s very first Christmas Lights

With the help of the Earl’s Court ward councillors and City Living, Local Life, Earl’s Court residents and businesses teamed up to illuminate the area. Check out the video created by residents below that’s bound to make even the biggest Scrooge feel a little festive!

City Living Local Life Community Reporter: Review of Medea at the Gate Theatre

Another entry from our resident, resident community reporter Stan Moorcroft who recently reviewed the production of ‘Medea’ at the Notting Hill Gate Theatre.  The Gate is no stranger to City Living, Local Life with councillors in Pembridge ward having provided funding for much needed maintenance to their ventilation system within the theatre as featured on page 15 of our annual report.  Read on for some more fresh air, from our one and only Stan Moorcroft.  Thanks to Natasha of The Gate Theatre for coordinating this for us.

Photo by Ikin Yum
Photo by Ikin Yum

If I were to say that there exists a theatrical tradition called Greek tragedy I would have just about exhausted my entire knowledge of the subject. I suspect that I am not alone. However no knowledge of Greek literature was required to be spellbound by this production. Two boys trapped inside their bedroom whilst their fate is decided by the collapse of their parents’ marriage. They entertained us with a perspective on the world full of wit, absurdity, and innocence. The final tragedy of the play made all the more unbearable by having witnessed before our eyes the very sweetness that lies in the naivety of childhood. The theme of the play is wholly contemporary, love is always seen as the ultimate human emotion, yet what happens when parental love becomes so overpowering that it ceases to make a distinction between the needs of the parent and that of the child? When that boundary dissolves tragedy ensues.

Bili Keogh, Emma Beattie and Samuel Menhinick -116
Photo by Ikin Yum

It is difficult to praise the two young actors Keir Edkins-O’Brien (Leon), and Bobby Smalldridge (Jasper) highly enough for a performance of stunning complexity, conveying Leon’s protective instincts for his younger brother and Jasper’s wavering between confident assertiveness and severe self-doubt. Though it is Emma Beattie (Medea) who presents the final chilling image, an image that stayed with me as I left the theatre, an image of madness brought about by possessive love. I thought that I had witnessed magic.

And indeed ‘witnessed’ lies at the very heart of your experience at The Gate, particularly if, like me, you sit on the front row. Here you are in intimate contact with the action. Nothing separates you from the drama enfolding before your eyes, if crayons are thrown they are as likely to end in your lap as the toy box. This intimacy adds to the intensity of the experience, an ‘experience’ that comes with the electricity of theatre, for theatre is ‘now’, immediate, not a captured moment on DVD or Iplayer; every night distinct in flavour and ambience. You can take this experience away as memory, but only as memory, therein lies the glory of live theatre.

Theatre at its best is magic, and in The Gate we have, on our doorstep, a venue which regularly produces such magic, such chemistry, for the price of an admission ticket.

This review also appears on the Gate Theatre blog page

For upcoming shows and information, visit the Gate Theatre website

Nour Festival review:  Syria – a recent history

Words by Stan Moorcroft, City Living, Local Life Community Reporter

‘Why have Syria’s foundations as a nation proved so fragile, and why has the international community been so powerless?’

This was the question that historian, Arabic linguist and international lawyer John McHugo sought to address on a cold autumn night at the Central Library, Phillimore Walk.

The terrible scenes we witness each night on our TV screens of desperate Syrian refugees, washed up, half drowned, on Mediterranean beaches or trapped in front of razor wire erected to keep them out made this contribution to the Nour festival not only timely but essential. For without context, history is just a random series of events. Seeking to place these events in context in this hour long talk Mr McHugo explored the history of Syria from the First World War to the present and to examine the obstacles that have prevented the emergence of a stable democratic state able to harness the considerable talents of its people.

Mr McHugo’s exploration of the country’s thwarted attempts at independence under French rule is the substance of real tragedy. A rebellion in 1925, that lasted for two years and at one stage saw large portions of the country in ‘rebel’ hands, was crushed by the French with great brutality. The leaders of the revolt, coming from across the religious, ethnic and tribal divide, had called for an independent secular Syria. For one thing was clear from Mr McHugo’s talk is that in the long term only a secular Syria, in which the rights of believers of all faiths and none are protected, is going to be viable.

Post-independence Syrian history became a tale of the growing interference of the army in politics, the ferocious impact of external forces, – Israel, the cold war, pan-Arab nationalism, the financial and ideological influence of the Gulf States, particularly Saudi Arabia, – and the rise of the Baath party and the Assads. The complex range of forces at play did not augur well for the development of a healthy civil society and democratic institutions. With politics driven underground religious and tribal forces came to the fore, with the terrible consequences we are now witnessing. How exactly the West should respond to this tragedy remains a matter for debate, but whatever we decide turning our backs is surely not an option any civilised society would want to embrace. This was a timely if somewhat sad and sobering lecture that, while providing valuable insights, inevitably produced more questions than answers.

The Portobello Film Festival turns 20! Free Film from 4-20 September 2015

by James Yabut, Community Reporter

The Portobello Film Festival is back next month (4 – 20 September) celebrating its 20th anniversary and once again showing the work of new and ambitious film-makers from all over the world. It is, in the words of its coordinator Lee Flude, “the punk festival of film.”

And it is easy to see her point. The UK’s biggest independent film festival cheerfully welcomes anyone and everyone: unlike other festivals it costs nothing to submit a film, and attendance is completely free. “People can’t believe it’s free! It’s unique,” says technician Greg Edwards.

This broadminded approach is key to the festival’s success, and Lee is adamant that she and the others remain as objective as possible and continue to do their bit for up-and-coming talent.

“There’s nowhere else in the UK supporting independent film-makers and giving them a leg-up into the industry. The festival allows you to have publicity no matter who you are.”

The four-strong team have watched all 600-odd submissions received this year – there was roughly an even split between UK and international entrants – and picked around 200 to feature on the two big screens: one at the pop-up cinema that will sit beneath the Westway, the other at The Muse Gallery which will also be putting on a street art exhibition for the duration of the festival. The remaining films go to a video cafe where they will be shown on request.

Entries come in from independent film-makers, production companies and film students. The shortest one this year lasts a mere 20 seconds, while the longest clocks up two and a half hours. Each evening will be devoted to a particular theme such as sci-fi and fantasy or documentary and drama, and there will be something for younger film-fans too: Paddington, Spongebob, and Shaun the Sheep will all feature on screen on each Saturday of the festival.

The enduring appeal of the PFF can, perhaps, be put down to its lack of pretension and willingness to give new filmmaking talent a fair shot. This is, after all, an industry that is famously hard for newcomers to crack. The all-inclusive nature of the event extends to the judging process too: after each screening staff and volunteers will mingle with the audience in the bar area to collect opinions. The organisers will confer, and the winners will be picked.

Directors Nick Nevern and Greg Hall are both previous PFF winners – Guy Ritchie was shortlisted for a Golden Boot at the inaugural festival but came away with nothing. This year the best films will be awarded a golden Trellick Tower sewn by artist Lucy Sparrow, while the best London film will also collect £1,000.

The festival has proven to be a gateway not just for film-makers, but for volunteers too, some of whom have gone on to find work within the industry. This year’s opening night will feature a film from Saloum N’Jie, who worked on the very first festival in 1996 and has since carved out a career within TV and film.

Lee reckons there is something about Portobello Road and its surroundings that lends itself to the festival.

“It’s a really great area with a great cultural mix, a really great vibe and a lot of creativity. Portobello Road has this unique history of film and music – Ken Russell used to live around here.”

The Devils, Russell’s hugely controversial film which threw censors everywhere into a tizz on its release in 1971, will be shown on the first night after an introduction by Russell’s daughter Vicki. Such is the film’s reputation that even at this late stage it is unclear whether the director’s cut can be shown.

That sticking point seems to be the only bugbear. During my visit, a couple of weeks before the festival’s opening, the mood in the office is one of calm. But the pair’s enthusiasm is evident. “This year we have an amazing selection of London films,” Lee says. Greg agrees and adds, ”the good thing about the London films is that they are by young film-makers.” His theory is that smartphones have had a big role to play: films might not necessarily be shot on phones, but the new technology has encouraged people to experiment.

So whether or not you are a committed cinephile, this year’s Portobello Film Festival has to be worth a visit. As Lee puts it: “If you’re interested in independent film or want to have some fun, come along – it’s all free. Except for the beer!”

For up-to-date information on the Festival, including the 2015 programme visit the PFF website – www.portobellofilmfestival.com or follow their twitter account @portofilmfest

City Living, Local Life: A fun update from the Venture Centre

Thanks to Jasmine Thomas, Arts Administration Apprentice at the Venture Community Association for the words.vc3

On Saturday 8 August 450 local people attended the Venture Centres well-loved Family Fun Day. There was food, music, face painting, stalls, bouncy castle, Spider Mountain, animal magic and great entertainment from African Dance and Tip Top Dance School. It was an amazing opportunity for all generations to come together and have a lovely day in the sunshine.

Venture is a community centre that is all about being there for local people and being run by local people; all the volunteers and staff that put the wonderful day together were all from the North Kensington area. There was a real feeling of togetherness and community.
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Notting Hill Nurseries Carnival

The Venture Centre’s children won the Notting Hill Nurseries Carnival for the first time ever on Monday 10 August. The theme for this year was ‘Emerald City’ and under the creative direction of Randolph, our new Activity Worker, thechildren and a team of enthusiastic volunteers, designed and made their own decorative costumes.

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They produced a range of magnificent costumes that led to the children becoming award winning. This was a learning experience for everyone involved, and all those involved had to think on their feet as they were working with a limited amount of material and equipment.

For instance when making the head dresses they had to use foam board, chicken wire and wrap around foam when normally they would be made with better quality materials. Randolph says that “it was a great learning curve and amazing way to kick off his new role with potential of doing Sunday carnival for kids next year” and that “it was a lot of hard work but it had great rewards.” The kids played a massive part, not just in helping putting it together by wearing costumes, but also by taking on their roles and doing a fantastic performance.

Hopefully we can win again next year!vc2

Feature: Performance, Education and Community at Chelsea Theatre

by James Yabut, Community Reporter.

Think “theatre” and what comes to mind?

If your first response wasn’t table tennis, Arabic lessons and the giros and ochos of the tango, that’s only because you are unfamiliar with Chelsea Theatre.

CommunitySince 1977 the theatre, located in the south-west corner of the borough in World’s End Place, has been offering local residents a combination of arts, education and community activities. According to Michelle Abbey, community manager for the last four years, the theatre is not just a space for contemporary performance, but a place for “breaking down social barriers”.

The depth and breadth of the weekly schedule is, not surprisingly, reflected in the ages and backgrounds of the visitors to the theatre.

EducationOn the day of my visit, ex-postal worker Dennis Miles, 88, of North End Road, tells me he drops in at least once a week for a cup of tea and a chat, or to join the classic film club. “It’s fantastic. You can meet people or have a cup of tea – it’s very reasonably priced. I don’t think you could better this place to be honest.”

Sulay, from Colombia, regularly attends the massage and jewellery classes: “There are lots of activities. It’s good for the community. You have no time to feel depressed and it helps with isolation.” Her friend Josie, who attends the Sing to Live class, is equally enthusiastic: “It’s a lively group and you get a chance to meet people and to relax and to enjoy singing. And the teacher is brilliant.”

PerformanceThe theatre’s staff speak just as warmly; artistic director Francis Alexander says: “I am inspired by my job. Chelsea Theatre is a lively hub for entertainment, learning, health and wellbeing. We balance this with exciting work by artists from all walks of life and are able to showcase these talents to people from the local community and beyond.”

The theatre is funded by a combination of earned income and voluntary donations; operational costs and many of the classes are grant-funded so attendees will only pay a small fee. “Each year we work Chelsea Theatre 2hard to balance hosting affordable activities and events for the community with increasing earned income” Francis explains.

The theatre is run by a team of five full time staff and 18 volunteers, and Michelle is evidently proud of their achievements: “We all work together. Everyone mucks in and that makes this place a success. We are all on the same page. If I’m not here, I can guarantee the work will get done.”

Barbara Ofori-Boateng, Volunteer Coordinator, tells me about the benefits of the Community Champions programme she runs which gets volunteers to share important messages about health and other local services with family, friends, and neighbours.

It is a simple and effective way to strengthen ties throughout the community and to confront the evils of ignorance and loneliness. As well as providing participants with a boost to their confidence and skills, the programme has seen many previous volunteers go on to find paid employment within the health sector.

Michelle reckons the theatre can only go from “strength to strength”, and next year will see the start of redevelopment work to expand the building and improve accessibility. As Francis says:”Thanks to voluntary donations we have reached our fundraising goal for our capital project. We’re planning on making the building more welcoming, with more family friendly facilities, a large new room and a better more welcoming cafe. Watch this space!”

Chelsea Theatre 3
All images with thanks from Chelsea Theatre

{ Guest blog } : Elastic Theatre’s ‘Toxic Monks’

.. and another! James Yabut on Toxic Monks with Jacek Ludwig Scarso

Toxic Monks 300dpi 3 (poster image)

Written by James Yabut, City Living Local Life

The divine and comedic combine to great effect in Jacek Ludwig Scarso’s Toxic Monks – a part-concert/part-installation performance that takes its audience on a trip from the banal to the sublime to a soundtrack of Gregorian chant and barbershop classics.

Jacek, who lectures in performing arts at London Metropolitan University, joined forces with The Old Telephone Exchange quartet last year after meeting them at a Royal Opera House event. Inspired by the group’s repertoire, he decided, in a reversal of the norm, to create a piece of work based on their musical choices. “I wanted to theatricalise their concert,” he explains.

Staged at Kensal Green Cemetery’s Dissenters’ Chapel (20 & 21 June), the result is a humorous, but affecting, 40-minute journey through life and death that begins and ends amongst the tombstones.

We first spy the monks larking about amongst the graves:…

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{ Guest blog } : Shifting Sands

Here’s our Community Reporter, James Yabut with another excellent review of InTransit Festivities.

Shifting Sands_car

Written by James Yabut, City Living Local Life

Landy is a 43-year old who sports headscarves from Israel, and Palestine, and the Golan Heights; she proudly shows off her giant panda tattoo, and even carries a mega-loud Egyptian horn to warn the traffic that she’s coming through.

She is decorated with beautiful brass detailing from Morocco, fishing floats from Lebanon, and a sound system that was picked up somewhere in the Tunisian desert. Her wooden bed, hand-painted in Jordan, is hidden behind curtains from Libya.

Landy is a 1971 Land Rover Discovery with lots and lots of stories to tell; she is also proof positive that people can be a lot nicer than you might think.

Last year she carried Lucy Engleheart and Anne-Laure Carruth for five and a half months on a journey around the Mediterranean through North Africa and the Middle East. The pair had set out from…

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Portobello Daydreaming

by Stan Moorcroft, Kensington and Chelsea Community Reporter

I used to have a daydream. It consisted of me walking down Portobello Road being greeted by all the stallholders and cheekily pinching an apple with a wink as I nod to friends and acquaintances. Some people may indeed experience Portobello like that, in fact I’m sure some do, but not me.

Portobello Market
Photograph by Lalli Kwok, Portobello Market from http://www.facebook.com/rbkcmarkets

But though the daydream has faded into the past Portobello Market still shines as brightly as ever, turning what would otherwise still be an attractive and creative area, into a vibrant one. Festive and upbeat, it is the artery linking Notting Hill Gate with Golborne. The two separate worlds meeting amidst the buskers and the flea market clothing of Upper Portobello and Golborne. Portobello, a major London tourist attraction, drawing visitors from across the globe.

So, back to my relationship with the market. This morning I am buying my cheese from the wonderful French Cheese kiosk, fresh bread from the wide array of choices available at the corner bread stall. Then some wild mushrooms and olives from the stalls between Talbot Road and Westbourne Park Road. In such moments Portobello belongs to me. Though soon I will head home for coffee and Camembert spread on freshly baked bread, leaving the market to the sunshine and tourists.

Portobello 3
Photograph by Gunwoo Kim, Portobello Market from http://www.facebook.com/rbkcmarkets

If there is one word that is greatly overused in contemporary life it is the word ‘community.’ The word conjuring up visions of neighbours chatting over the garden fence, doors happily left open, the street party or community trip to Margate. Life however is rarely like that these days. Cities consist of atomised individuals, or families who interact, if at all on the communal ground created by shopping. Portobello represents the finest example of such communal ground, a place for atomised individuals to interact and to connect with others. So on those mornings that I weave my way through the crowds of tourists, say hello to the woman who works in Poundland and exchange pleasantries with the young French guy in the cheese kiosk, I am community, and I am Portobello.

So to Portobello and Golborne on their 150th Birthday, I say HAPPY BIRTHDAY, and long may the market prosper. I won’t be around for the 200th but I am sure there will be one.

Portobello 2
Photograph by Gunwoo Kim, Portobello Market from http://www.facebook.com/rbkcmarkets

Feature: Solidarity Sports, nurturing wellbeing and confidence through Sport

By James Yabut, Kensington and Chelsea Community Reporter

“We don’t advertise for volunteers: it’s all done by word of mouth. We couldn’t function without them.” Sean Mendez, director of children’s charity Solidarity Sports, explaining why the goodwill of volunteers is so important, and why such a small team can have such a big impact.

Solidarity Sports 1Founded by Sean in 2007, his charity offers a programme of sports, healthy eating, and arts and crafts projects to children from disadvantaged backgrounds to help boost their sense of well-being, confidence, and teamwork skills.

Referrals are received from schools and local authorities across London, but the majority come from Kensington & Chelsea. This year around 200 children will benefit from their work. Regular meetings with parents will ensure that each child gets the attention and supervision they need.

We meet following the end of another hectic half-term for Sean and his team, and he is busy finalising plans for the charity’s summer programme. This will include a trip to the Isle of Wight where the kids can try their hand at abseiling  and rock climbing, and whizz along zip wires. For many it will be a rare chance to escape the city.

Sean is familiar with the problems that children brought up in London face. Growing up in Earls Court where access to private gardens was impossible, and play spaces were few and far between, he and his friends resorted to playing games and riding bikes in Brompton Cemetery. At weekends he joined his mother, Miriam, who worked at a centre for young people with learning disabilities. With hindsight, setting up Solidarity Sports must have seemed inevitable.

Today, he wonders how much progress they can make without more support, and it becomes clear what drives him: frustration at the lack of play spaces and organised sports for children of all backgrounds, a belief that schools should be teaching kids to be smarter about the food industry’s marketing techniques, and a sadness at seeing poorer families having to leave their homes.

Soldarioty Sports 2What chance, he asks, do their healthy eating classes have against the immense marketing budgets of the giant food corporations? These are not the kinds of battles they can fight alone. “The education system has not kept up,” he says. ”Kids need to be made aware of the dangers of high sugar and processed foods. Society needs to do more.” He firmly believes much more could be done to help charities like his: “A lot of people want to do good but lack the resources.”

The charity has flourished since its start: in 2011 they published their own cookbook, Kids Cook the World and Sean is hopeful of a follow-up. The main aim, though, is for Solidarity Sports to grow bigger still so that more and more children can benefit from their projects. As Sean puts it: “The biggest compliment I can give to our volunteers is that we are an extended family to our kids.”

Calling all City Living, Local Life Community Reporters: InTRANSIT festival needs you!

It’s Intransitfestival time! And we’d love to get your unique perspective on the many events InTRANSIT Festival has planned for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

From an Urban Beach to flying bird men from Mexico, there’s plenty to see and plenty to talk about. Our full programme is listed at www.intransitfestival.co.uk

If you’re interested in writing a 300-500 word article on your experience attending one of the festival events, please send a brief email to Jessica at pr@intransitfestival.co.uk to say which event you’d like to attend, and the date (if there is more than one option) that works best for you. 7d2cbda0d4d579343f6cf38e0c37e775f519c9c6

Ideally you’ll be available to attend the event over the opening weekend (19 to 21 June) and submit the article by Monday 22nd June. And your article will be posted on www.intransitfestival.wordpress.com and shared on our social media pages.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

You Asked Nick: March 5, Notting Hill

By Community Reporter, James Yabut

Over 100 residents from across the borough attended the sixth public ‘Ask Nick’ with Council Leader Nick Paget-Brown at Notting Hill’s Second Church of Christ, Scientist.IMG_2530

The 90 minute meeting covered a wide range of topics including road safety, business rates, and potential rule changes to basement developments in the borough.

SAsk Nickome attendees came along with specific question in mind, such as market trader Jane Bridgman, who asked for more council support for small businesses; others were simply curious to hear the latest news on what was going on in the borough. Many agreed that

this was a valuable opportunity for residents and business owners to speak directly to the Council’s Leader.

Asked about the impact the meetings had on council policy, Cllr Paget-Brown said:

The Leader, Nick Paget-Brown and Councillors Gerard Hargreaves and Rock Feilding-Mellen take questions from the floor

“It is very important for me as Council Leader to know what the general and specific concerns of residents are. We aim to ensure that our key policies are set out in our manifesto at election time so that residents can express their opinion on the general direction of travel, but there are clearly specific issues to which we need to be sensitive and these often emerge at the ‘Ask Nick’ sessions which is an opportunity for residents to express their thoughts directly to me.”

Once confirmed, the information on the next Ask Nick can be found at www.rbkc.gov.uk/asknick.

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